Robot 6

Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Harryhausen’s Sinbad: Movies to comics to movies again [UPDATED]

Bluewater sent out a press release last week to announce that Morningside Entertainment has optioned the film rights to Bluewater’s Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic from 2007. There are several interesting things about that.

According to the press release, Morningside has optioned the comic in order to adapt it into a feature film for 2012. Not a reboot, the movie is intended to be an extension of the Sinbad films that started with 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and continued into the ‘70s with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

The release went on to quote Executive Producer Barry Schneer as saying that Rogue of Mars would be the first film in a new trilogy. “I’m thrilled to continue the amazing legacy my uncle, Charles Schneer began with 7th Voyage and to bring to the screen the Sinbad movie that he and Ray Harryhausen never got to make.”

Since Bluewater published Sinbad: Rogue of Mars as part of its Ray Harryhausen Presents line of comics, I started wondering how this fit together and who owned the rights to what. I assumed that Morningside already owned at least a portion of the rights to the Sinbad films. Since Rogue of Mars was based on those movies, why would Morningside need to option the story from a comic book company that had bought the license from them in the first place? What exactly was Morningside optioning? And how does Ray Harryhausen himself fit into all of this?

I contacted Bluewater’s Darren G Davis and asked him to help me put the pieces together. “It’s sad to say that Ray Harryhausen doesn’t own rights to the characters that he created,” Davis told me. “Sony controls a lot of the rights to the previous film library.”

He went on to clarify. “What people have to understand is that Harryhausen was the special effects person behind the films. He was instrumental and a huge part of them, but doesn’t own the rights. The film industry was very different back in the day. I am a huge Harryhausen fan and when I got to work with him it was a dream come true. Charles Schneer, who was the producer of the films, owned a stake in them, which now has gone to his nephew Barry Scheer, who is producing this film.”

As for the comic and the ideas in it, “We own the rights to it. It was part of the deal when we decided to move forward with Harryhausen and produce the comics.”

But wasn’t Harryhausen part of the creative process on Rogue of Mars? When the series was first announced, Davis talked about his “excitement toward developing the property with Harryhausen.”

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Davis explained it to me, “We took the basic concept from an idea that was out there called Sinbad Goes to Mars from the ‘80s. They were going to produce it after Clash of the Titans, but it never got green lit. There was a script or treatment on it that we got from Harryhausen’s people, but we took it and went another direction with the story and concepts.

“I wish I could say that Harryhausen had a lot to do with this one, but his people just signed off on what we were doing. When we started this project Ray Harryhausen was in the midst of retiring. When we created the world, we definitely wanted to pay tribute to his world, giving new people an introduction to who Harryhausen is as well as giving Harryhausen fans something classic.”

I talked to Harryhausen’s people and they told me basically the same thing. Tony Dalton, the curator of Harryhausen’s collection and co-author of The Art of Ray Harryhausen said that “neither Ray Harryhausen nor The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation have been formally approached to participate in this project.” But he also added that he met with Schneer earlier and advised the producer that neither Ray nor the Foundation would desire to be involved.

So with Harryhausen out of the picture (so to speak) except for developing the core concept of Sinbad’s visiting Mars, it’s Bluewater’s take on that concept that Morningside is interested in. Davis specified that “they optioned the characters, story and design of the worlds” and added that Bluewater and Morningside have had a partnership for a couple of years now. This is just the first thing that’s come out of it.

That got me wondering about how faithful to the comic the new movie will be then. Especially since the film’s not being written by Greg Thompson, who wrote the original story. Instead, Morningside and Bluewater selected Logan’s Run: Last Day writer Paul Salamoff to write the screenplay. I talked to Salamoff and my first question was about how he got the assignment.

“I’ve been a screenwriter for many years and Darren hired me to write comics based on the strength of my screenwriting. As I continued to write comics for Bluewater we would also discuss doing film projects together. Because I’m primarily a genre writer and such a huge fan of genre material, when the Rogue of Mars project came up, Darren felt I was the right person for the job. I met with Barry Schneer and his development team and they responded to my writing and my ideas for Sinbad. The next week I was hired to write the screenplay.”

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

I was curious about his other credits, both in film and comics. “Currently I’m developing a number of films; one with the producers of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World called The Last Breath. It’s a horror movie that I wrote that I’m also attached to direct. I’m also writing a comedy called Population: Me for Unstoppable Entertainment in the UK. Noel Clarke is the producer. He’s the writer/director of Adulthood as well as a BAFTA award-winning actor (you may also know him as Mickey Smith on Doctor Who).

“In comics, I’m currently writing for Bluewater the next Logan’s Run series called Logan’s Run: Aftermath as well as more issues of Vincent Price Presents. I also have two graphic novels coming out later this year for other companies. Discord is a new twist on the Frankenstein legend with stunning artwork by Giuseppe D’Elia. The other is Stasis with artist Adrian Paladini. It’s in the vein of Aliens and The Thing.

“Sinbad is a good fit for me,” he added. “It’s 100% in my wheelhouse as a writer. I’ve been a fan of Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy since I was a little kid and the Harryhausen films were a big part of it. So the good news is that the property is in safe hands.”

But what about Thompson’s story?

“Morningside had been developing Rogue of Mars for many years and they had very definite ideas of what they wanted Sinbad’s newest adventure to be like. They had developed the comic, but simultaneously also worked out a pretty amazing outline for a potential film. But they didn’t want me to be too influenced by either.

“I was hired because I’m an idea guy and bring a lot to the table with my knowledge of genre films. So I was just given broad strokes and told that the comic was the comic and was only to be used as a springboard for the film. They didn’t want me to be slavish to the comic or the outline, just certain concepts and design aspects.

“What’s great is that the storyline has been evolving into something really special because the story development has not been so rigid. They want my input and ideas and my take on the characters. I’ve actually already written the first draft of the script, which was well received by the producers. We’re now using my draft as a base to even further expand the story. We’re weaving back in some of their original ideas as well as new ideas that have evolved directly from my draft. It’s very exciting as a writer to have a development process like this. The end goal is to have something really special that not only will appeal to the legions of Sinbad fans that have been with the series since the ‘50s but also to a contemporary audience just discovering the characters.”

I asked him too about special effects restrictions. How much are budgetary concerns a limiting factor as he writes?

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

“Fortunately they have not restricted my imagination at all, just the opposite. [Morningside] wants to do this as a trilogy and they want it epic. Like Lord of the Rings epic! You can’t do this kind of scale on a small budget and from what I’ve been told these are going to be high-budget, tentpole films.

“In regards to special effects, we now are working in a time where virtually everything is possible. I worked in Special Make-Up FX for the first 14 years of my career and worked on over 40 films, so I have a really good base knowledge of what can be done on what budgets, but I also know that FX are only a tool that’s supposed to enhance the story, not dictate it.

“I feel that’s the mistake a lot of these big FX-driven movies make. They become more about spectacle than story and character. What makes these kinds of films truly work is having relatable characters that you care about and want to go on a journey with. That’s my number one goal with this. The FX will be top notch and we’re working on some amazing visuals (and creatures) that will have that ‘wow’ factor, but once again it will be in service of an exciting story.”

I asked Salamoff if he could tease the story any and he was happy to oblige. “Sinbad has had amazing adventures over the years, but nothing has prepared him for his latest voyage. On a mission for King Kassim, he unwittingly releases a Jinn trapped for millennia. He and his crew are soon transported to Mars where his actions are going to have dire consequences to the planet’s inhabitants, who are already burdened by an impending war over a recent discovery hidden for centuries beneath an ancient temple.”

With Harryhausen retired and uninterested in making more movies (or comics) based on his ideas, Morningside doesn’t have a choice about whether to move with or without him. I’d love to see more of his stamp on Rogue of Mars, but frankly I’m excited just by the possibility of a new Sinbad film, especially if it ends up getting the budget that Morningside wants it to have.

What do you think about this? How do you feel about continuing the Harryhausen films without Harryhausen? Does it matter that he’s not involved or is the concept cool enough on its own to make a good movie?

Ray Harryhausen photo from Stuart Crawford’s Flickr photostream.

Update: Greg Thompson, whom I mentioned as the writer of the Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic, wrote me to clarify his involvement with the project and to offer some additional commentary. Thanks, Greg!

Greg Thompson: I read your article on CBR regarding Sinbad: Rogue of Mars, and while I’m thrilled about the potential of the film and the release of the trade paperback, I did want to clarify a few points.

Morningside Ent. did not have anything to do with the development of the comic story on my end. I was given art for the first issue and developed the story from that. I had written the fourth and fifth issues of the series but I never delivered them to Bluewater, and they hired a different writer to finish the story with a “fourth issue” that will be included in the trade. I don’t know how the story ends, but I’m very excited to read Ryan Burton’s wrap-up!

I was asked by Morningside Ent. to write the screenplay for the film, and had a meeting with them at SDCC in 2007 to go over the outline they had. I made a few changes and started work on the script. After several starts and stops on the screenplay over the course of the next year and a half, I decided to bow out for personal reasons. Barry Schneer and the folks at Morningside were great throughout the process, and the legacy of Harryhausen’s Sinbad films is in great hands.

As for Harryhausen’s involvement, I was told that he and his people had approval on my scripts for the comics. Had I known Harryhausen was not involved, I probably would not have taken on the project, despite my love for the source material.

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Comments

18 Comments

Robert Franklin

January 27, 2011 at 8:33 am

I happen to know that Barry Schneer was not involved with the “Rogue of Mars” concept and only became involved with it after the Bluewater Productions contract with Ray Harryhausen expired in the summer of 2009. Barry Schneer wanted to become involved with the Bluewater/Harryhausen relationship as far back as 2007, but Ray Harryhausen did not want him involved.

Sounds like a cool concept.
If its a good story that ultimately has a fine cast and director, then I dont have a problem with it.

Sinbad fan’s should check out http://sinbadthemovie.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/SinbadMovie. The movie is Sinbad The Fifth Voyage and features stop motion animation and is apparently set to come out this year.

Does everyone realize that nobody owns the rights to the Sinbad character at all? Sinbad has been public domain for a very, very long time. It’s nice that they want to “continue” the Harryhausen series, but without Harryhausen himself, it just won’t be the same. Just another Sinbad interpretation, which anybody can do.

Robert Franklin

January 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm

More about Ray Harryhausen’s involvement with the “Sinbad: Rogue of Mars” comic books. According to Ray, whom I interviewed in 2009, after nearly three years working with Bluewater Productions and not seeing a single penny from the comic- book contract created between himself and Bluewater’s Darren Davis in 2006, Ray decided not to continue the contract. Ray also told me that Barry Schneer had talked to him at the 2007 Comic Con about doing something with his unproduced projects. However, because Ray did not know Barry well enough at the time, aside from the fact that he was Charles Schneer’s nephew, he decided it would not be a good idea to work with him.

A good question everyone should now be asking is: Has Barry Schneer EVER produced a motion picture before? Just having a famous producer’s name doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly in today’s movie world. It simply isn’t the same as it was in the 1950s and 1960s when Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen were, except for George Pal, pretty much all by themselves in the fantasy genre.

Does this mean that now they might actually pay the people that worked on this comic?

Oh sorry, it’s Bluewater… they don’t pay people.

I dont know where you get your info from. I happened to know an agent of Ray’s and the fact that the Schneer family including Barry Schneer have been developing the Sinbad project back in 2007, and that Morningside had been a major financier of the comics. As for Ray, he never said he didnt want to work on the project, but rather his health was poor and felt he could not devote sufficient time to the project to be a co-producer and special effects director. I for one am very excited about the project and glad to see that the project is coming into production after so long. With regards to Schneer’s nephew not producing a major motion picture, from understanding back then Barry Schneer was never going to “produce” the picture that role was being filled one of Hollywood’s top action/adventure producers. I believe Schneer is “Executive Producing” the picture with the help of many longtime industry friends and associates. I far as I know he is well respected in the industry and with the studios. As for Bluewaters relationship with Morningside, I think it makes a great collaboration of bringing both the past script ideas and newer comic storylines together. You may not agree, but I am excited to see if this next generation of film makers can live up to their predecessor. one thing for sure, they have big shoes to fill. :]]

This movie idea sounds very creative and can make an epic film. With the right cast and well directed this can easily be a blockbuster film. Love fantasy films, hope this is one of them.

A Sinbad movie would be awesome. I love the old classic Sinbad films, And the cartoon was good too. This is definetly going to be a very successful film. I am excited to see what the modern day SInbad is going to be like. Hope fully he’s portrayed a bad ***!!! Because thats exactly what he is. Next year we shall see.

Trust in Allah… But tie up your camel!

Im sure Sinbad does trust in Allah. I dont think there will be camels in Mars. Maybe a spaceship or something like that,…

I am a huge movie historian. Going back to the classic Sinbad films. I admired how they made the film. Harryhausen never really got all the credit he deserved for what he did with the animation and creating these creatures. They were all him. The plots were good and exciting. They were just well produced films. I have no doubt this reboot will be an historical, epic movie. Look forward to seen it. Sinbad Rogue of Mars, instant classic!

I too heard Ray wanted to do the project when he signed the comic book deal, but his health was poor. I think he planned on contributing many of the monster designs for the comics, but unsure if any made it. Dont know about him never being paid. I seriously doubt his agent and/or mangers would allow that knowing how the business works.

As for the new Executive Producer Barry Schneer I can’t imagine him not including much of the classic nostalgia considering he probbly grew up watching these films a hundred times or more.

I am a huge classic movie buff, love also all the history movies. Sinbad is one of the classic, must see movies. Count me in to be there the day it comes out to the movies.

Hollywood is making all sorts of movies these days. Especially bringing back movies that were made in the past. This movie is a classic blast from the past. Its being brought back to the silver screen thanks to Morningside Entertainment. I am excited and curious to see what Morningside has for us with Sinbad’s legendary roles. How is it going to be and play out. I am extremely enthusiastic about how this movie is going to be. Any word on when the release in 2012 will be? Spring? Summer? 2012 Holidays? If anyone knows, let me know.

Shouting out to my main man, Barry Schneer, keep up the good work, those Sinbad comics look awesome!! cant wait to see what you been hiding. Hey on a side note, I’ll look for you at LA film Festival same place, same time as last year. peace my brother.

And for those of you that dont know it yet Rogue of Mars going to be bigger than the lights in Times Square.

Hopefully this will be a sequel with alot of respect for the earlier films. I am sure Ray would have loved to participate on some level. His health is not “poor” but he does have arthritis to deal with and that would keep Ray from being more involved than he would like to be.

Too bad they don’t use stop motion. I’m making a film with stop motion called GALACTIC RAIDERS. Here’s a clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsdFSg_vvK0

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