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A GIANT PEACH; SUPERMAN FAILS TO TAKE FLIGHT

In 1996, the same year as he directed Mars Attacks!, Tim Burton produced another stop-motion animated film, though this time he would have much less involvement in the project.

Henry Selick directed James and the Giant Peach, based on the novel by Roald Dahl about a boy who escapes from his mean aunts in an oversized peach inhabited by talking bugs. The cast included the voices of Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss, as well as Pete Postlethwaite and Joanna Lumley (in makeup that makes her look like a zombie).

The film, which also features live action sequences, is not without its charm. It has some impressive images, such as the rhino that gobbles up James's parents, a metal shark and the peach impaled on the Empire State Building at the end.

James was a lesser effort than Nightmare in most respects (though it does feature a cameo by Jack Skellington as a pirate) and didn't achieve the same level of success. The songs by Randy Newman are mostly unmemorable and it's more of a kid's film. It was the last film Burton produced with Denise Di Novi, as the two parted company professionally after that.


Burton's Superman would have been a little different, as this concept art shows

After these two films Burton spent over a year working on a new Superman film, with the working title of Superman Lives. A preliminary script draft was written by independent filmmaker and comic book geek extraordinaire Kevin Smith.

Nicolas Cage was attached to the project to play the Man Of Steel. Kevin Spacey was also in talks to play Lex Luthor (a casting choice that would be retained when a new Superman film, directed by Bryan Singer, was finally released in 2006).

Back to 1997: Burton was not particularly happy with the script and he brought in many other writers, much to Smith's annoyance. Burton wanted to treat Superman as an alien outsider, and use the new technology to make the flying much more believable than it had been in the original movies.

A spiraling budget eventually caused Warner Brothers to pull the plug on the project before a single frame had been shot. Burton still got his paycheck for the film, but later said it wasn't worth all the trouble he went through. "I worked hard on Superman," he said in an online interview with Stephen Schaefer. "I 'made' the movie only I didn't film it."

Kevin Smith would later start something of a mock feud with Burton, singing copies of his script "Fuck Tim Burton". He even half-jokingly accused Burton later on of ripping off the "Ape Lincoln" ending from one of his comics for Planet of the Apes. Of course, one could argue that Smith's own Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ripped off the chase scene from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

In retrospect, while it might have been interesting to see what Burton could have done with the project, it's probably for the best the film never happened. Superman is almost the complete opposite of Batman as a character, and far less suited to Burton's sensibilities. The film would have undoubtedly angered comic book geeks and given Burton little creative freedom (especially as he would have been paired with Batman producer Jon Peters again).


Look out, it's Zombie-Superman!

Following box office disappointments and one cancelled project, Burton would choose to direct his first real horror film for his next project.

PREVIOUS CHAPTER: MARS ATTACKS!

NEXT CHAPTER: SLEEPY HOLLOW

   

 

 

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