The cast was locked, pre-production has been underway for months and filming was set to begin in two weeks – but 20th Century Fox’s $170 million adaptation of David Petersen’s two-time Eisner winning comic “Mouse Guard” has been unexpectedly shut down today by Fox’s new owners Disney reports Heat Vision.
The move happened almost a month to the day that the Disney-Fox merger was finalised. Producers Matt Reeves, Ross Ritchie and Stephen Christy are reportedly being allowed to shop the project to other studios and several are already interested as the project is ready-to-go and it is considered a four-quadrant franchise starter.
Set in a human-free, medieval world, the comic follows a group of mice who have sworn to protect their brethren from predators and other threats. Andy Serkis, Idris Elba, Samson Kayo and Thomas Brodie-Sangster were attached to the project, with Jack Whitehall also circling a role and WETA was providing the digital effects.
Why the shut down happened is unclear. The production was to use motion capture and heavy digital effects to bring animals to life, so it’s possible the project was too similar to Disney’s recent fare like “The Lion King” and “The Jungle Book” live-action adaptations. Another source for the trade indicates Disney “does not want Fox in the big-budget game,” instead they want the studio to focus on lower-cost family movies as well as PG-13 and R-rated fare. The “Avatar” films will be the exception to that rule.
Fox had several projects greenlit before the acquisition including Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” and the Ryan Reynolds-led “Free Guy,” both of which may also be subject to review by Disney execs.