D23: Director Andrew Stanton talks John Carter

“How would you like to be in the desert where it's 100 degrees and you're on stilts wearing pyjamas?” That's the question Andrew Stanton, director of John Carter , asked Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morten and yet both stars still signed up to the production.

“I struck gold,” the director said about the actors, including Taylor Kitsch who plays John Carter.

Dafoe and Morten play Tharks, green-skinned aliens who are much taller than Carter's civil war soldier - hence the stilts and those pyjamas, which were actually motion capture clothing.

This is the first live-action movie for Stanton ( Finding Nemo , Wall-E ), who said he first came into contact with Edgar Rice Burroughs' character through Marvel's 1970s comic-books and had even drawn the hero at a young age.

A glass-half-full D23 audience member might think Disney is getting a little twitchy about the film, given the amount of time it spent previewing it at D23.

That included four clips from the film, which saw John wake up on Mars and witness the birth of baby Tharks; his early meeting with Tars Tarkas (Dafoe) and the realisation that the lesser gravity allows him to jump like a superhero; an encounter with a dog-like creature while imprisoned in the Thark nursery; a heart to heart with a humanoid princess who is about to be forced into an arranged marriage; and a Star Wars -type battle scene with Tarkas and Carter sentenced to death by angry white ape in an arena.

It all looks good (particularly the CGI dog) and from the early footage there's a serious, sombre tone to the film. UK audiences will have to wait until 9 March 2012 to see if it hangs together as a finished movie.