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Disney Rebooting The Rocketeer?

Just as IDW Publishing revived The Rocketeer last year in comics, Disney appears ready to return Dave Stevens’ beloved superhero to the big screen.

Vulture reports that the studio, which released the original film in 1991, will soon meet with writers to discuss a reboot of the property, which centers on a stunt pilot in 1938 Los Angeles who becomes a helmet-wearing crime-fighter after discovering a stolen rocket-pack prototype.

It may seem like a surprising move for Disney, considering the Joe Johnston-directed movie was a commercial failure (it grossed just $62 million but had an estimated $42 million production budget). But the website suggests it may be an early indication that new studio chairman Alan Horn “doesn’t just view his new job at Disney Studios as that of a mere portfolio manager.”

Debuting in 1982, the Rocketeer was Stevens’ ode to the classic Saturday matinee heroes, and his early adventures were steeped in references to pulp magazines and popular culture of the era. The late artist envisioned a film adaptation virtually from the start, and sold the rights first to director Steve Miner and then in 1985 to writers Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo (The Flash). After their pitch was turned down by several studios, it finally landed at Disney, where it languished for five years because of creative differences — Bilson and DeMeo were fired three times — before Johnston, a fan of Stevens’ comics, finally stepped in as director.

Johnston, who went on to helm such films as Jumanji, October Sky and Jurassic Park III, most recently directed Marvel’s hit Captain America: The First Avenger. That means Disney probably has his phone number; maybe they should give him a call.


  • gwangung

    Hm. Somehow…I don’t have a problem with this….

  • MAJ C-K13

    The problem Disney will have to overcome is marketing.  The Rocketeer was a good movie that was very poorly marketed and suffered because of it.  Disney is still having this problem today (John Carter anyone?).  Before committing to the movie, they will need to figure out how to sell it.

  • Hosstbl1

    In fairness to Disney, I don’t think that there was any way they couldn’t have marketed John Carter that would have been successful.  Regardless of the quality of the film, the concept was not going to connect with modern mass audiences.

  • PretenderNx01

     They could have at least tried “John Carter of Mars” LOL. The name John Carter isn’t iconic enough for people to know what they were getting into.

    Still, I hope they do Rocketeer right. Last time Dave Stevens and Joe Johnston had to fight just to have the helmet design.

    BTW Joe Johnston told Film Journal he was interested in revisiting Rocketeer’s world:

  • Michael J

    This film needs to happen ASAP.I loved the Rocketeer movie.It was definitely a classic.

  • Kuczynskik73

    Disney could always make The Avengers: First Class and have a flashback movie with Cap, Sub Mariner, and The Rocketeer!

  • orphan

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.Like WB, Disney has no clue how to market live action adventure films.Batman was a success of the Nolan bros. not WB.The fact that either property especially Rocketeer is still in Disneys hands after all these years is appaling to me.I’ve only recently become aware of some of the history of interference by Disney in the original project and what appears to be active indifference once it was completed.The screwups on both films are clearly their fault and in Carters case the directors as well.What contract did Stevens,Bilson, Di Meo sign that leaves this iconic concept with Disney?.The main problem is that Rocketeer would be better served as a TV production as far away from Disney/ABC as possible.

  • Lewis4510

    I believe that if the Rocketeer had been made today with today f/x technology it would be a hit. In many ways it was a movie before it’s time.

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    “In fairness to Disney, I don’t think that there was any way they
    couldn’t have marketed John Carter that would have been successful.”

    Calling it “John Carter of Mars” or “John Carter and the Princess of Mars”? (“Hero name & item” titles SELL! Look at Harry Potter and Indiana Jones!)
    PAINTED posters along the lines of the original Star Wars and Indiana
    Jones posters? (Those things are iconic, and they make GREAT t-shirts! Perfect promo people PAY to wear! The photoshopped PoS pieces they DID use were TERRIBLE!)
    Pushing the “Before Star Wars…Before Avatar…Before Flash Gordon…there was JOHN CARTER, the FIRST interplanetary hero!” aspect? (Yeah, they FINALLY did it, but it was the week before the movie opened!)
    A heavily-promoted re-release of the entire Barsoom novel series at a low price point to lure in the audience, maybe with a couple of “new” adventures by people who know the genre like Will Murray or Peter David?
    And that’s off the top of my head…

  • Andrew Farago

  • Andrew Farago

    I loved the Rocketeer movie and I’m not sure how a new version would
    improve upon it.  But if it brings more attention to the art of Dave
    Stevens, brings some money to his family, and generates money for hairy
    cell leukemia research, I’m all for it.

  • Lastnamecumbie

    The original is an underrated movie and I hope disney can market the re-make.

  • Peter G.

    I got about three sentences into this article before I started thinking about a guy in a jetpack punching Nazi’s off of Zeppelins.

    This concept deserves a second chance. I hope hope it retains the pulpy roots that gave Indiana Jones such richness.

  • James MacQuarrie

     That’s the single worst idea I have heard all week. The Rocketeer belongs with Doc Savage, the Shadow and Tarzan; he’s a pulp hero. The fact that he appeared in a comic book is almost irrelevant, his DNA is elsewhere.