Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea goes down the drain

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In one of his first major creative moves as Walt Disney Studios’ new movie chief, Rich Ross has made the costly decision to pull the plug on the planned $150-million production of “Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” — the last project approved by his predecessor, Dick Cook.

The movie — which was a high-priority project for Disney and envisioned as a potential franchise along the lines of the “Pirates of The Caribbean” series — was scheduled to begin shooting in February in Mexico. Disney had already spent millions of dollars hiring crews and building elaborate sets in Rosarito Beach, which will now have to be struck and workers laid off. The studio will also be shutting down the film’s production offices on the Burbank lot, where dozens of people were doing prep work for the movie.

Just a few weeks ago, Disney spent generously to hire writer Michael Chabon to quickly rewrite the script. The studio had recruited Chabon, author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” to rework “Nemo” after he had recently written a draft of its forthcoming production “John Carter of Mars,” the first live-action film to be directed by Pixar Animation Studios director Andrew Stanton.

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