Mars Needs Moms

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Mars Needs Moms
Mars Needs Moms! Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Simon Wells
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Simon Wells
  • Wendy Wells
Based on Mars Needs Moms! 
by Berkeley Breathed
Music by John Powell
Cinematography Robert Presley
Edited by Wayne Wahrman
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • March 11, 2011 (2011-03-11)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $150 million[1][2]
Box office $39 million[1]

Mars Needs Moms is a 2011 American 3D motion capture computer-animated science fiction comedy film co-written and directed by Simon Wells, and based on the Berkeley Breathed book of the same title. The film is centered on Milo, a nine-year-old boy who finally comes to understand the importance of family, and has to rescue his mother after she is abducted by Martians. It was released to theaters on March 11, 2011 by Walt Disney Pictures.[3] The film stars both Seth Green (motion capture) and newcomer Seth Dusky (voice) as Milo.

This was the last film by ImageMovers Digital before it was absorbed back into ImageMovers.[4] The film was a commercial and critical flop, and is the fourth biggest box office bomb in history adjusted for inflation (and second biggest unadjusted), grossing less than $39 million on a budget of $150 million.


Milo (Seth Green, voice-over by Seth Dusky) is a nine-year-old boy who constantly rebels against his homemaking mother (Joan Cusack) and workaholic father (Tom Everett Scott), who, himself, is coming home late from a business trip. Summer is just beginning, and though Milo wants his summer to be fun, his mother assigns him a lot of chores. When Milo is finally caught violating his mother's "No Broccoli, No TV" rule, she grounds him and he is forced to go to bed early. After a heated disagreement with her, Milo wishes that he no longer had a mother, which leaves his mother heartbroken. Later that night, his wish comes true when his mom is kidnapped by Martians who plan to steal her "momness" to rear their own young. The Martians, led by their evil supervisor (Mindy Sterling), have been observing Earth mothers, passing up those who are too indulgent or unable to control their children. They select Milo's mother, based on her ability to command Milo to take out the trash.

To rescue his mom, Milo stows away on a spaceship. Upon arrival on Mars, Milo is locked up in a jail cell, but manages to escape down a garbage chute where he meets a tech-savvy subterranean-dwelling earthling named Gribble (Dan Fogler). Gribble helps him devise a plan to save Milo's mom and get her back to Earth before Earth's night is up. Unfortunately, the plan goes awry at a Martian security checkpoint, where Milo is exposed and the Supervisor's troops raid Gribble's hideout. Milo escapes afterward, and while hiding from the guards, Milo meets an optimistic Martian named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) who is fascinated with Earth because of all its colors as opposed to the more stern and sleeker Mars. Milo makes it back to Gribble's hideout, and discovers Gribble has been captured by the Supervisor and her thugs, who plan to execute him. After rescuing him from execution, they take refuge under the tribes formed by Martians who are friendlier and free-spirited. Gribble confesses to Milo how he wound up on Mars: twenty-five years ago, the Martians selected Gribble's mother as a fine example to program their nannybots. Like Milo, Gribble stowed away, but didn't reach his mother in time and was stranded on Mars.

After Ki manages to locate Milo and Gribble in an untouched part of the Martian underground world, they come across an ancient cave painting that showed Martian families were like Earth families in the past. Ki photographs it before heading back to the hideout. After sneaking past the guards and stealing a spaceship, Milo manages to wake up his mother, and save her not even a second before the machine disintegrates her. They try to escape, but Supervisor halts them, threatening to kill Milo and his mother. Fortunately, Gribble saves them both and then gets into a fight with Supervisor, who fires a shot that narrowly misses Milo, causing him to trip and smash his space helmet.

As Milo begins to choke in the unbreathable Martian atmosphere, Milo's mother gives him her space helmet. Although Milo's life is saved, the life of his mother has now been put at stake. Before the eyes of the Martians, Gribble (not wanting to see another Earth boy lose his mother) manages to find the space helmet he'd attempted to save his mom with and gives it to Milo's mother, showing the Martians the one thing they had overlooked about Earth moms: love for their children. Milo soon realizes that his behavior had been very wrong, so he apologizes to his mother, thus showing his new respect and greater love. The Supervisor attacks the earthlings again and is about to recapture them, but Ki reveals the photo of the ancient cave painting and the Supervisor's deception to the soldiers, causing them to arrest her.

With the Supervisor in prison, Ki and Gribble return Milo and his mother to Earth, just before Milo's dad returns home. Having nowhere else to go and having exposed his feelings for Ki, Gribble decides to stay on Mars with her and returns there. Milo then takes out the trash before his mother asks him to, but secretly disintegrates it with a Martian weapon, similar to a human pistol in size and shape. Under the new leadership of Gribble and Ki, the male and female Martians work together in raising their young, while the Supervisor is stuck with nanny duty. Gribble manages to contact Milo and let him know how he is by using the Spirit rover as a communication station.



Simon Wells had known Zemeckis since the mid-1980s when he was supervising animator and storyboard artist for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He also worked on Back to the Future Part II and III and later worked on The Polar Express, which was why he was attracted into making Mars Needs Moms.[6] The production designer was Doug Chiang, and the supervising art director was Norm Newberry.[7]

The title of the film is a twist on the title of American International Pictures' 1966 film Mars Needs Women.

After spending six weeks outfitted in a special sensor-equipped performance-capture suit while simultaneously performing Milo's lines, Seth Green's voice sounded too mature for the character and was dubbed over by that of 11-year-old actor Seth R. Dusky.[5]

The makers came up with their own alien language.[8] Elisabeth Harnois stated in an interview that she and the cast were given scenarios by Wells to which they acted out responses in improvised Martian language.[9]


Critical response[edit]

The film received negative reviews from critics. The acting and visuals were praised but the writing, premise, character expressions, and drama were criticized. Opinions of the motion capture animation were mixed. Some praised it for looking realistic and others criticized it for falling into the uncanny valley and looking creepy. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 37% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on reviews from 111 critics, with an average rating of 5 out of 10. The critical consensus was: "The cast is solid and it's visually well-crafted, but Mars Needs Moms suffers from a lack of imagination and heart."[10] Metacritic assigned an average critical score of 49 out of 100 based on 22 reviews.[11]

Box office[edit]

Mars Needs Moms was a failure and has the worst box-office reception for a Disney-branded film. It earned only $1,725,000 on its first day, for a weekend total of $6,825,000.[12][13] This is the 14th worst opening ever for a film playing in 3000+ theaters.[14] Even adjusted for inflation, considering the total net loss of money (not the profit to loss ratio), it was still the fifth largest box office bomb in history.[15][16] In 2014, the LA Times listed the film as one of the most expensive box office flops of all time.[17] On March 14, 2011, Brook Barnes of The New York Times commented that it was rare for a Disney-branded film to do so badly, with the reason for its poor performance being the subject (a mother kidnapped from her child), the style of animation, which fails to cross the uncanny valley threshold, and negative word of mouth on social networks, along with releasing it on the same week as Battle: Los Angeles which had more hype with the general movie goers. Barnes concluded, "Critics and audiences alike, with audiences voicing their opinions on Twitter, blogs and other social media, complained that the Zemeckis technique can result in character facial expressions that look unnatural. Another common criticism was that Mr. Zemeckis focuses so much on technological wizardry that he neglects storytelling."[18]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and movie download on August 9, 2011.[19][20][21] The release is produced in three different physical packages: a 4-disc combo pack (Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and "Digital Copy"); a 2-disc Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD); and a 1-disc DVD.[20][21][22] The "Digital Copy" included with the 4-disc combo pack is a separate disc that allows users to download a copy of the film onto a computer through iTunes or Windows Media Player software.[20][21] The film is also a movie download or On-Demand option. All versions of the release (except for the On-Demand option) include the "Fun With Seth" and "Martian 101" bonus features, while the Blu-ray 2D version will additionally include deleted scenes, the "Life On Mars: The Full Motion-Capture Experience" feature, and an extended opening film clip.[20][21] The Blu-ray 3D version also has an alternate scene called "Mom-Napping", a finished 3D alternate scene of the Martian abduction of Milo's Mom.[20][21][23]


  1. ^ a b c "Mars Needs Moms (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (March 10, 2011). "Movie Projector: 'Battle: Los Angeles' will rule, 'Mars Needs Moms' will bomb". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ Stewart, Andrew (March 9, 2010). "Disney sets date for 'Mars'". Variety. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ Finke, Nikki (March 12, 2010). "Disney Closing Zemeckis' Digital Studio". Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Kaufman, Amy (March 8, 2011). "Seth Green moves, but doesn't speak, in 'Mars Needs Moms'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ Webb, Charles (August 9, 2011). "Interview: MARS NEEDS MOMS Director/Writer Simon Wells". Twitch Film. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  7. ^ Loewenstein, Lael (March 8, 2011). "Review: ‘Mars Needs Moms’". Variety. Retrieved September 25, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Mars Needs Moms - Productions Notes". Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Mars Needs Moms Interview - Elisabeth Harnois". Trailer Addict. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Mars Needs Moms". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Mars Needs Moms Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  12. ^ Young, John (March 13, 2011). "Box office report: 'Battle: Los Angeles' conquers all with $36 mil". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ Lumenick, Lou (March 14, 2011). "Box Office: 'Mars Needs Moms' a megaton bomb". New York Post. 
  14. ^ "Worst Openings at the Box Office for 3,000+ Theatres". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  15. ^ Ben Riley-Smith (March 21, 2011). "‘Mars Needs Moms’: does flop mean 3D is history?". Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  16. ^ McClintock, Pamela (March 14, 2011). "Why Disney's 'Mars Needs Moms' Bombed". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Eller, Claudia,"The costliest box office flops of all time", Los Angeles Times (January 15, 2014)". August 6, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2014. 
  18. ^ Barnes, Brook (March 14, 2010). "Many Culprits in Fall of a Family Film". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Mars Needs Moms Blu-ray 3D Release Date and Pre-Orders". The HD Room. May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  20. ^ a b c d e Gallagher, Brian (May 6, 2011). "Mars Needs Moms 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD Arrive August 9th". MovieWeb. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b c d e "Mars Needs Moms 2D and 3D Blu-rays". May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  22. ^ DuHamel, Brandon (May 7, 2011). "Mars Needs Moms Travels to Blu-ray, 3D and DVD in August". Blu-ray Definition. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  23. ^ "'Mars Needs Moms' Lands on Disney 3D Blu-ray/DVD on August 9; Includes 3D Exclusive Bonus Scene". Stitch Kingdom. May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]