Imagine Docs, Procter & Gamble Launch Major Content Deal With Scripted Mars Feature (EXCLUSIVE)

Mars 2080 Brian Grazer doc Ron
Mars 2080: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltec; Grazer/Howard: Jeff Lipsky

Imagine Documentaries and advertising juggernaut Procter & Gamble have brokered a significant co-financing deal for a slate of film and streaming projects, Variety can report exclusively.

The deal represents the latest foray into scripted for P&G, the 182-year-old consumer goods producer. The company is credited as the architect of the soap opera, which built narrative stories around its products in the age of radio.

There are multiple projects in various stages of development included in the deal, the first of which is “Mars 2080,” a future-set feature that will follow a family’s commute from Earth to the red planet and the adjustment to their new habitat. The film is being developed for theaters and is eyeing a late 2021 release date, though attached talent has not yet been announced.

While the arrangement does not directly envision product placement, both companies said the goal is “to create quality entertainment content that has high consumer interest and is consistent with P&G’s strengths and values.”

The Mars film is based on a concept by Stephen Petranek, science writer and author of “How We’ll Live on Mars.” Imagine’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and docs co-head Justin Wilkes will produce. Executive producers are Imagine co-chairman Michael Rosenberg, Marc Gilbar, docs co-head Sara Bernstein and Kimberly Doebereiner for P&G.

Wilkes said the project will be released through Imagine’s documentary label because the film will endeavor to be as fact-based as possible in thinking about the future, and how human life will adapt to a new planet — perhaps one “unburdened” by past events on Earth, a synopsis said.

We’re not calling it science fiction, we’re calling it science factual,” Wilkes said. While the two companies have been in discussions for six months, the recent launch of the SpaceX Dragon vessel inspired the group to start thinking practically about planet-hopping. The group will consult with a range of experts including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to forecast practical technologies. P&G has also let creatives in their development labs, where the company is toying with the future of everyday items like laundry detergent — which will someday need to be made without water if it wants to travel to leave Earth. 

“We thought, ‘What if we told a story of a family going to Mars? The adventure of going there is one thing, but suddenly there’s a group of people living there, and what would that look like? What would cause somebody on Earth to do that today? With everything going on today, moving to Mars is not such a terrible thought,” said Wilkes.  

Marc Pritchard, P&G chief brand officer, said his company’s scientists “will bring nearly two centuries of experience in science and innovation in areas such as sustainability to help shape a story of what life and home on Mars could look like in the future.”

P&G, the maker of iconic household wares like Pampers diapers and Bounty paper towels, declared it was ready to enter the streaming wars in January when it announced a longform series deal with Stone Village Television, the production company behind such projects as NBC’s “Las Vegas” and the HBO miniseries “Empire Falls.” That deal is aimed at boosting themes of gender equality, diversity and inclusion.

Upcoming at Imagine Docs is the 2020 Sundance selection “Rebuilding Paradise” at NatGeo, and “Supervillain: the Rise and Fall of Tekashi 6ix9ine,” and “Gossip With Cindy Adams” at Showtime, and a documentary on Julia Child from CNN films.