John Carter might have Martians, flying ships and sexy young lads with long hair — but the real star of the show is his giant hound, Woola.

So when we sat down with director Andrew Stanton at the John Carter junket, we found out everything we possibly could about the speedy pooch who will stole our hearts. Plus get a look at some early concept art of Woola, when John Carter was a lot more Confederate-looking.

Tell us about our favorite character in John Carter — Woola!

Andrew Stanton: Woola is what Edgar Rice Burroughs coined as a Calot. They're these sort of pony-sized, big lizard desert toads with ten legs. Everybody thinks he has six, but there's four little little ones hidden under there — and they can move incredibly fast across the desert.

Why make Woola just like an Earth dog?

There was a talk, for awhile there, that we needed to make it [Woola] a little more alien-esque in how it looked, and how it sounded. But I thought that it was so fantastical that it needed some grounding, "So we're just going to go as straight dog as we can with it." Because I think that is something that is very familiar — it's something you can connect to. The same way that you find the human qualities in Tars Tarkas, this big green four-armed character. You find the animal, dog, man's best friend quality in Woola. So we pulled anything. We pulled anything we could to help us associate it with a puppy.

Was there one particular moment that stood out to you as Woola's best?

The one that kind of keyed in for us, it's actually one of the last shots of the movie. He's just sitting there just with his mouth open and his tongue wagging, and you assume he's listening. But he could just be mindlessly blanking out. But that's what dogs are like. You imbue on them all this hopeful thinking that they are listening, and taking in all this input that you're giving them. In a weird way less is more.

How John Carter's Martian Pet Woola Became the Cutest Movie Creature in Years

Here's a larger look at some early Woola concept art from The Art of John Carter.


How John Carter's Martian Pet Woola Became the Cutest Movie Creature in Years
How John Carter's Martian Pet Woola Became the Cutest Movie Creature in Years

John Carter hits theaters on March 9. Full disclosure: Disney paid for io9's travel and other expenses at this junket.