Update: Thanks to The Playlist, whose coverage of the panel includes the following lengthy section on the Goners exchange, edited only for additional paragraph breaks.
When someone asked in the crowd about “Goners,” the 2005 spec script sold for “seven figures” to Universal, they asked if elements of the screenplay, which was said to have been a kind of widescreen horror epic, had been cannibalized for “Cabin in the Woods.” Whedon had described the movie as “Like ‘Buffy,’ but scary,” but said little else in the way of details.
None of “Goners” is in “Cabin in the Woods,” though.
“‘Goners’ and ‘Cabin in the Woods’ are very different movies. ‘Goners’ was sold to Universal through Mary Parent. She was the de facto producer of [big screen adaptation of his short-lived ‘Firefly’ television series] ‘Serenity.’ And she set up her shingle at Universal, so I thought it would be protect. But the new people that came in turned around and said, ‘No.'”
Whedon remains cautiously optimistic about the project: “There has been some talk about, after ‘The Avengers,’ trying to resurrect it. I’m not sure what that process would be like.”
He still sounds wary of the studio system that had treated him so poorly (“I think I come up with super-commercial ideas”), and “Goners” was certainly part of his entrance into the creative wilderness.
“‘Goners’ came after ‘Wonder Woman.’ And that was the kind of one-two punch that made me do ‘Cabin’ and ‘Dr. Horrible.’ I had been led to think that, well, sometimes you’re not naive, you’re a goldfish. But ‘Goners’ was, like ‘Cabin,’ about getting under the skin of horror in a big way, and I’d love to make it but I don’t know if I can suffer through the process.”
Image of goldfish courtesy Jon Culver via the specified Creative Commons license.