One hundred sixty six years after Charles Dickens published his classic "A Christmas Carol," what could possibly be brought to the Christmas dinner table that hasn't already been done by Alastair Sim, The Muppets, and just about every community theater in the country? Incredible 3D animation, duh! Or at least that's what Disney is hoping pulls audiences in for "Disney's A Christmas Carol
" come November 6.
To promote the film, the "Disney's A Christmas Carol Train Tour" is currently traveling across the country with stops in over 20 cities. Director Robert Zemeckis
and Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook were on hand at last weekend's Chicago stop to discuss and offer a sneak preview of the film.
"We knew this film was going to be something special," said Zemeckis. "It's a great defining moment that will change movie making," he said of "Carol's" ever advancing motion capture technology, also used on his previous films "The Polar Express
" and "Beowulf
Enrolling in the Eddie-Murphy
-School-Of-Play-Every-Character-In-The-Movie-Possible, Jim Carrey
takes on the archetypal crotchety old man Ebenezer Scrooge (at four stages in his life) and the three visiting Christmas ghosts who steer him on his path to redemption. Slightly resembling his Count Olaf persona from "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
." the 3D visuals allow the audience to take in every pore and wrinkle in Carrey's digitally aged face. As his pointed nose pokes into the crowd it feels as if being scolded by an angry grandparent.
"He has a very expressive face," Zemeckis said of Carrey. "He's a great actor. When he performs he uses every muscle in his entire body and that really comes through on the screen."
Image © Walt Disney
Zemeckis noted that using motion capture technology is more similar to working in theater than traditional filmmaking. The director works primarily one on one with the actor to craft their performance until satisfied. He also believes it will help bring older texts (as evident with the modestly successful "Beowulf") to new, mainstream audiences rather than ending up seen solely by elder "Masterpiece Theatre" addicts on PBS.
The train exhibit itself emphasizes the demanding motion capture process. Different cars feature dozens of video screens tracking the virtual filming from start to finish. Conceptual art is on display as well as footage of actors (including Colin Firth
and a gawkily looking Gary Oldman
) performing choreographed dance numbers, engulfed in their motion suits, with black chicken pox like dots splattered across their face. The dots pick up their movement from sensors and is captured from all possible angles. Family friendly activities are also present including a device that allows visitors to morph their own face into a motion captured Scrooge (parents be prepared to Benjamin Button yourselves as childhood Scrooge is among the machine's transforming options.)
The featured clips hint that much of Dickens' olde tyme English is present, but with a meticulously designed London backdrop, the inter-audience snowfall (a trick also used throughout "The Polar Express"), Jacob Marley's chains thrust at viewers, and the sight of Scrooge flying past a blindingly bright moon, there should be no shortage of stimulating visuals.
Ecstatic about their final product, Cook and Zemeckis touted their new partnership for Disney's Moving Images Digital division. Their next project "Mars Needs Moms!" is currently in development. "I'm absolutely dedicated to this art form," Zemeckis said. "We want to launch it into the world."
The "Carol" train exhibit is in Chicago is followed by St. Louis and other cities before pulling into New York City's Grand Central Terminal upon the film's release.
For a full schedule head to Disney.go.com/disneypictures/christmascaroltraintour/.
Story by Michael Mellini
Starpulse contributing writer