|Today, Disney is releasing the highly anticipated Disney’s A Christmas Carol, a stereoscopic 3D presentation of the Charles Dickens novella. In the past, the book prompted a stage presentation and even a 2D animated movie. But it is highly unlikely that any form of media will awe audiences like this one.
The person behind the curtain on this project is director Robert Zemeckis and his ImageMovers studio, which incorporated the performance capture techniques and motion capture to enable actor Jim Carrey to assume the role of Scrooge, as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
Performance capture is a process that digitally captures the performances of the actors with computerized cameras in a full 360 degrees; the film will be presented in Disney Digital 3D. The technologies allowed the filmmakers to present a true Dickensian world with no artistic restrictions, transporting the audience to a time and place previously unavailable.
“The technology is liberating for me as a filmmaker,” says Zemeckis. “It allows me to separate the cinema aspect of making a movie, which is something all filmmakers try to control, and realize the magic of the performances from my cast. It’s the perfect blend of welcoming those wonderful accidents that happen when an actor is performing, and then being able to put the cinema language into the film.”
This new holiday classic may remind folks about another holiday book-turned-film from recent years: The Polar Express. Zemeckis was director on that movie, as well, a release that helped get the stereo 3D train rolling down the tracks once again. For Express, just like he did for Monster House, Zemeckis (along with Sony Pictures Imageworks) captured the performances of the actors playing human characters in the film, and applied that data to CG characters. More recently, he advanced the technology on Beowulf.
No doubt the movie is groundbreaking, just as the others were. However, there is something missing from the picture. In the months leading up to the release of Express, motion-capture technology—once the domain of the CG industry—became a popular topic among the non-technical crowds. It was demonstrated a number of times on prime-time morning and news shows. It was everywhere. Soon the technology was the star of the show, not the show itself.
It appears that Zemeckis and Disney do not want that to happen yet again. Interviews involving the technology were politely turned down. I am disappointed, and no doubt you, our readers, are, as well. I am confident that the movie will be groundbreaking, thanks to the technology, and will be a visual feast for the eyes. And the story, as it has for many decades, will take us through an emotional gauntlet of ups, downs, and everything in between.
While we cannot offer a heaping plateful of the behind-the-scenes reveal, we can offer a basic serving of information about the film, which can be seen on our Web site, under the Web Exclusives area.
Enjoy both the mini story and the movie.