Disney's A Christmas Carol

Release Date: November 6, 2009

No, I wouldn't like some chain.

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In 2004, Warner Bros. took a huge gamble on emerging technology when they agreed to bankroll Robert Zemeckis’s latest project. The film in question, The Polar Express, was shot in live action with all of the actors fitted in motion capture costumes. After principal photography was completed, a technique was employed to animate all of the performances involved. The end result was a largely satisfying yuletide film that became something of a phenomenon on IMAX. Up until the last couple of years, The Polar Express’s $49 million on that format had been the gold standard for movies. Recently, we have seen many titles mimic the strategy to varying degrees of success. For its part, The Polar Express managed $180.8 million domestically as well as $304.9 million worldwide. It was a success by any measure, even allowing for the hefty budget of $170 million.

Zemeckis tried to duplicate the result with a follow-up release. He was much less successful in this endeavor. Beowulf was made cheaper at $150 million, understandable for a couple of factors. First of all, they didn’t have to pay the salary of Tom Hanks. The other is that motion capture technology had improved a bit as had the skill of the people involved with the project who were using it. All of this allowed Zemeckis to curtail costs a bit. Unfortunately for him, people were not interested in seeing one of the longest standing epics of our people. Beowulf wound up with $82.2 million domestically and a grand total of $195.0 million worldwide. This result was effectively a draw for Paramount Pictures if not a slight loss. The director still believed in the fledgling process, though. He examined what had worked with his first offering as opposed to what had failed with its successor before moving forward.

The end result is that Zemeckis is back to yuletide films again. In fact, he picked arguably the most famous of all holiday classics, A Christmas Carol. He also decided that while Ray Winstone was fine as Beowful, star power was probably an issue with Beowulf. Tom Hanks portrayed multiple roles in The Polar Express, and his presence was championed in the trailers for the film. A similarly big name, say Jim Carrey, would be welcome here. Taking on the storied role of Ebenezer Scrooge, Carrey finds himself in roughly the same position that Bill Murray occupied in 1988 with Scrooged, perfectly cast in a surefire hit project. The kicker is that Zemeckis has cast his lot with Disney this time, right as the Mouse House appears to be on the brink of legitimizing the 3-D format for mainstream audiences.

A Christmas Carol is poised to be one of the most popular movies of the 2009 holiday season. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Disney's A Christmas Carol
Main Cast Jim Carrey
Supporting Cast Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes
Director Robert Zemeckis
Screenwriter Robert Zemeckis
Distributor Walt Disney Pictures
Rating PG
Screen Count 3,500 (Estimated)
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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