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Are you wondering what Disney's new version of "A Christmas Carol" will look like? Well, wonder no longer ...

Jim Hill

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Are you wondering what Disney's new version of "A Christmas Carol" will look like? Well, wonder no longer ...

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It was the super-secret holiday movie that you weren't supposed to know about. Until Bob Hoskins -- in a July 4th interview with EmpireOnline -- revealed that ...

"... (Robert Zemeckis) is going to make A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. He wants me to play Mr Fezziwig. He's doing in that way he did Polar Express. You stand in a box with that funny suit on and it reads everything you do ... Am I going to do it? Of course I am!"

And once that story broke ... Well, the folks at Disney had no choice but to admit that they did in fact have a brand-new big screen version of Charles Dickens' holiday favorite in the works. Not only that, but this "Christmas Carol" would be the very first project produced by ImageMoversDigital, that performance capture company that the Mouse had just set up with Mr. Zemeckis.

Which -- in and of itself -- already makes this picture sound pretty intriguing. But then came word that Disney & Zemeckis were really piling on the gimmicks when it came to this Holiday 2009 release. First of all, this new CG-and-live-action feature would be shot in Disney Digital 3D. Secondly, Carrey (Working off of a screenplay that Zemeckis had deliberately wrote with this "Mask" star in mind) would not only play Ebenezer Scrooge but the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Be as well.

Then -- of course -- there's Mr. Hoskins as Fezziwig. But if the rumors that are now coming off the Disney lot prove to be true, this "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" alumnus may not be the only actor who previously worked with Robert Zemeckis that will possibly be making an appearance in this brand-new version of "A Christmas Carol."


 Copyright ImageMoversDigital / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

As I hear it, Robert has reportedly written roles in this film for three of his other favorite actors. And if all goes according to plan (More importantly, if Disney can actually meet each of these actors' salary demands), Tom Hanks will play Bob Cratchit, Christopher Lloyd will portray Marley's Ghost and Michael J. Fox will voice Tiny Tim.

Now I know that that last casting idea may sound really off-the-wall. But let's remember that this version of "A Christmas Carol" is going to be a performance capture picture. And given that -- in theaters all over America today -- John Travolta is appearing in a movie where he plays a 300-pound woman ... Well, in Hollywood, anything's possible.

Getting back to "A Christmas Carol" now ... It's important to keep in mind that Hanks, Lloyd & Fox (as well as Mr. Hoskins) are allegedly just on Zemeckis' casting "Wish List." So while he's already supposedly spoken informally with all of these performers about possibly appearing in this project, it's still up to Disney & the actors' agents to work out all of the necessary details before Tom, Christopher, Michael J. & Bob can all officially come on board this film.

Meantime, the suits back in Burbank would obviously love it if they could have all of this star power behind ImageMoversDigital's premiere production. But that said, some Mouse House managers are reportedly already grumbling about this proposed casting stunt. Suggesting that it will unnecessarily drive up the production cost of this already sure-to-be-expensive project. More to the point, particularly when it comes to Mr. Fox ... Well, there are those at the studio who -- due to his long courageous struggle with Parkinson's Disease -- are wondering aloud if Michael J. will really be up for the rigors of production.

Mind you, Mr. Fox isn't the only "Christmas Carol" cast member that Disney execs are reportedly worried about. Given Mr. Carrey's somewhat difficult reputation (As well as his bailing out on voicing the role of R.J. in DreamWorks Animation's "Over the Hedge" back in 2004. Supposedly because Jim really didn't enjoy the piecemeal approach that actors have to take when recording dialogue for an animated film), Mouse House officials are just hoping that they can keep Carrey on board this project long enough to get all the vocals & performance capture work that they need to finish the picture.


Copyright 20th Century Fox / Blue Sky Studios. All Rights Reserved

Of course, it should be noted here that -- for almost a year now -- Mr. Carrey has been diligently doing voice work on Blue Sky Studios' next animated feature, "Horton Hears a Who." And from what the folks who work at this White Plains, NY-based CG studio have been telling me, Jim is doing a bang-up job with the title character of their newest picture. Which -- FYI -- hits theaters next year on March 14th.

Speaking of release dates ... I guess I should mention here that are some folks at Disney who weren't all that thrilled when they learned that this new version of "A Christmas Carol" was supposed to be the studio's big holiday release for 2009. And that would be the "The Princess and the Frog" 's development team.

"And what's their problem with this project?," you ask. Well, according to the Walt Disney Animation Studios' current production schedule, this new John Musker & Ron Clements movie is supposed to be released in November of 2009. Which led everyone who is currently working on this yet-to-officially-begin-production picture to believe that "The Princess and the Frog" would bow in theaters just before the start of Thanksgiving and then have the entire holiday season to rake in some very serious dough.

But now ... What with ImageMoversDigital's "A Christmas Carol" supposedly slated to come out in the Holiday 2009 slot ... Well, people on this new Ron'n'John production are wondering what this all means for their movie. Particularly given that "The Princess and the Frog" is supposed to be the film that would help bring about the revival of traditional animation at Walt Disney Studios.


 Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

I mean, given what's supposedly at stake here (i.e. WDAS will only allegedly get back into traditional animation full-time if "The Princess and the Frog" is an enormous success), the folks working on this new animated feature were really hoping for some sort of preferential treatment. With the Mouse putting all of its marketing might behind Musker & Clements' new movie. Not with the studio trying to put two different animated features out in theaters during the exact same holiday season.

From what I've been hearing, this whole "The Princess and the Frog" / "A Christmas Carol" release date situation is very much in flux as of this moment. And given that the story of this new Ron'n'John picture actually takes place during Mardi Gras in New Orleans ... Well, it's now being suggested that a March 2010 release date might be a much better fit for this movie.

Beyond that ... I'm told that production of "A Christmas Carol" is now slated to get underway in 2008 at ImageMoversDigital's new Hamilton Field studio. By the way, if you'd like to learn more about this new performance capture company (Or perhaps even apply for a job with Zemeckis' new CG operation), I suggest you click on this link.

Your thoughts?

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  • Hmm, that could prove to be a very inersting conumdrum.

    On the one hand, that Chrismas Carol sounds really good, especially if they're able to get that cast. On the other hand, I really want to see Frog Princess succeed.

    I think that March release date would be a perfect soluion, but hat's just me..

  • I'm torn.

    I like the idea of The Christmas Carol as Zemeckis's first release for Disney; I think that it will make the company a lot of money, and I personally liked what Zemeckis did with Monster House, so I think that in the end, it will turn out to be a good movie and not just a "big-name gimmick production."

    But I am concerned about the Frog Princess.  I too was hoping it would get highlighted and given the chance to succeed.  Typically, studios release their big guns either in the summer or the holidays, and I assumed that since that was being given the November 2009 release date, it would have a good chance.  But we've seen how well the latest releases do in March, so I can't really fault Musker and Clements for feeling that way.  This was supposed to be the big comeback for WDAS.  This release date just doesn't feel right.

    If anything, wait to release Frog Princess during the summer of 2010 (since the Pixar release that year - Toy Story 3 - is scheduled for the winter anyway).  How's Rapunzel coming along?  Was that supposed to be the one that was going to be released summer of 2010?

    How is Disney going to fit releasing a WDAS, Pixar, and Zemeckis film each year?  Somebody is going to get left with the scrap release date, and it would be a shame if WDAS was always the one getting the short end of the stick.

  • A Christmas Carrol with Jim Carrey? Suddenly I am REALLY looking forward to something. The picture alone looks incredible. The only thing I am wondering about is this "disney digital 3D".  

    I've seen all the 3D movies Disney has done lately.... and while "cool" enough.... they truly don't compare to the IMAX 3D effects I experienced with the Polar Express. I hope Zemeckis makes an arguement to do the film in IMAX. Even though there are far less IMAX theaters... its easy to "downgrade" to standard 3D. Do it right ... put us IN that movie and it will pay off.

    For someone who is all for the THEATER and not home video ... this is cool stuff. This and Jim Camerons work with 3D truly will be the future. Get THAT on blu ray DVD? I think not.

    As far as the Frog Princess is concerned. I say its nothing to worry about. Traditional Animation is one thing .... CGI is another. Frog will have story and music... and charm. All CGI movies are more like flash, bang, wow ... I personally can't wait for this film. I think there is room in the theater at the same time for both.

    Hows this for a gimmick .... a Disney DOUBLE FEATURE.

    Yes.... I think that the pressure is on for those guys working on Frog .... REAL PRESURE. But I am rooting for them.

    Oh ... and someone at Disney ... please DO SOMETHING with Elliot !!! (aka ... Pete's Dragon). People today will LOVE the Dragon. I'm sure of this.

  • One word: SIGH. I hate motion capture, gives me the creeps. Why... Why... Why waste another good story on zombie animation?

    Concerning "Frog": they should have given it the Winter release. I know the March release ties in with the movie and Mardi Grass etc., but the movie won't be as successful I think.

    2009 will be a busy year for big Disney projects, as I hear. "Up", "The Frog Princess", "John Carter of Mars", "Jungle Cruise", "The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless", "Swiss Family Robinson", ...

    Maybe a little too busy? Especially with the 3 (or 4) animated movies coming out.

    I also wondered. The "speculative release dates" of the WDFA movies are now:

    * "Bolt" -- November 26, 2008

    * "Rapunzel" -- June 2009

    * "The Princess and the Frog" -- December 18, 2009

    Even if they moved "The Frog Princess" to March 2010, you still would have "Up" and "Rapunzel" pretty close to each-other. "Up" has a release date of June 12! Jim, I want to know more about "Rapunzel". Is is being pushed back, how is it getting along, will they change the release date to something less competitive (end of Summer 2009, or something like that)? Because having a Pixar and WDFA movie in the same month is ludicrous.

  • Disney is really getting dysfunctional with all these movies on top of each other.  Looks like they need to sit down and look at how they can stretch the year out more.  300 proved that a movie could open in March with the right marketing and will power so I'm not worried is Frog Princess is moved to there.  In fact it'll probably be better for it because the winter is crowded lately it wouldn't have time to breathe.  What about the Narnia sequels?  Dis ney is just going to start taking money from itself if they aren't careful.  How about using the Christmas Carol to help promote Princess?  Makes way more sense in my book.

  • Maybe its a poor example, since "Home on the Range" SUCKED, but wasn't it released in late March/early April? And we saw how well that did.

    I don't know, if they really want to revive 2D animation they need to make it stand out, make it an event like they used to. March is so uneventful, no one cares if it coincides with Mardi Gras - thats a lame excuse.

    I say release "The Princess and The Frog" November 2009 without "A Christmas Carol", or push it back to the SUMMER of 2010, even though I really don't want to wait.

  • I never liked the fact that Disney and Zemekis made that motion-capture company.  I, too, don't like the look of motion capture.  Normally I wouldn't care about a Zemekis picture, but, since it's a Disney movie, I'm sort of interested- part of me wants it to do well, since it's Disney, but, since I don't like the idea of this Zemekis-Disney-motion-capture thing, I kind of hope it does bad and that tht deal goes bye-bye.  

    I'm also concerned about all of these movies coming out at once.  Maybe "A Christmas Carol" will have some problems along the way and it'll come out later than anticipated...so then the Disney animated features will come out on time, and have good release dates.  

    I enjoy the Pixar movies, but I can imagine that, if the previously-stated scenario occurs that LiverGap mentioned- a WDFA picture, a Pixar picture, and a Zemekis picture come out in a year (I hadn't heard about Zemekis having one a year, but I'll believe it), they're going to have to spread those out.  And, I wonder how Mr. Lasseter feels about this Zemekis deal- I'd love it if he didn't like it.  I can't help but feel that Lasseter will pick first the date for the Pixar film, and then choose the WDFA film's date.

    I really want "The Frog Princess" to do well, and if it fails just because it's released at the "wrong" time of year, then I will have lost faith in Team Disney.  It wouldn't be the creative team's fault.

  • I thought I'd see a few people echoing my thoughts... "OMG, not ANOTHER version of A Christmas Carol... how many times can people sit through the same basic story?"  Let alone all the millions of tributes/parodies/homages in every sitcom and TV show that can't think up anything original for their christmas episode... and yet, surprisingly everyone seems to be looking forward to it.  

    Maybe I'm just getting a little tired of the Mouse being an 800 pound gorilla pushing for copyright extensions, chasing nurseries that paint mouse characters on the wall, etc... but constantly going to the public domain well for their movies.  IMO it's a darn good thing they bought Pixar... at least someone comes up with generally new stories (although Cars was a LOT like Doc Hollywood :) )

  • Of course, it is getting kinda annoying that have millions of "Christmas Carol" adaptions, but the story is just so universal. If Disney can give the story a new twist (or maybe just sticking to the original version is already a twist on its own) I wouldn't mind.

    But you know what I would love for Disney to do? Adapt some of its original shorts into full feature films. That would be ideal!! They already own the source material, so why not.. (But I don't mean DisneyToon adaptions of it, I mean WDFA adaptions.)

  • (that have = to have)

  • I guess we're in the minority here, but I agree that motion capture is creepy. Like dead animated characters moving around on the screen.

    I'm also in the minority with my disdain for Jim Carrey. He's a ham and he overacts in everything he's in. Can't you just see Scrooge flailing around spastically like The Grinch/AceVentura/EveryCharacterJimCarreyPlays. I thought he was good in "The Truman Show" when he reigned himself in a bit, but for the most part, I just don't get the appeal.

    Sounds like a mess waiting to happen.

  • Although I liked Monster House (especially in 3D), I can't say I'm looking forward to Christmas Carol.  Much of that is probably due to how much I hated Polar Express.  Great backgrounds, terrible characters and worse script.  And I'm not a fan of stunt casting.  Using big name celebrities is often distracting (I don't want to see Hanks doing animation ever again other than TS3), and the mocap thing with one actor playing multiple parts is worse.  This just sounds like a rehash of Polar Express.

    I am curious about Beowulf, especially since it is supposed to be adult oriented and very violent.  But it's supposed to be released in November, but not a single image has been released from the film, much less a teaser trailer.  I wonder if that's just intense secrecy or an indication of possible problems?

    As for mocap itself, I think it's an excellent tool.  But so far it just seems much more suited for special FX characters in live action films than "cartoon" characters in animated films.  Polar Express was creepy and even Monster House didn't seem quite right, but I don't think anyone would complain about the mocap in LOTR, Pirates, or even Kong.  Gollum and Davy Jones were both spectacularly real and expressive.  On the other hand, if you look at the latest Potter movie, Grawp was some sort of mocap while Kreatcher was fully animated and in that case I think the latter was a much better result.

    Release dates for the disney stuff will change.  There's no way they'll release Rapunzel and Up in the same month.  The only thing that makes sense is releasing one Pixar a year and one "Disney", one in the summer and one at thanksgiving or christmas.  If they have something extra to squeeze in like Christmas Carol, the spring isn't a bad time to make a release.  Movies like Ice age and the sequel have shown that you can make money releasing animation in march.  But that's still the exception, if the next couple 2D films will determine the fate of the medium, they should be given every possible advantage.

    Is it just me, or are those Horton images pretty gorgeous?  I hope the movie can maintain that level of art and have a good script, those stills look absolutely amazing.

  • Steve - you called that one!  Pleeeez!  Another Christmas Carol?  It took Jim - what?  Half a dozen articles to review all of them?  Sounds like a huge waste of effort.

  • >>> 2009 will be a busy year for big Disney projects, as I hear. "Up", "The Frog Princess", "John Carter of Mars" ... <<<

    I believe I heard the first John Carter of Mars film's tentative release year is 2011, and that it will be a Pixar film (which is why I believe - or more like hoping very strongly - that Cars 2 is just a nasty rumor).

    The Polar Express was....  blech.  Yes, that one did make me very skeptical of motion capture animation.  But I thought they improved by leaps and bounds with the release of Monster House, and I think they'll just get better.  Though I have to agree that motion capture is best suited for live action animated figures like Gollum.  

    I have no problem with Christmas Carol being retold, I love that story.  I'd like it even better if they stuck with the original script (which many versions have done), but with Jim Carrey doing a lot of the acting, I somehow doubt they will.  Not saying they won't screw it up, but I'm confident they won't absolutely destroy the story.

    Here's what I believed the tentative release schedule for Disney's films to be (without the Zemeckis features, which I completely overlooked).  Anyone with more info, please fill in/correct the blanks.

    2008

    May - Chronicles of Narnia II

    June - Wall*E

    November - Bolt

    2009

    May - Chronicles of Narnia III

    June - Up

    July - Prince of Persia

    November - Christmas Carol (Thought this was gonna be Frog Princess, but I guess not)

    2010

    March - Frog Princess (?)

    June - Rapunzel (Princess overkill?  Maybe Frog Princess here, Rapunzel next holiday?)

    November - Toy Story 3

    2011

    June - Princess of Mars

    November - Rapunzel

    No clue what Zemeckis might be working on other than Christmas Carol, and that's all because of this article too.  And I haven't heard about when the rest of the Chronicles might be released.

  • I love the idea of a Disney Digital 3D release of a new Christmas Carol movie!  Sure, the story is a little old, but just because something is old doesn't mean it's not good! I really don't care who they have do the voices, although unknowns would probably be better than big stars.  They can sometimes be a bit of a distraction.

    We don't live very far from Downtown Disney here in Florida and they have one of the digital theatres so I take my family to see EVERY Disney movie released in 3D.  It may be a gimmick, but it's a great one!

    Classic story + Cutting edge technology = Happy Disney Family

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