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Toon Tuesday: Is "Disney's A Christmas Carol" a little too scary for its own good?

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Toon Tuesday: Is "Disney's A Christmas Carol" a little too scary for its own good?

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Disney's A Christmas Carol Train Tour is now in the home stretch. After today's stop in the Amtrak Station in Jacksonville, FL., this rolling promotion for Walt Disney Pictures' next Digital 3D release has only three cities left on its 40-city intinerary: Charleston, SC (October 23 - 25), Philadelphia, PA (October 27) and New York City (October 30 - November 1). 

So, of course, you'd think that -- now that ads for "Disney's A Christmas Carol" have begun airing on television -- that those who tour this traveling exhibit for Robert Zemeckis' latest film would have a better sense of what to expect. But that really isn't the case.

You see, all of the commercials that are currently playing on TV here in the US play up "A Christmas Carol" 's more comic moments. So when people see Jim Carrey's version of Ebenezer Scrooge being hit in the face by giant icicles  ... Well, that's what these folks expect when they enter that inflatable 3D Theatre that Disney has been hauling from city-to-city on the Christmas Carol Train Tour. A comical holiday romp.

A Chirstmas Carol with Jim Carrey
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

The only problem is ... That's not the "Christmas Carol" that Zemeckis set out to make.

In his introduction for Diana Landau's "The Art of Disney's A Christmas Carol" (Disney Editions, October 2009), Robert talks about how " ... I can't resist a great ghost story ... Finally we have the technology to bring (the ghosts that are showcased in this holiday story) to the screen as Dickens described ... With our CG tools (at ImagerMovers Digital) we can make the ghost as strange or enormous or terrifying as we want ..."

And though Zemeckis receives lots of recognition for his more life-affirming / family-friendly fare like "Forrest Gump," "Back to the Future" and "The Polar Express" ... As 1992's "Death Becomes Her" and 2000's "What Lies Beneath" (not to mention Robert's work as the executive producer of HBO's "Tales from the Crypt") proved, this Academy Award-winner just loves a good scare.

Disney's A Christmas Carol
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

And the grislier the better. As is evidenced by that scene from "Disney's A Christmas Carol" that's been screened inside of the Digital 3D Theatre all across this country. When that bandage around Jacob Marley's head comes loose. And this ghoul's jaw & tongue suddenly -- thanks to the far-too-detailed cinematic magic of Disney Digital 3D -- dangles right in the audience's face.

"So why are the TV commercials & movie trailers that have been prepped for the U.S. market trying to sell 'Disney's A Christmas Carol' as a comedy?," you ask. Because the Mouse's marketing staff believes that the best way to sell a new film is with humor. That laughter -- more than anything -- is what prompts American to buy movie tickets.

Whereas for the Japanese ... Well, they're far more likely to buy a ticket to a new movie if the TV commercials and/or film trailers for that release do a proper job of showcasing the characters that you'll meet, the emotions that you'll experience while watching this movie. Which is why the Japanese trailer for "Disney's A Christmas Carol" is decidedly different than the one that Mickey's marketeers prepared for American audiences. These ads actually give you a sense of how scary certain sections of this movie might be.

Disney's A Christmas Carol
Photo by Eric Charbonneau.
Copyright 2009 ImageMovers Digital, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Anyway ... Getting back to the Christmas Carol Train Tour ... Those who have been checking out this film's Digital 3D preview in that inflatable theatre have been coming out talking about that Jacob Marley footage. And not necessarily in a good way.

Said one tour insider:

"Yeah, we've been getting a lot of complaints about that sequence. Especially from parents who have taken small children into the theater. They say that there should have been some sort of advance warning about how intense that footage was going to be." 

Well, now that "Disney's A Christmas Carol" has officially been rated PG (Because the MPAA recently decided that some of the material in this Robert Zemeckis movie "may not be suitable for children" due to "scary sequences and images"), that's really not an issue anymore. Disney can now put signage outside of the train tour's inflatable theatre that actually informs parents about this movie's rating.

But what do you folks think? Is "Disney's A Christmas Carol" going to be hurt at the box office because this new ImageMovers Digital production is reportedly more scary than merry?

Disney's A Christmas Carol
Copyright 2008
ImageMovers Digital, LLC. All Rights Reserved

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  • This post was mentioned on Twitter by Disneyopolis: Toon Tuesday: Is "Disney's A Christmas Carol" a little too scary for its own good? http://bit.ly/1GUIIl

  • I loved the Japanese trailer!  My concern with A Christmas Carol has been that they turned the story into some sort of sanitized pap.  Don't get me wrong....I was still going to see it, but my kids were not very interested (They are all young adults and teens who love Disney).  Seeing the alternate trailer has me much more excited about the film.

    Now I don't have small children.  If I did and went to see what I thought was another Polar Express and instead got Alien Encounter, then I would be mad.  There hasn't been a great theatrical Christmas Carol in many years.  So a PG rating should alert people.  It looks like we may have a Christmas masterpiece here.  I sure hope so.

  • As with Roald Dahl & his 'Chocolate Factory', Dickens wrote a dark tale (it's a ghost story, after all!) about redemption that Hollywood and the public have turned into a 'family tradition'... Popular adaptations (and I LOVED the 70's 'Wonka') don't change the fact of the author's intent.  Thank God for interpretive artists who resist the clamoring masses and bring us back to the source.

  • I think Christmas movies do well around Christmas and this fact sometimes seems to trump any other factors that might determine a movie's success or failure, including quality.  I've seen any number of mediocre to bad looking movies do very well simply because they happen to be family friendly films with "Christmas" in the title released in the last few months of the year.

    Two things I am getting tired of: the assertion that this film is the "Christmas Carol" that Dickens always envisioned and the practice of reworking a film's tone in the trailers.  Maybe this movie does play it closer to the original story than a lot of previous versions have, but when I get this quote paired with the slapstick and 3D roller coaster rides that the marketing department is pushing, the idea that this is what Dickens was thinking all along is lost.  The other issue is not particular to just this movie, but I am exceedingly sick of marketers who believe that they can make the movie they're selling into everything for everyone.

    The Japanese trailer interested me far more than the American one.  I still don't much like Jim Carrey's voice acting; it feels very fake and forced to me.  But the Japanese trailer makes the movie feel more like the original story and less like an excuse to throw things at the screen.  I just wish that US marketers would trust audiences to appreciate the classic story and not feel that they have to disguise it with than broad humor in order to sell tickets.

  • I'm hoping for a new, longer, 3D Alice in Wonderland trailer in front of the movie.

  • I go along with Jerry - the Japanese trailer actually got me interested in seeing the film, whereas the American trailer looks like - well, butt. Slapsticky and stupid. I think I'll actually go see the movie now. After all, Dicken's book is extremely dark and unflinching in its indictment of callousness, greed, poverty and despair. Any movie based on it should reflect that. There have been many adaptations of Christmas Carol for the screen - many of them unworthy (Muppets come to mind, unfortunately - cuddly fuzzy felt puppets have no place in Dickensian lore); up to now the only adaptation I've bothered to re-watch is Alastair Sim's, which was excellent. Now I just might give the Jim Carrey edition a try. Thanks for the clips, Jim.

  • Maybe I'm old.  But Mo Cap still makes me feel like I'm looking at a video game.

  • What's wrong with you people?!  Don't you all remember the part of the book where Scrooge is shrunken down and smacked in the face by icicles?!!  I'm glad someone is finally doing a faithful adaptation of this hilarious story!

  • The Japanese trailer looks WAY better then the American one.  The American one looks like the Grinch.  This movie is gonna tank, and it's going to for these reasons:

    1) This story has been done to death.  In fact Disney already has an iconic version of it!

    2) Mo Cap really does look like a video game cutscene.

    3) Princess and the Frog is going to wipe the floor with it.  Disney has to stop competing with itself.

    4) The marketing is doing a bad job of selling something it's not.

  • I'm surprised by Jim's article, he of all people should that 'A Christmas Carol' is a dark story.  Judging by this website, he's an expert on all the adaptations out there.

    Who cares about the marketing?  It was a mess from the start (sending their Polar Express choo choo around middle america in sunny July?  Wow, that's christmassy)

  • count me as another person who had all ready decided to give this movie a SKIP based on the awfulness of Dickens teamed with slapstick Jim Carrey (yuck). Now I will wait for the early buzz, and put this back on the list as a "maybe" if the trailers don't actually represent the overall movie.

  • I've given up on Zemeckis' motion capture movies. The humans are just too creepy looking. I wish he had done a movie with actors and modern special effects. There is no need for motion capture.

  • I have zero interest in watching synthetic humans fly around for an hour and a half. Real Humans are a thousand times more expressive than any CG character. Stick to using actors when the story doesn't call for animation. I love all kinds of animation, but not everything needs to be animated.

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