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Dickens' Story26 Oct 2009
By TNPihl (JCO Editor-In-Chief)
"Everybody loves a good transformational story.
You know, somebody who sees the light, who finally finds out what's important in life. And, this is one of the greatest ones ever written."
~ Jim Carrey, "Scrooge" and the "Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Yet to Come"
Thought to be one of the greatest Christmas stories ever told and enjoyed by millions each year at the holidays, "A Christmas Carol" was originally published by Charles Dickens himself in 1843. The novella was an immediate and enduring success and would become a holiday tradition for generations. It was the world's first time travel story and perhaps the most beloved of ghost stories.
At its core, however, the story is one of redemption. "Everybody loves a good transformational story," says Jim Carrey. "You know, somebody who sees the light, who finally finds out what's important in life. And, this is one of the greatest ones ever written."
It is the ghosts, of course, who help turn the stingy Scrooge around.
- The Ghost of Christmas Past (Jim Carrey) appears in the form of a flickering flame-Dickens describes the Ghost as a "bright, clear jet of light." The Ghost escorts Scrooge on a journey back in time, revisiting moments in his past. He sees himself as a youngster, as an apprentice to Fezziwig (Bob Hoskins), as a vibrant young man chatting with co-clerk Dick Wilkins (Cary Elwes), and as a man in love and engaged to Belle (Robin Wright Penn). The memories deeply affect Scrooge.
- The Ghost of Christmas Present (Carrey)-a merry giant decked out in robes-arrives to show Scrooge what his life is really like in the present. Scrooge is taken to the Cratchit household and sees his clerk's meager situation, including the gravity of the illness of his young son, Tiny Tim (Gary Oldman). The Ghost also allows Scrooge to observe his nephew's Christmas party, where they witness a guessing game in which Scrooge's dreary life is the punch line.
- Next up, and perhaps most unsettling, is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Carrey), a phantom who takes Scrooge into the future as the pair explores an unnamed man's recent death. Businessmen discuss the man's riches, Old Joe (Hoskins) and Mrs. Dilber (Fionnula Flannigan) divvy up his bedding and curtains. Scrooge demands to know the man's identity; he's shocked to read his own name on the tombstone. If only he had another chance.
"You take the meanest man alive and show him the error of his ways...
and we get to come along for the ride."
~ Robert Zemeckis, Director/Producer/Screenwriter
The filmmakers felt that no film version had truly captured the story in a way that Dickens truly intended. "It's as if Charles Dickens wrote this story to be a movie-it's so visual and cinematic," says Zemeckis. "It's the greatest time-travel story ever written and I wanted to do the movie the way I believe it was originally envisioned by the author."
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" is a classic tale with stunning performances and powerful visuals," adds producer Steve Starkey. "It has it all."
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."
Starkey adds, "The characters in the story are bigger than life-ghosts and even Scrooge himself who evolves through time. We can do things in this new form of cinema that you couldn't do before."
According to Zemeckis, "Disney's A Christmas Carol" is the perfect film to showcase how far performance capture technology has come and how it allows filmmakers to be innovative, yet still showcase the strengths of the cast. For the actors, it's a fascinating process with no costumes, no physical makeup and very little as far as sets. Carrey and the rest of the cast had their work cut out for them in their efforts to become the characters. "A lot of people think that these movies are just voice-over work," says Carrey, "but they feature complete performances by actors."
While the technology afforded filmmakers incredible freedoms to create environments and characters that have never been seen on the big screen before, it still comes back to the story, says Zemeckis. "You take the meanest man alive and show him the error of his ways…and we get to come along for the ride."
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