Christmas Carol: Zemeckis Finds Technology Liberating
"A Christmas Carol," directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey, is an adaptation of Charles Dickens' 1843 novel. The film is released by Disney November 6, 2009.
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.”
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 Christmas Carol" is a classic tale with stunning performances and powerful visuals,” says 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.
Technology as Liberating Factor
“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, “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.”