Oscar winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis best known for the “Back to the Future” trilogy and “Forest Gump” kicked off Walt Disney’s panel Thursday morning at Comic-Con in San Diego with a small bit of news.
While host Patton Oswalt did a good job focusing the questions on Zemeckis’ latest motion capture opus, “A Christmas Carol,” it was a fan’s inquiry about his classic “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” that created the most buzz. When asked if a sequel was in the works to the ground-breaking 1988 animation-live action hybrid, Zemeckis was surprisingly cagey.
“I can neither confirm or deny,” Zemeckis said. Adding that if it did happen, “The characters will remain 2-D. They will not be dimensionalized. That doesn’t exclude anything [else’ from being 3-D. Who knows.”
Adding with a slight grin, “That’s if something were to every happen down the road.”
As for “A Christmas Carol,” Zemeckis showed an extended scene beginning with the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge (one of eight characters preformed by Jim Carrey), lives up to the negative association with his name by taking the coins off Marley’s eyes before his coffin is boarded up. The segment then transitioned to the ghost of Marley arriving to warn Scrooge of the three spirits that will be visiting him over successive nights. What was most impressive about the scene was the patience Zemeckis creates as he allows the tension and drama to build. Much of that suspense is from the rich detail that is captured within Carrey’s performance as Scrooge. This is not the sort of filmmaking you’d expect for a 3-D motion capture picture. It may not have overwhelmed the audience, but it certainly made cinephiles in the audience take notice.
One of the biggest criticisms of Zemeckis’ two previous motion-captured films, “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf,” were the dead eyes or “uncanny valley” that diminish the photo realistic look of the animated characters. Zemeckis doesn’t necessarily take the criticism in stride.
“That was termed for robots, for mechanical people, auto animtronic dolls,” Zemeckis says. “I don’t think it was ever intended for cinema, because cinema is all illusion. I see a lot of uncanny valley in your everyday movie. When you have a mediocre actor and you can see him trying to remember his lines. Prosthetics, which is the only tool which we had before to turn [an actor] into a character, creature, age him. I think you’re looking at that going ‘Oh, that’s kind of real.’ It has nothing to do with the artform we’re doing here.”
Audiences will get to judge for themselves when “A Christmas Carol” opens nationwide on November 6.