Zemeckis: How technology will make A Christmas Carol better

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Robert Zemeckis, director of the upcoming animated Disney's A Christmas Carol, told reporters that the holiday-themed movie marks his third effort in 3-D and that animation allows him to capture Charles Dickens' original vision.

"We never had the tools to actually present the story the way Mr. Dickens wrote it," Zemeckis (Beowulf) said in a news conference last week at the Los Angeles kickoff of the film's 40-city promotional train tour. "The way he describes the ghosts, the way he describes the environment that these characters move in, has always been unbelievably visual and very descriptive. We've actually been saddled with technology that never really allowed us to present the ghosts, if you will, in a way that is put on the page by Mr. Dickens. So that was the main inspiration as to why we wanted to re-envision the movie in a way that I think is really more true to the novel."

Following is an edited version of the news conference for A Christmas Carol, which stars Jim Carrey and opens Nov. 6.

You were one of the first filmmakers to see the potential in 3-D. How do you approach a 3-D film your third time out?

Zemeckis: Obviously I designed this film with 3-D in mind, but in the process that we work in, to be able to do performance capture, it's all 3-D anyway. So it's a very easy translation to get it to be presented as 3-D. But, yeah, since the days of Beowulf, I keep 3-D in mind when I'm directing. It's interesting. I don't do a lot that's that much different, so I guess my style has always been 3-D-friendly to begin with. But you think about what might be a fun thing to do in 3-D for sure. ...

Is motion capture made for actors like Jim Carrey, who already can transform into multiple characters?

Zemeckis: The great thing about the process of working in this medium and having Jim play all these different characters is we would do a scene with the ghost, and then Jim would do Scrooge's side. Then he would get an idea as Scrooge and be able to hop back and do the ghost and be able to refine the scenes back and forth. It was just great, and to have an actor like Jim, who's so versatile and is always thinking—I mean always thinking—it was just great. I was actually thinking about when [he was] doing both Scrooge and the ghosts for days on end, and every morning we'd have to say, "Now, who do you want to play first, Jim? Who do you feel like should kick off this scene?" He just actually physically contorts himself into the character, and he doesn't even have to open his mouth. You look at him and you go, "OK, well, I guess we're starting this scene with Scrooge." That's what it will be.