Toon Talk - From the Other Side: The Polar Express - An IMAX 3-D Experience
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A Review by Kirby C. Holt
(c) Warner Bros
The Polar Express
In the weeks leading up to its premiere this time last year, The Polar Express was hyped by its studio, director and star (Warner Bros., Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks, respectively) as the next step in the evolution of animated motion pictures.
Utilizing the motion-capture process popularized by George Lucas' Star Wars prequels and Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, Zemeckis and company trumpeted how they have taken it to the next level: instead of using the technological technique on just a few select characters, the Polar crew would use it for the entire cast of characters for this Yuletide fable (based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg).
A lot of the advance press focused on how Hanks was the Frank Morgan of this Oz, playing multiple roles, including the boy hero and the big C, Santa himself. Ads and previews showed the erstwhile Forrest Gump in what looked like a deep-sea diving suit covered with ping-pong balls - behind-the-scene footage usually reserved for DVD bonus features. It was a definite case of putting the cart before the horse, stressing the technology behind the film instead of the film itself.
Holiday audiences didn't seem to mind (the film was a modest hit), but the film industry was not as impressed - Polar Express, which seemed like a shoe-in with its pedigree of Oscar-winners, was passed over for nomination for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award, and was practically ignored at the Annies (the animation industry awards).