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All Aboard the Christmas Carol Express

Disney unveiled the train tour for A CHRISTMAS CAROL (opening Nov. 6) this morning at Union Station in L.A. The multi-media train tour (sponsored by HP and driven by Amtrak) is open to visitors here in town during Memorial Day weekend (free of charge) before embarking on a 40-city itinerary.

The tour encompasses four cars and includes a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the 3-D performance capture feature based on the Charles Dickens classic and directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge (from young to old) and the three Christmas ghosts. On hand were Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, Zemeckis and Carrey.

The tour includes examples of character development and design, concept art, models and maquettes, performance capture footage, artifacts from the Charles Dickens Museum in London, plus interactive kiosks for London flyovers and character morphing with your own face, powered by HP TouchSmart PCs.

HP, in fact, is the technology partner for Zemeckis' new ImageMovers Digital (IMD) studio in Novato, California, located inside redeveloped hangers at Hamilton Air Force base.

The tour also includes a 3-D sneak peek of the movie (including Marley's ghostly visit) in an inflatable theater (courtesy of Dolby Labs and Barco).

Zemeckis emphasized the cinematic quality of Dickens, suggested that "we never had the tools to present the ghosts more visually [and] more true to the novel."

Carrey added that, for him, "the bitterness of a life without love," is at the heart of his portrayal of the Christmas-hating Scrooge. "The bottom line: he's screaming for help."

In addition to supplying TouchSmart PCs, monitors, ProLiant servers and ProCurve switches on the tour, HP is powering A CHRISTMAS CAROL with workstations, DreamColor displays and ProLiant servers. More than 9,000 cores from HP c-Class blade servers comprise the IMD renderfarm for its initial production.

In fact, HP is supplying IMD with 8,000 processors on site at Hamilton for lighting and rendering, allowing more quality settings, more wrinkle skin detail and overall more dynamic simulation.

According to Jeff Mirich, SVP/CIO, the Walt Disney Studios, IMD is benefitting from more previs for quicker reviewing, more re-rendering up front and simultaneous streams on set (back and forth between Hamilton and the performance capture stage in L.A.). Zemeckis is also utilizing more director layout capability right up front and the stereoscopic component is being carried out all through production. This technology boost would not have been affordable just two years ago.

Check out http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/christmascaroltraintour/#/schedule/ for the full schedule.

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Rick DeMott
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