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3-D Goes Digital For Disney’s ‘Meet the Robinsons’

[IMG:L]Remember the days when 3-D meant red and green cardboard glasses and headaches? Disney says those days are long gone and promises a glimpse into the future with their newest release Meet the Robinsons.

In Disney’s Feature Animation Building, appropriately shaped like the sorcerer’s hat from the classic animated feature Fantasia, director Steve Anderson, producer Dorothy McKim and stereoscopic supervisor Phil McNally are getting ready to roll out their most spectacular project to date, an animated film that will play in 3-D on an unprecedented 650 screens nationwide.

Though all three joined the project for different reasons there is one thing they strongly agree on—3-D is not a gimmick. Not when it comes to Meet the Robinsons.

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“The ultimate movie experience might be something like a dream, where when you’re in that dream it’s absolutely real. And when I think of stereoscopic films I see that as one step closer to the immersive dreamlike experience. The sooner we can get there, the better,” says McNally, nicknamed “Captain 3-D” for his love and skill in the three-dimensional world.

[IMG:R]Stereoscopic imaging seems simple in theory. If you imagine that each of your eyes is a camera and they are only set a small distance apart, you have 3-D. Close one eye and your world is two-dimensional. Disney Digital 3-D takes advantage of advances in digital projection technology by using one projector, which rapidly shifts between images for the left eye and the right eye, so quickly that the brain is not even aware of it.

“It’s so close to being perfect now. Of course things will improve, but we’re past the systems that really hurt people. Going back to the Fifties you could have watched Dial M For Murder in fantastic 3-D, but it relied on real expertise in setting those two pieces of film exactly right and making sure they projected it properly and aligned it right. Now all the control is on our end. That means you don’t have to rely on someone in the field if the film breaks or is running out of sync,” says McNally.

Three-dimensional movie experiences have been around for quite a while, and in recent years 3-D versions of blockbuster films have even out-grossed their 2-D counterparts, but for the first time filmmakers took the 3-D rendering process into consideration early on in the development of the movie. This made it possible to enhance the storytelling in a way that had never been done before.

“Phil was able to take us on this rollercoaster of the moments he felt were our wow moments, and the moments he wanted to keep really calm, so we were able to not make everything come out at you and not make you tired and want to get out of there half-way through the film,” says producer Dorothy McKim.

[IMG:L]“There are moments when things should come flying out of the screen, because it’s part of the story. If you’ve got a guy with his meatball cannon and he’s shooting at a dinosaur, of course those things should be flying at you. The 3-D will be in sync with the story,” explains McNally. And what the third dimension adds, more so than the objects flying towards the audience, is distance and depth.

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It was another kind of depth that appealed to director Steve Anderson five years ago, when he discovered the script about a boy who wants to be adopted and has a lot of questions about his past.

“I had a personal connection to the script because I was adopted when I was an infant and the same questions that Lewis is asking in the story I’ve asked ever since I was a child. Finding out about my birth parents was something I was determined to do but then I got older I became more interested in who I was and where my future was headed. So our theme became to let go of the past and look to the future because that’s where you’re going to find hope and fulfillment.”

And as Lewis returns from his journey into the future, ready to create the world he has just experienced, Disney aims to share his story on more than 700 3-D screens worldwide.

“The 2-D movie is fantastic, the 3-D version is like you’re living inside of it, says Anderson. “It’s almost like watching a stage play where you can reach out and touch what is going on in front of you.”

It may only be a matter of time before Disney thinks of a way for the audience to do so.

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