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Behind the Scenes of DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Jim Carrey Likes Celebrating Christmas and Redemptive Storytelling
By Tom Snyder, Editor
When it comes to celebrating Christmas, actor Jim Carrey says he prefers the “Judeo-Christian” traditions he and many other people in America grew up on as children.
“I’d hate to miss Christmas,” he added.
Carrey, who gives a remarkable performance in A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the new brilliant masterpiece of the beloved novel by Charles Dickens from Disney and Writer/Director Bob Zemeckis, spoke about the movie at a recent press conference MOVEGUIDE® attended in Los Angeles.
At the conference, Carrey also noted that he loves redemptive stories like A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
“Everyone loves a good transformational story,” Carrey said. “You know, somebody who sees the light, who finally finds out what’s important in life. And, this is one of the greatest ones ever written. It’s just a beautiful story of redemption.”
“It might be the greatest time travel story ever written in the English language,” added Zemeckis, who’s also known for his entertaining time travel stories in the 80s, the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy.
“This story definitely influenced my other time travel stories,” he said.
Zemeckis also said he thinks A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a perfect story for the motion capture process he used to good effect in THE POLAR EXPRESS and lesser effect in BEOWULF. This process involves actors performing entire scenes while hooked up to computers that can record their every movement. Once recorded, that’s when the animators, working with computers and other animation technology take over.
Zemeckis noted, “The book hadn’t been realized before in the way that it was actually imagined by Dickens as he wrote it. I said, okay, this could be a perfect way to take a classic story everyone is familiar with and re-envision it in a new and exciting way.”
And indeed, the movie, which should become a Christmas classic, brilliantly takes moviegoers back to a bygone era, Victorian London, with amazingly detailed set designs.
The motion capture technology also allows the filmmakers and actors to interact in new ways with the world envisioned by Zemeckis through Dickens, including the wonderful special effects of ghosts, spirits, and supernatural events that Dickens describes.
In the past, some have complained that the motion capture technology makes human actors too wooden, but, here, Zemeckis, Carrey, Gary Oldman (who plays the crucial roles of Bob Cratchit and Jacob Marley), and the animators do a wonderful job of bringing life and true humanity to their characters.
It also helps that Carrey not only plays Scrooge, the misanthropic protagonist. He also plays the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present, who teach Scrooge some invaluable lessons.
And, Carrey also plays the silently menacing and terrifying Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come, who teaches the miserly, hateful Mr. Scrooge the horrors that await him if he doesn’t change his ways.
The fact that the movie is animated helps Carrey, Zemeckis, and the animators carry off the scenes between Scrooge and the spirits without stretching credulity.
Such a disconnect often happens in live action movies with lots of special effects where, all too often, the actors don’t seem to be in the same room or location as the special effects surrounding them.
“Certain aspects of the technology make things easier,” Carrey noted, “to get a lot of scenes done, to do a lot of material at once. A lot of aspects make it hugely easier to create the world you want.
“For an actor, there are actually challenges. You have to create the ambience and the belief in your surroundings in your head. But, once you go into it, the process is very comfortable, and Bob [Zemeckis] was great.”
Zemeckis added, “I loved every morning I got to come in and I’d say, ‘Jim, who do you feel like today?’
About playing Scrooge, Carrey said, “I wanted to have that feeling that causes rheumatism, that eventually will eat you alive from inside. I based the character from the get-go on the lies that we believe about ourselves. Obviously, Scrooge felt he was unworthy of love, so why should love exist for anybody?”
Carrey also said that doing all the different roles in the movie, including the younger versions of Scrooge, was “a dream come true” for him, including the physicality required for playing Scrooge and the three spirits.
It is the three spirits who teach Scrooge the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ and his salvation message of love, in this terrific, beautiful, powerful family movie.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is one of the few movies that MOVIEGUIDE® considers a “must see,” not only for people who love movies but also for people of faith and values.