It’s been too long since I’ve seen Polar Express, I guess, because this one slipped right by me (I blame the characters’ eyes – how about going back and dezombifying them, Bob?). It’s now clear that Zemeckis’ first, admirable yet failed, attempt to cross the uncanny valley featured a neat little surprise, just like one of Pixar’s infamous easter eggs in which Nemo appears in Boo’s bedroom in Monsters Inc., or a pink Teddy Bear glimpsed in Up turns out to be a player in Toy Story 3. This revelation hints at the same sort of long leadtime in development and design in Zemeckis’ mo-cap pictures as in Pixar’s toons.
See a full comparison image at the bottom of this post.
Scrooge, looking rather like his final design in Zemeckis’ just finished A Christmas Carol, made a sneaky Polar Express cameo appearance, albeit in simplified puppet form. The puppet was being controlled by the hoboghost character, and interestingly, both the hoboghost and the puppet were played by Tom Hanks. Motion capture has allowed Zemeckis to cast the same actor in multiple roles a few times now, with Hanks taking a multitude of parts in Express and Jim Carrey being responsible for virtually every lead character in Carol. I think the only instance of this in Beowulf is that Ray Winstone also plays the Dragon, in all of its forms.
The Polar Express puppetry scene in question comes about 41 minutes into the film and features a host of other marionettes – a woman, a clown, a monkey – but Scrooge is the only one with a featured part, if I remember correctly.
While it is still possible that this design simply reflects Zemeckis’ unchanging notion of what ol’ Ebeneezer should look like and there was no work being done at all on future films, I’m wanting to think he was leaving us a slow-release surprise. At least, that way we can possibly look for some kind of obtuse Yellow Submarine hint woven into A Christmas Carol. It’ll have to be darn obtuse, but anyway.
It’s worth noting that Polar Express and A Christmas Carol belong to different studios, though I doubt anybody is going to do anything silly and litigious.
Now excuse me while I go back to Beowulf and see if I can spot John Lennon getting torn limb from limb in the mead hall massacre.
Via Planeta Disney.