Disney studios are unearthing the ‘carefully archived’ production files of Beauty And The Beast – its landmark CGI-enhanced cartoon of the early 90s – with the intention of re-releasing the film theatrically in 2010, by which time James Cameron’s Avatar will either have opened up 3D movies as a serious mass-market proposition or proved (not for the first time) that it’s just a gimmick.
Beauty Producer John Hahn said. “By going back to the original animation files, which have been carefully archived for 17 years, and using the separate background, effects and character animation elements, we’re able to come up with a fun and unique 3-D experience for existing and new fans of the film.”
3D theatrical releases enjoyed brief spurts of interest in the 1950s and 1970s, but Hollywood is perhaps more committed to it than it has ever been, since it offers added value that will prove impossible to ‘torrent’ out of its revenue stream, at least for many years. Disney has more 3D films coming in the interim, including Robert Zemeckis’ Disney’s A Christmas Carol, and the company is also re-rendering Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3D.
Re-rendering simpler CGI classics such as Toy Story in 3D would, on the face of it, be a no-brainer, since the excruciating render times of the period have been cut to a fraction (relative to the complexity of the material) by advances in computers.
The real issue to be addressed in a mass re-render is one of compatibility, as every CGI movie uses software and techniques that become almost instantly outmoded by new methods and algorithms.
Hancock SFX supervisor John Dykstra talked about this problem with us in a recent interview:
“This stuff keeps re-inventing itself, it keeps being put together in different ways – different rendering systems, different kinds of shaders, all that stuff, all those complex components. You’ve got to remember, you’re creating this object from whole cloth. It changes with every show that you do., and reverse-compatibility is not hot in this particular business. You can use old models, but you end having to limit what you can do with them, with the ability of the software that you’re currently using, to interpret.”