Disney’s EFX-laden, live-action epic Hidalgo rides into theaters today to face tough competition from Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ and the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson comedy vehicle Starsky and Hutch.
Featuring digital effects by ILM, Hidalgo is set in 1890 and stars Viggo Mortensen from the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a Pony Express courier who travels to Saudi Arabia with his horse, Hidalgo, to compete in a treacherous 3,000-mile race across the Arabian desert. Tim Alexander served as visual effects supervisor on the film, which includes a massive sandstorm sequence that resembles the work ILM did for Universal’s 1999 remake of The Mummy.
Director Joe Johnston has been at the helm of many other EFX-heavy movies including The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Jurassic Park III. His next project is next year’s Jurassic Park IV.
Box Office Mojo (www.boxofficemojo.com) is predicting a fairly weak $13 million opening for Hidalgo, placing it third behind Passion and Starsky. Regardless, the film should benefit from Oscar-nominated Seabiscuit’s revival of the horse-racing sub-genre, which includes Sporting Blood (1931), Down the Stretch (1936) Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), National Velvet (1944) and The Black Stallion (1979).