Polar Mo-cap

The Los Angeles Times reports that the upcoming animated Tom Hanks film, The Polar Express, will be entirely created using motion capture technology. The film is based on the award-winning children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg.

Director Robert Zemeckis, who blended live action and animation like never before in Who Frame Roger Rabbit?, will have his actors perform in mo-cap suits in front of green screens. Animators at Sony Pictures Imageworks will then fill in the characters from mapping of Hanks’ and the other actors’ facial and muscle structure.

Like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, The Polar Express will try to mimic live action with CG. The main difference is that the characters on screen will resemble the actors who voice them. The effects team is even using old photos of Hanks to engineer a virtual kid version of the actor.

Reported to fall in the ballpark of $150 million, the production budget may actually exceed Titanic numbers, according to industry insiders. The film is scheduled to pull into theaters in 2004 or 2005.