Serenity, MirrorMask Dock in Theaters

Devotees of Joss Whedon’s short-lived FOX sci-fi series, Firefly, will no doubt be flocking to cinemas this weekend to catch Serenity, the feature-length, big-screen extension of the show. Meanwhile, fans of fantasy writer Neil Gaiman will have to seek out MirrorMask, a CG-intensive Jim Henson Co. production opening in limited release.

Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite and the rest of the main cast form Firefly are back in this all-new adventure that marks the feature directorial debut of Whedon, creator of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Serenity has Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion) and his rag-tag crew getting into hot water when they pick up a brother and sister who happen to be fugitives from a powerful coalition. The Universal Alliance will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl, a dangerous telepath who may pose more of a threat to the crew of the Serenity than the invincible military force or the cannibalistic Reavers simultaneously hunting them down. A video game based on the film is also in development and will be released by Vivendi Universal Games.

Featuring a heaping helping of visual effects by Zoic Studios, Illusion Arts and Rhythm & Hues, Serenity opens in 2,188 theaters, which means it will have some difficulty competing with more widely distributed holdovers such as Warner Bros.’ Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Buena Vista’s Flightplan, not to mention fellow newcomer Into the Blue, a modern-day pirate thriller from Sony Pictures.

MirrorMask opens today in just 18 theaters courtesy of Destination and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Scripted by Gaiman and directed by his long-time collaborator, Dave McKean, the film was completed on a shoestring budget with a crew of 15 British animators right out of art school. MirrorMask reflects Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as it tells the story of a bored young girl who is transported to a surreal universe populated by strange creatures. Gaiman was commissioned to write the tale by Jin Henson Co. co-CEOs Lisa and Brian Henson, who wanted something that was equal parts The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

Also opening today is Buena Vista’s period golf pic, The Greatest Game Ever Played, and the limited releases The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio from DreamWorks’ Go Fish, and the Truman Capote biopic, Capote, from Sony Classics.

Read more about MirrorMask in the October issue of Animation Magazine, and look for our story on Zoic’s Serenity effects in the November issue, coming soon.