Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Christmas in August

Today the kids and I took DART rail into Dallas and saw the Christmas Carol Train. It's in Dallas today and tomorrow, and then heads to the Midwest, and, finally, up and down the East Coast.

My favorite part was getting to view all the Dickens manuscripts and other source documents on loan from the Dickens Museum. We saw pages from Dickens' original manuscript for "A Christmas Carol", letters he wrote, manuscripts and copies of his notes on his visit to America, and scripts from play versions of "A Christmas Carol", one of his quill pens, and an inkstand.

Triss' favorite part was learning about motion-capture animation-- oh, wait, I think it is called mocap by those in the know. ;o) And "when it includes face, fingers and captures subtle expressions, it is often referred to as 'performance capture.'" (Wikipedia) There were videos of the actors working in white rooms, wearing jumpsuits with sensors all over-- they even had tiny sensors all over their faces! Looked like purple chicken pox. Triss commented on how much physical acting goes into making a mocap animation. I think it would be especially challenging to stay in character in a white room with all those sensors on you.

We also saw computer animation of the actors moving, looking like dot-to-dots-- Triss said the dots were points of capture, or animation points, she wasn't sure-- and then the same video with muscle and skin added (it looked like they wore leotards), and we think there was a video of the animated characters with full costumes wrapped around the animation points and fleshed-out bodies, but we only caught a glimpse of it.

I had no idea it was so complicated. The kids told me I ought to watch the special features with them after we watch an animated DVD, so I can be more 'in the know'. Triss is just fascinated by computer animation.

After walking through the special effects car, we were invited to use computers to have the kids' pictures taken and their faces 'morphed' into characters from the movie.

We walked outside and were greeted by Christmas carollers in full Dickensian dress. (Bet they were hot.) Mariel and Cornflower were enchanted by snow swirling in the TX August heat, until they realized it was soap foam. It floated just like snow, too.

And we watched 3D previews of the movie in an inflatable movie theater. That was a novelty. I've read about inflatable buildings in the last year, and was curious to see one in person.

The preview included Scrooge's visit with Marley's ghost at the beginning of the story, and that was a bit scary, especially in 3D. For the most part, the characters in this movie aren't as 'prettied up' as regular Disney characters. It was not a pleasure to look Marley's ghost full in the face in 3D.

The kids and I read Oliver Twist together this past year, and I read A Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times last year as well. Triss is due to read A Tale of Two Cities this year. So, given our current Dickens interest, and the new movie coming out, we decided to read "A Christmas Carol" either before or after Thanksgiving. It bothers me to read it before the Christmas season, but the movie comes out November 6th-- one more strategic move in the insidious plot to prolong the Christmas shopping season, sigh. Then we want to go as a family to see the movie at the IMAX theater. The movie will be shown in regular theaters too, but the IMAX version will be 3D.


I'm so thankful that the ladies on our local homeschool yahoo group work together to keep everyone posted about opportunities in the community-- I hadn't even heard about the Christmas Carol train until last week.

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