Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

Footage from the upcoming live-action 3-D feature Journey to the Center of the Earth screened for the first time this past weekend at San Francisco’s Wondercon.

Producer Charlotte Huggins spoke with IESB about the film, the 3-D and where films like Avatar and Star Wars 3-D stand in the grand scheme of things.

How did this project come to you?
The way that I got involved was that I was making movies predominately for IMAX 3-D or for theme parks or specialty venues. I was always looking for a property that would work for a true stereoscopic movie. The ideal property would be something that took people into a place where they would never, otherwise, get to go like the center of the Earth. When I found that Walden Media was developing Journey to the Center of the Earth, we just thought that it was a natural evolution to take it and make it 3-D. They just loved it because they had done the IMAX 3-D movies with James Cameron. They loved the idea of 3-D and were very open to it. Technically, it’s a little more difficult to make a movie in 3-D but creatively, once you’ve embraced it, it all follows from there. That was four and half years ago.

Was the process that involved?
Every movie has a long lead-up time. We spent a couple of years developing the movie. But we conceived it in 3-D, shot it in 3-D and we’ll release it in 3-D. There’s never been a movie that has gone through all three phases in 3-D.

Did you have trouble keeping up with the evolving process of 3-D?
We didn’t because we were sort of on the cutting edge of 3-D. I had come from 3-D and Eric Brevig, the director, came from 3-D. In fact, that’s how we met on the set of Honey I Shrunk the Audience 16 years ago. Eric and I sort of came to the project with an innate understanding of 3-D. And then James Cameron and his partner Vince Pace came along with the capture technology. You could call it filming, but it’s not really filming if it’s digital so we call it capturing. They had the stereoscopic rigs. In fact, the rigs we had on Journey are the exact same one Cameron is using on Avatar. So we were the guinea pigs. Cameron and his team were great because we were really testing the technology and although I was worried, we never had a problem.

James Cameron seems to be saying that this is the future of film.
Cameron and everyone else. Filmmakers like it because it’s a new tool just like sound was a new tool and color was a new tool. 3-D is a new tool. That’s not to say that every movie should be 3-D but that every movie should have that option -- that added dimension to the story and the experience. Certainly in a movie like Journey, 3-D is really an enhancement to the experience. Cameron has embraced it. Spielberg, Lucas, Rodriguez, Peter Jackson. They’re all embracing 3-D.

And there’s talk of going back and making 2-D movies into 3-D.
Well, when you make a 3-D movie, you can always go back and show it in 2-D but if you make a 2-D movie, you can’t always show it in 3-D. So you make it in 3-D and you always have 2-D or 3-D options.

But isn’t there talk of going the other way? Hasn’t George Lucas talked about going back and adding 3-D to Star Wars?
Right. They are actually talking about – and they’ve been experimenting with – doing a 3-D conversion. They take each optic in each frame of each scene and map that object and create the 3-D. It’s pretty impressive.

But it’s painstaking process?
It is. It’s expensive. It’s slow. But it’s beautiful. That’s what they did on Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s amazing. They did the best 3-D conversion I’ve ever seen. They really did it carefully and it just looks beautiful. That movie wasn’t conceived for 3-D. It just has so much 3-D stuff in it that it came out beautiful. Polar Express they did the same thing. But those are movies that live in a surreal space.

Is it something that’s significantly harder to do with live-action actors?
Yes, it’s harder and ultimately less satisfying. It’s fun and particularly if you could do Star Wars and create Star Wars in 3-D, it would blow peoples’ minds. You feel like you’re there. It’s a very intimate experience. You feel like you’re in the ship with them. We’re all Star Wars fans. It’s three generations at least. You have three generations of people who would love to be on the ship with them or involved in a battle. You don’t just watch it. You experience it.

What’s next for you after this one?
I have another movie coming out at the end of summer called Fly Me to the Moon that is also animated 3-D. It’s about three flies who jump on board Apollo 11 and go to the moon with Collins, Armstrong and Aldrin. We’ve got Aldrin in the movie but it’s an all-animated feature. It opens August 22nd.

And Buzz Aldrin does a voice?
No, he plays himself. He comes on at the end of the movie and says, “There were no flies on Apollo 11” and then you cut and, of course, he’s the picture on TIME magazine because Armstrong took the picture of him. Then you zoom in and there’s the flies.

In terms of old movies in 3-D, what would you like to see be done?
That’s a good question. I think an Indiana Jones or a Star Wars because those are the movies I grew up loving. I watched them in college and now my kids love them. Those movies are so made for 3-D. You just want to be in those environments with those people.

Do you know if Spielberg and Lucas took any precautions on the new Indiana Jones to maybe one day turn it into 3-D?
No, I think they just went 2-D. But maybe the next one. That would be fun.

By Silas Lesnick,