Monday, December 27, 2004

back to the future IV

You may find this article a little offensive, even though I'm holding back on it. I'm the one writing it, and even I'm offended. Just be glad that I'm not including the paragraph about the Superman movies that I was itching to toss in... that was much, much worse.

Back to the Future is Back!

Universal Pictures has recently announced that they are working on Back to the Future IV, the fourth installment in the Back to the Future series. This announcement comes in the wake of a head-on battle with Parkinson's disease by the series' star, Michael J. Fox. A portion of the movie's profits will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Universal Pictures is confident that the movie will be a box-office hit, just as the others were.

Fox announced his retirement from the hit television show Spin City in January of 2000, due to the quickly advancing effects of Parkinson's Disease. Thanks to the magic of director Robert Zemeckis (the academy award winning director of the Back to the Future trilogy), Fox will be back on the big screen, without any noticeable handicap. Fox was hesitant at first, but decided that the monetary benefit to his non-for-profit research foundation was worth the personal sacrifice. Fox has yet to make any public comment about the project, but it is confirmed that he has agreed to participate.

Zemeckis explains:

"Michael is still the phenomenal actor that he was twenty years ago, and even at his age, he still has that unique boyish charm of his. His only problem is that his condition is so advanced that he has trouble saying a long sentence without pausing, and he has some difficulty moving his limbs in a fluid, non-shaky way. He's too big a talent to be held back by something like that, and with the current technologies that we have available, there's no reason not to get him back to work."

"Most of the problem can be handled by a lot of patience and a modified script. If Mike has short lines, he won't have a problem, and that kind of dialog will fit right into the action-packed nature of the series. Strenuous physical action can easily be handled by a body-double, which is already a common practice in the industry. Of course, this movie has a high standard to follow, so we can't take too many shortcuts, but don't worry; everything's already taken care of!"

"What we're doing is quite simple, but also quite ingenious. For important scenes, where Mike's powerful acting needs to shine through, we're just going to shoot them as many times as we need to. Mike, himself, was worried at first, but now that he's seen what we can do, he's just as excited about the project as we are. After we have numerous takes of a scene, hundreds if necessary, we're going to pick the best facial expressions and body positioning of each take. It's like we're zooming in on one second of the movie, and choosing which take really reflects Mike's great talent. After we have our list of favorites, we'll simply cut and paste those frames into one continuous scene. Of course, his expressions and body positions will be somewhat different from second to second, but we have software that can smooth everything out. It's standard animation software that uses the frames as a guide and animates in-between them. That's right, Michael is going to be animated, and you won't notice a thing! If that's what it takes to get him back on the screen, that's what we're going to do! After the scene is put together, an actor who sounds like Mike will do a voice-over."

"Something similar was in the works a few years ago. We were actually going to do a live-action movie where a cartoon played Mike's role; another actor just won't do. Mike was going to do the voice-overs for the cartoon, but the decline in his ability to speak came too soon. Now, we have the best of both worlds, we will still have a cartoon in the movie, but that cartoon will actually be Mike! I hope that fans are as excited about this as Mike and I are. The Back to the Future movies are very important to both of us."

Back to the Future IV is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009. Filming is expected to take place steadily over the next three years, and the animation should be completed in the spring, just before the movie's release. To read more about Fox and his uphill battle, please visit: