Disney, Dolby cook digital ‘Chicken’

Technology will make its debut in with toon

In the first studio-backed rollout of digital cinema, Disney is working with Dolby on a 3-D digital projection system set to hit 100 screens in 25 major markets.

Proprietary technology, dubbed Disney Digital 3-D, will make its public debut with the Nov. 4 bow of CGI toon “Chicken Little.”

Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic is handling digital rendering for the pic, using new software developed at Disney’s request for 3-D projection.

While neither Disney nor Dolby would discuss exact financial terms, both companies are helping to pay for the rollout.

Dolby gets the added benefit of 100 new d-cinema systems on the market. Rollout will more than double the number of digital screens in the U.S., currently around 80.

Once “Chicken Little’s” run is over, Dolby will be able to work with other studios to distribute their pics on its digital screens.

Mouse House likely will use the new system again as well. It’s exploring applying the new 3-D system to live-action films.

“Chicken Little” partnership is nonexclusive and all three companies are free to work with others on digital 3-D projection in the future.

Rather than adding a 3-D effect to a traditional 2-D image, as in existing 3-D projection, the Disney system uses the animators’ own 3-D models and graphics.

“It’s less of a post-production process and more of a co-production process,” said Colum Slevin, senior director for computer graphics at ILM. “We’re using all the components of their shots.”

The system requires a new kind of 3-D glasses, different from the red-and-blue specs familiar to auds.

Real D, a 3-D digital projection company, also is working on the “Chicken Little” rollout.

There is a proven market for CGI-animated films in 3-D. Warner’s “The Polar Express” took more than $40 million of its $283 million worldwide gross from Imax 3-D venues.

“Chicken Little” is directed by Mark Dindal and produced by Randy Fullmer, with voices of Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn and Amy Sedaris.

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