3D ‘Toads’ has Sundance hopping

Docu marks another milestone for tech format

A roar went up inside the Eccles theater on Tuesday night as director Mark Lewis humorously introduced his 3D documentary on Australian cane toads.

“Welcome to ‘Ava-toad,'” he said.

The world debut of “Cane Toads: The Conquest” at the Sundance Film Festival takes the nature docu to a new level: It’s the first specialty doc filmed in digital 3D.

The moment wasn’t lost on Sundance fest director John Cooper, who asked the audience to don their 3D glasses before the movie started for a photo op. They were eager to oblige, as Cooper joked it could be the official Sundance picture for next year.

The irreverent docu is a follow-up to Lewis’ 1988 “Cane Toads: An Unnatural History,” about the introduction of the poisonous animals to Australia and the ravages wrought by the pesky amphibians. “Conquest” explores the toads’ migration and further destruction in the years since.

Film is a presentation of Participant Media, Discovery Studios, Screen Australia and Radio Pictures.

Tuesday night’s premiere was attended by curious buyers, including Harvey Weinstein and his staff from the Weinstein Co. “Conquest” drew a raucous reaction from the packed room.

Lewis’ film is only the second 3D title to play at Sundance after “U2 3D” in 2007.

Dolby Labs partnered with Sundance to screen “The Conquest” in Dolby 3D Digital Cinema. It wasn’t easy outfitting the 1,270-seat Eccles, a performing arts center that’s converted into a moviehouse during Sundance.

“Working with Russell Allen of Dolby Prod. Services and the team from Barco at the Eccles Auditorium setup was a delight. They not only managed to make my toads look beautiful in Dolby 3D, but they made them sing in Dolby,” Lewis said.

Some scenes weren’t for the faint of heart. One buyer who attended an early-morning screening Wednesday opined, “I can’t believe I had to watch slimy toads mating in 3D!”

(Sharon Swart contributed to this report.)

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