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Eyeing the very big picture

'Fantasia/2000,' Cirque du Soleil, 'Michael Jordan' lead large-format hopefuls

HOLLYWOOD — Coming off of the success of “Everest” the large-format industry is banking on Disney’s “Fantasia/2000” to make the experience even more of a household word.

Strong expectations also lie with Sony Pictures Classics’ Cirque du Soleil film and Giant Screen Sports’ “Michael Jordan: To the Max,” which will give the ticket-buying public a whole new way to view sports.

In the mix for 2000, are Greg MacGillivray’s follow-up to “Everest,” “Dolphins”; the promise of even greater risk and adven-ture in “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Epic Journey” and “Avalanche Hunter”; and films on such varied topics as golf, horses, soccer and more.

The following is a thumbnail list of product in the pipeline. But, as with films in the 35mm world, all information is subject to change.

Jan. 1

“Fantasia/2000”

(Disney/Imax)

Feature-length film continues the legacy of “Fantasia” with seven new animated sequences. Music by Beethoven, Elgar and Shostakovich, and a new version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Features celebrity appearances by Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Penn & Teller and more.

January

“Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man” (2-D/3-D)

Dir: Keith Melton

(Sony Pictures Classics)

World premieres: January in Berlin; May in North America

Sony’s fifth large-format film is a visual and musical celebration that follows the journey of man from birth to maturity and features the unique performers of Cirque du Soleil.

Feb. 21

“Ultimate G’s Flying to the Extreme” (3-D)

(Sky High Entertainment)

World premiere: Feb. 21. Imax Le Theatre, Quebec City.

Dir: Keith Melton; Prod. Carl Samson

Disneylike story about a young boy who wants to learn to fly and becomes an aerobatics pilot.

March

“Dolphins”

(MacGillivray Freeman Films/National Wildlife Foundation)

Dir: Greg MacGillivray

Underwater adventure with wild dolphins in the Bahamas. Soundtrack features music by Sting. Producer Christopher Palmer is optimistic, saying, “65 prereleases could spell big box office.”

“Eternal City: The Vatican and Rome”

(Eternal City Partnership)

Prod.: Paul Lauer

“Solarmax”

(Heliograph/Java Films)

Satellites provide information on the flurry of sun-storm activity coinciding with the millennium.

May

“Michael Jordan: To the Max”

(Giant Screen Sports)

Dirs.: James D. Stern and Don Kempf

Inspirational film about Jordan — the individual and the athlete — including the final shot of his career.

“Seeing Michael Jordan eight stories high puts things in a new perspective,” Kempf says. “Large format really bring sports to life in a way that cannot be duplicated in any other medium … even seeing it live.”

“Ocean Oasis”

(Summerhays Films)

Dir.: Michael Hager

Explores the “web of life” in the Sea of Cortez.

June

“The Enchanted Billabong”

(Imagine If)

Prod.-dir.: David Waddington

Magical animated story from Australia of young boy who learns to believe in himself.

“Wild California”

Part of MacGillivray Freeman’s Great Adventure series, this film explores the bio-diversity of the state of California from mountains to wilderness and into the air with daredevil sky surfers.

“Endangered” (3-D)

(Endangered Films)

Animated pterodactyl takes teen boy on a journey to visit six endangered species.

Spring

“Symbol of the North”

(Motion Intl./Swedish Museum of Natural History/Imagica)

Part of the company’s Magnificent Cultures and Ancient Civilizations series.

Story of survival in the icy terrain of Northern Canada and Sweden. Witness the northern lights and a caribou stampede.

“Virtual Actor: The Boxer”

(Taarna Studios)

Explores the possibilities of 3-D character animation and brings a virtual actor to life.

“Cyberquest: An Internet Odyssey”

(Laserium/Laser Images Inc.)

Tom Hanks lends his voice to two animated characters in this large-format presentation combining computer graphics and la-ser visuals.

Summer

“Cyberworld” (3-D)

(Wire Frame Films/Imax)

A compilation of award-winning shorts rendered with cutting-edge 3-D technology.

September

“Equus: The Story of the Horse”

(Mullion Creek Prods./Beyond Prods./Mandalay Media Arts Prods.)

Film explores the relationship between man and horse in Australia.

“The Endurance: Shackleton’s Epic Journey”

(“Nova”/WGBH)

Dir: George Butler

Story of Shackleton’s ill-fated and now legendary journey to the Antarctic in 1914 aboard the Endurance.

October

“Golf”

(MacGillivray Freeman Films)

Story of the lure and power of golf, with visits to the world’s greatest courses.

“Journey to the Center of the Brain” (3-D)

(SK Films Inc.)

Dir.: Hugh Hudson

A 3-D journey to the human control center.

November

“Life in the Balance”

(Blue Mountain Film Associates/Primesco Communications)

Explore the inescapable link between man and nature across the continents.

Fall tba

“Haunted House”

(nWave Pictures)

Dir.: Ben Stassen

“Avalanche Hunter”

(Tantalus Films/Peregrine Pictures)

Dir.: E.J. Foerster

Like scientists seen in “Storm Chasers,” these brave adventurers-scientists track avalanches in the Western hemisphere, un-raveling mysteries and saving lives. Companion ride film is planned.

“American Road: The Experience of a Lifetime”

(Ideal/Imax)

Prods.: Jon Shapiro, Peter Shapiro

Superproducer Don Was hosts a musical and cultural journey across America with popular performers.

“Australia: Land Beyond Time”

(Living Pictures/Houston Museum of Natural Science)

Film shows the diversity of life in Australia from ancient to modern times.

December

“The Human Body”

(Maryland Science Center/BBC/Science Museum of London)

A day in the life of the human body. Film, based on the award-winning BBC TV series, uses cutting-edge imaging techniques to exhibit the miracles of life.

Ocean Men

(H5B5 Media AG)

Dir.: Bob Talbot

Story of two world champion free-divers, Pipin Ferreras and Umberto Pelizzari, who spend up to nine minutes underwater while holding their breath.

Fourth quarter tba

“The World’s Game”

Dirs.: Jonathan Hock and Davis Guggenheim

(Giant Screen Sports)

Follows young boy as he sees soccer played around the world. Includes a journey to the ’98 World Cup in France.

2001

“Yosemite”

(Summerhays Films)

Traditional-style destination-based large-format film explores history, human experience, and the beauty of Yosemite Na-tional Park.

March

“Journey Into Amazing Caves”

(MacGillivray Freeman Films)

Part of MacGillivray Freeman’s Great Adventure series this film features spelunking scientists as they explore new worlds underground.

Spring

“Water Challenge”

(National Wildlife Foundation/Primesco Communications)

Dir.: Kieth Merrill; prods.: Christopher Palmer, Goulam Amarsy

Coming off of the success of “Whales,” producer Palmer admits, “The subject is not intrinsically sexy, but we’ve found the level of interest in institutional theaters is high.” The treatment is being revised. However, “look for a … story-driven film that tells all the beauty and drama of fresh water: pollution, scarcity and science.

“Natural Disasters”

(Graphic Films/National Geographic/Destination Cinema)

Dir.: George Casey

With a human face, and a theme of renewal, man learns to cope with volcanoes, earthquakes and floods.

Mid-2001

“Bears”

(National Wildlife Foundation)

Dir.: David Lickley (“Gold Fever”)

June

“Secrets of the I-52”

(Kieth Merrill Prods./Cape Verde Prods.)

Dir.: Kieth Merrill

Discovery adventure to top secret, sunken WWII Japanese submarine carrying two tons of gold.

September

“The Search for Infinity”

(Reuben H. Fleet Science Center)

With the virtual visage of Arthur C. Clarke as guide and mentor, a female space pilot travels to the edge of the universe.

“Redwoods: The Trees of Mystery”

(Waterland Entertainment)

Dir.: Barry Ptolmey

Story of a logger in 1893 who takes an unexpected side trip in the forest on a Victorian steam train and develops a higher ap-preciation for ecology.

Fourth quarter

“Legends of Dreamtime” (3-D)

(Warnari Prods.)

Prods.: Dean Reynolds, David Waddington

Aboriginal boy and his uncle explore myths and legends of Australia’s outback. An animated adventure.

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