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Laramie Movie Scope:
Meet the Robinsons

Hey ho, hey hey! 3-D is here to stay!

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 5, 2007 -- “Meet the Robinsons” is a Disney animated feature which is unremarkable except that it is the first wide release movie in a long time to open in hundreds of theaters in a really effective three dimensional format. Other films, notably Robert Rodriguez's “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” and “Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D” also opened wide nationally, but the 3-D technology used in those films was greatly inferior. In those, the audience wore the familiar glasses with one red lens and one blue lens. “Meet the Robinsons” is being shown using a system called Disney Digital 3-D® which uses a digital projection system instead of film and the audience uses polarized glasses instead of the blue and red lensed ones. The 3-D experience is greatly superior to the system using the red and blue glasses. I think it will become more popular and common in theaters around the country (more on that later).

“Meet the Robinsons” is a film that borrows a lot of its ideas from the “Back to the Future” films. It is about time travel and family values, also the main themes of “Back to the Future.” In this film, a villain from the future, called the Bowler Hat Guy, steals a time machine and goes back to the past in order to change history. A boy from the future, Wilbur Robinson, discovers the plot and uses a time machine to go back in time to try to stop the Bowler Hat Guy. Caught in the middle of all this is a young genius inventor, Lewis. The basic story is O.K., but it gets drowned under a tide of subplots. The whole film threatens to crash into chaos, but the plot pulls up and rights itself in the last 15 minutes and comes in for a happy landing.

The 3-D effect is quite good, reminiscent of the effectiveness of old 3-D projection system dating back some 50 years that is little used nowadays for various reasons. The old 3-D system used two projectors and polarized glasses to isolate the left and right field images for a very good 3-D effect. One of the old movies created for this 1950s 3-D technology is being shown in conjunction with “Meet the Robinsons.” It is an old 3-D Donald Duck cartoon, and it looks great. In fact, Disney Digital 3-D® uses a system very similar to the old system, and with similar results. The new system utilizes a single digital projector to project the left and right images on the screen in very rapid succession, 144 images per second, compared to the normal film projection rate of 24 frames per second. As in the old system, the left and right images have a different polarity. By wearing specially designed polarized glasses, each eye sees a slightly different set of images, creating the 3-D effect.

The 3-D effect in “Meet the Robinsons” is very good, but not quite as good as the IMAX 3-D effect, which uses a different system, involving very expensive radio-controlled LED shuttered glasses. Disney Digital 3-D®, on the other hand uses very inexpensive polarized glasses which are disposable, making it much easier and cheaper for theaters to deal with. I have seen 3-D movies using all four systems described above and the Disney Digital 3-D® system is the one that has the best chance of going into widespread use. This is because it is very effective and is also a reasonably-priced and practical system to put into use. A lot more 3-D movies will be made in the future for several reasons. One is they are popular and attract a larger audience than 2-D movies. Another reason is that 3-D offers a viewing experience currently not available on home television. Another reason is that studios see 3-D movies as a way to get more theater owners to convert to digital projection. Although it is expensive to convert from film to digital, there is also the prospect of long term savings. Digital distribution of movies to theaters can be done by satellite, fiber optic cables or high-speed broadband telecommunications cables. That kind of distribution would save money on shipping as well as developing and printing film. It costs theater owners $100 or more just to ship one film print to a theater.

Digital projection systems, combined with satellite distribution, also means that theater owners can expand the use of their theaters for video teleconferences, live televised sporting events, live televised concerts and other uses. It is a way to diversify the use of movie theaters. Currently, one of the major players in digital projection is the Carmike theater chain, one of the largest in the nation. Carmike is very aggressive in adopting this new technology. Locally, the only theaters showing “Meet the Robinsons” in 3-D are the Carmike theaters in Cheyenne and Fort Collins. Another major player is the Real D company, which modifies digital projectors for showing 3-D movies. I saw “Meet the Robinsons” at the Fort Collins Carmike theater, which is Real D-equipped. 3-D movies may have been a passing fad in the 1950s, but now, I think 3-D is here to stay.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)