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Bad Ideas

Florida Jail Inmates Tortured with Zemeckis Animation

Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!

Inmates in a Florida jail are being forced to watch Robert Zemeckis’s mo-cap trainwreck Polar Express over and over again. One inmate is so distressed that he filed a lawsuit claiming that the experience is akin to Chinese water torture.

“I hear those little kids screaming through my brain. All night long I can hear them,” he told CNN. “I can close my eyes, but I’m still going to hear them over and over and over.”

To be fair, the guy killed a woman driving drunk so Robert Zemeckis’s films might be exactly the kind of animation hell he deserves.

(Thanks, Joshua Wolf)

  • Funniest story I’ve read all week.

  • Iritscen

    CGI by Zemeckis: Tormenting even the conscience-less since 2004. We should petition the jail to add Christmas Carol and Mars Needs Moms, as soon as it comes out, to their rotation of movies.

  • Spencer

    Mars Needs Moms will have them crying for THEIR mommies!

  • rnigma

    At first I thought this was an Onion article! But I doubt that the Onion writers could concoct anything this heinous.

  • Damon

    I’ll say it. I like the Polar Express.

  • Christopher Cook

    The biggest thing I found wrong with “Polar Express” is that it wants so earnestly to be a holiday tradition that it becomes painful to watch, regardless of medium. For true animation hell, look no further than “He-Man and She-Ra’s Christmas.”

  • Jeff

    Did you actually read the article? Nobody is being forced to watch anything. If they don’t like the movie that is being played, they are free to leave the room and go back to their cell.

  • Karen

    If you really want to torture them, make them watch Zemickis’ Christmas Carol, or Beowulf. Or worse yet, Mars Needs Moms trailer.

    Polar Express is horrible. It was bad when it was made. It’s even worse now.

  • I really don’t like Robert’s mo-cap films, but I like his previous works (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit”).

  • snip234

    Has Chris Van Allsburg heard about this?

  • tonma

    That’s not the issue people, the point is that this is no rehabilitation! That guy will get out just to kill again, and this time with ugly, overacting children zombies telling him to.

    • It’s not the jail’s purpose to “rehabilitate” him, an unconvicted prisoner. Its duty is to confine him until he goes to trial.

      Post-conviction prison or probation are for rehabilitation.

      I don’t know how many of his fellow inmates are actual convicts, but it doesn’t sound like the taxpayers of that county have given the jailers much to work with for rehab purposes.

  • I’m reminded of another similar incident where Saddam Hussein was forced to watch the South Park movie. Saddam responded by giving the SP creators a signed photo of himself.


  • Rebecca

    A lot of animation these days, is a form of torture. Try sitting through a marathon of Spongebob.

    • Scarabim

      Or worse, the Fairly Oddparents. *cringe*

  • BT

    Yeah, whatever. It’s flawed, it’s unintentionally creepy, but it played like a good Disneyland ride in 3-D Imax. I’d go see it again if they re-released it. And Beowulf and A Christmas Carol are genuinely good.

    (I think I’ll be skipping Mars Needs Moms though. That one looks like it should be live action, though I would also skip it if it was. And the Martians look like something from The Ant Bully.)

  • YESSSS I knew it, I knew it. I bet that his movies can cause cancer for sure.

    Now someone make Zemeckis watch Yellow Submarine over and over and over again, perhaps he abandons the project.

  • Luke

    I personally like that movie. As well as A Christmas Caroll. What is the problem, really? Although my torture is watching sports or anything related to hunting, I guess I shouldn’t judge. I am sure the people that like those things could say the same for me. It just struck me as surprising to find such a comment on a cartoon blog haha

  • Katella Gate

    Isn’t that the kid that played the banjo in that hillbilly movie with Burt Reynolds?

  • Bill

    You gotta feel bad for all the artists that worked on Bob’s films. Sucks that the movies turned out the way they did.

  • Doc

    I’m not a fan of this movie but I was talking to a work colleague who told me his kids just LOVE IT.
    Aren’t these kids whom the movie was made for?

  • Corrine

    My brother would have been nine when this came out. He saw this in theater with his friends and hated it. I’ve seen parts of it and think the same. It is just scary looking at these people in this movie.

  • Lewie

    Zemeckis has become the new George Lucas. He used to be respected filmmaker known for beloved classics but nowadays he is considered a hack who does unappealing CGI rubbish.

    • At least Lucas had the decency to hire people like Genndy to make that Clone Wars cartoon.

      • Jackson

        What a shame that cartoon, and the new cg version, are so bad. But Lucas continues the trend…

    • As a 2D acolyte, I have to say I enjoyed the 2D Clone Wars shorts more than the 3D series. But then, I think I enjoy my Star Wars universe viewings in more moderate portions, and the little shorts adding up to a larger story hit the spot for me more than further elaborate expansion of the already gargantuan SW universe.

  • I’m glad kids seem to like it, but they deserve so much better.

    Revolting animation technique aside, my biggest problems with the film were its script and its musical numbers. To me, the whole production was stale, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. The cinematic equivalent of a bowl of melted-together ribbon candy at your grandma’s house.

  • Chelsea

    I liked the Polar Express too- although I really hate mo-cap and find it hard to justify over live action, the Polar Express worked because it mimicked the book- and the story is fantastic. My opinion.

    I think you would hate anything if you watched it over and over and over again.

  • Mac

    I don’t hate PE. Parts are lovely,though nothing visual. In fact,Hanks voice away from the visuals work really well. I love Hanks voice as Santa;gives a humanity to the guy rather than the “jolly old elf” voice most use. Santa sounds a bit wise and a bit tired,as if he’s done this before,but knows the importance of his job. A favorite part:when the kids are exploring the North Pole village and the overhead music is secular Christmas stuff from the 40s &50s,with an echo effect coming from ancient loudspeakers. Just like downtown during Christmas when shopping with Mom.

  • Tee

    That’s a particularly well chosen screen capture. What a disgusting movie.

  • Jon

    If you really want to torture them, make them watch Don Bluth films from the early 1990s (Rock-a-Doodle, A Troll in Central Park, Thumbelina, The Pebble and the Penguin)

  • Steven M.

    Well, appears theres some use to Zemeckis’s mo-cap films after all.

  • Scarabim

    The Polar Express film destroyed the charm of the book. Like in that scene where the kids, all dressed in their pajamas, are in the train and are being served cocoa – in the book, that scene glowed with a cozy charm evocative of a wintry Christmas. But in the movie, the waiters serving the cocoa break out into a stupid song and spill the cocoa everywhere, and for what? Laughs? Feh. It’s not just the creep mo-cap that ruined that movie – it was the lame scripting and Zemeckis’ lack of understanding of what makes the book a perennial Christmas favorite.

  • Bob

    Well … I liked Polar Express. I don’t understand continued bashing of something you hate. If you love it — sing its praises. If you hate it — pay it no mind. Seems fairly simple…

  • Alissa

    Absolutely no sympathy for the guy, but did you really have to post that picture? That frontmost elf on the left, he wants to devour my brain. And then my soul. He already got the kid in the center.

    And just for the record, my sister and assorted cousins are all terrified of this movie, it even gave one nightmares for a week.

  • Chris

    Boy…I just love these annual ‘Bag on Polar Express’ threads over at the brew huh? I appreciate that it’s a bit more topical this time with the CNN story…but here’s something that’s NOT news: Cartoon Brew hates Polar Express. Let’s try to move on and just let it die shall we?

    Besides..there must be something really cool to talk about. How about everybody just watch Ryan Woodward’s amazing ‘Thought of you’ and post there instead?

    • Mark Walton

      Another reason why a lot of hatred (from animation professionals) is poured out upon these motion capture films is the filmmakers and studios continue to assert that all the performance is coming straight from the actor, when in reality, they end up being massaged a LOT by animators, whose contributions are trivialized, if recognized at all. (For example, I talked to animators on “Avatar”, which was supposedly done without animators (for the navi).
      Oh, and another thing: unlike the book, the kid goes to the North Pole, has all these adventures, meets Santa Claus in the flesh…and he’s STILL not sure if he believes in him? WHY? Because a GHOST tells him he’s probably not real. What the crap?

  • Mark Walton

    Obviously, some people have no problem with this movie, and some really love it (and some love all the other Zemeckis “performance-capture” films). Their personal opinions and reactions are totally valid. I have several family and respected colleagues in the industry that feel this way. I, personally, don’t feel bad about pointing out how creepy, ugly, disturbing, unnerving, etc. I think these movies are, because:
    – movies like “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol” refuse to die, coming back again and again as perenial Christmas “treats”! I can run but I cannot hide!
    – And I find it fascinating that other people don’t have the same reaction that I do – I mean, is it only a few animation nerds that think that screen capture above is just terrifying? I mean, I feel like I’m staring into a Bosch vision of hell!
    – I just don’t understand concept of making movies featuring relatively normal, photo-realistic humans (I’m not talking about Dobby or Gollum, which a flesh-and-blood actor couldn’t do on their own), when you could accomplish the same thing will real actors, spend a fraction of the money, and have them look far more real! (I guess the point is they’re supposed to make a lot of money, but it seems like “A Christmas Carol”, at least, crashed and burned)
    Anyway, my point is, if theaters would stop showing these films, and the studios would stop releasing endless versions of them on video, or if Zemeckis would promise to not make any more, I’m sure the bashing would die down. Until then, I say, bash away, bash away, bash away all! HA HA HA!

    • I think the best use of mo-cap in combination with actual animation is stuff like Gollum, Dobby, and the Navi in Avatar. Though I would say even in Avatar, it got to be a little much. I like using these techniques to mix in anatomically impossible characters into environments populated by flesh-and-blood actors. I see entirely mo-capped movies as kind of pointless if most of the characters are basically human.

      Yeah, I suppose for something like Beowulf, you have the ability to make your lead characters look *exactly* how you want them to look, and can then “plug in” whoever you feel the most talented actor is to portray the character, even if they look all wrong physically. But even though Beowulf was a lot better than, say Final Fantasy, it still in the end left me “meh.” Also, one thing I have learned is to avoid seeing movies with a lot of dark scenes in 3D. The current 3D glasses technology makes the images much dimmer, and unless it’s something really bright like Toy Story, it will feel muddled. I was squinting to see though half of Beowulf….