All this is leading to the spate of high-profile 3D releases which we can expect in the next twelve months. The Polar Express and the 3D release of Beowulf have only given us a taste of the 3D future.
For a while, it's likely that CGI animated movies will be the meat and drink of 3D presentations. Disney's Oscar nominated dog movie, Bolt is the third of the company's films to be shown in Disney Digital 3D (Disney's branded version of RealD), and will be joined by Pixar's next film, Up, and a re-issued Toy Story as standard-bearers for animated 3D in 2009. 3D versions of Toy Story 2 and an all new Toy Story 3 are set to follow.
Dreamworks Animation, meanwhile, will be pushing Monsters vs. Aliens; a cool parody of fifties monster movie featuring Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland and Hugh Laurie. The interesting thing about Monsters vs. Aliens is that, unlike most previous 3D CGI flicks, it has been produced in 3D rather than rendered to a 2D format then converted (though the low-budget Fly me to the Moon is actually the first specifically created 3D CGI film). A cutting-edge virtual camera technology even allows the directors to treat scenes in production as a virtual film set, moving the camera, reframing shots and changing virtual lenses, just as a director might in a live-action movie. It says something about the studio's confidence in its 3D processes that boss Jeffrey Katzenberg has committed to producing all subsequent Dreamworks Animation films in full stereoscopic 3D.
Other animated films will also be exploring 3D in new and interesting ways. Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare before Christmas, is bringing Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline to life as a 3D stop-motion animated film, with the emphasis on using 3D as a stylistic tool rather than a gimmick. And one of modern 3D's pioneers, Robert Zemeckis will be back with a new film that expands on the techniques used in Beowulf and the Polar Express. His third performance-captured CGI film, a new version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Robin Wright Penn. Fox Animation's Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs will also be released in a digital 3D version.
The most exciting news in 3D CGI, however, is Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, to be released in 2011. Starring Jamie Bell in the title role, with Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Kick Frost, it's being created using a revolutionary 3D motion capture process by Peter Jackson's team at WETA digital. WETA's technology takes Herge's original drawings but replicates them as photo-realistic characters instead of conventional CG cartoon figures. The idea is to create 3D films that combine the stylised lines of Herge's comic strips with the look and feel of a live-action film.