Feb. 17, 2006

Striking right balance at the heart of 'Eight'

By Borys Kit
With the release of today's "Eight Below," Walt Disney Pictures is going back to its roots, offering an updated version of one of its animal-centric animal classics like "Old Yeller."

Intent on making a serious-minded but still family-friendly movie, the filmmakers knew what they wanted to avoid: ending up with a movie like Disney's own 2002 "Snow Dogs," starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and a bunch of Alaska sled dogs.

"Eight" began with Vertigo Entertainment's Roy Lee, who set up the project as a remake of the 1983 Japanese movie "Nankyoku Monogatari" (Antarctica). That film told the true story of a 1950s Japanese expedition in which all but two of the dogs perished. The movie grimly detailed each dog's demise by putting up a "born on" and "died on" graphic whenever a pooch perished.

The task of lightening the mood for the English version fell to writer Dave DiGilio when he was given the assignment as one of the members of the Disney Writing Fellowship Program.