Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey, the creative team behind "The Polar Express," are forming a new performance-capture film company based at Walt Disney Studios.
The announcement had been expected since the trio moved to Disney's Burbank lot in the fall.
The as-yet-unnamed company will create films using performance-capture technology, a technique of digitally recording actors' movements that are fed into a computer allowing for the development of 3-D motion pictures. Sources said the company will perform all of the technique's labor-intensive functions in-house with a staff whose size has yet to be determined.
The trio, whose previous company Imagemovers had a deal at DreamWorks before becoming a free agent, will produce all the films, and Zemeckis is expected to direct many of the projects.
As part of the deal, all of Zemeckis' future performance-capture movies will be made exclusively for the new company. Disney will distribute and market its films worldwide. While the pact doesn't cover live-action movies, Zemeckis is expected to focus his energy on performance capture in the near future.
Disney chairman Dick Cook lauded Zemeckis, Rapke and Starkey for having "a real pulse on the future of motion pictures especially as it pertains to the creativity and technology of motion capture and 3-D film experiences."
Zemeckis, who dubbed Disney an enthusiastic champion of 3-D movies, said Disney "is committed to the advancement of digital cinema in all areas including performance capture."
Zemeckis pioneered the technique with his animated feature hit "Polar Express," which was released by Warner Bros. Pictures. He then executive produced the Academy Award-nominated animated film "Monster House," which also employed performance capture at Sony Imageworks. Additionally, Zemeckis is directing and producing the performance-capture film "Beowulf," with Rapke and Starkey producing. Paramount will unspool the picture Nov. 16.
The move is a boon for Disney, which along with Pixar now boasts two powerhouses on the cutting edge of technology and has another supplier of movies to its slate.