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Sinbad sails in the high seas of computer wizardry

Los Angeles, July 4 (Reuters): CGI movies' What CGI movies'

The curtain rose on DreamWorks’ animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas this Independence Day weekend and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg wants audiences to know this latest film voyage of the sailor man has as much high-tech wizardry as any movie he has ever made with computer generated images, or CGI. Even smash hit Shrek.

“Our technology department was burning 24/7 just to try to create tools the artists needed to make their vision come to light. This is as state-of-the-art as it gets right now,” Katzenberg said, comparing old-style animation techniques to newer CGI films.

Ever since CGI movies like Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story and DreamWorks’ Antz began thrilling audiences in the 1990s, a debate has raged in Hollywood over whether movies made completely with computer generated images would overtake older style animation, like Sinbad, that looks more like hand drawings but still includes a lot of computer technology.

Experts like Katzenberg, who has become a master of both styles with credits ranging from The Lion King to Shrek, argue audiences will always want both because each form is unique.

Sinbad is mostly aimed at kids and faces competition from Disney/Pixar’s CGI-movie Finding Nemo.

The film is based on the centuries-old legend of roguish high seas adventurer Sinbad, who is voiced by Brad Pitt. It tells of a romance between him and the feisty Marina (Catherine Zeta-Jones), engaged to wed Sinbad’s friend, Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), in a marriage arranged by Marina’s father.

The legend of Sinbad is just that, a legend. So, of course, the movie features characters of mythical proportions such as the sirens who lure sailors into dangerous waters, a massive bird of prey that attacks Sinbad and his crew, and goddess Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer) living in a lush, dreamlike world.

It is Eris who plots to steal a “Book of Peace” in a plan that will test Sinbad’s skill as an adventurer and friendship to Proteus, whose life depends on Sinbad finding the book.

Katzenberg said building a story around the myth of Sinbad was “liberating” because, while most people have an idea of who Sinbad is and basic characters like the sirens are, they may not know specific tales of Sinbad.

“You really get to start with a clean slate, and what we tried to do was make a very contemporary telling of that mythology with a contemporary feel to the characters,” said Katzenberg.

But one thing is for sure. Being deemed a good movie by audiences generally hinges on the story and not on the technology used to tell the story.

While Hollywood argues about what the future holds for animation, whether traditional-style films will be eclipsed by CGI movies,

Katzenberg believes “Sinbad” has an exciting tale to tell with themes as old as the legendary sailor, himself.

”It's about things that are as relevant today as they have been for 2000 years,” he said.“It's about friendship, honor and love.”

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