'A Christmas Carol' Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

Before you see a very animated Jim Carrey on the big screen, find out how it all came together.

Look at ol' Ebenezer Scrooge — now that's a mug not even a mother could love.

Jim Carrey is no doubt a fan, though, because behind all that computer-generated animation is the comedian himself, done up in a performance-capture leotard. An admirer as well, clearly, is Robert Zemeckis, who masterminded the moviemaking magic that not only turned Carrey into Scrooge, but the three ghosts who visit him in this adaptation of Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol."

Their 3-D movie arrives just a bit before the Christmas season — on Friday (November 6), before even Thanksgiving — but that's no reason you should feel like it has snuck up on you. The story, about three apparitions who visit penny-pinching Scrooge during the course of one night and show him his past, present and future, is more than 150 years old, and MTV News has been covering this cinematic version from its very beginning. Prepare to be visited by our "Christmas Carol" cheat sheet.

Something You've Never Seen Before

Before a single image from the film had gone public, special-effects supervisor Michael Lantieri gave us the inside scoop about how motion-capture technology has evolved since Zemeckis' "The Polar Express" in 2005, when those dreaded "dead eyes" left Tom Hanks looking less than human. "I think you should be prepared to be blown away," he said. "I've seen some things that I haven't seen before."

Early this summer, we got to see exactly what Lantieri was talking about when Disney debuted the first footage for press in New York, showing off a montage of clips and a teaser trailer. We saw Carrey as a wrinkly Scrooge and Gary Oldman as his abused employee Bob Cratchit and the ghost of Jacob Marley.

The Visions Arrive

At Comic-Con, Zemeckis handed out 3-D glasses to a couple thousand people and played some footage to convention-goers. "I think that we've gotten very close to perfecting this," he said. "And it comes from artistry. We've learned how to paint the eyes ... to move the retina realistically. So I think we're there."

Photos began to show just how artistic mo-cap could be, with close-up looks at a sneering, sweaty Scrooge in a sleeping cap and a top-hatted, hairy-nosed Scrooge out for a stroll in London. The first trailer then showed all this CGI madness in motion.

Striking footage continued to arrive over the next months: Scrooge facing off against Marley; Scrooge going for a wild run to escape the Ghost of Christmas Past; and Scrooge discovering his holiday spirit and joining a chorus of carolers for a little ditty.

"There used to be limits because of the amount of data that you could retain when you're capturing," Lantieri explained about the mo-cap process. "You couldn't do crowd scenes. Now we can capture more information, which will make the eye blinks and the eye movements beyond anything you've ever seen. It's at the point where people are going to say, 'Oh, I get it now.' "

Check out everything we've got on "A Christmas Carol."

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