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Yuletide movie on track

Train loaded with exhibits promoting film visits Spokane

It may have been 63 degrees and sunny Tuesday morning, but at the Spokane Intermodal Center on West First Avenue, snowflakes were falling, carolers were singing and train cars were decked with holly.

Long lines of people waited for a chance to take a free peek at a Walt Disney attraction as the traveling promotion for “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” hit Spokane on a 40-city, 24-week tour.

“I just wanted her to have a little Christmas in July. I think it’s more for me than for her,” said Laura Papetti, of Spokane, who held her 16-month-old daughter, Isabella. “They are kind of magical things, these stories.”

The four vintage rail cars that rolled into Spokane were filled with exhibits, including artifacts on loan from the Charles Dickens Museum in London, costumes and props from the film and demonstrations of technology used in the motion-capture, 3-D film. The film is due to open Nov. 6.

When visitors left the train, they went into a 100-seat inflatable theater, where they saw a 9-minute preview of the movie, starring Jim Carrey, Colin Firth and Gary Oldman.

Perhaps the most popular exhibits were the “face morph” stations – computer technology that allowed people to photograph themselves, then merge their faces with those of characters from the movie, including Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghost of Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim.

Karen Kotlarz, of Spokane, and her sons, Jacob, 7, and Zachery, 11, cracked up when they saw Zachery’s face on that of Belle, Scrooge’s love interest, who is played by Robin Wright Penn. Visitors could receive e-mailed copies of their favorite face morph, said Nicole Rivelli, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Studios.

Rivelli said traveling tours of this length are rare. It took more than a year of planning, including arranging the collaboration with Amtrak, whose conductors and engineers are driving the train.

However, Rivelli said, “We didn’t just want to tell them about it. We wanted them to experience it for themselves. We brought Disney to Spokane.”

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