Steve Daly
January 16, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Is that Tom Hanks’ actual face done up as a Groucho Marx-mustachioed conductor in ”The Polar Express” (due in November)? Or is it just an incredible computer-graphic simulation? It’s both, really, since director-cowriter Robert Zemeckis (”Cast Away”) is employing motion-capture technology to place Hanks inside what he calls a ”moving painting” version of Chris Van Allsburg’s award-winning 1985 picture book. Hanks didn’t have to wear a conductor costume on the set — just a leotard festooned with infrared-beam receptors and some 165 freckle-like reflective dots glued to his face. ”It’s not animation,” says Zemeckis of the results. ”It’s got all the subtlety and warmth of a human performance.”

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