Here is the lowdown....

In a move with broad implications for the future of the animation business, reports that Disney has poached Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis from DreamWorks Pictures, and is a cat's breath away from signing his ImageMovers production company to a multi-year deal at Disney/Pixar Animation Studios.

Zemeckis' new-found motion capture passion isn't just appealing creatively: His latest film, "Monster House," is reported to have cost only $75 million, or less than half of what a typical Pixar film budget looks like. Most appetizing to Disney is the idea that a CG-style film could be made at such a reduced price, and still do well without needing to fill 4,000 theaters to capacity nationwide. In short, Pixar movies without the Pixar price or wait.

Insiders say that under the terms of the new ImageMovers pact, Lasseter will consult on all ImageMovers productions, leaving the studio to get "Pixar"-like product without meddling with Pixar's sacrosanct corporate culture. With the move, Disney is clearly aiming to own all areas of animation once again: With Pixar, 3D animation. With Disney Feature Animation, 2D. (As Animation Magazine recently reported, "During a panel at Comic-Con, director Eric Goldberg ("Pocahontas") mentioned that Disney is developing a 2D feature titled, "The Frog Princess.") And now, with its new friend Robert Zemeckis, the goal is clearly to own the more-economical motion capture space, too.

Zemeckis is known for his innovative use of special effects, especially in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which combined live action seamlessly with traditional animation, and Forrest Gump, in which he placed Tom Hanks in scenes with well-known historical figures such as John F. Kennedy. One of his most recent projects, 2004's The Polar Express, based on the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, utilized the computer animation technique known as performance capture, whereby the movements of the actors are captured digitally and used as the basis for the animated characters