Comic-Con International: San Diego is almost upon us, and the organizers have released the event’s mammoth program schedule. The madness, taking place from July 24-27, includes hundreds of panels, discussions, art demos, and screenings, with everyone from Buzz Aldrin to Betty White getting their moment to shine.
By my count, nearly a hundred of the planned events are animation-related, with some popular properties like Adventure Time being rewarded with up to three separate programs. The entire program is readily accessible on the Con’s website, so instead, here are seven hand-picked events related to animation and comics (because it’s still a Comic-Con after all) that could be considered a little more off-the-beaten-path. If I were attending the Comic-Con, these are the events I’d make an effort to check out. If you attend any of them, let us know what you learned.
THURSDAY, JULY 24
Meet the Flintstones, Meet George Jetson: Hanna Barbera Beginnings
2:30pm – 3:30pm
Wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall in 1963 in Hanna Barbera Studios with three men who helped make it such an essential part of cartoon history? Comic-Con special guest animator Willie Ito gathers his friends and cohorts Tony Benedict (writer, Flintstones, The Jetsons) and Jerry Eisenberg (layout artist, Flintstones, Jetsons) to discuss what made early Hanna Barbera into the powerhouse of cartoon history it became. Moderated by Leslie Combemale (film artist advocate/owner, ArtInsights Animation & Film Art Gallery).
That Again? Avoiding Repetition in Animated Features
3:30pm – 4:30pm
In recent years, animated features have enjoyed an enormous financial success: the three top-grossing animated films of 2013 accounted for 10% of the total U.S. box office. Despite this unprecedented success, critics and filmmakers have complained of a sameness creeping into the design and story of many films. Charles Solomon, an internationally respected critic and author of 16 books on the subject, will lead the discussion about the state of the animated feature and its future as both a medium of artistic expression and a financially viable form of filmmaking. David Silverman (director, The Pink Panther), Doug Sweetland (director, Storks), and Morishima Taro (associate producer, Paprika) will join the discussion.
FRIDAY, JULY 25
Art Lessons from Great Illustrators: Heinrich Kley
3:00pm – 4:00pm
Marshall Vandruff (MarshallArt.com) will present over a hundred slides of Heinrich Kley’s drawings to showcase his virtuoso skills. Kley’s character design, knowledge of anatomy, mastery of form and movement, and wild pen & ink technique have inspired artists for the past 100 years. Marshall will explain the training involved for today’s artists who want to apply these classic disciplines and standards to their work in any medium.
Big Ideas for Movies: Crossing Borders with Mexican Animation
3:00pm – 4:00pm
It all started with a little idea-creative Mexicans team up with producers and talent from Hollywood to make a big movie. The panel will share the adventures, mishaps and experiences of Mexican filmmaker Ricardo Arnaiz and his producing partners Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica), Phil Roman (The Simpsons), Verónica Arceo, Alex Flores, Gerry Cardoso, and Michael D. Olmos, who armed with a tiny budget, a big dream, and a heartfelt story managed to deliver the animated film El Americano 3D, coming to theaters worldwide 2015. They are joined by talents Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family), Raul Garcia (Aladdin), Mike Kunkel (Tarzan), and Richard Pursel (SpongeBob Squarepants) and the voices of Gabriel Iglesias (The Fluffy Movie), Cheech Marin (Cheech and Chong), Kate del Castillo (Under the Same Moon), Erik Estrada (CHIPs), and Lisa Kudrow (Friends), among many others.
Origins of the Comic Strip: The Untold Story of Artists and Anarchy, 1895-1915
3:00pm – 4:00pm
For the first time at Comic-Con, a detailed look at the origins of the American Sunday comic strip-the art form that gave birth to modern comics. Learn about the artists and publishers who launched a completely new type of entertainment that would influence all popular culture for a century to come. Host Peter Maresca (editor, Sunday Press Books), along with cartoonist and publisher Denis Kitchen (editor, The Yellow Kid, plus dozens of strip collections) and writer and historian R. C. Harvey (The Genius of Winsor McCay and Meanwhile…A Biography of Milton Caniff), will guide you through the earliest days of American comics. View rare examples of the seminal work of Outcault, Dirks, Swinnerton, McCay, Herriman, and dozens more known and unknown “Founders of the Funnies.”
SATURDAY, JULY 26
Phil Tippett: Analog and Digital Effects
7:30pm – 8:30pm
Academy Award-winning stop-motion and CGI master Phil Tippett (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Robocop) presents a talk spanning the history of his career in visual effects, including clips and insights on inspirations, experiences, and relationships that have inspired his creative perceptions and contributions to the world of film and animation. Joining Phil will be Corey Rosen (Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Host, Grindhouse), VP of creative development for Tippett Studio, showcasing Tippett’s new mobile effects app, Efexio.
SUNDAY, JULY 27
Disney’s Master Teachers’ Life Drawing For Animation
1:45pm – 2:45pm
Disney has a long tradition (dating back to the 1930s) of running life drawing classes for its animators. The idea is that understanding and mastering actual anatomy improves animated drawings and gestures. Disney’s current master teachers — Karl Gnass, Mark McDonnell, and Bob Kato — will talk about their creative philosophies, their approach to life drawing and gesture, how classical drawing translates to animation, and what animation studios look for in artists. Best of all, they’ll alert you to the classes they run for civilians. Disney visual development artist Dan Cooper will weigh in on how these classes have improved his animation skills. Moderated by Fast Company’s Susan Karlin.