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Notes from the Comic Con

I’m just back from “Comic Con” aka the San Diego Comic Con (for the record, I refuse to call it Comic Con International) and, all said and done, I had a pretty good time. I’m one of those who has been distressed by the Hollywood domination of the convention, and the massive attendance of fans/pros and Hollywood types (125,000 plus) that have made this one-time delightful experience a literal nightmare for the uninitiated.

I’ve finally accepted the Con for what has now become, planned my own schedule of events, met up with my friends, made my way into all the parties and panels I wanted to attend, and just decided to enjoy myself.

I’m not going to recount or review specific panels in great detail; I haven’t even unpacked yet and probably have a bunch of comics, fanzines and freebies worth noting… that’ll wait for later. For now, here’s an overview of selected highlights over the last few days:

Wednesday: I was planning to leave at noon, in hopes of arriving in San Diego before 5pm, so I could attend the Preview Night. I got an email at 8:30am from my friends with the Astro Boy movie and they wondered if I could show up at the Con by 3:30pm to run-through the panel I was to moderate on Thursday morning. Knowing it would take at least four hours (especially if I stopped for lunch), that meant I had to leave at 11am – which I did. At 3:30, I was inside the convention hall reviewing the plans for the panel with the folks from Summit and Imagi.

Thursday: Began the day moderating a 10:30am panel on the new Astro Boy movie (looks great, by the way). Got to meet Freddy Highmore and Kristen Bell, and interviewed them on stage. Superhero Hype.com posted a transcript of the panel here.

Later that day I got to see the Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs panel. The clips they ran were excellent. It’s going to be a very funny movie – unlike almost any CG animated film we’ve seen yet. It’s much more a “cartoon comedy” than I expected and I’m quite jazzed to see the full length film.

Friday: At 8:30am I had breakfast with Craig Yoe, Harry McCracken and Tom Knott. At 12:30pm, I got into Hall H to see the big Disney presentation – and it was superb. John Lasseter was the M.C. and he did a great job presenting the clips and talking about each film. He would tell the crowd how great something would be, then showed a clip to prove it. He showed the first ten minutes of Toy Story 2 in 3D (it looked incredible). Lasseter then introduced the new 3D teaser trailer for Toy Story 3 which was very funny. He also showed a hilarious new short featuring Ken (Barbie’s boyfriend), voiced by Michael Keaton and probably directed by Teddy Newton (that was Teddy’s voice narrating it). This short will probably be a bonus extra on the Toy Story 3 DVD in a year and a half. The short, Groovin’ With Ken, was presented like an old 1970s 16mm promo film (Academy leader countdown, lines, splices, abrupt cuts, etc.) and was a parody of Ken’s supposedly swingin’ life style.

The footage from The Princess and The Frog reassured me that Disney is on the right path with this film. The animation is superb and the storyline is looking to be a lot more clever than I had thought. They showed two long sequences and both were terrifically entertaining. Nothing to worry about here.

The big surprise of the Disney presentation was the the clip (the first five minutes) of Prep and Landing a new CG Christmas special from Disney Animation Studios. I knew very little about this before… the five five minutes are wonderful and it could be a new Christmas classic. It’s about two Santa’s elves who prepare each home for Santa’s arrival. Check this out when it airs in December.

Lasseter showed a sequence (and trailer) for Beauty and the Beast in 3D. This was interesting because it’s not only in 3D, but the new technique they use adds 3D to the 3D, making the “flat characters” feel even more dimensional than the “viewmaster” feel of previous 3-D cartoons like Melody or Lumberjack Rabbit. Not sure if it’ll work based on the clips I saw, but it’s an interesting experiment.

Lasseter then brought out Hayao Miyazaki (to a standing ovation) and they did a little Q & A, showed a great scene from Ponyo and then took questions from the audience – comedian Patton Oswald took over at this point as a moderator. The questions from the audience – mostly directed to Miyazaki – were respectful and intelligent. This was a great panel, perfectly coordinated and produced. Photo above is from Toonzone.com – pictured left to right, Lee Unkrich, Kirk Wise, Ron Clements, John Musker, translator, Hayao Miyazaki, John Lasseter and Patton Oswalt.

Later that day, I attended Mark Evanier’s tribute panel to Stan Freberg, which was delightful – and hilarious. That night I attended a Disney Publishing party. Great party with great food, free books and t-shirts! At 9pm I screened my latest collection of Worst Cartoons Ever to a capacity crowd (2000 plus). If you are interested in obtaining a dvd of my 2009 compilation, please write to me at jbeck6540-at-aol.com.

Saturday: I began the day doing jury duty – as one of the celebrity judges for Titmouse Animation’s new reality series (in production), 7200 Frames. The judging took place on a yacht docked behind the Marriot Marina hotel, next door to the convention center. Loads of fun.

Later that day, Mark Evanier and Earl Kress did a panel with June Foray. It was a love fest between her and the audience. That night was the annual Writers Guild of America/Animation Caucus cocktail party. Again, great food and drink and wonderful conversation with old friends like Michael Uslan, Patric Varrone, Tom Kenny, Craig Miller, Marc Zicree, Jim Wheelock, Stan Berkowitz and others. This party was on a fourth floor Terrace ballroom at the Hyatt Hotel, and ended with a perfect view of a fireworks show over the Marina.

All of the above accounted for only fifty percent of the last five days. I ran into many old friends, Brew readers and business contacts in the exhibit hall (aka dealers rooms) – and I bought way too many things. My head is still spinning but, unlike last year, I’m ready to do it again – next year!