Thursday, July 27, 2006

Comic-Con Report: Part One: Thursday

The San Diego Comic-Con is a gathering of tens of thousands of people with very specific mutual interests: Comic Books, Film, Animation, Art and Collectibles. For industry professionals, it’s the perfect networking platform. In addition to networking, it has become a massive marketing tool for every major studio in the system.

My report will be all of the film stuff. No one would care to read about my exploits networking with people.

I’ll go chronologically and provide as many links and pictures as I can.

Warner Brothers Presents a Trio of Animated Features: This presentation was an hour and a half long and the first two thirds of it made me want to bore out the contents of my skull with a power drill. The first part of the presentation was for “The Ant Bully.” I have to say that this film looks terrible. Although based on it’s own, unique source material, there is no question about the fact that it feels like a cut-rate rip-off of both “A Bug’s Life” (which in itself was a fantastic re-imagining of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”) and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” There were even relevant plot points, it seems, stolen from the more recent film “Over the Hedge.”

I will not be seeing this picture.

Next in their panel was a five minute uber-extended trailer for “Happy Feet.” The previews for this film make “The Ant Bully” look like a masterpiece. You could tell this was masterminded by a studio exec who just walked out of a screening of “March of the Penguins” and said, “I guess penguins are popular. Do a movie. We’ll cast Robin Williams in just about every role.”

The final shooting script couldn’t have been much further than 48 hours after that.

Basically, I had to sit through these to get to “TMNT”.” Director Kevin Munroe was on hand to answer questions and allay any fears that hardcore Ninja Turtles Fans like myself may have had. He spoke with an intense fondness for the Turtles that rivals my own.

In this new, all CGI film (to be released 3/30/2007) is a “sort of distant sequel and set in the same universe as the live-action Ninja Turtles movies.” Primarily, tense sibling relationships will be explored (in the footage shown there seemed to be a knock-down, drag-out brawl between Leo and Raph) and they will advance other character relationship to the next level (April and Casey kiss.)

As for the footage: The trailer looks amazing. The animation is top notch and the tone feels like that of the first Turtles film which is, in my opinion, a perfect 10. You can watch the trailer here.

Another 5 minutes (or so) was shown and I was very impressed with what I heard and saw. The most finished sequence shown was of Michelangelo earning some extra cash by working birthday party’s. (It was almost a bit reminiscent of Ghostbusters II). Mike had a zipper glued to the front of his shell and a giant amusement park character turtle-head over his own. The children at the party proceed to beat him up and kick him in the groin.

It was funny.

There was a montage of footage narrated by the late Mako who voiced Master Splinter. (Other voice announcements could not be made although there are two items in that department to report: Sadly, Corey Feldman is not involved and the other narration in the footage sounded a lot like Clancy Brown. Although that last part is just a guess, it sounded a lot like a mix between the Kurgan and Lex Luthor.) Most of the rest of the footage was a blur: A jungle, A redneck, bits of the turtles, Splinter… Raph apologizing for screwing something up really bad and then footage of Leo and Raph going at it…

A couple of other snippets of info the director dropped: Shredder is not the villain and the film is open-ended so, if it performs well, there is a set direction and jumping off point for the sequels.

Overall, this panel (the Turtles portion anyhow) was utterly breathtaking. I’m excited as all hell. Don’t expect to see me anywhere but the theatre on March 30th of next year.

Moving on: I went into room 6CDEF early so I could wait for the “Pan’s Labyrinth” presentation and found myself at a panel for David Arquettes directorial debut “The Tripper.”

I had less than no interest in seeing this picture, but I might go see it now after the panel, just to support indy film. I didn’t see any footage though. David Arquette lost all of the footage on his way to the panel. An entire Digi-Beta tape. Missing.

The film, I’m told, is a “political slasher” set at a Woodstock type festival where a deranged killer starts killing hippies. Steve Niles (the kick ass writer of “30 Days of Night” which goes in front of cameras in August) is producing and it stars Thomas Jane as the sheriff and Jason Mewes and Paul Ruebens as hippies.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

After sitting through an hour of apologies for losing the tape, the least I can do is see the film. There were a few spoilers that were revealed in the panel but David Arquette literally begged to not let them get out. I kind of think with his level of pleading that leaking them would be sort of a dick thing to do. Also, the film has no distribution as of yet, let alone a release date, so who knows if anyone will ever see the film.

“Pan’s Labyrinth:” This panel had Guillermo Del Toro and Doug Jones on it. They showed the astounding trailer for the film and fielded questions the rest of the time. After a series of jabs from Guillermo about his status as the Silver Surfer, Doug Jones explained that nothing was for sure and he couldn’t speak about it legally. Although he likened it to shopping and you find a shirt you like and you pay for it with your credit card. He said he’s handed them the card and it’s waiting to be approved so he can wear the shirt.

Guillermo said Hellboy 2 is written and everyone wants to do it but Revolution, the studio that produced the first film, has all but collapsed and isn’t producing films. He’s looking for financing and it’s been back and forth. One day it’s a go and he’s clearing his schedule only to find out, come Monday, that it’s fallen through. “It’s all playing politics,” he said. He also mentioned that with new studios he still gets the same shitty questions about the property, “Does he have to be red? Does he have to be called Hellboy? Does Ron Perlman really have to play the lead?”

Guillermo is also working on producing films for first and second time directors because “Hollywood is Bullshit.”

I have to say about Guillermo is that he seems like the most kick-ass, down to earth filmmaker I’ve ever seen at con’s like this. He even issued an open invitation to send him short films. “I’ll watch all the short films you send me. It might be three years from now, but I will watch them all.”

All I have to say about “Pan‘s Labyrinth” is that it looks utterly amazing and I can’t figure out why it’s not coming out until December. I watched “Devils Backbone” again last night and it actually doubled my excitement for this project.

That is the end of Part One. This covers the panels I saw on Thursday. I'll post more pictures up later.

Tomorrow you’ll get info about Hellboy: Animated, Beowulf, Accepted, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Snakes on a Plane and One Plus One.

Coming Saturday is 300, Grindhouse, Prince Caspian, Pirates of the Carribean 3, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3 and Kevin Smith.

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