Smaller than its sister convention, San Diego Comic Con, it is a celebration of comic books, art, popular culture, and film. This year’s big events include the Disney panels for upcoming summer blockbusters Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as well as the much-anticipated Kick-Ass panel (released April 16th in the USA), plenty of content from IDW Publishers, and much more.
Day 1 was a short day for me. Taking a leisurely stroll towards the registration desks at around 2pm, the first stop was:
Disney’s Art of Princess and the Frog Panel
You may think: this film has been out for a long time already, what else could they have to show?
The panel comprised of a number of distinguished Disney animators, including the film’s co-directors, John Musker and John Clements; man of a thousand voices and director of Pocahontas, Eric Goldberg; visual effects supervisor Marlon West, and veteran Disney colourist Ian Gooding.
The idea for The Princess and the Frog was conceived some years ago, as an adaptation of fairy tale book The Frog Prince. Disney and Pixar studios worked independently on versions of the film, none of which were completed. When John Lasseter took over as Creative Head for Disney, he enlisted Musker and Clements to look over the material and create a whole new Princess and the Frog film.
Lasseter’s stipulated that, though previous versions were set in Chicago, the film was to take place in 1920s New Orleans.
John Musker and Ron Clements talked us through a series of photographs from their numerous research trip to New Orleans, introducing us to the locals who inspired key characters including Ray the firefly, Mama Odie, and Princess to-be Tiana. They also discussed the process of styling the characters and developing the tone and style to reflect the setting of New Orleans. Eric Goldberg drew for us, demonstrating how he developed Louis the alligator and how his research of alligators allowed him to add style and detail to the character to make him less human and more reptilian.
They also screened a couple of scenes in crude animation, which is simple yet fascinating to watch. The Blu-Ray version of the film will include the option to watch the entire film in this fashion. Marlon West showed exactly what his special effects supervision adds to the film, and Ian Gooding finished up by talking us through his choices of colour and everything that each element of this bright film represents.
As is always the case for Disney panels at this type of convention, it was well-structured and fascinating to watch, adding a deeper understanding to an already brilliant and sure to be classic film.
Nickelodeon Animation Studios Panel
This one was a bit of a disappointment. Nickelodeon’s animation model involves optioning stories and characters from popular CG-animated films. Recent examples include the penguins from Madagascar and Kung-Fu Panda, both originally from Dreamworks Pictures. The emphasis of the panel was on the ways that they streamline production in order to make shows quickly, efficiently, and – above all – on a tight budget.
Perhaps I’m spoiled after having attended so many well-structured and engaging Disney and Pixar panels, but the Nickelodeon guys are as new to conventions as they are to animating CG television shows in 3D, rather than traditionally animated 2D cartoons. Unfortunately, their talk on adapting and remaking shows with known characters from film was not tailored to its audience’s level of understanding.
After a half-hour delay, Kevin Smith graced the stage of WonderCon’s Esplanade Ballroom to a near-full audience. A veteran of Comic Con International, Smith has been attending San Diego Comic Con and San Francisco Wonder Con for over 10 years. His panels continue to be popular, with fans in the front row whom he claims to recognise. The “panel” – if you can call it that – is a maxi Q&A session wherein Smith ostensibly digresses and relays detailed accounts of his sexual escapades and other TMI-related incidents.
Despite the adult, often TMI content, his ability to work a stage is impressive. His primary interest is in conversing with his fans and opening a dialogue on certain issues. Interestingly, he did not take back his harsh words about critics, but did admit that his tirade was a product of disapointment and anger.
Not my sense of humour, but definitely a worthwhile panel visit every ‘Con season.
Day 1 rounded off with a Last Man Standing Star Wars trivia contest.