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SDCC 2009 – Day One

Patton Oswald hosts the Disney 3-D panel at Comic-ConHost Patton Oswalt warms up the crowd for Disney’s 3-D panel at the San Diego Comic-Con

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again for nerds like me – the San Diego Comic-Con has arrived. Despite the many benefits of living on the east coast, it’s kind of a burn to constantly miss these key events whose acronyms spell bliss for the fanboy in all: SDCC, E3, NFFC, SXSW, etc.

Disney’s having what has to be their largest showing ever at SDCC this year, with representation from the Studio, various licensees, and D23. The Disney Studios panel today, in what was essentially the keynote event for the entire convention, was the first all 3-D panel in SDCC history. Cashing in on the fad before it wears out its welcome, Disney showcased three major upcoming films that will be presented in digital 3-D. The directors of the three films – A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Tron Legacy – and various cast members were trotted out by host Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) to discuss their work.

Tim Burton, Robert Zemeckis and Joe Kosinski at Comic-ConThe three directors: Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland), Robert Zemeckis (A Christmas Carol) and Joe Kosinski (Tron Legacy). I love Kosinski’s t-shirt.

First up was director Robert Zemeckis to talk about A Christmas Carol. You’ll have to look elsewhere for news about this film, as I refuse to discuss or promote another of Zemeckis’s glassy-eyed, uncanny valley freakshows. What was interesting from the panel was that Zemeckis refused to “confirm or deny” rumors of a sequel to 1988′s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. With Disney’s recent startling agreement to distribute films for Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio, fans have hoped that the rift between Spielberg (whose Amblin Entertainment co-produced the original Roger Rabbit film) and Disney would be healed and allow development on the long-sought sequel to proceed.

While not confirming rumors, Zemeckis did say that if work on the sequel proceeded, the traditionally animated characters would be presented in their original hand-drawn appearance and not modern CGI. He also told Harry Knowles that he’s often spoken with actor Bob Hoskins about reprising his role as Eddie Valiant.

Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen   Anne Hathaway as The White Queen in Alice in Wonderland

Next up was Alice in Wonderland, which will reach theaters on March 5, 2010. The Tim Burton film stars Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (above, left) and the wonderful, dreamy, splendid Anne Hathaway as the White Queen (above, right). Burton also mentioned today that the great Stephen Fry will voice the Cheshire Cat.

Alice in Wonderland posterMia Wasikowska as Alice

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton at Comic-ConBurton discussed the film with the assembled fans, speaking about the various special effects involved and the fact that the film culls material from several of author Lewis Carroll’s works. After showing the newly-released teaser trailer for the film, Burton brought on his surprise guest – introduced as his “imaginary friend” – Johnny Depp. Depp made a splash but didn’t take any questions; elsewhere at the Con, guests were able to see props and costumes from the film.

One weird aside from the Alice panel: Burton revealed that his next project will be a remake of the old ABC vampire drama Dark Shadows. It seems that Johnny Depp actually owns the rights to the property, so speculation now runs rampant that the two chums will team up again with Depp possibly in the role of Barnabas Collins.

Still from Alice in Wonderland (2010)Mia Wasikowska as Alice in Wonderland

Then it was time for the big show. Even since Disney announced its upcoming sequel to 1982′s cult classic TRON at last year’s SDCC, fans have been clamoring for more. Now, at the very least, we have a title:

TRON Legacy title card

Tron: Legacy, as the film is now known, was represented at SDCC by director Joe Kosinski, producers Sean Bailey and Steve Lisberger (director of the original TRON), and cast members Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund. Baily and Lisberger presented some concept art from the film, some excellent photos of which can be seen at AICN, a brief teaser, last year’s teaser in 3-D, and some footage of computer warriors battling on the game grid.

TRON Legacy panel at Comic-ConThe TRON: Legacy panel in front of concept art of a Recognizer

The film’s plot line, which has recently been hinted at via two new viral websites, jibes with rumors that have circulated for a while now. Apparently, programmer Kevin Flynn (Bridges) went missing in 1989, leaving behind his son Sam (Hedlund) who is now looking for his lost father. The teaser shown at SDCC begins with a voiceover by original TRON castmember Bruce Boxleitner calling the younger Flynn to inform him that something’s up that might involve his dad. The rest of the teaser, which involves the young Flynn visiting his father’s old arcade and finding something mysterious (and music by Journey!), is well-described at AICN, IGN, Newsarama and ComingSoon. Be sure to see AICN’s pictures of the concept art – how amazing to see a newly rendered Recognizer, the 4-wheeled Light Runner, the new Solar Sailer, and the gorgeous new fifth-generation Lightcycles. IGN provides an excellent description of the battle scenes, as well. It sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to see it all in motion with the Daft Punk-supplied soundtrack (but where’s Wendy Carlos?).

The other Disney presence on the first day of SDCC was at the D23 booth. Disney’s new official fan club is really representing itself well so far, with a booth full of costumes from TRON, The Rocketeer, Condorman (!) and other Disney sci-fi films from the past. Imagineer Tony Baxter and Stacia Martin stopped by, and D23 members who came to the booth received a rather nifty SDCC-specific gift (pictures from this excellent post):

Disney Robots gift from SDCCFree gift for D23 members from SDCC

Seriously, how sweet is that? Sure there are some missing bots (and where’s President GARCO?), but this is what I love about D23 – someone knows the obscure goodies in the Disney vault. Maybe Maximillian was an easy – but awesome – pick, but Tik Tok? The evil robot from Mars and Beyond?! That’s brilliant, and speaks well for the Disney-nerd chops of the folks at D23. Also, I don’t know how to get one of these, but I WANT:

VINCENT from The Black HoleBut where’s Maximillian? And why are these marvelous obscurities so hard to find??

Click the above link for more pictures of displays by various Disney licensees, including lots of new toys and products based on Cars and Toy Story.

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