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August 23, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016: Star Wars Publishing, D23, and the rest.

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Although Star Wars didn't have any big presentations as they did last year, for "Force Awakens," they still had some presence as Star Wars Publishing held their yearly panel on upcoming publications.

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For introducing younglings to the Star Wars characters and canon, Katie Cook has illustrated a couple of alphabet/poem/picture books.

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For the slightly older child, storybooks adapting scenes from the films or older adult-level novels will be released, complete with stickers and read-along CDs.

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Brian Rood uses a composite process for the film adaptations, in order to create art that is true to the film, but unique to the books.

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For the middle school reader, a new installment of the non-canon "Star Wars: Jedi Academy" series is out with "Jedi Academy: A New Class." These books are set in the extended universe of Star Wars, far before the events of the prequels.

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If you are among the legion that is the Poe Dameron fandom, "Poe Dameron: Flight Logs" promises to offer up more insight into Poe than any other vehicle thus far.

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Speaking of insight, didn't you ever wonder what happened to Ashoka between (spoilers) the time she left the Jedi Order at the end of Clone Wars, and her appearance in Rebels? Now you'll know when the young adult novel "Ashoka" comes out in October.

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Chuck Wendig discussed his "Aftermath" trilogy briefly, mentioning that the recently released "Life Debt" involved how the Empire dissolved and the New Republic became ascendant, and how the upcoming end of the trilogy "Empire's End" would shake out the end of "Life Debt" and bring the story into the start of "Force Awakens" by filling in the blanks of what transpired on Jakku.

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A new book out next year in the Expanded Universe, or Star Wars Legends line is "Thrawn," which joins "Bloodline" in fleshing out what might have happened between the canon plot points. "Thrawn" has recently become of increasing interest after the announcement that Admiral Thrawn will be making the leap from legend to canon in Rebels this next season.

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Finally, a slew of books introducing the world of the upcoming Anthology film "Rogue One" is expected, including an adult coloring book and a beautiful "Art of Rogue One" tome.

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Outside of the convention center there were the usual plethora of activities. Although the lately-lamented Disney Infinity pop-up shop was out of commission, we did get a D23 Member Mixer at the Hard Rock Hotel. This was pretty fabulous, because I can tell you, by the end of the day at SDCC, the things I want more than anything else in the world are food and air conditioning, and D23 came through with both of them.

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There was a macaroni-and-cheese bar and a taco bar and filled churros and I never wanted to leave.

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So once I had a chance to re-hydrate and restore my blood sugar, I was able to check out the environs and the notables D23 talked into hanging out with us. Producer Don Hahn made a break for it before I was able to snap a decent photo, but I was able to catch Legend Tony Baxter and Imagineer Josh Shipley.

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(And photobomber.)

The First Avenger was also there protecting the innocent, occasionally getting breaks from Thor.

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On the way out we were given beach towels, which I later briefly thought I would have to use sleeping out on the ground waiting for the Hall H wristbands, and posters for "Pete's Dragon." From my perspective, it was a great event, and the ice-cold soda alone was probably worth my annual membership fee. For more photos, you can check out the D23 recap of the event here.

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The annual Comic-Con International Masquerade displayed, as usual, an impressive array of costumes from all corners of pop culture fandom and, as usual, Disney and its various brands made a strong showing.

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Even a marriage proposal! I thought they were doing a bit, at first.
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Finally, after getting into whatever panels you could, and resigning yourself to not getting into the ones you couldn't, there was always the expansive Exhibitor's Floor to discover.

The kawaii-ful Tsum Tsums had their own booth, displaying the con-exclusive items and upcoming Tsums.

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Sadly, by the end of the last day, they were--you guessed it...

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Star Wars had its typical behemoth of a booth, with a variety of exhibitors selling and displaying anything and everything related to or themed towards the Skywalkers and Co.

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Disney Publishing had one booth, and Star Wars Publishing had another booth--so when they were running promotions or giveaways, you had to be pretty sure which one you wanted.

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Disney Music Emporium brought their booth back this year, along with the "Disneyland Records" t-shirt that I've been bugging them to carry ever since I missed out on getting one at the last D23 Expo.

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They also sold what Tony Baxter said was his favorite buy of the con, a copy of the "Awesome Mix Tape" from "Guardians of the Galaxy" on actual cassette tape, with a digital copy for those who might have left their Walkmans in the 80s.

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ABC Television had their booth themed to promote their new show "Designated Survivor," which I didn't experience because I feel like I get enough politics IRL as it is.

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Marvel's booth was generally so crowded it was hard to get a good look at anything unless it was closed for the day. I always think it's strange that when they have a bunch of stars doing a signing, they start frantically tweeting it out and encouraging people to come by, when you need to already have obtained a ticket to get anything signed. Further, everyone who can't get into the signing line then stands around outside of it trying to get photos and completely congesting the walkways all around the booth. Security then comes by and starts yelling at everyone to keep moving, and it's all pretty much a chaotic mess.

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However, in between celebrity traffic jams, you could see the Captain America statue on display that was dedicated in Prospect Park, Brooklyn earlier this year.

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If you wanted one for your very own, miniature versions were for purchase.

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So kind of a low-key year at SDCC for Disney, although still more panels and booth activities than one person could reasonably see for the whole weekend. Next year should prove interesting, as the current schedule has the D23 Expo and SDCC going almost back-to-back on the same week. Look forward to a LOT of blogs coming out the middle of July next year, and some very tired bloggers.

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August 21, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016: Marvel TV and "Once Upon A Time"

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One branch of Disney that was pretty heavily represented at SDCC this year was its television divisions--both Marvel and ABC.

[Unattributed photos and videos courtesy of Disney, Marvel, and ABC.]

For fans of the Netflix series "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," the new spin-off "Marvel's Luke Cage" had its own panel, complete with the main cast and crew. Unfortunately, security was so tight that they actually made me delete the photos I took of Head of Marvel TV, Jeph Loeb, while they watched...and about ten minutes later appeared to have abandoned the whole thing, as everyone else took photos of everything else afterwards with no problems. Alas.

On the panel, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, Frank (Detective Scarfe) Whaley, Simone (Misty Knight) Missick, Theo (Shades) Rossi, Alfre (Mariah Dillard) Woodard, and Mike (Luke Cage) Colter discussed the new series, including the smartness of the script which they described as primarily a drama set in a superhero world. It will premiere on September 30.

Along with the announcement that "Daredevil" had been picked up for a 3rd season, the audience was treated to glimpses of the upcoming Marvel TV series "Iron Fist" and "The Defenders."

[It probably goes without saying, but Netflix series tend to be more graphic/intense than usual broadcast TV. You may want to review them in advance, to decide whether they are friendly for your family, is what I am saying.]

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The big panel of the weekend was the Marvel Studios presentation in Hall H, an enormous room that seats around 6,000 people. In theory, you're supposed to line up at a certain time the evening before, they hand out wristbands, and as long as you're back by 7:30am, you get a seat in the room for the day. I tried it, but it turns out that a) people actually start lining up for the wristbands like a day ahead of time, and b) people apparently started charging/cutting into the line as the wristbands started getting handed out causing enough riotous chaos that they had to stop handing out the wristbands for a considerable amount of time while they tried to restore order. Consequently, it was after 1am by the time the part of the line I was at was told that they were out of wristbands, giving everyone feelings of failure mixed with relief that we didn't have to get back in line in a few hours.

So, I didn't get to see it. If you haven't read the announcements from that panel from every other more effective blogger in the world, you can read them on the Marvel recap here.

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A panel I did get to see however, was "Once Upon A Time," in which co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were joined with cast members Jared (Henry) Gilmore, Emilie (Belle) de Ravin, Rebecca (Zelena) Mader, Josh (David) Dallas, Colin (Hook) O’Donoghue, Lana (Regina) Parilla, and Jennifer (Emma) Morrison.

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Kitsis and Horowitz on the definition of "hope."
Horowitz: "My definition of hope is the belief that things will get better."
Kitsis: "My definition of hope is the belief that Eddie is right."

Kitsis on whether Zeus can intervene in all eternal matters: "I feel like that was a one-time only Zeus interference."
Morrison: "Thank you Zeus!"
O'Donoghue: "He could have given me back mah hand!"

Horowitz on why the Olympian Crystal worked differently on Hades and Robin: "Well...everything that was said about the Olympian Crystal was said by Hades...so I don't know. He's God of the Underworld...I don't know. Can we trust him? I would say in all seriousness, that's a question that I think some of our characters should and will ask."
Kitsis: "I would say, for a show about Hope, I would choose not to believe Hades, but we'll find out."

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Gilmore on how Henry sees himself fitting in: "I think that now that Henry is The Author, he's gained that thing that I am the hero now, and my way of helping people is by being able to give them their stories and help them figure things out. I think Henry has found his place, and he believes that now he is a part of the heroes and...I think he likes it. He loves it."

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Mader on what changed Zelina most--having a baby, reconciling with Regina, or finding true love with Hades: "I think it's a plethora. It's a cacophony if you will, of everything. I mean, it's a lot happened all at once in terms of life breaking down Zelina's heart, you know. I think the reason she got pregnant was for horrible reasons, but then it ended up really changing her, and I don't think she really expected or understood that having a baby meant having unconditional love, and I think that melted her heart a little bit. It was also hard for her to accept and believe that a man could actually love her because she had such a rubbish life, and then all of a sudden her sister gave her her trust when she really, quite frankly, didn't deserve it. So it's like these three people who loved her even though she didn't feel like she was worth it, and I think that's changed her in powerful fundamental ways that's been really fun to play."

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de Ravin on why Belle continues to believe in Rumple: "Part of that pull is him being a bad guy. She likes that. Deep down, yes--she sees the good in him, she sees the...loving person he could be, but that darkness...she likes that. There's a side of that that definitely pulls her in."

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Dallas on playing the dual roles of Charming and his evil brother James: "It was great, you know. It was a chance for Charming to see everything that he didn't want to be, or everything he didn't want to ever become. He wanted to have a relationship with his brother, and he always felt a connection with him, and he wishes he could have gotten to know him, but that just wasn't the case. But his brother was a reminder to him of everything that he wanted to avoid and stay away from and not become."

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Parilla on whether Regina is now all good: "Regina's still sassy. She's not going to lose her sass...That's Regina. She's sarcastic and that's what we love about her, so she's not going to lose that. But the Evil Queen is slightly different than she used to be, I think. She's now without a conscience, so she's pure evil. And a lot of fun."

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Morrison on Emma's relationship with the separated Regina and Evil Queen: "I think it's going to be complicated for Emma to navigate because she wants to believe in Regina, and she wants to believe that Good can win, but she also knows she needs to protect everyone she loves, including everyone in her family...and that includes Regina. So it's like, how do you separate the two mentally, and figure out where to draw the line and how do you do that in a way where you're not betraying the trust that you've developed with this friend for so long, so I think it's going to be complicated."

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O’Donoghue on whether Hook has been changed from being dead
: "I think he's still pretty much the same Hook. I mean he...now that they know that it's True Love with Emma and Hook...they're trying to figure out how to navigate being together and that sort of world now...so at the minute he's the same Hook, but who knows? I think we might find out a few things about his past..."

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Also mentioned: Hot Topic will be introducing a "Once Upon A Time" inspired collection this Fall in stores and online.

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August 15, 2016

San Diego Comic-Con 2016: WDAS and Disney Kingdom Panels

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If it's summer, you can be sure of a few things: Crowded theme parks, Olaf finding out what frozen things do, and San Diego Comic-Con.

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This year's SDCC, along with almost every other con I've attended recently, was lighter on Disney material than in the past--no doubt due to their need to keep fresh material for presentation at the 2017 Expo. The recent loss of Disney Infinity and their annual pop-up store also subtracted from the Disney footprint this time around.

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Nevertheless, there were still an abundance of relevant panels to attend--more than anyone could reasonably hope to see in one weekend--but I managed to make it into a few.

[Non-attributed photos and video, courtesy of Disney]

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One of the first SDCC panels was Walt Disney Animation Studio's "Moana: Art of Story," in which directors Ron Clements and John Musker were joined by producer Osnat Shurer, co-head of animation Amy Smeed, and writer Jared Bush. They were later joined by voice of Moana, Auli’i Cravalho, however we were asked not to take any photos (this would be a continuing theme throughout the con.)

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--Clements and Musker recounted the research trip they were "forced" to take to the South Pacific.
--Shurer spoke of the musical team creating the score for "Moana:" Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
--The loudest screams from the audience occurred whenever anyone mentioned Miranda.
--Bush (co-director of Zootopia:) "None of the animals in 'Moana' talk. I'm not really into talking animals. Not my thing."
--Bush did not get to go to the South Pacific, but instead got the coveted trip to Burbank.
--The panel briefly describes the crux of the film as being a fictitious explanation of an actual historical period in which the Pacific Islanders, who were renowned as great navigators, just stopped traveling anywhere for about 1,000 years.
--While the film is computer animated, Maui's tattoos, particularly "Mini-Maui," were hand-drawn by famed animator Eric Goldberg.
--Moana as a character is one that is going on a Hero's Journey to empower herself and discover the world around her. She does not have a romantic interest in the film.
--Dwayne Johnson sings.

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The next WDAS panel I saw was "Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary." This was actually a little similar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tribute that took place a few months ago, but with more of an animation focus, versus voice talent. Moderated by producer Don Hahn, the talent consisted of directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise along with animators James Baxter, Dave Pruiksma, Nik Ranieri, and art director Brian McEntee.

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--Wise and Trousdale had just finished their first foray into animation direction before "Beauty and the Beast" with "Cranium Command" for EPCOT.
--Angela Lansbury was the only one of the cast that did not have to audition for her part--Ashman and Menken wrote the song "Beauty and the Beast" with her in mind.
--Wise and Trousdale on reacting to their casting director's suggestion for the voice of the Beast: "Robbie Benson? 'ICE CASTLES?'"
--Jeffrey Katzenberg on having Robbie Benson pitched to him for the Beast: "ICE CASTLES?"
--The song "Be Our Guest" was originally storyboarded for Maurice, instead of Belle.

--A clip of Howard Ashman working with the voice actors touched on his massive contributions to the film.

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--Baxter, on the difficulty of animating Belle: "The intimidating part was, she's got to be beautiful. It's in the title."
--A selection of some of the concept art for the characters was displayed.

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--The filmmakers remembered having to fight for Belle's yellow dress (taken from a Chris Sanders' sketch) as marketing told them everything should be pink and lavender, because "that's what little girls wear."
--Baxter attributed his experience with the crazy camera moves in "Roger Rabbit" as enabling him to create the ground-breaking ballroom scene, where the hand-drawn couple dances on a CG background while the camera swirls around them.
--"When people say, 'well what was the software that was used," I was like it was inside James' skull."
--McEntee recounted how he ended up contributing the original design for the movie poster, and some subsequent revisions.

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--Hahn closed the panel by recounting how they had hired Celene Dion to sing the pop version, but the marketing department didn't trust that she could sell it on her own, since at the time she had yet to have a US hit.

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Going to the last day of SDCC, Disney and Marvel Comics brought us "Disney Kingdoms: Theme Park Stories with Marvel Comics." Actress/producer Amy Dallen moderated a panel consisting of Imagineers Josh Shipley and Andy DiGenova, Creative Director, Themed Entertainment at Marvel Brian Crosby, cover artist E.M. Gist, Animator/producer/writer/past-Imagineer Tad Stones, and writer Jim Zub.

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--The panel recounted the process of pitching the comics to Joe Quesada, noting that they could expand the universe of the attractions much like the films did for "Pirates of the Caribbean," but at a vastly reduced cost.
--"Seekers of the Weird" is based on "Museum of the Weird," the original concept for "Haunted Mansion." (Someone else has the copyright on "Museum of the Weird.")
--Zub spoke of his experiences writing the "Figment" comics, and how gratifying it was to have them received so enthusiastically and finding them for sale at Walt Disney World.
--Zub also writes "Thunderbolts," which is led by the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes. In the latest issue, Barnes is seen reading a story to a little girl--"Figment."

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--Zub: "This is the most indulgent thing."
--Zub on the question of a third "Figment" run: "I think you guys are going to be really happy next year."
--Stones described his early career with Disney, which included work on the World of Motion pavilion, a Space pavilion with George Lucas, and finally the Imagination pavilion.
--Interestingly, Stones said that the color of Figment changed from green to purple to match the Sherman Brothers' song--not, as is popularly said, because of the color conflict between Fuji Film and Kodak packaging.
--Stones notes that the name of Dreamfinder was "The Pretender" for about an afternoon before it changed back.
--DiGenova spoke about the "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" comics, in which they based the likeness of one of the characters on Tony Baxter. The character was initially written more villainous, but became less so after Baxter didn't see the resemblance.

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--DiGenova commented on Big Thunder originally having been conceived as a much grander attraction that would have been the gatepost to Baxter's original concept for a separate land: "Discovery Bay."
--In working on the books, the team had to do research to find out what commonly held theories/names for things in the attractions were official and which were fan-based.
--Gist did covers for "Haunted Mansion," (in addition to variants by several different artists, including Crosby and frequent Disney artist, Jody Daily) which are intended to be a tour of the attraction.

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--Presales on "Haunted Mansion" were the biggest of any of the Disney Kingdoms titles.
--Free copies of "Haunted Mansion" issue one will be given out in October for "Halloween Comic-Fest" at various comic book stores.
--Shipley then announced that the next Disney Kingdoms title will be "Enchanted Tiki Room."

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--Cover artists so far have included Brian Kesinger, story artist at WDAS, and Imagineer Jason Grandt.
--"Enchanted Tiki Room" will debut in October.
--The series will have more of an episodic feel than the other lines, a la "Fantasy Island."
--Similarly to "Lost," each book will also focus on the group of people who arrive at the Tiki Room, how they make contact with it, and their perspectives.
--Dallen: "How do you plan to get that song out of our heads?"
--Shipley: "By singing 'it's a small world.'"

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August 10, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Photos From the Floor

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So to finish up SDCC for this year, here are some photos from in and around the Exhibitor's Floor--generally the heart of any convention.

Over at the Disney booth, they had a display of a variety of new upcoming Tsum Tsum products, along with a contest to guess how many Tsums were in a given container.

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From the looks of it, there should be some Marvel Tsum Tsums in the pipeline--booth workers would only note that they expected Marvel Tsums to be added to the game, shortly.

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Over at the Marvel booth, promotion was high for the new release "Ant-Man."

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Leveraging their social media, they featured a vending machine that required guests to post a photo with a code number in order to get a randomly dispensed prize.

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Over at Sideshow Collectables, the usual dazzling array of detailed figures from virtually every franchise imaginable was on display.

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The ABC Network booth this year was a mockup of a sound stage, in which people could take a gander at set replicas for "The Muppets" sitcom, including those for Miss Piggy's late night talk show, "Up Late With Miss Piggy."

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All around the floor there was a plethora of books, art, and merchandise either of Disney properties, or by Disney artists.

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...And of course there were the meticulously assembled cosplayers.

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The winners of the Comic-Con International Masquerade was a group called "Women of the Haunted Mansion."

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It is, after all, an essential part of the con atmosphere to have people wandering around in costumes often more carefully put together than you'd find in a professional exhibition.

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Ah, Comic-Con.

August 4, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: A Smattering of Panels

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At Comic-Con, there are panels for just about every topic and every source of fandom imaginable, most of which are scheduled directly opposite the panels you want to see. Consequently, although there were a myriad of presentations concerning Disney products and Disney personalities, one was forced to pick and choose which ones to attend and which ones to shrug and decide to pick up on YouTube afterwards.

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(This is a skill that may come into more practice at the upcoming D23 Expo, but that's another blog.)

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"Disney Kingdoms" featured Imagineers Josh Shipley and Andy DiGenova, along with former Imagineer Brian Crosby, Marvel's SVP of Sales & Marketing David Gabriel, and author of the "Figment" comic series, Jim Zub.

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These creators discussed the origins and development of the popular Disney Kingdoms comic line, with an emphasis on "Figment," which was recently announced to have a sequel series, "Figment 2."

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In the sequel, Dreamfinder and Figment find themselves transported to the modern day, where their Academy has taken on a rather familiar configuration...

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"Floyd Norman Documentary" showcased an impressive lineup of panelists discussing the upcoming documentary on the life and career of phenomenal Disney Legend/Animator Floyd Norman.

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Filmmaker Michael Fiore showed the first teaser trailer for the documentary and moderated a short discussion during which each panel member spoke of their past histories with Norman.

Floyd Norman - An Animated Life - Teaser 1 from Michael Fiore Films on Vimeo.

Norman was also celebrating his 80th birthday and showed no signs of slowing down whatsoever.

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ABC's popular series "Once Upon a Time" was represented in a large panel with the majority of the main cast members, along with co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

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The presentation started off with a trailer catching people up on the history of Emma Swan and the journey that has brought her to becoming the Dark Swan of next season.

Moderator Yvette Nicole Brown made sure each actor got their share of questions as they merrily swapped around their name cards.

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Upon being asked what Belle would like for herself at this point, Emilie de Ravin commented "a vacation." Robert Carlyle speculated that Rumpelstiltskin still has some trickery to fall back on, even without his magic, but isn't doing all that much right now, as he's in a coma.

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Asked about which lady on OUAT holds Robin Hood's heart (figuratively) Sean Maguire said that by the script, he understands Regina does...however he suggested they resolve it by all going on Maury Povich's show (Adam and Eddie: "Thanks for spoiling the Maury reveal!") Rebecca Mader commented that Zelena is the best character she every played, by virtue of her being a total psychopath.

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Lana Parrilla spoke briefly on the evolution Regina's had over the last few seasons, and how Henry's influence and her newly-inherited family have all helped her get over the notion that she would never be happy without her true love--that her happiness has to come from herself.

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On the flip side of evil, Jennifer Morrison explained her understanding that Emma had lost faith in her own moral strength over the past season, having found out that her parents had manipulated her inherent goodness before birth, and was unsure how much her ability to overcome her past obstacles was due to her own strength.

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From an acting standpoint, she was looking forward to the fun of villainy, as evidenced in this teaser clip.

The wildly popular Colin O’Donoghue was asked what Hook would ask The Author to change about his life--"two hands?"

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Real-life couple Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas noted that having their first baby "changed everything," as Goodwin no longer has to act to get a panic attack when Emma is threatened. Asked about their turn as Dark Side versions of their characters, Dallas said that they loved it and that he misses the guyliner.

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In a response to a query on why anyone with any sense stays in Storybrooke, they played a comical piece by Jane Espenson, with Patton Oswalt, getting to the heart of some lesser known Storybrooke denizens.


Finally, Kitsis and Horowitz thanked the fan base for supporting them through to their fifth season, and speculated that the series has drawn together people who are tired of cynicism.

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One last little reveal, and then the panel was concluded.


July 29, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Star Wars

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While SDCC is a grand paean to just about every facet of pop culture, its love affair with Star Wars has been long and legion. 2015, arguably one of the most exciting years in Star Wars fandom, was no exception. While there were a wide range of different presentations on virtually every aspect of the Star Wars universe, here are a representative few.

Lucasfilm made a grand showing with two panels from just their Star Wars Publishing branch alone on Friday morning. In the first one, NYT bestselling authors Alexandra (The Darkest Minds) Bracken, Adam (A Tale Dark and Grim) Gidwitz, and Tom (Origami Yoda) Angleberger spoke on how each of them approached retelling a different movie of the second trilogy for a younger audience.

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Bracken approached A New Hope as "The Star Wars Breakfast Club," splitting the narrative in three parts, each from the perspective of Leia, Han, and Luke. Gidwitz wrote much of Empire in second person, so the readers will feel that they, personally, are training with Yoda or facing Darth Vader.

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The second half of the panel starred a variety of writers who occupy wildly different genres within the Star Wars universe.

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The Wangs create the Star Wars Epic Yarns books, in which each film is retold in twelve images and twelve words, using yarn figures made from needle felting.

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Ultimate Star Wars, by Adam Bray, is a comprehensive and chronological encyclopedia that covers the entire Star Wars canon.

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Jen Heddle, Senior Editor for Lucasbooks, presented the adult canonical Star Wars novels. A New Dawn takes place before the start of "Star Wars Rebels," and shows Kanan's backstory--how he meets up with Hera and joins the Rebellion. Tarkin tells the origin story of the infamous Grand Moff, and Lords of the Sith is "our Vader-Emperor road trip," as the two crash on Ryloth and leave a swath of destruction in their wake trying to get out.

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Christie Golden spoke about her new book, Dark Disciple, which is a novelization of eight unaired episodes of "The Clone Wars," and focuses on Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos.

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Star Wars: Aftermath , an upcoming novel by Chuck Wendig, is part of the large panel of "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens" books designed to lead the way up to the film's opening. Set after "Return of the Jedi," it features Wedge Antilles and was announced to be the start of a trilogy.

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Finally, Marvel's Star Wars comics were discussed, the majority of which take place between "A New Hope," and "Empire Strikes Back."

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As a new announcement from the panel, Chewbacca will be getting his own series (but he still won't talk.)

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Later that day was the big Hall H Lucasfilm presentation. Given that JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy had already presented at Star Wars Celebration not too long ago, and that they had announced there would be no new trailer, I'm not sure what anyone was expecting--certainly not what they got...

Initially, the panel started off with Abrams, Kennedy, and screenwriter Lawrence ("Empire Strikes Back") Kasdan, who spoke briefly about their fondness for the project and the two years they spent developing the script for "The Force Awakens."

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After noting that they tried to utilize practical effects versus CGI, an actual animatronic creature shambled out onto stage and marched back and forth to demonstrate some of the intricate builds.

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"Bobbajo"

At moderator Chris Hardwick's urging, Abrams admitted to having brought some footage, which showed behind-the-scenes shots, and revealed Simon Pegg as one of the cast members.

After that, the three cast members that were present at the Star Wars Celebration panel joined the table: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac.

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Some brief questions later, Hardwick announced that since we'd seen the Light Side, it was time to be introduced to the Dark Side, and brought out Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, and Gwendoline Christie as Kylo Ren, General Hux, and Captain Phasma.

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A short discussion ensued, on the differences between, "evil" and "morally justified" and "right," and then Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were introduced!

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They had also been at Star Wars Celebrations and who knows how many other gatherings recently, so they had an easy and familiar banter. Anticipation in the room was rising for the one original cast member who had not been present for much of the publicity appearances to date, however, and to the crowd's delight, Hardwick next presented Harrison Ford!

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While Ford has always in the past seemed a little dismissive of Star Wars and his role in it, he appeared genuinely moved by the entire experience and appreciative of everyone's continued enthusiasm in a way that was both surprising and touching.

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(Or, he could have just been acting. He's a pretty good actor.)

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So at this point, the audience was already excited to the point of spontaneous combustion, when the panel suddenly turned into the preshow for "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster." Abrams announced that he had arranged a Star Wars concert for us (remember, Hall H holds around 6,400 people, and it was at capacity) complete with fake counting before he admitted everyone could go. We were then walked out to the back of the Convention Center, and then over to the Marina, where everyone was given a credential and a lightsaber.

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It took about 90 minutes for everyone to walk over (at one point, vans with the stars drove by and Mark Hamill high-fived people out of the window as they passed.)

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Eventually Abrams and Kennedy once more took the stage, and thanked the fans for their years of support and for making their way over to the concert without killing anyone.

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They then brought the "Force Awakens" stars back to the stage, most of whom bounded out, crossing lightsabers with anyone within reach.

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(Ford, the last one out, used his as a cane.)

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After the cast finally left the stage, a taped message from Composer John Williams played, in which he said he was busy working on his score for the next movie, and introduced the San Diego Symphony.

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...And then the concert started, and if you don't think it was a surreal experience, to be standing out in the San Diego Marina, while a live symphony orchestra played the score to "Star Wars," among around 6.5k hyped up fans with lightsabers, I am here to tell you otherwise.

Then, when we got to the end of the evening, there was one more surprise left:

It was certainly a night not soon forgotten.

If you would like to see the whole panel, "Flicks and the City" has it on YouTube:

July 26, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Disney Infinity

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Comic-Con everybody!

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One of the largest pop culture convocations in the world was recently held yet again--San Diego Comic-Con.

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As they have done the last couple of years, Disney Infinity made their usual impressive showing with a pop-up location outside of the Convention Center, close to Petco Park. By hosting at an exterior location, people were able to get some hands-on experience with new Disney Infinity assets whether or not they were able to obtain SDCC badges.

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Inside, multiple terminals were set up for gamers to play with the new "Inside Out" and "Star Wars" playsets, along with the Toy Box Expansion games that are all features of Disney Infinity 3.0, set for release on August 30.

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A green screen experience and an art gallery featuring the concept and development art that went into the myriad of Disney Infinity figurines were also presented in a similar format to that of their E3 booth, which I wrote about earlier here.

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I had a chance to demonstrate my extremely limited platforming skills with the "Inside Out" playset, in which each of the emotions can be swapped out strategically to best meet the needs of a given level with their specific abilities (e.g., Anger can walk on lava, but falls through clouds; Joy can walk on clouds for a little while, but falls through if you take too long; Sadness can float on clouds all the live-long day.)

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The "Star Wars" sets are marked by a more sophisticated combat system, which has been retooled by Avalanche Software and Ninja (Devil May Cry) Theory to include better responsiveness and more combos and finishing moves.

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Darth Maul, no.

There were also a variety of events taking place throughout the day at the pop-up, such as scavenger hunts, pre-orders, and a live taping of Disney Infinity's popular web series "Toy Box TV."


Watch live video from Disney on Twitch

Finally, fortunate guests were able to take home one of a selection of upcoming 3.0 characters.

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In all, judging from the long lines that were constantly forming to get in, Disney Infinity had another hit on their hands with their SDCC pop-up store, and people lucky enough to get in and pre-order got a bonus figurine and a fun look at the game's next evolutionary step. Everybody wins!

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" I can't actually throw up in my mouth, but if I could I would do it!"


September 3, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 5]

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So the largest amount of representation Disney brought to SDCC this year was, unsurprisingly, their Marvel properties.

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Marvel's "Agents of SHIELD" had a panel in Ballroom 20, which is probably the second-hardest room to get into at SDCC. To go through the line for Ballroom 20, you habitually have to go outside, walk a good part of the length of the convention center, go back in, walk BACK the same length of the convention center, and then, after some double-backs, maybe get to cross the aisle and enter the room. Needless to say, I didn't make it.

I did, however, manage to catch a few glimpses of the cast, as they made their appearances over at their booth on the Exhibit Hall floor.

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Of course, their big gun was Marvel Studios, which has been dominating the box office for the last few years.

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Their booth, filled with rotating movie props, special limited-edition merchandise, and occasional franchise stars, could always be counted on to block floor traffic all day long.

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They too held a panel, however theirs was in the infamous Hall H, which has the distinction of being THE hardest to enter. Part of the puzzle is the fact that the rooms aren't cleared after each session--once in, the con-goer can effectively squat in there for the duration of the programming day. Because of this, it develops that someone who wants to see, say, the Marvel panel at the end of the day, needs to get in that room at the beginning, because there's effectively no seat turnover during popular days. To get into the Marvel panel, which was towards the end of Saturday, some people had been in line since around 2-4pm the previous day.

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So it didn't happen for me. Luckily, there are many YouTube recordings of all the panels up by now, including these snippets:

In addition to the panels and appearances, there was an endless stream of merchandise available to commemorate all the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Like any convention, SDCC brought out an immense number of cosplayers, who drew from every influence under the sun. This year, however, I almost think I saw as many Elsas as metal-bikini-Leias, which is saying something.

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So, although I did attend more non-Disney talks, these last blog entries make up the bulk of the Disney content from this year's 2014.

The "pro:" A ton of offerings, touching on virtually every piece of existing pop culture; .chances to see and get autographs from any number of celebrities; more merchandise than you could even examine during the course of 4.5 days.

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The "con:" So crowded. Every year seems more crowded than the next. This year, I was determined to try to at least walk by every booth on the Exhibit Hall floor, but huge pockets of people would block the aisles and make certain intersections almost completely impassable, so I wound up traversing a lot of the same pathways repeatedly to get around them. Everything is so much in demand, to see one star-filled panel or buy one limited edition piece of merchandise, you might have to give up seeing anything else for half of the day before, and sleep out on the sidewalk with the roaches and the hobos.

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For next time: There is also an enormous amount of stuff outside of the convention center--this year saw a huge Simpsons area; a parkour course; a chance to zipline over Gotham; an entire area of Petco Park given over to an "Experience Zone" with interactive exhibits from a number of different properties, such as Comedy Central and Sleepy Hollow; and several different locations where different organizations centralized to offer celebrity talks, game demos, and more. Just trying to navigate around inside the convention center was so difficult, I didn't have much time to explore around outside until Sunday, when a lot of it was already starting to be broken down.

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And with that, another SDCC goes in the books. Until next year, San Diego!

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August 27, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 4]

Continuing with the various goings-on at SDCC, Phineas and Ferb had a panel on their upcoming season, including the creators, Swampy Marsh and Dan Povenmire, and voice actors Vincent Martella, Alyson Stoner, Olivia Olson, and Dee Bradley Baker.

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They spoke briefly on the show's casting and development, and then went on to discuss their recently completed Star Wars crossover episode.

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Upcoming episodes they mentioned included one written by Damon Lindelof of "Lost" fame; a zombie episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists;" "Tales from the Resistance," a return to the 2nd dimension; and a teen-aged version set ten years in the future, for which they ended up hiring a fan artist based on her deviantART to work on the character design:
http://kicsterash.deviantart.com/art/Today-is-Gonna-Be-a-Great-Day-341545978

"Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero," a genial-appearing series slated for Disney XD in 2015 was also previewed during the panel, in the form of a "first look" clip now online at USA Today:
http://www.usatoday.com/media/cinematic/video/13914981/exclusive-clip-penn-zero-part-time-hero-first-look/

ABC TV had a number of panels on their popular genre shows--so popular that I wasn't able to get in any of them. Fortunately, like most SDCC panels, they are searchable on YouTube, and trailers for the upcoming seasons were shown at the Exhibit Hall, in their ABC Castle booth.

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In this booth, if you were patient and waited the ~45-90 minutes required, you were able to go in and watch a prolonged (and mildly risqué) trailer for the new series "Galavant," with music and lyrics by Alan Menken (Disney Legend) and Glenn Slater ("Tangled.")

(Actually, they wanted you to sing along with the trailer, which seemed kind of demanding, since no one had heard the song before. Pass.)

After that, guests were free to visit Mr. Gold's pawn shop (from "Once Upon A Time,") and select a magical object that yielded a pin from a specific show. If you went through the whole process or were adept enough at trading, you could accumulate all five or so pins, which would entitle you to a ticket to the Once Upon A Time autograph session on Saturday.

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The pin I got referenced "The Quest," a new reality TV series currently airing on Thursdays that takes place in a fantasy-medieval setting.

Of all the shows they previewed, I actually found most of them fairly interesting, although given that I had to listen to them played over and over again for the hour I spent in line, it could be Stockholm Syndrome.

"Once Upon A Time" promotion mostly revolved around the upcoming season's tie-in with the blockbuster "Frozen" franchise, as revealed in the end of last season.

The show's presence didn't stop on the floor either, as themed pedicabs were available outside the convention center.

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Why, even Petco Park wasn't immune to Elsa's icy blast.

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Next time: "Make Mine Marvel."

August 22, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 3]

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While Disney didn't have much to present at SDCC on the next Star Wars movie, currently in production, Star Wars in general was as prevalent as it usually is.

Frequent Star Wars Weekend host Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka from The Clone Wars) was present in the Exhibit Hall, at the Her Universe booth.

Star Wars cosplayers were out in "Force."

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And there was plenty of merchandise related to both the existing movies, and Disney's next foray into the Star Wars universe, "Star Wars Rebels."

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Premiering this Fall, the new animated series (which was prominently featured at Disney Hollywood Studios' Star Wars Weekends this year) takes place directly after the enactment of Order 66, which called for the termination of all Jedi. The story follows Ezra, a 14-year old Aladdin-esque urchin, who joins up with the crew of the Ghost to fight back against the ever-increasing oppression of the new Galactic Empire, and to learn what it means to have a cause larger than yourself.

As a backdrop to his journey, the series will show the grassroots origin of the rebellion from a handful of scattered individuals to the Rebel Alliance seen in Star Wars IV.

At the main Star Wars Rebels panel discussion, Dave Filoni (Executive Producer,) Freddie Prinze Jr. ("Kanan,") Simon Kinberg (Executive Producer,) Steve Blum ("Zeb,") Taylor Gray ("Ezra,") Tiya Sircar ("Sabine,") and Vanessa Marshall ("Hera") were in attendance.

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Some of the discussed topics:
--Marshall is by far the biggest Star Wars fan of the cast.
--Light saber fights will be infrequent on the show, given that all the remaining Jedi are in hiding.
--"Rebels" will resemble the original trilogy more than Filoni's last series "Clone Wars."
--The cast often records as an ensemble, developing a family dynamic similar to that of their characters.
--Art direction is aimed towards the original Ralph McQuarrie designs.
--During SDCC weekend, Marshall and Sircar became honorary members of the costume club "Mandalorian Mercs."
--The series will begin with the Jedi branded as traitors, and show how the Empire oppression gradually breeds rebellion.
--As the show progresses, each character's motivation for joining the rebellion will be revealed.
--Prinze Jr. says that Kanan has an adolescent darker side as a result of having his training cut short when Order 66 exterminated over 90% of the Jedi, but learns control by teaching Ezra.
--The ship's droid "Chopper" is less cooperative than R2-D2.
--Fan expresses doubt that a "girl" like Sircar would be interested in Star Wars, setting genre social equality back another 60 years.

The next day a roundtable discussion with the panelists was held:

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Freddie Prinze Jr.

Simon Kinberg

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Dave Filoni

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Vanessa Marshall and Steve Blum

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Tiya Sircar and Taylor Gray

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"Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion," the series premiere, will air September 29 on WATCHDisneyXD.com, the WATCH Disney XD app for smartphones and tablets, and Disney Channel SVOD; October 3 at 9pm ET/PT on the Disney Channel; October 4 on Disney XD VOD, and for purchase through Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play; and October 6 on Disney XD at 8pm ET/PT.

August 15, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 2]

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So the first day of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) saw the beginning of the weekend's vast schedule of panel discussions, starting off with talks on upcoming Disney animated projects "Toy Story that Time Forgot," and "Big Hero 6."

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See this poster? This was done for Toy Story by the comic book artist/writer Mike Mignola of "Hellboy" fame. I really wanted one, and they actually did gave them out, but inexplicably gave them out at the ABC booth in the Exhibit Hall, right as the panel was ending, thus insuring that virtually no one could get down there fast enough to get one before they were all out. Sigh.

That was, however, the only disappointment as Director Steve Purcell, Producer Galyn Susman, Head of Story Derek Thompson, and Moderator/Composer Michael Giacchino showed off some impressive clips and art assets from Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story that Time Forgot."

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Initially planned as a six minute short, John Lasseter was impressed enough with the footage that he asked them to expand it to a half-hour Christmas special. The basic story is that Bonnie, the recipient of all the toys at the end of "Toy Story 3," takes them to a friend's house where they encounter a new set of toys--the "Battlesaurs"--who do not realize they are toys.

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The leader of the Battlesaur society is the Cleric--the spiritual head of their culture.

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There are a number of different types of soldier Battlesaurs, because they are constantly needed to fend off the Outland Beasts, like the Goliathon.

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(All the inhabitants of the Battlesaur world have been mutated from...conventional dinosaurs, through irradiation from Zeta Rays.)

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Our lead Battlesaur is Reptillius Maximus, who is of the Champion class, and wielder of the mighty Star Talon, a sacred weapon. He is voiced by Kevin McKidd.

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Our lead of the familar Toy Story cast is Trixie, played by Kristen Schaal. As a surprise, when her character was introduced, Kristen Schaal herself joined the panel.

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(When asked why she thought Trixie was chosen as the star toy for this outing, Schaal responded "...Tom Hanks is really busy, but I am completely available.")

As part of the Christmas setting, a new Toy Story character is also introduced, the mildly disturbing Angel Kitty. ("I am armored with goodness.")

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For those who want to recreate the story afterwards, there will also be actual toys on sale of the various film characters in their battle gear.

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The special "Toy Story that Time Forgot" is schedule for broadcast on ABC, December 2, 2014.

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Next up was a panel on "The Art of Big Hero 6," the upcoming feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS.)

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The panel, which did not allow photos or video of the displayed art, featured Producer Roy Conli, Visual Effects Supervisor Kyle Odermatt, Production Designer Paul Felix, Director Don Hall, Character Designer Shiyoon Kim and Visual Development Artist Lorelay Bove.

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The project came about when Hall developed an interest in creating a project that would join both WDAS and the recently acquired Marvel properties; the relatively obscure "Big Hero 6" seemed to fit the bill, and with Marvel's blessings, became the studio's love letter to Japanese culture.

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The creation of the film's setting "San Fransokyo" took an enormous amount of work, requiring the animators to start with a geographical map of San Francisco, and then increasing the hill size and skyscraper density to give it the feel of Tokyo. Combining the detailed ornamentation of a Japanese city with the Painted Lady architecture of SF, and throwing in some quarter of a million trees and one million streetlights, they created an image of a city that had both depth and energy.

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Kim then described some of the process he went through while trying to find the character Hiro, the 14-year-old genius protagonist.

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Looking to his own childhood for traits like perpetual bedhead, Kim also tried to incorporate elements of today's youth, making him an expert multitasker.

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Hiro's inflatable robotic sidekick Baymax, a health professional turned superhero, came out of multiple visits to various robotic departments at a number of different universities. Wanting a huggable robot, Hall finally found a prototype for a robot composed of vinyl balloons that he thought was perfect. Baymax's face, a simple two circles connected by a line, was derived from the openings on a bell, his walk from a penguin, and his general shape language from a rice cooker (adorable, but with hidden technology.)

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To introduce some clips from the film, the panel was joined by Hiro's voice actor, Ryan Potter.

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Subsequently, we were treated to a brief description of each of Hiro's other teammates:

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Of course, the Big Hero 6 experience didn't end with the panel--there was already a reasonable amount of cosplay anticipating the movie.

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Attendees of the panel were also treated to a small Kaiju!Fred! as a giveaway.

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Downstairs in the Exhibit Hall, "Big Hero 6" had their own booth, where a limited edition armored Baymax was for sale.

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On display were other toys and figures that will be on the market closer to the film's opening.

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Guests were encouraged to #MeetBaymax and take a photo with him, at which time they might be given a smaller Baymax of their own (until the booth ran out for the day.)

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"Big Hero 6" is scheduled to be in theaters November 7, 2014.


August 13, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 1]

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Ah Comic-Con.

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Nothing says the height of summer, like spending four and a half days with 130,000+ of your closest friends.

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Each year, fans of virtually every genre under the sun converge on Downtown San Diego to celebrate and enjoy all different forms of entertainment. As the largest comic-con in North America, it attracts any number of companies displaying their wares and promoting their new and upcoming products, and Disney is no exception.

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I started off my comic-con weekend at the Disney Infinity Preview Event.

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Located a block or so away from the San Diego Convention Center, the Disney Infinity Pop-Up Shop was open each evening and provided guests with an opportunity to try out Disney Infinity 2.0, along with the new playset "Guardians of the Galaxy."

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Along with gameplay time, the location also offered snacks, character artists, giveaways, special guests, and the chance to pre-purchase Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes.

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Also available for pre-order was the new Collector's Edition starter pack, exclusive to the Playstation.

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Subsequent to SDCC, Disney Infinity has continued to roll out new 2.0 characters such as Marvel villains Loki, Green Goblin, and Ronan.

Classic Disney characters haven't been ignored, either, with the addition of Aladdin and Jasmine...

...and Stitch and Tinker Bell.

Oh, and this guy, too.

The Disney Infinity Preview was, as last year, a really fun addition to SDCC, enabling people to escape the heat and rehydrate while getting some hands-on game time with the updated Disney Infinity universe. SDCC tickets were not required, making it accessible to anyone who could brave the traffic and the parking down there.


July 29, 2013

San Diego Comic-Con 2013: Sleep and Food Are For The Weak

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Comic-Con time again, and you know what that means--the traditional escalator shot of the sign.

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This year, my con experience started off with Disney Infinity's preview event. Here, con-goers could take a turn playing the big upcoming Disney Infinity video game, enjoy snacks, and even get character sketches drawn by Disney artists.

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D23 members were given special access on Thursday, the first day of the con.

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Later in the con, Dan Povenmire and Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh, creators and executive producers of 'Phineas and Ferb' stopped by the Disney Infinity space to announce that Phineas and Agent P would be part of the 2nd wave of figures developed for Disney Infinity, and give out a handful of hand-painted figures.

Out on the Exhibitor's Floor, ABC's Once Upon A Time (OUAT) was represented with a pirate ship complete with tiny screening area inside, and huge lines outside.

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The people managing the lines were, however, fairly familiar to viewers of the show.

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Inside the ship, a short trailer showing scenes from the last season was played, after which we were given some small gifts extracted out of one of the Evil Queen's heart-vault-drawers.

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I believe there were four different pins given out altogether, and if you managed to collect all four, you could get a VIP pass to the OUAT panel later that weekend. Given the length of time required to navigate the line however, it was a daunting task.

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From the sounds of it, this may be the same pirate ship OUAT will be bringing to D23's Expo in a few weeks.

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As two of the latest Disney acquisitions, Star Wars and Marvel were out in as much force as you'd imagine.

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Want to get your car wrapped with stormtroopers? You can get that!

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Want sunglasses with light-up lightsaber earpieces? You can get that too!

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Over at the Her Universe booth, Star Wars Weekend veteran Ashley Eckstein was working hard moving merchandise...

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...but hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for an Imagineer in your booth, such as Jason Surrell.

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Meanwhile over at the Marvel booth, displays rotated in and out constantly to promote their huge slate of upcoming films.

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Of the many panels Marvel offered this year, one I enjoyed (of the few I was able to get into,) was on the Avengers TV spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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All the major cast plus several of the writers and creator Joss Whedon were there to answer questions and set up a surprise showing of the complete pilot episode.

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Full of action and Joss Whedon's trademark humor, if the Comic-Con audience was any judge, it should be a huge success. [It is probably also true that if the Comic-Con audience was any judge, Firefly would still be on the air. Caveat Emptor.]

And of course the cosplay. So. Much. Cosplay.

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The main difficulty is getting a good look at all the amazing costumes people concoct for themselves amidst all the constantly moving crowds.

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So it was one more year of one of the largest, most hectic fan gathering in the world. As fun as it is, however, after a weekend of existing off of no sleep and one carefully rationed bag of M&Ms I grabbed at a screening, it's usually a comfort to get back to normal life, away from all the fantastical, chaotic elements that have no basis in reality...

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...oops.


July 28, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Now With Even More People, Part 2.

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So another panel I attended was on TRON: Uprising--the new animated series based on the popular Tron universe.

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Taking place temporally between the original TRON film and the recent TRON: Legacy, the show promises to fill in the events that led up to the changed situation Sam finds on the Grid, and the metamorphosis of Tron himself.

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The panel was moderated by Variety Film Editor Josh Dickey, and included Creator Charlie Bean, Producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, voice actors Elijah Wood (Beck), Bruce Boxleitner (Tron), Tricia Helfer (The Grid), Art Designer Alberto Nielgo and Lead Character Designer Rob Valley.

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They answered some brief questions about how they liked the TRON movies and came up with the new voices for the series, and then showed clips from an upcoming episode hinting at the eventual corruption of Tron. When asked if Wood's new character would be added to the film series, they could only say that a sequel to TRON: Legacy is currently in the works.

Subsequently, they raffled off some signed light discs, which Boxleitner threatened to send by...direct methods.

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TRON: Uprising plays on the Disney XD channel.

Finally, the last big Disney property I saw being represented was the highly anticipated "Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" video game.

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[I actually already covered some of the game information/mechanics as was displayed at the E3 Conference earlier this year: My E3 Blog.]

Representing Disney and Junction Point (the game development company headed by Warren Spector and now part of Disney Interactive Studios,) were DC and Marvel comic book writer Marv Wolfman, game designer Warren Spector, Director of the Walt Disney Archives Becky Cline, and veteran comic book writer Peter David.

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As the panel began, all the members were presented with their very own embroidered Oswald ears, which they wore with varying degrees of pride and chagrin.

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They started off by showing their opening video, setting up the game and showing off some of its immediate differences from Epic Mickey 1. (ALL TALKING! ALL SINGING!)

Some of the introduced themes: Does everyone (the Mad Doctor) have the possibility of redemption? Or is some evil too profound to be redeemed?

Choices in the game also have a bigger impact as changes you make to the game environment, constructive (paint) or destructive (thinner,) have persistence and long-ranging consequences for the course of your story. They estimate the game may take something like 10-15 hours to complete (or half a year, if you're as bad at platforming as I am,) but that you have to play it three times to see everything.

Cline went over the story of Walt Disney losing Oswald to his distributor, Charles Muntz, as depicted online in Prominent Oswaldologist Morgan Ditta's video "Oswald's Story."

There was, of course, a happy ending 80 years later, in real life, as Bob Iger traded sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC for the rights to Oswald. Peter David: "So you're saying we almost sat here wearing Al Michaels ears?!"

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Wolfman spoke briefly about how amazing he found it, being the person to write Oswald's first spoken dialogue in 80 years. "...I don't know how a mouse and a rabbit are brothers..." Spector interjected "...and he has a cat girlfriend!" "...but you accept it, because they also wear pants."

David then described the graphic novel he's writing which tells a number of tales about the Wasteland and Oswald, and which should be out around the same time as the game (November 18.)

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There will also be a Nintendo 3DS version of the game with an entirely different narrative, and numerous 16-bit gaming tributes, including references to "Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse"

They ended by emphasizing that they've tried to follow John Lasseter's advice to them, to make games for everyone, as Pixar strives to make movies for everyone. Spector also remarked that virtually everything in the game is inspired or references something real from Disney history, and that he's waiting for a fan to make a definitive list for them, because they don't have one.


July 27, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Now With Even More People, Part I.

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Another year's Comic-Con has come and gone, and if there was one overwhelming impression I got out of it, it was "Good Heavens, There's A Lot of People Here!"

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This is all one line. And not even all of the one line. And the room was already partially full from people who sat through the panel before this one. And those people had probably spent the night before sleeping out on the sidewalks in line to assure themselves of a seat.

In the Exhibition Hall, most of the major studios were represented by huge elaborate booths, and Disney was no exception this year.

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Although the Disney Studios had their own panel, their flashiest property was clearly Marvel. Through some annoying scheduling, it was impossible to see both the panel and the press conference, so I opted for the one that didn't require camping out overnight.

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Attended by Marvel president Kevin Feige, director Shane Black, Don Cheadle, and Robert Downey, Jr., the press panel mostly answered questions pertaining to the upcoming "Iron Man 3" film, which they said would concentrate on the relationships the various characters have with each other, in addition to exploring Tony Stark's limitations in a post-Avengers world.

While I wasn't there, Marvel Studios released some B-Roll footage of various parts of the general panel, including this one of Downey entering the cavernous Hall H.

(Those of us who saw him at the last D23 Expo Studios presentation probably remember that he seems very fond of going immediately to tape once appearing on stage.)

The Walt Disney Studios had their own press event, showcasing three upcoming movies.

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"Frankenweenie" was up first, with a panel including Executive Producer Don Hahn, Director Tim Burton, and voice talent Atticus Shaffer. Among other things, Hahn noted that this is the first black and white stop motion film ever. When asked about the state of current superhero movies, Burton commented that when he did his first one, he was told it was "too, too dark. Now it looks like Batman on Ice." Both felt that stop motion is a lost art, but is one of the purest forms where you can really see the hand of the artist in the medium.

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Next up was "Oz the Great and Powerful," with Director Sam Raimi, Actresses Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams, and Producer Joe Roth. Speaking generally about the movie, Raimi described it as a straightforward family/Disney movie, showing how some people can be "sinners and hurt people," and then realize that the things they do in the world have consequences and ultimately grow into the best person they can be. Roth commented that the film is a prequel to the famous musical film, and that none of them would want to simply do a remake (Raimi also said that they did not have the legal rights to use the original Emerald City or ruby slippers in any case.)

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The third film on their docket was the highly-anticipated "Wreck-It Ralph" with voice talent John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, Producer Clark Spencer, and Director Rich Moore. This panel, largely because of the talent involved, was more humorous and a good deal more profane than the previous ones. When asked about violence, Moore stated that although there was a lot of violence, as would be obligatory when portraying shooter video games, it was never gratuitous or gory--they made an effort to represent each genre while still being a family film. A question about how they developed the voices for their characters was answered by Silverman as being more of a process that was influenced by everyone's contributions. "That's why when Disney movies come out, they're [expletive] masterpieces!"

One question they were surprised to be asked repeatedly through their press junket was whether they had any difficulty getting the rights to use the different video game characters. "If you made Frogger," Reilly replied, "a game no one plays anymore--is it really a difficult negotiation to say 'yes,' he could be in a movie?"

Finally, the question of whether people would necessarily need to be familiar with the video games in order to understand the movie was asked--Moore replied that the story was made emotional and the characters relatable without any connection to games, as he laid out a traditional story before laying on an accoutrement of video games. Spencer maintained that the relationship of Ralph and Penelope is the core of the movie, and Reilly commented that the main characters are made up and explained as they go along, so you don't need to know anything else. Silverman: "These are just avatars to tell a story as old as time."

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Next Time: Tron Uprising, and Epic Mickey II.

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