CATEGORIES Animation, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Disney, Remakes and Sequels, ComicCon, Comic-Con, Cinematical
Its still Saturday and I'm still in the spacious and oddly cold Hall H. I have to say that in all my years coming to the Con I have never had the experience of being cold. Walking from the hotel to the Con, waiting in line at the bathroom, to wondering the exhibit hall, I've usually been hot, sometimes sweaty, but never cold. New one on me and a trend I don't mind continuing. I don't like being hot.
Anyway, this time around I'm in Hall H or the Disney / Pixar presentation where they are going to talk about two of their biggest upcoming projects. No, its not another Pirate's film. Instead, the folks from the Mouse house are here to showcase The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and a Pixar film called Wall E.
Regarding Narnia, Kevin already let you know one of the big announcements from today. But in case you didn't see it or don't feel like clicking, I'll tell you again. Disney and Walden Media announced they intend to make all seven books of the Chronicles as films and release one each May for your viewing pleasure. So, if you're a fan of the books and films that's gotta be pretty great news. That announcement, although pretty exciting, didn't come at the beginning of the presentation, so let's back up and start there.
First up was some of the creative team from the film, including effects supervisor Richard Taylor from WETA Workshop and creature effects creator Howard Berger. They were also joined, via satellite from Prague, by director Andrew Adamson, who proclaimed "Welcome back to Narnia" and Prince Caspian himself, actor Ben Barnes. Then, it was on to a clip showing a pre-viz animatic from the movie.
This pre-viz showed one of the children from the first movie being picked up and flown to a Telmarine castle on an island by a griffin. After disabling a guard, the other children arrive, also carried by griffins, and attack the castle. They are helped during the attack by some sword-wielding mice who sneak in a take care of business.
The second clip was a compilation showing some new footage from the film itself, behind the scenes clips, and other bits. One of the things they emphasized during the presentation was how much more action would be in this film than the last one. "We only had that one battle at the end of the first film, " said Adamson. "This time, we have several so the film is a lot more action and an epic journey where these characters battle for control of Narnia itself"
At least from the clips, it looked like Adamson was right -- the film looks pretty action-packed. Not only was action emphasized in the new film and during the presentation, they also showed a few of the new characters that would be introduced -- Trumpkin, a dwarf character played by Peter Dinklage, and the sword fighting mouse, Reepacheep, who looks pretty bad-ass for a creature his size. Next, it was on to questions from the audience.
Some of the tidbits reveled during the questions were that the filmmakers had already started working on the next film in the saga: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in February. Also, Adamson would not be directing the next film -- Caspian would be his last as director -- but he would be staying on as a producer to "help maintain the continuity." "I can't imagine not being involved with these films," said Adamson.
Pixar was next but before they took over, Disney showed a trailer for National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. All I can say about it is this: if you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one too. It pretty much looks, feels and sounds exactly the same -- only this time instead of the declaration of Independence there's some nonsense about a conspiracy involving the murder of President Lincoln.
To solve it, Nicholas Cage needs to kidnap the President. Yes, that's the plot. Don't blame me, I just work here. I won't bore you with any further details about this film. If you really care, I'm sure you won't have trouble finding out more info.
Fortunately, that was short lived and Pixar finally took over and Andrew Stanton, writer/director of their latest effort, Wall E, took the stage. When he did, it struck me as similar to all the Apple Computer keynotes I've seen in the past -- mostly because Stanton stood up the whole time like Steve Jobs does. Maybe standing when giving presentations is required of all people at companies where Jobs is part-owner? We'll probably never know. I just found that interesting and an observation relevant later during the presentation as the Jobs influence appears again.
First, Stanton talked about the film, which he described as basically "R2-D2 the movie," tells the story of a "trash-collecting robot named Wall E" who gets a chance to finally leave a world where he's been alone for years and go into space. Once there, "he falls in love and its this love that may allow him to save mankind." He also talked about the challenges of making a film like Wall E, one where the main character is a robot who communicates with a series of sounds and doesn't have a traditional voice.
To illustrate the challenges of this type of film and how Pixar and Stanton will overcome them, the director then introduced pretty much the only man you could decide to call on when robots communicate with each other, convey emotion with sound and propel the story with their beeps, whistles and other noises: sound guru Ben Burtt.
Burtt took the stage and stood in front of a keyboard, prepared to show how his use of sound would help tell the story and provide, what Burtt called, a "sonic texture for the film." If you're reading a story about Comic-Con on a film site I probably don't need to tell you how much Ben Burtt rocks and how much of a contribution he makes to any film he works on. This is the guy who invented modern sound effects so needless to say, his part of the presentation was a fantastic glimpse into the world of sound and how it elevates a film like Wall E.
Burtt went through several examples of the sounds he created for each of the robots in the film. Of course, the clips were great -- as you would expect from Pixar -- and showed how far animation has come over the years. It was also interesting to see the design of Wall E's love interest, the probe droid Eve, and how it looked like her design had been influenced by the iPod. I wasn't the only one who thought so. Several others around me remarked on the similarities.
Next, they decided to show a completed sequence from the film, complete with sound effects and music from composer Thomas Newman, who Stanton confirmed was doing the music for the film. The sequence, like most anything Pixar does, was great. Being able to convey such depth of emotion and tell a story so effectively by using only images and sounds and without dialog, takes a special kind of talent that Stanton and Pixar obviously have in spades. In short, the clip was great and I can't wait for the film.
One other bit about the clip. During a certain part of it I'm sure I heard Wall E make a noise and I'm sure it was the Macintosh startup sound when you first turn on a Mac. I know its there and that just goes to further show the influence of Stave Jobs. Finally, they opened up for questions and we got to find out that there would, according to Stanton, be "live action elements involved in the film but more I can't say at the moment."
Also, Ben Burtt was asked about his involvement in Indiana Jones 4, to which he answered "I would love to be involved. Its kinda a tradition but Wall E and Indiana Jones have the same schedule so I don't know. My priority is Wall E." Stanton, however, gave Burtt an out, saying "I think we can find a way to work that out. Nobody is denying Indiana Jones."
And then the presentation was over But my time in Hall H wasn't as I still had to wait for the Sony/Screen Gems presentation a little later. So, stay tuned for more of my Hall H adventures right here at Cinematical.