Wednesday, August 01, 2007

At the Con - Disney panel

The Disney panel was pretty sweet. They only really talked about two movies and both are ones that I am looking forward to: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and WALL-E. In fact for me personally I would have to say that the Prince Caspian panel was the most surprising thing I saw at the entire convention. I really wasn't expecting to be as swept up by that film as I was. But it simply looks amazing... And of course as everyone who reads the site knows I am already really into what I've seen of WALL-E, it seems Pixar can do no wrong these days.

TCON: Prince Caspian was up first. They are still filming in Prague for a few weeks so while the producer and art director (i think) were in attendance in San Diego, the director and none of the cast could be there. At least thats what we thought at first, in a surprise we were treated to a live video lik with Prague and both the director and Prince Caspian himself, the very affable young actor Ben Barnes. Here's a short video that has since the con hit the web so that you can see who he is and a tiny bit of the film.

Nice. I know, its just a small taste, but at least you get a chance to see who Caspian is, and if you've read the books, yhou know that he is pretty integral, to 3 of the upcoming books. As a side note if you were tyo check out as Ben suggests you'll be directed to the official site which has some other nice little tidbits on the film, like some cool storyboard, and a production blog..

Anyhow, they began by showing us some footage, and it was this that got me really excited. It was full of pre-visualizations and half finished effects, but all of the practical effects were looking really great. The scene they showed us was the Pevensie kids, now returned to Narnia some 1300 years after the events in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, raiding a castle of King Miraz to rescue Caspian from his cruel Uncles machinations. It involved the kids and a number of animals compatriots, including fan favorite Reepicheep the mouse, essentially sneaking into a castle tower and trying not to alert anyone. Even with simple animatics for many of the characters, I was REALLY impressed with the action. At the end of the scene was a simple trailer. Well, it wasn't simple at all really, but I suspect the final trailer will be longer and involve more effects shots. That said, it was this trailer, with its sweeping shots of the achingly beautiful New Zealand countryside (although most of this film was shot in eastern europe), and the fantastic score that made me really get a bit choked up. The film looks great; I mean just great.

I'm not an over-the-top Narnia fan. I loved the books as a kid, but thought the film of TLTWATW was pretty uneven. Especially in terms of effects. But they really addressed my concerns very well. The panel session was basically about half on the effects of the film and half on the direction, and story.

In terms of the effects stuff they really talked a fair bit about the way things were being done for Caspian. In that as much as possible the are using practical effects and costumes. They brought a, totally redesigned, robotic head of a Satyr for an on stage demonstration . It was pretty sweet, especially when they made the head start expressing itself with remote controlled hydrolics built inside. These Weta people are really impressive! Then they talked about how working on this film is easier in a way because they already have a lot of the technology in place that they developed while making the last one. So they've upped the ante, by doing things like having more than just 30 year old male centaurs. Every animal in the film will now come in male, female, young and old. And the armor! They brought out an actor in full Telemarine armor, check out this pic below care of IGN. It was very cool. Finally they talked about how they've really refocused their efforts on the character of Aslan, to make sure he looks the best possible in this film.

The director Andrew Adamson, talked to us about how, this film is grittier, darker, and far more action packed that the last one, which he also directed by the way. Apparently it was much harder to adapt that the last book. Check out the very interesting production blog from May 4th at on just this subject. They did have to make a few changes in story structure from the book for the screen, especially just to get the character together faster, but everyone seemed to feel that the changes were necessary. He talked about how really while all the books are connected thematically very well, in terms of plotting they are pretty much all completely different. Caspian is an all out action story and has to be treated different than the first film. With that in mind too, I will say I noticed in the scene they showed the character of Peter literally killing four Telemar guards in a row with his sword... I was a bit taken surprised as this will definitely bne a "kids" movie, but this point is the one Adamson was trying to drive home. This film is a different animal than the last one, its much bigger, and much more adult.

Ok, I've really gone on for long enough on this film, but I was, as I'm sure you can tell very surprised and impressed with how interesting this film looks. I think it has some great potential. Oh and the director said that the plan for production after this one comes out in May is to have a new Narnia movie come out once a year every May until they complete the series! Quite ambitious, but something I really hope they can do.

Following that long and involved ramble on Caspian, I'll try to make the rest of my comments more to the point. After the Caspian people left, we were treated to the trailer for National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. meh...

Then to round things out we moved into a really interesting panel on WALL-E, the newest venture from Pixar. As I've talked about it before here I don't think I need to go into too much detail on the story front. The panel was run by the films director Andrew Stanton, who also directed Finding Nemo. And despite his kind of business like approach to his presentation I was very impressed with what he's doing on the film. Andrew talked about the story some, talked about how unique this film is, especially in that it has little to no real dialogue for almost the entire film. He showed some amazing stills from the film, some of which you can check out at And he set up an introduction to the characters, he then brought out legendary sound designer Ben Burtt, of Star Wars and Indiana Jones fame, who literally had a sound mixing board with him and gave us a fascinating look at the process of sound design, while introducing the characters and their noises. Since everyone, or almost everyone in the film are robots who don't speak the noises they make had to be exceptionally expressive. I have to admit I was pretty blown away. I don't know that I've ever seen a sound scape broken down to the level here, and it was just fascinating. All the noises had to be practical, realistic noises; but they also managed to convey such emotion. I don't know if I need to tell you, but it was very impressive.

Considering Pixar's track record and this presentation I definitely think they've got another sure fired hit on their hands. Well, just to add to my success hypothesis, they rounded out their presentation by showing us 7 minutes of exclusive footage from the film! It was from near the beginning of the film, we see a typical day in the life of WALL-E and then watch his fateful first meeting with EVE, who is the catalyst for the entire story really. As you can probably guess, the stuff we saw was charming, funny, and whimsical, with fantastic visuals, beautifully use of colors and light, and a really flawlessly execution. I think this movie will, simply put, be great.

For more fun with WALL-E, you should definitely go check out the site. This is the company that makes WALL-E and other fascinating and hilarious robots. The site is littered with really funny copy and some great robot designs. Check it out.

Ok, well that brings us to the end of the Disney panel. It was a very good session, that really gave a glimpse into two great looking new films. Hopefully they both live up to the expectations created at comic con. So far I think they will :)


No comments: