Here’s what’s at Comic-Con, which means here’s what’s coming everywhere else: affordable 3D printers with hand-held scanners that transmit 360 degree images to your tablet or laptop instantly. GoPro cameras. Google glasses. Even Oculus Rift, the totally immersive virtual reality headset invented by a teenager and sold for $2 billion that is said to be a literal game-changer (its first commercial use will be in gaming) and could change everything from movies and television to medical imaging.
And, once again, even more fan involvement in everything, the line between creator and consumer of content almost dissolving completely. When you have your photo taken with an alien chasing you, you don’t just get a print-out. You are directed to a console so you can post it to all of your social media. The new Ships of the Line Star Trek calendar will have fan art as well as the official renderings. And the new USA television miniseries from “Heroes” helmer Tim Kring, “Dig,” starring Jason Isaacs, has a virtual scavenger hunt set up at Comic-Con. If you discover the rune-like symbol they have hidden all over the area, you post a photo to Snapchat with their hashtag, you can win a chance to chat with someone from the show. And you can see prequel footage and engage with the writers via Wattpad.
I attended a press event featuring the people behind the new “Madagascar” animated series spin-off, “Penguins of Madagascar,” including writers/directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith (reuniting for the first time since “Antz”), Tom McGrath (director of the earlier films and voice of Skipper) and John Malkovich, who provides the voice of the villain, an evil octopus. The film also features Benedict Cumberbatch as a dashing, James Bond-style secret agent. It takes place just after the end of the last film (not the television series), as the penguins need some rest after the excitement of the circus adventure. “What starts as a birthday romp turns into a world tour.” Like the Bond films, they wanted to have a series of exciting locations.
McGrath says he always envisioned Robert Stack as the voice of Skipper, and tries to channel him when he performs the part. I asked Malkovich what was fun about playing a bad guy. He said that “this one is quite fun because he seems happy, he’s lazy, not particularly profound or remorseful, and that’s always a pleasure.”
“Dig” looks very impressive, and the chase scenes they showed us from the first episode really highlighted the locations in Jerusalem. (They will continue filming in New Mexico.) Isaac said he took the part because “I get to run around and pretend to be cooler, tougher, sexier, and smarter than I am.” Anne Heche plays his boss (and sometimes more). “We wanted to make it cinematic, multi-layered, epic,” said the cinematographer. They used a 90-year-old lens to “embrace the golden light” in Jerusalem, and an up-to-the-minute lens for the “calmer, cooler, beautifully crisp” light of Norway to achieve the maximum contrast. Because it is a limited “event” series, they know where it is going to end from the beginning, no “art of the stall.” They warned us that no one in the series is what he or she seems and that we should “look out for the color red,” which is almost another character in the story.