I had a private interview with Chris McKenna, screenwriter of an animated release due out this fall called “Igor.” It is the story of a hunchbacked lab assistant to an evil scientist who wants to be more. Voice talent for the film includes Jon Cusack as Igor, John Cleese as the scientist he works for, Eddie Izzard as the villain, and Molly Shannon as the Bride-of-Frankenstein-like creature they create. Here is the adorable trailer:
“We cooked up a really fun story with a great character,” McKenna told me. “Everyone knows him but no one really knows him. He’s lurking in the shadow. But he has his own hopes and dreams, aspirations. Is everyone born with a hunch named Igor and forced to become a lab assistant? Setting up the world was the biggest challenge. What do we need to tell the audience? How do we tell the story in an interesting way, balancing all you need to know to understand this world with all you need to know to get involved with the characters and connect to the story? Igor lives in a world where the biggest stars are the evil scientists, they’re the rock stars, all he wanted to be, his role model, but that’s impossible. He had a hunch and was forced to serve. But he needs to create.”
Producers of comics, movies, music, games, magazines, and other media “content” were not the only ones trying to get the attention of Comic-Con attendees. Advertisers are very eager to find out how to reach audiences who are able to skip radio and television commercials and are increasingly resistant to traditional forms of marketing. I was very interested that a session on a new web-based comedy series called On the Bubble led off not with one of the producers, writers, or performers but with a brand specialist. The people who created the show said that they loved the creative freedom of not having to deal with a television network (“They always have notes.”) The Sierra Mist representative said, “Comedy is the way we reach you.” They will not do anything as obvious as product placement, going instead for “deeper engagement value” through added content, message boards, and other new media.
The panel discussion about “Dollhouse,” the new television show from Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly”), began with Tahmoh Penikett (“Battlestar Galactica”) taking a photo of the crowd. “Smile everyone!” he said. Whedon watched him, amused. “This is his first experience with science fiction.”
Star Eliza Dushku explained that her new series began when she was was complaining to Whedon about not being given a chance to show all of the range of characters she could do. “Staring into the eyes of the woman, seeing all of the things she could be, I realized I’d have to do it,” Whedon said. “So, I created a girl who has every personality in the world except her own.” The result was the new series with Dushku as Echo, one of a group of men and women who are imprinted with different personalities for different assignments. Dushku talked about what she loved about Whedon’s scripts. “He makes the words pretty on the page, fully puts me at ease and challenges me at the same times. The characters have feist, fury, some funny. He’s like a career brassiere!” Whedon said he liked Dushku because she is “good with pain and being crazy and also acting.”
A questioner noted that there are already web sites dedicated to saving the show and it has not started yet. “The enthusiasm I love, the wariness is earned, but this is not a niche show,” Whedon promised.
If you’ve read through to the very end, you are really a fan! The first person to send me an email at email@example.com with the word Comic-Con in the subject line will get some small knick-knacks I was given there.
More highlights, observations and pictures from Comic-Con 2008
Most of the presenters mentioned that their name cards had a cautionary note on the back reminding them that they should be careful about what they said because there would likely be children in the audience. And then they ignored it. If there is an overall theme of Comic-Con it is, as Jack Black said in “School of Rock,” sticking it to The Man. Even if The Man is Comic-Con itself.
Like connoisseurs of all kinds, whether wine, art, movies (we should say “cinema”), or sports, there is a specialized and a little pretentious vocabulary for talking about comics. I heard a lot of great terms, including “orchestral” and “meta-paneled.”
In addition to the people listed previously and below, Comic-Con appearances included Deepak Chopra, Paris Hilton, Triumph the insulting dog puppet, Robert Culp and William Katt of “The Greatest American Hero,” Dan Ackroyd (there’s a new “Ghostbusters” computer game), the new Aston Martin from the forthcoming James Bond movie, and cast members from “Lost,” “Chuck,” “Knight Rider,” the new HBO vampire series “True Blood,” created by Alan Ball of “Six Feet Under” and “American Beauty,” and, speaking of vampires, the much-anticipated upcoming film, “Twilight.”
I hardly think that coming as Silent Bob qualifies as a costume. Same with Hancock. But for some very impressive costumes, you can see my photos here. And I also wrote a piece for the Association of Women Film Journalists about Comic-Con posted on their site.
I interviewed Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Jessica Stevenson about the DVD release of their first project together, a British television show called Spaced. Wright and Pegg went on to make “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” and Pegg will play Scotty in the new film version of “Star Trek.” Jen Chaney of The Washington Post reported that they were actually filming, too — “Daytrippers” director Greg Mottola is making a movie featuring Pegg and frequent co-star Nick Frost that begins and ends at Comic-Con.
Wright spoke about his American influences, including “Arrested Development,” the plotting of “Seinfeld,” “Flight of the Conchords,” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” “‘Larry Sanders’ was not all that popular but it was one of the most influential series. It led directly to the UK ‘The Office.’ And we wanted to make an associative, clever, original comedy show like ‘Arrested Development.’” They were also influenced by the British sit-com “The Young Ones.” “It changed the lives of the people of our generation. It spoke to us so personally. It was punk for comedy. It helped give us permission to share experiences like our lives. Like us, the characters sat around, procrastinated, played PlayStation, smoked weed, and had adventures. It was a message for the geek community throughout the world: ‘We are taking over the world.’”
Wright also described getting the commentary tracks together for the DVD. “It all came together at the last minute and we did it all in one day in LA. Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Matt Stone, and Quentin Tarantino did it all for free, driving themselves. I did have to get Kevin Smith out of bed, though.”
Stevenson talked about her “strong and unique female character. She is different but equal to the male. She’s not intended to be any sort of archetype of stereotype — just an original and authentic character and that was the interesting perspective and because I am female it was strong. The fan base is equally strong in both genders,” she noted. ” That is because it is not escaping into a fantasy world of no gender boundaries; it’s a real world of real people.”
One of the highlights of a panel discussion on comics in the 1970′s was the raucous recollections of the struggles with the censors. Like the movies, comics had been subject to a code that covered (literally in some cases) what could be depicted. Bernie Wrightson recalled that after six issues of “Swamp Thing,” the censors noticed that he wasn’t wearing any pants. Wrightson explained that (a) no one had objected in the first six issues, (b) this was a creature who emerged from the swamp, where pants are not easily obtained, and (c) he is a plant. Another great panel was the reminiscences from the MAD Magazine editor and staff about their experiences in the 1960′s. They had especially fond memories of the annual vacation trips the staff would take together to locations all over the world. One year, they went to Haiti and found out ahead of time that MAD had only one subscriber on the island, an American teenager. The entire staff went over to his house and rang the doorbell to ask him to renew.
It was fun to run into the crew from Rotten Tomatoes — here interviewing Bender the robot from “Futurama”
I think one reason I became a critic is that I am fascinated by mistakes. I don’t mind seeing bad movies (most of the time) because I like to think about what it is that makes them so bad. And of course it is a lot of fun to find mistakes in movies. One of my favorites is the bunch of flowers that Katharine Hepburn carries in “Desk Set.” They are one color when she enters the elevator and another when she gets out! There are great compilation of movie mistakes on, Nitpickers.com, Movie Goofs, and, of course, movie mistakes.com.
Here are the top five from Moviemistakes.com. I’d love to hear your favorites:
1 Commando After chasing down Sully, the yellow Porsche is totally wrecked on the left side, until Arnie drives it away, and it’s fine.
2 Star Wars When the stormtroopers break into the control room, the stormtrooper on the right of the screen hits his head on the door frame. On the DVD release they’ve added a thump when he hits it.
3 The Rocky Horror Picture Show The criminologist describes the events of the movie as taking place “on a late November evening”. In the very next scene, Brad and Janet are driving in Brad’s car, and President Richard Nixon’s resignation speech is playing on the radio. Nixon resigned in August of 1974.
4 Charlie’s Angels When the Angels are fighting the “Creepy Thin Man,” right before Drew Barrymore lifts up Lucy Liu to spin her around and kick the thin man, to get Lucy’s attention, Drew hollers out “Lucy!” even though Lucy Liu’s character’s name is “Alex.”
5 Gladiator In the “Battle of Carthage” in the Colosseum, one of the chariots is turned over. Once the dust settles you can see a gas cylinder in the back of the chariot.
And don’t forget — anyone who finds 10 of my mistakes on this site gets a free copy of my book!
While we were in San Diego for Comic-Con we had a chance to visit the legendary Hotel Del Coronado, where Some Like It Hot and The Stunt Man were filmed. We had breakfast overlooking the water and imagined Marilyn Monroe and Peter O’Toole getting ready to go on their sets.
And I loved going to the studio to do my weekly movie reviews in person on the Jeff and Jer Show on Star 94.1. I look forward every week to talking to them about what’s going on in theaters and on DVD and they are every bit as charming and delightful — and handsome — as I expected. (Yes, that’s me with the black eye — car accident, I was rear-ended, everyone is all right and my eye is now much, much better.)
Jeff and Jer and Little Tommy treated us to a dinner at Trattioria Fantastica that lived up to its name. Many, many thanks for your graciousness and hospitality and for the great fun I have every week being on your show.
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