Before this panel starts, we’re told to put on our 3-D glasses for a Real-D presentation. It’s the same one as last year, with a robot dog chasing a robot ball. Yeeha. Next, out comes Morgan Spurlock, to give us a tease of his newest documentary COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE. Says the idea came to him after he met Stan Lee at Comic-Con one year, gushed about how he was such a fan, and Stan gushed back ,saying they should do a documentary together about Comic Con. From there, Joss Whedon and Harry Knowles got involved.
We see a clip. It begins with Eli Roth talking about his first time taking a leak between a Klingon and a Stormtrooper. Snippets of Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith (talking about how now there are chicks at Comic-Con), Joss Whedon, Seth Green saying he actually met his wife at Comic-Con, Guillermo del Toro describing the Con as a Russian doll, with mini-cons inside the con, shots of the masquerade ball, artists alley, portfolio review… intertitles throughout tout everyone’s biggest credentials: ”From the producer of THE DARK KNIGHT…the director of THE AVENGERS… the mind behind aint it cool news…” Ends with Kevin Smith talking about how he wishes he could go back and tell his 11 year-old self that one day he’ll come to Comic-Con every year and be greeted by Stan Lee. Imagines 11 year-old will be upset by how fat he’s gotten. (Again, how is Kev this self-deprecating on one hand, yet a righteous douche on the other?).
Now on to the actual animation. Aardman animation is now partnered with Sony, and one of their new projects is THE PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS. Bad title. But it looks great – the typical Aardman bug-eyed style, with stop motion and now in 3-D.
The first clip shown is very fast-moving, so it’s hard to describe it all, but basically it centers on one arrogant, bearded pirate. He jumps aboard one boat to rob it, and it turns out to be a leper boat, where limbs just casually drop off. One of his crew is a fish in a hat. He proclaims: “We laugh in the face of danger!” only to be contradicted by his crew: “I don’t!” He tries to plot a route on a map, to be told, “Unfortunately, there’s this great big sea monster in the way.” Cap laughs, “I think they just add that for decoration.” Cut, of course, to entire ship being swallowed by a sea monster.
The captain boards another ship. Crew of this one tell him it’s a ghost ship, and go “whooo-ooo-ooo!” Captain realizes the planks beneath him are ghost planks, and, Wile E. Coyote style, he falls into the water.
Looks very funny. If you like Wallace and Gromit, this seems a sure thing. If you don’t like Wallace and Gromit, something is very wrong with you.
End clip. Out comes Aardman’s Peter Lord.
He says stop motion is actually no tougher than any other kind…”really, it’s much more fun than CG.” Says if he’d known what Comic-Con was like, he’d have dressed up. “I hope that trailer has given you a clue that it’s not like a conventional pirate movie.”
The pirates all have generic names: The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), The Pirate With A Scarf (Martin Freeman), The Pirate With Gout (Brendan Gleeson), etc. Then there’s Polly the parrot. “In our world, nobody ever notices that she’s a dodo.”
Lord: “They’re so happy at their work, and they’re not very good at it.” The Captain wants to win Pirate of the Year; thinks he will, and then runs into some really skilled pirates, including Jeremy Piven as the annual victor, Black Bellamy; and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek). Lord says recording with her was the best day of the shoot.
Our main, useless pirates attack many ships, including vessels full of children, lepers, ghosts, and nudists. Finally, they board the boat of Charles Darwin (David Tenant), who takes them to London, where we meet the real villain, Queen Victoria…who hates pirates due to their sea shanties and silly hats. Eventually, everyone makes it to the Pirate of the Year awards, where Brian Blessed bellows the voice of the Pirate King (Flash Gordon fans rejoice).
Half of Jeremy Piven’s lines were improvised on the spot..
A behind-the-scenes reel runs, showing just how big and elaborate the sets were, scored to the Sex Pistols “Pretty Vacant.” We get a scene of Darwin walking the plank, writing in his diary that he’s never reached second base with a lady. Various animators perform the actions for reference capture. Goofy stuff happens. Looks like a lot of fun. I want to see this.
Next up: ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Also Aardman, but looks nothing like their usual style. In the 3-D trailer, a kid dressed in a tack Christmas
sweater and reindeer shoes tells us summer makes him think of Christmas. Pull back to reveal a snowy backdrop…then we see Elves training, military style. Following orders, they gift-wrap a live polar bear. Then one says we’re not supposed to see this, and pouts his hand over the camera lens.
Out comes screenwriter Peter Baynham. The idea came to him when he wondered how Santa can eat 2 billion cookies and drink a billion gallons of milk? Solution: massive army of Elves train military-style. A giant starship, over a mile wide and with a speed of .92 mph is called S-1, and I shaped like a sleigh. It has an invisibility shield, so no-one has seen it…but this movie rips the lid off Santa’s global operation. Elf motto: “In Santa We Believe.”
Santa is the 18th of a long line. Voiced by Jim Broadbent, he keeps forgetting the PIN# to his toilet. Hugh Laurie voices Steve, Santa’s super-buff son with a Christmas-tree-shaped goatee. Grandsanta, father of the current Claus, is a crank, un-PC old bastard voiced by Bill Nighy. And then there’s Santa’s other son, Arthur…”A massive Christmas nerd with reindeer slippers that play ‘Silent Night’ in 14 languages.” Voice of James McAvoy.
We see a quick clip. Elf HQ looks a bit like the control center in AVATAR. “We got a waker!” Elves and Santa on a delivery mission must hide from a kid who woke up, but Santa’s head is resting on top of the “try me” button on a farm toy. If he moves, more noises are made. Grandsanta, watching on TV, suggests knocking the kid on the head and putting whiskey in his lips. Arthur is engrossed.
The Elves launch a precision mission to try and cut the batteries out, then realize that an accessory figure has independent batteries, and at the last minute must use flashlights to fake a passing car. End of clip. Animation no better (and arguably worse) than THE POLAR EXPRESS, though the humor is intact. Ehhh, there’s only so many cinematic takes on Santa that can be done.
End of panel.
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.