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Comic-Con 2009: 15 Toon Events You Must See

Rick DeMott gives a helpful cheat sheet of the top 15 animation-related events at Comic-Con 2009.

The Robot Chicken panel is always a fun event.

Are you headed to Comic-Con this week? AWN has put together a helpful cheat sheet for animation fans to make it a bit easier to plan their trip (and to make those who can't attend this year jealous, which includes myself). There are a lot of animation related events that cover the wide range of toon tastes. Our top 15 are the most exciting or intriguing. Comic-Con vets will already know about Jerry Beck's "Worst Cartoons Ever" and the Spike & Mike screening, but what else does the Con to end all Cons have in store besides those staples?

15.) State of the Animation Industry [Friday 2:30-3:30 -- Room 10]

ASIFA-Hollywood's annual overview of trends in the animation industry is always a must for animation fans and especially young pros. Moderated by Tom Sito (Shrek, The Lion King), this year's panel includes Raul Garcia (The Missing Lynx), Frank Gladstone (producer, Starz Media, DreamWorks), Jun Falkenstein (The Tigger Movie, Mulan II), Kevin Koch (Battle For Terra, Madgascar) and Danny Young (Land of the Lost). In this turbulent economy, how is the animation industry faring? Can games take up the slack? Is 2D coming back? These are the questions to be addressed. The panelists always have great advice for up-and-coming toonsmiths.

14.) Robot Chicken with Titan Maximum [Thursday 3:00-4:00 -- Room 6A]

The Robot Chicken crew won't only be bringing one dose of stop-motion craziness, but two. They will also be previewing their latest Titan Maximum. One hundred years in the future, Saturn's moon Titan is defended by Titan Force Five, an elite squadron of young, brash pilots whose spaceships combine to form the giant robot Titan Maximum. As the series opens, the team has been disbanded due to budget cuts, but must hastily reassemble when a former team member turns rogue and tries to conquer the solar system with an assault of giant monsters. Now, the fate of humanity rests in the hands of a team of dysfunctional misfits commanding a rustbucket robot. Seth Green (co-creator), Matthew Senreich (co-creator), Tom Root (head writer, Robot Chicken/co-creator, Titan Maximum) and Doug Goldstein (head writer, Robot Chicken) with Chris McKay, Breckin Meyer, Kevin Shinick, Mike Fasolo and Dan Milano will all be on hand.

June Foray in the Spotlight.

13.) Spotlight on June Foray [Saturday 2:30-3:30 -- Room 5AB]

June Foray is always electric. Animation fans should pass up the chance to see Mark Evanier and Earl Kress interview June about her career as a voice actress, author, and Hollywood legend. Don't miss meeting Rocky J. Squirrel.

12.) Spotlight on John Kricfalusi [Thursday 5:45-6:45 -- Room 6BCF]

An appearance from John K. is never a boring experience. The creator of Ren & Stimpy will talk about his animation career and what's coming next. You never now what this man will say.

11.) Bill Plympton: King of Indie Animation [Thursday 3:00-4:00 -- Room 5AB]

Animator Bill Plympton will premiere his latest short Horn Dog, the fourth installment in his "Dog" series. Fans will also get to see Mexican Standoff and Santa: The Fascist Years, as well as early scenes from his next feature Hanky Panky. And if that isn't enough, all attendees get a free Bill Plympton drawing!

Marvel is stepping up their animation presence.

10.) Marvel Animation [Friday 4:30-5:30 -- Room 6BCF]

Marvel has made a big push into animation with series Wolverine and the X-Men and Iron Man: Armored Adventures. Marvel's president of animation Eric Rollman, general manager of Nicktoons Network Keith Dawkins, head writers Greg Johnson (WATX), and Chris Yost (IMAA), supervising producer Craig Kyle (WATX, IMAA), voice director Jamie Simone (WATX) and voice of Wolverine Steve Blum will discuss what to expect in the future. Moreover, Marvel will unveil animation from its new venture with Japanese powerhouse Madhouse called Marvel Anime. Madhouse president Masao Maruyama (Gotham Knight, Tokyo Godfathers) and writer Warren Ellis (The Authority, Astonishing X-Men) will be there. The studio will also give fans a sneak peek at their next animated feature with Lionsgate.

9.) Writers Guild Panel: PG-13 Animation [Saturday 10:00-11:00 -- Room 3]

Pros and fans alike should really keep this one in mind. Alan Burnett (Green Lantern: First Flight), Matt Wayne (Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms), Michael Jelenic (Wonder Woman), Charles Horn (Robot Chicken), Paul Dini (Return Of The Joker), Greg Johnson (The Ultimate Avengers, The Invincible Iron Man, Doctor Strange) and Stan Berkowitz (Justice League: New Frontier, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) will be discussing the maturing landscape of animation. And Comic-Con is also teasing fans with big announcements during the panel.

Comic-Con allows Astro Boy fans several looks at the new CG version.

8.) Summit Ent.: Astro Boy [Thursday 10:15-11:15 -- Room 6BCF]

Summit will be previewing Imagi's latest CG feature Astro Boy, based on the classic manga. Director David Bowers, producer Maryann Garger and stars Freddie Highmore (Astro) and Kristen Bell (Cora) will be there at answer questions. Attendees will also be treated to never-before-seen footage from the film.

If you want to get a chance to see Astro Boy in 3-D, you can also fight Twilight fangirls to enter Hall H for the Summit Ent. panel on Thursday at 1:45 pm.

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Check out the Astro Boy trailer

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Cloudy is part of the first on-site 3-D at Comic-Con.

7.) 3-D Showcase: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Hole, The Final Destination [Thursday 12:45-1:30 -- Hall H]

As part of the big Thursday 3-D extravaganza, Columbia will be showing clips from Cloudy with The Chance Of Meatballs in 3-D. As an added bonus treat for fans, Joe Dante, no stranger to animation, will be there to talk about his new 3-D thriller The Hole. There will also be a sneak peek at New Line Cinema's 3-D horror film The Final Destination.

If you miss this panel, Sony Animation will be showcasing Cloudy later in the day at 2:00 p.m. in Room 6BCF. Panel will include Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Bobb'e J. Thompson and directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord.

6.) DC Universe Animated Super Powers: Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies [Friday 5:45-7:15 -- Room 6BCF]

The DC Universe PG-13 films have proved that quality, mature, 2D animation isn't dead. This panel will give sneak peeks at the next two direct-to-DVD titles Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. For Green Lantern: First Flight, exec producer Bruce Timm (Superman Doomsday), casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano (DC Universe films), director Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman), writer Alan Burnett (The Batman) and voice talent Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU) and Juliet Landau (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will show clips and answer questions.

Then, Timm and Romano will be joined by supervising producer Michael Goguen (Justice League: The New Frontier), director Sam Liu (The Batman) and writer Stan Berkowitz (Justice League: The New Frontier) to unveil the first publicly seen footage of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy will also make his first appearance at the Con in six years. In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, U.S. President Lex Luthor uses the oncoming trajectory of a kryptonite asteroid to frame Superman and declare a $1 billion bounty on the heads of the Man of Steel and his "partner in crime," Batman.

5.) Green Lantern: First Flight World Premiere [Thursday 8:00-9:30 -- Ballroom 20]

But before you go behind-the-scenes of Green Lantern: First Flight, attend the world premiere screening the day before. The fifth DC Universe animated original PG-13 movie finds Hal Jordan recruited to join the Green Lantern Corps and placed under the supervision of respected senior Lantern Sinestro. The earthling soon discovers his mentor is actually the central figure in a secret conspiracy that threatens the philosophies, traditions and hierarchy of the entire Green Lantern Corps. Hal must quickly hone his newfound powers and combat the treasonous Lanterns within the ranks to maintain order in the universe. Warner Home Video will release Green Lantern: First Flight on Blu-ray Hi-Def and DVD on July 28.

4.) Nickelodeon: Are You Ready Kids? Ten Years of SpongeBob SquarePants! [Saturday 10:30-11:30 -- Room 6DE]SpongeBob SquarePants celebrates its 10th anniversary at Comic-Con. Panel will include moderator and executive in charge for Nickelodeon Claudia Spinelli, exec producer Paul Tibbitt, creative director Vincent Waller and story editor Steven Banks. The cast, including the voice of SpongeBob, Tom Kenny, will perform a live table read of a classic season 1 episode. Fans will also get the first look at the yet-to-air episode, "Greasy Buffoons."

3.) The Simpsons [Saturday 1:45-2:30 -- Ballroom 20]The Simpsons panel at Comic-Con is always a hilarious event that fans should never miss. As always, fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at what's coming up in its record-breaking 21st season. Fans will get the first look at the upcoming "Treehouse of Horror XX" episode. The panel will include Simpsons creator Matt Groening, showrunner Al Jean, exec producer Matt Selman and supervising director Mike Anderson.

The buzz for 9 should only grow after Comic-Con.

2.) Focus Features: 9 [Friday 2:30-3:30 -- Hall H]

Shane Acker's 9 is one of the best animated features in years. It has the potential to take mature 3D animation to a new level. Fans will see never-before-seen footage from the film. And get a load of this panel -- director Acker, producer Tim Burton, producer Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) and actors Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly.

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Witness the 9 trailer!

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Hayao Miyazaki brings Ponyo to Comic-Con.

1.) Disney: Animation Panel [Friday 12:45-2:15 -- Hall H]

Disney•Pixar has a Comic-Con track record of presenting the most in-depth panels with the most new information of any panel at the Con. This panel will probably be no exception with footage from Toy Story 3, Prep & Landing, The Princess and the Frog and Ponyo to be shown. But the #1 reason to go is for Hayao Miyazaki's first Con appearance. Yes, the director of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away will be live to take your questions. John Lasseter will host the panel with Ratatouille voice actor Patton Oswalt moderating. Other guests include directors Lee Unkrich, Kirk Wise, Ron Clements and John Musker. If you go to only one animation event at the Comic-Con, this should be the one. And send me pictures; you make me jealous.

Also check out the top 15 VFX events at VFXWorld. Coming Soon!

Rick DeMott is the managing editor of Animation World Network and editor of AWNtv. In his free time, he runs the movie review site, Rick's Flicks Picks. He has written for TV series, such as Discovery Kids' Growing Up Creepie and Cartoon Network's Pet Alien, the animation history book Animation Art, and the humor, absurdist and surrealist website Unloosen. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry.

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Rick DeMott
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