SDCC 09: The Weekend of Wonder

San Diego Comic-Con 2009 continued to astound audiences daily as the Hollywood studios debuted their most prized properties for public consumption. Friday was Disney’s animation showcase day in Hall H - The major coup was Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter welcoming Japanese Animation legend Hayo Miyazaki to the con for a panel on his upcoming release Ponyo.

Roland Emmerich talks about the end of the world in 2012.

San Diego Comic-Con 2009 continued to astound audiences daily as the Hollywood studios debuted their most prized properties for public consumption, many for the first time ever. Friday was Disney’s animation showcase day in Hall H with their annual sneak peek of what the esteemed animation division has coming to theaters in the next year. The major coup was Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter welcoming Japanese Animation legend Hayo Miyazaki to the con for a panel on his upcoming release Ponyo. Focus also showed off their stop-animation gem, 9. And then Saturday was blockbuster day for Warner Bros, Sony and Paramount with films such as Jonah Hex, 2012 and Iron Man 2 earning major audience kudos and con buzz. More... Behind the scenes at the Con, VFXWorld/AWN got to interview some of the major talents behind the scenes for our exclusive Comic-Con blog coverage. The following is some of the highlights: Friday Beauty and the Beast 3-D The co-director of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Kirk Wise, was on hand to discuss converting the 1991 Best Picture nominee into a 3-D presentation. Wise described one of his biggest challenges as, “Making the hand-drawn animation of the characters feel dimensional and have more of a sense volume and roundness. Any sense of depth in the drawing is pure illusion. We’re using the latest in technical whiz-bangery to create that effect. We’re using a process that I think they’re applying for patents for even as we speak, and they’ve managed to create this plumpness of the characters.”

When asked if similar techniques could be used for older Disney properties such as Snow White,” Wise said, “That would be more difficult, because the advantage we had with Beauty and the Beast was that all of that all of the artwork exists in the digital realm. Using the CAP system, which is the Computer Animation Post-product ion system which was a way of scanning and coloring the characters in the backgrounds, all of those files existed and we were able to take those files and use all of that same information when we were making the 3-D movies. I don’t think the older films have that advantage.”

Toy Story 3 Lee Unkrich, the director of the third installment of the Toy Story saga had a few words to say about the good side and bad side of being a Pixar director. The good side being how previous films have given him all the tools he needs to craft the piece. “It used to be interesting to talk about that stuff because we were having to invent it. I feel like we’ve done hair very well (in Monsters Inc.), or water on Nemo, but I think we’ve conquered everything we need to conquer. So, that’s not a limitation anymore. We can tell any story we want to tell.”

The bad side is the fear of being the first Pixar director to deliver a flop. “Each director has been a little freaked out. Am I going to be the one to drop the ball? Am I going to be the one to make the first Pix ar film that isn’t well received?” Unkrich admitted. “But, you can only think about briefly, then you need to get back to making a movie. You need to trust your instincts and make something you’d want to see. There’s no magic formula other than being lucky to work at a studio that’s lead creatively from the top by John (Lasseter) who values storytelling.”

Saturday 2012 Disaster film auteur Roland Emmerich talked about his upcoming global flood epic, 2012. With a projected 1400 visual effects shots, Emmerich says he looked to his frequent visual effects supervisor, Volker Engel, to bring it all together. “He partnered with Marc Weigert, also another German. They were the right people and approached this in a very methodical way. They pretty much cast certain effects houses like actors hiring certain people for water, and certain people for this and that. We also have a huge in-house team with 70 or 80 people that have worked tirelessly the last year or so to create the earthquake sequence. We have 15 companies working for us and this is the biggest visual effects show I have ever done, and I have done some pretty big ones. Our shots are really, really complicated.” 2012 opens November 13, 2009.