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Big Comic-Con News: Star Wars III, Sin City, Sky Captain, Incredibles, Batman

For fans of comics, sci-fi, fantasy, animation and everything geeky, Comic-Con is the pilgrimage one must take at least once or they must hand in their lightsabers and turn down their membership in the LORD OF THE RINGS fan club. Held July 22 25, 2004, the event drew a record 75,000 plus fans, industry types and press.

One of the bigger tidbits coming out of this year's Con was LucasFilms' announcement of the STAR WARS: EPISODE III title REVENGE OF THE SITH. In a jam-packed panel, LucasFilms screened some behind-the-scenes footage of the film's epic lightsaber duel, which will be the longest fight sequence in film history. In DVD news, Lucasfilms announced that it would release the animated EWOKS, DROIDS and CLONE WARS series.

Equally tantalizing for fans was Robert Rodriguez's panel on his upcoming film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel SIN CITY. Comic-Con attendees got the first look at the eye-popping visuals from the film, which Rodriguez is co-directing with Miller and special guest director Quentin Tarantino. Rodriguez stressed his desire to bring the visual and tonal feel of the comics to the screen as close as he could. The clips shown at the convention showed off the crystal clear HD digital photography, which is mostly in black-and-white with dramatic dashes of color. For fans who didn't make the event, Rodriguez said the clips seen at the convention would be posted on the Internet in the next few weeks.

In the Warner Bros. panel, David S. Goyer stressed that Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS would be better than the last two BATMAN films. Goyer stated that the studio okayed all of choices the filmmakers wanted. He also said that this film was a reboot of the franchise, in which every creative choice was rooted in reality given director Christopher Nolan's naturalistic tendencies. Following the BATMAN panel, director Francis Lawrence headed up a panel on CONSTANTINE, based on the HELLBLAZER comics, which included stars Keanu Reeves and Djimon Hounsou. Besides the chance for fans to catch a glimpse of Neo, attendees were treated to 20 minutes of various scenes from CONSTANTINE, which displayed the film's dark mood and extensive visual effects. Lawrence said he was going for a noir look and cited TRAINING DAY as a major stylistic influence.

Warner Bros. was back later showing off its animated series TEEN TITANS, JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED and THE BATMAN. The big news coming out of the panel was that Japanese pop group Puffy AmiYumi, who sing the theme song for TITANS, will be getting their own series on Cartoon Network in the fall called HI HI PUFFY AMIYUMI. Sam Register, svp in charge of original animation at Cartoon Network said the show will "be more YELLOW SUBMARINE than JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS." However, what the fans came for was the first screening of an episode from THE BATMAN, the new superhero series. The new show brings more of a Frank Miller DARK KNIGHT RETURNS look to the Batman character, but the series has more in common with JUSTICE LEAGUE than the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini classic BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES. As well, fans in the room were disappointed to hear that Mark Hamill will not be returning as the voice of the Joker in the new series.

Another highlight for both superhero and animation fans was the INCREDIBLES panel, which featured director Brad Bird and producer John Walker. Bird talked about the inspiration for the film, which was influenced by his experiences at other studios where he was unable to get projects off the ground. To the fans delight, they screened two scenes from the film, one of which humorously explains why the Mr. Incredible suit does not have a cape.

Making a big presence at the convention was Paramount's SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW. In front of the San Diego Convention Center was a 50-foot blow-up replica of the giant robots from the film. Paramount put together a panel highlighting the film as well as the upcoming Trey Parker and Matt Stone feature TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE. That film went over quite well with fans who loved the marionette puppet spoof of action films and world events. After the TEAM AMERICA look, fans were treated to two scenes from SKY CAPTAIN, followed by a panel which included director Kerry Conran and stars Jude Law, Giovanni Ribisi and Ling Bai. What was also revealed was the story behind the film's villain played the late great Sir Lawrence Olivier. Law always had a dream of working with the legendary actor, so the filmmakers went to the Olivier estate and asked permission to use the deceased actor's likeness in the film. Once given the okay, the digital artists on the film used old footage of the actor, whose voice is being provided by a yet-to-be-announced actor, to insert him into the film as a hologram. Conran said he was glad that his grand CG experiment worked and that he was hopeful it will allow indie filmmakers to take more risks in the future with the same kind of resources.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks