Comic-Con 2009: 15 VFX Events You Must See

Rick DeMott makes a handy cheat sheet of the must see VFX-related panels at Comic-Con 2009.

Outer space effects on display in Pandorum.

Big budget Hollywood genre films have ruled Comic-Con for years now. Fans get a chance to see footage and ask questions to the cast and crews. But with so much going on at the Con, what should you attend? VFXWorld has put together a handy cheat sheet of the most interesting VFX-related panels at this year's event. Find out the must see events that everyone will probably be talking about afterward, so you can plan your time at the event wisely.

15.) Eastwick Pilot Screening and Q&A [Saturday 10:15-11:15 -- Room 6A]

One of the most anticipated series of the fall, this series based on the John Updike novel and the hit film The Witches of Eastwick will make its first public screening at Comic-Con. The series centers on three young witches whose powers are awakened when a mysterious man moves to town. Panel will include stars Rebecca Romijn (X-Men), Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle), Jaime Ray Newman (Veronica Mars), and Paul Gross (Due South) with creator/exec producer Maggie Friedman (Related) and director/exec producer David Nutter (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Produced by Warner Bros. Television, Eastwick will air Wednesdays at 10:00 PM ET/PT this fall on ABC.

14.) Overture Films: Pandorum [Thursday 5:15-5:45 -- Hall H]

The producers of the Resident Evil series bring their latest sci-fi thriller to Comic-Con. Attendees will get never-before-seen looks at Pandorum where two crewmembers wake up on an abandoned spacecraft with no idea who they are, how long they've been asleep, or what their mission is. The two soon discover they're actually not alone -- and the reality of their situation is more horrifying than they could have imagined. Panel includes producer Paul Anderson and stars Ben Foster (X-Men: The Last Stand, 3:10 to Yuma, 30 Days of Night), Cung Le (The Ultimate Fighter), and Antje Traue.

13.) Robert Rodriguez [Friday 1:45-2:45 -- Room 6DE]

Troublemaker Studio's Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) will be at the Con showing off his new family film, Shorts. But I'm sure he'll get into other future projects like Predators and Sin City 2.

From one of the most kick-ass comics comes one of the most anticipated films at Comic-Con.

12.) Kick-Ass [Thursday 5:45-6:30 -- Hall H]

The highly anticipated comic adaptation with world premiere footage at the Con. The story follows a comic book geek who decides he wants to be a hero, but learns bloody quick that it takes far more than a costume to be a superhero. Fans will get a chance to ask questions of director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Layercake), Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) and comic co-creator John Romita Jr., including a surprise guest.

Gilliam's work always has magic inside.

11.) Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus [Thursday 4:30-5:15 -- Hall H]

Animator and director Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Brazil, 12 Monkeys) will show off footage from the film, which features the last performance of Heath Ledger. Dr. Parnassus is a fabulous anachronism, touring the streets of modern-day London in a horse-drawn carnival wagon accompanied by his beautiful daughter, devoted dwarf and neophyte barker. On stage Parnassus plays a holy man whose Imaginarium can realize the innermost fantasies of all who dare to enter. Backstage, he is a drunkard, a gambler who centuries ago lost a wager with the Devil and must now pony up with his daughter once she turns sixteen. Film stars Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, Verne Troyer, Tom Waits and Lily Cole. So you never know who could show up.

10.) Caprica/Battlestar Galactica: The Plan [Friday 11:45-12:45 -- Ballroom 20]

The makers of Battlestar Galactica will give fans the first glimpses of the highly anticipated Syfy original series, Caprica and the two-hour event, Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, directed by Edward James Olmos. Panel will include executive producers Ronald D. Moore, David Eick and Jane Espenson, Caprica star Esai Morales and Battlestar Galactica's Olmos. The best in TV visual effects will be on display for sure.

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Caprica's characters, including the Graystone and Adama families, live in a world before the events of Battlestar Galactica occurred.

9.) Summit Ent. [Thursday 1:45-2:45 -- Hall H]

Summit Entertainment presents a sneak peek at three of their upcoming films. 3-D CG feature Astro Boy, horror flick Sorority Row and The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Fangirls will be there is force to catch a glimpse of Edward, but VFX fans will hopefully get a better look at the werewolf effects in the Twilight sequel. Plus, Summit will screen the first 3-D footage from Astro Boy.

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Get a taste of Astro Boy!

8.) Warner Bros. [Friday 10:00-12:30 -- Hall H]

Little details are known about this year's Warner Bros. panel, but a potential VFX smorgasbord is very possible. The WB will be previewing Where the Wild Things Are, The Book of Eli, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Box, Jonah Hex and Sherlock Holmes. Rumors are that Megan Fox and Robert Downey Jr. will be on hand as well. But could fans also get Spike Jonze, Denzel Washington, Jackie Earle Haley, Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Josh Brolin or Jude Law? Could be the panel with the most surprises.

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7.) Sony Pictures: Zombieland and 2012 [Saturday 2:45-3:45 -- Hall H]

Sony Pictures has two flicks this year – the horror comedy Zombieland and Roland Emmerich's disaster epic 2012. Zombieland asks the question -- what if the Zombies won? Panel will include Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and director Ruben Fleischer. Emmerich will be on hand to share world destroying visual effects not seen in the trailer for fans.

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6.) Disney: 3-D Panel [Thursday 11:00-12:30 – Hall H]

Walt Disney Pictures presents three of its biggest upcoming releases on 3-D Day at Comic-Con. Robert Zemeckis will be on hand to present A Christmas Carol while Tim Burton will show off the first footage from Alice in Wonderland. Disney surprised fans last year with the first look at Tr2n and they'll be back with much more this year. Guests will also include Sean Bailey, Steve Lisberger and moderator Patton Oswalt. Disney is known for big surprises, just so you know.

5.) Lucasfilm: Star Wars Spectacular [Friday 5:15-6:15 -- Hall H]Star Wars fans certainly shouldn't miss the yearly look at the Star Wars universe. But this year is extra special, because it will be the first ever panel broadcast live on TV. Special guest hosts G4's Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira will grill guests from The Clone Wars and beyond, including supervising director Dave Filoni, plus voice talent from the show and more. Fans will get a live table read of a script from Clone Wars season 2. LucasFilm will also announce news on the worldwide Star Wars Concert Tour, the latest Star Wars games from LucasArts, upcoming DVD (and Blu-ray) releases and more. Could George be coming?

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4.) Sony Pictures Ent.: Legion and District 9 [Friday 3:45-5:00 -- Hall H]

Peter Jackson will make his first Comic-Con appearance this year. As the exec producer, he is there to showcase the highly anticipated sci-fi film District 9. On the panel with Jackson will be director Neill Blomkamp and star Sharlto Copley.

As a bonus, attendees will be the first look at Legion. When the last angel falls, the fight for mankind begins. Having lost faith in the human race, a legion of angels descends to Earth to bring about the Apocalypse. Humanity's only hope lies in a group of strangers trapped in a desert diner and the Archangel Michael himself (Paul Bettany). Panel will include Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, The DaVinci Code), Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights, Supernatural), Tyrese Gibson (Transformers, Death Race), Doug Jones (Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Abe Sapien in Hellboy) and director Scott Stewart, who was previously a vfx artist on Sin City, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Iron Man.

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3.) Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries [Friday 6:30-7:30 -- Hall H]

Of course, one panel featuring Peter Jackson isn't enough. So why not bring him out with James Cameron? EW will conduct an in-depth conversation with the innovators about the art of film and how technology and global culture will change cinema. A must attend for any VFX pro.

Mickey Rourke coming to The Con?

2.) Paramount Pictures and Marvel Ent.: Iron Man 2 [Saturday 4:00-5:00 -- Hall H]

When Iron Man footage first debuted at Comic-Con, it blew fans away. Paramount Pictures and Marvel Ent. hope to do the same with the sequel. Besides new footage fans can expect cast members to grace the stage as well. Who could it be -- director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow or Samuel L. Jackson, who have been to the Con before, or new Iron Man cast members like Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell or Mickey Rourke? It's one of those events you have to attend to find out.

More than this press shot will be revealed of Avatar at Comic-Con.

1.) 20th Century Fox and James Cameron present Avatar [Thursday 3:00-4:15 -- Hall H]

But no panel at the entire Con is more anticipated than the first public look at footage from James Cameron's Avatar. Cameron, producer Jon Landau, and cast members will be on hand. If the rumors are true, this could be a moment for the history books. I'm jealous of all who get to attend.

Also check out the top 15 animation events at Animation World Magazine.

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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