By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin July 29, 2014 at 12:00AM
One expects to see Star Wars figures, Doctor Who, and the characters from Game of Thrones at the San Diego Comic-con…but I didn’t think I’d encounter Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Yet there he was, in a new rendering at Diamond International Galleries. It just shows you the vast reach of this pop-culture convention, which began as a gathering of comic-book fans and has grown exponentially in recent years. Nowadays it’s a valued launch pad for movies and TV shows, but I like to spend my time wandering the dealer’s floor checking out collectibles and people-watching.
I also participated in four panel discussions this year, two of which I hosted. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment unveiled DreamWorks Animation’s new five-minute Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, which will accompany the feature-length Mr. Peabody and Sherman when it comes to DVD and Blu-ray this October. Although it’s animated in CG and moves at a fast pace, it’s a wonderfully funny reincarnation of these beloved characters. It was fun to talk to the short’s director, Gary Trousdale (a DreamWorks and Disney veteran best known for Beauty and the Beast), and Tiffany Ward, the daughter of my hero, producer Jay Ward. (I wrote a fan letter to him when I was 12 years old and received a personal response on embossed Bullwinkle stationery. He was incredibly kind to me.) Tiffany remembers being taken to recording sessions for Rocky and his Friends and The Bullwinkle Show: what a lucky kid!
Comedy writer-performer Robert Smigel asked me to host a panel previewing his Triumph TV series that will debut next year on Adult Swim. In it, his foul-mouthed puppet Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog, will be partnered with the very funny Jack McBrayer. We had a packed house of fans who were very responsive…even when Triumph made fun of the write-ups in my Movie Guide.
I was happy to participate in Mark Evanier’s 101st birthday tribute to the great Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo, featuring Walt’s daughter Carolyn, Simpsons director David Silverman, cartoonist Jeff Smith (Bone), comics guru Maggie Thompson, and animator-artist Willie Ito. We had a great time talking about Kelly’s career and his influence on a generation of cartoonists and satirists.
Finally, I joined a cadre of critics for Rotten Tomatoes’ annual outing, Your Opinion Sucks. This is a lively, somewhat rowdy get-together where participants get to challenge professional reviewers about some of their favorite films. I’m happy to report that nobody got hurt.
My most tangible souvenir of this year’s convention: a gigantic vinyl figure of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.