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Comic-Con: Disney 3-D Panel Showcases Burton, Depp, Zemeckis, Tron Legacy

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 24, 2009 at 3:12AM

Thursday was a long day. The official Comic-Con movie program began in Hall H with Disney's 3-D panel. "A lot of you are going to stay here all day," said host Patton Oswalt. The 6000-strong crowd roared. Bob Zemeckis broke his Comic-Con cherry with footage from the start of Christmas Carol, which stars Jim Carrey in five roles. Instead of heavy make-up, it's the Zemeckis brand of motion capture (in 3D and IMAX 3D), which I find stilted. (People tell me that seeing Polar Express in IMAX was transformative.) The audience went "Ooooh" when they first put on their 3D glasses as Scrooge inspected Marley's dead body and was visited by his green, chained ghost. "It's a ghost story," Zemeckis said.
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DSCN8952Thursday was a long day. The official Comic-Con movie program began in Hall H with Disney's 3-D panel. "A lot of you are going to stay here all day," said host Patton Oswalt. The 6000-strong crowd roared. Bob Zemeckis broke his Comic-Con cherry with footage from the start of Christmas Carol, which stars Jim Carrey in five roles. Instead of heavy make-up, it's the Zemeckis brand of motion capture (in 3D and IMAX 3D), which I find stilted. (People tell me that seeing Polar Express in IMAX was transformative.) The audience went "Ooooh" when they first put on their 3D glasses as Scrooge inspected Marley's dead body and was visited by his green, chained ghost. "It's a ghost story," Zemeckis said.

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I was thrown off by Carrey's uncanny Alistair Sim imitation as Scrooge. He probably figured most younger audiences had never seen the British Dickens classic, my fave movie version. That said, Zemeckis's movie looks like a Big, Expensive, Audience-Friendly holiday picture. "We have the filmmaking tools to realize what Dickens wrote," said Zemeckis, who basically said that if Rembrandt could cut through the uncanny valley and paint eyes, so could he, by tracking the retina perfectly with four hi-def "capping" cameras shooting 64 fps also tracking every pore, facial muscle, and crease, he said. "It's happening. We're there. I can put my camera anywhere I want. I don't have to obey the laws of physics."

Zemeckis basically admitted he's working on a Who Framed Roger Rabbit sequel, which if it happens, would keep the 2D toons in 2D.

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I'm eager to see more of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which takes elements from both the Lewis Carroll classic and Through the Looking Glass, including lines and imagery from The Jabberwocky (a poem I know by heart) and "weave it into a story that had movement and emotion to it," Zemeckis said. The 3D footage was stunning, but was basically the same material that already hit the Web. They ran it three times. It was Burton's first Hall H panel; he came six times in the 70s as a fan. The director was anxious to get back to the editing room and finish the movie. He was crawling out of his skin. He's clearly wrestling with all the CG effects--more green screen than he's ever dealt with--"it starts freaking you out after a while" and said this was so far "the most difficult" movie he's ever done. (He's still in the thick of it, listening to a "ticking clock") He doesn't do much mo-cap, mostly "pure animation and using actors in mysterious ways," he said.

Disney orchestrated their Big Reveal and got a HUGE ROAR when Johnny Depp popped onto the stage. He plays the Mad Hatter with red hair and lots of Tammy Faye makeup. Stephen Fry voices the Cheshire Cat.

I'm on the fence about the sequel to Tron, a movie I actually saw and loved when it came out in 1982. Does anyone remember that it was ahead of its time? It was the first film to use CG, when there were no PCs, and was a boxoffice dud. "I feel like Rip Van Winkle," said Steve Lisberger, who worked on the new one too. (Disney launched a viral campaign at Comic-Con.)

Disney & co. have cooked up some nifty looking updates, but why would racing cars on the grid be accompanied by loud motor roars? This makes me nervous. The movie wrapped principal photography last week--using the Phantom Camera at 1000 fps for some shots--and has another year of VFX work to go. Jeff Bridges is back, playing his old and young selves. "This looks so new and fresh," he said, "I guarantee they'll get some pop for this."

This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Exhibition, Tim Burton, Bob Zemeckis, Comic-Con, Animation, Johnny Depp, 3D


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.