By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 15, 2009 at 2:14AM
Comic-Con 2009 is front-loaded. Most of the key movie stuff happens on the first day, Thursday July 23, and Friday, with Iron Man 2 the main play on Saturday. (Here's the EW Iron Man 2 cover-preview.) The trick is to balance the crowded Hall H panels, trawling the exhibition floor, backstage interviews, screenings and parties with actual blogging. Yikes.
Last year I took the Fox City of Ember train down to San Diego, which worked great, actually. I loved not having to worry about a car, but I was staying at the Omni, right across from the Convention Center, so I was spoiled. This year I'm farther away, so I'll drive down at the crack of dawn Thursday to get my pass in time (!) to start off the day with the 11 AM Disney 3-D panel. Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland) returns to the Con for the first time since college, while Bob Zemeckis (A Christmas Carol ) is coming for the first time. Burton will stay to do some press, Zemeckis will not.
The combo of Disney's 3-D animation panel and James Cameron's Avatar pushed the Comic-Con folks to install 3-D in the 65,000-square-foot Hall H. The Titanic director will attend the Con for the first time to show the first U.S. 3-D footage of Avatar, along with stars Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. (Exhibs in L.A. screen the 20 minutes already shown in Amsterdam at Cinema Expo on Thursday July 16.) Sam Worthington, who debuted at The Con last year with Terminator: Salvation, is stuck in Wales playing Perseus in Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans. (Check out the photo: Gerard Butler, watch your back.) Fox will also promote off-site Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama's horror comedy Jennifer’s Body , starring Megan Fox.
Cameron is participating in another Thursday panel on The Future of Filmmaking with Avatar's VFX czar, Weta chief Peter Jackson, who is also coming for the first time--he usually beams video to Hall H from Wellywood. Attendees are expecting to see Adventures of Tin-Tin footage. Jackson is also pushing his production of the sci-fi thriller District 9 on Friday. He's not involved in LOTR fan site Onering.net's side panel on pre-production of Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit, which Jackson is also supervising in Wellywood. UPDATE: Word from Jackson's people: it's way too early for a Bilbo announcement.
Another Comic-Con virgin is Disney/Pixar animation czar John Lasseter, who will host an animation panel Friday with Japanese master Hayeo Miyazaki (must-see Ponyo screens Wednesday night), Disney's John Musker and Ron Clements (2-D The Princess and the Frog), and Kirk Wise (Toy Story 3). This is my idea of Heaven.
Thursday's crazy madness will be the Twilight: New Moon panel. Heartthrob Rob Pattinson will appear (reminder: must pack earplugs) with co-stars Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner and director Chris Weitz, but lovelorn vampire Edward Cullen isn't the main character in the movie, so Pattinson won't participate in any backstage interviews. Summit is screening Twilight for the fans with cast members on hand. Summit is scheduled to film the third installment of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, from August 17 through October 31 in Vancouver with David Slade (30 Days of Night) directing Melissa Rosenberg's screenplay.
To promote Park Chan-wook's vampire movie Thirst (which played well in May's Cannes competition), Focus Features mailed the press a pouch of blood in advance of the Thursday panel, and will screen the intense horror film Friday night.
Some films won't be rating panels at this year's Con, although they may have some viral or off-site happenings or displays on the exhibition floor. Universal, for one, is skipping Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Disney is ignoring the live action Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Surrogates. Cash-strapped The Weinstein Co. passed on promoting Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Rob Zombie's Halloween II, The Road (starring Viggo Mortensen), Youth in Revolt (starring Con-friendly Michael Cera), and Piranha 3-D.
Warner Bros. probably isn't bringing Joel Silver's long-delayed screen adaptation of the graphic novel Whiteout because it was promoed last year. Also missing are Ninja Assassin and Zack Snyder’s animated 3D Guardians of Ga’Hoole. It's early days yet for MGM to promote the Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard horror comedy The Cabin in the Wood, but Whedon fans can catch the first three webisodes of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Thursday night.
Brian Lowry vets Comic-Con on the TV side.
I was going to leave Saturday, but David Tennant is showing up for a Dr. Who panel on Sunday morning. I may have to stay on.
Originally posted on Variety.com