Monday, July 27, 2009

News - 07/27/09...

Miyazaki Appearance Highlight of Disney Panel

Hayao Miyazaki made his Comic-Con debut Friday, charming the massive crowd that had packed into Hall H for a rare chance to see the acclaimed Japanese animator in person in America.

In a Disney Animation panel lead by John Lasseter, Miyazaki was greeted with a standing ovation. In a short discussion with Lasseter, Miyazaki said through a translator that he finds the stories for his films the old-fashioned way.

“My process is thinking, thinking and thinking. Thinking about my stories for a long time. If you have a better way, please let me know,” he said.

Lasster said he was always impressed with the fact that Miyazaki — the two have been friends for about two decades — always did his own storyboards and was constantly working on them.

“I think working on the storyboards alone is a custom we have in Japan,” said Miyazaki. “It’s not just I who works that way, but since I’m slow it seems like I’m working on the storyboard all the time,” he said.

A sequence was shown from Miyazaki’s most recent film, Ponyo, which Disney is releasing in an English-language version to theaters on Aug. 14.


After the clip, a representative of Comic-Con came on stage and presented an Inkpot Awards to both Lasseter and Miyazaki. “Can we use this ink?” Miyazaki asked. “I am very honored to have received this. Thank you very much.”

The appearance by Miyazaki capped a lengthy panel in which Disney presented details on all its upcoming animation projects, including the release of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3-D, Toy Story 3, The Princess and the Frog, Beauty and the Beast in 3-D and the new Christmas special Prep and Landing.

3-D glasses were handed out to all attendees, and the opening of Toy Story 2 was shown in 3-D to demonstrate what the process would look like. A trailer for Toy Story 3 also was shown in 3-D. Lasseter said that the 3-D Toy Story and Toy Story 2 will be released in October as a double feature — there will be an intermission — for a two-week run. And viewers will get to see both movies for the price of one.

One addition for Toy Story 3 will be a larger role for Barbie and the introduction of Ken, who will be voiced by Michael Keaton. A short, fake biography piece of Ken was shown, poking fun at the girls’ toy’s macho self-image.

“We’ve always made 3D films at Pixar,” Lasseter says. “The theaters have finally caught up with us.”

The opening of Beauty and the Beast also was shown in 3-D, letting fans see how the conversion process for the film has added depth and volume to the movie without changing anything else in the beloved classic.

Beauty and the Beast

Going back to 2-D, two sequences of The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first 2-D animated feature in quite some time were shown. Lasseter says the movie goes back to the Disney tradition of the musical fairy tale, with the twist being that it’s an American fairy tale set in New Orleans in the Jazz Age of the 1920s.

Lastly, a sequence was shown from Prep and Landing. The holiday special is about the elite team of elves who prepare each home for Santa’s visit.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Futurama Panel Proceeds Sans Cast

The Futurama panel at Comic-Con had the potential to be one of the most awkward panels this year due to the recently reported contract dispute between the studio and the original voice cast.

While none of the scheduled voice actors appeared, co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen were on hand to talk about plans for a new season of the show recently ordered by Comedy Central, Variety reports.

"We love our Futurama actors," Groening says. "And we hope that Fox and the actors can come to an agreement as soon as possible."

The trade paper also states that there are currently no plans for the studio and the cast members — Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille — to resume talks.

Also on the panel was writer Eric Kaplan, who along with Cohen discussed some of their ideas for the new season, which is set to air in 2010.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Anime Studios Produce Halo Legends Shorts

Halo is coming to animation, with Microsoft teaming up with several top anime studios to produce shorts based on the blockbuster video game.

The project, called Halo Legends and announced at Comic-Con, will be produced by Microsoft’s 343 Industries and has brought on Shinji Aramaki, director of the Appleseed anime feature films, and Mamoru Oshii, director of Ghost in the Shell, as creative directors. Joseph Chou of J-Spec Pictures also will contribute to the production.

The short films will explore different times, themes and characters from the Halo games, and will be distributed globally by Warner Home Video. The project is similar to previous Warner DVD animation projects The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight.

Halo and its characters are a very natural fit for anime,” said Aramaki.

Studios involved in the Halo Legends project include:

• Bones Inc., the studio behind the films Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, Fullmetal Alchemist, Sword of the Stranger and Eureka Seven.
• Casio Entertainment, known for its visual effects work and CG animation on several top Japanese video games.
• Production I.G., which has produced for feature films, animation and video games, including Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and Blood: The Last Vampire.
• STUDIO4˚C, which has worked on The Animatrix, Tekkonkinkreet and Batman: Gotham Knight.
• Toei Animation, the oldest animation studio in Japan, and responsible for such hits anime series as Dragon Ball, Digimon, Sailor Moon and One Piece.

A preview of select Halo Legends episodes will debut on Xbox LIVE, the largest gaming and entertainment network in the world, starting this fall through a new experience called Halo Waypoint. Launching in fall, Halo Waypoint will be a new destination for Halo fans around the world.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

G-Force topples Half-Blood Prince from No. 1

The 3-D animated movie G-Force was the top movie at the box office this weekend, opening with an estimated $32.2 million and toppling the sixth Harry Potter film from its perch atop the rankings, the Associated Press reported.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came in a close second, with an estimated $30 million. That's a whopping 61 percent drop from its huge opening last weekend of $79.5 million.

The sixth installment in the Harry Potter franchise has now made $222 million total, which is $14 million ahead of where part five, The Order of the Phoenix, was after 12 days in theaters in 2007. This week, Half-Blood Prince will start showing on 166 IMAX screens, which the last Harry Potter movie did from the start.

Comic-Con: Disney 3-D and Animation Panel Photos and Stills

The Walt Disney Company has made several photos and stills available from the 3-D panel and the Disney Animation panel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con International. The 3-D panel was moderated by Patton Oswalt and host to directors Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland), Robert Zemeckis (A Christmas Carol), and Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy). All photos of the panel are by Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage; click on any thumbnail to enlarge:

Patton Oswalt and Robert Zemeckis

Scrooge (Jim Carrey) in A Christmas Carol

Tron Legacy panelists

(l to r) Tim Burton, Robert Zemeckis, and Joseph Kosinski

Disney also released the following stills from upcoming movies showcased at the Disney Animation panel.

(All images © 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT© 2008 Nibariki-GNDHDDT; click on any thumbnail to enlarge)

(All images © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Click on any thumbnail to enlarge)

(Beauty and the Beast © Disney Enterprises, Inc. Toy Story and Toy Story 3 ©Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved. Click on any thumbnail to enlarge)

Finally, several photos were taken of the panelists on the Disney Animation Panel: Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter; directors John Clements, Ron Musker, Lee Unkrich, and Kirk Wise; Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios and Disney Animation Studios; Mark Zoradi, President of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group; and very special guest Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki. All photos by Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage; click on any thumbnail to enlarge:

(l to r) Mark Zoradi and Ed Catmull

(l to r) John Musker, John Lasseter, and Ron Clements

The Disney Animation Panel

John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich

John Lasseter and Kirk Wise

Ron Clements (left) and John Musker (right)

John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki

(l to r) Ron Clements, John Musker, Hayao Miyazaki, John Lasseter, Kirk Wise, and Lee Unkrich

The Inevitability of Three Dimensions

There was a time (November 12, 2008) when I thought that 3-D cinema wouldn't be so ... ah ... totally encompassing.

November 13th came much faster than I ever imagined.

... [At Comic Con], Disney presented some 3D bits from its upcoming animated slate. In terms of scoops, the presentation wasn't too groundbreaking-- the footage screened was from Beauty and the Beast, which has been remastered in 3D, and Toy Story 2, which will screen as part of a 3D double feature alongside Toy Story in October ...

See, it's not just new features that are in three dimensions, but all the retro-fitted old features. At some point, Disney will redo Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi and Victory Through Air Power.

And then some bright monkey at Turner Classic Movies will get a brain-wave to reprocess Birth of a Nation in 3-D.

Where, I ask you, will it end?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Weekend DizWorld Linkomatic

Straight from Orlando ... toon news you can peruse

Apparently there's some griping about Ray the firefly in Princess And The Frog.

The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana ... a state agency charged with the protection and promotion of French in Louisiana, is taking issue with the portrayal of a Cajun character in the film, a toothless, lovesick firefly voiced by former New Orleans resident and preeminent voiceover actor Jim Cummings.

"It's a continuation of the stereotyping of Cajun people, which is inaccurate," CODOFIL President Warren Perrin said of the character this week from his Lafayette law office ...

In the torrent of Comic Con news, the L.A. Times interviews Tim Burton on upcoming projects:

... I've been an animator, it's a very strange job. It requires a lot of focus and sometimes you can just get so focused on something, so I felt very lucky to not be in there every day and just be able to look at things and have a fresh perspective. Animation takes so long it's hard to have a fresh view of it especially when it's so in your head. ...

For some reason, Seth MacFarlane and Co. previewed upcoming Family Guy half-hours in a city near the Mexican border:

... [A]t Comic-Con '09, the cast and crew of Family Guy gave details on the upcoming season, as well as the anticipated Empire Strikes Back Star Wars special ...

The [
Empire Strikes Back] video that was shown was apparently in its early stages, even though it looked excellent – the computer animation is impressive. In the first five minutes that were shown, much like the previous New Hope special, it was scene for scene with Empire...

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Comparing Unpaid Overtimes

So I was in a meeting of union reps a couple of days ago here in Florida, whining about how various people working under TAG's jurisdiction work un paid overtime..

"Some artists work late at the studio and when I ask, won't admit to doing extra hours," I said. "Others take work home and we can't police it ..."

The union rep I was talking to, a gent whose local union covers live action, answered: "Listen. It's the same thing with my folks. We have workers who do free overtime, who don't want to make an issue of getting squeezed and so keep their mouths shut. They won't rock the boat, so they end up digging themselves into a hole. Know what I've found out?"

"What?" I said.

"You can't protect people from themselves. They're gonna do what they're gonna do."

As soon as he said this, I flashed on a TAG member who once told me: "Your job is to protect us from ourselves."

Problem is, it's not totally possible. So the bargain I've made is, anybody who wants me to file a grievance, I file a grievance. After explaining all the political pros and cons, and letting them make up their own minds about what they want to do. It's really, in the end, the only way to make it work.

But it was reassuring ... and at the same time depressing ... to find out that some of my fellow biz reps face the same conundrum that I do.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Updated: "Futurama" Voice Cast May Not Return for New Episodes in 2010

The Hollywood Reporter is stating that new actors are being auditioned for the Futurama cast for the return of the show on Comedy Central in 2010. 20th Century Fox TV issued a statement saying that they could not meet the salary demands of the original cast members John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Katey Sagal, with unnamed sources claiming that a deal may yet be made and that the actors were "seeking at least a tenfold increase of what they made when the animated series ran on Fox from 1999-2003."

Elsewhere, Forces of Geek has reposted FOX's full "call sheet" for the auditions, and Voice Actors in the News has a response from voice actor Bob Bergen.

Update: 7.26.2009 -- Variety says 20th Century Fox has "no plans" to continue talks with the cast. Voice Actors in the News has more on the story, along with additional coverage of the Futurama panel presentation at Comic-Con.

2-D Lovers of Another Kind

It seems only appropriate to wrap up Comic-Con weekend with this New York Times article about Japanese men who have long-term relationships with drawn images of cartoon characters. The article profiles Nisan (above) who met his current girlfriend—a pillowcase with a video game character printed onto it—at a comic book convention:

He treats her the way any decent man would treat a girlfriend — he takes her out on the weekends to sing karaoke or take purikura, photo-booth pictures imprinted on a sheet of tiny stickers. In the few hours we spent together, I watched him position her gently in the restaurant booth and later in the back seat of his car, making sure to keep her upright and not to touch her private parts. He doesn’t take her to work, but he has a backup body pillow with the same Nemutan cover inside his desk drawer in case he has to work late at his tech-support job.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Comic-Con: Jon Favreau on building a better Iron Man 2

Director Jon Favreau, left, with Iron Man 2 star Robert Downey Jr.

Two years ago, Iron Man footage killed at San Diego Comic-Con. On Saturday, Iron Man 2 footage killed again. With hard evidence that the sequel would indeed live up to the hype, director Jon Favreau explained what he learned from the good and bad sequels of other franchises. He held up Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Empire Strikes Back as high watermarks for their approach to continuing stories.

"There were so many others that didn't feel as good as the first, but for those two, what we found was that it really gave room to explore the characters," Favreau said in a group interview. "The villain plotlines were very simple, but the stakes were very high. The less you get bogged down in complexity, the more you could really let the audience enjoy what they really like, which are the relationships. You go from Alien to Aliens, and then you want to show them the characters that they've invested in and how they've changed and change those dynamics by introducing new characters. Don't just add to the action but throw the relationship into a little bit of a curve ball."

Iron Man 2 has Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) facing hearings about his proprietary weaponry, new superheroine Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) complicating his commitment to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a new techno-nemesis Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) using similar powers for evil. "We wanted to make a charming film that didn't lose track of what we did the first time around, and that's my job," Favreau added.

The issues of the government wanting access to Stark's technology, and what Rourke's Ivan Vanko does with comparable equipment, are at the forefront of the story. The awesome fight and flight scenes come second.

"We're dealing with an arms race," Favreau continued. "That's what Iron Man has always been. The thing about an arms race is, when you stop, the world doesn't. You have windows of opportunity to change the world in good ways while all the bad forces are paralyzed. What happens when those other superpowers emerge? It changes your tactics. Iron Man is dealing with as much as he can based on saying, 'I am Iron Man.' And what that has meant is to keep the world at bay with that new technology and who he was and how that changes now with the emergence of Mickey."

They also had to shake up the romantic subplot. Who wants to see Tony and Pepper make goo goo eyes in between every explosion? "One of the other traps you don't want to fall into is just repeating the same dynamics, and turn it into Hart to Hart," Favreau said. "You don't want it to be Moonlighting. You don't want to have the same thing over and over again. It's not a television series. I don't know that you would like it for these guys. It's a movie, so you have to change things, and you have to create a beginning, middle and an end so that it doesn't just feel like an episode in a series of films. So by introducing [Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff], that changes their dynamic. Scarlett appears in their life and has, as you can see, just a tremendous presence."

Downey's improvisational style highlighted the first Iron Man, making expository scenes feel realistic and energetic. Iron Man 2 demanded even more from its various personnel.

"[Screenwriter] Justin Theroux shot some footage for me," Favreau said. "Robert wrote a lot of his own stuff and was involved with the story process from the beginning. Gwyneth comes in, everybody improvises."

On Marvel's schedule, Iron Man 2, as well as the upcoming Thor and Captain America movies, set up the team-up film The Avengers. Favreau is excited about seeing his Iron Man join a team of Marvel heroes, but he is also confident there will be a standalone Iron Man 3.

"There's an Iron Man 3," Favreau said. "Here's how I know. When they make the option deals, they include Iron Man 3. So I know they're planning on 3. Whether that would be before or after Avengers, they've announced that Avengers is next but they pushed back The Avengers once, which I thought was encouraging [for Iron Man 3]. I feel like I'm chopping my way through the jungle, and Avengers will eventually be an oasis somewhere down the line."

Iron Man 2 opens May 7, 2010.

Comic-Con: Robert Rodriguez Talks Future
Promoting Shorts, Robert talks Sin City 2 and Predators.

An Animated Robert Rodriguez at the 2009 SDCC
© Ken Pasini

SDCC Attendees patiently braving the long line winding back from room 6DE, is a testimonial of the reverence they all shared for the anticipated speaker, Robert Rodriquez. Once fans found their seats, Rodriquez took the stage to thunderous applause. He seemed quite bashful at first, focusing on the movie he was there to promote, ‘Shorts’. He intermixed this with his approach to filmmaking, and the joy of doing family friendly movies with his kids. It was apparent early on that he truly loves what he does. He revels in playing with his kids and being the enabling mechanism for exploring their imagination. From this comes his growing portfolio of Family Friendly Films, all of which incorporate his kids in some way.

This reporter had the opportunity to grab the first question during the Q & A segment. I gave him sincere props for his commitment to connecting with his audience and fan base, through his incomparable DVD extras, including 10 minute cooking school. He humbly thanked me for the compliment, and excitedly shared that his next one (to appear on the combined Grind House DVD release) will be the best yet. He hinted that it will focus on BBQ! I asked if he could share with us some of his next projects, possibly touching on the recently announced ‘Predators’ and ‘Sin City 2‘.

He said that indeed, they were getting ready to start working on Predators. He had approached the studio about 15 years ago to pitch a concept for reviving the franchise. Since then, two Predator movies have been made, both of which were joint ‘Predator / Alien’ vehicles. FOX was not all that happy with the direction these have taken, or the return on their investment in those two films. They remembered the treatment Rodriquez had made several years prior, and contacted him to ask if he would like to develop the reboot. He was given complete creative control, and is confident that he will be able to deliver a ’very cool’ movie under budget and on time (both Rodriquez trademarks). Production will begin in a few short months.

He next talked about another movie property about to lens at Troublemaker Studios, ‘Machete‘. This garnered a zealous reaction from the audience, obviously eagerly anticipating this announcement. Machete will star Danny Trejo, in his first lead role, and is based on the fake movie trailer included on the original ‘Grind House’ DVD release. Rodriguez shared that he actually wrote the script back in 1993, when he first cast Danny in Desperado.

Lastly, he indicated that with ‘Predators’ and ‘Machete’ slated to begin production this year, ‘Sin City 2’ will have to be pushed back into 2010.

Robert Rodriguez is truly a unique film maker, having developed his own studio (Trouble Maker Studios, which began in his home garage, and has since grown from there). He has never contracted work in this state-of-the-art complex for any movies that he himself has not produced (despite numerous requests). His maverick approach to film making, creativity, and ability to function in so many roles in his productions (writer, director, editor, special effects, sound effects, soundtrack, etc.) sets him far apart from virtually any other film maker today or in the past. Mania waits in anticipation for his next projects coming in 2010.

Comic-Con: Peter Jackson clears up all those Hobbit rumors

During Friday's Comic-Con panel for the upcoming alien internment drama District 9, the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp, producer Peter Jackson took a moment at the start of the presentation to address lingering rumors about how far production has developed on The Hobbit, his and director Guillermo del Toro's long-awaited follow-up to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

"We are doing two movies, just to clarify," Jackson said in his first-ever in-person Comic-Con appearance. "[But] you're probably going to want to know that Bilbo Baggins is going to be played by, ... and I think he's really going to be good," he said, deliberately garbling the microphone as he mentioned the supposed casting choice. "No, I just thought before we got started, I'd give you a little bit of an update on The Hobbit. Because everything's a process, a pipeline, we're about three or four weeks away from delivering our first draft of the script of the first movie to Warner Brothers."

Jackson spent a few minutes explaining why the development of The Hobbit has taken so long. "One of the things which is interesting is, as you obviously know, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first in 1936, and about 20 years later he published Lord of the Rings. He'd expanded and developed and made the world of Middle-earth way bigger and more detailed than he knew about when he wrote The Hobbit. He did a lot of retrospective detail, so The Lord of the Rings, the novel, contains a lot of information about what was happening during the years of The Hobbit and events that were happening outside that particular storyline, things that were happening behind the scenes in Middle-earth."

According to Jackson, part of the appeal of returning to the series was tying together all of the disparate strands of Tolkien's work, not to mention the narratives of his existing adaptations of it. "Tolkien never got to combine them in one book, but one of the things we were really excited about when we got to thinking about it is we got to take that expanded information that he created later on and apply it to The Hobbit and make it fuller and more epic and sort of really put The Hobbit into context of the greater activity that's happening on Middle-earth at that time. So to do all that, we figured we really needed two epic films to be able to really tell that story. So that's the plan."

At the same time, Jackson confessed that they had yet to even finalize a plan for the films, which is instrumental in helping the production—not to mention its stars—align. "The film's not greenlit yet," Jackson said. "The studio has to read the script and like it, and then once we have a script, we can do a budget, and we get to figure out how much the films are going to cost. It's a process that we haven't even got to the point where we're greenlit yet, so if any of you want to see The Hobbit, you can drop Warner Brothers a line and encourage them to be kind to us."

Jackson added: "I know there's a lot of speculation about casting and who's playing different roles. I just want to say because it may avoid some of the questions, we haven't gotten to the stage where we can offer anybody a role yet, because obviously we have to be greenlit. We have to have the authority to make offers to actors, and we have to be able to give them a schedule of when we want them to work and how long we need them to work for. And obviously actors are going to want to read a script, so we have to have a script for them."

All things considered, they were making progress and hoped to have some more concrete announcements in the months to come, Jackson said. "We're about three or four weeks away from delivering that draft, and then we can start the process of the budget and everything," he said. "So probably in about two months is when we're going to be able to actually start to offer people roles. So despite everything and all of the gossip you may have read, we honestly have not offered anybody a role in the film."

Comic-Con: Updates on Thor, Captain America movies

Thor found its Norse war god in Chris Hemsworth, and Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston have also joined director Kenneth Branagh's comic-book adaptation, and on Saturday at Comic-Con, Marvel Studios production president Kevin Feige said to expect more casting announcements soon.

"I think we're nearing, closing in on Odins and Heimdalls and the Warriors Three, which we're excited about," Feige said in a group interview in San Diego, where he was promoting Iron Man 2. "We're about halfway through prep. We start filming in January."

Feige estimated that about 30 percent of Thor would take place in the present day, which suggests a film favoring the historical Norse mythology.

Meanwhile, Feige said that The First Avenger: Captain America is on the production path after Thor, so it will be a bit longer before they cast Cap. "I think it'll be a few months," Feige added.

Prep is fully underway on Captain, though, even though director Joe Johnston has not even wrapped his current production. "We already have some concept artists working on it," Feige continued. "Joe Johnston's finishing up Wolfman now, but he comes with us and we're already deep into the script and was in the office last week with us. He starts officially, and we open the offices officially in October."

As for the previously announced casting, Feige described why Hemsworth made the perfect movie Thor. "You know what, it's one of those rare things that doesn't happen often, but people like me always say it so it probably sounds cliche," Feige said. "We auditioned a lot of people. We did a lot of screen tests. We put a lot of people on video, and one guy just kept popping out, and it was Chris. You realize, regardless of what he's saying or how he's saying it, you're engaged with him. It's that movie-star quality which I think he has, and, thankfully, looks like Thor, which is a good combination."

Feige looks forward to introducing San Diego Comic-Con audiences to his Thor cast in 2010. "You know, this is my 10th year, so I'd be disappointed if I'm not here next year."

Comic-Con: Iron Man 2 cast looks ahead to Avengers

Iron Man 2 just wrapped filming, and thoughts of cast members are already turning to the upcoming production of The Avengers, which awaits the completion of Thor and Captain America.

Scarlett Johansson, who joins the Iron Man world as Black Widow in the sequel, already has the itch to reprise the role in a team-up. "I hope so," Johansson said in a group interview Saturday at Comic-Con in San Diego. "I think it all depends on how the fans react to the character. I hope people like the character, of course, and I love the character. I hope that she does turn up, if not in her own film, in the future series."

Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., however, hasn't quite let the impending Avengers film sink in yet. "Not entirely," Downey said in a separate interview. "I'm not as savvy about that stuff. I just know that right now we got a really good thing going on and it's most important to not sully that, so I will listen to the professionals, and I'll just keep selling soap until otherwise notified."

Marvel Studios production chairman Kevin Feige assured that none of the earlier films would suffer just to set up The Avengers. "We're not going to lock ourselves into something because it pays off three movies, but it's not great for this one but you kind of have to do it for three movies," Feige said in another interview. "No, if it doesn't work for the movie we're making, we shuffle it. I call the [individual writers and filmmakers] and go, 'Remember that thing I told you about? We're not doing it.'"

Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau enjoyed doing his part to set up The Avengers. He even thinks The Avengers might make a better trilogy capper than a pure Iron Man 3. "The Avengers might be the thing that helps rescue us from the inevitable sequel slump that you get into because you're throwing everything on its ear," Favreau said in another interview. "It might be a failed experiment or it might be something wonderful, but it allows you to add complexity in an organic way where you're culminating with something bigger as opposed to trying to play out and not repeat the same story over and over again."

Feige added that The Avengers would probably introduce more supporting Avengers who did not get their own films and that Black Widow could indeed be part of the team. Even The Hulk could help smash things, though whether it would be Edward Norton's Hulk or not remains to be discussed.

The Avengers is scheduled for release in 2012.

Comic-Con: David Goyer Weighs In On 'Batman 3' Schedule

While "The Dark Knight" actor Gary Oldman seems convinced filming will begin on the next Batman movie next year, writer David Goyer sounded a bit less sure of the schedule when he dropped by Splash Page HQ this Comic-Con weekend.

"Right now, Chris is involved in filming 'Inception,' and when he finishes that, he will turn his studious gaze back to the Bat universe and we'll see," Goyer told MTV News.

So, while Goyer isn't dropping any hints -- or might not have any to offer -- it looks like there's still a ways to go before we have any official word on the follow-up to the "The Dark Knight." That's okay, though, it just leaves us more time to guess which villain we'll see in the next Batman movie -- and who will play the role.

Directors, actors geek out with fans at Comic-Con

Actor Robert Downey Jr. poses for photographers while promoting his new film 'Sherlock Holmes' at the Comic-Con International 2009 convention held in San Diego Friday, July 24, 2009. The annual comic book and popular arts convention attracts over 100,000 people and runs through Sunday July 26.

Robert Downey Jr. said he wish he could don a Mexican wrestling mask and stroll the Comic-Con floor to check out all the collectible toys and geeky-cool stuff. Peter Jackson joked about ducking out of a discussion with director James Cameron — which drew thousands of fans to the San Diego Convention Center's largest meeting hall — to walk the floor with fewer crowds.

Stars love Comic-Con — and not just because it's a great place to promote their movies. They're moved by the passion of the fans, and it seems to rejuvenate their own passion for working in film.

Fans at the pop-culture convention "not only celebrate fantasy and science fiction and fantastic worlds, but they celebrate each other, and they celebrate their geekness, and there's a sense of solidarity," said Cameron, who premiered footage from his anticipated 3D sci-fi adventure, "Avatar," to conventioneers on Thursday. "And what this group does is they make filmmakers do better. Because if you don't live up to their standards, you're not going to get past this. This is the launch pad right here."

The stars of "Twilight" — Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart — said fans' overwhelming response at Comic-Con helped make their first film such a success. Kristen Bell, a veteran of five Cons, said, "it's the best place for super-fans."

Director Tim Burton, who showed a piece of his forthcoming "Alice in Wonderland," said he first came to Comic-Con as an aspiring filmmaker in the 1970s.

"I saw a slide show for the first `Superman.' People were very passionate about it and it kind of scared me," he said. "It's a very pure form of passion that it transcends business and anything else. Passion is a very good thing. And that's why you make movies that you hope people respond to, and so it's good to see and feel that energy here."

Actor Ben Foster, attending his second Comic-Con, also felt the fear.

"It's a zoo. It's a Halloween zoo," he said. "I have no idea how to process this place. It's funny. And then you have these waves of fear. ... I'm not accustomed to seeing this many people dressed up in samurai outfits and aliens, all in one space."

Comic-Con continued through Sunday.

Comic-Con: Heroes offer up lots of spoilers for season four

Hayden Panattiere

After weeks of conflicting reports of "will they or won't they" participation rumors, the cast and creative team of Heroes showed up in style at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday afternoon to promote the upcoming fourth season, entitled "Redemption." G4 personality Blair Butler moderated the panel and welcomed series creator Tim Kring along with longtime cast members Milo Ventimiglia, Hayden Panettiere, Zachary Quinto, Masi Oka, Jack Coleman and Adrian Pasdar. They also introduced new cast members Robert Knepper (Prison Break), Madeline Zima (Weeds), Ray Park (G.I. Joe) and Dawn Olivieri (Knight Rider).

Based on the overwhelming screaming of the capacity crowd, you'd never know the series was suffering slipping ratings. The audience gave the panel a standing ovation as they entered the room and took their seats. (Spoilers ahead!)

Right from the top, Kring opened the panel by thanking the loyal participants assembled.

"I want to take a minute to say four years ago we came here with a pilot," he said. "We didn't have much to show; the series was just a twinkle. But we showed it to this crowd, and it was because of the fans here that the show became what it became. We have never forgotten that and want to thank you for standing in lines and being so loyal all this time."

Kring then talked about the themes of the fifth volume, "Redemption" (set to begin on Sept. 21), which starts up three months after the end of "Fugitives." All of the heroes are assimilating back into "normal" life with varying degrees of success.

"Now every single one of them can go back to their normal lives, but how do you go back to being ordinary?" Kring posed. "Do you hide, do you try to assimilate? To typify that idea, we are introducing a new wrinkle. The whole time you were watching, there was this other group that learned how to hide in plain sight. We created this carnival. They have been hiding for all this time and coming in and out of view. The carnival will now show itself."

Kring then introduced footage from the first three episodes. Claire Bennett (Panettiere) meets a new friend (Zima) on her first day of college. Intercut is Knepper's carny boss Samuel spinning an inspiring speech to his fellow "freaks" about redemption as they stand in a circle over a grave site.

Sylar (Quinto) is shown appearing to Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) and his mother, Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose), in oddly disturbing visions. Resurrected icicle lady Tracy Strauss (Ali Larter) is back and talking to Noah Bennett (Coleman) about wanting to kill for revenge. A rather subdued HRG instead suggests that perhaps that this is the time for their redemption.

Back in New York, Peter (Ventimiglia) is back working as an EMT and saving lives in a different way. But a mysterious tattoo of a compass on his arm looks to be a catalyst for more danger. Swoosie Kurtz returns as Angela's double-dealing BFF, who is revealed to be working behind the scenes to murder Nathan Petrelli (Pasdar, who is really dead, in case you are keeping track). The footage also showed a lip-lock between Claire and her new roommate (Zima), which elicited a howl of approval from the audience. Lastly, the sizzle reel ended with Sylar saying to Parkman, "I want my body back," followed by a dramatic shot of a hand rising from the grave and Sylar pulling himself out of the dirt.

The actors were asked to describe the state of their characters' lives at the open of volume five, and they shared:

Jack Coleman: "I am in a place where we think we are setting up a new Company. My marriage and my life are falling down around me, so there is more empathy from him with what's been going on with the powered people. I want my family together, but I don't think that is in the cards at the start."

Masi Oka: "Hiro starts where we left off, with the nosebleeds and the diagnosis of a possible terminal illness. He's realized his true destiny and starts out the volume back at Yamigato to start a business with Ando [James Kyson Lee]. It's about Hiro's journey in what he thinks might be his last hours or days or months."

Hayden Panettiere: "My character is in her freshman year of college, and she gets a taste of the normal life she is chasing."

Adrian Pasdar: "At the end of last year Tim [Kring] gave me the upshot that Zach and I will be sharing a body. I said we have been doing that for years ... his name is Masi. [Laughs.] By midseason we start explaining the details of our separate journeys, and it gets interesting."

Zachary Quinto: "My character exists in two places now—one is with Adrian physically, and the other is inside Matt Parkman's head. I am messing with his mind and giving him a taste of his own medicine."

Milo Ventimiglia: "Peter is back to being a paramedic. As the seasons have gone he's been shot at, ... his dad tried to kill him, and he ultimately killed his father. Where do you go on from that? Go save some lives. He's seen it all. And he's got a sense of humor now and smiles more because nothing phases him."

With the return to the ordinary for the extraordinary, Kring said the show is coming back full circle. "We have been planning this arc for quite a while, where everybody would go back to their normal lives. As a show it allows us to strip away things that are harder to relate to. When Claire is a freshman and Parkman is a detective, and then Nathan is a politician, it makes it easier. ... We just want to dig a little deeper into our characters and what's motivating them, and that's always been a juggling act. We may see some characters sit out episodes so we can focus on the others, so we aren't bouncing around so much."

Lastly the series newbies spilled some details about the Sullivan Brothers carnival counterparts they play.

Ringleader Knepper said, "Samuel will have scenes with all the heroes that are bringing out the vulnerable side in all of them." Olivieri said that her character Lydia is close to Samuel, working as an empath to help in his search off tracking down other extraordinary people in the world: "I'm a bit of a mystery, so what happens with Lydia we don't know yet. What side of the fence she plays on, we'll have to see." The last of the new carnies was Darth Maul, aka Ray Park, whom the con crowd was thrilled to see on the panel. As Edgar the knife thrower, Park said his character is another speedster on a mission: "I'm also sent out into the world by Samuel. But I have to do some things I don't want to do, because he just wants peace and redemption."

Zima said she plays Claire's fellow college freshman Gretchen Berg. She teased, "I think I am Claire's first true friend since the first season, ... with privileges."

The panel closed with one last glimpse of the new season, with an intricately choreographed fight scene between Park's Edgar and Peter Petrelli. It left the crowd pumped and seemingly stoked for the show's return in two months.

Comic-Con: Angelina Jolie to return in Wanted 2?

Angelina Jolie as Fox in Wanted

During the Comic-Con panel for the upcoming "stitchpunk" computer-animated film 9, producer Timur Bekmambetov talked briefly about the follow-up to his last film, the violent action film Wanted. "Yes, I think it's coming," Bekmambetov said. "We're working hard to be ready to shoot in a few months."

The original Wanted was released in 2008 and grossed more than $134 million at the domestic box office. When asked whether the film would reunite original stars James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, Bekmambetov deftly revealed, "James McAvoy will be in the movie, and he will try to wake up our Fox."

Jolie's character died at the end of the first film, but when asked where Fox currently resides, Bekmembetov said evasively, "She's in a bath with wax," referring to the healing baths which the characters took in the first film to repair themselves after so much gun-toting mayhem.

Comic-Con: Zack Snyder on 300 sequel, Sucker Punch

Director Zack Snyder confirmed that he's interested in directing a sequel to his hit 300 and said that creator Frank Miller's idea for the follow-up won't pick up necessarily from the first film's ending.

"He's crazier than that," Snyder said in a group interview Saturday at Comic-Con in San Diego. "You know that's not how it'll be. I've seen a little teeny bit of it, and it's, I'm like, 'OK. Wow.' It kind of, yeah. It's cool. It's smart. He did a smart thing."

Snyder was careful to say the sequel will wait on Miller's completion of a follow-up graphic novel to the original 300 and won't be conceived as a movie from the start.

"For me, the thing that I'm trying to do is duplicate in some ways the process of making 300 originally," Snyder said. "In the sense that I really don't want Frank to write the graphic novel thinking ... like it's going to be a movie. You know? I want to just make a piece of art the way he does, without any [preconceptions]. And I told him this. I said, 'Listen,' you know? Because there was this whole thing about, 'Oh, you know, are you interested in, like, talking ... to Frank about what I thought should be in the ... graphic novel?' And I was like, no. That doesn't make any sense at all. That's, like, backwards. I go, "He should write a graphic novel, and then I'll write a movie, and then we'll make a movie.' ... Let's not, like, put the cart before the horse, like they say. So yes. So right now, he's writing the graphic novel, and we're waiting to see what he does."

Snyder was at Comic-Con to promote the upcoming director's-cut Blu-ray and DVD of his Watchmen movie, which is now in stores, featuring an additional 25 minutes of footage.

Snyder also updated us briefly on the status of his fantasy-tinged action movie Sucker Punch. "We're not shooting yet," he said. "We start shooting September 10th. So I'm up in Vancouver. We just flew down yesterday. So we're prepping in Vancouver, and the girls are training, and it's, you know, it's worth a lot, every day, all day long."

Sucker Punch is the story of a girl committed to a mental institution in the 1950s who uses the alternate reality of an imaginary world to plan her escape. Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish star as the inmates with butt-kicking alter egos.

Snyder laughed when asked again about rumors that squeaky-clean High School Musical star Hudgens is going to be naked in it.

"Not naked," Snyder said. "I love that. I saw that on the Internet and I was like, really? That's news to me. No. But she is going to kick some butt in that movie, I will tell you that. Not naked butt, just normal."

Sucker Punch is due in theaters March 25, 2011.

Comic-Con: Costumes, Costumes And More Costumes!

It was the final day of Comic-Con here in San Diego, and one of the things we've seen a lot of this year (in addition to bunches of celebrities and movers and shakers around the comic book movie scene) is some pretty amazing costumes.

While Rorschach and Wolverine were the most frequent costumes seen around the show floor, there were also a good share of video game and anime characters, as well as movie characters and, of course, the requisite amount of comic book heroes and villains. Click HERE for a gallery of images from the show floor featuring attendees in costume.

Comic-Con: Don Cheadle Calls War Machine Appearance 'Significant' In 'Iron Man 2'

With yesterday's announcement that War Machine will make his debut in "Iron Man 2," the question now becomes: how much of a role will the character play in the much-anticipated sequel?

We cornered actor Don Cheadle during an "Iron Man 2" press event to get his take on the character and how much of him we'll see in the Marvel Studios blockbuster.

"War Machine makes a very impactful appearance in the movie," Cheadle told MTV News. "It's significant."

As for how his character has changed since the first film (not to mention the actor playing James "Rhodey" Rhodes), Cheadle said the ramifications of Tony Stark's big reveal that he was Iron Man in the first film will be central theme of the sequel.

"It's gotten deeper, because in the first film Tony wasn't saying he was Iron Man," he said. "But now that he's embraced it, there's all this attendant problems, pressure and questions that all of the characters around him have to deal with."

Comic-Con: Sam Rockwell On 'Reinventing' Justin Hammer For 'Iron Man 2'

Sure, everyone's talking about the debut of War Machine in "Iron Man 2" right now, but fans know there's another important character making his big-screen bow in the Marvel movie universe soon. Sam Rockwell will bring Tony Stark's billionaire nemesis, Justin Hammer, to life in the much-anticipated sequel -- and Comic-Con attendees got their first look at Rockwell as Hammer during Saturday's panel.

We caught up with the actor to discuss his take on Hammer, and to find out if he's been reading the issue of "Iron Man" we gave him back in May.

"We're kind of reinventing the character of Justin Hammer a little bit," Rockwell told MTV News. "I walked into a lot of comic book shops and even some comic book store owners didn't know who he was. So, it's not as much pressure as playing Iron Man obviously, that's like playing Elvis Presley or something. With Justin Hammer is a little more elbow room for interpretation."

EXCLUSIVE: 'Lost' Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje In Talks For 'Black Panther' Lead

With all of the attention heaped on "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "The First Avenger: Captain America" and Marvel's superhero team-up film "The Avengers," it's easy to forget about some of the other characters in the Marvel Universe rumored to have big-screen projects in the works. When we spoke to "Lost" actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje during a press event for "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," he told MTV News that he's been talking to Marvel about bringing one of those lesser-known characters to the screen -- specifically, the African warrior-king known as The Black Panther.

"We're talking to Marvel about 'Black Panther,'" Akinnuoye-Agbaje told MTV News. "This is the first round, so you know, hopefully they'll look at 'G.I. Joe' and see the potential. But it's about time we have a black superhero, isn't it?"

Akinnuoye-Agbaje said his hopes were high for the film, and the conditions were never better for it to get the green light.

"He's from a fictional village in Africa and the timing is so right for that kind of character to come through," he said. "And while I'm in my prime, this is the time. We've got [U.S. President Barack] Obama, now we need something on screen to represent, so... 'Panther,' man."

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