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NYCC 2008: Disney's Royalty and Robots - The "WALL•E" and "Prince Caspian" Panel

Disney conquered the mammoth IGN Theater at New York Comic Con with a panel to screen their two newest films: Disney/Pixar’s WALL•E, and Disney/Walden Media’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. If audience reaction is any gauge, Disney is going to have two more hits on its hands starting in May, although it must be said that the fans at the panels at this year’s New York Comic Con seem wildly enthusiastic about everything.

WALL•EI ended up in walking into the panel late, as a Disney representative introduced several sequences from WALL•E. The earliest two scenes showed the dingy, hard-working WALL•E meeting the slick, modern robot Eve and taking her back to his trailer to introduce her to the wonders that he’s salvaged from Earth. All these scenes play out to no dialogue other than assorted clicks and chimes from WALL•E and Eve, both of whom still manage to be enormously appealing and engaging characters. The next scene shown depicted the rocket launch that’s seen in the trailers, followed by some beautiful shots of outer space that deliberately slow the pace. Things pick up again once the rocket docks with a spaceship, and WALL•E playfully antagonizes a tiny cleaning robot named MO. The last clip shown featured WALL•E jetting around in space, using a fire extinguisher as a makeshift rocket. This sequence was notable for featuring Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the ship’s robot, which was intended as a wink to the first Alien movie.

It’s probably not quite accurate to say that all these scenes play out in silence, since they are all accompanied by a wonderful score by Thomas Newman that beautifully accents both science-fiction epic scenes and small, quirky, and more intimate ones. After the last clip rolled, the Disney representative noted that there is a little animated sequence that will run as an epilogue over the end credits, and that composer Newman would be joined by musician Peter Gabriel for the music for this epilogue. Gabriel worked closely with Newman to score this sequence to ensure that it will fit in the movie.

Andrew Stanton’s directorial debut for Pixar was Finding Nemo, which generally ranks somewhere in the middle of most Pixar fans’ favorite films from the studio. I expect that WALL•E will probably vault over Finding Nemo in those lists, though, since WALL•E seems to have the same level of heart and emotion, but also mates it with some beautifully realized physical slapstick and delightful character animation. The fact that it’s all done almost entirely without dialogue makes it even more impressive. A new Pixar movie has always been something to get excited about, but WALL•E looks to be a real winner.

Lucy and Aslan from Prince CaspianNext up was the world premiere of the newest trailer for Prince Caspian. It seems to promise more epic fantasy in the realm of Narnia, as the Pevensie children return to Narnia only to find that their one year’s time on Earth has translated to 1,300 years in Narnia. The world is in ruins, and the trailer promises much grand-scale mayhem as things are set right. Disney said that the new trailer will run before Iron Man in May, and then appear in high-definition format on IGN.com.

After the trailer was run, producer Mark Johnson was joined by three members of the cast: Ben Barnes, who plays the title character; William Moseley, who plays the eldest Pevensie child Peter; and Peter Dinklage, who plays the reluctant hero Trumpkin the Red Dwarf. Johnson stated that the filmmaking process was an incredibly long one, and that director Andrew Adamson had even asked him if he really wanted to produce another one after the grueling production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Still, Johnson went along with it, saying that the passion that the fans have for the series is both heartening and intimidating, and that he just wanted to make sure that they stayed faithful to what people love about the series. He did also add that they are going to start filming The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in October this year, and that the movie is scheduled for release in May 2010. In response to a question, Johnson noted that one thing he likes about the Narnia series is that it has several built-in cast changes, and no two of the movies will take place in exactly the same spot, with the Narnia landscape giving way to oceans and islands for Dawn Treader.

Caspian Panel at NYCC
(l to r) Mark Johnson, Peter Dinklage, William Moseley, and Ben Barnes

In response to a question from the audience about the action sequences, Moseley said it was a dream come true to return to Narnia, and detailed an insane stunt sequence that he insisted on doing himself. However, he loved doing the action sequences and doing the phyical side of the role, calling it “gnarly” (and, unfortunately, proving that some words don’t sound better when spoken in an English accent). Barnes added that he loved the physical part of the role because, “we’re the good guys. That means we never lose.” Dinklage quipped, “I enjoyed watching (these two) be physical,” and then paused before adding, “That sounded completely wrong…” to a big laugh from the audience. Dinklage did get physical on his own, though, in the 3 hours of prosthetics work he had to endure every day to prepare for filming. However, he felt it was all worth it, saying that he’d look in the mirror when the makeup and prosthetics artists were done and think that half his work was done for him.

Another audience question involved the improvements in visual effects between the first film and the second. Johnson noted that director Andrew Adamson comes from an animation and visual effects background, meaning he has a real understanding of how effects work and how to use them effectively in a story. Their effects crew is returning from the first movie as well, and Johnson feels that their work is much more natural and believable than it was in the first movie. He said that they were careful not to make the same mistakes as they made on the first one, although he joked that they probably just made different ones.

The first Narnia movie was very well received by fans of the book, despite the additions and edits made to the story. Judging by the reaction at the con, those fans will have plenty to cheer about when Prince Caspian hits theaters in May.

(Note: Stills from the movies are from the Walt Disney Entertainment publicity department and not the panels.)

(Return to Toon Zone’s New York Comic Con 2008 Complete Coverage)

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