Comic-Con 2009: Disney 3D Panel

“Very trippy, really cool and very cinematic. We finally now have the cinematic tools to realie what Dickens wrote” says Robert Zemeckis, the first guest to walk on stage for the Walt Disney Pictures 3D panel on Thursday morning at the San Diego Comic Con.

Zemeckis, there to promote his “A Christmas Carol” feature, showed off photos of Carrey playing eight roles – five different age incarnations of Scrooge, and the three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas past is a glowing white candle, Present is a big bearded Dionysius style figure, and Future is a spooky reaper.

After some rambling about the uncanny valley, he did reveal the technology has advanced enough to track the movement of the retina. That was done with four high-def cameras shooting at 64 frames per second with the retina itself a tracking point along with the various pores on the actor’s skin. They’re using various programs to stimulate skin reaction to temperature differentials and such.

The seven-minute or so surprisingly creepy montage showed off Scrooge identifying Marley’s body and later that night being visited by Marley’s ghost. After the long scene, there’s a quick cut montage of various sequences from Scrooge being thrown into the sky and falling back into his own house. There’s flights through a snow-bound forest, Christmas Future roaring at the screen and some quite creepy scenes.

Zemeckis hasn’t ruled out returning to live-action films, but “right now I’m dedicated to sending this artform out into the world…I love the control this technology gives the director, I can put my camera anywhere I want.” He also said that IF they do a “Roger Rabbit” sequel, they would NOT make the animated characters 3D.

Up next was Tim Burton, who received a large amount of screams in appreciation, to promote “Alice in Wonderland”. Some banter with Patton Oswalt, who proved a superb moderator, kicked off with talk of scalping Carrot Top to come up with Depp’s Mad Hatter look.

He also showed off a beautiful new sketch of the Cheshire Cat before introducing some Con-exclusive footage which was a recut version of the trailer launching today (with a few new shots) and in full 3D quality. The trailer was played a second time after a short delay in the dark which had the crowd clapping to get the clip onscreen. He also confirmed that some of the stuff from “Alice Through the Looking Glass” have made it into the film.

Then came the surprise guest – Johnny Depp himself came out to immense screaming rivaling last year’s “Twilight” panel with Robert Pattinson. Mainly waving high, he soon left and the clip played one more time.

Finally came “Tron: Legacy”, the title for the upcoming “Tron” follow-up. The filmmakers along with actors Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Jeff Bridges were there for a panel. Asked about the new title, Bridges says “everything is going to be super-ized” after discussing the brief logline of the film. Filming finished last Monday.

There’s also sketches of the new vehicles including the recognizer, the solar sailer, the light runner (basically an AT buggy version of the light cycle), the second and fifth generation light cycles, the streets of Tron City, and the new gladiatorial game stadium.

The director says “the world of Tron has been evolving on its own server for twenty years like the Galapagos, so its darker and more visceral”. The environment has become more detailed with weather patterns and textures. There was some video footage of athletes doing motion capture sessions for the disc wars game. They used the ‘Phantom Camera’, which shoots 1000 frames a second, which was in 3D for the first time.

“I feel like Rip Van Winkle” says first film director Steve Lisberger who was heavily involved in this sequel 27 years after the first film, “They’re doing what needs to be done, making this cyber-western real”. The filmmakers talk about Daft Punk’s involvement in the score with twenty-four tracks already done.

They also showed off a scene in 2D where Sam Flynn (Hedlund) finds an old arcade game parlor. After switching on the power, turning on a jukebox playing an 80’s power ballad and several arcade machines. At the far end is a “Tron” game with the bike players and Flynn finds a secret door hidden behind the machine.