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Quint's Day 1 at WonderCon! A Toy Story 3 tour around Pixar and coverage of the Encom Press Conference/Tron Legacy Viral event!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my day 1 of WonderCon coverage, which is essentially a big Disney day… even though my Pixar stuff is technically not related to WonderCon. As someone not all that interested in the TV stuff they were showing today or nearly as up to date on the world of comics as he should be, I was able to agree to a tour of Pixar this morning instead of the opening day of the Con. Of course it helped that I got to see Toy Story 3 last night in conjunction with the tour. I’m embargoed on the review, unfortunately, but I will say that it’s a worthy sequel and, yes, I did cry. You laugh now, but think about that when you’re sitting in the theater and Niagra Falls happens to you. We’ll see how snarky you are in the dark when you think no one’s looking! The tour was eeeaaarrrlllly, but worth it. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Pixar before, but in my past trips I don’t remember there being a Luxo Jr. and ball outside. After the movie last night, I saw that Luxo actually lit up! These Pixar guys are rad.

Popping inside the tour took us through a stereoscopic discussion, a walk through the render farm (400 computers crunching data at once), the Pixar store (not officially part of the tour, but my personal highlight) and through a secret door in an animator’s cubicle that leads to a speakeasy. The stereoscopic conversation was cut short, but we did get a nice talk about how Pixar approaches 3-D like it does every other aspect of filmmaking in that everything is motivated by the story and the characters. They used UP as an example in how they didn’t add depth to certain scenes because that would go against the entire point of the scene. In particular they used a scene post Ellie’s death where Carl is sitting alone and the house feels like its crowding in on him. If they made a point of the depth in that scene it would have completely contradicted the intent of the moment. Also, if you watch the movie again it’s a film made up of spheres and squares, so it was pointed out that spheres naturally fit with 3-D. For example, Carl’s face starts out spherical and as he grows older it becomes more square, while Ellie’s stays spherical. In all the pictures in the house Carl’s are framed in square frames and Ellie’s circular. In fact, because of the circular motif involving Ellie the fence posts that frame the gate have a circular, not pointed, tops, and when the businessman sees Carl assault the construction worker he lays his hand on one of them, representing the fact that he now has the excuse he needs to take the house, which Carl closely associates with Ellie. It’s almost a violation and it struck me when I watched it that it was a particularly slimy gesture and now I know why. So, all this talk goes into their 3-D. They even make a chart that shows to what degree they’ll go scene by scene, keeping in mind the more extreme depth will cause eyestrain if used too much and consider story, design and color when judging when to push the 3-D. Very interesting stuff, especially the peeks at some of the more detailed aspects of Pixar’s movies. (Did you know that Ellie’s color is pink? It’s what represents her presence, even after her death. Watch the movie again and see how they use pink light.) Then we met with the production and character designer who showed us a lot of the new characters and spoke about their origins. There’s a cuddly-looking teddy bear named Lotso who is kind of the top dog at the Day Care we’ve seen in the trailer that was designed to be as realistic as possible. The animation and design team went to dozens of day cares and noticed there were universal toys… half-undressed wonky-eyed baby dolls that almost always had crayon and marker doodles drawn on the hard plastic limbs, kind of cheap off-brand toys and plush animals. Lotso is unique in that he’s all plush, so his movement is quite different. In a way it’s almost like a man walking without a skeleton as he doesn’t have any hard surfaces, so he moves very slowly and fluidly. Oh, and he smells like strawberries. And when they release the toy of him later this summer they will, also, smell of strawberries. The last couple of stops were the trip highlights for me. One of the best things I’ve ever gotten to do during my time at AICN was to visit the Disney Animation Research Library (Click here to read that visit if you missed it) and we got to see a bit of what was essentially Pixar’s version of that, except we didn’t get to go to the real deal archives. Instead we were treated to some amazing pieces that date back to the first Toy Story. From real tone model paintings to original hand drawn storyboards (by the late, great Joe Ranft no less) I was very surprised at how much non-digital art was being archived. A white-gloved team opened up folder after folder showing all the early designs for Buzz Lightyear and Woody… If you’re a Pixar fanatic you’ve probably seen all these, but there’s something different being there with the real thing. I couldn’t touch it, but I was like Nic Cage in front of the Declaration of Independence… in total reverence. One of the cooler things they brought out was a box containing the original model for Woody… A plastic Fred Flintstone head topped a stuffed body. Pete Docter built this, hand-sewing the body, so he and the other animators could get an idea of what a doll like Woody (all stuffing and cloth except for the hands, head and boots, which are plastic) would look like in reality. What positions it’d fall in if thrown across the room, etc. On the walls were all designs, sketches and computer art for TS3. There was something that caught my eye and this won’t make any sense until you see Toy Story 3, but there’s a Unicorn toy that isn’t a bad guy in the flick, but it was included in a very early design drawing of the group of bad guys. Wonder what that story is… Oh, and they had a few different variations on what teenage Andy was going to look like and I think they dodged a few bullets. Some designs were of a kind of moody asshole teenager version with an emo hairstyle and iPod earbuds. The version they settled on, and you can see this in the trailer, is what Andy should be… a grounded, normal kid. And, finally, I have to talk about about how awesome the Pixar shop was. They had all the Art of Books, tons of toys, shirts, hoodies, cast and crew gift leftovers and some limited prints for sale. I spent some money there. I got a limited edition print from their great short, Partly Cloudy, a TS3 hoodie (that says Sunnyside Daycare on the back, which is the daycare from the movie, obviously), a Ratatouille Hawaiian shirt that I am too fat to wear, but acts as a nice incentive to lose some weight so I can rock that shirt and a couple small items, like a Wall-E iPhone skin and a Pixar mug.

Loot in hand, I took off back to WonderCon where I had a few hours to kill on the floor before heading over to Disney’s big Flynn Lives Tron event. I bought one more shirt, a limited edition Scott Pilgrim shirt from the Oni Booth. Yes, this is fucking sweet:

And I wandered around, looking at original Jack Kirby comic art that I’d need to sell my car and half my soul in order to afford, and palling with the beautiful and talented geektress known as Scarlet Scribe most of the day. I also met the legendary Jim Kelly of BLACK BELT JONES and ENTER THE DRAGON fame, which was all kinds of awesome. The dude looks like he can still kick my ass (not a big feat, granted) and was super nice. I’m hoping to sit down with him while I’m here and chat him up for AICN Legends. The big Encom press conference started at 8pm, but there was a slightly more secretive get-together at the Hyatt next door that started at 6:30pm organized by the underground Flynn Lives movement. There were probably a 150 or so people there, demanding to be let in!

Even some with awesome signs.

Inside we all got Flynn Lives t-shirts and posters and then 12 people were pulled from th crowd to be part of the disrupt Encom’s press conference campaign. A dude wearing a Flynn Lives t-shirt riled us up, talking about how Encom has made billions off of Flynn’s work and they just abandoned any kind of search for him, etc, etc.

We were given small, holographic stickers with a code on them and Space Paranoids pins as we filed out, knowing that the Encom conference was going to have some troubles and that at a certain point we were all going to show our support for Kevin Flynn by chanting “Flynn Lives!” over and over again. Here’s the Space Paranoids pin:

The wind off the bay was fucking miserably chilly, but we only had about 25 minutes to wait before the conference started. I was able to follow some press folks into the close-up press section as an Encom logo swirled on the giant video monitor.

An Encom PR lady stepped onto the stage and quickly introduced one Mr. Alan Bradley who waved to the crowd and smiled like a politician as he took the podium. He was there to announce an updated version of Encom’s classic Space Paranoids utilizing 15 never before released Kevin Flynn level designs.

Bradley had to fight against the will of the corporation to completely update it and made sure the Flynn’s programming code stayed the core of the new game, which should see release online in the very near future.

He also introduced his wife, Lora, and none other than Cindy Morgan walks out onto the stage.

She made a small speech saying how grateful she was to see so many people there and it almost sounded more like it was coming from Cindy instead of Lora. But still, the Tron nerd in me flipped out seeing Cindy Morgan and Bruce Boxleitner together again.

This is about when the event hit some big glitches. I mentioned above that the wind off the bay was killer and that kinda threw a monkey wrench in the planned sequence of events for this crazy viral exorcise. Boxleitner seemed to run out of things to say and winged it for a while before the PR lady from earlier came in and said he and Lora had to get off the stage, that they’ve run into technical difficulties. We stood around for a minute before the Flynn Lives guys took the stage with their signs out and one of the guys chosen from the earlier group read an angry speech about the greedy Encom and that he has to put the spotlight back on Flynn.

After a bit they were chased off and then there was another minute of awkward silence before a helicopter flew low overhead. A spotlight illuminated it and low and behold it had an Encom emblem on it and looked quite a bit like Sark’s chopper in Tron, with the neon strips down the side. It flew overhead a few times before coming to a halt a great distance up… then something dropped out of the chopper. It took a minute to realize what that something was… and then the parachute opened. A man dove out of the chopper, into the crazy high winds. I saw him flip end over end a few times before righting himself. He sank lower and lower and looked like he was going to crash into us. Instead he flew over our heads and landed to the left of the stage. The skydiver was hurried into a car and sped away. It was pretty sweet, but what was supposed to happen was Bradley’s speech was supposed to get interrupted by the skydiver (with bright neon lights on his feet, by the way) and in the distraction the Flynn Lives guys were supposed to storm the stage.

But the high winds delayed the chopper and so the viral team had to think on their feet. It was a stumble, but for God’s sake… there was Alan and Lora chased off the stage and a real life Encom helicopter that dumped a human being nearly on top of us. Gotta give the Disney folks credit for going all out here. I took some Flip-Cam video, but didn’t have the time to edit it or upload it and still get this piece written. I’ll try to do that over the weekend and update this story with the video. In the meantime, a reader sent this in from the event, a condensed version of the press conference! Enjoy!

Encom Press Conference in under 5 minutes from Greg Thomas on Vimeo.

And that was my day. If I sleep now I might be able to squeeze out 5 ½ hours of sleep before the big Disney and Warner Bros panels and my interviews with Kick-Ass screenwriter Jane Goldman and one Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal. See you folks tomorrow night with some of that goodness! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

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