New properties and licensed products along with top celebs, give rabid fans at Comic-Con a preview of what's next.
A crowd of more than 120,000 fans jammed the San Diego Convention Center for the four-day event July 22 to 25 with a show floor crowded with promotional displays from the major movie studios and TV networks. There was also plenty of merchandise on display for new properties including
and old favorites such as
One of the biggest stars to make an appearance was Angelina Jolie, who was promoting her new action film
. Jolie's appearance was another sign that Comic-Con has become a pop-culture event and moved well beyond its original niche as a venue for comic book and science-fiction properties.
"You still have the fan-boys out in full force, but the appeal of the show has really broadened the past few years,"
A good example was Showtime's presence on the show floor and the focus of its promotion. The network made a big splash in 2009 promoting its horror-themed show "Dexter," but expanded it this year to include shows such as "Weeds"
and "Californication." The addition of comedies and action films to the show led one studio executive to describe Comic-Con as a wide-ranging "barometer for what's cool."
Disney showcased merchandise for
at its booth, including collectible action figures and iPod accessories. The studio also staged a panel to discuss the remake of the 1982 film—due out Dec. 17—that featured star Jeff Bridges and showcased a new trailer for the big-budget 3-D epic. Tron merchandise from licensees, including Spin Master and Monster, will begin arriving in stores in October. Actor Garrett Hedlund, who plays lead character Sam Flynn, was on hand to promote the new action figures.
Disney also pumped-up its
Pirates of the Caribbean
franchise with a taped greeting from Johnny Depp shot on location of the newest film. The fourth installment in the franchise,
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
, is scheduled for release in May 2011. The studio also staged a panel to discuss the release of
, a CGI retelling of the classic fairy tale Rapunzel that's due out in November with a licensing program headed by Mattel and LEGO.
Marvel Entertainment organized the biggest display of star power at the show during a panel to discuss its upcoming film
. Samuel L. Jackson introduced cast members for the 2012 film, including Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Marvel also showed a trailer from
, which is due for release in May 2011.
The day before Comic-Con opened, Sega of America announced it will release Thor: The Video Game across all major gaming platforms in 2011. Thor will battle primal creatures in a virtual world to save Asgard, the home of Norse Gods. "We are proud to be bringing Marvel's Thor to his first solo video game adventure," says Gary Knight, senior vice president of marketing for Sega of America.
Nickelodeon discussed plans to expand its partnership with DreamWorks Animation and bring another of the studio's merchandise-friendly properties to TV. At a panel, Nickelodeon executives talked about the upcoming animated series "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness
The series is due to debut this year and will expand on a successful partnership Nickelodeon and DreamWorks launched in 2009 with "The Penguins of Madagascar" featuring a line of toys that debuted this year from Hooga Loo Toys.
HBO unveiled a graphic novel series based on its hit HBO vampire show "True Blood." The graphic novels from IDW Publishing feature a new storyline in which the characters are trapped in a world in which their emotions kill people. "These graphic novels are a great companion to the series and we are pleased that the popularity of the show is allowing it to branch into different mediums," says "True Blood" creator Alan Ball.
Warner Bros. displayed trailers for several upcoming films, including
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.
CBS Consumer Products promoted its newly rebooted Star Trek
franchise and its expansion into publishing by giving away Star Trek watches and buttons at its booth. "Comic-Con is a great place to engage fans," says Liz Kalodner, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Consumer Products. IDW Publishing announced an October launch for its four-part comic book series based on Khan, one of Star Trek's most famous villains. "Khan: Ruling in Hell" will pick up the Khan storyline after he is marooned on a dead planet by Captain Kirk.
Fox Consumer Products showcased new merchandise at its booth for its new and established franchises. Product for Avatar
and the new film
was on display along with merchandise for long-running animated series "The Simpsons" and "Futurama."
Comic-Con also featured appearances from other A-list stars who showed up to promote upcoming films. Harrison Ford attended a panel to preview
Cowboys & Aliens
from Universal Studios, which will also star Daniel Craig. Director Zack Snyder, a Comic-Con veteran who used the show to launch
, previewed his new film
. Sylvester Stallone was on hand to promote his summer release
and Bruce Willis appeared to talk about Summit Entertainment's new action film
, an October release that pairs Willis with Morgan Freeman. Seth Rogen was there to promote Sony's January 2011 release of
The Green Hornet
, based on the classic comic strip. Sony also previewed its upcoming apocalyptic thriller
starring Paul Bettany.
While some purists aren't happy with the mainstream turn Comic-Con has taken, it has cemented its reputation as an event that generates buzz for new movies and shows. It's also become a launching pad for hit movies, most notably Snyder's
in 2006, which generated massive buzz on the Internet and turned it into a surprise hit. On the flip side, a Comic-Con launch can hurt a movie's prospects with negative chatter, as it did in 2009 when
previews weren't very well-received.
"It's still a great launching pad for a film, but studios have learned that they had better come totally prepared or risk falling flat," says Comedy Central's Steve Raizes.
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