Comic-Con Day 3: Depp, Burton and 'Avatar'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

SAN DIEGO - Just ran into Rob Rogers. You meet the nicest folks at Comic-Con.

We ran into Jackie Earle Haley (Rorshach in "Watchmen") at a crowded street corner while we were waiting for a light and he posed for a photo with Josh. Very cool. But most cool on Day 3 of Comic-Con . . .

 . . . Johnny Depp was Tim Burton's big surprise at the end of the "Alice in Wonderland" portion of the Disney 3D panel, and James Cameron's "Avatar" wowed the throng in Hall H that had gathered mostly for the "New Moon" clips, which seemed to be all about Taylor Lautner's and Rob Pattinson's abs. Some screaming teems were very happy with that, even if Depp, Burton and Cameron stole the show for me.

Johnny Depp at Comic-ConExcitement over Depp walking onstage for a few brief minutes paled next to the enticing clips of "Alice" and the 24 minutes of footage of "Avatar," a sweeping other-worldly, eye-popping adventure that had been on Cameron's mind for 14 years but had to wait for him to get his underwater, post-"Titanic" wanderlust out of the way and then for his creative team to concoct new technology to match his vision.

In stunning 3D, with some landscapes inspired by his oceanic excursions, "Avatar" was a true original, a wonder of imagination.

Later, in a press gathering, Cameron related how he had told the late Stan Winston that he wanted to start small as he ventured into 3D. To which Winston replied, "NO! Make your ‘Star Wars.'  "

 The day in Hall H began with the funny and energetic Patton Oswalt emceeing first Robert Zemeckis ("The Polar Express"), promoting his 3D version of "A Christmas Carol," which has Jim Carrey playing eight characters. 

Burton was next, recalling how he had come to Comic-Con and was inspired there as a teen-ager and saying that it was a thrill to bring footage to the Con in person. The trippy, fantastical footage of "Alice," with Depp as the red-headed Mad Hatter ("We scalped Carrot Top," said Burton) went by too quickly. And when images of the characters were flashed on the screen, Burton said, "It looks like a freak show." "That from Tim Burton?!" Oswalt exclaimed.

Burton kept saying he had nothing else to show and that soon we'd be seeing video from his vacation. But finally he admitted he had one more trick up his sleeve, and Depp walked out. He stayed on stage for a few minutes, bowed to Burton and left. Don't know if he showed up again later, for "Dr. Parnassus," because I was busy elsewhere. Too much to do and see.

Possibly Depp didn't stay too long because he knew the audience was more excited for the "New Moon" panel that was coming up, after world-premiere footage of "Astro Boy" (new voice talent from Samuel L. Jackson and Charlize Theron was announced) and the Pittsburgh-shot "Sorority Row." The horror film was supported by five of its young stars.

Josh was demoing at Warner Bros. Interactive while I sat through the long and rewarding press conference that included Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Stephen Lang.  

It was announced there that on Aug. 21, the film's debut trailer will begin showing worldwide, while select theaters will get extended footage in 3D and IMAX.

 Plus, Ubisoft will unveil spinoff video games and Mattel will launch action figures of the Avatars and alien Na'vi characters.  

We decided to skip "Video Games Live!" with the San Diego Symphony - how could they improve on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's show? - and made it another late night watching a new animated Green Lantern movie that will be released next week on DVD (currently available on Xbox Live).

Loved that Victor Garber and Tricia Helfer were among the voices. 

When exec producer Bruce Timm led the audience in the Green Hornet Pledge, he declared, "We truly are the nerdiest of the nerds."

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