Comic-Con 2006: TMNT, Happy Feet, Ant Bully, and Open Season

Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. showcased some of their 2006 and 2007 animated titles to enthused crowds on the official opening day of Comic-Con in the San Diego Convention Center yesterday, including ?Open Season,? ?The Ant Bully,? and ?Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!?

Director Jill Culton ("Toy Story 2") along with cartoonist Steve Moore and visual effects supervisor Doug Ikeler were on hand to present clips and answer questions for Sony's "Open Season," an animated comedy about what happens when a house-broken grizzly bear named Boog (Martin Lawrence) is forced to go back into the wild. The panel kicked off with an extended trailer introducing the main characters, tame bear Boog and his goofball sidekick, a mule deer named Elliot with one missing antler (Ashton Kutcher).



Boog (Martin Lawrence) and Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) in "Open Season"


Boog and Elliot find themselves in unfamiliar territory when they return to the wild, but team up with a cacophony of forest animals fed up with the hunting tendencies of humans. There are nut-wielding squirrels who speak in a Scottish brogue! There are bewildered hillbillies! There are weiner dogs!

The highlight of the "Open Season" panel was a clip of the film in which Boog tries to cross an unstable damn. The resulting tidal wave caused by the broken dam sweeps Boog and Elliot through half the forest, knocking down trees and forcefully evicting gophers from their ground dwellings.

Producer Chris Jenkins followed the "Open Season" panel with a clip of "Surf's Up," an animated mockumentary that goes behind the scenes of the highly competitive world?of penguin surfing. The movie centers on up-and-coming surfer Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) who has to prove himself to his disapproving mother and older brother. The premise seemed a bit odd at first, but the clip, to use an expression favored by the critics, had attendees rolling in the aisles.



It wouldn't be Comic-Con without a little dress-up!


After that, it was Warner Bros.' turn to present their slate. First up was "The Ant Bully," an adaptation of John Nickle's book about a boy who takes out his frustrations on helpless ants until they shrink their tormentor with a magic potion. The voice cast for this movie is indeed impressive: Julia Roberts, Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Lily Tomlin, and Bruce Campbell!

Unfortunately, none of them were present for this panel. Instead, director John A. Davis ("Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius") and a couple of his animators were on hand to demonstrate some character models followed by a Q&A. Look for my interview with the director sometime soon.

Following "Ant Bully" was "Happy Feet," another animated movie starring penguins. Unlike Sony's "Surf's Up," "Happy Feet" is more like an urban comedy with song and dance numbers. The movie centers on an Emperor Penguin who can't sing, but he sure can tap dance. That just won't do for his love life because Emperor Penguins find their soul mate through singing.




"Grind House": Conspicuously absent from Thursday's kid-friendly fare


Then came the surprise of the day. Director Kevin Munroe came out to present "TMNT." Mainly because of low expectations, I didn't think the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie would be any good. A 5-minute clip convinced me otherwise. From the reaction of the numerous fans in attendance, they approved also. For one thing, the tone seemed to be darker than the live action movies and is heavily influenced by anime. It looked like they'll be going against various monsters as well as humans.

The movie is said to take place somewhere after the second and third movie where the Turtles' relationships and loyalties will be severely tested. Mako is confirmed for the voice of Splinter. The rest of the voice cast will be announced in the coming months, but we're assured by the director that there will be no named cast. Look for my interview with director Munroe, where he talks about "TMNT" and his future projects.

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