The travel gods TRIED to prevent us from getting there but Team Head Over Feels refuses to be kept from the Super Bowl of Geek Culture: San Diego Comic Con. (Always build a buffer day into your Con Travel if you can. ALWAYS. You’ll feel better about things, I promise.) We arrived in San Diego Wednesday Morning, exhausted from close to 24 hours worth of airline travel. Our spirits had been broken by American Airlines but after a shower and a long lunch, we were revived and ready to tackle the most intense and most wonderful Con on the planet. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! –Kim
We like to use preview night as our chance to walk the floor and familiarize ourselves with our home for the next 4 days. (It’s one thing to look at panel rooms on a map, it’s another to actually WALK the distances. We highly recommend doing this.) It’s exciting EVERY day going into the convention center but there is a special kind of buzz going through the crowd on preview night as everyone gets ready to see the floor for the first time. Whose displays and installations are going to be the most spectacular? Which exclusives are going to be the hardest to get? Which vendors will be the hidden gems that make you automatically hand over all your money? Just how many free buttons can you snag? These are all the questions floating around on preview night. There’s nothing like walking into the exhibit hall for the first time. It’s like coming home. (A home you share with thousands of strangers/soon to be friends but still a home.) It’s a feeling of relief and it’s a shot of adrenaline all at the same time. You’ve made it to San Diego Comic Con. Enjoy. — Kim
Happy Happy Joy Joy aka the Classic Nick Animation Panel
This year happens to mark the (prepare yourselves) 25TH ANNIVERSARY of the mighty NickToon. (“If you don’t feel old yet, you will real soon.” – our mod, in introduction.) And as anyone whose formative years fell in the ’90s knows, the three originals (Ren & Stimpy, Doug, Rugrats) paved the way not only for more bizarre, soulful, and innovative cartoons on Nickelodeon, but everywhere. This panel was moderated by Nick Animation podcaster Hector Nevarro; panelists were Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold!), Butch Hartman (Fairly OddParents), Arlene Klasky (motherfuckin’ RUGRATS, y’all), and Jhonen Vasquez (Invader Zim.) Our expectation was correct: the room was strong with Millennial energy as well as respect for some trailblazing animators and the network that let them loose. –Sage
- “This is cartoon royalty up here!” A good moderator is SO KEY though. Clearly our Nick mod has huge appreciation, and knowledge of the subject. No matter what your other credentials are, it’s that love that makes all the difference.
- The panelists were asked which other NickToon they would have liked to have worked on and Ren & Stimpy was definitively the most popular answer. (I still don’t know how that show got made. For KIDS.) As Kim said in our live-tweet, “They’re way existential.”
- Nickelodeon was lauded for “taking a lot of chances” when they launched their animated originals. Each show had a different look than the others and indeed a different look from other kids cartoons on TV. That rough-around-the-edges style pulled kids in immediately.
- Hey Arnold!‘s Craig Bartlett continues to be impressed by the fan art he’s sent and the now working animators who were inspired to take that path BECAUSE they grew up with NickToons. “I want to hire everyone!”
- Bartlett also proudly took credit for the Rugrats line, “TAKE A NAP, CYNTHIA” which our moderator revealed is his “you’re being grumpy” mantra. We’re stealing it, if that’s okay.
- P.S. Arlene Klasky would really love Rugrats to come back SO SAY WE ALL.
- Lots of love for the studio from the animators, but Arlene did have to push back against Nick suits who kept giving her notes to make Eliza Thornberry “prettier.” Klasky wanted her to look like a normal girl. And she won, so there.
- Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie will probably be a Thanksgiving 2017 TV event. Bartlett showed us some character designs for the movie and promised to answer tons of fan questions through the course of the story. (#1: Where are Arnold’s parents?)
- Apparently Rugrats was inspired by a childproofing gadget. As she baby-proofed her bathroom, new mom Klasky started to wonder what would motivate a baby to try to get into a toilet and she worked on defining that voice. As a creative person, Klasky says she couldn’t turn her brain off when she was at home with her kids (bless), so they became the subject of her next venture. Nick accepted the pitch immediately.
- Before the panel ended, we were treated to a clip from Hartman’s new Nick show Bunsen Is A Beast, a tolerance allegory where a monster enrolls in people school, makes a human best friend, and has to deal with the wrath of a beast-hating hall monitor. Lastly, we saw the world premiere of Vasquez’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles short, Don vs. Raph., six minutes of which is more entertaining than both recent TMNT movies combined.
This is why you REALLY study the schedule when it is released: One would think that a major studio like Disney would push for a marquee spot for the highly anticipated Moana but lo and behold it was given a spot at 12:30 on Thursday Morning in room 6A (the 4th largest room after Hall H, Ballroom 20, and Room 6BCF). We chose this panel on the off chance that composer Lin-Manuel Miranda would emerge from his much deserved vacation after closing his run in Hamilton to make a surprise appearance. (Our logic: how could a massive geek like Lin resist the call of San Diego Comic Con?) While we DIDN’T get Lin in the flesh, his presence was large in the room (where it happens) as the writers, head animator, and directors gave us a sneak peek at the next Disney Princess. It will surprise NO ONE that we got real emotional about the whole thing. –Kim
- Surprising no one, the room went bananas any time we saw Lin’s name on screen or when he popped up in the taped packages. He’s gonna get the EGOT with this movie, you guys. I feel it.
- Disney always takes care to make sure the cultures in their films are depicted with loving care and as much accuracy as possible. Directors John Musker and Ron Clements took a research trip to the South Pacific to immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of Moana. The footage of their trip was DELIGHTFUL (Grandpa types in matching Tiki shirts FTW). Also the writers and animators were more than a little bitter that THEY only got trips to Burbank.
- “Lin mentioned he had this musical in development and we were like ‘Good luck with that!!'” HAHAHAHA.
- Musker described Moana as a bad ass and said the film is really about Moana’s quest to find herself and her place in the world. The room erupted in cheers when he emphatically said that Moana was NOT a love story and there would be no love interest in the film. (THESE ARE THINGS WE LIKE TO HEAR.)
- We got to see the first three minutes of the film and it’s a little reminiscent of Frozen in how the prologue is underscored with native chants and a driving downbeat, immediately immersing you in the world of the film.
- Co-head of Animation Amy Sneed is the first woman at Disney to hold that title. YAY FOR LADIES BREAKING GLASS CEILINGS.
- Moana’s sidekick Pua is quite possibly one of the cutest Disney sidekicks we’ve ever seen. I already want the stuffed animal.
- We were shown footage of Auli’i Cravalho finding out that she had been cast as Moana and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Then she joined the panel and she emanates such warmth that your automatic response is “Of COURSE she’s a Disney Princess.” Her passion and love for the character was evident in everything that she said.
- We got to see another scene with Baby Moana discovering the Ocean. The animation is SO BEAUTIFUL. They make water a living character and it will absolutely take your breath away.
- “We cast a demigod to play a demigod.” The casting of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui is beyond perfect. And HE’S GONNA SING Y’ALL.
- There was a massive sense of nostalgia in the room as Musker and Clements were behind classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say ‘Thank you for our childhoods,'” one fan said. “And you all turned out so well!” Musker quipped.