The voice of Spongebob Squarepants, Tom Kinney arrived on stage, hogging all the mics as the Paramount Pictures presentation begins at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Thursday. The rapid-fire 90-minute panel saw special sneak-peaks at such films as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Interstellar” and more.
Kinney was delighted to share a trailer for the upcoming “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Under Water,” which sees Spongebob and Patrick making landfall as they become computer animated superheroes on dry land. Kinney said it was a new look at the characters.
Following a short retrospective on the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” phenomenon, creator Kevin Eastman arrived on stage to the 80s cartoon theme. Moderator Kevin Stankowicz asked Hall H to start with a prayer of “Teenage mutant Ninja Turtles,” ending with a crescendo “heroes on a half-shelf. Turtle power!”
“It’s been a blur, 30 years later, it’s all thanks to you guys,” said Eastman. He also revealed that he has seen the finished film and found it “fantastic.”
Director Jonathan Liebesman and Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form also joined Eastman on stage to discuss their take on the venerable franchise. The collaboration between the production team and Eastman went back to when Form and Fuller quizzed Eastman about the origin of the names. For instance, the Shredder was nearly “the Cheese Grater” because Eastman slipped on one in the kitchen one night. He and former partner Peter Laird eventually settled on the more familiar name. Fuller admitted he was happy with their final choice.
“They told me they wanted to make the best Ninja Turtle movie ever,” he said of the producers.
Following a clip featuring April O’Neil’s first meeting with the Turtles, a shorter clips teased a revelation as Splinter says hello to April and adds, “It’s been a long time.”
Will Arnett and Megan Fox then arrived on stage. Fox said she was very familiar with April, even before discussing the role with the producers.
Arnett said he experienced the Ninja Turtles via his younger brothers back in the 1980s and then with his own kids in its more recent incarnation. “I could see though my own kids and their friends how excited they were about it and what a great story it is,” he added.
Opening the floor to questions, a fan asked Eastman who thought it was good idea to make them aliens. He replied, “We’d been fans of ‘Star Wars’ from the early days, starting with the ooze being alien in the original comic books. It’s fun to keep the soul of the characters, but take a step to the right.” According to the creator, the alien aspect of the film is just another part of the Turtles ever-evolving setting.
The next fan, concerned about the new twist on the Foot Clan asked, “Why the paramilitary direction?”
Liebsman asked the fan if he liked the look of the new Foot. The fan nodded positively. With that, the director explained, “To make it believable today, they have to be trained in paramilitary techniques. They need to be formidable in different ways.” He also assured the fan that the Foot’s ninja roots will be featured in the film.
When told theirs would be the last question, a fan asked if the voices of Leonardo and Splinter were changed. Liebesman admitted they had been recast with Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalloub.
Fox suggested they take one more question, at which point the group was asked to reveal their favorite Turtle.
Arnett admitted his is Michaelangelo. For Liebesman, it was Raphael. Fox said, “Mikey’s my favorite”
Fuller and Form agreed on Donatello and Eastman offered this: “Mikey’s near and dear to my heart because he’s the first turtle ever drawn.”
In another clip: April and Vern try to escape the Sachs estate as all hell breaks loose. The chase sees the turtles save each other, April and Vern from the Foot, a big rig truck and gravity.
“Project Almanac” director Dean Isrealite and stars Solia Black-D’Elia and Jonny Weston then joined Form and Fuller onstage. Isrealite is Liebesman’s cousin and the production team was happy to produce the film, a found footage feature about teens and time travel. Following an extended trailer for the film, Hall H went black until the screen lit up with a single word: “Hercules.”
Dwayne Johnson appeared to thunderous applause. “Finally!” he shouted. “The Rock has come back to Comic-Con!”
“Take your shirt off!” someone in the audience shouted back.
“I want to come back here and surprise you,” Johnson said. He offered everyone a free screening of the film. “I bought out three theaters. You’re all invited.” The location was tweeted at 5pm on a first come, first serve basis. “We’re going to have the most epic screening.”
Another audience member shouted, “Remember your fanny back!” in reference to Johnson’s throwback Thursday Twitter post.
Clarke Duke then appeared on stage, thanking the Rock for his warmup. “I am proud to introduce the first footage from ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’. If you only see one Hot Tub sequel this year, see this one.” The red band trailer should be online shortly.
After a teaser for director Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” featuring epic moments from space history, actor Matthew McConaughey appeared on stage. The house lights came up so he could see the whole of Hall H. “They said you were crazy!” he said before offering his trademark “Alright. alright alright.”
Explaining his choice to take the role, he said “I got a call from my agent; Christopher Nolan has a new film. I meet with him for three hours and he never mentions a new film. He liked meeting me and about a week later, script arrived. I liked it a lot.”
On his character: “Cooper is an engineer and widowed father of two children. Civilization is just about survival and the opportunity comes up to be a pilot, but he has to leave his two kids. That’s what my man Cooper’s got to go through.
On Nolan: “Everything he wants to do, it has to be original. He also works by his instincts completely. We moved fast. This felt like an independent film. It’s his most ambitious film.”
The crowd urged him to talk a bit more about the film, but he offered to let someone else talk about it: Nolan himself.
“I heard a lot about this being the place where people are the most passionate, so I thought I’d see what the fuss was all about,” said Nolan, whose previous films were always schedule in a way that precluded a Comic-Con appearance. “Thank you for all your support for our films in the past. Thank you.”
“I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction. Star Wars, 2001, obviously, but I grew up in a time when being an astronaut was the highest ambition,” he said of the film’s inspiration. “Reaching out into the galaxy seemed inevitable. In the last few decades, that’s fallen away. I think we’re on the cusp of a brand new era of exploration.”
“The idea of a journey to another galaxy is as big a journey as you can imagine,” he added.
“The driving force was to give as much reality for the actors as possible,” he said of his usual preference for practical sets and effects. “To be in those spaces feeling some sense of what it might be like was extremely important.”
The film continues his love of IMAX. “It felt like the perfect way to paint this on a very large canvass,” he said. “We’re trying to show the largest possible images.”
But when asked what the film was really about, he answered, “It’s really about human beings and what our place is in the universe.”
Squeezing in a few questions from the floor, one fan asked, “What was the scientific research like?”
Nolan said executive producer Kip Thorne is “very knowledgeable on these things and we’d have intense conversations. He’s spent an amazing amount of time thinking about this.”
Other science fiction films Nolan drew inspiration from include Blade Runner, “I think the single biggest influence is 2001.” Saw it on the big screen with his father. “It was such a memorable experience.” He hopes to tell a similarly ambitious tale and, maybe, inspire children when they see “Interstellar.”
Asked why his films deal with psychology, Nolan responded, “I wouldn’t say it was that conscious, but some clever psychologist could say why. I’m just interested in people. We’re imprisoned in our subjective view of the universe, trying to agree on an objective view, and it’s interesting material.”
While Nolan could not offer much more information about the film, he offered a new trailer which will be available online “soon.”