The team behind the much anticipated “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” starring Jake Gyllenhaal wooed WonderCon Saturday with never-before-seen footage of the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Disney film opening May 28.
Gyllenhaal, Bruckheimer, Director Mike Newell and creator Jordan Mechner introduced two short clips of the screen adaptation of the “Prince of Persia” video game Mechner built more than 20 years ago. “Considering it started with a character on an Apple II computer who was 40 pixels high – to go from that to Jake is pretty incredible,” Mechner said.
One of the scenes was a condensed version of a battle in Alamut in which Gyllenhaal’s character defies his older brothers by charging to the frontline during a siege on the 6th century Persian city. The clip showcased the blockbuster special effects Bruckheimer films are known for and the “Shakespearean drama” he complimented Newel for bringing to the movie.
“I think Jerry and I felt there was going to be one important thing he and should the same about and it,” Newell said. “It was that this would not be a kind of postmodern tone by which I mean you do something heroic, you turn to a camera, and you wink.”
Some of Newell’s previous directing credits include “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and “Donnie Brasco.”
“We wanted it to be absolutely for real and that the audience would sense the peril, sense the emotion, sense the love,” Newell remarked. “They would be right in the middle of the action the whole movie and not constantly yanked out of it by the movie commenting on itself.”
Adding to the realism of the story, Gyllenhaal performed most of his stunts himself and trained by learning parkour, also known as freerunning, under its founder David Belle. “If I was going to run on walls I really wanted to run on walls,” he said.
Gyllenhaal grew up playing the video game and felt an enormous amount of pressure to reinvent the character on film. He said he is used to getting in shape for roles but working with Bruckheimer is “a little louder, a little bigger and a little more fun.”
This was the first convention appearance for Bruckheimer, who managed to pack a double-punch promoting both “Prince of Persia” and the “Fantasia”-inspired live-action film, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The movie’s director Jon Turtletaub and stars Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Teresa Palmer appeared to present more Disney exclusives before it opens July 16.
Loosely adapted from the Mickey Mouse installment of “Fantasia,” the film centers around Cage, an aging wizard, and Baruchel, his unwitting protege. The modern day re-imagining forces Baruchel’s character to save New York City and his love interest by learning magic.
The clips displayed a series of special effects that Turtletaub -Â who directed Cage in “National Treasure” – was mightily impressed with. “It’s certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “There are well over 1,000 visual effects shots in this movie.”
The film’s story arc will take viewers on an emotional ride, its makers promised. “What you don’t want is the movie to be a joke in any way and you don’t want it to be so unrealistic that there’s nothing to grab onto,” Turtletaub said.
Cage, who took his stage surname from Marvel character Luke Cage, said he was proud of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the “glint of madness” he brought to his role.
Also Saturday, “Toy Story 3” Director Lee Unkrich introduced a sneak-peak at footage of the upcoming 3D installment of the Disney-Pixar franchise. He brought special surprise guests and familiar voices Kristen Schaal, John Ratzenberger and Jeff Garlin to help.
Unkrich compared being asked to direct the movie to being given the keys to a shiny new sports car. After four years of production, it will be finished in four weeks, he said.
The panel spoke about the importance of Pixar films in the global entertainment world. “One of the jewels in the crown of my life is my association with Pixar,” Ratzenberger said.
“Toy Story 3” hits theaters on June 18.