Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center has harnessed a lot of star power over the years, stoking the earth-rattling screams and squeals of 6,000 rabid fans at a time. And yet, when someone like Steven Spielberg is making an appearance, the cavernous hall takes on an entirely different tone. The yelps and applause are still there, of course, but the room is nervous and politely jittered — the fans aren’t feeding into the Hollywood frenzy like they do when the likes of Hugh Jackman take the stage, they’re genuinely shocked to be breathing the same air as the man behind their most beloved legends.
This was Spielberg’s first live appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, and it did not disappoint. Here to promote his upcoming Tintin film and receive an Inkpot award for, um, being Steven Spielberg, the mighty Bearded One held some pretty candid court, comfortably walking fans through the production of his first foray into motion-capture and 3D.
Spielberg was joined by surprise guest / Tintin producer Peter Jackson, who was introduced via a cute bit of “6 year-old mo-cap test footage” in which he was drunkenly auditioning for the role of Captain Haddock while a CG Snowy hopped to grab our attention in the background (for the record, Jackson would have been perfect for the role). They trotted out a bit of Tintin footage that played like an extended version of the trailer that’s been kicking around for a while now: tons of tense exposition as Tintin and Haddock scurry around the corridors of a ship, Tintin taking down a helicopter with a single bullet, and lots of Snowy being adorable. The animation looks solid and deeply evocative but it hasn’t entirely freed itself from that oddly inert feeling that tends to accompany even the finest of mo-capped work. That being said, Spielberg’s handprints are all over this thing, and it appears as if the production’s unique nature allowed the director to exert even more control over the material than usual.
The conversation between Spielberg and Jackson was fascinating and full of neat tidbits and recollections, as the two filmmakers weren’t shy about letting the fans know how it’s done and how they’re doing. Here are the 10 best quotes from the panel:
“I didn’t know anything about Tintin until I read a French review of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 that kept comparing Indiana Jones to Tintin. Tintin kept putting himself into the stories he was reporting, Indiana Jones kept getting more involved in the story of the adventure than the mission he was trying to accomplish, so there’s definitely a kinship there.”
“I had to make the decision: Do I shoot this movie live-action with a digital dog, or do I animate the film? So I went to WETA and asked them to show me a test… that was 6 years ago.”
“The most important personal thing that ever happened to me in my life in the world of movies was E.T. When we finish making a movie sadly everyone goes on to other movies and I go home alone, but I got so close to the kids in the film that I didn’t want to go home. And that’s when I realized that, for the first time in my life, I wanted to have children. I have 7, now.”
“The first time I met Peter was on the stage of the Kodak Theater when I handed him his Oscar for The Return of the King. That was the first time we shook hands, with 800 million people watching.”
“With motion-capture, one person can do the lighting, push the camera, tweak the make-up and do the hair. It takes 5 hours to animate every single frame, but with motion-capture the director does a lot of jobs at the same time that I ordinarily have a team of talented people doing for me.”
“Jurassic Park IV has a story and a writer and we’re hoping to make it in the next 2 to 3 years.”
“I’ve been waiting to see Spielberg’s Tintin film for 25 years. And working with him has been amazing — I think he shows real promise.”
“When I walked out of Jurassic Park for the first time, I knew that if I wanted to carry on doing what i loved doing, I’d have to get involved in computer effects. So we got our first computer a few weeks later and we did a film called Heavenly Creatures… The company that grew from that wouldn’t have existed without Jurassic Park, and now they’re working for him, so it’s amazing how fate works out.”
“The characters have faces you would never find on a human being, but we still wanted to have the sweat and the detail. neither Steven nor I are good on computers, I can barely send an e-mail, but we wanted to create a virtual world with the characters and the locations and the sets (built over a 2 or 3 year period) and Steven could shoot the movie… So Steven could step in and film it like it was a live-action film. It’s a film that Steven personally shot, he had the camera in his hand the whole time — it was almost like an 8mm experience.”
“[The Hobbit] is great. I’m having a hell of a time, I’m enjoying it way more than I ever thought I would.”
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn hits theaters on December 23, 2011.