Jamie Lee Curtis, K Boost Quiet Year Project – Miscellaneous

Late Saturday afternoon at San Diego Comic-Con, thousands of fans, packed inside a cavernous ballroom, took to the stage as the cast debuted in one of the biggest performances to appear at this year’s annual fan convention. It was, in fact, one of the Just Times A group of actors appeared at SDCC this year. And it wasn’t a superhero movie, TV show, or any major studio-backed mega-franchise.

Instead, it was for “Critical Role,” the popular, long-running web series that began as a group of voice actors getting together to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons.

“Question for the audience: Anyone doing a costume, could you please stand so we can see it?” co-star Liam O’Brien asked about the stage. Half the audience—many dressed as characters from the show—got to their feet.

“You look beautiful in San Diego!” exclaimed Travis Willingham, amazed at their handiwork.

For the first time in decades, San Diego Comic-Con held its annual fan convention without any Marvel or DC superstars or panels. With the actors joining the writers in picket lines, several panels (Legendary’s “Dune: Part Two,” AMC’s “Interview With the Vampire” and Prime Video’s “The Boys” spin-off “Gen V”) were canceled altogether, and Hall H, the 6,500-person main stage, was often empty during the July 19-23 convention. Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” relied heavily on exclusive footage to keep audiences entertained.

At the last minute, William Shatner dropped out of the Hall H panel for an upcoming documentary about him “in solidarity with his cool brethren,” according to the SDCC announcement. The small handful of stars who appeared did so on the sidelines: Jamie Lee Curtis and Patton Oswalt both came out to promote their new comic.

“I have a moment of sorts!” Curtis screamed when she saw two cosplay celebrities in the audience dressed as Deidre Beaubeirdre, her character from “Everything Everywhere All at One” for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Another guy took the 20-hour flight from the Philippines to tell Curtis his favorite movie, “True Lies.” Curtis warmly replied, “Thank you very much, I appreciate it.” “Welcome to San Diego.”

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In other words, the sentiment was pretty cold—and at least anecdotally, a lot of people seemed to like it that way.

Before Hollywood flooded SDCC, the convention was “about the fan community bringing us together of love, passion, beautiful stories, and stories in action,” said Mike Ryan, showrunner of the upcoming interactive animated series “Ghosts of Ruin,” which debuted at Hall H.

“You can see it really clearly this year,” he added.

In fact, freed from waiting in line overnight to see the A-list, attendees — who were expected to number more than 130,000 — were able to explore lesser-known territories and return to the convention’s comic book roots. These were the highlights of the center this year.

Michael Buckner for Variety

Indian cinema and video games debut at Hall H

Previously promoted with the codename ‘Project K’, the sci-fi epic ‘Kalki 2898-AD’ becomes the first Indian film to appear at SDCC, with writer-director Nag Ashwin joining all-star actors Prabhas, Kamal Haasan and Amitabh Bachchan (via Zoom) on stage. said the director diverse It was bringing his movie to Hall H.

“It was an opportunity to introduce our stories to the kind of audience that would appreciate these kinds of stories, because they are used to and exposed to many different cultures,” he said. “So we just thought, ‘Yeah, let’s get Indian culture represented here as well.'” “

However, Ashwin has been reluctant to talk much about the film itself, which is set to premiere in 2024 and has already grown to be one of the most expensive Indian productions ever. Even the familiar appearance of a teaser trailer for the film during the session, which played to some of the biggest cheers of the week, made Ashwin nervous.

“We don’t want to reveal too much,” he said with a smile. “We’re not in the habit of revealing content before release, so we’re tiptoeing because, no matter what we posted in today’s video, we feel like it’s already too much.”

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Similarly, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 for the Sony PlayStation 5 was the first video game ever to appear in Hall H.

“To all you video game players, if this is your first time here, I’m glad you’re here,” said Eddie Abraham, Comic-Con’s International Programming Director, introducing the session. “I hope we can do more boards for video game enthusiasts in the future.”

Insomniac Games showed off a new story trailer, teasing Kraven the Hunter’s descent to New York and Mister Negative’s return, while actor Yuri Lowenthal, who voices Peter Parker, recreated Tobey Maguire’s famous dance from 2007’s “Spider-Man 3.” Fans ate it.

Michael Buckner for Variety

Labor strikes make a splash

At the start of the “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2” panel, Lowenthal made a point to express his support for the outstanding actors and writers.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters and everyone at the WGA and SAG,” he said. “We’re able to be here because we’re under a different gaming contract, but that may not last forever. We’re happy to be here, but we support whatever happens.”

It was one of the many shout-outs the writers and actors received during the convention. Director Gareth Edwards — present to talk about his upcoming AI thriller “The Creator” during a directors’ session in Hall H with “The Haunted Mansion” director Justin Simien and Fast X director Louis Letrier — also paused for a moment to address the strike. “We all stand with the writers and the actors,” Edwards said. “We are contractually obligated to promote our films.”

On July 21, supporters held an hour-long demonstration outside the Convention Center in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. About 40 representatives – including a Captain America costume player and a man dressed as the “Moana” Maui character – held up black and yellow picket signs and handed out flyers in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA, WGA and IATSE.

Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA CEO Duncan Crabtree-Ireland attended a panel discussion on the immediate risks that artificial intelligence poses to the voice actor community. Without referring to Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” by name, Crabtree-Ireland likened the case to “the story of a little mermaid and a sea witch who literally steals that mermaid’s voice.”

Gilbert Flores for Variety

Studios are made with activations

While the big studios have largely sat outside the main boards, many have maintained a strong presence outside the convention center with fans energized. Some trials increased waiting times by more than four hours.

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Hulu’s Animayhem has taken fans inside the many animated series available on streaming tape, from the Planet Express building in “Futurama” to the restaurant table from “Bob’s Burgers.”

Universal’s celebration of “Jurassic Park”‘s 30th anniversary brought attendees to Isla Nublar, where park “staff” guided them through iconic scenes from the movie — including a T-Rex toilet attack.

Brands like BoxLunch, which hosted the Treat Truck serving ice cream and gifts, drew lines that stretched more than a quarter of a mile under the blazing sun.

Michael Buckner for Variety

Comic book creators make like bandits

Perhaps the most unexpected beneficiaries of Comic-Con this year were the comic book authors themselves. SDCC moved the group’s panels into larger rooms for 2023 — and it was “standing room only,” said Ted Ebenheim, president of LGBTQ comics advocacy organization Prism.

“I was very pleased to see the turnout,” he said.

Several independent publishers said diverse They also saw a significant increase in the number of people coming to the sprawling showroom floor.

“It’s the biggest year we’ve ever seen,” said Eric Dean Seton, a prolific TV director (“The Flash,” “Grown-ish”), who also publishes his own “Legend of the Mantamaji” comic book series about sword and sorcery. Compared to previous years’ SDCC, Seaton estimated he sold four to five times as many comics this year—he sold out by Friday.

“People will spend all day in Hall H — they’ll only get one day on the floor,” he says of previous years. “Without those long spaces either in the room or waiting in line, they have time to shop.”

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