Hello folks, Fenrir here with a very quick and hopefully informative recap of some of the cool panels that happened at this year’s New York Comic Con! Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the con on Saturday only but I made the best of it to get the best con experience imaginable–ie. I sat in panels all day.
But hey, panel-camping can be quite fun, especially when you’re armed with a nourishing bento lunch, good company (*Cough*Starshine*cough*), and a willing heart eager for news on what one should expect in the upcoming months to come! After bravely taking on back-to-back panels hosted in room 1-E, I believe I’ve got some tasty tidbits to satisfy any fan–so let’s go and give a quick run down about what’s new and exciting in geekdom.
From The Legend of Korra, to an upcoming Marvel side-scroller, and even Once Upon a Time and famous authors–oh my–there’s a lot to look forward to for the rest of 2013!
After a quick break-neck run from New York Comic Con’s holding queue, I was able to snag front-row seats to one of the day’s most highly anticipated panels: The exclusive Legend of Korra panel, which was set to premiere a full, upcoming episode as well as provide plenty of spoilers and delicious meta to tide fans over for some time to come.
It was amazing to meet executive producer, Bryan Konietzko, as well as co-executive director Joaquim Dos Santos and listen to them lecture about the show from the process of creating this (arguably) stunning piece of animation, as well as discuss a few plot points that make the current season, Book 2: Spirits, quite exciting. The current arc–Korra’s search for the mysterious “Rava”, whoever that may be–has its origins as a character development arc once planned for Aang all the way back for Avatar: The Last Airbender; unfortunately it just didn’t fit with Aang’s story, but the producers are quite pleased to incorporate it back into Korra. In fact, it seems Korra’s issues with the Spirit World actually isn’t terribly exclusive to her, and it is perhaps a good thing to note that it wasn’t only Korra who struggled to balance her Avatar duties…
… Now with that vague, somewhat spoiler-y and ominous tidbit out of the way, I’d like to recount how much fun the panel was in providing not only some delicious spoilers, but in connecting fans to the creative team behind The Legend of Korra. There was a quick Q+A session with set questions posed not only to Bryan and Joaquim, but also to a few special guest voice actors including Janet Varney who plays everyone’s favorite brash young Avatar, Korra, P.J. Bryne the brilliant voice behind everyone’s favorite Pro-bending hopeful, Bolin, as well as a relative new-comer to the voice acting world, Steven Yuen of The Walking Dead Fame, who shoulders the burden of giving life to the first Avatar, Wan.
The Q+A session with this eclectic mix of producers and actors illustrated how collaborative–and how time-consuming–the process is when it comes to bringing episodes of Korra to life. For the voice actors–especially for newbies like Steven Yuen–it is a challenge to voice act that they relish. Janet Varney, for instance, loves her job, claiming that to voice act “is the best job in the world”, especially when it comes to connecting with fans across the world–she is especially pleased with the caliber of fanart that is produced by fans and is personally awed by the amount of “fan love” she has encountered for this particular voice acting gig.
(Bryan was also quick to note that “fan love” isn’t a bad thing at all, and that three of their current staff did fan art of the original Avatar the Last Airbender before they were hired; so yes, I was onto something when I argued that fan art isn’t a bad thing)
Varney’s glowing love of her job is contrasted with poor Steve Yuen–who was quite self conscious about his role. Now, while I believe he did a phenomenal job as Wan and bringing to life a hopeful street-rat aiming to eke out his place in the world, Yuen expressed his doubts throughout his questions regarding how different/difficult voice acting is from on-screen acting. For Yuen, the process is much the same but… well, one can’t help but feel self-conscious, I suppose when they have to deal with something that is their voice, but at the same time not; poor guy seemed so embarrassed!
But, Yuen is an Avatar fan–noting that he was introduced to the first series via a friend of his–and that he did his best to bring his acting chops to the table as Wan, even though his background is quite different.
Bouncing off of Yuen’s concerns and a cleverly timed question, PJ Bryne offered this bit of food for thought to his fans–and any budding young voice actors in the audience. His background is based in a mix of drama and comedy, and he actually relies on both when getting ready for the role of Bolin–comedy tempered by drama to do something real, and drama tempered by the freedom of comedy to play with things. Hence, many of Bolin’s most memorable asides are actually improvs on Bryne’s part–but they certainly have left a lasting impression, and lasting fandom love, for the charming Bolin.
(Poor guy can Bryke stop putting him in awkward romantic situations though kay)
But beyond the meta, what perhaps struck me the most about this panel was the detailed discussion of the process that the Avatar team uses to make their show. Essentially, it takes them years to get it right and–as we speak–they’re already in production for Book 4. Of course, the results of this long process are quite tangible; say what you will about their story direction and its holes and bumps, The Legend of Korra is beautiful to watch with stunning attention to detail that goes beyond the average Nick toon.
And, at Saturday’s con Bryan and Joaquim pretty much gave a rundown of how and why Korra is so beautiful. Warning, this is a pretty lengthy process condensed into a few handy bullet-points:
- Writing – this is where the magic happens, or as Bryan described it, where several hundred sticky notes and post-its are mapped about on a wall to determine the story flow and where exactly this season is going.
- Dialogue recording – this is where the voice acting cast is brought in to test out scripts, re-recording as necessary to get certain scenes right. Note that there’s nothing drawn just yet–because at the same time that the cast may be recording, the following may be puttering along as well.
- Design – this is where models for characters, animals, machines, etc. are cleaned up and finalized to be used as reference for the animators as they go. For this example, Bryan showed the progression of several creatures, how they came to be conceptualized and then changed as needed until a finalized, clean model sheet was shipped off for the animators to use as a reference; it’s a collaborative effort between Bryan and his team of designers.
- Storyboard – heavy-duty drawing to plot out how scenes will pan out.
- Animatic – the cut of dialogue recordings with storyboards; having the same animation company also draw up storyboards makes it much easier when it comes to animating later since most of what they need has already been drawn. BTW, if you’re worried about the wonky art in Book 2, never fear: Studio Mir will be handling all the animation for the following seasons, yay!
- Color and background painting – tighten up the plans by adding color and basic shading.
- Lighting imageboards – a creative choice used to plan out lighting and shadow; it is an otherwise unnecessary step but the Avatar team is invested in going that extra mile (And really, it pays off)
- Layout – everything is shipped off to Studio Mir for animation–although at this point since Studio Mir helps with the storyboards it’s just that much easier
- Key animation – drawing up in-betweens to go with key animation. Basically, to get from point a to point b in an animated sequence there are these “in-betwen” frames that help generate the illusion of movement–basically, that’s a lot of extra drawings that keep the animation smooth and flowing. On average, each Korra episode has over 15,000 in-betweens. So uh, that’s some food for thought to explain why this show is beautiful.
- Color animation- pretty self explanatory!
- Sound Design – the layout of “foleys” and sound affects that accompany movement, from the flourishing “wooshes” to the crackling of flames
- Music – again, pretty self-explanatory…
… and then everything is mixed in together — whew! To illustrate this process, Bryan used a 40 second scene, overlaying elements of the process over, and over again–and it was quite inspiring to see all that work necessary for a mere 30 seconds of screen time. Remember, each episode of Korra contains over 15,000 drawings–which pretty much ensures the rather beautiful episodes that make Korra, well, Korra. Overall, the panel was a very enlightening, and exciting experience for Korra fans–and while it did present some somewhat troubling things for the future of Book 2 (*Cough*Retconsomelorewhat*cough*), it did offer a much appreciated glimpse into the creative process and minds of some of the most popular animators of the day.
Also, note that this week’s episode is a special one-hour premiere, so if you missed out on seeing an episode early, never fear! It’ll be played again, and with a bonus second episode too, yay!
Following in the wake of all of that wonderful Korra glee were two more panels that caught my eye: the Marvel Video Games Panel and a special Once Upon a Time panel and Q+A.
Something that is quite exciting for all you Marvel MCU fans will be the arrival of Marvel Run Jump Smash to a smart phone near you. It’s a rather adorable, quirky side-scroller, with players running from hero to hero and using their various powers to chase Loki through NYC. Again, it’s a ridiculously cute side-scroller set for mobile devices — and while it may simply look cute and cuddly, it is important to note that this game has consistently sold well overseas.
Harmless side-scroller or the next Bejeweled –we’ll have to see, but it definitely looks way too adorable to ignore when it hits Stateside!
Once the Marvel panel was over, though, several happy, giddy fans (myself included) eagerly awaited the beginning of the Once Upon a Time panel. Much to the delight of the crowd we got an exclusive sneak peak at a few upcoming episodes, as well as a tantalizing taste of some spoiler-y topics posed to executive producers Edward Kitis and Adam Horowtiz, as well as a surprise and much appreciated appearance by OUAT star, Jennifer Morrison. From what we gleaned from the panel–everyone who works on OUAT loves mashups and loves taking on classic fairy tales and putting a whole new twist on them; just because we’re now in our third season of OUAT doesn’t mean that the twists on classic tropes are over and done with.
If anything, we should be expecting more unexpected offerings that will either leave fans cheering or cold in the wake of some executive decisions. Also, the cast–Morrison included–is very, very much aware of the shipping, and yes, even referred to a few choice ships by name (Much to the delight of the audience) However, when it came to asking about whether certain pairings–notably pairings that would ensure some much-needed LGBTQ representation–would actually become canon…
“Well, you’ll just have to see,” Morrinson said sweetly, with a knowing grin. (Hint: Just watch last week’s episode)
With my triad of panels over, I was then free to roam the showroom floor — although I did have one more mission in mind for Saturday. Armed with nothing but a will and a prayer, and maybe a book or two to sign, I braved the crowds to try and find some of the great artists and writers who have inspired me and to then ask them to sign my swag. One of these greats is American author, Peter S. Beagle, famous for his stunning must-read, The Last Unicorn, which eventually became a cult-hit animated feature.
It was an honor to meet Mr. Beagle, and to shake the hand of the creator of one of my fondest childhood memories–both the book and the animated film had quite an impact and pretty much sealed my fate and everlasting love for all things fantasy. We had a pleasant chat about publishing (And about a few of my bosses, haha) and then with a flourish of his pen I had a signed copy of The Last Unicorn.
And really, if there’s one thing that con-goers should remember–besides maybe packing your own lunch so panel-camping becomes easier–is that to check out the Guest List ahead of time and plan to bring in some swag accordingly. You never know who you’ll meet–a childhood hero, perhaps–and you’ll probably be surprised by how amazing it is to actually meet them, in real life, and just have that one moment to say:
You inspired me, thank you, and thanks for signing this thing that means a lot to me.
Or well, ehem, something more eloquent than that, for sure.
And besides those tremendous events I spent the rest of my day happily shopping and browsing through the showroom at my leisure; and clearing out my Mii Plaza gate every ten minutes or so. (Seriously if you’re in a jam for puzzle pieces for your panels make sure you bring your 3DS to these sort of things haha)
Annnnnd that’s really all there is to my adventures at this year’s Comic Con–being able to meet so many great artists and writers certainly did a lot to inspire, and was plenty of food for thought when it comes to analyzing what’s in store for the rest of 2013!