UPDATE 12:45 PM, with more details throughout: While San Diego’s Comic-Con mostly dwarfs New York’s confab, the latter has stepped up the star power as George Clooney just surprised fans by appearing onstage for Disney’s Tomorrowland panel. It was the opening panel of the weekend-long confab that drew thousands of spike-haired, caped superhero men and bewigged, barely-clad superhero women to the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side.
Clooney wasn’t scheduled to appear on the dais that featured director-producer Brad Bird and screenwriter-producer Damon Lindelof. But he joined a group that eventually included co-stars Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson and Shiloh Nelson and helped reveal the first look at the May 22, 2015 release that has more shrouded in secrecy than a new Apple gadget. All the speakers joked tht they could basically say nothing without risking reprisal from the Disney brass.
Laurie set up the pre-planned surprise by taking a few digs at his off-stage co-star. Asked what it was like to work with Clooney, he said that while everyone knows about George’s charm and generosity, his absence freed Laurie to note that there’d been “no mention of the drinking. No mention of the ceaseless shouting…” at which point Clooney sauntered on, bringing the raucous crowd to its feet.
“Hugh, it is not lost on me that I m spending my honeymoon at Comic-Con,” Clooney deaadpanned, his appearance coming less than two weeks after getting married in Venice. Looking soigne as usual in all black, he played directly to an adoring audience: “It’s good to see you all. If you guys need to know anything about the plot just ask me,” he said, taking a beat before adding, “Everybody dies in the end.”
“Yes this is my first Comic-Con,” he admitted . “Since my Batman, I’d been disinvited from Comic-Con. I met Adam West back there, it was like, Hey, I’m really sorry..sorry about the nipples on the suit…” He called Tomorrowland “larger than most things I’ve been around” and said Bird “has a real vision for what he wanted to do. It was really fun to do.” H e added that he and Laurie — “two former television doctors” — got to get in trouble in the Bahamas.
The movie follows an inventor, played by Clooney, who teams with a teenage genius to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. The first-ever clips unveiled today showed co-star Robertson (Under The Dome) checking out of a police station, getting a mysterious pin, with Clooney’s voice-over: “What if there is a secret place where nothing is impossible, a miraculous place where you could actually change the world.” She’s suddenly in a wheat field and Clooney’s character appears, saying, “You wanna go?”
Clooney introduced a second, much longer clip that featured Robertson and him in the inventor’s ramshackle-looking-but-in-fact-technologically-beyond-Bond house, fighting off sundry bad guys and eventually escaping in a flying bathtub. You read that right.
Tomorrowland marks Bird’s second live-action film following 2011’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and it’s another theme-park adaptation that the Mouse House is grooming to be a blockbuster, named after the futuristic section of its Disneyland and Disney World parks and in homage to Disney’s memorable contribution to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. It opens May 22 next year ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
Said Lindelof of the movie’s genesis: “I was having lunch with (Disney studio boss) Sean Bailey talking about what a Disney movie should be. I said if there was a movie called Tomorrowland I would go to see that. ”
New York Comic-Con attendees, unlike those at Disney’s 2013 D23 fan confab in Anaheim, were entreated to more insight into Tomorrowland today. At D23 2013, where Clooney was as a no-show, Bird and Lindelof made a blase appearance onstage, essentially announcing the film’s start of production and digging through a box of old trinkets from Walt Disney’s archive that served as inspiration for the film.
Earlier onstage for Disney’s presentation this afternoon was a panel on Big Hero 6, the follow-up to Walk Disney Studios Animation’s Frozen and the first Disney animation pic to come from a Marvel property. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams and producer Roy Conli talked up the movie, which Hall called “a mashup of Eastern and Western culture, of Tokyo and San Francisco.”
Four clips were shown revealing among other things the streets of “San Fransokyo” via a chase scene and a cute bit about Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) and his robot Baymax (Scott Adsit) which needs a battery charge. A fifth clip was Baymax “live” interacting with the audience.
Related: Hot Trailer Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6′
New York Comic-Con runs through Sunday.