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WonderCon 2017 Highlights

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After taking a detour to Los Angeles in 2016, WonderCon returned to Anaheim. Having a root in San Francisco, WonderCon moved to Anaheim in 2012 and has had its annual convention there since.

I was there only on Saturday starting mid-day and didn’t even have the time to go to any press events.  I still enjoyed the day, even with the lack of movie and TV panels. Below are some of the highlights:

“Scoring The Future: Writing Music for Sci-Fi”

In attendance: composers Greg Edmonson (“Firefly”), Andrew Lockington (“The Space Between Us”), Heather McIntosh (“Z for Zachariah”), Tree Adams (“The 100”), Michael Kramer (“LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures”)

How do you score for something that doesn’t yet exist?  That is the dilemma of composers of sci-fi movies and TV shows.  Composers utilize different types of methods; be it orchestra, traditional melody, acoustic, ethnic instruments, or a mishmash of ordinary objects to create a new sound or the right pitch.  Read the script, look at the graphic artist’s sketches, notice objects used in the show.  You can get a vibe from all of these.  Space offers inspiration too, the vastness of it makes you think of who you are and how you fit in the universe.  You want to push boundaries, and at the same time, connect with people.  The music doesn’t have to be authentic to the region, but just have enough exoticness that would evoke a sense of wonderment.

Inside the Writers Room

In attendance: Gabrielle Stanton (“Time After Time,” “The Flash”), Michael Narducci (“The Originals,” “Medium”), Sarah Watson (“The Bold Type,” “Parenthood”), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (“The Middleman,” “Lost”), Ashley E. Miller (“Black Sails,” “Fringe”), Steve Melching (“Star Wars Rebels,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”), Jose Molina (“Agent Carter,” “The Tick”), and Mark A. Altman (“The Librarians,” “Agent X”)

The panel discussed what it takes to be a good screenwriter and how they select aspiring writers from the pack. Good writers read, so pick up something that interests you and read.  You would have to be a team player and be able to collaborate, able to manage people even though you may be an introvert.  Great samples could get you into the interview, but you would also need to work on your pitching skills as well and be confident.  One revealing question a panel member likes to ask interviewees is to ask them to speak about what they are passionate about.  Addressing a question from the audience about how to balance twists with the narrative is to write characters that people care about.  By doing so, the audience would have empathy for them.  Another tip is to write something that you’re scared about.

Animated Shorts

l7 animated shorts from film festivals around the world were shown, all varied, creative, bold, adorable, wacky and weird.  The segment included the Oscar-winning short “Piper” from Pixar (baby bird learning to conquer its fear of water) and Google’s 360 degree virtual reality “Pearl” (father-daughter cross-country trip to chase their dreams).  You can view them both on YouTube.

“Annabelle: Creation” (August 11, 2017)

In attendance: director David Sandberg

Director David Sandberg brought a terrifying footage and first trailer of the origin story of Annabelle.  After their daughter’s grisly death, a couple opens up their home to orphaned girls.  The girls are told they are not allowed into one room in the house, which looks to be their deceased daughter’s room, still furnished as if she were alive.  Inevitably, one of the girls goes in.  She finds a mysterious key in a doll house inside the room and uses the key to unlock a hidden door on the wall. Inside is the possessed doll, which will haunt the house occupants.  Covering her up with a sheet and locking her up won’t make her stay in her place!  Then there’s the trailer, which is now released and available here.

Sandberg enjoyed the audience’s reaction, a mix of horror and laughter.  He’s a fan of James Wan, whom he described as a “modern master of horror.”  “Annabelle: Creation” gave him a chance to direct an old school horror movie, which shows in the camerawork and temp score. One of his challenges in making the movie was the creation of the doll itself and some things didn’t work out.  Down the line, Sandberg would like to have a bigger budget for horror movies, as it’s often viewed as a lesser genre.

“Wonder Woman” (June 2, 2017)

In attendance: executive producer Geoff Johns, director Patty Jenkins

Not much is new as far as trailers go.  The fighting prowess of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in the battlefield is displayed through a trailer that has been previously released.  But there was a brief, new clip, expanding the alley scene in the trailer where the plain-clothed Diana and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) are cornered and attacked.  The scene has a fun undertone; Diana shows off her nimble reflexes to throw off the attackers and their bullets to protect Steve.  The golden lasso and sword make an appearance.

Executive producer Geoff Johns and director Patty Jenkins went in-depth to discuss the essence of Wonder Woman.  Heart, human and heroic. Telling a story about the origin of a superhero connects a child, a person with these kinds of characters who end up getting the opportunity to make a difference in the world.  It also explores a person’s hopes and dreams, to be a better person, to be more powerful in the world, and make a great choice when given the chance.

The story will portray conflict among Amazonians. One side wants to protect her from the world and the other believes you can never protect someone from the truth.  Diana wants to be a hero. She believes in truth, justice, kindness, love and compassion.  She has a strong moral compass, her belief of what mankind can be, and she is willing to use force if necessary to keep humans safe.  That is her mission.  And this desire comes from a place within; she’s not chosen or put in a situation that requires her to do so.

This is really Diana’s journey.  The movie seeks to show her training to become a fighter because of the values that come with it; honor, respect, and restraint.  The action scenes are described as natural, organic to the story.  Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful superheroes not only because she has superpowers, but also because she’s a trained fighter.

The origin story is also a grand love story between Diana and Steve, which has a “Casablanca” feel.  Steve is modeled after Indiana Jones–super tough, world-weary, but self-deprecating with a sense humor.  He serves as a comic relief, yet conveys the depth of a man.  Jenkins praised Pine as skilled and his portrayal of the character nuanced.  The panel also praised the dynamic between Diana and Steve, the stunning performances Gadot and Pine delivered, both dramatic and comedic.

The size of the exhibit halls must have at least doubled.  While lacking in movie or TV props, it’s jammed with comics and related merchandises, such as arts and illustrations, toys, games, and costumes.  Celebrating Wonder Woman coming to the big screen, DC managed to spring a space to showcase the costume and had the movie director sign autographs.  Freebies distributed to lucky fans include posters, buttons, T-shirts, lip glosses and lip balms

A standout goes to Comic-Con HQ, where it offered geeks an interactive experience, ‘Discover Your Superhero Secret Identity.’  After picking a cartoon superhero from the available selections, you would stand in front of a green screen and move a piece of green cardboard in front of your body up and down.  An animated image would be generated, and parts of your body covered with a cardboard would appear as the cartoon version of the superhero you selected.  Participants received their picture souvenir in an e-mail.

What’s great about Anaheim’s convention center is it has plenty of space for the crowd to gather in front of the entrances.  The main entranceway was packed with fans and cosplayers, and the street lined up with food trucks.

It’s wonderful WonderCon returns to Anaheim, especially for San Diegans who are shut out of Comic-Con every year or those who want a more leisurely pop culture experience.  Speaking of Comic-Con, April 8 is your rare chance to gain that elusive access.  Badges will be on sale for the public at 9:00 a.m.

While WonderCon is growing in popularity, it’s still easy for anyone to get in.  Simply purchase a ticket online normally like you would any other show.  No lottery system, no waiting room, no counting down to the minutes.  I will be back next year!


Copyright (c) 2017.  Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic (rottentomatoes.com/critic/nathalia-aryani). She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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