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A big score for 'Futurama' fans

Bender, drink to this: Buffs of the cartoon series get a sneak peek at the trailer for the first of four movies.

July 30, 2007|Andrew Hiltzik | Times Staff Writer

Things have been big here at the Comic-Con International in San Diego: sell-out crowds, Leonard Nimoy flashing the Vulcan salute, a standing ovation for an "Iron Man" panel -- and a hero's welcome for Matt Groening.

Even as moviegoers were delivering a No. 1 box office spot for the film version of "The Simpsons," the show's creator took the stage Saturday night on behalf of that series' long lost brother, "Futurama."

Groening was joined by several actors who voice the animated comedy -- including John Di Maggio (the voice of Bender), Billy West (Dr. Zoidberg and others) and Katey Sagal (Leela) -- as well as director Dwayne Carey-Hill.

But it was one of the producers, David X. Cohen, who began the panel at the three-day pop culture convention with an announcement that, it seemed from the response, was among the most exciting made this year at Comic-Con: "Futurama" is coming back.

Cohen showed an exclusive five-minute trailer of "Bender's Big Score!" the first of four "Futurama" treatments promised to come. It's hard to describe the energy that filled Ballroom 20 on Saturday night -- it was palpable, electric, overwhelming and, well, really loud.

On second thought, maybe it was Cohen who emerged the hero.

The panel spent most of its time answering fan questions, but the highlight was a live reading of the brief, complementary comic book that greeted each audience member on entry.

Next year will also see the move of the syndicated episodes from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim to Comedy Central, to be joined by the movies rehashed into half-hour episodes.

Expectations are high for the show that one fan audaciously described as "better in its four-season run than the whole run of 'The Simpsons.' "

Earlier in the day, Groening -- along with various producers, animators, directors and Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson -- took the stage in Hall H. Groening expressed a deep gratitude to the audience for the overwhelmingly positive response to the new movie (no "Worst Episode Ever" here) and showed a deleted scene in which a truck driver discovers that Homer, while hitching a ride, has eaten the entire load of sausages.

The panelists answered questions about their favorite characters (Groening's is Ralph Wiggum), discussed the future of the show and led the audience in a rousing sing-along of the "Spider Pig" theme song. Then, after hinting at plots and guest stars for the upcoming season, they played a raw, unfinished clip from this fall's Halloween episode.

A throwdown for 'Iron Man'

"Iron Man" panelists including director Jon Favreau and actors Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. viewed footage from the movie for the first time right along with the audience. The crowd loved the scenes and the panelists all looked stunned and happy, with Downey asking, "Couldn't there have been more of me?"

Among the Q&A highlights: Howard was asked how it felt being in a movie like this (a comic book adaptation). "What do you mean

a movie with a budget?" he responded.

Stan Lee was introduced as a surprise and threatened to sue cast members if they didn't say his words correctly (An audience member shouted, "Preach it, Stan! Preach it!" as he talked about the character.)

The trailer was shown again. And the love was still there. When the participants walked off the stage, they got a standing ovation.

Is that so?

Other highlights from around Comic-Con on Saturday:

• The Marvel presentation showed a 30-second CGI close-up of what they think the Hulk will look like for the new "The Incredible Hulk," starring Edward Norton and Liv Tyler.

• "Balls of Fury" star Dan Fogler and writer-director Ben Garant, spent much of their panel doing impersonations of the film's star, Christopher Walken, who couldn't attend the event.

Garant told the crowd that Walken pretended it was his birthday three times during production. He'd stop by Ralphs on his way to the set and pick up a birthday cake, then guilt different crew members into throwing him an impromptu party.

• Mark Johnson, producer of "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, made what sounded like an impossible promise during a panel devoted to the sequel, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."

"Every May, starting this May 2008," Disney will release new "Narnia" films based on the C.S. Lewis fantasy novels, Johnson said.

• Clive Barker is helping create a "Jericho" video game, a first-person shooter that also adds supernatural elements. You play the ghost of a character that is killed 20 minutes into the game. That character then possesses others around them, using their different attributes (like telekinesis and pyrokinesis) to take out the bad guys.

• Seth Rogen, on a panel for his summer movie "Superbad" spoke publicly for the first time about "The Green Hornet."

When asked how he had gotten involved in the movie, Rogen answered, "Well, I'm a writer and I gotta work."

He later added: "It's something that Evan [Goldberg] and I are big fans of

We wrote 'Pineapple Express' together

and we thought, 'What if we make an even bigger action movie? And what if I wear a mask?' Evan really wanted me to wear a mask because he is so sick of seeing my face."


Times staff writers Jevon Phillips and Sheigh Crabtree also contributed to this report. For more coverage, go to

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