/ Saturday, October 29th, 2011

by Yaelle Sajkowicz

Disney and Comic Con?  Noticing the distinct lack of Mickey Mouse comics on the shelves, some of you might wonder what is the connection between Disney and New York’s premiere genre geek fest. What would you think of an exclusive sneak peek at the first 45 minutes of Pixar’s Up hosted by Pete Doctor a full 3 months before it opened in theaters?  Or a look at the origin and development of Epic Mickey with game designer Warren Spector?  Does that give New York Comic Con enough Disney cred?  Also remember that Marvel’s comic book heroes and villains are full fledged cast members. Now Disney and Comic Con sound inseparable.

NYCC 2011 was held in New York at the Jacob Javits Center over the October 13th-16th weekend and I was lucky enough to attend so I want to share this on-scene report with you about Disney’s presence at the show.

Disney Publishing had a booth in the book publisher area that featured their latest content, from the popular Kingdom Keepers to The Art of Epic Mickey, several entries in the Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series and much much more.  Freebies included lanyards, pens and uncorrected advance proof copies of Cinda Williams Chima’s book The Demon King. (the first book in the Seven Realms series).

At the booth, they hosted a book signing with Joey Chou, the illustrator of “It’s A Small World”, a wonderful new children’s picture book that celebrates the ride by combining Richard and Robert Sherman’s lyrics with new drawings.  And yes, a CD with the song is included with the book (so the read-a-long can be a sing-a-long too).

On Kids Day, the Sunday in which Comic Con admits children 12 and under for free, Disney Publishing also hosted a panel discussion introducing their new Marvel Origins storybook collection, a series of hardcover books geared toward younger readers and parents seeking to read aloud to their children.  The “An Origin Story” series includes Amazing Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, The Courageous Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and The Invincible Iron Man and should deliver the goods to geek dads and moms looking for quality comic book bonding time with their kids.  The creative and business minds behind the series discussed their approaches to staying true to the origin stories while also making the action suitable to the young, impressionable target audience.  A few lucky kids who came to the panel in costume won copies of the books at random as they were spotted in the audience by the panelists.

If I can borrow a phrase from Walt Disney, NYCC’s weenie was the massive Avengers booth that drew in the most boisterous crowds throughout the day, with throngs of Con-goers vying to snag Avengers swag emblazoned with the team’s logo and the release date of the movie (May 4th, 2012, and don’t you forget it!). And, without a doubt, the all-star Avengers panel/Q&A was the single most popular event of the weekend, packing the IGN Theater to capacity.  Featuring Chris Evans (Captain America), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) and producer Kevin Feige, the panel provided a sneak peek at what will certainly be next year’s biggest blockbuster.  Perhaps the biggest revelation turned out to be the fact that the overwhelming fan favorite from the Avengers was a villain and not a hero (sorry Chris Evans).  During the Q&A, the evil Loki played by apparent heartthrob Tom Hiddleston had a virtual monopoly on questions from adoring fans, much to the chagrin of moderator Chris Hardwick who eventually found himself asking “Does anyone have a question for anyone other than Loki?”.   For the panel, Marvel screened the trailer plus a powerful clip, exclusive to Comic Con, featuring an intense confrontation between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), as she recruits him for duty with SHIELD.  Based on this very cool footage, it seems to me that the Avengers with not only deliver on all the hype that surrounds it, it will Hulk-smash it into oblivion.

Disney was also in the house, in a sense, with the a formidable presence of Star Wars, with multiple booths taking over a major corner of the convention representing video games, books, the Celebration gathering and apparel.  Star Wars Weekends host / Clone Wars star / former Disney cast member Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano) was manning the booth for Her Universe, her own line of sci-fi gear for geek girls.  Eckstein was a major draw for SW fans thanks to her genuine friendliness, accessibility and charm.  The fact that she has an awesome line of ladies-cut shirts, jackets and jewelry for sale might have also had a little something to do with attracting interest (current favorite of mine: the Yoda shirt).  Ashley told me that, thanks to the success of her Star Wars themed apparel that was available during Star Wars Weekends, starting in early 2012, Disney will sell some of her most popular items at WDW locations year round.  Want to hear more from Ashley herself? Check out her interview with Lou in WDW Radio Show #172.

While it’s no D23 Expo, New York Comic Con holds its own admirably when it comes to serving up a much needed dose of Disney magic for north easterners who need some to hold them over until the next visit to Orlando.

Based in Westchester, New York, Yaelle rediscovered her love for Walt Disney World in 2006 when she took her husband there for his very first visit. That trip was a big success, thanks to her extensive research and planning, and she found herself forever enchanted by the Happiest Place on Earth.  Although she can’t visit as often as she would like, she makes each vacation a magical and memorable experience.  Yaelle covers New York-based Disney events for WDW Radio.