DreamWorks’ 3D Previews of Panda , Monsters vs. Aliens

After talking a bit about how digital 3D is the most exciting development in film since the advent of color with no less than ten 3D films being released in 2009, he prefaced the clip from Kung Fu Panda with a disclaimer that the movie will not be in 3D when it arrives in theaters in June, even though it will be shown in IMAX. Rather, they decided to use the movie as a test for the new 3D authoring process that they’ll be using on all DreamWorks Animations’ upcoming projects. They actually went back to the script and animated the scene completely in the process rather than converting it after the fact.

The clip that was shown introduced Tai Lung, the tiger antagonist of the film voiced by Ian McShane (though there was no dialogue in the clip), as he escaped from his imprisonment, chained to the floor of a deep pit with a heavy turtle-like armor holding him down. As the scene opened, that armor starts to crack and explodes off of him. High above at the edge of the pit, a rhino guard and a duck (not sure who that’s supposed to be) see that he’s escaping and the guard orders them to fire the crossbow, so a number of giant bolts fire down the pit, one of them severing one of the chains that had him held down.

What followed was an impressive action sequence in which Tai Lung uses all his resources to escape from what seems like an impossible situation, throwing the crossbow bolts back at his captors and against the wall of the pit in order to gracefully climb up them by jumping from one to another, as the guard tells the archers to fire and literally thousands of arrows fly down the pit–think those famous scenes from Hero, 300 or Braveheart–but Tai Lung ducks under the stone platform on which he was chained, then grabs the chains and uses them to swing to the top of the pit where he starts taking on all of the rhino guards in an impressive martial arts sequence in which he clears the bridge of rhinos, at one point by throwing one of them like a bowling ball to knock the rest of them down, hitting another one with a giant mallet. The scene ends with the bridge cleared of rhinos but at the end of the bridge, there’s an entire phalanx of guards waiting to stop Tai Lung from passing and the clip ends with the duck we saw earlier gulping. Looks like there’ll definitely be a lot of martial arts action for anyone who loves that kind of stuff.

Katzenberg talked briefly about the plot for their March 27, 2009 animated film Monsters vs. Aliens and introduced the primary monster characters, all of which were influenced by classic monsters of the ’50s. There’s B.O.B. the Blob, voiced by Seth Rogen, The Missing Link (loosely based on the Creature of the Black Lagoon) is voiced by Will Arnett, Dr. Cockroach is a character voiced by Hugh Laurie who accidentally switched heads with a cockroach during an experiment gone wrong, and Reese Witherspoon is voicing Ginormica, who isn’t exactly a 50-foot-woman, but she is 49 feet and 11″. Insectosaur is a 350-foot high bug that’s a “big baby” and Katzenberg joked that the animators wanted him to voice it, but he wasn’t sure why. The monsters had been captured and locked up in Area 52 by General W.D. Monger, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, but when aliens attack the earth, the President, voiced by Steven Colbert—yes, he actually does become president by the time of this movie—calls for the monsters to be released to save the earth. Katzenberg mentioned that the sequence that they’d show didn’t include any of the monsters or aliens, but it did show the scene of the alien probe arriving on earth to begin the attack, as well as showing Colbert’s President making contact.

The extended clip opened with a shot of the probe, a giant silo-like tower with a large eye at the top and antennas atop that look like strands of hair. The camera pulls back to show tanks and the military rallying around the landing site with a news reporter announcing that a UFO has landed in America (where apparently all aliens land). The military is all set to attack but they’re holding until the President arrives on the scene to make first contact with the aliens. We get our first look at Colbert’s President (who looks a bit like Jeff Goldblum with big hair) and he tells everyone to stand down while he approaches. There’s a long staircase up the side of the alien probe and he starts walking up them slowly, grabbing a cup of water along the way. At the top of the stairs, there’s a platform with a keyboard (a now antiquated Yamaha DX7 in fact) and he starts playing the familiar alien melody from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, getting the last note wrong, and he then gives a typical Star Trek Vulcan hand sign, but when that doesn’t work, he starts playing “Axel F” the famous theme from Beverly Hills Cop and starts jammin’ and groovin’ to the tune, really getting into it.

Finally, a mechanical arm comes out of the left side of the probe with a hand that looks like it’s ready to shake with the President, so he reaches out to shake the hand but he can’t reach it, so he just touches the hand with a finger, which then changes shape, raises up and slams down on the platform where the President was standing. Then another mechanical arm comes out of the other side with a giant crane-like claw and another one, each one extending out and grabbing the sides of the landing area. As it starts pushing itself out of the ground, the staircase crumbles and the President frantically runs down the stairs, as they fall apart dramatically behind him and when he’s back down on the ground from where he started, he shouts out, “Do something violent!” Tanks start firing at the probe, which has now sprouted giant legs from its body and has started to walk away. The tanks have little effect so the jet planes start attacking, firing rockets at the probe, one of them labeled with the greeting “E.T. Go Home” on the side. Those don’t seem to be having much of an effect either, so the general calls for a full retreat, but in a last ditch effort, the President pulls out a sidearm and shouts “Eat Lead!” and fires at the probe to no avail, to which he muses, “I guess you like eating lead.” He then runs into the helicopter screaming, “I’m a brave President!” and the clip ended.

Both clips were received very well by the exhibitors present and few of them decided to stick around for the speeches and awards that followed, as the theater began to clear out. What’s interesting about both movies is that they clearly are more than just kid stuff since teens and older males will probably enjoy the respective martial arts and sci-fi action aspects of the two movies.

Kung Fu Panda opens on June 6 and Monsters vs. Aliens is scheduled to open on March 27.