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Charlie Chaplin at Comic-Con

One expects to see Star Wars figures, Doctor Who, and the characters from Game of Thrones at the San Diego Comic-con…but I didn’t think I’d encounter Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Yet there he was, in a new rendering at Diamond International Galleries. It just shows you the vast reach of this pop-culture convention, which began as a gathering of comic-book fans and has grown exponentially in recent years. Nowadays it’s a valued launch pad for movies and TV shows, but I like to spend my time wandering the dealer’s floor checking out collectibles and people-watching.

Charlie-Chaplin-335I also participated in four panel discussions this year, two of which I hosted. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment unveiled DreamWorks Animation’s new five-minute Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, which will accompany the feature-length Mr. Peabody and Sherman when it comes to DVD and Blu-ray this October. Although it’s animated in CG and moves at a fast pace, it’s a wonderfully funny reincarnation of these beloved characters. It was fun to talk to the short’s director, Gary Trousdale (a DreamWorks and Disney veteran best known for Beauty and the Beast), and Tiffany Ward, the daughter of my hero, producer Jay Ward. (I wrote a fan letter to him when I was 12 years old and received a personal response on embossed Bullwinkle stationery. He was incredibly kind to me.) Tiffany remembers being taken to recording sessions for Rocky and his Friends and The Bullwinkle Show: what a lucky kid!

Triumph-the-Insult-Dog-300Comedy writer-performer Robert Smigel asked me to host a panel previewing his Triumph TV series that will debut next year on Adult Swim. In it, his foul-mouthed puppet Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog, will be partnered with the very funny Jack McBrayer. We had a packed house of fans who were very responsive…even when Triumph made fun of the write-ups in my Movie Guide.

I was happy to participate in Mark Evanier’s 101st birthday tribute to the great Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo, featuring Walt’s daughter Carolyn, Simpsons director David Silverman, cartoonist Jeff Smith (Bone), comics guru Maggie Thompson, and animator-artist Willie Ito. We had a great time talking about Kelly’s career and his influence on a generation of cartoonists and satirists.

Leonard-Sta-PufFinally, I joined a cadre of critics for Rotten Tomatoes’ annual outing, Your Opinion Sucks. This is a lively, somewhat rowdy get-together where participants get to challenge professional reviewers about some of their favorite films. I’m happy to report that nobody got hurt.

My most tangible souvenir of this year’s convention: a gigantic vinyl figure of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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