It almost seems that the San Diego Comic-Con becomes the center of the entertainment Universe for a few days. Maybe it does. We were there presenting a panel, meeting fellow fans, conducting trivia, grooming sources, hanging out and watching the celebration of popular arts. Despite pen stabbings, incredible (or impossible) lines and vexing shuttle buses, it remains an incredible experience.

TORn was among the very first panels to kick the week off and it helped produce a torrent of film industry folks and fans who wanted to touch base on ‘The Hobbit’ films.

So here is a rundown from the TORn perspective of what went on.

Guillermo del Toro is going to scare us. He is doing a remake of an important film from his childhood: “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” And he is producing and perhaps directing Disney’s Haunted Mansion. He also thinks Peter Jackson should direct ‘The Hobbit’.
Oh and in a non-press conversation he, without being asked, explained that there weren’t working conflicts on ‘The Hobbit’ that forced him to leave. It was just that he had to get on with his directing life including a lot of contractual obligations. (He is even more down-to-earth and friendly and intelligent than you hope he is).

Liv Tyler
is back to geek and independent roots with the film “Super” where she appears with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page and Nathan Fillion and director James Gunn. As luck would have it, the panel is on YouTube but, it comes with an adult word warning. She is as sweet and beautiful (and sensitive) as ever. The film looks pretty great and unlike everything else, it didn’t feel studio pushed. (If you watch the video, I tried bacon flavored sunflower seeds at Comic-Con btw.)

We have reported on our own panel enough, but there are a couple of interesting points to make:

    * The 400+ seats were filled to absolute capacity including taking chairs from the presenter’s table for the audience. Hobbit hunger remains ravenous despite frustrations
    * The audience included studio executives
    Mourning for the loss of Guillermo del Toro is ongoing
    * In an informal public opinion poll, fans rejected 3D unanimously
    *Michael Pellerin‘s revelation/explanation about yet-unreleased material for LOTR extras tickled the audience’s imaginations. To Warner’s home entertainment: We want it now!

Comic-Con notebook:
* After our panel we heard from studio folks and others in the entertainment industry and they all tried to convince us or were generally optimistic about ‘The Hobbit’ eventually happening.

* Two different sources said the September 14 MGM deadline would not be another extension.

* We spoke with Richard Taylor about many things for a few minutes. He is a great interview. It is a shocker, an absolute stunner, that Comic-Con doesn’t have him in Hall H showing a Weta showcase reel and speaking about design on films like “Avatar,” “King Kong,” “District 9,” and uh, well, “Lord of the Rings,” to name just a few along with make-up demonstrations on audience members and . TORn volunteers to moderate such a panel and would settle for Ballroom 20!

* “The Hobbit” scrips? Remember them? They are said to be exemplary and from more than one source.

* One year ago Peter Jackson screened, for the geek press (including TORn) “District 9” by director Neil Blomkamp. One year later it is a beloved part science fiction film and popular culture. Lets hope Weta and Blomkamp get to return to South Africa. Designer Greg Broadmore signed a lot of books at the Weta booth.

* Del Toro has another project to announce in about a week, perhaps 10 days. Stay tuned.

* Jackson was gone from the U.S., (after spending time in Los Angeles about a week ago doing casting stuff for ‘The Hobbit) reportedly eating curry with Brad Pitt. The TORn Indian food correspondent in New Zealand, who eats at the place named in news articles about once a week, found it highly unlikely that the mega-star was eating in a place that is about equal to an U.S. strip mall eatery.

*Thursday also saw the launch of the TORn Digital Scavenger Hunt. Participants were asked to capture digital images, the first to accomplish it getting a prize package from Weta and The search included the following:
* Convention-goer dressed as a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit character.
* Historical figure costume
* Any costume crossed with a zombie
* Two superhero tats
* There is a booth with Dirk Benedict appearing often, a photo of superhero from there
* Altered stormtrooper costume, NOT ELVIS
* Comic-Con bag worn as clothing
* 20 sided dice
* Booth selling The One Ring (replicas obviously and not Weta booth)
* Person with shirt who is not TORn staff
* Sign or shirt about Twilight not promoting Twilight
* LOTR or Hobbit item for sale
* Any combination of three protest or hug signs
* Line for a panel 20 people or longer
* 4 photos of non-human teeth
* Brains
* Female with a gun
* 1970 coin
* Homemade lunch
* Non-California team jersey
* A boat

It took about six hours, but a wonderful fan from Canada with her mom’s support, completed the competition and took home a bundle of prizes. It was FUN! Perhaps we will do a similar contest at DragonCon?

* TORn sold three styles of shirts at CCon: A Sauron shirt designed by Weta’s Daniel Falconer, a red “Talk nerdy to me” shirt and a women’s black babydoll “I kissed a geek and I liked it,” shirt. After many requests, we may offer them online for a short time.