COMIC-CON 2009 – My Top Picks for Families

Comic-Con 2009 is poised to be bigger and better than ever, and this year some of the activities normally confined to the San Diego Convention Center's cavernous halls will be spilling out to other venues offering everyone a chance to be part of this exciting five-day pop-culture extravaganza. Forty years ago, what started as a small comic book convention has joined forces with the mighty LA studios to become a nation-wide hub for everything related to entertainment, a kind of college fair, but in a grand scale: movies, TV and cable channel shows, video games, comic book artists and creators of all skills and genres will converge in our fine city next week. 

Hollywood will be descending on our sleepy beach town in full force for four days, July 23 – 26, and has lined-up a host of exciting panels, previews, giveaways, and promotional celebrity appearances to try to get your attention for upcoming productions. Among the heavy weights returning to “The Con” this year are: Paramount's' Iron Man II, Summit's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, ABC's Lost, The Big Bang Theory, Nickelodeon and Disney.

Downtown clubs, hotel rooftops, movie screens, and bars will be hosting events for a variety of age ranges and interests; some gatherings are invitation only while others are open to the public. The complete events program has been published on-line at, and it's the best way to learn about all the happenings taking place in and around our bustling business district.

To help families with kids from elementary through high school ages, I've narrowed down some of the most popular activities at this year's Comic-Con for you to enjoy with your brood. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, only suggested activities to get you started once you've crossed into the Grand Hall and are greeted by the costumed humanity estimated to be in the 125,000 range this year.

Here's my suggested game plan:

Wednesday, July 22nd

Preview Night 6 – 9pm. This evening is only open to 4-day badge holders and press. Attendees will watch full pilot previews of “Human Target”, “V” and “Vampire Diaries”. A special  Madam Tussuad's “Wolverine” wax figure, as portrayed by Hugh Jackman, will be unveiled at this event. Fans will have a chance to see the wax statue during the regular convention.

Thursday, July 23rd

11am – Disney will be breaking ground with a first-ever 3D panel and 3D footage, including directors Robert Zemeckis and Tim Burton, showcasing upcoming 3D movies: Alice in Wonderland, Disney's A Christmas Carol, The Princess and the Frog, Ponyo and Toy Story. Hall H.

1:45pm – The return of Summit and the Twilight Saga: New Moon has created the most buzz around town. The loyal teen following the cast has garnered promises to make this a well attended panel. (“I want to start lining-up today”, said my 14 year-old) If standing in line is not your thing, then you can attend the non-badge event that evening, The Twilight Experience, held at the Pacific Gaslamp Theater where for $10 you can purchase a ticket for an encore one-time simultaneous 15-screen showing of Twilight, with surprise cast members visiting each theater!

4:30pm – For the gamer in the family head on over to the Halo Franchise booth where Frank O'Connor will be discussing the future of this very successful video game and related merchandise.

Friday, July, 24th Star Wars Day

10am – Warner Brothers will present several upcoming movies: “Sherlock Holmes”, “Where The Wild Things Are” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.  Hall H.

1pm – With Jim Parsons's recent Emmy nomination for The Big Bang Theory, this cast will be a popular panel. Ballroom 20.

1:15pm – Warner Brothers and Entertainment Weekly (EW) “will invade Comic-Con” with the first of three celebrity-packed panels and a photo and digital studio. “Wonder Women: Female Power Icons in Pop Culture” include Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V) and Zoe Zaldana (Avatar, Star Trek) discussing how women and their film characters have changed the rules and opened the path for all women.

3pm – 20th Century Fox and James Cameron present Avatar footage in 3D. Hall H

3:45pm – Sony Studios will present Legion and District 9 in Hall H.

6:15pm – Panelist will take part in a round-up of TV Guide Magazine's selection of TV shows. Ballroom 20.

Saturday, July 25th

10:30am – Are you ready kids? Nickelodeon will have their signature bright orange booth and panel discussions featuring voice talent, like Bill Fagerbakke the voice of Patrick, and show-writer Steven Banks, for the kid-favorite cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants. Room 6DE

11:15am – For the older teen set, swing by Cartoon Network's Family Guy area where Seth McFarlane and the crew will be doing live readings.

3:30pm – EW will host “The Lost” panel, consisting of senior Entertainment Weekly writers and  “Lost” experts, Jefferey “Doc” Jensen and Dan Snierson, who will provide fans with insight and theories about the ABC show's final season.

4pm – Head back to Hall H for Paramount's Iron Man II panel discussion. The sequel to the highly-successful Iron Man, which re-launched Robert Downey Jr. to fame, has Scarlett Johansen joining the cast.

6:30pm – EW presents James Cameron (Avatar) and Peter Jackson (producer of District 9) heading a panel discussion on the film industry's future, and the influence technology might have on how stories are told on-screen.

Sunday, July 26 Kids Day

Many kid-friendly activities will be held throughout the day; from learning to draw Star Wars characters and spaceships, making computer-based comic books, to watching an exclusive, never-before-seen SpongeBob episode, there's sure to be something for the little ones in your family.

10am – Disney's Phineas and Ferb creators' panel will offer behind the scenes information. 6DE

10am-5pm Children's Film Festival will feature over 60 films from all over the world. Room 10

11:15am  – Nickelodeon presents The Penguins of Madagascar screening. 6DE

12:30pm  – Scooby-Doo returns to television in Cartoon Network's Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins. Voice-cast, including the original voice of Scooby-Doo, will be part of the panel. 6DE

1pm – The Ghost Whisperer's Jeniffer Love Hewitt, and members of the show's cast will conduct a panel about this popular TV show. 6BCF

2pm – Twin, 14-year-old award-winning writers Brittany and Brianna Winner will discuss their successful “The Strand Prophecy” books, and talk with fans about making their dreams come true. Room 4

Again, this is a paired down sample of the mammoth pop art convention's schedule of events about to overtake downtown San Diego this week.

Hope to see you there!

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