I got in line for Ballroom 20 at 6:30am today. I was early enough to be twenty minutes late to the first panel, because Firefly fans are crazy. They camped out en masse for the Firefly 10-year reunion—the third panel of the day—and effectively throttled the line for fans of any other properties. For a show that was cancelled after one shortened season a decade ago, the Firefly crew—Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, writer Jose Molina and producer Tim Minear—sure does draw a crowd. Could it possibly live up to the Comic-Con hype? Hit the jump for the panel recap.
First of all, if you couldn’t make it to the panel (whether you are stuck in Texas or the line outside the door), don’t worry: the panel was filmed and will air as Browncoats Unite on the Science Channel on November 11.
Back to the panel. A roar went up when we saw the first Firefly footage of the ship floating through space. (This was eventually replaced by LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”, mostly to time a shirtless Fillion smirking at the camera with the line, “I work out.”) The audience stood to applaud the cast and crew as they were introduced. Whedon elicited the most noise, but I think Baldwin came in second (a surprise to me).
Here are the highlights in bullet points:
- Whedon on where Firefly stands in his filmography: “We had the best cast I’ll ever work with… we also had Alan.” Later, he calls them “the finest meat puppets I’ve ever controlled.”
- Fillion on what Mal Reynolds means to him: “No one would give me a chance to be the number five guy, the ex… [Whedon] gave me the best character I’ve ever played.”
- Whedon promised David Greenwalt he would never take Minear away from Angel. But Buffy writer Marti Noxon advised Whedon, “The only thing that can make Firefly work when you’re not around is Tim Minear.” So Whedon broke his promise.
- Maher on his experience with this genre fiction: “I never thought about the show as science-fiction… [I thought of it] as a post-apocalyptic western.”
- Tudyk noted how often actors and crew separate on set. But on the first day, Fillion came up with the game Who Can Learn The Most Names. That inspired everyone to mingle and bond.
- They showed the scene where Jayne gets his hat in the mail. Baldwin then stuck the hat (a replica) on his microphone, and was delighted when he found that the microphone still worked, so he could leave it on. Baldwin worked with the prop guys to design the hat, and overruled Minear on set when he made the decision to wear the hat throughout the episode.
- The person who could answer the trivia question, “On which planet did Tracey wished to be buried?” won the replica hat. Many failed. The original hat sold for $5000 that went to charity.
- If I understand correctly, Whedon went to the line last night and woke up the folks who camped out. I’m fuzzy on the details. Baldwin came down around 11:30pm: “I got a cupcake… spiked.” (Editor’s Note: Dave here. Met some folks at the Con who said Whedon came down around 2:30 in the morning and signed autographs and took pictures.)
- Glau on the key to her character: “Remembering myself at 17, which was, like, two years before… That’s pretty much it!”
- I was disappointed that the panel was only represented by one of the ladies from Firefly. Whedon noted the absence of Ginna Torres and Jewel Staite and said that it is “breaking his heart” that some of the key members of Firefly were missing.
- Whedon on the crushing triumph of Serenity: “I sometimes look back at Serenity as one of the finest nervous breakdowns a man can have… It changed the way I work and it changed the way I operate.”
- Minear panders to the audience: “Do you remember the time we were off the air for ten years, and thousands of people showed up anyways?” Roar of applause.
- Tudyk’s sister painted Whedon “protecting a firefly in a jar from some evil Fox executives” when the show was cancelled. It is still hanging in Whedon’s house. Whedon says, “This is the exact story of what happened.”
- A fan asks if they could see it as an animated series. No, but maybe a radio show? Fillion and Tudyk then launch into an impromptu Firefly radio hour.
- Whedon likes when people apologize that they did not watch the show until it was on DVD. His pithy response: “So you didn’t like the show until I got paid for it?”
- Fillion has come to terms with the cancellation: “The worst thing that could have happened is if it stayed dead. That it died is okay.”
- Firefly somehow had a smaller budget than both Buffy and Angel, even though the former was on the established Fox and the other two were on the now-defunct WB/UPN.
- If the show had stayed on longer, Whedon would have delved into the Blue Sun conspiracy and Book’s backstory.
The moderator closed by asking Whedon, “What do the fans mean to you?” Whedon had to pause to cry as the audience stood, applauded, and cheered him on. He finally answered, “When you come out of a great movie, you feel like you’re in that world… When you’re telling a story, you are trying to connect to people in a particular way… The way in which you guys have inhabited this world, this universe, has made you a part of it.” When he sees the fans, “There is no show.” It is reality.
I wish I could type fast enough to get the full quote to you. Trust me, it was beautiful.
[Update: Great news everyone! The video of the speech is now online. Watch it below.]
Catch up on all of our continuing Comic-Con coverage here.