Madison Gallup ’17/ Emertainment Monthly TV Section Editor
The Brigsby Bear movie panel did not really belong in Hall H. Such a quiet and low budget project seemed to gain the spot because of Mark Hamill‘s attachment, and he wasn’t even able to make a physical appearance. Still, despite the awkward feeling of being in a room full of people wondering why this film and panel was scheduled in such a giant space just before Teen Wolf took the stage, the opening twelve minutes of the film looked beautiful, unique, and set up a story which is certainly aimed at the very people attending Comic-Con. That is to say, the story follows a passionate fan who defines his personality and livelihood by the media he loves.
The moderator, EW’s Anthony Breznican, introduced the opening clip by claiming, “you will not find a weirder movie than this one, or one that has a bigger heart.” The panel made it clear that their reason for only showing the opening of the film was because there are twists that should be preserved for sitting down and watching the piece all the way through. For this reason, the conversation about the movie itself had to be very filtered.
What we learn over the span of the opening clip is that Kyle Mooney‘s character, James Pope, lives in a secluded bunker of sorts with his parents. They are surrounded by mechanical animals and completely sealed off from the outside air. When James does step outside, he wears a mask to breathe, it seems as though his parents may have brainwashed him to believe in a dangerous outside world. The clip begins with James carefully analyzing an episode of his favorite show, Brigsby Bear. Tapes of the show completely surround him on every wall of his bedroom as James records himself telling his theoretical audience of fellow Brigsby Bear enthusiasts about his latest theories. Later, at dinner, his parents (Mark Hamill and Jane Adams) express concern for how much time their son is devoting to Brigsby Bear. Though they state that they mostly want James to make more time for his chores, their chief concern really revolves around the way James sees the show as a way to connect with the outside world.
The opening clip itself was met with enthusiasm, but when the panel got started it became evident that, despite several hilarious and relatively well-known comedians being present, this was not the right venue to discuss such a small project. Without Mark Hamill there, Kyle Mooney was the best-known member of the panel. Beck Bennet, a fellow SNL castmate, was in attendance as well. Unfortunately, he had to remain quiet in an attempt to maintain the big twist of the movie; his character, Detective Bander, comes into play when James ventures outside of his home.
When asked about the inspiration for his film, Mooney spoke about being an “obsessive person” who was particularly drawn to 80s and 90s programming, “especially Saved by the Bell.” Kevin Costello, co-writer of the film alongside Mooney, touched on his own journey to find the heart of Brigsby Bear: “Pop culture was the only way that I really knew how to talk to people… to feel safe and have my own little world.”
When asked the big question on everyone’s mind, “how did you bring Mark Hamill into this project,” the panel agreed that the script was a major draw. It stood largely on its own to prove the film’s worth. Later, in his video message, Hamill confirmed that this was indeed the case: “It was the most original script I’ve read in my career.”
After all of this, it was time to bring out none other than Brigsby Bear himself. This costumed person had facial features which moved mechanically, controlled by remote. The panel delighted in demonstrating how the animatronics worked, detailing the way they drew from Chuck E Cheese and other mascots like him. Still, there was a feeling in the room like everyone was waiting for Hamill or Andy Samberg (the only member missing of the Lonely Island trio) to pop off the bear head and say hello. Perhaps this would have given the panel the extra buzz it needed to stay relevant through so many huge announcements and trailer drops.
Brigsby Bear may not have left an incredible impression overall, and it certainly felt like an oversight in programming to have the panel play to a giant echoing room filled with teenage werewolf enthusiasts. Still, it’s understandable why a film which is centered around and celebrates the way fandom can impact a person’s life would be featured prominently at SDCC. With the promise of a gripping and original story and some phenomenal talent performing in and producing the project, Brigsby Bear is a film to support and look out for.