‘City of Ember’ train heads to con

As the annual San Diego fanboy convention known as Comic-Con continues to expand in scope, it’s only fitting that this year’s festivities kicked off 130 miles to the north in Los Angeles.

Walden Media took advantage of the two-plus hour commute from Hollywood to San Diego by launching a media blitz for “The City of Ember” aboard an old-fashioned train car that introduced passengers to the fall film.

Train ride, which featured props and costumes from the movie, served as an unconventional press junket for the captive audience of 23 key entertainment reporters and bloggers. Director Gil Kenan climbed aboard to unveil extended footage of the film, which is based on the Jeanne DuPrau fantasy novel of the same name.

“The goal with something like this (event) is to create special awareness for the film. It needs to be nurtured,” said Kenan, who admitted he was nervous about how his film clips would play amid the jostling of the train. “In an enormous hall with people dressed up like Klingons, (a film like this) can sort of fall on the floor.”

Producer Gary Goetzman (“Mamma Mia!”) also made the coastal rail trek, marking his first Comic-Con outing.

“My films don’t usually appeal to this audience,” said Goetzman, who produced such nonfanboy fare as “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” “But this a great opportunity to spread the word on ‘City of Ember,’ which should appeal to this demographic.”

Walden’s goal was to provide passengers with a full immersion into the elaborate world of Ember, something that Fox-Walden marketing prexy Jeffrey Godsick said is not possible via the traditional Comic-Con panels held by the studios. Media members received ample one-on-one time with Kenan, Goetzman production designer Martin Laing (also at Comic-Con for a “Terminator” sequel panel) and screenwriter Caroline Thompson.

As the ’40s-era train pulled into Sante Fe Depot in downtown San Diego, it became clear that Comic-Con has officially grown beyond the borders of this city.

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