By Marc Bernardin
Updated July 24, 2009 at 04:51 AM EDT

“The Imaginarium is the place you go to find out if you’ve got an imagination.”

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus looks like everything you’d ever hoped aTerry Gilliam film would—only better, aided by CG and fed by Gilliam’sunhinged creativity.

Gilliam spoke eloquently and emotionally aboutHeath Ledger’s involvement in Parnassus. The actor died midway through production on the film; his role was completed by Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp (who caused mayhem with his appearance at Comic-Con’s Alice in Wonderland panel.) Gilliam then showed a clip of a maskedLedger introducing a gaggle of women to the wonders of the Imaginarium.And he’s great, and supple. “Heath would’ve been the greatest actor of his generation,” Gilliam said.

The next clip was inside the Imaginarium itself — acautionary tale of a drunken lout who encounters a feisty lass and awonderfully hallucinatory nightmare.

It was a nice little panel. Not full of bombast, noroverly stocked with studio-approved platitudes. Gilliam’s an honesttalker. On what he’d have done with the Potter films, for which Gilliamhad been JK Rowling’s first choice, he said, “I’d have done somethingcloser to [Alfonso] Cuaron’s film [Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban].” As for what’s next, Gilliam says he’d like to try once again to bring his formerly doomed Don Quixote adaptation to the screen. “We’ve finally got the rights back… Perhaps those many years have been good for it. NowI’m on the hunt for actors and money.”

First things first, though: He’s still on the hunt for a U.S. distributor for Parnassus. Any buzz the movie gets out of Comic-Con is certain to up the bidding.

One bum note during the panel: As a fan asked Gilliam what it was like to work with Ledger, an audience member shouted out, “There’s no crying at Comic-Con!”

Stay classy, San Diego.