Archive for Fantasy Con

At the Seams

Posted in Events, Promotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2014 by jaclemens

Big Hero 6Like Disney’s Big Hero 6, Salt Lake Comic Con is bursting at the seams! Organizers were scrambling to find more scotch tape to seal the leaks on the first day of the second annual convention, as enthusiasm overflowed the registration lines. Fans who missed out on the excitement while waiting in line for hours have been offered recompense. Intake was more efficient on Friday, but fire marshals had to bar the doors a few times on Saturday as the ranks swelled upwards of 90,000 fans! More of the Salt Palace was utilized this year, but Salt Lake Comic Con broke the attendance record once again, with more than 120,000 attending between Thursday the 4th and Saturday the 6th.

Comic Con experienced some growing pains in its second year, but it also made some improvements to the layout. Artists’ Alley was moved to the front of the Expo Hall, immediately inside the main entrance. The booths were color-coded this year, although the aisles were not all completely color-coordinated. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was better than the shunted to the side and scrambled set up from FanX, according to AZ Powergirl at booth Green 14. The Celebrity Signing area was moved around the corner to be closer to the Photo Ops area, which brought the Kid Con area forward. The orientation of the ballrooms was also changed from east-facing to north- and south-facing.

Craig Parker

Craig Parker interviews; over his shoulder, Veronica Taylor (voice of Ash Ketchum in the Pokemon cartoons) poses with a fan.

The Celebrity Kick Off Press Conference was held in the South Ballroom on Thursday morning. Lou Ferrigno welcomed us to Comic Con, then more guests emerged from a TARDIS onto the stage. As they were introduced one at a time, the ambidextrous artist Rob Prior completed a painting of the Joker in under fifteen minutes. The painting was given to one of the Wish Kids on the stage, and Manu Bennett pledged his first thousand dollars in earnings to another Wish Kid’s family before challenging the other celebrities to do likewise. At the conclusion of the press conference the Wish Kids got their own parade while the celebrities were made available for interviews.

When asked if he had a rebuttal to Jed Brophy’s aggrandized impersonation of an elf strutting the stage at Fantasy Con, Craig Parker (Haldir in The Lord of the Rings) responded that he had shown Brophy “the way of the elves” the weekend before coming to Salt Lake. Parker talked about having replica action figures, and said he knew he had made it as an actor when Lego issued a figure of Haldir! Parker was irrepressible in his spotlight panel that evening, sitting on the table to answer questions. At one point he held the microphone between his upraised knees so he could gesture with his hands while speaking. He mused about the blonde Russian girls who were offered Coke and Levis in exchange for the hair that went into making wigs for the elves (which beats the yak-hair wigs and beards the dwarfs wear!).

all fine

A cosplayer posing with my advance copy of Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine (Tachyon).

Cary Elwes made the day of a lot of fans in his panel that afternoon. When a woman pronounced him her first Hollywood crush, he gave her a hug. Asked about his favorite sound he answered with his daughter’s laugh, and was declared both a sweetheart and a cutie pie. The real highlight of the Q&A came when a wheelchair-bound fan asked Elwes to perform the scene from The Princess Bride where the Man in Black (Westley) enters a battle of wits with Vizzini. Elwes needed help remembering his lines, but the fan had the Sicilian down pat! Elwes said that he loves this town, and hopes to be invited back for more episodes of Granite Flats. He was a hit, and took ample opportunities to promote his upcoming book, As You Wish. He may have missed his best opportunity, however, which would have been the press conference with all the Wish Kids present.

Sam Witwer rounded out the first day’s panels for me. Witwer played “Crashdown” on Battlestar Galactica and provided the voices of Starkiller in the Force Unleashed video game and Darth Maul in the Clone Wars animated series. Witwer knows his Star Wars chronology, and gave us his blueprint for introducing someone to the Star Wars trilogies out of numerical order, which preserves the overwhelming surprise of seeing it for the first time. Following his plan gives the original trilogy its full impact, while also making the prequels more enjoyable. That is a true Jedi mind trick, courtesy of a Sith apprentice!

 

Fine Fellows

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by jaclemens
Oh my! Did I just photobomb Sean Astin and J.A. Clemens?

Oh my! Did I just photobomb Sean Astin with a member of the press?

Salt Lake Comic Con is about to begin, and I’m still savoring Fantasy Con! It has been a whirlwind couple of months since I met these two fine fellows, Sean Astin and Billy Boyd! Astin is appearing in The Strain, based on the books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. He can also be heard on Vox Populi, a weekly radio program, and as the voice of Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Billy Boyd is working on a new album with his band Beecake, and can be heard singing on the trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies! I was able to hear him sing “The Steward of Gondor” live during a panel (he sounded fantastic), and fortunate enough to meet both actors afterward.

Astin and Boyd are great together, and gracious to a tee. While Astin waited for an interview on camera, he turned to my friend Ryan to ask about his wife and children (who were in town, but not present that evening). Astin brought his own family to Salt Lake, something he never does on the convention circuit. However, his positive experiences filming Forever Strong and The Freemason in Utah showed him that Salt Lake City is an exceptional place. He may not have had as much vacation time with his family as he would have liked that holiday weekend, but he never ceased to be accommodating. I caught up to him as he was about to leave the room, and, after our meeting, he returned to a table for more group interviews.

At the conclusion of his spotlight panel on Saturday afternoon, Astin refused to allow the line of waiting questions be dismissed. Instead he went into a speed round, where each fan asked their question in one sequential string as he took notes. Then he answered all of the questions together, and no one went away disappointed. At Fantasy Con’s end, Astin was the last remaining special guest still at his table greeting fans and signing autographs. Sean Astin is a consummate professional.

Billy BoydBy way of comparison, Billy Boyd is a sheer delight. He brings out the conviviality in Astin (and everyone in the room, for that matter). Boyd said that being back with Astin and John Rhys-Davies helped him recall stories from their time working together, and he laughed heartily as he shared them. He also had kind words for his visit to Utah, noting the ambiance of dining alfresco and exploring the city on light rail. Waking up in a different time zone, he especially appreciated the bracing sound of bagpipes in the morning!

Boyd had the unenviable time slot of 10 am on Saturday for his spotlight, but was utterly charming nevertheless (once his “best friend” brought him a coffee). He demurred when asked to sing again, explaining that he sounded more like Rhys-Davies at that hour! Boyd did discuss performing with Beecake, and there was a genuine outpouring of enthusiasm for a tour date in Salt Lake City! If you haven’t watched the videos for “Please Stay” or “The Clown” you are missing out!

When I spoke with Boyd, I asked him about his employment as a print finisher in the guild. Over the course of seven years in the business he bound editions of both The Lord of the Rings and Master and Commander before appearing in the cinematic versions. As it was the eve of our Independence Day, I asked for his opinion on the referendum for Scotland’s independence (to be heard on the 18th of this month). Boyd said he had given it careful consideration and favors independence. Then he lightened the moment with a beatific smile and said “Maybe I’ll have apple pie!”