Dragon Con 2017

 

Dragon Con 2017
Atlanta, GA – September 1-4, 2017

 

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Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me, and this year will be my ninth time attending. This will also be my second year as an attending professional. If you plan to be there, these are the places where you will be able to find me over Labor Day weekend.

The convention app is now available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It’s also available online.

NOTE: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

 

Wednesday (it’s the new Thursday)

I will be around starting Wednesday, pretty much wandering the hotels, picking up my Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and catching up with some friends.

 

Thursday (it’s the new Friday)

2:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours/Q&A
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to know the best way to get from one con hotel to another? Need to learn where the food court is? If so, come on one of our walking tours and find out. Small group tours will be going out every 10-15 minutes.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

 

Friday

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A
Main Programming
Location TBD
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips & tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

1:00p: Marvel Cinematic Universe
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
We’ve seen some new heroes brought forward with Dr. Strange, and Spiderman coming back into the fold. Trailers for Black Panther and Thor have teased us with more. How do you think the MCU is holding up almost 10 years?
Panelists include: Page Branson, Kitty Chandler

2:30p: Wolverine on Film
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
From second-choice casting to a role that has created an indelible mark on movie heroes. Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine has been an amazing run. We’ll look back at the whole run of 8 movies & cameos.
Panelists include: Will Nix, Jeff Burns, Bill McIntire

5:30p: Earth Station Who Presents 50 Years of the Cybermen!
BritTrack
Hilton Atlanta, Galleria 5
Our friends at Earth Station Who are back to discuss the return of the Cybermen, and half a century of their menacing adventures!
Panelists include: Michael Gordon, Mike Faber, Sue Kisenwether, Robert Lloyd

7:00p: The Good Place: The Current Hereafter
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301
The afterlife never looked like this before! Comedies are tough and comedies about life after death are even tougher! This one pulled some surprises with some excellent writing and performances.
Panelists include:  Ryan Guthrie, Gary Mitchel, Henry Hanks

(Note: I am listed in the app for “Classic Sci-Fi Legends: West, Landau, Paxton & More” at this same time. I’m in the market for a clone.)

11:30p: Star Wars Holiday Special: May the 4 Wookiees Be With You
American Science Fiction Classics/Star Wars
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We could not let the 40th anniversary of Star Wars pass & let our pals at Star Wars Track have all the fun. Check out the glorious madness of Chewie’s Wookiee family, Bea Arthur & Princess Leia singing, & Boba Fett’s debut!
(I’ll be in the audience for this one.)

 

Saturday

8:30a: Classic Sci-Fi Court: Defending Batman & Robin, Superman IV & More
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105

Bring your grievances before the Classic Sci-Fi Court, & we will defend movies or TV that unsavory elements have brought criticism upon. Batman & Robin…Superman 4…Highlander 2, perhaps?
Panelists include: Michael Bailey, Kevin Eldridge, Debbie Viguié, Geena Phillips
(I’m not on the panel for this one.)

10:00a: Roll-a-Panel: 1982 and 1992
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105

Dragon Con does not last a full year (yet), so Classic Track does not have time to tribute all the movies from the best year of movies ever. Roll-a-Panel is an audience-participation revolution in convention panel technology–20 panels in one hour!
Panelists include: Pretty much all of the American Science Fiction Classics Track regulars

4:00p: Remembering Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker
Star Wars Track
Hyatt, Centennial Ballroom I

Our world is dimmer now, but our icons left such a legacy for us. Join other fans as we remember our Princess & our favorite Droid and the impact they had on Star Wars & the world.
Panelists include: Bryan Young, Sarah Dempster, Sue Kisenwether, Christy Morris

8:30p: The Flash: Flashpoint and Godhood Conundrums
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
As Flash brings in one of the classic storylines from the comics, we see how the show handled it & how one more speedster reaches for godhood at the expense of Team Flash.
Panelists include: Jim Griffin, Beth Verant, Cammien Ray, Yvonne McDowell

11:59p: The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show
Main Programming
Hyatt Regency, International South
Miss Lady Flex, Phantom Troublemaker, Rad Ranger, and Popeye the Sailor Moon return to Dragon Con! Come and bear wetness to the love child of Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Pictionary, Match Game, Twenty Dollar Potato Spin, Anata No Zubon O Shutoku, and any and every game show you’ve ever heard of, but DIRTY. YOU are the contestants in the wildest, sexiest, nastiest game show around! Laugh, cry, be slightly uncomfortable in the presence of hundreds of strangers! Big prizes! Big fun! There’s nothing else like The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show!
18+ only – IDs will be checked at the door
Limited capacity, line forms one hour prior to showtime

Following DDCCGGSS: Saturday Night Classic Track Irregulars Party!
American Science Fiction Classics

 

Sunday

7:00p: DC Universe
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
Has the DC Cinematic Universe finally broken its curse? Many question the trend from Superman and BvS, but then we get Wonder Woman, and yet gloomy talk about Justice League. More hints are teased out and Joss Whedon gets his shot at this hero team.
Panelists include: Jeff Burns, Wayland Smith

11:30p: Spaceballs – Thirty Years of Combing the Desert
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Revel in the glorious silliness of 1987’s ludicrous-speed Sci-Fi sendup. We are not just doing this panel for the money.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, John Hudgens, Chace Ambrose, Elizabeth Jones, Tegan Hendrickson
(I’ll be in the audience for this one.)

 

Monday

10:00a: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years of Saving the World (A Lot)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
From Welcome to the Hellmouth to Chosen, from Beer Bad to The Body, celebrate the classic show about the heroes that monsters have nightmares about.
Panelists include: Melinda Mock, Michael Williams, Sue Kisenwether, KC Ryan-Pierce, Wayne Hutchinson

11:30a: Wonder Woman: Life beyond Themiscyra
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
A look back at the film: what they took from the comic history & where they could go from here. A moment of silence might be offered for Steve Trevor’s sacrifice.
Panelists include: Will Nix, Yvonne McDowell, Beth Verant

(Note: I am listed in the app for “Classic Sci-Fi Roll-a-Panel: 1977 & 1997” at this same time. I’m still in the market for a clone.)

 

 

 

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Star Wars, Celebrations, and Wristbands

Star Wars, Celebrations, and Wristbands

 

For fans, the Star Wars Celebration conventions have become a pilgrimage. Since 1999, the gatherings have been used to celebrate movie releases and anniversaries around the world, drawing approximately 30,000-40,000 fans per event.

This year, the eighth show in the United States (the twelfth overall) was held in Orlando, Florida over Easter weekend. The big-ticket panels were a celebration of A New Hope‘s fortieth anniversary and a sneak peek at the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but aside from the buzz and excitement flooding social media, there was also anger, frustration, and disappointment.

Why? Because the convention is stuck in the 20th century.

The 2017 convention hosted the headline events in three venues: The Galaxy Stage, the Celebration Stage, and the Behind-the-Scenes Stage. The events were held live in the Galaxy Stage, located in the Valencia Ballroom, and live-streamed to audiences in the Chapin Theater (Celebration Stage) and room W304 (Behind-the-Scenes Stage).

In order to get access to these events, attendees needed wristbands, which were only available by queuing the nights before and sleeping in the convention center. Star Wars fans love lines, and have since the first film premiered in 1977, but the frustrations and anger came in how the convention organizers handled the overnight waiting period. After starting their convention camping trip at 8pm, some fans were promised through a loudspeaker announcement at 1am that everyone in line was guaranteed seats in the Galaxy Theater for the 40th anniversary panel. When it came time for their wristbands, they got screwed by line jumpers.

Based on other accounts on Twitter and Facebook, this experience is far from isolated. Here’s the thing, though. In 2017, there is no need for it.

The wristbands were also used for the other panels on the Galaxy and Celebration Stages, and attendees were able to receive two wristbands per day by choosing their top two panels across both stages. Tickets went on sale on May 25, 2016, and pre-orders were handled through the Celebration website. ReedPOP, the convention organizer, had contact information for each purchase.

Upon purchase, ReedPOP could set up simple accounts for each ticketholder, and when the schedule is finalized, ReedPOP could require each ticket holder to log in and set their Galaxy/Celebration panel priorities. Wristbands could be issued by a lottery system, and could be picked up at registration with the event badges.

Seats could be assigned, or they could be given on a first-come-first-serve basis with a queue for each panel.

No overnight camping. No line-cutting. No frustration for attendees who are paying hard-earned money to have a good time.

 

Now, let’s take it a step further.

Star Wars fans are incredibly social. Let’s say that I want to see The Last Jedi panel with my friends from various podcasts or fan groups. ReedPOP could set up the ticketholder accounts to allow grouping, and those groups would be entered in the seat lottery as one entity. The groups could be limited to twenty seats to prevent an entire group from having an unfair advantage.

 

Now, let’s go one more step.

Not counting YouTube viewers, the big-ticket events were presented to 10,264 people, or about twenty-five percent of a 40,000-person assumed attendance. According to the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), the Valencia Ballroom can seat 6,000 people, the Chapin Theater can seat 2,643, and W304 can seat 1,621. It’s also a fair assumption that most (if not all) of the attendees want to see panels like the Star Wars 40th and The Last Jedi. So why not expand the seating and use the streaming capabilities to serve more fans?

Based on the stage schedules, ReedPOP had reserved eight additional rooms for scheduled events. Those rooms – W300, W303, W306A, W307, W308, W310, and W312 – house 2,600 extra seats. They could only be used for the headline panels because they’re slated for other purposes throughout the day such as podcasts, educational panels, and screenings, but for the headline panels that brings us to thirty-two percent, and virtually exhausts the West Concourse of the OCCC.

If ReedPOP could secure access to North and South Concourses, both of which are attached to the West Concourse by skybridges, they could easily open streaming access to every attendee, including ticketholders who purchase their badges at the show. The North and South Concourses can house 32,111 people each in theater mode, reaching 64,222 total.

The North and South Concourses may be a bit of a financial stretch for only two to three hours over two days, but there is another possibility in the connected hotels. Both the Rosen Centre and the Hyatt Regency Orlando are connected to the OCCC by skybridges, and both have substantial meeting capacity. Rosen has 4,000-seat capacity in their Grand Ballroom, 1,888-seat capacity in the Executive Ballroom, and 1,500-seat capacity in the Junior Ballroom, leading to a total of 7,388. The Regency has 3,120-seat capacity in their Plaza International Ballroom, 1,040-seat capacity in the Orlando Ballroom, and 832-seat capacity in the Florida Ballroom, leading to 4,992 seats total. Together, they reach 12,380.

Using the hotel ballrooms, the 10,264-seat base jumps to 22,644. If the extra West Concourse rooms are used, we come to 25,244. Between the two, around sixty percent of the audience could attend the headline panels.

 

Of course, at this point it’s time to answer the question: Why do I care?

I have wanted to travel to Celebration since they started in 1999, but I have never had the opportunity to do so. But, I’ve also been a bit spoiled by Dragon Con, a 70,000-90,000 attendee convention where lines are limited to one or two hours for big ticket panels. I’m not keen on waiting in lines for hours and hours to see a panel when there are no other options, especially when there is so much more to do at the convention. This whole logistical miscalculation has me reconsidering Celebration on the whole.

I’m also a Star Wars fan and convention attendee who has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP machine to sleep each night. That would prevent me from “camping out” on a concrete floor, and would also require me to be awake for 24-36 hours at a shot. While Celebration has a disability contingency that allows someone to pick up wristbands on my behalf, that’s not something I’m going to ask my wife to do for me.

Finally, that’s two nights of hotel room rental where I’m not actually using it. That’s a lot of money.

I don’t expect this blog post to be an end-all solution to Celebration 2017’s queuing woes, but it certainly shows that there is room for creative problem solving. A conflict obviously exists, and it’s evidently driving fans away. The question is what is more important to ReedPOP and Lucasfilm/Disney: Money or fans.

ReedPOP should seriously consider ditching the overnight queuing and remove a source of friction from the only official Star Wars convention that our fandom has. Celebration should live up to its name and celebrate what we love. Celebration shouldn’t include anger, frustration, and disappointment, and it certainly shouldn’t start off with it.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

She was the first to show me that a princess could save the day, both in fiction and reality.

She used her talents to entertain and educate, both on the screen and on the pages, and used her battles to show us all how to recognize and defeat our personal demons. She was sharp and acerbic, could disarm internet trolls in seconds, and proved that no matter the adversity, you can always make a comeback.

She will always be royalty to me.

 

princess-leia
leia-empire
leia-rotj
leia-tfa

Thoughts on Legends

 

Thoughts on Legends

SW legends

 

I’m sure you’ve seen the news. A group of Star Wars fans who want Lucasfilm to continue the Legends/Expanded Universe stories have purchased a billboard in San Francisco to raise awareness and place their demands in the public sphere. After multiple attempts at petitioning online and through letter-writing campaigns, this crowd-funded purchase was their next step. If the news reports are any indication, it got noticed. I know at least one Lucasfilm employee saw it.

Sincerely, congratulations on executing a successful crowd-funding campaign, although I believe that $5000 would gone a lot further as a group donation to Make-A-Wish or Force for Change, both of which are friends of the Star Wars brand. But, I digress.

I once had the greatest of respect for the Bring Back Legends petitioners. I still am a huge fan of the Legends/Expanded Universe stories because that is where I really dove into Star Wars after discovering the movies. I was there for Heir to the Empire – there should be a t-shirt for that – and for pretty much everything that followed, for better or for worse. I recognized how futile the overall campaign was in the post-buyout era, what with the marketing challenges and high potential for general audience confusion, but these guys were super passionate in their fandom.

They still are. That’s part of the problem.

Somewhere along the line, they started becoming aggressive toward fans and artists. They started harassing my friends and fellow fans, including threats of bodily harm, rape, and death. That aggression escalated when The Force Awakens premiered, resulting in some in this movement spoiling plot points on public sites until Lucasfilm relented. This actually caused some sites, including the official Star Wars Books page on Facebook, to shut down for a time because they couldn’t stop the flood.

The Legends movement became the face of ruining the Star Wars experience for all fans because it wasn’t the right canon.

Yeah, it’s the internet. No, it’s not right.

It wasn’t every Legends supporter, but this echoes GamerGate and the Mens Rights Activist movements (among countless others) in that a very vocal extremist minority has become the movement’s active voice. I’m sorry, but perception is reality, and right now, this movement is perceived as being a bunch of bullies.

I don’t stand for that in fandom. It has poisoned their efforts, and it has poisoned Star Wars fandom overall. It’s even driving away some of our best ambassadors.

As a Legends/EU fan, I share Chuck Wendig‘s sincere hope that the Legends movement gets some resolution. I firmly believe that more Star Wars work means more great mythology to enjoy, but I cannot find it in my heart to support the Legends movement because of this activity. They need to find a way to clean their house, excise the cancer, and make amends to fandom at large.

Star Wars is still forever, and it should be for everybody.

Review: Star Wars Smuggler’s Bounty Resistance Box – January 2016

 

Star Wars: Smuggler’s Bounty
Resistance Box – January 2016

Jan 2016 Box

 

The Force is still strong with this subscription box.

After the success of the First Order box from Funko’s Star Wars subscription box service, it was a no-brainer for me to upgrade from the month-to-month to a full year subscription. This time around, the service was still capitalizing on the global success of The Force Awakens, but they shifted gears from the bad guys to the Resistance.

The box’s form factor is the same as the First Order box, including durability and the treasure chest layout. The UPS driver who serves my route left this one out in the intermittent Georgia winter rain, and even though the box was damp, the contents were unharmed.

 

Jan 2016 Top Tray

 

Similar to the last box, the top tray for this go-round contained a patch and a pin. The plastic envelopes were both opened on one side due to what looks like a production issue, and as a result the pin was bouncing around in the box. Since the box is well compartmentalized and the pin is quite durable, nothing was damaged.

 

Jan 2016 Patch

 

The patch is embroidered with BB-8, the adorable little hero droid from the new movie and the focus of the marketing for this box. When my wife saw it, she beamed, so I know that it’s a winner in our house. The pin is of Poe Dameron, the hot shot star pilot of the Resistance, although at first it kind of looked like Jessika Pava, the female X-Wing pilot from the film. One can dream, right?

 

Jan 2016 Pin

 

Under the platform that housed the pin and patch was a navy blue Funko t-shirt. This time, it was a movie-themed shirt focused on the heroes of the Resistance. In my opinion, it is much more attractive than the simple figure shirts from the last box, although I would have liked to see Rey more front and center. Regardless, it is still a nice shirt design. Based on what I’ve been able to find so far, it seems that every box is the same this time, so there are no shirt variations or chase figures.

 

Jan 2016 shirt

 

The big ticket items this time were one exclusive Funko Pop figure and a Funko Home ceramic mug. The figure is of Chewbacca with his bowcaster, and while I have never really been impressed with the figures of the Wookiee before, this one really caught my attention. It’s actually furry, and that somehow makes it adorable.

 

Jan 2016 Chewie

 

The ceramic mug is modeled after the protocol droid C-3PO, right down to the detail of his red arm as the mug’s handle. It seems like a sturdy, wide 12-ounce mug, but it is hand wash only and not microwave safe. Those two criteria are killers in my house, so I’m not quite sure what I plan to do with this item.

 

Jan 2016 Mug

 

In the end, remember that the promise made by Funko is that this $25 box will contain $50 worth of merchandise without any filler. By my estimation, Funko has once again delivered on their promises of value and content. The figure is about $10 in stores, and the t-shirt is in the $15-25 ballpark depending on the vendor. The pin and patch are around the $5 price point each, so the real wild card this time is the mug. Most of the comparable mugs online go for about $10, which places this box in the $45-55 range. All of that without any mini-comics or postcards.

The next box, which is due to arrive in mid-March, is centered on the cantina from A New Hope, and the spotlighted character is Greedo. The order window closes in early March. If you’re on the fence, I recommend the $25 “pirate” plan, but if you really want these kind of items with a Star Wars flair, I fully endorse the annual “smuggler” plan.