Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again– there’s just too much damn
stuff that goes on at Dragon*Con. Between the different tracks of
programming, dealer rooms, the Walk of Fame, and Saturday morning’s parade, how can one person get the full Con experience?

God bless Felicia Day. As I’m sure you’re aware by now, whether you’re reading this on Facebook or Sonic Cinema, Ms. Day is an actress whose first big break as one of the “potential slayers” during the last season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She’s also shown up in later Joss Whedon works such as “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and “Dollhouse.” In between, she began writing and starring in her own web series, “The Guild.” I first became turned on to the show back in my ’09 trek to Con after meeting Ms. Day, and I’ve been in love with the series ever since.

This season, she had set the series at a video gaming convention that is, as I would learn Saturday, modeled after Dragon*Con, among others. One of the truly inspired storylines of this season has involved the character of Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh), and his obsession with getting into as many panels as possible over the weekend. His obsession takes him to a dark and sleep-deprived place that, for this Conner, feels all too familiar, even if I wouldn’t resort to the tactics he goes to at times.

My point is, tough choices must be made. That meant not going to see any of the MST3K performers at the Con this year for panels that were more intriguing, and once again, missing the costume parade. There’s always next year. But now, time to continue the story of THIS year…

Saturday, September 3

Another Saturday at Dragon*Con, and that can mean only one thing…a day with my friend, Ron, as we try and go to some of the big-ticket panels. No, we didn’t go as Jay and Silent Bob again; we hadn’t found the time of late to really perfect the costumes and look. Maybe next year. Or maybe we’ll go as someone else. I know the idea of going as Dr. Strangelove has crossed my mind, and there’s a chance he and his girlfriend could go as Scott Pilgrim and Ramona…if they don’t kill each other in the next year. (Love you, guys!!) But the wigs were put away this year, and we went as ourselves. After getting Ron his badge, which led to the first massive line-up of the day, we made our way to the Hyatt for a 10am Filmmaker Meet-and-Greet I wanted to go to.

Run by Matthew Foster, who is the coordinator of the Independent Film track and the Film Festival at the Con, we sat in a circle with fellow filmmakers and movielovers as we shared experiences, our histories with filmmaking, and opinions on where films are heading. It was definitely a good way to start the day; the donuts helped out there. After an all-too-quick hour, I shook hands and exchanged cards with some of the other people there before Ron and I headed over to the Mariott for…

Meet the Stars of “Star Wars”

Here’s the thing, as much as we both hate the prequels, and some of the directions that George Lucas has taken his space opera since it debuted in 1977, Ron and I are “Star Wars” fans for life. So when I saw that 11:30am on Saturday had a panel that included Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), I knew this was a panel we had to try and get into. Well…we got into it. We had to go most of the way around the outside of the Mariott, AS the parade was still going on, to get in, but we did get into it. The question is…was it worth it?

Like most things “Star Wars” nowadays, yes and no. From my end, the panel was entertaining (a lot of it due to Carrie Fisher’s off-kilter attitude and sense of humor), but we both agreed that there was something almost surreal about the whole thing. The fact that Fisher was smoking and looked like she had partied hard the night before, and Mayhew was in a wheelchair, only added to the bizarre quality of the panel. There were two other actors from the “Star Wars” universe there as well– Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka from the “Clone Wars” TV series) –but Fisher and Mayhew fielded most of the questions, naturally. Not necessarily one of the most interesting panels of the weekend from a content standpoint (most of the questions towards Leia and Chewy, I already knew the answers to), but it was definitely a fascinating hour for any fanboy (or girl) to watch.

“There is so much fail in that sentence, I can hardly begin.”
After a couple of hours of walking around, and checking out the shops, after the “Star Wars” panel, Ron and I headed over to the Sheraton for an eagerly awaited (for me) panel with Felicia Day (creator/writer of the series, and main character Codex), Amy Okuda (Tinkerballa), and Robin Thorsen (Clara) of “The Guild.” Well, I wasn’t the only person awaited the three lovely ladies; as I discovered in ’09, Ms. Day is a major headliner at the Con whenever she makes it, whether you’re talking about her work with Joss Whedon, or her wonderful web series “The Guild.” Another panel, another line going plenty around the building; and yet, it wouldn’t be our last of the day, either.
It was well worth the wait. I think I can speak for both Ron and myself that this was the highlight of the day for us, panel-wise. These three women are smart, funny, and have wonderful chemistry together, as they’ve displayed on “The Guild” over and over again. This was Amy’s first D*Con, and we certainly made a good impression on her; especially in the context of this season of “The Guild,” she gets those of us who trek down every year to take in the panels, and meet the people we love to watch. This was especially fun given how much attention the panel gave towards season five, which has been one of my favorite seasons of the show thus far. This was a fun time, although it’s close proximity to our third and final panel of the day in terms of time may have cost us an even greater experience…
”Great Scott!!”
So here’s the thing. Last year, Dragon*Con added the Westin as a host hotel for both guests, and panels. The primary track at the Westin last year was my beloved Whedon Universe track, although thankfully, my schedule, and the dearth of events I wanted to attend on that panel, meant I didn’t have to find my way over there in ’10. This year, on the other hand, the journey had to be made.
Saturday at 4pm, a timeslot befitting its major appeal on the peak day of the Con, the Westin hosted a “Back to the Future” panel with Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and James Tolkan (Principal Strickland). Why, oh why, was this not in the Atrium Ballroom at the Marriott where it should have been? At least then we could have just gone back over that way and found the end of the line outside, ‘cause I would have been stunned if this thing wasn’t packed like the “Star Wars” panel earlier was. But the convenience factor wasn’t the only reason I would find myself wishing for the Atrium.
After the “Guild” panel finished up around 3:40pm or so, Ron and I had to go uphill, and over a few blocks, to make it to the Westin. Thankfully, the line wasn’t outside. Rather, it continued up a couple of floors from the ballroom that the panel was to be. Needless to say, this was worrisome not only because of the extended wait—yet again –we were forced to make, but the fact that we ended up at the very back of the ballroom, which had an upper level of seating, as I would learn on Sunday…
…All things considered, and I think Ron would agree with me (although if not, I encourage his input), I would have much rather missed the panel entirely than sit through the experience we had. Not only did we have the people outside, already waiting for the 5:30pm “Walking Dead” panel, to contend with noise-wise (yes, this is how far back we were), but we had the lousy acoustics of the ballroom itself. While Thompson and Tolkan could be heard reasonably well, with the exception of his fan-requested utterance of his famous delivery of the above-line, Mr. Lloyd (a very reserved individual in person, as I discovered the day before getting his autograph) was almost impossible to hear throughout the entire hour, which was crushing for both Ron and I, who were (arguably) most anxious to see and be in the same room with the legendary comic performer than anyone else at the panel (no offense to Ms. Thompson and Mr. Tolkan, who helped salvage the experience a little bit, at least, for me). Needless to say, neither Ron nor myself were excited as much as we were during the ’09 “Buffy” panel or the “Firefly” panel last year that occupied the same timeslot.
After that disappointment, Ron and I headed to the Peachtree Center food court, where we grabbed a bite to eat, discussed our plans for the rest of the day together, and tried to process the experiences we had up until that point. It was a good talk, but it didn’t get us past our reservations about how the day had gone up until that point. Rather than doing any more panels, or hitting any of the film festival blocks, we decided to do one last pass through the dealer rooms before heading home, and parting ways for the day. Sadly, Ron’s Dragon*Con experience was over this year, and was less-than-stellar compared to the past couple of years, but mine had two days to redeem the uncertainty I felt after this Saturday…

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle

Dragon*Con 2011
Day 1

Dragon*Con 2010
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1

Dragon*Con 2009
Days 1-4

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