Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Since I first went in 2009, Atlanta’s Dragon*Con fantasy convention has become a staple of my life. It’s the closest thing to a yearly holiday I have, and it’s, in a way, more important a moment for celebration than my birthday. That sounds terrible, but in reality, it’s very true.

The 2012 edition turned out to be a very different beast, for a lot of reasons; not as all-encompassing as 2011 (when I was on my own to take a LOT in over the four-day, Labor Day weekend), but in a lot of ways, arguably the most rewarding of the four years I’ve gone. Originally, this was going to result in a condensed blog series about my Dragon*Con experience, rather than the blog-per-day of the past couple of years, but as I wrote about the weekend, the words poured out of me in such a way that really, I couldn’t go back from my previous format, such was the experiences of these four days.

Friday, August 31

This year differed from ’11 in one, big way: my mother, who sat out 2011 after she had issues with her knees, and ended up on medical leave from work, returned to downtown Atlanta to indulge in her own geekiness. Like the year before when I did so, we both went down on Thursday (August 30) to pick up our badges, as well as get oriented to the blocks/hotels that make up Dragon*Con. Because of her continuing knee problems, she decided to rent a scooter to get around on rather than just walking around with her cart/walker. More on that later.

Another thing that differed: my good friend (and fellow Yahoos With a Microphone commentator) Ron joined us on Friday. He wasn’t able to get his membership on Thursday like my mother and I, but he and I headed down early Friday, and moved through on-site registration surprisingly quickly, allowing us to walk around and figure out what we wanted to do first. As it turned out, what we REALLY wanted to do was get in our first, long-ass line of the weekend for “Lord of the Rings: Celebrity Guests”, with Billy Boyd (Pippin), Craig Parker (Haladir), and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli). This is one of those cases where the line was as much fun as the panel; because we were outside, it was great seeing all of the cos-players walking around the building, taking in as much as we could early on, as well as enjoying the company of our line mates, resulting in some funny exchanges, and some good photo ops. As for the panel itself, it was as delightful as I would expect with those three actors involved, especially when they invited a nervous young fan up to the stage to hang out, and ask his question. Last year, I started off with a great panel with William Shatner that I didn’t see coming; this year, the panel lived up to my personal expectations, but proved to be just as strong a start to my Con as Shatner was in 2011.

After the “Lord of the Rings” panel (during which John Rhys-Davies described a visit to the “Hobbit” set, and called the upcoming trilogy a “game-changer”), my mother needed help over at the Sheraton, where she had managed to get a room for the evening, before picking up her scooter for the day. However, it turned out that there was no scooter to pick up because, some keys had been stolen, meaning three people with scooters reserved were unable to get them. Needless to say, this added to an already-stressful morning for all three of us, as we all were hoping to get to a 2:30pm panel at the Westin (of all places). If you recall from my blogs last year, the Westin is easily the least-convenient of the host hotels at Dragon*Con, being two-plus blocks up a hill from the Sheraton. This made my mother’s decision to accept a wheelchair the scooter company had available a mistake all three of us (though to be fair, especially my mother and Ron, who was a great friend to help my mother in getting to the Westin as I put some things back for my mom in her room) would come to regret. After being told we would receive a call if they got extra keys in, we waited for that call the rest of the weekend, and didn’t get it. My mother (who had a hellacious time getting back from the Westin to the Sheraton, let alone the other hotels) decided not to go back for a wheelchair the rest of the weekend, and chose to tough it out with the walker/cart she had used in previous years.

When the three of us finally made it to the Westin after that hour or so of Hell, we were able to get decent seats for the 2:30pm “Buffy and Angel Q&A” with James Marsters (Spike), Juliet Landau (Drusilla), and J. August Richards (Gunn). Richards was running a bit late because of traffic, but it was well worth it as he got right into the swing of things with Marsters & Landau, and in my opinion, stole the show from the D*Con veterans. This was Richards’s first time in Atlanta during Labor Day, and I hope it is not his last, as he was fascinating to listen to, and had a passion or energy to helped liven up an already enjoyable panel. As I would tell him on Sunday at the Walk of Fame, he was definitely one of the highlights of my Con this year.

After that panel, the three of went our separate ways: my mother stayed for the 4pm “Big Damn Heroes” panel in the same room, while Ron and I headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe for a bite to eat. Normally, we would have stayed at the BDH panel, since it is a “Firefly” panel, and we both worship at the church of Joss Whedon, but we needed some food; plus, Ron had never been to a Hard Rock. (There was also a “Guild” panel at 4pm, but thankfully, I would have another chance to indulge in that piece of geek heaven.) While my mother reported back fondly from the “Big Damn Heroes” panel when we saw her later, it was definitely worth missing that day to get some good eats.

After our meal, Ron and I went to the Hyatt for our third and final panel of the day; in retrospect, I think it was both of ours favorite for the day. This year, Dragon*Con added a Puppetry Track to the festivities, and had some of the vets from the Jim Henson Company on the guest list. Well, at 5:30pm we were treated to a live audio commentary to last year’s “The Muppets” courtesy of puppeteer Peter Linz, who voiced and performed Walter in the film. Both of us being fans of the commentary track over the years, Ron and I each found a new appreciation for the film in question as we listened to what Linz had to say, as well as were treated to some physical performances as he demonstrated some of the techniques the muppeteers had to do in order to bring the characters to life. It was a wonderful treat. After the film ended, Linz did a Q&A with the audience, but Ron and I decided to head out before that got started.

After leaving the Hyatt, Ron and I went over to my truck to get our costumes for Jay and Silent Bob, and headed back to the Sheraton, where we met my mother as she was settling in after a difficult trip back over this way from the Hyatt. Unfortunately, her rough day got worse when she discovered that she had lost a pouch with some important items in it, including her room key. Fortunately, we had our own key, but that made things pretty awkward as she drove her car over into the Sheraton’s parking lot, and because she needed a key to get into the parking area, we weren’t able to get into the room to change. She never did find her pouch, even after I tried searching the car.

We all eventually got into the room, and as my mother looked through her things, and began to settle in for the night, Ron and I got into character, and went down to the Sheraton pool for a while for the “Pinups at the Pool” party and costume contest. It was pretty busy down there, and had a lot of lovely ladies about, several of whom were definitely wanting to get their pictures taken with Jersey’s favorite drug dealers, but the day had taken a toll on both Ron and I, and we called it an early evening, and decided to get a good night’s rest, something neither of us had really gotten that week. One thing I will say about the panels on Friday– they certainly made up for a lot of the crap that put a damper on the festivities of the day. Not all of it, but a lot of it.

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle

Dragon*Con 2009
Days 1-4

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

Dragon*Con 2011
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

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