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Updated Information for Dragon Con 2015

RECORD CROWDS EXPECTED IN DOWNTOWN ATLANTA FOR DRAGON CON 2015

Cosplayers, Gamers and Pop Culture Fans Return for Annual Fantasy, Sci Fi & Gaming Convention

More than 400 Actors, Artists, Authors and Creators Will Give Talks and Meet Fans.

http://mediarelations.dragoncon.org/2015/08/19/record-crowds-expected-in-downtown-atlanta-for-dragon-con-2015/#more-1572

More than 65,000 people are expected to pack downtown Atlanta over the Labor Day weekend as Dragon Con, the internationally known pop culture, sci fi, fantasy and gaming convention, returns for its 29th consecutive year.

Dragon Con fans will travel from every state in the nation and a few foreign countries to participate in the four-day convention, where they can meet their favorite actors, artists, authors and creators, and talk about the stuff they love.

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Star Wars: The Next Generation “Midnight Madness”

Star Wars: The Next Generation
“Midnight Madness”

As a young father with limited resources, my Star Wars toy habit was on hiatus when the prequels were released.  Admittedly, I would peruse the toy aisles in Wal-Mart and Target when the family was shopping, and the Star Wars aisles at Toys ‘R’ Us and Kay-Bee were always my first place to browse when we went to the toy stores.  But apart from some Playskool Star Wars toys for my daughter and Galactic Heroes and Jedi Force figures for my son, it wasn’t until the release of Revenge of the Sith around my son’s third birthday that my Star Wars collecting was reborn.

That being the case, I had never considered going to Star Wars events (other than the movies) when my children were very young.  I certainly wasn’t going to any “Midnight Madness” releases of Star Wars toys I couldn’t buy anyway.  All that changed in 2008 when, in anticipation of the release of The Clone Wars in August, Toys ‘R’ Us stores hosted a “Midnight Madness” event to release the new line of Star Wars figures and toys.  Fortuitously, we were visiting family in Atlanta when the day arrived, so we headed up to the Kennesaw store at about 10:00 to get in line.

I didn’t know what to expect from something like this.  Apart from keeping the kids up way past their bedtime, I wasn’t concerned about taking them to Toys ‘R’ Us for this event.  After all, Star Wars fans are well known for their kindness and cordiality, so I was certain that everyone would be on their best behavior.  My wife, on the other hand, was sure that our younglings (small even for their ages) would be trampled by maniacal fans storming the store in competition for a big Millennium Falcon or V-19 Torrent Fighter.  Once we saw other families with their children there and talked to the folks near us in line, her concerns were lessened.

Then the unexpected occurred.

dsc04088Out the front doors marched a couple stormtroopers, a Republic Commando, and a bounty hunter named Boussh.  My wife and the kids watched as others stepped forward to see the life-sized action figures.  With some coaching and prodding, I was eventually able to get my six year-old son to meet the members of the Georgia Garrison of the 501st.  Within a few minutes, we returned to our place in line as my wife checked to ensure the youngest shazling was unscathed after his encounter with the Imperials just in time for the doors to open.

As we entered the store, all the customers who had been waiting in line calmly took their carts to the display and began picking the figures and toys they wanted to purchase.  There were more than enough Millennium Falcons and AT-TEs to satisfy customers, though some of the more highly anticipated figures were disappearing quickly.  I made sure to get my Yarna — certain that she would sell out immediately.  Luke chose a Captain Rex and Darth Vader.  And I topped off our shopping list with a V-19 Torrent Fighter.  We weren’t going to be big spenders, but this selection would put us above the price point to allow us to get a free holographic General Grievous Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive.

By the time we made it back to the in-laws’ house, both kids were asleep and my wife was happy that (1) they hadn’t been trampled and (2) I hadn’t emptied the bank account.

With another “Midnight Madness” on the horizon, I thought it would be beneficial to make a few suggestions for parents who are considering a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us on September 4th.

Make sure the store you’re considering is Clock Midnightactually hosting this event.  Although official site for the 2015 “Midnight Madness” states that all locations (except for those in Paramus, NJ), my local Toys ‘R’ Us has told me that they will not be even participating in “Midnight Madness” this time around.  I live in a relatively small city without a large contingent of Star Wars collectors.  If yours is the same, you may have to drive a bit further to find a store that will be hosting Destination: Star Wars, the official designation of the event.

Check to see if the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, or Mandalorian Mercs will be attending.  Part of the magic of events like this is seeing your kids’ favorite characters from the movies, television, and toy aisles come to life.  Through their websites, you may even be able to find out which characters will be at certain stores.  Even if your local Toys ‘R’ Us is hosting Destination: Star Wars, you may want to go to another location if you want to make sure to have some interaction with Star Wars characters.

Consider costuming.  You might want to join in the fun, too.  Most everyone enjoys dressing-up — especially kids.  Even if your kids don’t have a costume and you lack the ability to craft a screen accurate costume yourself, ask your younglings if they would like to dress-up as one of their favorite characters for the event.  Let them help put together a costume.  A robe, some plain pants, and a toy lightsaber can make a convincing Jedi.  Cardboard and foam sheets can become Stormtrooper armor.  Be inventive.  Your kids will always remember the time you let them go out in public in costume when it wasn’t even Hallowe’en!  And if you have the energy to put into it, think about becoming a character yourself.  Those present for the event will enjoy having a character along with them for the night, especially if none of the well-known organizations aren’t in attendance.

HanSoloShirtWear Star Wars items.  In 2008, I didn’t have a single Star Wars T-shirt.  It seems unbelievable to me now that I have several* in my closet and drawer.  Still, I had the wherewithal to pull out an old iron-on transfer from my collection to put on a white shirt.  (For those who are shouting about the audacity of actually using an iron-on from the ‘70s, never fear: I scanned it into the computer and printed it out on iron-on transfer paper for printers.)  With Star Wars in public awareness, you can likely find an inexpensive shirt at Target or Wal-Mart for the occasion.

Set aside some money now.  We all know that Christmas is coming in just a few months.  And while I was reluctant to make big purchases at my first “Midnight Madness” because I knew that Santa would be bringing one or both of the big vehicles to my house in December, as I think back to that night, it would have been an exciting impromptu summer holiday for my younglings had we brought home the big Millennium Falcon that night.  Even if you decide to limit your spending at this event, it’s best to prepare beforehand so you can budget yourself accordingly without taking out a credit card because you suddenly decide to get more than you had planned.  Knowing how much you are able to spend will help you choose what is most important to you on September 4th.

If you have other ideas or advice to add to this list, feel free to add it below in the comments or contact me @shazbazzar on Twitter.  Happy hunting on “Force Friday” this September!

Star Wars at Wizard World Philadelphia

Star Wars at Wizard World Philadelphia 2012

Some costumers with Chewbacca

This past weekend Wizard World came to Philadelphia.  Being a fan of all things pop culture and since Philly is right in my back yard, I of course had to attend.  I went to Wizard World Philadelphia last year as well.  Last year’s con was fun but not the huge event that cities like Chicago and New York get.  I think the biggest celebrity we got was Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead movies.  This year promised to be a much bigger event with celebrities like Chris Hemsworth and Stan Lee attending.  All five of the Star Trek Captains also appeared together for the first time including legends William Shatner and Patrick Stewart.

There wasn’t a huge Star Wars presence at the con but we did get a few celebs.  Sam Witwer, from The Force Unleashed video game series and most recently the voice of Darth Maul in The Clone Wars, was in attendance and had his own Q&A session.  Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), and Nick Gillard (stunt coordinator) were there as well and had a joint Q&A.  Nick Gillard also did his lightsaber master class at various times throughout the convention.

Mayhew, Bulloch, Gillard Q&A

This Q&A started out as just Mayhew and Bulloch and Gillard joined eventually.  Here are some of the highlights.

Mayhew and Bulloch recounted how they met for the first time at a supermarket, “…above the shelves there was only one head going around and I went up and said, ‘Hello Peter.’  Little did I know that a few weeks later I was gonna be cast as Boba Fett.”

When asked about what it was like to be a part of something as big as Star Wars Mayhew said, “Half the time you can’t believe that there are hundreds even thousands of people waiting to get your autograph, talk to you.  It’s a really wonderful experience.  Something that changes your life.”

In reference to changes that Lucas has made to the films Bulloch said, “Some I agreed with like Cloud City opening up and some I didn’t… I don’t think he needed to touch again.”

Bulloch said in Empire Strikes Back he was told that Boba Fett was a human.  He also said that it was nice that Fett got a backstory in the movies but they never should have shown his face.  He did not like the idea that Boba Fett was a clone and thought he should have stayed an individual.

Bulloch and Mayhew

Who shot first?
Bulloch immediately said “Han.”
Mayhew said, “I have no opinion on this… but it does make an interesting conversation.”
Gillard said, “I wasn’t there but I would always shoot first.”

What was your favorite movie to work on?
Bulloch, “I think Empire Strikes Back had everything you wanted.  Perfect film.”
Mayhew said that Empire was also his favorite and gave a lot of credit to Irvin Kershner.
Gillard said “Sleepy Hollow” which got a big laugh from the crowd.

When asked to comment about George Lucas retiring to his garage to make small independent films Nick Gillard said, “I’ve been to his private garage… Last time I was there he said ‘Look what I just bought for Christmas’ and he pressed a button and two of the doors came up and there was a yellow Ferrari and a red Ferrari.  There’s not much room to make a movie, it’s full of Ferraris.”

Nick Gillard was the stunt guy inside of the alien queen costume in Aliens.  He told a story about how hot and claustrophobic it was inside of the costume and how one day James Cameron was drinking tea in front of him and Nick used the arm of the alien costume to knock the tea all over Cameron.

Mayhew, Bulloch, and Gillard

Gillard talked about how much of the choreography gets cut out of the films.  He said he had choreographed a fight where Obi-Wan “fought against six guys with double ended lightsabers” (I think he may have been referring to Grievous’ magnaguards).  It took 3 weeks to choreograph and Lucas decided to cut it and just have Obi-wan pull a crate down on them.

Sam Witwer Q&A

Sam Witwer has a number of Star Wars credits but is probably more popular for his roles in shows like Smallville and Being Human.  Much of his Q&A covered other parts of his career but there was some talk about his Star Wars roles.

Witwer spoke very fondly of his time working on The Force Unleashed games.  He also said you will have to ask Lucas Arts about if there will be a third game in the franchise.

He was asked if he ad libbed any of his lines as Darth Maul in The Clone Wars.  He gave an example of a line where he was supposed to say “Your Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. I killed him while you stood helpless and watched. How did that make you feel, Kenobi?”  Witwer decided to change it to “Your Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. I gutted him while you stood helpless and watched. How did that make you feel, Obi-Wan?”  He thought that adding the word “gutted” and calling Obi-Wan by his first named made it more personal.

Witwer mentioned a number of times during the Q&A that he would love to eventually work in the Star Trek franchise. “I’m not sure how to get that done. Maybe ask Simon Pegg.”

A couple of times he did his Darth Maul voice and it was very impressive to see and hear it in person.

There was a funny moment when an enthusiastic fan asked if Sam had considered ever doing voice work for The Clone Wars.  Sam played along and said he would love to do it someday before finally coming clean to the fan and informing him that he had already done and is still currently working on The Clone Wars.

Lightsaber Master Class

Of the four Star Wars celebrities, Nick Gillard was the only one that I had a chance to talk to one on one.  Very nice guy and as you can tell from the Q&A answers above he has a great sense of humor.

Lightsaber training

Seven different times throughout the weekend Nick taught his Lightsaber Master Class.  This class was an extra cost above the convention ticket price and I decided not to spring for it.  The class was taught right in the middle of the convention floor so I was able to watch it.  His skills were very impressive to watch.  I was surprised to see that in a very short amount of time he was able to show his students complicated lightsaber moves and they were able to successfully complete some of the fight sequences.  In the end they could almost pass as Jedi.  Almost.

Other Highlights

Wizard World Philadelphia obviously had a lot going on other than just Star Wars and there were many highlights for me personally.

I’ve never watched an episode of Lois and Clark but Dean Cain’s Q&A was very entertaining.

Chris Hemsworth’s Q&A was packed and he was great with the fans.  He was by far the most current big celebrity in attendance.

I had my picture taken with someone in a very official looking Chewbacca costume.

I found a Jango Fett to add to my Mighty Mugg collection.  I failed to find a Hulk one for my friend.

The 5 Captains Panel

The Five Star Trek Captains panel was great.  As a Trek fan myself I was excited to see all five actors together in the same place.  Three of the captains were engaged with the audience (Mulgrew, Bakula, Stewart), another not so much but was funny when he talked (Shatner), and the other (Brooks) looked like he wanted to be anywhere else.

Overall the convention was great.  A lot bigger than last year but also a lot more organized.  I can only imagine that next year will be bigger and better.

Aaron Goins