It was touch and go there for awhile. Will I go? Will I not go? Calgary is quite far and with the tension sky high at work, I didn’t dare ask to adjust the schedule. But I did have Sunday and Monday off. Turned out the boy had those days off too. I asked him if he wanted to come to the Expo with me. He said sure. And thus we found ourselves arriving in Calgary early Sunday morning, tired from the long drive but excited to get our geek on. (It’s times like that I wish I lived within reasonable distance of an airport. My life would be 100% more time efficient if I could just fly places.)
What a time was had! The guest lineup was intense. The entire main cast of Star Trek TNG reunited. Stan Lee. Billy West. Adam West. James Marsters. Dave Prowse (also known as Darth Vader). Adam Baldwin.
Commander Sheppard Mark Meer. And those were just some of the super famous people present. Yet, for some reason, convention organizers were surprised when more than 50 000 fans from all over the world showed up.
On Saturday, convention goers discovered why most other major conventions have limited tickets. The inside of the convention centre was packed like a Tokyo subway car at rush hour (considering that a lot of geeks get nervous in crowds, I can only imagine how much panicking must have occurred that day) and the outside grounds, crawling with those who’d been locked out, were overrun. Going on Sunday ended up being the best idea ever.
We got there early in the morning and I had pre-bought and printed tickets for the two of us, like the wise convention goer that I am. We had a last minute addition to our party who didn’t have a ticket but, fortunately for her, I was at a pub crawl in Winnipeg about this time last year.
That’s right. While getting drunk in Winnipeg last year I befriended a fellow backpacker. A backpacker from Calgary. Who happened to text me on the way to the Expo, asking if I needed an extra ticket. After I pulled some sophisticated lineup strategy maneuvers, my Calgarian friend found us just as we were reaching the front of the line. We yanked him in, I paid for the ticket and, yep, all 4 of us got our passes. The moral of this story? Never turn down a pub crawl.
The WoW Crowd
The WoW community meetups are often the best part of these big conventions. Vidyala and Vosskah hosted a potluck on Friday night (I couldn’t go, unfortunately, since, well, I was at work 7 hours away) which I heard great things about. I did, however, make it to the supper on Sunday. The early planning went kind of like this:
Vid: Oh you’re coming! We should go for supper!
Me: We should! Can I invite people?
Vid: Um, ok.
A few days later, Vid, Voss, Darthregis, Chawajen, Kalesti, Rades, the Fannon family and the Bossy Pally party found ourselves seated at the downtown Milestones sharing Expo stories, WoW stories and housecleaning stories. Also drowned a donkey and a mermaid in Peach Bellinis. The night was too short, too short, too short. I could spend an entire week with these guys and still want to be around them.
I say I start planning my own conventions, just to draw out awesome WoW friends.
Unlike the rest of my party, I planned ahead. I printed out the panel schedule, studied it, rated the panels based on my interest in them and came up with a plan. One panel title was “How to just barely survive as a Hollywood writer“. It caught my eye. I’ve no ambitions to become any sort of pro writer (if I got offered a paid writing position, I’d turn it down). But while my personal goals aren’t in the field, I love reading or hearing about writers. Oddly, I kind of relate to writers.
So I read the description. Andy Rheingold, Josh A Cagan and Pete Williams. Pete Williams sounded vaguely familiar…
I got to the next line: Undergrads.
How many hours did my friend Val and I spend in high school expressing our appreciation for Gimpy? How many times did my brothers and I make each other laugh with Cal imitations? How many family nights did I spend with my siblings, watching Undergrads reruns on Teletoon? How many friends did I
force to watch introduce to the show? How many flashbacks have I gotten of Rocko reading Cosmo and saying “I think we’re all feeling a bit… *flips pages* premenstrual“?
I sat up-straight throughout the whole panel, drinking in every word. I squealed when Pete Williams did a Cal line (he sounded way better than my brothers and I ever did due to, you know, being Cal’s actual voice actor). I really, really, really wanted to run up to them after the panel and give them a hug.
Undergrads was one of the rare shows that played a huge part in my young adult life and I never in a millions years expected to meet the writers. Especially not in Calgary, 10 years after the show was cancelled (after 13 episodes). And if the experience was surreal to me, it seemed to be surreal to them too. They made my day when they said (I think it was Josh who said it, but I’m not sure) “It’s like we’re in Sliders, in a parallel universe where people have actually heard of our show.”
Of course, they were bombarded with questions about the eventuality of a season 2. It sounded like they were absolutely ready for season 2 but the usual red tape (show rights and financing) was holding them back. But the attachment they showed toward their show, even 10 years after being forced to move on, made me very happy. It was wonderful to be sitting in that room with about 30-40 other fans (another upside to Sunday! Saturday’s panel apparently packed 250 people in the room and turned 100 away. Much less intimate.) and the 3 main writers, sharing our love of Undergrads.
If only I hadn’t been too shy to go to their booth afterward and talk to them…
Video Game Voice Acting with Mark Meer and Quinton Flynn
Do you know who else is awesome, besides writers? Voice actors. They’re the stars you never get to see, who you don’t often think of. In fact, if the better job they do, the less you recognize them. They don’t get the screaming fans and the big bucks. But when you do meet them in person, you’re quickly smitten, so much their passion and talent is captivating.
Mark Meer, I was familiar with. I’m playing a lot of Mass Effect these days. I didn’t, however, realize he lives and works really close to me and that I could go see him act all the time. Which I totally plan to. He’s hilarious. You know else who is awesome, besides writers and voice actors? Improv actors.
I didn’t know the name of Quinton Flynn, but the second he started talking and doing impersonations…oh yeah! As my friend Skip puts it, Flynn is “one of those 12 voice actors who are in everything“. It was just incredible to listen to him. From his normal speaking voice, you wouldn’t guess that he was a voice actor, but the second he slips into a character…wow! Suddenly you’re sitting in front of Timon (I totally watched Timon & Pumbaa as a kid!) or Raiden or Axel or Johnny Quest.
In was interesting having them give the panel side by side since they both have very different careers. Meer does a lot of impov and theatre acting, as well as consultation work on designing voices, while Flynn has been voice acting for cartoons and video games since I was a kid, and has a lifetime of experience. They had different elements to bring to the table and it made for a very enriching panel. But like all panels, it was way too short.
And again, I wish I had had the guts to go up to their booths after and ask for an autograph and a hug.
Moments of Awesome
Vid called me while I was hanging out by some booths. “Can you pick up Volumes 1&2 of Questionable Content for me? I didn’t think to get extras for my brother.“
“Sure!” I said.
I was familiar with the name. But not being a fan of webcomics, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. A few moments later, I’m standing in front of Jeph Jacques (I totally interrupted his lunch too), knowing that I’m in the presence of someone amazing, but not knowing exactly the extent. He was super nice to me, autographed the books while I felt like a total poser.
I flipped through the books a bit before I turned them over to Vid. Definitely looked like something I’d enjoy. I was half tempted to keep them…
I’m now hooked. Questionable Content has a new fan. And that’s what conventions are all about.
Asked Vid and Rades if From Draenor with Love was going to have a booth next year. Conventions are about that too.
As the day was drawing to a close, a girl, maybe a few years younger than me, walked by, excitedly yelling on her cell phone: “I got hugged by the voice of Axel! You know! The voice of Axel! He gave me a hug!“
Conventions are definitely all about that.
Not necessarily about getting hugs (since I was too shy to ask for any), but about getting excited with other people, notably strangers and celebrities, about things you’re not usually allowed to be excited about in public. I can’t wait until next time!