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THE GATHERING 2005 JOURNAL -- Shannon "Shan" Muir
(abbreviated from the GARGOYLES FANS CONVENTIONS ARCHIVES)
Los Angeles may only be an hour away from Las Vegas by plane, but I needed to make sure not to miss a thing. So, there it was, 4AM and I was packing up last minute things to go. Making sure I had all 16 copies of the ARIA KALSAN anthology that I had at least promised the publisher I'd try to sell and a situation which Winterwolf was gracious to help accomodate me with after my original arrangments fell through. (I would later learn by weighing it at the Southwest counter that the carryon with all those books weighed 25 pounds, a situation I will probably have to reconsider in the future. It was fine... except when I had to lift it in and out of the overhead bins ).
Generally speaking, the trip from apartment to LAX to the Southwest jet to the Las Vegas airport was very smooth. I napped the short flight which gave me just the kick I needed.
Baggage claim was a barrage of sights and sounds tempting you to go to this casino or that show, everything seeming larger than life. And you're trapped there as it takes forever to get your bags. Getting innundated and innundated and innundated... I felt like I was stuck in the middle of a movie set and hoping the director would pop his head out and yell "cut!". Which of course never happened.
After my other suitcase showed up, I went out to where it said the shuttles were but these were the limos. I was directed to where the Palace Station's shuttle should have been at Zero level (I had done some research on the web earlier for both the Palace Station and airport but even that didn't keep me from getting lost). Totally not figuring things out, I go back up a level and find a taxi to take me to Palace Station. What I do not know is that this will immediately wipe out most of my cash on hand, as I expect to be able to use a credit card in a taxi. (I mean, I do it in LA all the time, right?). Las Vegas -- at least the airport taxi services -- are CASH ONLY! Eek! This meant later having to get ATM money from the casino with a fortunately nominal fee attached for the amount I desired. But still. I like planning ahead and being prepared and already things weren't working out.
The upside is that I was way early, got in around 9:30. So I check one bag and take the little one that has the books with me through the casino as I try to figure out where the Gathering is. And then I begin to realize my next mistake. I forgot to ask my physician for Allegra, or even bother to pack my Flonase spray which might have helped (or gotten me busted at the checkpoint?). My sinuses go crazy when I am exposed to smoke for too long periods of time. Nevada, particulary the casinos, are smoking of course, but I have failed to take this into consideration. This mistake comes back to haunt me several times over the course of the Gathering.
I find the area, but no one is there yet, save several other dealers who like me are looking for Winterwolf. Finally we find someone whose face I clearly remember, but whose name I never caught, who is on staff in a security capacity and is kind enough to page Winterwolf down for us. I learn the dealers' room was not set up the night before as I had understood it would be and I agree to come back at 1PM.
I return to the bell desk, check my second bag, and then call my boyfriend back in LA to tell him I arrived just fine. Only during my conversation with him do I realize it is after 10:30AM and I have not even had breakfast. Which also means I'm several hours late on a medication I am supposed to take with breakfast. I regretfully end my call and go eat what actually amounts to an early lunch (the menu had just changed) at the Burger King. After this, I am able to get my room and decide to crash on the bed and nap until going back at 1PM to meet Winterwolf.
About an hour later, there's a knock on the door. I ignore it; I mean, no one's expecting to meet me here. A second knock. So I pull myself out of bed and look through the little hole. It's a bellhop with a tray full of food. I VERY cautiously open the door and say I didn't order room service. He gives a name I don't recognize, though clearly it isn't mine, and tells me it is a GIFT FROM THE MANAGEMENT. I shake my head at him, insisting I am not this person and this is not the right room. He shows me a card, it has that name AND this room number (which based on what I now know I bet was in Courtyard 6th floor, I was Tower 6th Floor). Again he insists this is for me.
Oh, what to do? A person with less integrity might have pretended to be this other person and lied. But I didn't. I absolutely insisted I could not accept something not intended for me and if he could doublecheck I thought it to be for the best, and that I was sorry I could not accept a gift CLEARLY NOT meant for me.
And, after that, having to make sure to tell myself that no, that was not a dream, I went back to sleep until 1PM. Then, putting the books in my MY INNER SUPERHERO bag this time (a personal brand I sell on CafePress to support the FLYING GLORY webcomic), I made my way back across to the casino and dropped off the books. After that came lunch at the buffet known as THE FEAST, since I knew I hoped to see Greg's 3PM pre-Opening ceremonies panel and go on to the Opening Ceremonies themselves.
After a late lunch following registration and a brief hello to Greg, I sat in on Greg's 3PM pre-Opening Ceremonies panel on Animation Writing. Debating on Demona didn't interest me particularly, and I am not a poker fan (though the fact the panel was apparently also tailored for Vegas basics might have been a help, but since I am not a casino or clubber type I had my doubts). Besides, even with my fledgling pro credits, Greg is always fun to hear and a refresher course never hurts. Though I was self-conscious when he pointed me out at one point for not loudly cheering over the mention of his first work on the JEM series.
After that came opening ceremonies, which were fun. I enjoyed the time that the actors who couldn't come put into video and audio greetings to the con -- this included audio greetings from Keith David and Kath Soucie, and video from Ed Asner, Jeff Bennett, Bill Faggerbake, Frank Paur, and Michael Reaves, among others. The gem of the night from this group was Keith David delivering in a complete Goliath voice: "I have been denied everything... even my convention!"
This was followed with a series of videos shown by Greg, some of which have been seen yearly and some of which are new. One was a GARGOYLES pitch that slightly predated the well known one now on the DVD, actually narrated by well known actor and Disney staple Jim Cummings. The other was the hard work of several fans who won a charity auction for the storyboard, voice track, and script to the TEAM ATLANTIS episode "The Last" which has GARGOYLES-related connections, and did their best to assemble the existing material to give a taste of what might have been.
At the end of Opening Ceremonies, I went back for a tiny snack-like dinner at Burger King because the midday feast left me rather filled. After that, given the events of the day, there wasn't anyone inviting me anywhere, and the fact it was too late to get a shuttle to the Strip plus the issue of affording taxi fare back and forth, I called it an early night. I certainly couldn't complain about my no-smoking room floor with working A/C given my apartment doesn't have any back in LA!
Actually, it is incorrect to say I called it an early night. I tried to but found I was too wound up. So after calling my boyfriend and telling him the events of the day, I went down to the Blue Mug A Guest with Greg and Thom, having heard it was no holds barred and didn't know what to expect. Met Chameleongirl there while we were waiting, plus talked to a few others. However, with the Blue Mug being tamer than my expectations, and the fact that due to a combination of a medical condition I have and the medication for it emphasizing I try to get adequate sleep or I can encounter difficulties, I finally really did go up and call it a night just after 11PM.
Saturday began with getting up bright and early for breakfast. Part of this had to do with the fact that I was on one of the first panels of the morning. I was satisfied with the idea of being early and even having a small turnout if people had been up late the night before, but I refused to be late to my own panel! Though unfortunately I was done with breakfast too early and had to figure out how to kill time until I could even get in the room to sit down and prep.
The 10:30AM panel I was on was "From Fan to Pro," showcasing people who began as fans of animation and used those energies to begin building professional careers. The panelists were myself as writer/animation production personnel, and artists Karine Charlebois and Kythera of Anvern (aka Kit). Though I'd emailed both of my fellow panelists they'd been too busy to respond so I didn't know until that morning for sure that they'd made it. Karine and I waited a few minutes while Kit went to grab some samples for people to look at when the discussion was over. We waited a while and since Kit wasn't back yet, we started giving introductions until Kit returned.
The panel attendance was small but highly interested, and I would like to believe that we were able to be of some help, especially after hearing from several people that they felt more motivated and energized afterwards to improve their own art and writing. It is my personal belief that if others don't benefit from my doing panels such as this, it's not worth my time or theirs. When one of my valued mentors passed away quickly and unexpectedly two years ago from lung cancer, and a little over a year ago someone else who was influential in my early career decided to take her own life, I have become almost hypersensitive about the power of "paying it forward," to borrow that phrase popularized by a motion picture. Without these people no longer in my life, I realized what these people had meant, not just as people but what they had taught me. Someday, sometime, death comes to us all, and I'd like to believe that I could in some tiny way make the world -- or at least a few people's personal worlds -- a better place. I admit it's been a few years since I've done a panel of any kind, there's so much demand at Comic-Con I haven't done a panel there since 2001 (same year I was at "From Fan to Pro" at Gathering 2001, BTW). So I'm out of practice and relish opportunities to improve. Like I said, it seemed to go all right.
Anyway, after that I stayed in the same salon room for the next two panels, both of which were Greg-driven. The first was Story Development and Production where he co-hosted with Dave Schwartz. I mainly attended to see what Dave, whom I had never met and wouldn't talk to until Sunday, brought to the party. As Greg pointed out himself at the panel, "and I know Shan knows this..." But there's always benefit of seeing even with people you have heard before if there's just one little nugget of something maybe you just didn't quite catch last time.
Then came Greg and Thom in the voice acting panel. Mainly I was just watching to see how this was the same and how it differed from what we had done in the UCLA extension class Greg co-taught which I was in several years ago. The early exercises were the same, I remember doing the Demona monologue he started out using as something we also used in our class. But the larger group exercises were new material to me. This was why, when I wasn't quite sure Greg had the 10 he needed for the last performance, only then did I speak up. I would have given that a shot if needed to make it happen (I wasn't) but I figure that those for whom this is their closest experience to some of "the biz" should get to have the fun first. Also, those who actually have a chance of auditioning for the radio play. Since I had a panel opposite the radio play rehearsals, this wasn't an option for me even if I wanted to try (I did in Gathering 2001 but wasn't chosen). But I enjoyed watching the others learn and interact. After that came a much needed lunch break.
I got lunch at Burger King (not wanting to risk being held up and not being able to get back to the Creature Comics and Slave Labor Graphics panel), which I think was a good move. Several other attendees who I saw several times but who never actually introduced themselves so I remember faces but not names (!) asked some questions and also sought some advice. Questions ranged from my position on INVADER ZIM's short lived second season to more general career advice.
Still had time to kill after lunch, so wandered and waited a little. No gaming for me to kill time, though I'm certaintly of age. Having student loan payments kick in, plus knowing I'd be out of a job in a few weeks, makes me really hesitant to spend money in general.
Soon the panel got underway. It featured Dan Vado, head of Slave Labor Graphics, plus Greg Weisman and Marty Lund (the fan who kept believing in the impossible until it was possible, something which resonates with me a lot personally). Dan showed and walked through the SLG/Disney pitch reel of all the properties they are partnering on (HAUNTED MANSION with Roman Dirge, hopefully launching in October, as well as TRON, WONDERLAND, and of course GARGOYLES). Couldn't say too much about the comic yet as the deal was just signed, but it was a good chance to get to know more about the company and the partnership making this possible.
After that came the Charity Poker Tournament, but as much as I like gaming (I own a PS2 though due to my health I have to watch my gameplay hours, I am a 2nd generation PBM gamer, have not played MAGIC THE GATHERING much but often win when I do for reasons I can't explain, and I am known to be fierce at Yatzee) serious card games are not my strong suit -- please pardon pun -- though it would seem to me similar skills of logic and strategy would be relevant.
In a way this was convenient because I had never been to Las Vegas before and it provided the perfect opportunity to at least do a whirlwind tour of The Strip. I knew I wouldn't get to see everything, but my friend Monique said the Bellagio and the Venetian were must sees. I did one better and also got a fairly extensive look at Paris Las Vegas, but that was in part because it was the route to and from the monorail station.
Since we (myself and a few other folks from the hotel) had just missed the 6PM shuttle to the strip, and again I'm trying to save money, I have to hang around for an hour for the 7PM one. I get a bottle of water at the gift shop and drink it outside to get used to being in the heat. Greg Weisman passes me not once but twice in this 40 minute period. Finally the shuttle arrives at 7 and I take a four hour trip about the strip, but don't see anyone from the Con. I make it back for a very late Subway sandwich dinner after 11PM.
This day began by sleeping in after the adventures of the evening before, getting up for a late brunch (knowing I won't eat again before the banquet), and then actually lying down in bed again. This was OK as none of the first panels were really up my alley, they were all art-focused. The main focus of my day is that I know I have to be up and alert for the Webcomics panel at 3PM, where I am scheduled to discuss the writing and business side of running FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY.
About 11:30 am I get out of bed for good, deciding that I will go to the Dan Vado Mug-a-Guest. Not until I looked at my literature getting home did I realize I was supposed to sign up for it, so technically I broke the rules here (sorry Con staff). But signup for the Blue Mug didn't seem to be required and I just went there, so I didn't know any better. Anyway, the chart says that the Mug a Guest is in the Con Suite, so I go there. Aaron in the Con Suite (at least, I'm fairly sure it was Aaron I saw that morning) says it is in the Event Suite at the other end of the hall, though this confuses me because the chart says Life Drawing is in there. So I go to the Event Suite just as the Dave Schwartz mug clears out and stake a seat to see Dan Vado. They sort things out and Life Drawing moves to the Con Suite.
In the end, there are only four of us in a very engaged conversation. After talking to Dan briefly because of our commonality of working with Jhonen Vasquez, I largely sit back and listen as others field many of the questions I would have. When it gets down toward the end, I finally do ask the several questions on my mind that haven't come up yet, but manage to twist them both so they don't come out quite right Luckily Dan figured out my meaning and compensated with the appropriate answer, emphasizing that while he wouldn't want people to buy comics that don't interest them, letting people know about the other titles coming out before GARGOYLES when you know these will interest folks and legitimately getting their long-term sales up (in other words, DO NOT go buy issues just to inflate the numbers) is definitely in our vested interest. Like there's a guy I work with who is totally into Roman Dirge like stuff, so I should tell him about HAUNTED MANSION to make sure he knows, though I suspect he does already never hurts to check. Stuff like that. Dan made a very good Mug-A-Guest and if he comes back to represent SLG at LA, consider seeing if he'll be available again. And I promise not to crash this time.
After that, I stayed around for Greg's panel on W.I.T.C.H., that it seems had a much higher interest than they were prepared for in that small conference room. When it turned out the VCR wasn't working, we all uprooted back over to the Con suite and took it over since it had a working VCR. Greg showed the original animatic pilot for W.I.T.C.H. that varies significantly in some ways from the first episode made, and told about how the show went through various producers as it found the direction Disney wanted. He hinted as some of Season 2, such as insisting Thom would be heard as "Sammy the Calculator" (and yes he really is a calculator), nothing deep and detailed was revealed yet. Season 2 can start no earlier than January 2006, but Disney could hold over until the Fall... not an uncommon practice these days.
After this, I went to the lobby for the restroom and to grab a bottled water before the Webcomics panel back up in the Event Suite on 3rd floor. With it being opposite Radio Play auditions, I wasn't expecting many people but that was fine with me.
With hardly any time to spare, I went back to the 3rd floor... and discover the door to the Event Suite is locked! My best guess here is that when we traded rooms for the W.I.T.C.H. panel someone closed the door behind them, or perhaps Housekeeping did (it was being braced open by keeping the security latch in a certain position).
One other person shows up at that moment looking for the Webcomics panel. We quickly race to the Con Suite down the hall hoping against hope there is a staff member there. No luck. (Suggestion to future Con Staffs: in a case like this where events are taking place some distance apart, there should be someone at least regularly available in each area, and in this case the Con Suite seemed the logical place to find such a person. I mean, what if there had been a major emergency?).
Now a quick decision must be made. Neither Eden nor Silver (my fellow panelists) have arrived yet. So myself or the other person I don't know needs to go down, through the casino, and up to the Event Salons to see if there are Con Staff there, with no guarantee we'll find anyone. I decide as a panelist it is *my* responsibility to go get the key, and ask the other interested person to hang tight and let people know the panel is indeed here and I'm coming back with the key. After all I gave up a shot at the Radio Play to do this panel, I'm not just giving up without a fight!
With that, I made a mad walking dash across the casino, fortunately I have a pretty wide stride so I don't have to be running through the casino. I walked up the escalator and employ the same fast walk up to the Registration table, where I requested (possibly bordering on demanded, it's hard to tell in hindsight): "I need someone on staff with keys to 3010, now" with 3010 being the room number of the Event Suite. To the Registration's table's credit, they find me Aaron VERY quickly and we make it back to get the door open. (Aaron, again, thank you!)
Silver and a few other interested people are in the hall outside the door when Aaron and I arrive, but no sign of Eden. Carol (whom I met when we both took Greg's class a few years ago, and is on Con staff) shows up and asks if we need anything more while Silver sets her art out on the conference table. I politely tell Carol that if she could track down Eden, as the panel was her idea, would be nice.
Silver and I wait a few more moments but no Eden, so we get started, and Eden does eventually find us (and Carol, thanks for checking one more time to make sure we had everything we needed). Since Silver launched off the panel, everything kind of winds up flowing under her. My normal style is usually starting off with intro, then a few structured questions to break the ice, then ask the audience for Q&A. In both cases at the Gathering the panels wound up being total Q&A with the audience, or at least that was the intended structure. We did not get a lot of questions at this panel which meant the three of us wound up talking more about ourselves and bouncing off one another with people listening. While I enjoyed what we did and do believe we were informative, I just felt like we weren't interacting enough with the audience. Whether they just didn't have the questions, or somehow we just weren't giving them the breathers they needed to ask the questions, I don't know. Part of it may be that our comics and approaches to artwork and story development are so diverse.
After the Webcomics panel came the Radio Play. Unfortunately I got pegged with a combination of heavy cigar smoke followed by the smell of cleaning products on the way to the Salons and this would create a nasty little headache combination I could not shake for hours.
The Radio Play was very interesting and I was very sorry I couldn't audition given the subject matter. I don't know how much we can legally share, so suffice it to say it was for an hour live-action show pilot Greg co-wrote that has more than a little roots in classical literature As a broadcasting/English/communications major, I couldn't help but appreciate this. Though I might have enjoyed it more without the headache, and there were some things that still weren't clear about character relationships and motivations afterwards, but overall it was enjoyable. I understand there's some fandom humor about Jennifer/"CrzyDemona" playing a more than flirtatious woman with attitude, as her lines definitely got the most response out of any, though many people did good acting jobs.
After that came the Banquet, where we wound up standing outside a while to get in and then it was unclear where to sit, apparently it was open seating and then open buffet. Each seat had a lit gargoyle (not Disney type, generic gargoyle) candle in front of it, and at one point before food was served we were asked to look under the candles and not spill the wax. Some people had little colored stars on the bottom of theirs which signify different things. The first one involved locating the gold stars to sit next to special guests.
So I look, expecting nothing. But it looks like there is something there, so I strain harder forgetting there are fairly low holes in my candle holder design and pour wax all over my finger After dealing with that, I try again. I have a little star on the bottom of my candle holder. It is green. There is one blue star at each table, these folks are told they get to keep the gargoyle table centerpieces.
Then we are informed green and silver stars wait until after dinner. Ack. The suspense must wait.
Dinner consists of salad, rice, veggies, and then a choice of eggplant parmesan, chicken, or roast sirloin. I take the roast sirloin because the chicken doesn't thrill me and I am not a fan of eggplant as a main course, though I will eat it. My table is fairly quiet throughout dinner (we weren't full to begin with) so there's not a lot of conversation to be had there. Not that I mind, my head and sinuses are still hurting up a storm from smoke and cleaner irritation so I don't feel like talking all that much. Toward the end of dinner someone (Marina I think?) ascertains that I'm from LA and I find out she's relatively nearby...
And then Chris Rogers cuts back in to announce about those little green and silver stars. First the green ones, which includes me. Chris announces there are only FOUR green stars, which I think made this the rarest item of the night. Turns out they have four vintage (eep? Do I dare say vintage?) Gargoyles puzzle cubes manufactured by Applause, still sealed. And one of them winds up in my little hands. The silver star folks, of which I think there were less than one per table but more than four, get customized pen and pencil sets commemorating G2005 which actually look very nice but in my case would only end up in a drawer as you don't usually find things like that in a Production Coordinator's cubicle (now if I get a promotion to Production Manager in my next job somewhere and actually get an office, that's aother story ).
This is where I am kind of glad there was no dinner based Q&A, because at this point I honestly feel like my head is going to explode. I don't do cosplay or masquerade, but I really did want to see the ceremony this time out because I didn't in Gathering 2001 Los Angeles. There aren't many people here that know me really well, but I seek out one of these people and just let them know where I'm going and how I feel, with my intent to be back down later if I can shake the stupid headache. As I later told this person, I just felt the need to be accountable to someone because if things had gone for the worse, being around a lot of people who don't know me really well, who would notice that I was missing? This is the biggest downside of coming to one of these things on your own.
I go upstairs, take both my normal prescription meds plus the last ibuprofen I have on hand, and lie down for an hour. This, probably in addition to finally getting my 2nd meal of the day, does the trick to where things are at least liveable.
So I come back to the area where it is to be held, but they are not ready to seat yet. One person (CKayote, who I actually spoke to before but wasn't introduced until this point, which is why I didn't remember until now) is thinking of doing some fanfic but is wrestling with issues, so I take him through some general pointers surrounding his issue. While I have no aversion to fanfiction per se, after all technically the stories that first got me noticed by the VOLTRON staff 20 (!!!!) years ago can be considered such as they weren't solicited premises, like Greg and other pros I know I generally steer clear of it simply because I never know if these shows might be revived and I be able to compete for a chance to actually write for them -- so I don't want to influence myself. That said, I know my chances are next to none with Gargoyles but it's still a general personal principle.
We get ready to watch the parade of costumes, after being one of the latecomers to the dessert table (which was saved until then) and being put under more than a little pressure to get out of the way and sit down so things could get started. Sorry. But with people swarming like vultures (others' words at the time, not mine though I can think of no laternate imagery) early on, I tend to wait until things calm down. I'm sitting at the table with Silver, Lizzo, and their Mom, and Silver became my guide to answering questions about cosplay, masquerade, and related things. Thank you, Silver, for filling in the gaps and for all your help throughout the Gathering.
I'm not even going to try and run down the Awards ceremony in detail because there was so mucht to take in. There were costume awards, the Clan Olympics awards, annoucing the winners of the celebrity poker tournament, and stuff like that. I'm sure others can handle this with the correct detail it deserves. After that, it all came to a close. I took a few minutes to at least introduce myself to Dave Schwartz, especially because his name seems to ring a bell from my time at Sony. I do learn we were at Sony at the same time in the middle to late 90s but on different projects.
I heard normally they do fun stuff afterwards, but I'm guessing with the Strip practically outside our door, that constituted the "fun stuff" and I'd already had my fill of that. So I found myself with nothing to do.
I considered wandering back to my room -- not like I couldn't have used it -- but then I realized how early it was and there had to be SOMETHING going on! So I went back. Which was good. I saw people talking in one room but there was activity in the smaller room, twopeople moving chairs. One was the fellow who helped me twice by locating Winterwolf and Aaron when I needed them (don't know name at all, sorry) and when he saw me coming I can't help but wonder if he questioned what I wanted this time from him. But that wasn't it at all. No, this time I poked my head in and asked three little words: "Can I help?"
It's amazing what absolute boredom can drive you do to, for the good mind you. With no idea what was going on, I found they needed chairs moved to set up for something. Though I can only lift one at a time, I just pitched right in and tried my best. I would then finally meet and talk to the other person in the room, whom I had just seen at the Ceremonies but never talked to before... Brother Abe. Apparently there was a game he normally would have done at the Clan Olympics but was unable to fit in this year, so he was adapting it for individual play to offer a group game alternative to those who weren't into the casinos. I believe the name was "Shot in the Dark," basically he set up cardboard targets on chairs people would then through little plastic balls with tentacles at to try and score points, all in a dimly lit room. I tried twice, scoring 75 points the first time but nothing the second time (more accurately, I had 10 points then hit the target again which takes those points back). By this point my arm was not happy with me, probably from lifting chairs, so I checked the other room. People were STILL talking! Greg was with a bunch of people at one table, and Dave at another.
I saw Carol with Dave so sat next to her, we caught up as I haven't seen her since the 2001 Gathering. Spoke to Dave a little more, though find my subject matter becoming more self-absorbed as I clearly am crossing the line into very tired. But I don't want to leave. This is important as people with seizure disorders (I don't technically have epilepsy but I have to follow a lot of the same rules, such as limited exposure to strobe lights, which REALLY limited what I could do in Vegas as the stage shows love those things) are supposed to get decent amounts of sleep to reduce their risks. So I stay a while longer, but finally at 1AM I have to sadly throw in the towel and try to go to bed.
But wouldn't you know it, something writing-related finally clicks with me after I get back to my room and I'm up writing notes... until 2AM. I know I'm going to be paying for this Monday morning. Oh wait, it *IS* Monday morning!
Monday I decided to go easy on myself. Other than wanting to hear Greg talk about Original Properties at noon, and needing to pick up the ARIA KALSAN books when the dealers' room closed at 1:30, there wasn't anything that was a must for the day.
Anyway, I slowly managed to pack up my room, do video checkout, have my bags checked at the bell desk, and grab breakfast at the buffet (where I am seated a couple of tables down from Greg X and two others I don't recognize, Greg X is hard to miss in the coat he wears). After that I sit down and watch the end of "Win Xanatos' Money" just to get a sense of how it is structured and people's enthusiasm towards it. I feel safe since I haven't read any of the fan fiction that I can more observe people's enthusiasm towards it, and how they structure the game. However, at one point Allaine starts going around calling on members of the audience, which leads to an awkward moment where I have to tell him I don't read the fanfic and would be guessing. I'm afraid I insulted him, but like I said before, I have my reasons not to though I certaintly won't stand in the way of others.
Greg's panel on original properties is interesting. Due to some time needed to get the A/V set back up, we first start out discussing some behind the scenes of the live-action pilot done as the radio play and the how and why of his being partnered with another writer, along with the true history that then inspired the pilot. With the A/V then set up, we switched over to watching two color animatics (or, leica reels if you prefer, though the only time I've ever heard that term is when Greg uses it -- like his calling "Main Model Pack" a "999 pack" which I never heard before Gathering 2005). Both are pitches for a similar genre of show, though distinctly different in plot, done with two different levels of detail. I understand one of them was shown at a New York Gathering before in a slightly different form (it's the one Greg and Vic Cook worked on), and the other was shown for the first time (which is development done in conjunction with a studio). There were a couple moments due to the nature of the properties I found myself breathing a sigh of relief because Kevin Paul Shaw Broden and I are personally developing similar work in this vein but there were aspects that appeared in these that we had rejected which means we are now less similar to these two. Also, our development by necessity can't target the same demographic so all is well there. That was my biggest worry and risk in sitting in on this is that I didn't know what Greg would show or talk about, but I did want to see if there was anything he'd share I didn't already know. There were definitely a few things I walked away with, so that was good.
After that, it was next door to the dealers' room to pick up the ARIA KALSAN books from Winterwolf. I knew they hadn't really sold, so I was expecting to pick them all back up. But when I came to the counter, one weas missing! Winterwolf let me know that they did end up selling one, which made me very happy (thanks JEB!) because it felt like a nice reward for wheeling those 25 pounds of books everywhere and lifting them up and down out of the overhead compartments. Partially, though, having them there justified the trip as a business expense for promotion as a freelance writer.
So, with all the books back in my MY INNER SUPERHERO bag and a tad heavy that way until I can get them back into the luggage, I seek out Greg Weisman just to say goodbye because I know he's got to be hanging around for the auctions and guest signing that are about to start. But for me, between trying to drastically clean out and rearrange my apartment, and knowing I'll be unemployed soon enough, spending more money is not what I ought to be doing.
From there I grab lunch at the Mexican restaurant in the Palace Station, which was OK but mainly I wanted something different since I'd either been at the Feast or Burger King (save the one stop at Subway) the whole time. At 3PM, myself and a couple of others who are heading home from the Con get on the FREE Airport Shuttle -- I'm relieved to not be paying for a taxi again after all! -- and get dropped off at the airport.
Now bear in mind, my flight actually was scheduled to leave at 7:50 PM. But I didn't want to get so tied up in the Closing Ceremonies that I didn't leave when I should, and I also wanted to allow time for dinner in the airport and stuff like that since Southwest doesn't do meals on their flights. However, being on the 3PM shuttle gets me there 30 MINUTES EARLY TO EVEN CHECK IN! Oops. Fortunately, they let me wait inside near the ticket counters and right to the minute of 4 hours before flight time I go check in.
It's not a bad 4 hours in the airport, mind you. I do casually find some dinner, spend some time listening to my iPod, even (since my Blackberry ran too low on power) buy a little Internet kiosk time to check my email even in my work box and find out what I've missed and let my bosses know what good a time I've had. No complaints. Even getting on the plane is easy, it all seems a breeze.
Until we're going down the runway and all of a sudden the plane stops. We're being told that there is hold for us leaving for LA with no estimated time of departure. Turns out there were lightning storms that were backing up traffic to LAX and so they held us on the tarmac for AN HOUR. We essentially left when we would have landed.
Despite it all got home shortly before midnight and worked my way to bed. After all, there was Production Coordinator work to go back to in the morning, and find out what day I was getting laid off from the show (August 19th). Now I'm busy wrapping things up and packing up the production offices, and putting out feelers on where to go next. Like we were talking about on the "From Fan to Pro" panel, things can be feast or famine in the animation business but you have to learn to be flexible and go with the flow. I just know I wouldn't give up being around animation for the world, as a fan or as a pro. And that includes things like Gathering 2005.
Shannon "Shan" Muir
Farewell, my enemies!
Journal Thingy... Part 4 - The Head Cold Edition
So, I missplaced my copy of the schedual, and I'm suffering from a horrible head cold. But, I'm finishing this, before I really forget everything.
Sunday, July 31st
So, I woke up early and went down to the Eye of Odin Anthology signing. It felt weird being on the other side of the table for an autograph signing, but I enjoyed it. That being said, a big shout out to Christine for editing it, and I'm sorry she wasn't present for the signing. She did a great job putting it all together. So, kudos.
After the signing, I think some of us got a little bit of food from Subways'. Chicken Teryaki sandwich with jalepenas is a good combo.
Greg Weisman showed up soon with his wife and kids Erin and Ben. Both the kids are showing an incredible amount of talent at their young ages, but considering their genetics, that is hardly surprising. I hope they keep it up.
Mostly hung around chatting with people, then went to this year's Radio Play. Really good, pilot episode for a series that Greg has yet to sell, but I hope he one day does, it was fun. Lots of nudity in the script ;)
After that, went back upstairs to shower and change for the banquet... this year I wore a suit and tie for the banquet, food was good, great company. Flanker was wearing his dress uniform, Aaron was also wearing a suit, and Lynati looked good in her dress and had this really cool looking necklace.
Afterwards, the wait between for the Masquerade, and no, I didn't pull anything together, I need to lose fifty pounds before I ever try it. I'm on a serious diet now, so, maybe next year. I doubt it though. But considering, I was already wearing a black suit and have a goatee and ponytail, I could have just entered as David Xanatos.
Costumes this year were great. Cindy was awesome as the Banshee, Revel rocked as Jackal, Greg's kids pulled Holly and Goliath together really well. It was all good.
After that, mostly hung out with people, watched Tony French Thom... to Andrea's delight I'm sure. Already it's Jen's LJ icon ;). Finally, I had to call it a night. It was 1am, and I was still on New York time (so, it felt closer to 4 am), and I wanted to get out of that suit.
Still, what a night. Great company, lots of fun ;)
Monday, August 1st
The last day. Went and had breakfast, hung out in the art room, then it was time for the auction, where I walked away with a Demona t-shirt. I really wanted a copy of Greg's script for Doc Shakespeare, but I was outbid. I just couldn't justify spending more than $150 on it, but I wanted it. Finally, it was time for Closing Ceremonies. Which is always, always bitter sweet.
The con may have been over, but not my fun. Had lunch with JEB at Subways, went upstairs to get ready, because a group of us were going to go see Penn and Teller at the Rio. Lots of fun, a limo was rented, and we went.
Penn and Teller was... I dunno, I expected more from a world famous Vegas show. It was okay, not great. But afterwards, we all went and got plastered till 1 am, then the limo picked us up... with complimentary champaign (yay, more alcohol!), and we came back and hung around the con suite for a bit.
Afterwards, time to call it a night. Aaron walked to my room with me, where we discussed the con, next year, and the fandom as a whole. Basically, fandom is the best extended family on the planet.
Said good night to Aaron and I crashed. Overall, a good day, but I was bummed for missing Revel and Spacie's ceremony.
Tuesday, August 2nd
Got up, and checked out. Was hoping to see Greg and say good bye to him, but he had already checked out. Aaron, Revel, Spacie and Lynati were already gone. Saw a few people, but everyone was gone or leaving. Then Jen, Cindy and a group of people showed up looking for breakfast... I really wanted to go, but my shuttle was leaving in a few minutes. But it was nice to have friendly faces around before I left.
So, I went to the airport, got on my plane, and came home.
And that was my summer vacation.
This year's con was great. I loved every moment of it. And I loved every moment I was in Las Vegas. I left quite a bit out, but Vegas was a terrific location, and a beautiful city. I love casinos. I hope to go back some time.
Big, big thanks to the con staff, they did great. I have no complaints about this year's con. None whatsoever... well, I'm still bummed Mara couldn't make it. But Chris, Kathy, Aaron, Lanny, Seth, Lynati, Abe, Hudson and everyone did a great job.
I'm sorry if I left out or forgot anyone, but right now I'm suffering from a horrible head cold.
Gathering 2006 cannot get here fast enough.
Farewell, my enemies!
Road trip 2005/Gathering Las Vegas
Also known as "I hate giant raccoons"
It was a great con, so to begin with I want to thank all the staff and guest, and everyone that could make it to make it a great con. Lynati and Aaron arrived from San Antonio on Tuesday July 26th for the beginning of the road trip. As many know Mara was unable to make it due to her brother's wedding, ironically, we were not sure if she would actually fit in the van after it was loaded down with personal and convention materials. Barely leaving enough room for four.
Our mode of transportation this year was a rental, good thing too, but I'll get to that later. A Dodge Grand Caravan. Now personally, I hate minivans, but I have to admit, it was a pretty sweet ride. Had lots of room that we needed, floor cargo places I called the Moonshinner bins, since they were hidden in the floor, but best of all was the dual CD and cassette deck with radio controls on the steering wheel.
Unfortunately we had to wait an hour, even though it had been reserved days in advanced to get the damn thing. I started to think Dollar had lost our vehicle. We left Wednesday afternoon and made decent time, not in any hurry since the rooms were not available till 3 pm on Thursday.
The trip to Vegas was without incident, long, and filled with conversation. We did stop at the Hoover Dam and snagged a few pictures, since we were not in a rush. The water was apparently at a record low with exposed rock that had not seen light since the dam had been built. Plus there was quite a bit of construction, they are building a bypass for the trucks so the can still get through but without going over the dam.
We were able to find the Hotel and arrived about 1pm local time.
After getting the van unloaded in the Con Suite I sat around tired and chatted with Emambu who had a flight that took him across country and back again. Driving may not seem like a particularly difficult thing to do physically, but it can be very wearing. I'd actually recommend planned over night stops if you can, or at least make an attempt at sleeping, but I don't sleep well in cars, never have, but I did get more this time than I did last year.
So, Spacie and I checked into our room and I took a nap till she came back to get me for dinner. Emambu, Spacie, and I ate at the Guadalajara, we had seen the sign that said the Café was closed for the weekend and made the mistake assumption that it was the feast buffet, which I apologize to those on staff I made panic. I was quite pleased with the food throughout the hotel, I honestly did not have one bad meal and the prices were reasonable.
After dinner we hung out in the con suite pretty much the rest of the evening, getting to hear about Greg Weisman's perilous flight and delay in Ontario, California. What I really like about Greg is how he really is not a celebrity, I mean he is important to us, but he is also one of us, a fan of things, just another guy. How we can sit and talk about movies and comics, have a fun and passionate review and discussion of things we like or dislike. Bed came soon after.
We were on the 7th floor, and given Las Vegas's higher altitude the sun rises much earlier than I am use to, like blinding through the window at 6:30 in the morning. Though the impromptu wake up was good because we discovered the alarm clock had been disabled due to a power outage earlier that evening. Glad I was not on a slot or video poker.
Yes, I did gamble a little, I thought it would have just been wrong to go to Las Vegas, the Mecca of gambling of the western world and not at least try my luck a little. I can understand how people can get addicted, when you are up it's like being high and when you are down you want to get up again. I always recommend gambling with someone who can tell you when to stop and you will listen to.
After breakfast at the Buffet and a little help at the registration desk I helped set up the art panels. Because of the very tall panels almost no one understood that Dreamie's idea was that two purchased panels were stacked atop one another. Even I didn't know at first. I got to share space with Liz(Sara Berkley), which I think was a bonus for me because her work was absolutely fabulous. One piece sold and got awards for two others. Plus Liz gave me compliments on the t-shirt which was appreciated and many loved the Kill David that I put a lot of time into, idea courtesy of Greg X Bishansky.
Spacie and I had a panel where we moderated the discussion of who is Demona and why. Honestly I had no game plan, as those who attended probably noticed, but I think everyone had a good time, I did some of my usual sarcasm and cracked jokes to keep the discussion fun so hope everyone had a good time.
I think we caught some dinner at some point after that and enjoyed Opening Ceremonies including the story board animated "The Last" and all the videos. One day, I would like to see the video with the Power of One music played with a stereo that has the kind of bass Greg always describes. Lots of good news came our way, including season 2 or half of it, and the comic as a sure thing. So things are looking up in the Gargoyles fandom, we've kept the faith now we just need to reintroduce those that forgot.
The Blue Mug a Guest was more blue this year, but that was my goal. Mwhaha! Not going to say what was asked, if you wanted to know you should have came. But if was fun. Again we love Greg and Thom because they are one of us.
To be continued
I've been looking for you!
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 4, and the Day After
August 1, 2005
Got up, got yet another cinnamon scone and headed for the con area, passing Thom Adcox en route. I sat outside the con area and ate, saying goodbye to A Fan and Mandolin as they passed by. I went to the room for the Creating Original Properties panel, but left before it started to go back to the Dealer's Room/Art Show. I bumped into Greg B. again, and bought the Aria Kalsan Anthology for the heck of it. Then, I went back to the panel.
At the Creating Original Properties, Greg covered a little of the same ground he'd covered in the Series Development and Production, but with an focus on the Development and Sale steps. First, he talked about Doc Shakespeare's real-world historical roots, and his attempt to sell it to Jonathan Frakes' production company. (Lesson one: 90% of what happens in this business is failing to sell things.) Greg and the others decided that Doc Shakespeare- which he described as Northern Exposure with a supernatural twist- was so "out there" of a concept that it'd do best with a pilot script. Unfortunately, even that didn't succeed.
Greg also showed two pitches for shows he was working on, one of which we saw before (in slightly different form) at the 2003 Gathering. I think both have potential. After that, the floor opened to questions:
- Using copyrighted material, such as music, is fine for pitches, which are never seen by the public, but not for broadcast (for obvious reasons).
- Greg and Michael Reaves wrote the first script treatment for the Gargoyles movie, but walked away from the project when the company owners started making too many changes.
- Animated series with adult characters are very hard to sell, because execs want to have characters they think kids can relate to- i.e. kids or teens. The exception is for "marquee characters" like Batman. This has to do more with the executives' personal comfort levels, rather than any actual aspects of the audience.
- Greg doesn't think much of focus tests. Focus testing is done, he believed, to soothe execs' worries more than anything else. An example- test audiences disliked Demona, resulting in requests to de-emphasize the character- but the execs missed the point that she was the villain, who isn't supposed to be liked! Another example- Kim Possible didn't get greenlighted until it passed three focus tests in different regions of the country.
- Selling shows internationally is difficult simply due to the expense of travel- particularly as pitches are usually done on spec.
During the panel, Thom stopped by to say goodbye to Greg, and the audience, with waves and hugs. After the panel, the lot of us went to the Dealer's Room. I looked over an additional set of production art, from "Avalon" and "Eye of the Storm." It was interesting to see such design misconceptions from "Eye" as a cyclops-Odin-bear and handcuffs on the stone Angela and Bronx. Following a brief chat with Garrett, I joined the crowd for the auction. Greg won an auction for his son uncontested (who was gonna bid against Greg?). I almost won the Xanatos Roadster- complete with business-suited Xanatos- that I had an incomplete version of, but I didn't realize I'd been outbid and lost it. (As the auction continued, Greg signed autographs- the line ended before the auction did.)
With the bidding finished, I made another pass of the Dealer's Room, and paged through the SLG sample comic. (I may have to get the Bill and Ted collections.) Returning to the auction area and waiting for Closing Ceremonies, I paged through Aria Kalsan, signed Dennis Woodyard's card (he was unable to attend for medical reasons) and made small talk. As the Closing proceeded, Chris Rogers announced his intention to bring a future Gathering back to Vegas. He and Greg Weisman plugged G2K6, and Greg thanked the con staff and we fans.
I wandered a bit, then had Subway dinner and hung out with Greg Bishansky, talking about Gargoyles, the fandom, past Gatherings, comic books and TV shows, etc. Around 7 p.m. he had to get ready for Penn and Teller, so I returned to the largely abandoned con suite. (Unsurprising since the con was officially over.) Only a fellow with a top hat and a guy who turned out to be Fusion Demon's dad were there. With nothing else to do, I settled down to wait for the night. I had an opportunity to go to Penn and Teller with the con staff, but I decided against it.
A few people came in, and we watched the playing of a curious game called Katamari Dynasty. Eventually, however, trudged off to bed, reading a bit more of Eye of Odin first.
August 2, 2005
Not really the Gathering anymore. After getting my last cinnamon scone, I went to see if the Con Suite was still open- it was closed and the sign was gone. I gambled and lost $10 (thus reminding me why I don't gamble). I checked out, waited for the shuttle (and read more Eye of Odin), and saw my last vestige of the con in a fellow passenger to the airport, Tiphini Three.
And thus was the Gathering over! I look forward to the L.A. con! (But next time, I'm going to factor in some more tourism.)
Farewell, my enemies!
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 3
July 31, 2005
I woke up in time for the Eye of Odin signing, but fell back asleep. Woke up again about two hours later and got myself a Starbucks chicken caesar salad (I figured after two days of scones and Burger King, I owed my stomach something a little healthier). Took the salad with me to the con area, where I registered for Gathering 2006 (I will get to Los Angeles), sat down and ate it, then wandered... before sitting next to the con registration table. Talked with Greg B. for a while about politics and other matters, before leaving to find the Webcomics panel. I couldn't find it- it'd moved to make way for banquet preparations- but fortunately Garrett was going there, so I followed him.
The Webcomics panel featured Shan (of Flying Glory and the Hounds of Glory), Silver (of Ravenwood) and Eden (of Naomi Lewis: Demon Hunter). They had a lot to say, albeit in a sort of disorganized fashion (which, I thought, worked well for the panel). First the gave an overview of webcomics in general. One particular point they made early is that webcomics require a lot of self-discipline (you have to be your own biggest fan, they noted) and that they don't tend to make a lot of money- although certain comics have tried ways to change that (paid access, etc.). In webcomics, it's also true that popularity does not mean your work will be seen as quality.
When making a webcomic, they advised that you make sure your art style matches your story style, and that you need to figure out what your target audience will be. You also need to really, really want to tell your story- you can't just make the webcomic to get attention. You should be absolutely immersed in your universe- if you can sprinkle your stories with the minutest of details, they really give your world a sense of depth. You should have an idea where your story's going, but don't give away all your secrets- and keep in mind that stories sometimes take on a life of their own. They recommended you make a journal, and just write down every idea for a scene, an action sequence, or dialogue that comes to mind. And if you even suspect your story might resemble something pre-existing, check it out to make sure- that way you can tweak your idea to avoid accidental copying.
There are several ways to host webcomics- services like Keenspace (which they advised should be avoided), on blogs, making your own site or using a friend's. You should have a good idea about your skill level, which will tell you how large your individual installments oughtta be and how often you should update- in general, though, more frequent updates should be smaller and less frequent updates larger. It's also good to have someone as an editor or sounding board, to give you different opinions on your work.
The webcomic panel ended, and so I satisfied my newfound love for cinnamon scones by buying yet another, before going to the Radio Play- Doc Shakespeare. Looks like it would have been a neat series, with all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle Shakespearean and literary references, plus a touch of magic. Too bad it didn't get picked up. The actors all did a great job- very entertaining!
While most of the crowd scattered, Garrett, his friend Ed and I waited for the banquet to open up. A half hour of waiting ensued, during which I looked at parts of Garrett's cool RPG wiki, before they let us in.
I sat at a table with two groups- Echo and her parents or grandparents, and Tumiaus and her father. Tumiaus and Echo's relatives seemed slightly off in the setting, but we made nice small talk. As a nice touch, there was a tiny gargoyle candle at each of our places at the table. Our table might have jumped the gun a bit in getting food (I guess they were particularly hungry), but no one seemed to mind. The banquet was good- I had a scoop of caesar salad, a scoop of rice, some sort of beef and a dinner roll. (In retrospect, I suspect I should have gotten myself more. But oh well.) We found out, too late, that we had a gold star on one of our gargoylettes, indicating that we should have gotten a guest. Tumiaus' dad got a blue star, so Tumiaus got to keep the larger gargoyle statuette in the middle of the table.
Eventually, Echo and her family left so she could get dressed for the Masquerade. Tumiaus and her Dad stayed a while longer, before leaving as well (they had a plane to catch that evening). Strangely, there never was a Q & A- maybe because the guests sat among the attendees? Our table had some extra gargoylettes, so I handed them out to people as the lot of us left. As I headed out, I ran into Greg B., and we talked about the upcoming comic and pondered the implication of a third season as Greg Weisman intended. We were joined by Gside, then Darklord, before we all headed back to our rooms. I read the first two stories in Eye of Odin, then returned to see the Masquerade.
While waiting for the Masquerade, I wound up shorting myself on dessert again- I got one slice of cake, while it seemed everyone else got multiple. I guess I need to be greedier. A bit late, the parade of costumes began. Some of the more memorable ones included Shara as Future Tense Brooklyn; the Weisman kids as Ali (Erin) and Goliath (Benny); Eden as Banshee; Onyx (whose wings were at the cleaners, according to his sign), Revel as Jackal, Noel Leas as the Werefox, and Echo as Azure (with intricate wings!).
The winners were:
1st Prize Canon, Junior: Benny Weisman as Goliath
1st Prize Noncanon, Junior: Erin as Ali
1st Prize Cosplay, Junior: Fusion Demon as Fusion
1st Prize Canon: Eden as Banshee
2nd Prize Canon: Revel as Jackal
1st Prize Noncanon: Onyx as Onyx
2nd Prize Noncanon: Echo as Azure
1st Prize Cosplay: Noel as the Werefox
Honorable Mention Cosplay: Jade Griffin as Elisa as Belle (from "Eye of the Beholder") (for her "I'm outta here" after seeing the Werefox)
Cutest Couple: Tony Zucconi and Thom Adcox
Thom Adcox Memorial Award: Andrea Zucconi (so she won't hurt Thom!)
Gorelisa Award: Shara as Future Tense Brooklyn
Best in Show: Shara as Future Tense Brooklyn
After that, Brother Abe presented the awards for the Clan Olympics, and the results of the Poker Tourney were announced (Chris Rogers won $600 for the American Red Cross, with lesser amounts to the others' charities). They also gave a well-deserved special award to Carol Wagner for her years of work getting guests for the Gatherings. In the art show awards, Jade Griffin won the most in a variety of categories, with Kythera a close second. (Or at least it seemed that way.) The best in show was Sara Berkeley's extensive Gargoyles Zodiac; Kythera won the "Most Insane Detail" Award. Thom Adcox won a pair of shorts with "Lex Machine" on them- but they couldn't persuade him to put them on. The awards ended with the editor's choice in Eye of Odin- Allaine's "The Most Dangerous Game."
With the Masquerade finished and the awards given, some left for parts unknown. Others congregated in groups, including one table with Greg Weisman, Dave and (later) Thom. I stood on the sidelines, and had a lengthy chat with fellow old-school fan Blaqthourne (and Crimson Fury) about the earlier days of the fandom (as well as the fact that Mae Lee, who organized the first Gathering, almost came to G2K5), computers, old video games, and movie and TV soundtracks, among other topics. After that lengthy chat, I headed back to my room, read more Eye of Odin before going to sleep.
Farewell, my enemies!
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 2 (Part 3)
July 30, 2005 (continued)
After the comic book panel was finished, I got myself another Burger King dinner and gambled a little (and lost all of the little- seven dollars) before going to the con suite to hang out for a while. I chatted a bit with Kaelynn, but mostly watched the largest part of "My Brother's Keeper" followed by "Reawakening." After that, I headed back to the con area, and watched the Charity Poker Tourney. A few players were already out by the time I arrived. Marty lost shortly after I got there, and Thom did very well for a bit (despite his supposed inexperience) until he too went out. Adam followed a bit after, leaving the game between Eric "Gorebash" Tribou, Chris Rogers and Greg Weisman. Eric was the first to fall before Chris Rogers' formidable poker face, then finally Greg lost to him as well. Chris Rogers' charity won!
Greg led a bunch of us to the Ice Creamery in the casino, where we got, well, ice cream. (Chocolate chip, if you're wondering.) After that, Greg was out of ideas (food was his usual last resort), so we wandered into the arcade next door. Thom played the shooting game Namco Quick & Crash, and Greg played a rigorous game of Ms. Pac-Man. Thom took the lead after that, leading us (in theory) to the pool. Instead, we went into the Courtyards, past the pool, into the hotel lobby, and up the elevator, where everyone but Norcumi, Quindar and I (we'd all just sort of gone with the flow) left to get ready for the pool. The three of us joined up with Emambu, then went up to the con suite.
I stayed there for quite a while, as the crowd in there dwindled down to just Emambu and me. We chatted about The Gargoyles Saga (he was looking forward to Pendragon Season 4), journalism (he was taking some courses- I graduated last year with a journalism degree) and related topics. We had a few visitors in the meantime- A Fan (who left us pizza) and Brother Abe among them- but no one stayed for long. Marty arrived after a while, and engaged us in an interesting discussion on the marketing angle of the Gargoyles comic, plus some of how it came about.
When Marty first contacted Disney about the license, his contact didn't quite say no, but instead bluntly pointed out the difficulties involved. He would need, she said, a business plan (which he had) and a fairly large sum of money up front (which he didn't have) to acquire the license. It was the contact that talked to Greg Guler about the idea at a San Diego Comic-Con, and later referred Marty to SLG.
More people started flowing in at that point- first Mandolin, then Siryn and her friends, who'd just came back from hauling her to a bachelorette party. Most of them left after a bit, while a few more came in after Hudson's Rant (including Hudson himself). Kaelynn and Siryn played Super Smash Bros. Melee for a while, during which Dave Schwartz made a brief cameo, then left. After Siryn left, they put on Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. By this point, I was getting pretty tired, so after listening in on a theological discussion for a while, I headed to my room and my bed.
You'll have to do better than that!
(Just to be clear, I READ (and enjoy reading) all the conjournals, which -- as I've said before -- I asked to have posted here for the sake of the powers that be. The abbreviated responses are to save time, i.e. to help me get to the questions and catch up.)
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 2 (Part 2)
July 30, 2005 (continued)
After the Series Development and Production panel, I headed back to my room and lounged around for an hour or so, then headed to the Modern Martial Arts panel. An entertaining panel, featuring Flanker, Paul, Shara and Julie demonstrating various techniques. Flanker explained that there are two basic types of martial arts- striking, which focus on attack, and redirective, which focus on using the opponent's movements and momentum against them. He also noted that (in his opinion- and mine) that martial arts includes more than just the Asian fighting styles- it also includes western styles such as fencing.
After that brief introduction, Flanker and Paul sparred for us, Flanker using a freestyle sort of kung fu, and Paul using tae kwon do. Each got their share of strikes in, and fun doing it.
Flanker believed the best option for learning a martial art was to join a club or team, because they wanted you to get good and win them trophies. The other ends of the spectrum- quick and cheap, or expensive and high-end- were flawed, in his opinion. To him, it seemed, the main reason to learn martial arts was for self-defense- everything else was an extra at best or superfluous at worst. (Paul seemed to disagree, favoring practice movements like kata.) That said, Flanker didn't dismiss the value of other reasons- he just didn't feel that way himself.
We also received a demonstration of tae kwon do from Shara, and Flanker listed some interesting facts about fighting systems ranging from the Russian Special Forces' systema to the fast, brutal Israeli Special Forces' krav maga to the more traditional karate. He made an interesting statement- "professionals are predictable- amateurs are dangerous." (Referring to the fact that a professional in combat is patterned, while an amateur doesn't know when to pull back or control themselves.) Julie, a federal agent with the OSI, said her training focused on surviving a confrontation using escalation of force- you work your way up from minimal force to damaging to, if necessary, lethal. She also had an interesting piece of advice: the best deterrent against criminals could be an unloaded 12-gauge shotgun, as the intimidation factor was sufficient to scare off most bad guys.
After the panel ended, the con was interrupted briefly by a fire alarm (which turned out to have been pulled by some kid). We gathered up for the Gargoyles Comic and Creature Comics.com panel following that. While we waited, I chatted with Shan (who, unknown to me, was webcomic creator Shannon Muir) about iBooks (which, she informed me, was intended to bring comic-book properties to a wider, book-reading audience) and the state of the current comic industry in relation to different genres and manga.
The panel featured Greg Weisman, Slave Labor Graphic chief Dan Vado and Marty Lund. The facts given on the Gargoyles comic are as follows:
- It will be the third season as Greg Weisman would have done it, starting after "Hunter's Moon" Part III.
- The comic will be released bi-monthly, and each issue will be 32 pages in length. They hope the first issue will be released sometime during the first half of 2006. The license from Disney will last for three years, after which it's up for renewal.
- They didn't provide any teasers on artists. The only actual art that's been finished for Gargoyles- which was a late-comer to Slave Labor Graphics' Disney line- was the picture of Goliath and Elisa from the San Diego Comic-Con drawn by Greg Guler. Although SLG is accepting submissions, Dan Vado wasn't sure if they'll be open to hiring outside artists. Fan art might be featured on the letters page.
- The individual issues of the comic will be available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble's Web site. (That goes for the other SLG Disney comics as well.) Disney will publish the collected editions of the comic.
- Greg isn't 100% sure that everything he revealed over the last several years will be part of the comic, but the bigger revelations will likely be kept- mainly so as not to cheat the fans.
- Greg admitted he's a little worried about the comic- after so long a wait (almost ten years), he hopes the final product doesn't disappoint! He also still has some surprises in store.
- The comic will be set in late 1996, but Greg doesn't plan to make this explicit in the comic itself (he doesn't want to discourage new readers).
- There will be an advertising budget. They hope to make sure there are plenty of ways for people to find out about the comic.
- They're not sure if they'll have access to material from the previous Marvel comic. Even if they did, Greg would need to look the material over to decide if he wants to include it- he recalled being less than thrilled by some elements. (I imagine the character of Venus was one of those elements.)
- The title will focus on the Gargoyles thread primarily, although it will touch on elements of the spin-offs (including Timedancer). The spin-offs may become comics of their own if Gargoyles is a good enough seller to justify it.
- Vinnie will be in the comic! (Quoth Greg: "It'd be like leaving me out!")
- Greg Weisman will be the only writer.
As for SLG's Disney line and Creature Comics.com:
- The very deal itself is a bit odd- Dan Vado said there's nothing in SLG's 20-year history to suggest they'd be a good venue for Disney comics (they're best known for stuff like Milk and Cheese or Johnny the Homicidal Maniac). However, Disney chose SLG because they thought they'd be able to snag the teen demographic. Although a final contract has yet to be signed, SLG signed a letter of intent prior to the San Diego Comic-Con (and Disney promptly promoted the SLG-Disney material at their booth). This basically means it's a done deal.
- Disney will have approval on all content in the line, but Disney is also aware that the comics are aimed at an older crowd than most of their stuff.
- The entire line will be full-color, except for Haunted Mansion.
- Haunted Mansion, due out in October, is based on the ride (not the movie), and the art will be done by Roman Dirge (artist for SLG title Lenore. It will tell the tales of the 999 ghosts that unlive within the mansion.
- Wonderland is basically Alice in Wonderland without Alice, taking place after the Disney movie. Dan Vado described it as akin to one piece of sample art- the Cheshire Cat looking all strung out. The art is by Sunny Lu (and I have no idea if that's spelled right), whose style looks rather similar to Tony DiTerlizzi of Spiderwick Chronicles and Planescape fame; according to Dan, the writer was so into Wonderland that his dad dug a hole in the backyard when he was a kid so he could wait for the White Rabbit!
- Tron, due out in January or February 2006, is one of the more demanded titles- apparently Tron has quite a fandom, which has basically been telling Dan that he'd better not screw it up. It's set six months after the film, but quickly goes to times before and during the film. SLG was the second company to get the license- the previous company's license fell through. (They planned a more superheroic direction for the title.) The writer for Tron has apparently been waiting 20 years to work on it. Two scripts have been written thus far.
- When asked about making a Team Atlantis comic, they didn't have plans to do one, but "The Last" (the aforementioned episode that's a pseudo-crossover with Gargoyles) might be done in comic form.
- SLG might be involved in the 2006 Gathering- possibly sending staff or such there.
- Creature Comics.com will work on other original properties, in addition to Gargoyles. Greg has one specific one in mind (which he didn't identify), but there are time issues involved in making it.
Dan Vado was contacted by Marty Lund- who'd been referred to SLG by their mutual contact at Disney- via e-mail. After learning about Gargoyles, he discovered that his kids and three employees were all big fans of the show- then he watched some episodes for himself on DVD. Dan wasn't surprised to discover there was a fandom- after all, even he, Dan Vado, had his single fan who visits him at cons! Dan chooses comics on whether they'll be good, not if they make money. (This is in part because he tried to do some titles for profit motives, and they failed.)
Towards the end of the panel, the topic veered to the comic-book industry. In Dan's opinion, the "meltdown" in the industry began in the late 1980s, and intensified as they focused more and more on the collectors' market. Only in the last few years has the shrinkage of the direct comic market began to reverse. Dan assessed that comics were starting to reach more into the mainstream thanks to manga and graphic novels- SLG comics are even sold in Hot Topic stores (which, I assume, means we'll see the Disney ones there too).
You'll have to do better than that!
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 2 (Part 1)
July 30, 2005
Got up, got another cinnamon scone, then headed for the art show again. While there, I bumped into Mandolin once more, before heading for the Series Development and Production Panel, featuring Greg Weisman and Dave Schwartz. A very interesting and informative panel!
As Greg and Dave put it, there are several stages through which one must go when creating an animated series:
1) Development. This involves getting together your core ideas- whether original or based on an existing property (in which case you often have to suffer interference from the property's owners)- and coming up with your characters and their basic designs, and at least a half-dozen basic story ideas. Put together, all these basic elements form a series bible.
2) Sale. Using the series bible as a base, you refine the elements, make them a little flashier and so forth, then create a pitch for the show to give to prospective producers. This is the hardest part of development, particularly since most of the work on the pitch has to be done "on spec" (that is, gained through favors or the promise of work if the pitch sells the show). Pitches used to involve a series of cards with production art, combined with a verbal presentation for the execs. Now, execs are far more demanding, and prefer to see DVD samples, short Flash films, focus tests and even entire pilot episodes! This is, basically, because execs are afraid of making a mistake- they don't trust their own judgment, and need to be sure that at least they can't be blamed for a show's failure. (The corollary is that if a show isn't a big hit from the get-go, the execs usually distance themselves from it. Greg added that some animation execs don't even like animation- they'd rather be in live-action (begging the question- why be an animation exec in the first place if you don't like it?).)
(Tidbits about Gargoyles : Artist Paul Felix designed several of the cards in the pitch from the DVD- specifically the Manhattan vista, the Scarab robot, and the (in)famous card with the kid holding the balloon and Goliath's shadow. Dave Schwartz quipped that making a pitch to the Disney execs was akin to going before the "High Tribunal of Krypton"- where failure got you exiled to the Phantom Zone. Changes to the final pitch for Gargoyles included reducing the cards from 42 to 28 and a few minor tweaks such as a little more humor and a little more of the Elisa-Goliath relationship. Dave said that others came to them to figure out their secret- which was simply having shorter pitches, with all their pitch cards oriented the same direction and using the same baseline color!)
3) Pre-production. Once (if) the show is sold, you start creating the background materials needed to make the show. This includes a "999 packet," which includes the artwork that'll be used in most episodes (i.e. the clock tower, Castle Wyvern and so forth), and (if not written prior) the series bible. The pilot episode is usually written now, and the regular voices are also chosen at this point; guest voices from later on are usually cast rather than audtioned. At this stage, it's also crucial to have an in-depth understanding of your characters, how they think, act, walk and talk, what distinctive physical and personality quirks they have.
The voice tracks are recorded first, then the storyboards are made based on them. In the storyboarding stage, it's best to assign different sections of the story to the artists best qualified to work on them- tragic parts for artists good at portraying emotion, action scenes for artists good at action, etc. (Once this stage is underway, the idea is to have the later episodes in the works as each episode is actually produced.)
(Tidbits about Gargoyles : It took three years to sell, and by the time the final designs were made at Disney Japan, the character concepts were already strongly fleshed out.)
4) Production. With all the preparation work done- voices, storyboards, and character designs- the episode is animated at the studio (often overseas).
5) Post-production. The animation comes back for review. At this point, time is scant, since an airdate has usually been selected, and missing an airdate can carry financial penalties. If an error is found in the animation, the pre-production staff needs to make sure it was the studio's mistake, rather than their own- if it can be interpreted as their mistake, they often have to live with the flawed footage. In such a case, not all is lost- clever editing of the footage can remove the worst errors. In the end, however, the finished episodes should be exactly 22 minutes in length. Then, the music is mixed in- often, the first few episodes are fully scored, with the soundtrack from those episodes edited into a music library used for later episodes. Finally, the episodes are screened by execs- at which point, you'd better hope they don't have any issues, because it's too late to fix anything major. (And don't expect compliments.)
(Tidbits about Gargoyles : "Pendragon" had about 3-4 seconds of footage cut, and replaced at the beginning with a pan shot of London from "M.I.A." The "Previously on Gargoyles sequences- often about 30 seconds in length- were created in part to allow up to 30 seconds of footage to be cut from the episode. A common animation annoyance prior to Gargoyles was that character wouldn't walk and talk at the same time- if they talked, they stopped moving. It took a while to deprogram the animators of that habit. Mark Perlman was the one who cleverly edited Carl Johnson's music for "Awakening" throughout the remainder of the series (although some new music was added later, I'm pretty sure).)
Following the overview, Greg and Dave fielded questions about the animation industry:
- Apparently Disney has closed nearly all of their overseas studios for a variety of reasons- Japan due to expense, London due to lacking quality. Disney Paris was assigned to feature animation, then closed; Disney Australia was assigned to the direct-to-video productions, and is apparently due to close down soon as well. (Boy, Disney is stupid.)
- Making a new animation studio would be difficult- not onlyu very expensive, but also requiring them to find a means of distribution.
- Studios now, more than ever before, are in the business of making maximum profit rather than making animated series. This is why so much animation now is imported from Japan and dubbed- it's much cheaper. (Been my theory for years- looks like I was right.) This also leads to the "bastardization" (as Dave put it) of existing properties- thus Cinderella II and so forth. (Dave wasn't sure how much longer that could continue.) Making pilots to show to studios is comparatively easy anymore, but selling them is much harder. The animation industry is better now than it was a few years ago, when studios were cutting back in a major kind of way, but still not as good as it was back in the mid-1990s.
- DVD technology had led to high interest in direct-to-video productions, which can also serve as pilots for series. Most 2-D animation is likely to be direct-to-video; unless a marquee character such as Batman is involved, or toys likely to be sold, studios are generally disinterested.
- Greg opined that internet piracy certainly doesn't help the animation industry.
- Dave opined that studios are less interested in 2-D animation overall- CGI is the "flavor of the month."
- Flash animation is popular for pitches, and is used on a few series, but no Flash-made series has become popular enough to gain attention for the medium.
- Serious American-made animation aimed at adults has generally failed (even Batman: The Animated Series failed in prime-time, disappointing Greg and others in the industry)- hence the disinterest by studios in making it. (Comedies like Family Guy or The Simpsons, they believed, were a different matter- a lot of humor comes from the voices themselves, and the animation is basically a gimmick.) Precisely why it failed is debatable.
I've been looking for you!
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 1
July 29, 2005
I woke up around 8 or 9 a.m. (Vegas time), but was too drained by either the annoyances of yesterday or jetlag to will myself out of bed until about 10. At around 3 a.m., the power had gone out- I wonder if anyone's schedule was thrown off? Fortunately, it was very easy for me to request a move to a non-smoking room- they told me to come back around 1 p.m. when my new room would be ready. In the meantime, I had a cinnamon scone from Starbucks for brunch. (I don't normally favor scones, but this was particularly tasty!)
My first goal was to find the registration table, which I did after some difficulty. Soon, in rapid succession, I met with three of my best fandom friends- Garrett "Dracandros" Baumgartner, A Fan and Greg Bishansky. I also encountered Kaelynn and Hudson. Garrett invited me to hit the Star Trek Experience with a group of his friends- while they gathered up to go, I sat in on the Con Virgin panel. They did a great overview, as well as explaining some unique circumstances of this Gathering- for example, wearing masks on the casino floor was forbidden, so they would have to request a security escort to take costumed people to the Masquerade! However, I had to leave the panel early to meet up with Garrett and company. While we waited for one last guy to join us, I paid Garrett my long-overdue share of the costs of my Web site (which includes JEB's Gargoyles Page and the Multiversal Omnipedia-Atlas).
The Star Trek Experience (my second visit- I'd last been there during my 2004 Vegas vacation) was fun- I think I liked Klingon Encounter better than Borg Invasion, and the museum was just as awesome as last time! (To an ex-Trek geek like me, anyway.) Garrett and his friends were fun to hang with, and we had a nice discussion about some of the more annoying aspects of Trek and its rival Star Wars outside of Quark's Bar. At the shop, I also snagged some pins (Voyager-era combadge, movie badge, and movie captain's insignia), as well as a VHS tape of "The Doomsday Machine"- one of my dad's favorite episodes.
After returning to Palace Station, we split up. I returned to my nice, clean-smelling non-smoking room, then got myself a nice, huge, disgustingly unhealthy Burger King dinner. Then, I headed up to the Dealer's Room. As in pretty much every Gathering of the last few years, the sale of actual, official Gargoyles merchandise has basically stopped- unsurprising, since the newest items (aside from the DVD) are eight years old at this point! Maybe with the new comic out, we'll see some new stuff, but I dunno. However, there were still some neat dealers, and I picked up the Eye of Odin fanfic anthology (fanthology?). I also walked over to admire the fine art in the nearby gallery, including great production art and storyboards from the series- the episodes "Eye of the Beholder," "Vows," "The Edge" and "Avalon" were all represented. All the fan art was great, including Lynati's terrific gargoyle wing anatomy drawings and Kythera's varied and detailed art (some of which was from the Monster Encyclopedia 1, a RPG monster book I'll have to seek out now!). Greg Weisman's kids were also good- certainly much better than I was at their age (or now, for that matter). I also chatted with Mandolin and Greg B., until the Opening Ceremonies were announced.
Following the summons, I was greeted by the people running the Gargoyles Fan Web Comic (I believe Lexy and one other), who ran a dice game that presented me with my only gaming success all weekend- I scored candy and two cool T-shirts promoting the comic. They also plugged their contest (write a brief story based around an image of Bronx), but although I thought about trying, I judged that I wouldn't be able to write anything catchy enough.
As we waited for the opening ceremonies, I was greeted by Jade Griffin (who initially thought I was Robert, due to my bushy dark hair and black T-shirt), and I looked over some of A Fan's original fiction on his palm-pilot-type thing. (I've got to get me one of those- they look so neat.)
Chris Rogers opened the con with some basic administrative stuff, then a great big thanks to Marty "Kaioto" Lund, who was designated the Fan Guest of Honor due to his efforts to get the Gargoyles comic made. Marty believed the fandom deserved credit for his accomplishment, and seemed a bit embarassed when we gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. We also got a brief pitch from the Gathering 2006 staff- I look forward to L.A.!
After Chris was finished, it was time for Greg Weisman! First, he played audio greetings from the unable-to-attend Kath Soucie and Keith David ("I've been denied everything... even my convention!"), as well as video greetings from Greg Weisman, Frank Paur, Michael Reaves, Jeff Bennett, Bill Fagerbakke, Thom Adcox (who acknowledged his present self being at the con), Brigitte Bako, and most surprisingly of all, Ed Asner! A real treat!
Regarding the Season 1 DVD, Greg informed us that the sales were good, but not great (although Disney wouldn't give him hard numbers), so it's important to spread the word about Season 2 Volume 1. As the reader has probably heard, the first Season 2 set will feature all of Season 2 up through "Kingdom" in a three-disc set, and will probably be released in December. Greg wasn't allowed to say much about special features, unfortunately.
Next, the traditional video session- with a twist. Instead of the pitch to syndicated stations made by Greg (included on the Season 1 DVD), we saw an earlier version of the same, narrated by veteran voice actor Jim Cummings, with earlier, more toony versions of the clan. A neat touch was how Cummings used a rough Scottish voice for the Dark Ages stuff, and switched to a contemporary American one for the present day.
Then, back to tradition, with the media promo ("It's better than Barney!") and sci-fi con promo ("the next generation of Disney animation"), then the reconstructed pitches for The New Olympians and Gargoyles: The Dark Ages. The Bad Guys leica reel was as entertaining as ever- I hope the comic will pick up that thread. Then, an unexpected bonus- Seth "IRC Goliath" Jackson introduced another "leica reel," made by Vashkoda, featuring the audio of "The Last" (the unfinished Gargoyles-related episode of Team Atlantis) meshed with the first act's storyboard, a bit of new art, Gargoyles music and sound clips- a most impressive result. Kudos to Vashkoda! (I wish Team Atlantis had been produced- Gargoyles aside, it looked right up my alley.)
With that ended, the crowd drifted apart. I chatted with Greg B. and Kaelynn again, then headed to my room for a bit. I headed back in time to catch the end of the MSTing of "Enter Macbeth." Afterwards, I accompanied A Fan to his room, where we watched Star Trek IV with the Okudas' text commentary. After that session of amiable watching and talking, I headed back to my room for sleep.
A warning: My journal is LONG this year.
Gathering 2005 Journal - Day -1
July 28, 2005
Going directly there from work, I managed to get through the security gate at BWI in record time. In fact, everything was bizarrely easy- the e-tickets went through fast, the people in line were nice and easygoing. (Note to self- flights on weekdays are a good idea.) Just sat down and read my Doctor Who anthology (Short Trips- ironic title, as it turned out) while I waited.
Then the flight itself- Baltimore to Pittsburgh. I don't think there are many things I find more exciting than takeoff. The rush of speed, the sharp climb as the landscape below shrinks, then floating above the clouds, looking down at the world through a drifting sea of mist and a landscape of white. (I was fortunate that there wasn't anyone sitting next to me- otherwise, I would have had a lovely view of the cabin.)
After arriving in Pittsburgh, I got myself dinner from a McDonald's that evidently didn't see much business around 7 p.m. A few passengers around me at the time looked like they might also be going to the Gathering, but I stopped short of humming the Gargoyles theme to see if anyone would perk up. (I didn't recall any of those faces being at the con, so it's just as well.) It's about this point that I began to realize I was technologically behind the curve- everyone had neat cell phones or laptops- I had a years-old cell phone model that couldn't do much more than play Tetris. (This point became more apparent as the long weekend went on.)
Unfortunately, when I arrived in Las Vegas about five or six hours later, things went sour. The flight from Pittsburgh to Vegas itself was fine, if very long- finished Short Trips and moved onto the sequel, More Short Trips. Las Vegas itself was a striking sight as we approached, a cluster of stars in a vast ocean of shadow. (Kind of interesting that "Sin City" should shine so bright from a distance.) But after that... I waited for an hour in the wrong baggage claim, and when I finally did figure this out, I wasn't able to find the last hotel shuttle of the evening before it left. So, I had to wait in line for a taxi. A very, very, long line- there were literally a hundred or more people there.
When I finally got to Palace Station (tipping the cabbie far too much, my dad said when I mentioned it later), I went to the employee's floor in the main building instead of my floor in the Courtyards. I eventually found my way to my room (after passing by the Con Suite on the third floor, but I was in no mood for socializing), which- counter to the request I'd made- was a smoking roon. However, by that point I was too tired to care, so I just went to bed.
I've been looking for you!
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