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This is my con report from Le Gathering, Montreal 2004.
I have attended sci-fi/fantasy conventions since 1985. In my youth, everything was new and exciting and I always looked forward to the next opportunity to meet like-minded people at these magical weekend gatherings.
But like anything, it gets old after a while: one becomes jaded, or cynical, or bored. And for those of us who turn a hobby into a business, this is intensified by the "professional" angle that we maintain.
But at this convention, I re-discovered a pleasure that I haven't enjoyed in almost ten years: The sheer enjoyment of reveling in the appreciation of a wonderful creation-- in this case, Disney's animated TV series, "Gargoyles."
The show ended its run in 1997, but the fandom survived-- and have held a regular convention every year since that time. Understand: the show was over. It only ran three seasons, the last of which wasn't even the same production house as the first two (thus a dispute on whether there were three seasons, or really only two.) And yet, despite this, a loyal following of fans put forth the effort to make a convention happen, dedicated to this show, year after year in a different city each time.
I was always a fan of the show, but I felt no particular motivation to seriously join the fandom, until this year, when my good friend Lanny invited me to the convention. "You're a voice actor," he said. "You've got to come. Some of the voice talent from the show will be there." And then he very, very generously offered to fly me down on his air travel points, and put me up in his hotel room.
How could I say no? I looked forward to it-- and I hadn't been to Montreal since I was four-- what a fun opportunity!
So I flew down east, got picked up by Lanny and Derrick and off we went to the hotel.
The very first night, I saw the difference between this convention and so many others: The people who made it happen, and the guests around which the fandom is based. Lanny, it turns out, knew most of the convention staff personally, not to mention Greg Weisman, the creator of the show. We all went out to dinner the first night and I sat between Greg and Lanny and across from the con chair, Karine "Kanthara" Charlebois (six months pregnant and still the perfect hostess, she is TEH FABULOUS, or as we say in French, <i>absolument fameuse.</i>).
And there it was: meeting one of the guests of honour, the show's creator, who is a great guy and very open and-- and this is the part that really sent me-- just one of the gang. You'd never pick Greg Weisman out at this convention as the Special Guest Superstar Guy. He knows these people, and they know him. They're old friends. You can feel that vibe. They're used to each other, comfortable with each other. It's a feeling I haven't seen before in the otherwise drooling-fan-infested populations of other conventions.
I noticed that compared to other conventions, the dealer's room and art show were small. I realized this was because they weren't the focus of the convention, they weren't the <i>point.</i> The point was, and always has been as far as I can tell, the people. The fans I began to meet were happy to be there, as opposed to the dull whineyness of many convention veterans. They were from many diverse backgrounds, and there was a wide spread of age ranges. Artists, theatricals, computer techs, veterinarians, publishers... one couldn't pigeonhole this fandom into one demographic; they are, literally, from all over the place.
I met people that I knew only vaguely as names mentioned by artist friends of mine who were involved in the fandom. They too, had heard of me in similarly vague ways. Those barriers dissolved quickly as I was welcomed by everyone I met. Like I said, these people are all part of the gang-- in Gargoyle terms, we're all one big clan.
I haven't felt that connection in years. I used to have the same feeling with other <a href="http://www.elfquest.com">ElfQuest</a> fans in the late 80's, but since then had become jaded. These people, this Clan, re-awoke something in me that I thought I'd lost, like a memory of my youth but still present in the here-and-now.
The Radio Play, the main reason Lanny invited me and the reason I wanted to go, was so much fun I forgot that I was trying to be a professional and do some serious learning from the veterans of the biz. I auditioned for Greg Weisman, who made it very easy, explaining in a prior seminar what he wanted and how to give it to him, and with the help of Jen, miss CrzyDemona herself, they cast me (as The Ham Comedy Character, which tells me that they had me figured out from the word Go).
Here's the other magical thing about this: Keith David, the voice of Goliath himself, was meant to be at the voice seminar and the subsequent radio play. Due to complications he couldn't arrive until late Saturday night. Guess what-- I had an amazing time anyway. It says a lot about a convention that even when a major guest can't make it, that the fun just keeps on going. I know it did for me.
Keith arrived at around 11 pm Saturday night and he was welcomed-- he had brought his family and he sang karaoke songs after the costume contest. Once again, a miracle-- I can't think of any celebrity who would not only bring his family to a convention with him, but actually stick around and participate in a room full of adoring fans singing karaoke.
The magic of the Gathering, again.
On a personal note, I found the man inspiring. He was <i>resonant.</i> I could believe everything he said because I could feel the strength of <i>his</i> belief behind it. He spoke of the industry of acting and voicing, which spoke directly to me-- but his other anecdotes and stories were a pleasure to listen to as well, because he was sharing in an intimate setting.
Intimate settings seemed to be the name of the game, as Greg Weisman hosted his own "Mug-A-Guest" panels, in both the PG-13 and the "Blue" -- anything goes -- format. Sitting in the con suite, hanging out, anyone could ask him anything. He was accessible. He was friendly. He was candid, open, everyone's pal.
Again, something I've never seen before.
Disney is planning to release the first season on DVD on December 7th of this year. There was a film crew at the Gathering, filming us every day and asking for interviews with the fans. I volunteered, wanting to do my part to explain the amazing phenomenon that Gargoyles fandom is. I hope that I painted a good, clear picture and that something of that message makes it onto the "special features" of the DVD release, because this phenomenon is too cool to allow to pass unnoticed.
To my fellow Clansmates out there, the new people I've met and the generous friend who allowed me my first glimpse of this amazing world-- thank you. Thank you for a great weekend. Thank you for a truly magical experience. I can't say enough about a weekend with no downsides except perhaps:
- Fear me in battle at LaserQuest.
- Liz is a total SHARK at Mario Kart. Fear HER.
- Next year, in Las Vegas, I really hope to put together a smashing team for the Clan Olympics.
Thank you all. I know I'm looking forward to the future of this fandom, and my place in it.
To those of you reading this: The next Gathering happens around the beginning of August, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Go to <a href="http://www.gatheringofthegargoyles.com/">http://www.gatheringofthegargoyles.com/</a> and keep an eye for further developments. And remember: The sooner you register, the sooner the convention has more money with which to create a fantasy weekend of unparalleled enjoyment.
"And remember: The sooner you register, the sooner the convention has more money with which to create a fantasy weekend of unparalleled enjoyment. "
Truer words and all that.
Well, Michael, I hope to see you in Valencia this summer. There will be a ton of guests, including voice actors Keith David, Thom Adcox, Jeff Bennett, Bill Faggerbakke, Brigitte Bako and Edward Asner. Plus Voice Directors Jamie Thomason and Ginny McSwain. And that's just for starters. We'll have writers and artists and composer Carl Johnson, etc.
An L.A. Gathering is a great place to interact with professionals. Lots and lots of guests in a relatively intimate setting.
Check out www.gatheringofthegargoyles.com for more information.