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We're Back from the Big Show in Anaheim!

Written by: Abel Pinedo

April 21st, 2014

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On Friday the events started at noon. Since I arrived early I had time to get my bearings, survey the many lines, and grab some breakfast. If you didn't want the standard Con food of pretzels and nachos you had your choice of nearly a dozen different food trucks.

Once I had my bearings I secured a place in line. I spent the time going over the floor map and marking which booths I had to hit first. Once we were let in I made a beeline for Artist Alley. This was going to be the best time to check it out. There were no panels I wanted to see that morning so I took my time going down each aisle.  The aisles in the Artist Alley were significantly wider this time. Definitely a welcome sight and a good sign for the days to come.

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I made my way around the vendor floor, picking up business cards from several artists, meeting up with friends and making mental notes of booths I wanted to revisit later. I tend to save my shopping for later in the day.

The highlight of the day for me was the panel sponsored by GEEK Magazine, The Greatest Geek Movies of 1984. The basic premise is a discussion of classics and fan favorites that came out in the summer of 1984 including a discussion of their significance today. The films discussed included The Terminator, Red Dawn, Ghostbusters, Star Trek III, Dune, Buckaroo Banzai, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. What followed was a lively discussion about what makes The Terminator so entrenched in our culture today.  How a movie like Red Dawn is the ultimate in teen fantasy wish fulfillment. (Admit it, if Russian paratroopers arrived on your high school field, that would ROCK!) The blue collar comedy of Ghostbusters still holds up quite well today. All the production problems with Star Trek III and Dune. I seriously could listen to this panel of talk for hours.

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Saturday was going to be the big day for me. I started out by sitting in on the press conference for two of 20th Century Fox's big summer movies, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. For 'Dragon', star Jay Baruchel (the voice of Hiccup) talked about how he felt a responsibility to the role and that's why he not only came back for the sequel but he even does the voice in the regular series. Much respect for that! Many actors wouldn't want to be bothered with a weekly animated series. He also mentioned how he likes the laid back approach to voice over work. For 'Dawn', director Matt Reeves talked about his approach to this sequel and how it was important for the characters to be developed in a believable manner. Gary Oldman and Keri Russel said how it was so important that while acting with Andy Serkis in his motion capture suit, Andy's eyes remained visible and not hidden behind a mask. That one little step helps for their characters to relate to each other better.

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Next up was the panel “The Best Sci-Fi Movies & TV Never Made. Again, GEEK Magazine chief Mark Altman asssembed a crack team of writers, producers etc to take a look at what could have been. For instance, have you heard of David Lynch's Ronnie Rocket? This was to be his follow up to Eraserhead. There was also a lengthy discussion about all the failed attempts to reboot Star Trek. Stories involving Kirk meeting JFK and being around at the time of the assassination as well traveling back to the dawn of time. Let's just say, be glad none of these were ever made! A lot of talk was given to Alejandro Jodorowsky and his attempt to tackle Dune. There's a recently released documentary that details much of this (Jodorowsky's Dune) but no studio would touch his vision which was seen as way to big in scope before its time.

The last panel I attended today was a presentation by director Luc Besson. He was on hand to show the trailer and a few exclusive clips of his newest film, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. Besson has made a career of featuring women who kick ass in his films (La Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element) and Lucy is no exception. Lucy is about a woman transporting narcotics who begins to develop heightened senses and abilities. I believe this was Besson's first ever convention and he really seemed to enjoy himself. He gave a shout-out to all the cosplayers and fans and said that he makes films for us, critics be dammed!

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Ah Sunday, the final day. I dove right in by attending the Warner Archive Collection panel “From Chuck Norris to Mr. T: Real-Life Toons and Back Again!” This panel was devoted to many long forgotten and obscure animated series, many of which are available through Warner Archives. Anyone remember the short lived Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos? How about the Mr. T animated series where Mr. T teamed up every week with a group of gymnastics students to fight bad guys? (Side note: I remembered it and loved it. I even ate the Mr. T cereal!) The real treat though was listening to Steven E. de Souza talk about his adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit. Not the 2008 film starring Eva Green and Samuel Jackson but an earlier attempt to bring the character to the TV screen back in 1987. A few clips were shown and yes, it does look like a late 80's attempt at a detective film but I had never even heard about this film! The best part was that I was lucky enough to win a copy of the DVD so I’ll be diving into that film soon enough.

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The last day of any convention always brings a hint of sadness but I got no time for tears, I've got some shopping to do. If you're patient, you can score a few bargains on the last day. I picked up a ton of comics as well as some original art by Jenny Parks and Sebastien Millon. I found an old action figure I've been looking for, I did a little early Christmas shopping, and even scored free t shirts from Magnet Releasing and Warner Archives. Finally it was time to say goodbye to WonderCon 2014.

To sum it all up, I had a blast! I'm sore and tired and my feet are killing me, but that's always a good sign of time well spent. I don't know if the show will be back next year but if so, you know I'll be there! WonderCon rocks!