Two years ago I made a whirlwind swirl through the four hour debut day of Silicon Valley Comic Con, not knowing if it was a one shot deal, or an event that would continue. Now in its 3rd year, the event has laid down solid roots. Due to another engagement I was unable to attend the short Friday start of the Con, although being in downtown San Jose meant I could collect my credentials at that time. Good thing, too, since the line to buy tickets or collect wristbands on Saturday was out the door (which was still at least 100 feet from the counters inside).
And when I say out the door…..
What I’m saying is that though the ticket building and the convention center are a long block apart, the two lines passed each other.
Few are fond of lines or waiting, but the proliferation of those in costumes provide some relief.
And of course many people photograph people in costumes, like of the Vader boys: Darth, Garth and Zarth.
Even people wearing costumes were photographing other people in costumes.
Yes, people watching is a popular activity at any comic con, perhaps second only to famous people watching. There are many opportunities throughout the weekend, so many that hard choices inevitably must be made. Not to mention things slipping between the cracks at a complicated, unique event. When I saw that Tinkerbell herself, Margaret Kerry, would be in attendance, I thoroughly scoured the schedule looking for a panel with her to no avail. She was scheduled for autograph and selfie appearances for those forking over an additional fee. Basically, for the guest it’s a way to get a paycheck for little more than showing up, like Stan lee’s second career. Then on Sunday at 10:45AM I got an alert that she would be doing a panel at 11, just as I was heading to my shower 30 minutes away. So missed one there, but made it to others, and if we dig deep there should be some other Disney connections to be uncovered. So let’s see what was happening at panels that include Marilyn Munster, two Wednesday Addams’, members of the Archer cast, Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, and others.
Let’s start with a gin you wine movie star who first came to most people’s attention in the two Addams Family films, Christina Ricci. There was much talk about life as a child actor which turned out to be a common theme at the con. Her stories ranged from learning about set etiquette at an early age, to having a studio back lot as her playground. For her it was clearly a grand adventure that has led to a lifelong career with great memories. Well, mostly, as she described her work at 17 in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm as “proud of the movie, but an unpleasant megalomaniac in charge”. She also seems to strive for a life of normality, even mentioning being able to take the family to Walt Disney World on four occasions.
I was particularly looking forward to the Archer panel, as that has become my go to program to watch as I’m in bed to go to sleep (pretty sure it’s Jon Benjamin’s voice; I really just want him to come by the house and read me a story). Let’s look at some photos!
Or not, and the verbal warnings were even more dire than the written ones; media credentials didn’t help, either. It was made clear that even looking at a phone would result in banishment (a real bother if one takes notes on one’s phone). The reason? We were treated to a screening of the new season’s first episode, set to air on FXX April 25. Set in the 1930s, Archer Danger Island features the self-proclaimed world’s greatest secret agent as a seaplane pilot with former (future?) Isis HR director Pam Poovey as his co pilot. According to producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis the relationship they will have was inspired by that of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Also in attendance were Judy Greer (Carol, Cheryl, Charlene, etc) and Lucky Yates (Krieger and Crackers). Crackers is a macaw, named after the parakeet Yates was given as a youngling when he successfully did big jobbies in the toilet – I swear I am not making that up. We also learned that episode 7 is the most expensive Archer to date. The most memorable line from the episode screened, based on the fact that it is the one line I remember, is “Under 1000 feet and those chutes are just laundry.” And in the micro moment between the end of the panel and the room emptying a pic was snagged of Greer and Yates. Not my best, but certainly establishes an alibi.
Back in the big room, Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage, the “bro who sews”, displayed some photos of some of his costume creations from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
More can’t be said by me because due to time constraints this was my best time to venture into the most dangerous place in Silicon Valley for that weekend, the Comic Con vendor room (cue scream).
This is the Real danger zone. Sufficient number of things you need; infinite number of things you don’t. Want pins? Done.
Want to be ready if Marvel, or even Star Trek, makes it to Trader Sam’s? No worries.
Desire a painting? Got em.
From decades-old toys to a booth where you can pay to have a duel with remote controlled fighting robots, it’s a never-ending stream designed to lighten your wallet. I was lucky to part with only $62 to the good folks at The Truffle Cottage and Off World Designs shirts (wait, shouldn’t they pay us for product placement?).
After missing Margaret Kelly, my Sunday began with the Middle Earth Maniac, Sean Astin. The child star parade was in full stride, but few of the parent’s stars shone like John Astin and Patty Duke. After warbling through the theme song of Mom’s show and reminding us of his Dad’s career going from Gomez Addams to Buddy Ryan on Night Court, some may have wondered if we got the right family member? He talked about Hobbits, and his early short film that was nominated for an Oscar. He also told how JRR Tolkien was adamant about disliking Disney, and would never want them to do filmed versions of his stories. But if anyone ever remakes Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Astin is the obvious choice for that filibuster, because the bloke can’t half talk. These panels tend to include audience questions, and I could see the timer for the stage. With 15 minutes remaining the moderator mentioned taking questions, and Sean finally stopped talking for that to happen after the clock ticked down to 3 1/2 minutes. If you consider yourself a good listener, you’ll do fine.
The reach of Marvel is ever widening including the Netflix original Jessica Jones, and the photo pit could barely contain all present for stars Krysten Ritter; and you loved him as Doctor #10, hated him as Barty Crouch jr, David Tennant. Feeding off the energy of the room and working chemistry with each other, the pair kept all smiling and laughing. We learned that Ritter has had fans requesting to be punched, while Tennant was once asked to sign a wet piece of paper inside a gym shower. Tennant stated that his childhood hero was Doctor Who, while Ritter admired Lydia from the film Beetlejuice, played of course by Christina Ricci (fine, it was Winona Ryder, but my version is cooler, and this is a fantasy event).
It was dilemma time. Matthew Lewis, who portrayed dolt turned hero Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films, was next in the big room. But, concurrently, TV’s Wednesday Addams and Marilyn Munster were slated for one of the smaller rooms. Despite my desire to see a bit of both, memories of many being turned away from the Archer panel, I opted for the spooky chicks. May not have been necessary to rush.
Plus, they were late. As a 6 year old, Lisa Loring was half the age of Christina Ricci while playing Wednesday Addams, and Pat Priest, the Munster’s freak [sic] niece Marilyn was older still. They shared stories of similarities and differences. Here were two more child actors, covered by California’s Child Actor (or Coogan) Law, inspired by Jackie Coogan, whose adult roles included Uncle Fester on the Addams Family. Many actors will state favorite episodes based on the story, maybe a guest star. For minor characters it’s likely to be “having more than 3 lines” (Priest) or “getting to wear a different dress” (Loring). And while as a child your humble narrator would have loved to jump into my set and visit Hooterville, Petticoat Junction or the Clampet mansion, Lisa Loring got to spend her childhood literally exploring those locales of the other Filmways Presentations (be sure to hear that with Elly May’s accent) produced at the same studio. I was struggling to find a Disney connection until I recalled Walt saying that he didn’t want the Haunted Mansion exterior to look like a Charles Addams cartoon.
Prior to The Munsters, producers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher wrapped up another series called Leave It To Beaver, but at Silicon Valley Comic Con, it was Wally and the Beav following those creepsters from 1313 Mockingbird Lane, with the appearance of Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. That’s right, Sunshine, more child stars.
There are similarities in some of their stories, like having a shooting schedule based on the kids’ time restrictions making Hugh Beaumont (father Ward Cleaver) hate kids due to his having to wait around until they shot all of their closeups before his could be filmed. But not all have stories starting with celebrity parents like Patty Duke. At age 2 Mathers was in a department store with his mom, and was offered a modeling job, the only known instance of that not being a total scam. Dow, on the other hand, was a near raw beginner that found himself needing to choose between Beaver, Tarzan or being a Mousekateer. He felt his singing and dancing were too weak for Disney, though Wally’s sometime main squeeze was original Mousekateer Cheryl Holdridge (Julie Foster). Stories were varied (and sometimes repeated), ranging from the infamous soup billboard episode being the most costly, to the loss of the master tapes of the mid-80s reboot Still The Beaver. The cap Mathers wore in the title sequence was his own, and the exact type could never be located to serve as a backup; it now resides in the Smithsonian.
With more people in the room for the Cleavers, questions came regularly, whereas the moderator had to keep things moving with the less attended set with the creepy chicks. Differences like that can be fascinating, such as Sean Astin being able to hold court solo if needed, while David Tennant and Krysten Ritter were each asked the same questions from a list. Our final stop was my first, and was really just a conversation involving TV’s most famous physicist (not Sheldon).
Should I return to school I want Michio Kaku as a prof. Appearing with TED Talk pioneer Richard Wurman, the pair brought a touch of reality to the celebration of fantasy with a display of “intellectual jazz” as they discussed “what does it mean to be human?”, the convention’s theme, specifically, the future of humanity. In an age where every other sci fi film is set in some post apocalyptic nightmare, Dr Kaku spoke with an optimism of our future technological world that matched that of Walt Disney. Yeah, we will need to worry about AI when it reaches the intelligence level of monkeys, but with mouse level still beyond its grasp, we’re good for now. Plus our grandkids will be able to honeymoon-on the moon. It got deep, as when we learned “The mind of God, we believe, is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace”. So that’s all sorted out, then.
The Great & Powerful Woz hosts a fun weekend, and tickets for year four are already available. Hopefully it will all be a great, big, beautiful tomorrow; we’ll take a look and see on the next day by The Bay.