SDCC Day 3: Turtles, Talent, and Coffee

If only I had drunk tea!

Ah, Saturday. The busiest, cray-est, and most overwhelming day of the whole Con. And which for me, was strangely relaxing.

Like the past two days, I had to make an early start for the long drive to San Diego, and to avoid trolley queues, but even so, the carriage was packed, standing-room only.

Once at the Convention Center, even though it was barely 9:30, you could already FEEL the crowds, the hustle and bustle of bodies, and the feeling of desperation and excitement all mashed into one.

Having been through this before, I sharpened my focus and headed upstairs immediately. The TMNT 2012 (as most folk call the new rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon) panel wasn’t until 11:15, but I knew it was going to be tremendously popular (yay!) and it would behoove me to get there early. The room was actually strangely not-full, and I was able to just walk in and find a seat. I still planned to try and jump ahead a few rows, though – last year, the (ex-)bf scored us a spot right in the very front so we could wave at Kevin Richardson. Personally lacking that gung-ho, assertive manner, I was going to rely on stealth and manipulation.

Or just look for some friends, whichever.

This first panel, like last year, was for Phineas and Ferb, a show I like and have seen, but not regularly.

IMG_1866Moderated by Diedrich Bader!

There were naturally loads of kids in the audience, and as such, many clips were played, including one for the (then) upcoming Star Wars special.

IMG_1869Dan Povenmire, Jeff Marsh, Vincent Martella, Alyson Stoner, Olivia Olson, and Dee Bradley Baker.

They also talked about episodes currently still in production, the most interesting being one about Phineas and the gang all grown up and ready for college. I love those kind of storylines, but what was really fascinating was how the designs came about. Years ago, Povenmire had received a piece of fanart depicting the characters as teenagers. When someone came up with the idea to do such an episode, Dan could only think of the fanart, and any other artistic attempts would be mere facsimiles of what he already knew he liked. So he tried to find the artist on the Internet. Sounds a bit weird, I suppose, but hey, modern technology! He was able to track her down and send a message about her artwork (it took a few tries; apparently she didn’t believe him for SOME reason), basically saying that they wanted to hire her as character designer for that episode. And she said yes! They brought her in, she worked on the episode, and I think now is finishing up art school. What a wonderful story! This probably sounds cheesy, but it was really inspirational – you just never know who is looking at your stuff, and all she did was create what she loved and got an amazing opportunity out of it.

IMG_1872Dee saying pretty much what I just did, only more succinctly.

A little girl sitting next to me was relatively bored by the proceedings, not fully understanding who these strange people on stage were. In any case, her dad was quite excited enough for the both of them. She did smile and laugh when Dee did Perry the Platypus. Because who wouldn’t?

The rest of the time was taken up with Q&A, and I noticed, not for the first time, that the most intelligent and well-thought-out questions are asked by children, with adults usually asking ridiculous ones. (Last year, a little girl had wondered why there were no girl superheroes in the Marvel crossover special, and a grown man had questioned the existence of Perry’s hat.)

When the panel was over, I tried to hop up front, but again, the desire to not shove past peeps or invade personal space paralyzed me and I drifted off to the side, where I did indeed see some friends! Not as close as I’d’ve liked, but hey, company!

I asked if I could sit with them, and once having done so, we taught up with each other’s lives, and of course, talked about TMNT. As such, I was suitably pumped when the theme song started playing and the moderator stepped up to the podium.

IMG_1881Greg Cipes, Sean Astin, Josh Peck, and Kelly Hu.

It was a pretty big panel, and they called everyone up one-by-one, but relatively quickly. I had never seen Josh or Kelly in person before, and though I didn’t get to meet them, they seemed like lovely, friendly, and of course, very talented people.

IMG_1890Seth Green and Rob Paulsen.

Donnie – and Rob, by extension – is my favorite Turtle, and I cheered loudly when he took the stage and warmed the hearts of all by hugging and greeting those already on stage.

IMG_1900Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman. 

Once they were all situated, the panel began with the official introduction of Seth Green as Leonardo. Jason Biggs had dropped off in the middle of Season 2, and was very competently voice-matched by Dominic Catrambone, but I guess Nickelodeon wanted something different. I have nothing but high hopes for Seth, as he is a wonderful guy, a great voice actor, and loves the Turtles.

IMG_1897And already has fantastic chemistry with the others!

They then went round introducing the others, with Kelly and Josh remarking on the sheer size of the audience and how dedicated the fanbase was. Before things could get too serious, though, Greg pulled out a guitar to sing a little ditty he had written for the occasion, which was about pizza. Rob, Sean, and Seth provided back up – and the audience was, of course, invited to sing along.

IMG_1921I wanna eatcha!

Last year’s panel had been a little unstructured and chaotic, and I guess they learned their lesson because most of the time was devoted to showing clips and artwork for the new episodes of Season 2 and 3. There are many articles online that go into more detail, and it all looks very exciting. I’m sort of unique in that this is my first experience with the Turtles, and I thus lack knowledge of the entire mythos. I don’t mind this particularly, and I’ve no real desire to watch previous iterations, regardless of their quality, but it does mean that every new character really is that for me, while others more experienced recognize the classic character reboots and plot callbacks. I personally rather enjoy being surprised.

IMG_1903These loonies are the best, tho

With so much exciting new stuff, there was only a little bit of time left for Q&A, and then after a resounding, all-together-now BOOYAKASHA!, it was over. I would’ve liked to have stayed to see Rob and the others, but I knew they were just going to be shuffled downstairs to the Nick booth for autographs, and besides, I had another panel to catch.

“Cartoon Voices” by Mark Evanier is one of the staples of every Comic Con. He gets together some of the most talented people in the voice over business to talk about their craft and also show off their gift. There are a number of past ones available on YouTube, and they are all glorious and totally worth the hours you’ll spend watching them. Basically, the guests answer a few stock questions about how they got into the business, a person they were starstruck by, worst recording session, and a demonstration of their most famous characters as well as an obscure role. The panelists this time round were Jim Cummings, Josh Keaton, Sherry Lynn, Arif S. Kinchen, David Sobolov, and Colleen O’Shaugnessy.

IMG_1930Jim and Sherry.

Like always, it was a wonderful panel. Even the names I wasn’t too familiar with just blew me away, and there’s little chance of walking out of there without being entertained.

IMG_1935Colleen and Josh.

And it’s not just me and other cartoon aficionados. This particular panel is also one of the most popular of the entire Con, always necessitating a huge room and the requirement to get there early.

IMG_1938Arif and David.

David Sobolov I know quite well, and I was especially impressed with his role in the script reading. (At the end, everyone reads a boring screenplay of a fairy tale, in which they must liven up with different voices, such as their characters or celebrity impressions.) David, as the narrator was tasked with starting out as high as possible and end just as low. This was incredibly funny, as he has a naturally deep voice, and he did a spectacular job. I love so much how even people I know never cease to amaze.

After the panel had finished, I found my friend from Thursday, talking to David. A number of cosplayers were also hanging around, namely this amazing person:

IMG_1941I wanted her costume so badly.

(David wasn’t Starscream in Transformers Prime, but he was Soundwave, so it totally counts.)

I myself had wanted to try and catch a couple of others, most of whom I hadn’t met, but suddenly the staff was there shunting us out. David had a booth he was doing autographs at, so we all headed down to the Floor. It was predictably a madhouse, but we skirted in from the side, and made it to the booth without much difficulty.

There, I talked with David for awhile, catching up and all that, and then my friend and I went to say hi to Gregg Berger, who we also knew well. We chatted for a bit, and then my friend decided to go…somewhere, and I was left wandering the Floor on my own.

I didn’t really have any other plans for the day, now that the biggest panels were done. My friend had informed me about a Writer’s Guild party that night at 18:00, though, and I debated on going, since I couldn’t stay too late. I had actually planned for this, however, and had brought along a nice dress shirt in my backpack. Even sans official invitation, there was a similar party last year, which had been fantastic (at first; then it had spiraled into mayhem – again, long story), and I assumed there would be again. So around 15:00, I finally got in touch with an industry friend of mine who graciously put me on the guest list.

Now I just had three hours to kill.

As fun as the Floor is, there’s only so much you can handle at once, and I didn’t dare venture into the chaotic center of doom. I also realized my phone was dying already, and I still had to use it to get home (I’m terrible with remembering directions).

It wasn’t at all intentional, since I pretty much was just drifting aimlessly, but I found myself on the third floor, along a mostly empty corridor. There were a few people sitting around in the alcoves, and I realized this was because they were all hooked up to wall outlets. It was clearly some sort of unofficial charging area.

I found an available outlet in an alcove with only a couple other people around, and settled down for a lengthy wait. I briefly considered taking a nap, but decided against it for obvious reasons and opted instead to just play my 3DS.

It was a largely uneventful bit of time, though the last half hour I did spend talking with my fellow battery-deprived Con-goers. Mostly it was casual talk, but then it ventured into voice acting and cartoons, and I naturally got very passionate, and it was lucky that my newfound friend was also a fan. He actually worked for the Los Angeles Times, which peaked my professional interest, but I wasn’t foolish enough to start tossing around resumes and business cards. We just talked ‘toons and voices, and he told me about all the amazing voice actors he’s gotten to meet (FRANK WELKER OMG) and I gushed about Rob’s podcast, and when 18:00 rolled around, we parted on a cheerful note.

I changed my shirt in the bathroom and tried to fluff my hair and fix my makeup (I had the latter, but forgot a brush). Suitably dressy, I headed downstairs and outside to find the party.

It was at one of the Hiltons, in one of their fancy restaurants, and though I had been there last year, I couldn’t remember exactly where it was, and had to ask the concierge (finally!).

When I got there, it was mostly the same crowd that I see every month, which was nice since we hadn’t had much of a chance to talk at the Yardhouse on Thursday. I met a few new people, caught up with some others, and ate from the available buffet. Mostly it was fancy finger food fare, lots of veggies. As I was, of course, driving that night, I didn’t partake from the open bar, but I did utilize the coffee station.

Now, I hate coffee. To a degree. I like the smell and expresso beans, and I indulge in a peppermint mocha and pumpkin latte at Starbucks every year, but for the most part, I think it tastes, well, gross. I’ve had people wonder how I survived college without pulling coffee-induced all-nighters (and the short answer is, I didn’t, I always opted for sleep rather than homework), and to be honest, I feel I could like the stuff if I was forced to drink it, or got addicted enough to the caffeine, but it really just doesn’t do it for me.

So why was I drinking coffee now? Well, I was TIRED. It was just past 18:00, and already I felt myself wilting. I figured that since I never drank coffee or hardly any other caffeine source, drinking some now would give me a big enough boost that I could drive home without nodding off. Since I couldn’t drink it straight (bleeeh…), I poured tons of cream and sugar into the stuff, assuming it would only help. I have to admit, this whole thing was an act of purest optimism, as caffeine had never kept me awake before. I do drink soda, but ultimately only for the taste, because it plain doesn’t do anything else for me. Coffee was literally my last resort.

And as you might’ve guessed, it didn’t work.

I stayed at the party for a couple hours, mingling with peeps, though I sadly didn’t network with anyone. Like I said, I already knew many of the people, and I really do hate networking because it feels so manipulative. I also started feeling a little sick and had to haunt the bathroom for a bit – probably a result of all that sugar. I still would’ve preferred to stay longer, since the best stuff happens at night, but I really did have to drive home with some semblance of consciousness.

I said goodbye and then walked to the trolley. Despite the late-ish hour, there was no place to sit at first, though the seats emptied the farther we went. Back at Qualcomm Stadium, I found my car, noticed idly that it seemed to make a funny noise upon start-up, and headed home.

Maybe the coffee worked a little, because I managed to be mostly alert about a little over halfway, but then the next thing I knew, there were flashing red and blue lights in my rearview mirror and the screech of a police siren.

Terrified, I started to pull over, only to be told via megaphone to get all the way off the freeway. I found a safe place to park as soon as possible, uncomfortably aware at how abandoned the area looked. I barely had time to remember what to do if the officer refused to show me a badge, when he suddenly tapped on my window.

I already had my wallet out to show my license when he asked, though I honestly had no idea why he had pulled me over, least of all making me get off the freeway. It was, he informed me, because I had been braking a lot and swerving a bit dangerously. I was incredibly relieved and that probably showed, as he relaxed a little himself. I explained that I was just tired, having had a long day and now a long drive. Almost as an afterthought, he asked if I had been drinking, to which I replied in the negative. He didn’t give me a ticket or anything, just told me to drive carefully and get home as soon as possible. I promised I would.

Sure enough, sheer fear kept me awake the rest of the way.

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