I have never been one to attend conventions on a regular basis, so whenever I do go, I make sure to treat it sort of like a mini-vacation. I am there to have fun, create memories, relax, and spoil myself.
Fortunately, Awesome-Con is right in my backyard and it only takes a short Metro ride to get to the convention center. The 3 day weekend was a fun and memorable experience. On the show room floor, it was hard to resist the urge of buying every cool artifact on display and it was especially cool to see the level of creativity so many people put into their costumes (I didn’t dress up in case anyone is wondering).
Here is a short list of some of the major highlights during the weekend:
- On Friday, I started out by waiting in line to meet Seth Rollins & Natalya. Unfortunately, both of them were late getting to the venue and didn’t get to meet them right away. Fortunately I was able to schedule a photo-op with them later in the evening. I got my picture taken with both of them and they were great. I told Seth congratulations on his big main event run, which he seemed to appreciate. Natalya was a complete sweetheart and is beautiful in person. I also attended their Q&A session later that night. Nothing earth shattering was said, but Seth did have a very interesting moment of realization when it was pointed out to him that he was the first WrestleMania World Title winner to be younger than WrestleMania itself. He stated that he was humbled and honored by that fact. He also stated that The Pedigree will be his permanent finisher from now on. Overall, my experiences with Natalya & Seth Rollins were great and they proved themselves to be great representatives for the WWE as everyone that met them talked about how great they were.
- In addition to Seth & Natalya, I met some great wrestling fans while waiting in line and attending the Q&A. There were some very nice and fun wrestling fans in attendance. One cool surprise was that the guy that had that amazing shocked reaction to Undertaker’s streak ending was at the Q&A. Seth & Natalya actually recognized him too which was cool to see.
- Obviously, no geek-convention would be complete without something Star Trek related. The biggest guest star attending the convention was Captain James T Kirk himself, William Shatner. His lines were immensely long both days he was there, but I was fortunate enough to get an early spot in line on Saturday. You can tell that Mr. Shatner does this a lot because he knew how to say the right things to people to satisfy them, but also keep the line moving and see as many people as possible. It was cool to get to meet such a unique personality.
- The other major Star Trek guest was George Takei. Mr. Takei was very pleasant to everyone in line and made sure everyone walked away smiling. Being a Godzilla fan, I asked him to sign my picture with “Banana Oil”, an infamously bad line from the dubbed version of Godzilla Raids Again for which Mr. Takei provided some of the voices. I hoped he would get the reference and when I asked him, he laughed and in his trademark Takei voice, he said “You remember Banana Oil? That is great”. It was fun & cute moment with a really great guy and I was happy I got to meet him because of it.
- Power Rangers was a huge part of my childhood as it was for many kids that grew up in the early 90s, so getting to meet four of the old Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was a treat as well. I have to say, they have aged amazingly well and they don’t look too different from how they look in the show over two decades ago. Austin St. John, the original Red Ranger, Walter Jones, the original Black Ranger, David Yost, the original Blue Ranger, and Karen Ashley, the 2nd Yellow Ranger were all very gracious and fun to talk too. Even more fun was the Q&A panel where they shared funny stories while filming the show and covered some great topics like Mr. Yost’s struggle with and ultimate acceptance of his homosexuality, tragically losing Thuy Trang in 2001, the desire to see the Green Ranger, Jason David Frank fight CM Punk, and even their thoughts on the much talked about Power Rangers fan film that was released a few months ago.
- Being a huge fan of animation, it was a blast to get to meet the prolific voice actor Jim Cummings. The guy has played hundreds of different characters, most of them great, so it was hard for me to settle on which ones I wanted to ask him about. I told him that my favorite voice he did was for Tail Spin villain Don Carnage, and he was very generous and told me what the inspiration for that character was. He signed a Darkwing Duck picture for me and said farewell in the Darkwing Duck voice, which was a nice capstone to the experience. His Q&A session was the last panel I attended at Awesome Con and it was a great one to go out on because he was a laugh riot. The highlight was how a playful ad-libbed diss on him by Robin Williams made it into the third Aladdin movie.
- Another great voice actor I got to meet was Jess Harnell, best known for playing Wakko in Animaniacs. He was incredibly friendly and I made sure to thank him for the state capitals song because it definitely did help me out in grade school.
- Having just read The Simarillion, I have Tolkein on the brain and to fill that appetite, I made sure to attend the Q&A session with Lord of the Rings cast members John Rhys Davies and Sean Astin. They were terrific, funny, and clearly loved talking about all of their film making experiences with the fans. I later met Sean Astin down at the booth and he was wonderful and I made sure to geek out with him overall of his movies like Goonies, Rudy, and even Encino Man!
- For all the childhood nostalgia in the air, it was also great to see some guests from the more adult side of my geekdom. Three cast members from Clerks were guests there, including Brian O’Halloran (Dante), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Dante’s girlfriend Veronica), and Jay himself, Jason Mewes. All of them were very gracious and fun to chat with and Mewes was particularly awesome. He was very outgoing to all the fans in line and very accommodating to everyone’s wacky requests.
- There were also some cool guests from some of my all-time favorite movies. I met Julie Adams who was the lead actress in Creature from The Black Lagoon, one of the first monster movies I ever saw and one of my personal favorites from the Universal Monster library. She was a sweet and kind lady and thanked me for being a fan. I also met Ralph Macchio, the original Karate Kid, and he was a blast. He told me that getting to kiss Elizabeth Shue was “A great day at the office”. He was a lot of fun. I also met Judith Hoag, the first live action April O’Neil from the 1990 Ninja Turtles film. Not to sound repetitive, but she was also very nice, very sweet, and appreciated me telling her that TMNT was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. And while I’m on the subject of the Ninja Turtles….
- Now the main event and major highlight of the entire weekend for me was getting to meet all four of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Rob Paulsen (Raph), Cam Clarke (Leo,), Townsend Coleman (Mikey), and Barry Gordan (Donny) were all guests at the event and that truly was a blast. I was fortunate enough to catch all four of them at the booths when there lines had gotten shorter, so I got to talk to each one of them for a few minutes, and all of them were a blast. This is going to sound strange, but of all the people I met this weekend (Seth, Natalya, Shatner, Takei, Cummings, etc) I can say that I was well composed for all of them except for one. I was truly star struck when I met the original Donatello Barry Gordon. Donatello was always my favorite Ninja Turtle, so I really got nervous meeting him. Fortunately he was very nice and thanked me for being such a big fan of Donatello. His was actually the first signature I got during the weekend and the entire time, I felt like I had reverted back to being five years old.
- Rob Paulsen was fantastic. Being such a prolific voice actor himself, I made sure to ask him about things like Pinky & the Brain and Animaniacs. As we talked about Ninja Turtles, I told him that Donatello was my favorite and that it was great he has the role now in the new show. He then asked me what my thoughts were on the new show and we talked about it for a few minutes. So I got to meet two Donatello’s this weekend and it couldn’t have made me any happier.
- Townsend Coleman was also great and very personable. Between The Tick & Michelangelo, he was definitely happy to break out his voices on request. We talked about family life and other personal things. I won’t go into the specifics of what was discussed, but he was a pleasure to talk with and was very gracious and (again without going into specifics) he did something very cool that I greatly appreciated.
- Considering how straight laced and responsible Leonardo was, one might expect his voice actor to be the same way, but Cam Clarke was a riot. He was a super funny guy and loved telling stories about his various voice over gigs throughout his career. I made sure to thank him for being the voice of He-Man in the 2002 Masters of the Universe show, which he said he loved doing. During the Q&A panel on Sunday, he had plenty of funny stories to tell, especially about how he originally auditioned for Michelangelo and how he got voiceover work as Leonardo for a video game without any of the producers knowing he was the original voice.
All in all, Awesome-Con was a wonderful experience and I was happy to share some of my stories and good times with you here at TheBrainosaur.com.