Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebration V Analysis Part 2

For a convention based on a single story line, Star Wars Celebration V managed to have considerable programming items but they no way made up the bulk of the experience happening those 4 days.

Buying stuff in their dealer’s/exhibitor’s area made up a small piece. Most of the stuff being offered were collectibles so anyone in finding something to add to their private collections had a field day.
What really made up the bulk of the Celebration V experience had to be the fan interactions. The R2-Builders came together internationally for Celebration V and outfitted a very large room with all the wonderful droids its members had created over the years. As well as several facades that complemented their mechanical men. The 501st legion had a similar sized room that allowed them to show off the costuming work their members have done along with appropriate set pieces to go with them. Fan built props were in abundance. The Rebel Alliance had a substantial area on the exhibition room floor and they too had fan-made costumes, props, and displays. All with members of their particular groups ready and able to answer questions about what they do, why they do it, and how someone new can get involved. Different chapters of the various groups had display areas in the exhibition hall; from a T.I.E. fighter and Millennium Falcon interior brought over by the Belgian 501st chapter, to life sized models of Jabba the Hut for Slave Leias to hang out on. Even Disney brought in some of their Star Wars props from Hollywood Studios and had them available for photo opportunities.

What can Omaha conventions take from this? We need to provide more toys for local fans to play with. Unfortunately no one convention can build all the props and displays that could be used over the course of a convention weekend. We have to rely on the local fan groups to help us with them. OSFest has had major contributions in this respect from both the R2-Central Builders and Brad Edmonds & K.I.T.T. While we built a TARDIS front façade, I am made to understand that the other three walls may be added by next year. Thanks Moose!
But there are other fan groups throughout the Omaha area. What would you like to see added to the convention scene in Omaha? What can you build and bring to conventions or parades? What would you like help getting started with? OSFES should have the resources to at least point you in the right direction and offer you a place to exhibit your creation. Fan feedback can be great, give it a try!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Celebration V Analysis Part 1

A few years back I was accused of not knowing what a 'modern' SF convention was all about. And maybe that person was right; maybe I focused too much on the types of conventions I had grown comfortable with. So I made a decision to experience as many other types of SF conventions as I could afford to attend. To that end, I have been to a few Anime and Comic conventions over the last couple of years. Since it had been over twenty years since I attended a Media convention, I set my sights on the biggest one to happen this year: LucasFilms' Star Wars Celebration V. Thus I begin noting my thoughts on it: What they did differently, what they did well and what they got wrong.

Every few years, LucasFilms has a really big party for his fans; this year it was in Orlando, FL. As I own some time-shares in the Orlando area and needed to use them, I purchased a 4-day membership for my wife and myself, then headed down for a 2-week vacation. Before anyone asks; it is usually cooler over the summer in Orlando than in Omaha, so going down is a no-brainer (especially if you have annual passes to all the theme parks in the area). The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) has three massive wings. The west wing, where Celebration V was held, alone is an order of magnitude larger than our Qwest Center and they used all of it. Effectively? Let's save that for later.

Programming: A convention is not a convention without appropriate programming. And you might have thought it would be tough to find multi-tracks of programming at a convention devoted to a single story line, yet they did it. Once you split the Star Wars universe into smaller chunks, you have topics for people to talk about and discuss. Collectors had a Collectors' Stage for them, fan groups had a Celebration Fan Stage for them, the Star Wars Classroom & Lecture Hall offered seminars by major authors and artists, and, of course, the celebrities had a special venue for their talks. All of this leads to the observation that the programming department arranged to keep all their tracks separated and within a designated room. If you were interested in a single track, you could stay in that room all day. For example, the Fan Stage had Droid building, 501st indoctrination, Rebel recruitment, Mandalorian Merc training; one right after the other. This is a great idea for fans with limited mobility in a tremendously large convention facility like OCCC.

I liked the fact that they had a panel on How to Enjoy Your Convention Experience. It put a couple of program items in perspective and kept me from spending an overnight in a queue line, when I had other options to see that particular panel. It was also nice that a lot of the fan experience programming feed right into continuous showcases that those groups had elsewhere in the facility, and you could go to that showcase for more in-depth answers to any remaining questions you had.

The panels that I attended, and so are the only ones I can speak for, seemed well run, with time available for audience questions and feedback. And given the constraints of sticking to a single universe, they had a wide variety to panels to interest everyone.

What can OSFest take from this? OSFest 3 kept most of its costuming panels in the same room but not the other tracks. Would people like to see us try to keep our tracks within the single room or spread them around the hotel? Let me know how you want us to schedule your convention.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Upcoming Steampunk Activities

By Joe Carver

The Steampunk Society of Nebraska (SSoN) is a group for greater Nebraska steampunks. The society, a growing group of steampunks with more than a hundred online members, gathers to meet other steampunks and share ideas. We host an easy to find Facebook group.

Steampunk brings together two themes: the romanticized era of Victorian England and the freedom of the punk movement. Gears and goggles, bustles and top hats permeate the fashion. Think Jules Vern's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, H.G. Wells' Time Machine, or The Wild, Wild West.

Costume Crafting Day: 19 Sept, 12pm - 5pm
Steampunk Photo Day: 3 Oct, TBD
Costume Crafting Day: 24 Oct, 12pm - 5pm
Anime Nebraskon, Omaha NE: 5-7 Nov (Steampunk Costume Day)
Emerald City SP Expo, Wichita KS: 12-14 Nov

Costume Crafting Days are at the home of Joe Carver, located in Bellevue NE. The address will be sent to those who accept the event on Facebook or who contact Joe at his email address: joe_carver_2000@yahoo.com. These events are for working in a social atmosphere or getting help planning/crafting costumes. All costume work is welcome and Steampunk costuming, in particular, is encouraged. Please bring materials and tools needed for your costume.

Steampunk Photo Days are group photography opportunities. Costumed members gather at locations with a steampunk/historical atmosphere to show off their outfits and, if the opportunity presents itself, to recruit interested bystanders. If someone is interested in photography they are welcome to come along but use of images is protected by Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial (by-nc) license.

Many members of SSoN are plan to attend the Anime Nebraskon convention, 5-7 Nov. SSoN encourages all members to don their Steampunk costumes for the con and declares Saturday, November 6th as the group's official Steampunk Costume Day. If you are going to wear steampunk only one day then that should be the day.

Wichita, KS hosts the first Emerald City Steampunk Expo. The expo will be taking place at The Hyatt Hotel on the River with portions being held at the Victorian Village in Cowtown. Omaha was the origin of Professor Marvel, the Great and Powerful Oz, so it is only fitting we have a presence. The Steampunk Society of Nebraska will be in attendance. Come attend the closest all-steampunk convention to date.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More Local Happenings

I hope everyone interested in the latest Star Wars Encyclopedia made it out to Barnes & Noble on Saturday. If you are interested in a different style of costuming there are a couple more events on the horizon.

Friday August 27th at 5PM the Omaha part for the International Cosplay Day will be meeting at the Scooters on 12th & Howard. Dress up in your finest Cosplay outfit, head on down to the Old Market, and bring your camera. They want you to post pictures of your creation, just to prove you were there. But if you don't have a costume head on down anyway, there is no better way to contract the costuming bug then seeing others in great looking garb. Plans include a run down to the Old Market Spaghetti Works and random acts of fandom in the Old Market. No matter what we will have a great time doing what fandom is all about – sharing ideas.

If you can make it Friday, then pencil the next Otaku Get Together on your calendar. They meet the first Sunday of each month from Noon – 3PM in the same Batcave, er Scooters Coffeehouse. Again this is a great crew to hang with, discuss costuming ideas, and cosplay throughout downtown Omaha.

Live the adventure called fandom – have fun!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Book Event Saturday

Before I get into a discussion about Star Wars Celebration V I need to let you know about an event at the Oakview Barnes & Noble this Saturday, August 21, 2010. Dorling Kindersley Publishing is holding a national launch event for STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA & STAR WARS: YEAR BY YEAR. The Barnes & Noble at 3333 Oakview Drive in Omaha and the South Pointe Pavilions Barnes & Noble at 2910 Pine Lake Road in Lincoln will be participating in this event from 2-4 PM this Saturday. According to their publicity (that I got at Celebration V) there will be costumed characters of the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion appearing. Giveaways including a Star Wars mimobot designer USB flash drive and other great prizes. Talking to a store representative I learned there will also be other activities going on and they are encouraging people to come in costume. This should be a chance for the Omaha and Lincoln SF fan community to come out and meet each other, even if you don't buy their books.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Travel Broadens the Mind

Star Wars Celebration V has ended. And I am very tired having made it through all four days. Over the next few blog entries I will be talking about the lessons I will be taking away from the experience. They will include problems I saw in the conventions running and experiences I would like to bring back to Omaha and OSFest.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I had a wonderful time at the convention and would have liked it to last at least another day. But I have run conventions and know how far you can stretch your staff. These have been four very enjoyable days.

There was some exciting news coming from Kansas City over the last few days. Members of KaCSFFS (The Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society) have launched a bid to bring the World Science Fiction Convention back to Kansas City in 2016, 40 years since it hosted it's last one: MidAmericon in 1976. In a posting from the Chairperson, Jeff Orth, if you are interested in getting ahold of the current committee and getting involved in this mutli-year and multi-phase effort, you can contact them at KCin2016(at)gmail(dot)com. It will be a grand learning experience for anyone volunteering and you will have a great time helping.

Now where is that hot tub?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pre-Celebration V in Orlando

One more day until Star Wars Celebration 5 here in Orlando, and it is hot and rainy just like the last ten days have been here in Orlando. I will be glad for the four days of indoor activities coming up.

The Last Tour to Endor is coming up this weekend when they will close Star Tours in Disney's Hollywood Studios to begin the refurbishing of it into Star Tours 2.0. And none of the park patrons know that it is going to happen. Since there were no announces in the park about it, I asked a few people while waiting in line. The only waiting though was during the pre-flight briefing before getting on the Star Speeder, the mid-morning time that Trudy and I went there was no queue waiting to get on the ride. Compare that with Toy Story Mania on the other side of Hollywood Studios where the queue line is always over 70 minutes and Fast Passes (shortened queue lines for a timed return) were all distributed by noon. Yes Star Tours needs an updating but I think it will be too bad not to save at least one of the simulators (oh, it is a motion simulator ride) for the original ride that has been there since the park opened in 1989. That might be a way to keep the ride experience fresh for ride goers by allowing them to mix the two ride experiences. According to park personnel, it will take around 9 months to refurbish the attraction. Hopefully it will be complete for next year's Star Wars Weekends, typically mid-May to mid-June of each year.

One more thought about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. This is perhaps the most consistently themed area of any of the parks I have ever attended. Usually designers take the elements for the park as a whole and wrap an area's theme around them. For instance, the exteriors of Toon Lagoon (again at Universal Islands of Adventure) are themed for the Sunday funnies the area is based on but once you get inside the gift shops they look like, well gift shops. Except for a few decorations Marvel Superhero Island and Dr. Seuss Landing gift stores could be interchangeable. But once you are allowed into any of the shops in the Harry Potter Island (yes, even the gift shops have a queue line), there is no mistakes them for anything else. Even the products inside have been themed to fit. We're bringing home a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. They came up with Butterbeer (crème soda flavored with butterscotch and topped with whipped crème. Click here for additional recipes but not what was used in the park.) and Pumpkin Juice (the ingredient list includes apple juice, apricot juice, and pumpkin puree. Click here for additional recipes but again not the one used at Universal). This is an area that some creative thought has gone into.

And maybe that is something the convention scene needs. If you have an idea for a SF/Fantasy/Anime/Horror item that should be included in next year's OSFest, let us know. But be careful, we just might put you on charge of it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Where I have been.

Things got kind of crazy in June and July as OSFest 3 approached and I endeavored to bring you the greatest schedule ever. In the process of doing that I lost touch with the Omaha Sci-Fi Scene blog for the last few months. Now it is time to get back to talking about the greatest community around; Omaha SF fandom.

I write this from Orlando, FL where I am visiting the theme parks here ahead of Star Wars Celebration 5 later this week. Several members of the Omaha Sci-Fi community will join me later this week and I am hoping to get a wide variety of impressions from this major SF event. I am looking forward to one of our own participating in one of the panels here this Thursday, as Moose Mendolia takes the stage with his brother R2-Builders.

Like I said before I get there I am checking out the theme parks in the area. Last June Universal Islands of Adventure opened their new Wizarding World of Harry Potter island. The first day, yes I survived the crowds to be able to claim I was there, was massively too crowded (five yard penalty for intentional overuse of adjectives) and I could not really get any kind of impression of the area. Last Tuesday it was still crowded, so I came back Sunday earlier than the park actually opened. I was able to enter the park and make my way around to the Harry Potter area prior to 9AM (the official opening time for Universal Islands of Adventure). The ride already had a wait time to 45 minutes (much less than the 120 minutes I had to wait after the 6 hour wait just to enter the area on opening day). This ride pioneers some new technology; therefore it stopped for a breakdown about four times while I was in line and once more while I was on it. Since it is a movie based ride, you are moved from one location to another interacting to the film shown; being stopped for a short time is still more entertaining than waiting in line, even if it is in Hogwarts Castle.

Okay it has its problems but it is a very entertaining ride once you get on it. It integrates film clips, animatronics, and simulated flying to give you the best simulation of being in J.K. Rowling's universe that I have yet experienced. But there are some down sides. Even the staff at Universal admits that the ride seats were designed too small. I can barely get secured into the seats and since this is quite a moving vehicle, you need to be secured properly. Though I have to admit that there are some inverting roller coasters that are easier to get secured into. It was above the pay grade to the individual I talked to as to whether Universal is planning on correcting this ride flaw. I really hope they do because I am afraid most of fandom won't be able to use those seats but will want to experience this ride.

More on the theme parks like the closing of Star Tours this Saturday. Then it is on the Celebration 5, as I learn more about types of conventions I have never before attended in the hopes that I can find new ideas for new experiences I can bring to OSFest.