September 10th, 2004

Canadian National Expo 2004 Report

Ninjatron is going to talk about that good ol' Expo again.

Another year, another Canadian National Expo. Another Canadian National Expo, another freakin' Canadian National Expo report here on SykoGrafix! On August 27th, 28th, and 29th, I would once again head to the Metro Toronto Convention Center for the annual celebration of Comic Books, Science Fiction, and Anime. But this year would be a little different than the standard convention fare of previous years. This time, a new ingredient would be mixed into the formula: Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear, the Canadian National Horror Expo! This along with the usual experience I've come to expect from this show and the hijinks that happen around it would make for a pretty enjoyable time all around.

Comic Expo Sci Fi Expo Anime Expo Horror Expo

Friday: Appearance of the Grand Turtle Masters!

I met up with Shawn and Haley and we made our way down to the convention center. We arrived at around 12:30 p.m. for a show starting at 4:00 p.m., and even though this was approximately the same time I arrived last year, there were way more people than I had ever seen this early. The line was already quite long, stretching into the narrow hallway. So we sat down and waited and talked about stupid stuff until it was time to pay and get our tickets.

The differences didn't stop there either. Usually we'd have to join a second long line to get to the upstairs dealers area. This time, however, we were sent up a different set of stairs right away, where a vast empty area awaited us. This is where the second line was. We resumed with the sitting and talking about stupid stuff.

Empty
Not Empty
Empty
Not Empty

The aforementioned vast empty area didn't stay very empty as time went on. Somehow, all of that space was stuffed with people. The line looped around several times, and the convention staff had created a gap right in front of us so that others could walk through to the end of the line. Some time after the scheduled 4:00 p.m. start time, the line finally started moving... back down stairs. We all had to go back downstairs and up another set of stairs to get to where the action was really happening, bringing new meaning to the phrase "Human Cattle"! But it was all good.

Blade Truck! Scary guy

So we made our way up there, helped ourselves to all the free goodies they were giving away, like DVD previews and stuff, and proceded to walk around. There was a lot of interesting stuff to look at this year. The Festival of Fear area was especially cool. I didn't have much money on me today, so the purchasing was kept to a minimum.

Turtle Power! Mirage Studios

Check this out! The crew behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were in attendance and happy to talk with fans. There's Eric Talbot, Jim Lawson, Michael Dooney, and Peter Larid. I had wanted to meet these guys since I was 8 years old, and so it was a huge thrill for me to finally be able to see them, especially here in Toronto. I wore my old-school "Surf the Web" Ninjaturtles.com T-Shirt, which they got a big kick out of seeing. I got all of their signatures. I just wish I had more money to spend, because if I did, a good chuck of it would have gone to them!

Adam Hughes' Wonder Woman cover Drawing Babes with Adam Hughes

After much looking around, I decided to take in a few panel events that caught my eye. The first was listed as "Drawing Babes with Adam Hughes". You can probably see why it caught my eye. Adam Hughes has done cover illustrations for Wonder Woman, so you gotta know that he knows his stuff. It was a very entertaining hour, with lots of funny stories about his work in the industry. I really enjoyed his explanation behind the creation of a cover depicting a modern Wonder Woman going back in time and meeting her World War II era self, with contrasting art styles. There was a projector set up so we could all see while he drew. Mr. Hughes was rather reluctant to draw at first since he hadn't drawn anything in a few weeks and he was feeling rusty, but we eventually coaxed him into drawing us a pretty girl so we could learn his secrets. It was a really fun panel and a nice change from the typical "Industry people talk about what they're doing now" stuff.

Udon demonstration Udon demonstration

The last event for the day was called "Breaking Boundaries with Udon", which was a look into the technical aspects of comic book production by the Studio behind the Street Fighter comics. There was some technical difficulties at first, but when things got rolling we were all treated to a first hand demonstration on how to colour using Photoshop. It was very eye opening to see some different techniques in action, and I took away a lot of knowledge from it.

That officially ended the show for the day, but my evening wasn't quite over yet. Without getting into too much detail over the hows and whys of the situation, I had somehow found my way over to a very cool little pub in downtown Toronto, where, along with some other convention people, I shared a meal with my old buddy, Scott McNeil and a friend of his from high school, Mark Leiren-Young, a writer who has worked on many shows, including one of my most favorite episodes of Beast Wars. Now that was an interesting night! I just wish that I didn't have to leave early to catch the last bus home. I also wish that I didn't miss that last bus by 2 minutes and have to call home for help!

Saturday: Disarmed and Reassembled!

There were two big pieces of news coming out of the show today. First, Patrick Stewart, Captain Picard himself, had been scheduled to be a special guest. However, due to a surgery he underwent earlier in the week, his doctor would not let him fly and so he had to postpone his appearance until a later date. I guess that would be a big deal for me if it didn't cost over $100 just for the privilege of seeing him. Since I wasn't about to spend that kind of money, it didn't really effect me all that much, but still disappointing to those who were looking forward to seeing him.

The other bit of news was a shocking development that hit a bit closer to home. Remember in my 2002 report where I mentioned that I had purchased a sword from a table selling a variety of weapons? This vendor has been a mainstay of the convention for years now. Well, at some point on Friday, the police put an end to that! They were arrested and all of their weapons were seized. News of this was the buzz of the rest of the weekend. There were a lot of rumors flying around over how and why this happened, and the local press picked up on the story too. Another vendor expanded their area into the vacant space, so I guess there won't be any more cool weapons to buy there anymore. Too bad, I really liked checking out that table to look for some prospective implements of destruction. Hmm, maybe that's why it was shut down!

Making of Spider-man Making of Spider-man

After making a few purchases and looking around some more, Shawn and I decided to check out a panel on the making of the 3D Spider-man Animated Series by Mainframe. Speaking were Carl Whiteside (Environment Modeler), Jim Su (Senior Character Modeler), and Rak Tafarodi (Modeling Supervisor). There was a disclaimer that these panelists do not represent Mainframe or Sony or MTV. Why? Because they're not working with either of them anymore. But they did share with us a lot of the steps that went into creating a 3D show with a 2D style, how Mainframe got the gig in the first place, and what the decision making process was like behind the scenes. Apparently, Marvel was hardly even involved at all with the show, and Sony was calling all the shots themselves. Too bad they screwed up when it actually came to distributing the show!

Ueda and Abe Ueda and Abe

Later we went to the panel with the Japanese Guests on honor. Yoshitoshi Abe, creator of Serial Experiments Lain and NieA_7, and Yasuyuki Ueda, producer for all of Yoshitoshi Abe's projects. It was a very informative look at the business of manga and anime production in Japan, as you'd expect something like this to be, but what really made this worth seeing was how funny these guys were. They kept taking playful verbal jabs at each other the whole time, and having there banter filtered through the translator didn't make it any less hilarious.

Dreamwave

I also saw the Dreamwave Productions panel, with Pat Lee and some of his crew. Of course, Transformers was on the list of topics to discuss, and the big news as far as that goes is reconfirmation that Beast Wars comics will be on their way next year! Robots in Disguise will also get their moment in the sun at a later time. Also, a new project called "Transformers G1 Datatracks" will see a release and have a focus on Optimus Prime. They'll also be releasing a comic book based on the upcoming PS2 game "Killzone". Besides that, Dreamwave has made a renewed commitment to their original properties and has expressed plans to bring back several of their best known franchises like Warlands and Darkminds. Very exciting stuff anounced, and an informative panel all in all. At the end they gave away free posters! Thanks guys!

My minions! Go G-Force!

After all of that, I went and got in line for the Masquerade. Shawn was waiting there, holding our spot, and soon we were joined by a sizeable contingent of my minions. We mostly spent the time playing GameBoy, reading comics, and making fun of those comics. Here I am standing in line, with my awesome Battle of the Planets T-shirt.

My minions! Go G-Force!

This is my loyal minion Michelle in her costume. I don't know what she's supposed to be. I thought she was Smurfette. Apparently I was wrong, but I was not given any conformation. Blue stuff got everywhere.

After being yelled at a lot, we were all let in. Like last year, the Masquerade was to take place at the John Bassett Theatre, where Canadian Idol takes place. I would have had the best seat in the house, dead center with a clear view, if it were not for one small detail.

Ugly camera in the way

This big ugly video camera was in the way! Ugh. No helping that, I guess, but that meant that I didn't bother to take very many pictures this time out. No point in struggling with that big beast in the way.

The masquerade started very late, as usual. The crowd got a bit restless and started chanting "Masquerade! Masquerade!" and for a second there I was thinking they were chanting something else! Finally the Imperial March starts playing and a squad of costumed Star Wars troops make a grand entrance to great applause.

The troops The Bounty

So, last year the mega-popular heart-throb Master of Ceremonies, Gordon Rose, announced that he wasn't going to be doing this convention anymore. So I was awaiting on who could possibly fill his shoes. The leader of the troops took the microphone and announced that they have hired the galaxy's greatest bounty hunter to find a suitable MC to replace Gordon Rose. Boba Fett appears, dragging a mysterious cloaked figure behind him. The cloak is removed and the captive is revealed to be...

GORDON!!!!
Gordon Rose!

The crowd goes wild! He just couldn't stay away, and I for one am glad. Gordon was so funny tonight, I don't know what we'd do without him. He was all decked out in a traditional Japanese kimono, complete with a fan he'd often use to cool himself down after some particularly hot girls were on stage. This was a great masquerade. The number of entires were capped off at 60, which made a big difference, and most of them were pretty entertaining. Totally worth the wait this year.

Gingerbread man Cobra Commander Tokyo Mew Mew Dancing Links

Sunday: Attack of Precipitation!

I get on my way to the convention center much later than I had wanted to, and it's pouring rain like I've never seen before. I get totally soaked before I even reach the bus stop, so I had to go bandanaless for awhile. When I arrive downtown, the rain has stopped, but something is has gone terribly wrong! There's no electricity. Anywhere. Traffic lights are not working, car horns are honking like crazy, and the city is in a general state of chaos and confusion. It was madness, I tell you! I somehow managed to dodge and fight through enough of the oncoming traffic to find my way inside the building, but I found that the same general state of chaos and confusion from outside had also spread within! There was no power inside either! Hmm.. Power outages at both of the 2 big Toronto Conventions in the same year? What are the odds?

There was to be no spending on this day, I had exhausted all my funds on the day prior. Thus, most of the day was simply spent hanging around friends and fellow con-goers, talking about anime and catching up on old times.

Eventually the power came back, but the chaos and confusion didn't go away. Rin and I lined up to see the panel session with voice actors Scott McNeil and Sam Vincent, which we were informed had changed locations from where it was originally scheduled to be held. Well, not everyone was informed of this change, and another line started to see Gundam Seed, and then yet another line started to see Scott and Sam besides the line that I was already in! So we had 2 lines to get into one spot, and then another line to get into another spot that was supposed to be at this spot! Arg. Well it somehow all worked out and, as the photographer for Scott McNeil's fan club website, a front and center seat was saved for me.

Scott McNeil and Sam Vincent Scott with Bonesteel Action Figure

This was a really fun panel. Scott was as entertaining as ever, and while some of the stuff he talked about I had heard several times before, but he had some new stories as well, including how he got the role of Bonesteel in Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and stories of early convention experiences when he was just starting to learn that there was actually a fandom for this stuff.

CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG Ahhh!

"That was my impression of a water cooler!"

Scott McNeil and Sam Vincent Scott McNeil and Sam Vincent

Sam Vincent is a guy who I didn't know very much about, but when he started to list off some of the roles he's played, such as Forge in X-Men Evolution and Benjamin on Zoids, I realized that I've been a fan of his for awhile! This guy is an absolute voice-god! What a supreme talent. He does the voices for the child versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird on "Baby Looney Tunes", and I gotta say, walking in the footsteps of Mel Blanc mustn't be an easy task, but after hearing Sam perform those characters live, I say that he pulls it off with flying colours. This was his first convention appearance and he was great to listen to.

How are you going to explain this to your wife, Sam? No comment

For some reason that I would rather not be privy to, a member of the audience introduced these... well, women's undergarments. Scott and Sam were both surprisingly comfortable with them around. See for yourself. Scott wore that on top of his hat for the rest of the panel.

Scott McNeil

Sam had to leave to catch his flight home, but Scott stayed around for awhile and got mobbed by fangirls. He seemed fairly happy to do that, but seriously, kids, let the poor guy get some air once in awhile!

And that pretty much officially ended the convention, but since I wasn't in a hurry to be anywhere, I just hung around for a bit longer with some old pals and shot the breeze. It's one of the few times I'm able to do that with some of these folks, so I relish each opportunity I have to do so.

A drawing of me! I am KAIJU!

I couldn't stay sitting for an extended length of time, so I would occasionally have to stand to stretch out my weary legs. So here my friend Christine draws a portrait of me standing above everyone! It starts out looking normal enough, but by the time she's finished, I've become a giant kaiju, causing all of the shorter people to cower with fear! That's actually a very accurate depiction of me.

Stuff I bought.

Not very many purchases this year. Though I do wish that I had more money to spend, I was on a budget but still wound up leaving with a few cool things.

MYCLONE Soundwave The Princess Blade DVD Ninja Shirt

On Friday I got a MYCLONE Soundwave figure, which is a cute little plastic articulated representation of everyone's favorite stereo Transformer. I wanted to get Soundwave because of my connection to the character from my performance as him at TransformersCon this year. I usually buy a big huge Transformer every year at this show, but I suppose a tiny one is just as good. On Saturday I got the live action Japanese movie "The Princess Blade", a sword fighting film that I had been looking to obtain for a while. It's distributed by ADV Films, and they had a table set up this year so I got it from them for half the price that I found at another table. Score! I also bought this awesome Ninja Turtles T-Shirt that looks like someone had me in mind when they designed it.

Conclusion.

The past couple of years I have said that this particular convention was something that I go to just because it's what I always do every year at this time. This year, however, I was really looking forward to going for some reason. Sure enough, when it was all said and done I have to say that I really enjoyed the show this year, much more so than the previous 2 years. Maybe it was because Anime North didn't meet my expectations, or maybe because I got to see a lot of people who I hadn't seen in awhile, but whatever the reason, I ultimately had a good time and that's all that matters.

This convention is really getting too big, though. There are just so many people there and hardly enough room to move around. It looks like next year's show is going to be even bigger with the addition of a Gaming component, so I hope that steps are taken to widen the space. But I have to admit that the addition of the Horror Expo really added a lot of colour to entire show. That colour mostly happened to be bloody red, but that's what made it so great. It was a fantastic addition to the entire package and the people involved should be commended for bringing this to us because I really enjoyed having it there.

The only real regrets that I have are that I didn't have a lot of money to spend on all the cool stuff I saw, and that there were several other attendees that were there who I either didn't see, or only saw for a few seconds and didn't really get a chance to talk with very much. It was a whirlwind weekend and with so many people going in different directions all the time, it was tough to see everyone I wanted to. But other than that, I have to say that I enjoyed myself and will be back again for 2005. See you next year!

Sayonara.

Say cheese.
Now that you're done reading all of that, take a good look at the
Picture Gallery!

Previous SykoGrafix CNExpo Reports:
-2001- -2002- -2003-

Check out the CNExpo's official Webpage!


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