We're finally getting to one of the most remarkable days I have ever had at SDCC, or just about any convention I've attended. Hey, I've been going to various pop culture conventions (SF, Horror/Fantasy, Mystery, Comics) since 1976 and have some great times. This whole convention was extra special since it was the first one I was able to share with Kristina & Sarah. Dan and I always have had fun at these. This past Friday just shot to the top of my list by about half way through and went over the top by the end. I hope I can just give you a hint at how remarkable it was.
We got to the Hall H line around 6:30 am on Friday. Of course, we started further back than when we were there the previous night, as a number of folks had stayed even after receiving their wristbands. I will admit, being the Doubting Thomas I always am, that I started off wondering if we were still going to gain admittance into the Hall. The bands themselves say on them that the possession of the band did not guarantee admission. Fortunately, my three companions talked me down after the line eventually began moving and we could actually see the tents were we would spend the final half hour or so. For the most part the crowd was well behaved, if a little rowdy towards the end. Line holders and not staff were the first to report someone for breaking into the line. A few minutes later he was being escorted away by Security to the cheers of many.
I have to admit that once the line was moving and we were snaking around under the tents, everything was well organized and I have to salute the SDCC staff and volunteers for being so professional and organized. The thousands of line standers were gathered into smaller groups and that hundred or so were then allowed into the convention center and into the hall. We were then seated as we entered and ended up with decent seats towards the rear and in the center with the screens above us allowing us a great view of the actual stage and anything shown on the screens.
After a brief introduction and welcome the first program was announced. The Hall H program began, as it always does, with the Annual Animation Show of Shows. Ron Diamond, who has moderated this event at SDCC and animation festivals around the country, announced that the Show of Shows would begin being presented in theaters as well. The shorts included FEAST (everybody loves the dog), DUET, LOVE IN THE TIME OF MARCH MADNESS and a new cartoon by Bill Plympton, THE LONELIEST STOP LIGHT. They ranged from amusing to heart-breaking, with a wide-range of animation styles. I highly recommend trying to hunt these down and perhaps checking out the Show of Shows Facebook page.
The next two panels were hosted by Chris Hardwick (Nerdist, The Talking Dead), who was the perfect choice. The Walking Dead panel featured over a half dozen of the regulars who played Rick, Carl, Carol, Michone, Abraham, Glenn, Daryl, Sasha and Morgan. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun and the trailer for the up-coming season looks pretty good. This was followed by the WD spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead. The new series takes place in Los Angeles, rather than in Atlanta and the surrounding area. It also begins, for regular TWD fans, in the weeks during which Rick lies in a coma. Some of the cast including Rueben Blades, Mercedes Mason, Cliff Curtis and others appeared talking about the show and the trailer of the first season. This series will show how the disease began to spread and how things fell apart in the days and weeks prior to the Walking Dead series opener. It looks pretty good, even though some complained that it looked more like a family drama than the horror series the original has always been.
After a brief break one of the other major panels began, this being that for Game of Thrones. It was a surprise, at least to me, to see Seth Myers come out as host for the panel. He was funny and kept the questions brief, whether from his own list or from the audience members lucky enough to get to the mike. This presentation was eagerly awaited by a good portion of the crowd, but having not seen the entire last season, I had plenty of spoilers blown. Of course, the big one had been all over social media and was pretty hard to ignore. Thanks, Interwebs! Some of those attending were Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, John Bradley, Liam Cunningham and Gwendoline Christie (who would show up at a later panel, as you can imagine). The panel was entertaining, but a lot of folks were disappointed in that there was no trailer for the new season and the panelists had apparently been told not to discuss much of what we were going to see. One cool thing was a video showing GoT references and jokes that appeared on other TV shows. This included Kit Harington appearing as Jon Snow in a skit on Myer's late night show. Unfortunately folks were limited in learning much new, although while the show's writers kept telling us that a certain character was in fact extremely dead, some cast members hinted at other things. Going to give this a mixed review, but overall it was cool seeing the cast.
Initially we had talked about taking a break during the next panel, called Enterainment Weekly: Brave New Warriors, which was comprised of male actors from various shows talking about how they got started and telling stories about some of the shows and films they worked on. I admit that only a couple were familiar to me. They were Zachary Levi (Heroes Reborn), Sam Heughan (Outlander), Jordan Gavaris (Orphan Black), Kevin Durand (The Strain), Rob Kazinsky (The Frankenstein Code) and Michael Cudlitz (Abraham on The Walking Dead). Only Durand and Cudlitz are in shows I watch currently. Between this panel and the one for WD, I now consider Cudlitz one of my favorite actors on TV. He was just so cool and very revealing about some of his early career. In fact, everyone on the stage had some funny stories to share about their careers. At one point, in response to an audience question, the discussion became very serious while a number of the men revealed how they or friends had been propositioned or used sexually in order to get roles. I'm really glad that we stayed and I have new respect for everyone who appeared.
At 5:30 pm the panel that I would say most of the folks in the Hall (and certainly the four of us) had been waiting for began. Chris Hardwick came on again, initially introducing Kathleen Kennedy, director J. J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan. They talked about how excited they were and showed a short video on the history of Star Wars had at SDCC. Pretty cool seeing some of the older photos, including ones from the 1976 convention where SW was introduced and I was in attendance. Also shown was a 'behind the scenes' look at the making of the film. This included some actual scenes, a few snippets of interviews with cast members and some bits showing cast & crew working on various segments of the movie. I don't know your reaction was to seeing the intial teaser trailer ending with the appearance of Han and Chewie, but I don't think I was the only person in the crowd holding back tears as we watched this new footage. Hardwick began introducing some members of the new film, beginning with the new characters. Daisey Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac came on representing the "Light" they spoke briefly. This was followed by the 'Dark' side which included Gwendoline Christie (for her second panel of the day), Adam Driver (who looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but on this stage) and Domhnall Gleeson. They all had a few words to say, but didn't give away much about their characters, understandably. Finally, the 'legacy cast' was introduced with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill coming out to a huge reaction from the crowd. They were talking about being back as the iconic characters and what it was like working with the new cast. At about this point, Hardwick asked J.J. how Harrison Ford was doing and if he was recovered. J.J. looked out into the crowd leaned into the mike and said, "Why don't you ask him yourself?" You can imagine the crowd jumping to their feet as Ford came up on stage, with no cane of seeming limp. Hardwick opened the floor to questions and while we didn't learn many plot points and some questions asked seemed to be met with non-responses, it was still great and I don't think many folks at that point regretted standing in line all that time. It was a pretty good way to end thing.
As some folks were actually getting up to leave, J.J. asked everyone if they loved the music of Star Wars. That got a round of applause. He then said how great it would be to attend a live concert of SW music. I think like others I was expecting him to announce an upcoming event. When he then said that he was inviting everyone in the Hall to follow him and the cast for a live concert the place erupted. I looked over at Kristina and like the rest of us she appeared stunned. We were told to peacefully go out the exits towards the front of the hall and we would be given lanyards for
It was so amazing with the limos of the cast members driving past escorted by members of the 501st Stormtroopers. Both Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridly (quicking becoming a favorite) hanging out their windows high-fiving and yelling to the crowd as they passed us. The stadium down by the water quickly filled but we were able to make our way down towards the front near the side of the stage, We had great views of the three large screens (where the orchastra and scenes from the film were shown as the San Diego Symphony Orchastra played the well-known music of John Williams. There was a DJ playing music (non-SW) and revving up the crowd, before many of the the cast members , along with Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. came out with light sabers to greet the crowd a final time. Many of them 'dueled' with those in the front of the stage (as lightsabers were given out if you wished) both as they came out and later as they left. The next hour or so was to amazing and moving to put into words. I felt like weeping a few times and saw I was not the only one in the crowd feeling the same way. As the last piece was being played and the sky darkened a fireworks display began over the harbor. Truly magical!
That wrapped up the most incredible day that I have ever experienced at any convention and the fact that I could share it with Kristina, Sarah and Dan made it even more so. I promise to wrap this up tomorrow with the last few panels I attended on Saturday.