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-- Gathering Journal --
The Gathering 2003 kicked off June 27, 2003 and I was fortunate enough to attend.
I arrive, via train, around 4pm. The Gathering was being held at the Hotel Pennsylvania which is right across the street from Penn Station where I had arrived. Finding the place was not difficult. It was also not far from where the first Gathering was held in 1997.
This year I was rooming with IRC Goliath and Wingless. So after checking in I headed up to our room to meet up with them but no one was home. So I dropped my stuff off and headed up to the London Suite where the radio play auditions were being held. I was a bit disappointed I was unable to arrive in time to catch the panel on voice acting held just before the auditions. It may have helped a bit.
While standing in line for the auditions I met up with IRC Goliath and Stephen Sobotka and Gabe among others. Chyna Rose was handing out audition forms that had to be completed before the audition. Among the questions was "Can you growl?" Well I checked off that I could. This comes back to haunt me later.
As I start to get closer to the front of the line I see there are scripts being given to the next three in line for an audition. Each page has dialog for a specific character from the show. The idea is that you pick one character and read that for your audition. A couple minutes before it would be my turn I got my hand on a copy of the script and started to thumb through it. I had just barely skimmed it when it was my turn to audition.
So in I walked and was greeted by Greg Weisman (creator of Gargoyles) and Thom Adcox (voice of Lexington). Greg asked that I go to the back of the room when I read the lines so that way they could better judge what kind of volume I had behind my voice. Since the radio play was done without microphones in a large ballroom this would be important.
Then Greg asked who I wanted to read. What? I hadn't even read through one complete page to get my bearings on what I would be reading. I flipped through the pages quickly as and they fell open to Xanatos. "Xanatos" I tell Greg, and off I go.
I tried to put some emotion into the lines but I was far more focused on making sure I didn't lose my place and that I was delivering the correct lines that there really wasn't much emotional content there.
I was asked to re-read the last paragraph and to boost the volume a little bit. That wasn't a problem.
Then Greg asked to do a big growl so I let loose with something that would pass for more of a scream than a growl but at least it was loud.
After that IRC Goliath and I headed out to find Wingless before the opening ceremonies. We quickly found him on the top floor and headed down to the opening ceremonies.
The opening ceremonies started off with a quick intro by Greg Bishansky and then the Gathering 2004 group took the podium to unveil the Gathering 2004 mascot. He needs a name! The Gathering 2004 will be taking place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. As the Gathering 2004 crew talked we were informed that the legal drinking and gambling age was 18. This prompted IRC Goliath to suggest the mascot's name be Hammered. I offered Smashed. The Gathering 2004 looks like it's going to be fun.
Some of those who helped with this year's con were then introduced. I can't imagine what these people have to put up with to get something like this off the ground. The Gathering was, at least from my point of view, a success. It was the Gathering 2003 crew, lead by Greg Bishansky, that made it happen.
Greg Weisman then took the podium to deliver his annual Gargoyles speech. During key points Greg would ask the crowd to complete parts of his well-told story about how Gargoyles came to be. It truly is better than Barney. He took a quick show of hands as to how many previous cons people had attended. A few brave souls admitted to having attended every single Gathering since this whole thing began. There were also a few "con virgins" in attendance. Greg mentioned that we, the fans, might be slacking a little bit. Attendance this year was down compared to previous years. I don't know how the LA Gathering will ever be topped, but his message was clear, let's get excited again about the show and get more people interested in it.
Greg then mentioned that Gargoyles would be coming to DVD in 2004 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the show. Greg said it was a move made more for marketing purposes than anything else. He said that tentatively the DVD would contain all episodes from season one. It would also include a commentary track by "some guy named Greg Weisman". Very cool news to hear.
Greg then moved on to showing us the usual videos. First up was the video pitch Greg made back in the early 90s for Gargoyles. Next up were the Dark Ages and New Olympians pitches which I had never seen before so I was very happy to get the chance to see them. Greg then played the Bad Guys leica reel which was the one spin-off of Gargoyles that had the best chance of being made. The lieca reel was something of a mini-episode put together with rough pencil sketches patched together and with a dialog track and some sound effects. The story goes that the day before the lieca reel was to be completed the plug was pulled on the project. So Greg put up his own money to finish the lieca reel. This was a great peek into how an animated show gets produced.
After the videos Greg went over some of the panels that would be happening during the Gathering and closed up the opening ceremonies.
I was hoping to attend the jalapeno eating contest which started right after opening ceremonies. However I decided to go out and grab some dinner with some friends. It's a shame that the tolerance I've built up eating very spicy Thai food over the past few years couldn't be put to the test. There's always next year.
Later that evening was the Othercon mug-a-guest with Greg Weisman and Thom Adcox. The idea behind the Othercon is that more mature themes may be explored that might otherwise be inappropriate for the general audiences of the Gathering. So at the mug-a-guest there were no limits on what the questions could cover. One noteworthy fact that came out of the mug-a-guest was that Lexington was gay. Greg said that was never the plan going into the series but rather something that just developed over time. He said that Lexington seemed to stop his pursuit of Angela long before Brooklyn and Broadway and that may have been a sign. When asked who Lex's mate would be were the Gargoyles storyline to continue, Greg would not provide a name nor a species. He made it a point to say he wouldn't provide a species. Curious.
Greg was asked about how he would handle Gargoyles after the 9/11 attacks. Greg talked about how he worried it some would see it as exploitive to make such a show, especially given that gargoyles are awake only at night and the attacks happened during the day. He talked about other shows which did episodes dealing with 9/11, some were good and some were poor. His feeling is that there could have been a 9/11 episode for Gargoyles but that it would have to be a spectacularly written episode. His feelings were that the need to have the story told would need to outweigh his concerns about it being exploitive. The bar would have to be placed very high.
At about 1:30am we were kicked out of the room by hotel security, so that was it for the mug-a-guest.
The following day, Saturday, was filled with all sorts of cool stuff. I had to make the most of it as I would be missing out on all of Sunday's events to catch a plane to Las Vegas for another con.
Wingless wanted to catch the "Showstoppers and Scene Stealers: Creating Memorable Characters" panel so he headed off to that while IRC Goliath and I visited the art room. Disney had loaned to the Gathering some early production artwork from the show. This included a lot of work done by Greg Guler who did a lot of the early character design. There was also some character sketches for the comedy version of Gargoyles. As you may or may not know, Gargoyles was originally pitched as a comedy. Disney (Michael Eisner) didn't go for the idea and so the show was reworked as a drama. Many of the characters in the show as you see it today are based largely on characters first developed for the comedy show.
You can see some of this artwork in the video pitch Greg made for Gargoyles. Particularly the images of Hudson and Bronx in Greg's Gargoyles pitch comes from the artwork done for the comedic version of the show.
Also in the art room was a table with all sorts of materials relating to the episode "The Reckoning" including the complete storyboard done by Victor Cook. Vic Cook was also a guest at the Gathering. I spent about 30 minutes going through the storyboards. There was some very cool insight into the episode and how editing story-boards are done. The opening shot was originally done with Goliath looking through a pair of binoculars. Lots of panels had white paper pasted over them to show that the scene was to be cut or changed, but you could see through the paper and get a glimpse at the panel underneath. Several panels had pieces of paper pasted over only part of the panel with the piece of paper cut in such a way as to retain part of the original panel such as an arm or head. Then the piece of paper was drawn over again with the correct poses for the rest of the panel. That was kind of cool to see.
There was also a copy of the script and what appeared to be an edit sheet which kept track of what shots are to be placed where for the episode. Very cool.
Also in the art room was a large collection of fan art. There was some really amazing pieces in there. I especially enjoyed the water-color pieces. Just something about the texture of water-colors on the right kind of paper that I like... can't really put a finger on it.
Kanthara had a nice butt-shot of her character on display. For some odd reason that sticks out in my mind. There were many great pieces of art on display. So I made sure to take my time going around and selecting pieces to vote for. I liked the Gargoyles cards, a set of face cards done up with characters from the show. There was some nice work by Kythera and Dreamie as well. The art was not limited to just painting and drawings, there were some 3D art pieces; a pair of Brooklyn heads by Kelly Fay and a t-shirt with a front shot of Demona on the front and a back shot of Demona on the back.
After visiting the art room I headed over to the Roughnecks / 3x3 Eyes Q&A panel. The panel was hosted by Greg Weisman and I don't believe Thom Adcox was there even though he was slated to. We snuck some Gargoyles questions in there but mostly it was talking about 3x3 Eyes, which Greg Weisman directed the English dub of, and Roughnecks which was a series Greg wrote for. Greg showed us a tape of silly bits that the CG animators put together for Roughnecks. One included the cast singing "I Just Can't Get Enough" which cracked me up. There was also a music video montage which started (and ended) with some of the more violent scenes in the series with the song "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong playing. Greg also showed us a scene from Roughnecks. It was a funeral scene from an episode he wrote and which he felt was really well done by the animators and he wanted to share that. Greg then showed us some clips from 3x3 Eyes trying to showcase some of Thom Adcox's work on the project. He picked out a few really goofy scenes that were fun to see.
After that panel came the "Writing for Animation and Series Development" which I was especially interested in as we had been promised a sneak peek at a new series that is in development created by Victor Cook with Greg helping out on it as well.
Greg and Victor Cook talked a bit about what it was like pitching a series during the time of Gargoyles versus what it's like now.
Back in the day (1992 or so) a pitch was made directly to Michael Eisner and he would simply give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When Gargoyles was first pitched Eisner gave it the thumbs down but Greg was asked to rework the pitch and try it again. Greg talked about how the first time out, the pitch had about 40 or so pieces of art and included a lot of detail about the series. The second time around there were about 20 pieces of art and a lot of detail was cut. That pitch got the show made.
Greg talked about how when pitching a series, less really is more. It also helps to allow the studio you're pitching it to to feel that they could have a hand in developing or fleshing-out the series. Thus leaving a lot of room for tweaking can really help sell a series.
Greg and Vic talked about how things have changed now. Back in the day, Disney could syndicate it's cartoons out to independent television stations. As Fox, UPN, and the WB networks grew they bought up all these independent stations and syndication was no longer possible. Thus Disney bought ABC so it could have a place to put it's cartoons. Disney also opened up the Disney Channel from a pay channel to one that's now part of a regular channel package for most cable companies. This change in structure added new layers to the approval process. Now when a series is pitched it goes before a group of people to be approved. If even one member on that board doesn't like the show, then you're screwed. If it gets approved then the pitch is passed upwards to another group of people for approval. These extra layers, with many more people now involved in the approval process, make it very difficult to get a show made. People are more afraid to green-light the next television bomb than to block the next television blockbuster.
The television world seems to be tough business.
To end the panel we got to see a preview of a show Vic Cook had created and which Greg Weisman was helping to develop. Since the show is still being shopped around I figure I won't go into much detail about it. I'll just say that it seems like a cross between Bubblegum Crisis and X-Men with maybe a dash of Bionic Six. We were introduced to the main characters, given the basic story behind who they are and what the special attribute they all share is and some basic plot points. There's a seemingly Xanatos-inspired character trying to control things from behind the scenes in the series. I wasn't able to get a good idea of what the target audience is but Greg and Vic seemed to indicate that the show could swing from kids to young adults depending on what the network that buys the show wants. Greg and Vic mentioned Disney, when they saw the pitch, wanted to make the characters younger while the WB wanted to make the characters older.
I'll say it again: The television world seems to be tough business, especially animated television.
It was a great insight into a business I've never had any direct interaction with and I enjoyed it immensely. Probably my favorite panel out of all those that I attended.
Next up was the radio play rehersal. Earlier in the day 18 names were posted as being assigned to the radio play and I was lucky enough to be included. However we weren't to find out who we were playing, or what we would be performing, until the rehearsals.
After a brief introduction, Greg Weisman announced we would be doing "The Reckoning" which was an episode story-edited, and put to teleplay form by Gary Sperling. Gary Sperling worked close with Greg Weisman during Gargoyles and was a key figure in the show's development. Gary passed away a couple months ago from lung cancer (having never smoked a day in his life) and Greg felt it would be a proper tribute to do "The Reckoning" and perform it in Gary Sperling's honor. There were other episodes written by Gary Sperling but none of them had Lexington in it. Greg had assumed Thom Adcox would want to play Lexington... well guess again, Thom decided to take the role of Sevarius. Greg then announced who would be playing the rest of the roles in the episode. I was assigned to the role of Burbank who is Hudson's clone; 7 lines, 6 of which are growls. I guess those growls during auditions were okay.
IRC Goliath was picked for the role of Claw who is mute and thus has no lines. He was to be an under-study of sorts should someone fail to show up for the radio play. Like the idiot I am, that was nearly me.
We read-through the first act and then Greg gave pointers to those involved in the first act. We then did a second read-through of the first act. We were short on time so we did a single read-through on the second and third acts. Greg talked a bit about the need for volume and that should any of us make a mistake, to not apologize for it (which would draw attention away from the story) and to just move on. He gave tips on what kind of attitude certain characters had during certain scenes. Be more innocent here... be more cynical here... really have fun with this part... and so on.
Then we had to clear out of the ballroom while it was prepared for the banquet. There was some miscommunication as we were suppose to have more time to rehearse but the food services people wanted to get into the ballroom to setup. So we left and waited just outside for the ballroom to be prepared.
Once the ballroom was ready, we would go back in and start the radio play followed by the banquet. So Greg Bishansky comes out and lets the crowd outside of the ballroom know that it'll be about 30 minutes before everything is ready. So how to kill 30 minutes? I decided I ought to change my clothes. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt which, I thought, were very unfitting for a radio play that had the kind of meaning and importance as this one. I headed up to my room, got cleaned up, and changed clothes.
As I'm getting my belt on there's a knock at the door.
"GORE?! They need you in the ballroom NOW!"
"What? ... I thought I had 30 minutes..."
"Well they're ready NOW!"
So it turns out that at about the time I got into the elevator, the ballroom was reopened and everyone was ready to start the radio play. So much for those 30 minutes. Instead, I wound up holding the show up for about 10 minutes while Kelly Fay scrambled around the hotel trying to find me. I felt like a total jackass at that point. The one thing I didn't want to screw up... and as I entered the ballroom there was a large, sarcastic, applause to greet the idiot who held up the show. 7 lines... just 7 lines... I wouldn't have waited for myself, but they did. So for everyone in attendence, I am very sorry for holding things up.
I scrambled into line and the radio play began.
From there things went off without a hitch. Batya was exceptional as Demona. Stephen Sabotka did great as Goliath. The lady (whose name I do not recall) that played Angela did probably the best job as she seemed to capture Angela's innocence and naivete perfectly. The guy who played Thailog and Thom Adcox had a great moment where Thailog and Sevarius share a maniacal laugh. The two really did it up like something out of Austin Powers 2. Everyone was cracking up on that. Come the third act, Claw is introduced by Greg Weisman and IRC Goliath stands up. The scene continues and then ends. IRC Goliath sits down. Everyone roared with laughter at that one. I let fly with my growls and for that one line of dialogue I did a bad impersonation of Bill Murray's character from Caddyshack.
The radio play was fun. But I felt horrible about holding things up. But everything went smoothly after that point and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Then we cleared out while final preparations were made to the ballroom for the banquet. Nichelle Nichols, Uhura from Star Trek, the voice of Diane Maza (Elisa's mother) in Gargoyles, would be attending the banquet.
A line was formed for those who wanted to be assigned to the table of a special guest. I decided to get in line. Everyone in line was give a number to correspond to a special-guest's table. I was assigned the number 1 which turned out to be Greg Weisman's table.
The doors were opened and we all took our seats. First we ate and then a Q&A session followed. Greg became the emcee of the Q&A and most of the questions were directed at Nichelle Nichols. Nichelle talked a bit about her sci-fi books as well as a bit about how she came to work on Star Trek. A general question for all the guests came up asking if there was a special or favorite episode. Greg talked about working on Mark of the Panther with Nichelle and how great she was. There's a point in the episode where Diane Maza delivers a story about the panther queen. Greg said Nichelle busted through that in just two takes. Vic Cook talked about how he enjoyed working on that same episode as that story sequence was done in a very different drawing style than that which is typical in Gargoyles and how fun it was. I dig the music Carl Johnson put together for that episode.
After the banquet a lot of people stayed around while things were cleaned up in preparation for the masquerade ball. Nichelle Nichols took the time to sign a few autographs.
On the the masquerade!
Kelly Fay's chain-mail headdress caught my attention while we were waiting for things to start. I've got to find me one of those mail head pieces.
Dreamie took over as emcee for the masquerade ball dressed up in her DreamieKitty cat-girl outfit. While waiting for everyone and everything to get in order she played up to the cameras and kept things interesting.
Apologies in advance as I never wrote down the real names of the people behind the costume.
First up we had a hunter, Robyn Canmore I believe. Best subtle use of knee-pads.
Next was a Matrix cosplay with a Matrix lady being chase by an agent. Matrix lady had a necklace on which was an LCD display that showed Matrix code.
Then there was a giant red gargoyle. I just don't know about that whole body-paint thing. I can't imagine that comes off easy. It also must make the clothes you wear incredibly greasy. I'll have to give it a shot some year.
Then we had a guy who came as Vinnie and did a dead-on impersonation of him. So much so that even saying the tried and true lines from "Vendettas" got me to nearly snarf the water I was drinking. (Snarf = making the stuff you're drinking come out your nose from laughing too hard.)
The most regal costume was a woman dressed as Gruoch. She did a great job on the costume.
A Fan came as an employed something or rather with a masters degree in something. Basically he came as a burger joint worker complete with mesh cap.
There was an Owen who pulled out a sign that hung around his neck proclaiming him as "Xanatos' Bitch".
Hudson and I'm not sure who did a cosplay where Hudson was something of a goth zoo keeper trying to keep control of this really menacing looking grey gargoyle. Lots of leather and chains and even a few growls that easily beat the best I had to offer at the radio play. The scariest cosplay ever?
Then again, I could be wrong. Patrick Toman and Kanthara cosplay as Anastasia and Fox Reynard with a baby Alexander in tow. Best cosplay in the whole show. Patrick Toman made just the best looking Anastasia Reynard I've every seen.. err.. would have seen, had I not dug my eyes out of their sockets a moment earlier. Kanthara and Patrick really put a lot of effort into it and I thought they did great.
There was another Owen who took the time to color his hand gray and draw stone marks all over it. Great detail.
Thom and Greg were judging the show along with Vic Cook. They seemed to be having fun.
Prizes were handed out and I was asked to deliver thte Gorelisa memorial award to Patrick. I need to reclaim my title next year I think.
Thom Adcox was given a belt with a lock this year to keep his pants up. Last year he apprently dropped his pants on more than one occasion. During the masquerade ball this was also the case. I wonder who was more over-the-top, Adcox at the Gathering or Tim Curry while doing Sevarius in "Monsters".
After the ball I headed back to my room to try and get some sleep as I had to leave early the following morning to catch my plane. IRC Goliath and Wingless with Gabe in two showed back up in the room about 30 minutes later. They stayed up and talked well into the night while I tried to find a comfortable spot on the chair I was sitting in. I'm told that while I was fading in and out of sleep IRC Goliath snapped a picture... I'm still a bit worried about that one.
Eventually I found sleep.
The next morning I got up early and took off to catch a bus to LaGuardia. Having read about the mess involved in Greg Weisman getting to LaGuardia from the hotel I wonder, did he know about the shuttle that goes from Penn Station (right across the street from the hotel) to LaGuardia? During the ride from the hotel the bus passed the Mayflower which was where the Gathering took place in 1997. I switched over to a larger bus just outside Grand Central Station and headed out from there.
I hope to attend the Gathering 2004 in Montreal. This year was fun and next year is sure to be a blast.
Ya know, a year and a half later and I didn't even remember that we had to delay the radio play at all. So don't sweat it.