Apologies in advance for the length, but this con was just such an amazing experience (most likely the best weekend I’ve ever had) that I would be doing it an injustice by not raving about it for a ridiculous amount of time.
The journey started out a little rough, although given the other stories I’ve heard, travel issues were all too common. I’d basically booked my flight, among other things in advance, because like Twi, I like to have things soundly in place. What I wasn’t expecting was for the airline to have sold me a route that makes a connection that could not possibly be made (physically, if the first plane had been on time, I could have personally run it to make the connection, but I believe there was some junk going on with customs security, so THEY wouldn’t be ready… which is in the end their own fault, since they planned the route, but I digress). So pretty much right out the gate I’d lost about three quarters of my contingency time, since they needed to move me to a later flight. This necessitated enacting my back-up plan: forego checking in at the hotel and heading right to the con from the airport (this was smoothed over by my parents being along for the trip, so they hit the hotel and got that settled). A small reassurance in all this chaos was being placed in row 2 of the plane.
Anyway, having arrived in LaGuardia at a bit before 4PM with the Friday rush well underway, I was just a little nervous. I hoofed it out to a cab and settled in for what I expected to be a long ride to the con. And it was, although shorter than I expected (75 mins vs the expectation of closer to 120… although that was a wild paranoid guess, since it’s been a really long time since I’ve been in traffic like that). It helped that I was in contact with Invidlord, who was already at the con and he let me know that the badge line had no wait. I settled up the stuff with my badge by about 5:30.
6:30 rolled around and we headed in for the meet and greet. It was there that we met up with NightOfAccordionSax and then we ended up hanging out near Tara Strong for most of the event. Which in retrospect, I think it’s because that’s where the most movement was. Plenty of articles passed through her hands, whether for signing or being gifted to her. One of the coolest that came through was a replica of the book from the opening of S1E1. Someone also brought in a medium sized Twilight Sparkle plushie and in her typical troll fashion, Tara asked very loudly if she was expected to signed Twilight’s “hoo-haw.”
Once I finally got to the front of the crowd, I was able to gift her my Twilight Solo drawing. Although I think she didn’t get the reference right away, because she asked why there was a gun and the crowd and I had to remind her about the radio play (although I got to quote “pony wears the saddle” back to her, which was pretty funny).
We did break off for a bit (just after de Lancie raffled off the oversized prints to the crowd) to get a few words and photos in with Lauren Faust and John de Lancie, but everyone else seemed to have the same idea. So we more or less had to get our photos and then get out of the way. Which incidentally pushed us back toward Tara, where we seized the opportunity to get some photos with her too.
During the course of the rest of the meet and greet, our little group got targeted for conscription by Tara Strong. To elaborate, the con staff failed to provide the gift carrier she demanded, so she grabbed NAS and made him carry her stuff around for a bit. While she did briefly take her stuff back, she rather quickly pushed it into Invid’s arms. And didn’t take them back. Even after the meet and greet ended. Which was fine because Invid and I were going to supper with her anyway. Little did I know that this would lead to the highlight of the trip.
Once the initial confusion about where to go was addressed, we started following the documentary staff out of the con. Because Invid still had Tara Strong’s swag, we ended up being her entourage in a way, with me walking through the semi-crowded lobby right beside her. I swear I must have had the biggest, dorkiest grin on my face at that moment. And that wasn’t even the best part.
Anyway, Mike led us out to the cabs, where we all started splitting off. Invid still had Tara’s swag, so we ended up following her to her cab, where she met up with Lauren. The end result was Invid in the front seat holding all the stuff and me in the back seat. With Lauren Faust AND Tara Strong. At that point I realized I had practically won the lottery. And it didn’t stop there.
Sure, we got some extra banter in with both Lauren and Tara, but that cab ride was the point at which Tara convinced Lauren to get a Twitter account. Which didn’t exactly have a smooth launch. The app Lauren happened to get was unfamiliar to Tara and I couldn’t quite see what was going on, but due to initially getting something wrong with the account name, they actually trashed the first account and recreated it. By the time we reached the restaurant, the account was finally settled and Tara was giving Lauren a crash course in Twitter. And they were so engrossed in doing so that they stood outside the restaurant for about five minutes just messing with Lauren’s phone. Then we all headed into the lobby, where they continued to fiddle with it. Picture this: the waiter trying to lead us all up to the VIP room upstairs and Lauren and Tara STILL fiddling with the phone and Tara shouting that they’re busy. And then even when we did get upstairs, they hung out outside the room playing with the phone until the place setters were all in place (at this point, as much as it pained me, I snuck out onto the patio for a moment to get a picture of the gorgeous skyline). By the time I returned, Lauren was up to 400 followers and then Tara Strong commanded Invid and I to get Twitter accounts at our first opportunity.
Although it couldn’t quite hold up to the supreme luck I had on the way over, the supper was nevertheless awesome. The setup was a bit interesting, with the room divided into four tables of six. Our setup ended with Invid and I at a table with two of the documentary staff leads, Lauren Faust’s brother, Ryan, and Lauren Faust herself. What would happen is that after every course, the celebrities swapped seats (with the directors, Mike and Laurent, doubling up for one slot). Oh and every time the celebrities swapped, Tara called out how many followers Lauren had. By the end of just the supper, she had acquired 4000.
Talk generally consisted of interests, place of origin and how we got into the fandom. There were lots of interesting insights thrown around. With Lauren we ended up discussing animation, which ended up leading to Reboot, which she had never seen. She joked that she was an art snob, since she had come out of animation school with a big preference for traditional animation. She also seemed to be amused when I mentioned that I used to watch a lot of 60s Spiderman reruns.
Next we got Tara Strong, who commented on the bass coming through the wall behind us, which those of us who weren’t rotating had already gotten used to. Evidently a night club backed onto the VIP room. Anyway, we got talking about voice acting and I inquired a bit about this whole “filed away” system she has in her head for her characters. This ended in a quote that she also ended up using for one of the panels (can’t remember if it was the Q&A or general VA one) where she said the difference between voice actors and crazy people was that one’s on TV and the other’s in an asylum.
After that, the directors were up and we got into some film and fandom discussion. I think at this point things reversed a bit since Mike and Laurent started asking us stuff. I think it was at this point that Ryan also made an interesting comment about how before FiM, Lauren was kind of playing second fiddle to Craig, which I had never really thought about. But really, with a pair of top level artists, I guess it makes sense that one might end up with more attention.
Finally, we ended up with John. The contrast between he and Tara’s methodology for acting was quite interesting. While Tara gets her characters filed away for future use, John is a very one off man. He studies the material, goes in and does the job and then leaves and that’s the end of it (unless he gets called back to reprise a role). Which is perhaps why Discord becoming so popular came a bit out of nowhere for him.
Another interesting thing from John was how Q almost wasn’t a recurring thing, which by extension threatens Discord’s existence. Long story short, The Next Generations’ crew wanted him to reprise his role, but he was already booked for something else. Turns out they wanted him back so badly that they were willing to push the shooting schedule back and divide it into two two week shooting periods instead of the more standard single four week (which I am told costs a significant amount of extra cash). So hurray for that.
And then at the end of the night, Tara almost walked away without all her stuff again, so Invid and I had to chase her down. After that, we got to mingle with a few of the other backers as our next cab took us back to the con. From there, we parted ways and I went to my hotel for the first time.
I arrived just after 9 and the place was already pretty crowded. Things were really chaotic and I was a little annoyed that this was the first day that the con booklets were available (not having a map made me kind of antsy), but after the previous night, nothing could break my mood for very long. So I just chilled, hung out and took in the energy. Somewhere up near the entrance doors a group broke out singing Smile!
Anyway, I was supposed to meet up with Invid, but the sea of people made that a little tough. Once we were let in, I spent the first 20 minutes trying to find him (while simultaneously checking out any booths I passed). When we did meet up, we shopped around for a bit and I snagged a cute custom Daring Do and a stained glass Twi window hang. I was supposed to get in for an interview too, but they were running behind (and they pretty much always were, especially on Sunday, so it kept getting pushed back until I got in after the con ended on Sunday). So we just hit the booths more, grabbed some lunch and then went to the VA panel. The sound quality was unfortunately a bit junky and we were probably sitting in one of the better places. Shouldn’t be too hard to find an upload to catch what I couldn’t hear, though.
After that, we hit the private Q&A. There were plenty of interesting questions plus a couple not as interesting ones that ended up pulling some satisfying answers anyway. There were a couple about this or that of FiM’s lore and Lauren basically answered that she doesn’t know. And that that was on purpose. Everything that hasn’t been aired as part of an episode yet is mercurial and I think this kind of open-mindedness is a good way to help the show keep its momentum. Another was about their thoughts on the dark side of the fandom, a question that I’m sure brought a few eye rolls. However, hopefully their answer that there’s a dark side to every fandom and that they just ignore it will finally put that stuff to rest (oh and it got Tara to say that somewhere on the Internet every character she’s ever voiced is making out with someone, which, while said before, is always funny). The big one, though, was the question of why they were in on the documentary, which I can’t remember the exact words for, but it basically boiled down to some pretty emotional words (Lauren Faust looked like she was tearing up a bit) about how much they like the attitude of this fandom and dislike how the negative media out there portrays us.
Next came the private signing, which resulted in awesome that just kept my giddiness from Friday rolling. The line was setup so people would move across the panel table in sequence of Tara, Lauren, then John. I brought a bunch of drawings to get signed and the one I’d brought for Tara and Lauren was my Here We Go Again drawing. As soon as I put it down, Tara started gushing over it, which also attracted Lauren’s attention. And she said she was impressed by the detailing. Lauren Faust was impressed by MY detailing *melts*. After that, I broke out Double Trouble for John to sign. I wasn’t sure what he’d think about the Q in there since my ability to draw humans is noticeably worse than ponies. He ended up saying he liked how happy Q looks.
The signing ended up running kind of late and de Lancie’s solution to speed things up was to get up and walk the rest of the line signing stuff as he went. I can’t remember what actually ended up in the room, but the schedule was tight enough that they started kicking those of us who already had autographs and our hat out of the room.
After another failed attempt at getting in for my interview, I met up with Invid and we hit An Hour with Lauren Faust. We ended up being in Tail Hall because we were kind of late to the party. It ended up being an acceptable trade off because the sound quality was much better on the simul-cast, even if we didn’t get to photograph Lauren with the giant Create poster in person.
Next we jumped into the voucher line, hoping to pick up some vouchers for some Sunday autographs. After waiting 45 minutes, we were about six people away from the door to the inner line when the the staff came out and announced they were only selling to Saturday badges for the rest of the day. Which was pretty dumb and I think could have been handled a lot better. Like it would have made far more sense to just bump all the Saturday passes to the front of the line and continued selling vouchers to the weekend passes, but mark them “Sunday only” or something to that effect. In the end this cost me an autograph (Meghan McCarthy’s), but in the grand scheme of things, the whole issue was pretty minor.
We met up with NAS again and decided to hit a nearby Chili’s for supper. While we were waiting for a table, we acquired a Fetchbeer. Which means we inadvertently had a Lusty Seapony Crew supper. It was really cool to meet all of them and we hung out for a while afterward until we had to part ways with Fetchbeer.
Then we decided to hit the Bronypalooza. About 20 minutes later we decided it wasn’t our really thing and left to just hang out some more (it really didn’t help that the music in there put major emphasis on just how bad the sound quality was in there).
Determined to get our autographs, even if it resulted in rather minimal sleep, Invid and I headed for the con at 8AM so as to get in line early. We still ended up getting stuck as far back as the parking garage, but the line got even longer after that. So while we weren’t the early birds, we at least got in at a decent time.
Two and a half hours later, we had our vouchers. Which were unfortunately limited to one per signer per purchase (so technically one could get more by going through that massive line again, but that would be really impractical). Which was again unfortunate, because Tara, Lauren, John and Andrea were all the big draws and some of the others looked pretty bored at times. I ended up buying all 7 of the people who take $20 vouchers because if I was waiting in line that long, I should make the most of it.
Anyway, we stopped at Enterplay so I could snag a box of the trading cards. Once we were safely in the autograph line, I began to dig through the packs, looking for a Snips & Snails or Sea Serpent and a Big Mac, since I didn’t have a drawing for Lee or Peter to sign. The line extended all the way across the curtain to the Mane Hall and pushed a bit into the hall itself, which was honestly a pretty reasonable length all things considered. It also put us in the perfect place to see the con catch fire (Picture ; Video). Looked cool, smelled awful.
What ensued was a pretty chill evacuation. Or at least as far as I could see no one was being a jerk about it. We headed out across the street and were among the first to perch up on the steps across the street. Gave me plenty of time to open my card packs and watch the chaos. It’s worth noting that the voucher line didn’t seem to want to move (I think security finally figured out a way to get them to safety and maintain their order at the same time). After about an hour of waiting they started letting vendors back in, then people in small sections. I took a few photos (shot 1 ; shot 2) on the way in to give an idea of just how many people we had in the con.
After that it was back to the autograph line, which now stretched the length of a Mane Hall curtain, followed by a short gap (for fire safety or something), then ran the back wall all the way to Tail Hall and then snaked away from and back toward the chairs there about a half dozen times. It was absolutely nuts. About an hour later, their revised schedule finally got rolling and the autograph line started moving (and panels started again, which we got to eavesdrop on since we were right up against the curtain).
Anyway, they eventually split the lines into those who had vouchers for Tara/Lauren/John and those who didn’t. Which is good, because the other voice actors and Amy were looking a little bored at times, since the funneling kind of prevented those of us going for their signatures from getting to them. In the end, I got all but Andrea Libman (and Meghan McCarthy, since she didn’t come back for her afternoon slot) on the first pass, then got Andrea on the second pass. As for what I got signed:
–Here We Go Again was signed by Andrea Libman, Cathy Weseluck and Amy Keating Rogers
–Summer Sun Celestia was signed by Nicole Oliver (I kind of felt bad that I didn’t do a dual character drawing for her)
–Snips and Snails trading card was signed by Lee Tocker
–Big Mac trading card was signed by Peter New
Once that was finally all settled, I went and got my refund for Meghan’s voucher and used the money to raid Fetchbeer’s booth for a few things, which included a cute glow in the dark blob Zebra. Then vendor pack up started and we scooted over to the cosplay panel for a bit. I left to try to get in for my interview again, but they were backlogged and scheduled me for a bit later. So I went back to the cosplay panel and Invid and I both realized we couldn’t see anything and were getting tired, so we went out to the lobby to hang out. NAS later joined us and we were just too fried to bother trying to get in for the closing ceremonies (plus I was waiting on the call for my interview).
I eventually did get called up for my interview and that was just as the closing ceremonies should have been ending. After a bit of setup, they let me in. John de Lancie came in and hung around for a bit. When I put my backpack down, he told me he was going to look through it and I said I was fine with that. When we finished up the interview (which was really fun), he was gone and I realized he was actually serious as the main zipper on my backpack was now open.
After that, the rest of the night was pretty much hanging out with awesome people again, which included going to an Outback for supper with Invid, NAS, Fetch, Argembarger, LunarApologist, Aoshistark, GiantMosquito, and Beechsprout.