Written by Shawn Bourdo
SNOOPY: A RETROSPECTIVE: While half of the attendees of the Con were sitting in Hall H watching the Game of Thrones panel, I sought out one of the smallest panel rooms in the Convention Center. Those who know me would have known exactly where to find me. It’s hard to imagine an hour about a cartoon dog, right? It turned out to be a very entertaining hour amongst other Snoopy fans. Hosted by Damian Holbrook (TV Guide writer) who turns out to be a very passionate fan of Snoopy, it also included Gary Groth, Nat Gertler, Lex Fajardo, and Paige Braddock – all people who are involved with the archive releases or the new comics from Kaboom.
Discussions of Snoopy’s history is unique. He started as a regular dog in 1950. He was initially on all fours like a normal dog but once he was taught by Charlie Brown to stand, he never went back down to four legs again. Over the years, Snoopy adopted a number of personalities – the flying ace, an astronaut, a writer, Joe Cool, and a beagle scout leader. The discussion could have been a little more philosophical for my taste. I want to delve more into why the dog became the star of the comic strip. Every other character in the strip, TV specials, and movies was based in reality. Snoopy was Charles M. Schulz’ creative outlet and I want to know more how that evolved. And could we have discussed Flash Beagle a little more?
A CELEBRATION OF WALT KELLY’S 100TH BIRTHDAY: The other huge reprint releases in my life is the Pogo titles coming from Fantagraphics. As a huge fan of the comic strips, I was anxious to see how many other fans would show up the the 100th anniversary of his Walt Kelly’s debut of the strip. The panel was hosted by Mark Evanier and included Kelly fans, Jeff Smith (Bone), Paul Dini (Batman), historian RC Harvey, and Maggie Thomson. I was most excited to see Walt’s daughter, Carolyn, but she was sick and couldn’t make it.
Instead, what worked was each panelist telling their recollections of their first encounters with the series. Most of the stories are similar, similar to mine too. Everyone got the comics or read the strip when they were too young to understand it but realized that it was a great strip. Then later, they were able to get the dialect and humor and references.
Pogo is a unique strip because it’s never been the most popular strip but it is the most respected. This happened because it never talked down to its readers. Kelly expected his readers to be readers of the newspaper – he referenced current events but didn’t take the time to explain them. The strips worked on multiple levels. You can just look at the pictures and get the humor or the cute animals. You can read the words and laugh at the brilliance of his use of language and sly references to current and past events. But what really pays off is when you can combine the two and get a message on a whole different level.
Hearing how passionate these creators that I respect are for a title that I like makes me feel even more satisfied about my choice of reads. The collections make me want to learn more about the history of the era to delve even deeper into the humor. I can’t wait to go back next year and hear Carolyn’s stories of her dad on top of what I learned this year.
MAKING ROGER RABBIT: 25TH ANNIVERSARY: It’s funny to revisit a movie that you loved 25 years ago but haven’t really revisited since. I saw Roger Rabbit on opening weekend in 1988 and I’ve probably only watched it all the way through once since then. This panel brought together most of the animators and Charles Fleisher (the voice of Roger Rabbit). The panel was kind of like a live-action version of Blu-ray extras.
I really need to revisit this film. The stories mainly revolve around the fact that this film was led by the vision of one man – director Robert Zemeckis. The studio didn’t think the film would do any business and other companies were initially reluctant to give permission for the use of their characters. Only after Warner Bros saw the first test reels did they offer any characters Robert wanted to use. The film is so much of Robert’s vision that no one from the studios have pursued a sequel until Zemeckis is aboard.
The animation clips are incredible when you consider the very basic animation styles they were employing. It was the late 80s but the animators weren’t doing different techniques than filmmakers from the ’50s and ’60s. I don’t know if it would have the same charm today. I feel like computers would make the animation mix with the live action too flawless. That’s my worry about any talk of a sequel. They ended the panel by saying just as much – sometimes a movie can just stand on its own and doesn’t have to be a franchise.
ADAM & JAMIE LOOK TOWARD THE FUTURE: The Mythbuster crew is back again this year. But it was just Adam and Jamie this time around with Wil Wheaton as the host. Compared to previous appearances, this panel was much less a promotion of the show – although we did get a preview of the Breaking Bad-themed episode. It was a revelation to hear them talk about their passion which is science and curiosity. They’ve seen the world beyond their show. The duo has launched Tested.com which is essentially a tryout website for the type of myths that they investigate on the show. But Tested.com is more crowd sourced. They see a future where the experiments they do are played out more online with hours of footage where they can only show 30 minutes on the TV show.
The best stories to come out of the panel were more organic. They took a question on the tools that they modify to talk first about the crazy rules that were in some of their contracts and the types of tools they are trying to market to home improvement stores. The topper for me was their own enthusiasm still over the work they do. Adam told the story of getting a call in their office from a scientist who was on the Space Station. Getting a call from actual space is pretty cool and they still get giddy over such details. This is the type of panel that gets me enthused to watch a TV show that tires me out sometimes – it’s nice to see that passion from people doing the same job for so many years.
WORST CARTOONS EVER: This might be my ninth straight time seeing this program. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Jerry Beck’s program. As a celebration, Jerry showed more of a “Best Of” program. I appreciate seeing some of these shorts again like Johnny Cypher and Paddy Pelican but while they aren’t that good on the first run – some of them didn’t play so great the second time around. It’s still a program I look forward to each year, I’ll feel better next year to get back with the new old stuff.