G-FEST 2013 - The Whole Magilla

Click on the links below to be taken to each day's recap!

DAY ONE (Friday, July 12)

DAY TWO (Saturday, July 13)


DAY THREE (Sunday, July 14)

G-FEST 2013 Convention Report (Part 3)

Even with not staying up to see the late night Pickwick Theatre screenings on Friday (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) and Saturday (Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), by the time Sunday morning came around, I was pretty G’d out. But I rallied myself to make the trek one last time, even getting there in time to catch the latter half of Robert Scott Field’s “Japan Update” panel.

Full disclosure: I’ve been to a lot of conventions at this point, and so the notion of someone being called a “celebrity guest” in spite of the fact that they’ve really only done one or two films isn’t as big a surprise anymore. However, I also take it with a grain of salt and don’t necessarily make a point of seeking those celebrities out. Because of this, I didn’t spend much time chasing down Field last year and had followed the same pattern this time around. I mean, yes, I like Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (in which he played android M-11), but that's about it. As a result, I was completely unprepared for the sheer awesomeness that is Robert Scott Field and I’m SO glad I got to his panel that morning.

Sure, he may only have one film credit to his name, but this former baseball player turned Japanese schoolteacher has been an incredible force for good, both here in the States during his annual G-FEST sojourn (where he often serves as the de facto interpreter for the Japanese guests) and at home in Japan where he has been a physical fitness instructor, a tireless volunteer in the earthquake relief efforts, and an adviser to the national education board. This guy kinda rocks.

I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the rapidly disappearing art displays

And the dealer room

Watched the special guests meet, greet, tickle, fistbump, bow to, autograph and photograph with their fans

Sat in on Stan Hyde’s dissertation on Sonorama books, a neat childhood nostalgia item that not only had a plastic 45 rpm record version of several (abbreviated) kaiju films, but photos depicting how the monsters' strange physiognomy actually worked.

J.D. Lees had his annual “accountability” panel, where people could ask him questions about the convention and the magazine – I was amazed to learn that he does not actually assign articles for G-FAN, but that people just regularly contribute items that are of interest to them – but what most people seemed interested in was the notion of another G-Tour. In August 2011, 35 G-Fans from around the globe partook in a pilgrimage to Tokyo. In addition to an actual tour of Toho Studios – touching props and meeting the stars of numerous stars of these beloved films – the group also toured Japan, visiting many cultural touchstones and locations significant to kaiju fandom. (Lees’ day-by-day journal of their odyssey can be found in G-FAN #97). Obviously, this kind of adventure doesn’t happen every day (or even every year), but plans are afoot for a trip in either 2014 or 2015. Stay tuned.

As the sun slowly set on G-FEST XX, it was time for..KAIJU KONFESSIONS. Mr. Hyde had as long a weekend as I, so he certainly earned his "indefatigable" title as he led the time-honored G-FEST tradition of sing-a-long versions to dozens of ditties from or inspired by these grand, goofy films. In enthusiastic off-key fashion, we got environmentally conscious with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster’s “Save the Earth,” kicked it Danish style with “Tivoli Nights” from Reptilicus, gyrated to MST3K's Gamera tunes, and took it home with a call and response version of Blue Oyster Cult’s eponymous “Godzilla.”

The irony is that you don’t actually have to confess anything at the time. It’s only later that you have to admit that:

Yes, you rolled on the ground

Yes, you played a mean air guitar

Yes, you danced the Minya Shuffle

Yes, you sang along with Kipp Hamilton’s ear-shattering rendition of “Feel in My Heart” from War of the Gargantuas

Yes, you got a little misty when Stan said that this was the last song.

Many thanks to everyone who made this year’s G-FEST what it was. It will be interesting to see what effect the new Legendary Pictures Godzilla has on the convention next May. If it’s a hit, there might be a huge new influx of new fans...which could create a more crowded venue and a rift between “classic” kaiju fans and a wave of folks for whom 2014’s monster pic might be their first exposure to the Big G. I’ll admit, I’d like the show to stay the small, tight-knit family affair that it currently is. G-FEST has heart. It has personality. It comes from a place of true fandom as opposed to commerce. Nobody wants that to change, but with the show’s popularity growing every year (attendance was up 20% from 2012 alone), growing pains are undoubtedly in order. Even so, as in all things, we have the power to create the world we want, and hopefully G-Fans will continue to create the G-FEST they deserve.


Sayonara for now! See you next year.

G-FEST 2013 Convention Report (Part 2)

Looking back at my recollections of Friday, I mused aloud that “it looks like a bunch of people sitting behind tables.” While the panels are in fact an integral part of G-FEST and where my particular proclivities lie, there’s a lot more going on than just idle/idol chit-chat. The dealer rooms are chock full of multicolored G-Fans and G-Fare, videogame tournaments are in full flower alongside how-to modeling threads and filmmaking sessions.

There’s also a smaller theater downstairs where fan films are screened and, of course, more panels. There is truly never a dull moment to be had – which is the reason everyone looks so tuckered out come Sunday afternoon. For example, here’s a brief sampling of things I didn't get to see/do on Saturday:

Build and paint my own exclusive Godzilla model; play “Clash of the Kaiju”; view the Shinichi Wakasa, Tsutomu Kitagawa, or Cleve Hall panels; participate in the Kaijucast podcast session; watch Gamera vs. Zigra on the big screen; attend any tokusatsu how-to sessions; or learn how to become a full-fledged member of G-Force with Ian Morales.

Sheesh. Where are the clones promised us in the new millennium?

Back to our story. The gentleman next to me in the photo above is Mark Matzke, who organized last year’s G-FEST “kids thread” that I was such a fan of (probably because that’s about the level at which my mind operates much of the time). He also scribbles a swell blog, Monsterland Ohio, that’s definitely worth checking out. But the main attraction to Mark is that he’s the best kind of G-Fan: generous soul, attentive and loving family man, and great guy all around. Last year, he dropped me a personal note to thank me for my G-FEST coverage, gently correcting a few errors and misspelling of names at the same time.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing him (and his offspring Andy) as much as anything else the weekend had to offer. This “reunion” element is a common one for convention-goers, and it definitely holds true to G-FEST – there is a “family” quality to the proceedings, perhaps even more pronounced due to the higher concentration of younger fans present. Anyway, Mark was back with an even bigger kids lineup this year and I was sorely wishing I could be in two (and sometimes three) places at once. As it turned out, I was only able to sit in on the first couple sessions before other interests took priority, but it did my heart good that there are people like Matzke out there helping to cultivate and foster interest in this decades-old subgenre. G-Fandom will never die.

Here’s a quick list of this year's G-Fan Junior sessions:

Kaiju Inside Out (J.D. Lees talks about what’s it like being inside a monster suit)
Help! My Kid Loves Kaiju (Tim Bean teaches how to get the best deals on toy and collectibles)
Ultraman 101 (Mr. Bean gives us the basics about the popular superhero and his legacy)
Draw Your Own Kaiju (artist Tom Tvrdik helps you do your thing)
Godzilla Story Time (Sue Matzke reads “Godzilla Likes to Roar” and “Who’s Afraid of Godzilla”)
Intro to Kaiju Kaos: Smackdown (a brand new game for fans of all ages)
Godzilla: Friends and Foes (monsters, monsters, monsters)
Gamera: A Friend to All Children (yes, yes he is)
Growing up with Godzilla (discussion of how the Big G got big again in the 90s)
Diary of a Mighty Kaijui (Matzke reprises his whirlwind recap of all 28 official Godzilla films)
Kaiju Kids Quiz Show (yes, these kids know more than you)

I ducked out after Tim's first panel to attend the screening of Frank Woodward’s documentary, Men in Suits. I’d already heard good buzz about it and being as it’s a subject close to my heart, I was pretty excited to check it out. While they ironed out a few bumps in the A/V system, Woodward chatted with us about the genesis of the project and his background as a filmmaker. The movie is absolutely terrific – you can read my review for it HERE – and is available for purchase at Amazon.com HERE

Next it was time for a walk down nostalgia lane with a panel called "Two Decades of G-FEST," followed by a major event: the standing-room-only screening of GIANT LEGENDARY BEAST WOLFMAN VS. GODZILLA, with director Shizuo Nakajima and underground cinema bloodhound Mark Jaramillo in person to introduce the film and answer questions. Click on the link HERE to view a vast array of production stills and learn the background behind this amazing fan flick.

After running into my Brian pals Schuessler and Fukala (apparently Big Gay Horror Fan’s Brian Kirst was also around, but we sadly never crossed paths), we all sat in on a session called "Monster Men" with Cleve Hall and Shinichi Wakasa. The two veterans of practical effects and movie magic (with translation assistance by Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah star Robert Scott Field) chatted about the state of affairs today where the right way isn’t always the cheapest way, which can make for tense negotiations with producers.

Our subsequent lunch break was then followed by the one of the most bizarre panel experiences I’ve ever had. I showed up about five minutes early for Kevin Horn’s 4pm retrospective on Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People, celebrating its 50-year anniversary. Five minutes go by. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. The room is filled with friendly G-Fans who are happily chatting away about this and that, showing off their recently acquired goodies, etc. But as 4:20pm clicked off the clock, we started to wonder where Kevin was. Had he forgotten about the panel? Were we (or he) in the wrong room?

At 4:30pm, several people went off in search of our absent scholar. At 4:35pm, news returned that he had been found...standing in line to get autographs from special guests Shinichi Wakasa and Tsutomu Kitagawa! Um, yeah. At 4:50pm, Kevin finally showed up, but someone had disconnected the DVD player from the monitor, which took another five minutes to figure out. Finally, at 4:55pm, the panel began...which basically consisted of hitting “play” on the Special Features from the Media Blasters Matango DVD. Totally surreal (and more than a little anticlimactic for those of us who own said disc). Luckily, all this occurred later in the day when there wasn’t too much going on.

Then it was time for the final round of Godzilla G-Pardy (Jeopardy), which concluded with our winner (if anyone knows his name, please let me know and I’ll update this) putting his Pacific Rim prize package up for open auction to benefit G-Fans Helping G-Fans. Congrats, kudos, and good show all around. This was followed by raffle draws, screenings of the fan film contest winners and the world premiere of Dojo Studios’ effort from last year. And finally, the hour we’d all been waiting for, The Annual G-FEST Costume Parade!

Unfortunately, this being my first go-round, I had sat in a great spot to see the contestants projected onto the makeshift jumbotron, but in a terrible place to see (and photograph) the costumes proper.

After a few choice frustrated moments (including G-FEST organizer J.D. Lees’ first official public appearance in his brand new GFantis suit, sigh), I abandoned pal Brian Fukala for a spell and wandered down the hallway grabbing candid shots of the contestants as they waited their turn. Hey, anyone can get shots of a parade in process – here’s what’s going on behind the curtain, folks.

Hey, has anyone seen my...

Oh, there it is.

Next up: DAY 3!!

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