Monday, September 3, 2012

Mega Morphicon Weekend

Saban Brands is already overdoing it on the word MEGA with Power Rangers Megaforce coming next year and really, it's how I'd sum up this years convention for me. I went into the weekend figuring the new location at the Pasadena Convention Center would be nicer and I probably wouldn't spend as much on autographs, at least not from the actors and voice talents I've met before. And beforehand, I'd get to spend overnight in L.A. with my sister, Sarah.

Landed in Burbank about 6:00 and metup with Sarah, who took the scenic route on the way to her boyfriend Peter's place, where Tyler and I would spend the night. On the way I took in the sights and via my phone, caught a video recap of Felix Hernandez perfect game for the Mariners that afternoon.

We got settled and I got some gifts from their trip to Japan (The DX Go-Buster Ace would later be a hit with my friends). After going out to eat at Leafy Greens, we mostly plaved Wii Sports games and I enjoyed my new toys. Tyler and I took an after-midnight walk outside as well.

Got up after 10:00 and the 4 of us had brunch at Alcove Cafe. We then drove around to a few places, getting supplies and snacks for the weekend. Upon heading over to Pasadena, we swung by Sarah's place and the local dog park, where we met her dog Jazmine and said goodbye to Peter.

About 3:30 we arrived at the hotel and already friends were hanging out in the lobby, including Sean, who'd be rooming with us. I got settled, washed-up and soon metup with the guys and Evan. By now it was after 4:30 and time for the tradition of the chat room group helping with setup. Over an hour was spent moving boxes and merchandise to the main room and setting up tables, chairs, etc. Before the convention staff needed to start getting the bags ready, there was a break to hang out back at the hotel. Then it was crunch time to get 1,000s of posters (5 different ones) rolled up, which is mostly what we did, while the staff got bags ready. It wasn't quite as fun as in 2010 - with the staff trying to move fast-paced and get the posters done to complete the bags - but I liked getting the preview of what the attendees would receive and we were treated to cake and cookies.

After 10:00 we ventured around trying to find a place to eat, but everything was closed (except for one that was too expensive for some) so we came back to the hotel and ordered pizza.

Got up at 10:00 and eventually headed out wearing my black SPD t-shirt which got a few compliments from passerby's throughout the day. I got in line for registration, while Tyler and Tom weren't feeling it and ran off. About 45 minutes later I got my badge and swag bag - the 5 posters, Convention Power Coin, a mega blok toy, t-shirt and various printout and incentives for gold membership attendees. By now it was around 1:00, as I came back to the room and literally crossed paths with Tyler. Now that the pizza and snack-and-drink fest from the other night had worn off, it was time for lunch - so I grabbed a sandwich from the supermarket, while Tyler and others got more stuff for later.

At 3:00 the doors of the convention opened for folks with gold membership and I was immediately awe-struck at the vendors and toy dealers lining the walls. Right away the layout looked bigger and better than the previous Morphicon. I spent a lot of time wandering around and picked up a Go-Buster Blue Ranger to go with the Red Ranger Sarah gave me. An hour turned into two after the opening ceremony was cancelled again and the convention was officially underway. It never got too crowded as I lost track of time and got autographs and pics with Jessica Rey (Alyssa, Wild Force) and Johnny Bosch (Adam, seasons 2-6, 15), who was there with his band Eyeshine.

At 6:00 I saw the Design and Development Panel, which had some interesting background about the design process of Samurai/Super Samurai, rejected toy releases and an upcoming look at next year. Afterwards I sat in on a panel with part of the cast from the Turbo season, followed by the Power Rangers After Dark Panel. This was a no-holds-barred chance for cast and crew to say whatever they want and share uncensored stories without any cameras. It was quite something, some of what was shared.

At 10:00 many of us went to a MiSTing of the first 2 episodes of Operation Overdrive. I stuck around after to watch a few episodes of the fan series 21 Jump Street Rangers, while most others left. Metup with Sean and Tyler at our room and we got ready for the official Ranger Bar party at Alek's room. Lots more pizza and hijinks were had and I finally met Steve (BurgundyRanger), webmaster of Power Rangers On-Air Central and an older fan I've been in contact with online for a good 10 years or so. And like pretty much every night over the weekend, it was around 3:00 by the time I went to bed.

Headed out early for the gold attendee breakfast at 9:00. It was nice getting to hangout with Catherine Sutherland (Kat, seasons 3-5), who was at the table I was and answered questions/comments, but I was disappointed the actors didn't rotate like last time. Oh well, I'm glad I gave it a shot and won't sign up for it next time.

At 10:00 was the so-called Zordon era panel with cast and voice-actors from the first 6 years. Later I met Mike Ginn - a cool dude and great to meet someone from 2009's RPM cast. Meanwhile, the front hall of the convention center quickly got SWARMED with people, as a mass line formed for the Samurai/Super Samurai cast autograph signing.

At 12:30 the highlight of the weekend arrived - Saban's Mega Power Panel. Paul Schrier (Bulk, seasons 1-7, 10, 18-19) headed the panel as the Samurai/Super Samurai cast answered Q&A. We saw a trailer for Power Rangers Megaforce and in a Power Morphicon first, the new cast came out on stage - in the spandex! It was one of the times I was happy to jump on twitter via my phone and I enjoyed doing real-times updates off-and-on throughout the weekend.

Paul was joined by Jason Narvy (Skull, seasons 1-7, 10) for their panel which was mostly a comedic pie throwing demonstration. Even Tyler and Rangercast's Tyler Waldman got in on it. But the PMC staff got in trouble for the mess and pie stains that wouldn't come off the walls, despite Paul and the staffs best efforts. Whoops! Afterwards I retreated back to my room for cold pizza and got in a pic with the morphed Megaforce Rangers. Saban Brands had their own Rangers roaming around throughout the weekend, alternating between Mighty Morphin, Samurai and Megaforce, so I was glad to get my pic taken with at least one of the teams. There were several fan cosplayers as well, some in full Rangers suits and others, like the Mega Voyager I got a pic with.

I met Ron Rogge (Captain Mitchell, Lightspeed Rescue) and saw a special Q&A with David Yost (Billy, season 1-4), who had never been to a convention like this. Later, while a big line formed (again) for David's autograph signing, I roamed around some more and met Walter Jones ("The Original Black Ranger!") and Najee De-Tiege (Kevin, Samurai/Super Samurai). Eventually I metup with the gang and we went to a hamburger place across the street. Tyler and I later popped in on Paul Schrier's band, the Ice Cream Truckers, as they were finishing up their concert.

After 9:30 was a small very casual wedding between Chris Funaro and his wife in the video room downstairs at the convention center, which hardly got used. For me it was nice to really feel like part of the group (not always the case before), as everyone from the chat room was present. Afterwards we hung out and watched a premade DVD which included the first episode of the awesome Bioman english dub and an episode of a horrible parody dub of Dynaman. I was one of the last to leave and joined the gang at Alek's room about midnight.

Slept in until almost 10:30, washed up and hustled out to catch a panel with various cast/crew from Lost Galaxy/Lightspeed Rescue. That was followed by the Time Force/Wild Force Panel (almost the entire WF cast!) and an all-villains panel. Then it was crunch time to get last-minute autographs and pics, as I made sure to say hi to the always-lovely Rajia Baroudi (Dephine, Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers), as well as Nakia Burrise (Tanya, Zeo/Turbo), Brittnay Pirtle (Emily, Samurai/Super Samurai) and Wild Force cast making first time appearances - Ricardo Medina, Phillip Jean-Marie and Jack Guzman.

At 4:30 was a 10 minute closing ceremony and I was about to join Tyler out the door... until I saw some actors were still signing, including Samurai/Super Samurai's Hector David Jr, who had a line not going anywhere, so I quickly got in and was there for about an hour, while the convention shutdown. I metup with the others after and we took a shuttle to In-and-Out Burger. Besides seeing the Megaforce cast, the other big highlight for me was the ride back to the hotel that definitely makes me excited for next year. We then spent about 2 hours at the pool and moved the party to Chris and Renee's room for more wild hijinks and leftover wedding cake.

Monday I got going about 9:30, arrived at LAX about 2 hours later and got home before 5:00.

It was clear from the start this PMC would be bigger and better than in the past. The main level of the con center worked out better than downstairs of the opposite building and it felt like there were more vendors and everyone had their space. There was practically everything including several display cases with upcoming or classic toys, Bandai's Mega Mode Samurai Red Ranger statue, a row of monster suits and Big Red in the front entrance. There were more people than in the past too, especially kids.

Everyone I talked to and got autographs/pics with were great. Most wanted to make sure the pic taken was good and it was especially nice meeting Samurai/Super Samurai cast, who offered to take 2 pics with you (normal and battle pose). This kinda felt like PMC 2007 as far as having the freedom to go up to the actor and have your pic taken, unlike 2010 which had scheduled photo-ops and a strict barrier between you and them. It caught me off-guard and multiple times I nearly walked off without my stuff after coming back around the table from getting my pic taken.

Aside from those close calls and the awkward party games with the gang, I'm pretty happy with the weekend and would say it was the best one yet. Thanks to Tyler, Sean, Evan, Waldman, Alek, Chris, Burg and others I hungout with. The only thing I'd improve on is my system for carrying around autographs so I can be sure not to lose anything.

Since PMC 2010, the past 2 years haven't been all that great, with Samurai rushed into production and Super Samurai following it, both with a mere 20 episodes + holiday specials, spread over a year each on Nickelodeon. But I'm more optimistic now that the show has had more time to properly prepare for the next season, as they'll celebrate the shows 20th anniversary alongside specials collectors editions of toys, including a new Power Morpher and season 1 Megazord. Now if the cast can actually act and episode plots aren't ripped from the Japanese episodes, than next year might just be MEGA.

2012 Gallery
My Videos (Includes 2010 and 2007 flashbacks)