My Disney Top 5 - Disney at 2017 New York Comic Conby Chris Barry, contributing writer
There are several unmistakable signs that it must be October here in New York: temperatures are finally starting to get a little cooler; Halloween decorations have been appearing on people's front lawns and porches; and on Columbus Day weekend, over on Manhattan's west side the yearly gathering of the world's most dedicated fanboys and girls occurs—otherwise known as New York Comic Con. In 2013, on its way to becoming the planet's largest comic and pop culture convention, New York Comic Con caught up to the "big Comic Con" (San Diego) with 133,000 in attendance.
It didn't seem like they could possibly fit more people into the monstrous Jacob Javitts Center but that number kept increasing over the last few years reaching an unbelievable 180,000 in 2016. Judging by the sea of fans I swam through two weeks ago, attendance has more than likely crept upwards once again, solidifying New York Comic Con as an institution—one that my kids and I and their troupe of friends wait for each year. This year was no different. As a matter of fact, my daughter and her friends all returned home to New York from their new collegial homes scattered throughout the east coast, never once even considering that going away to college would keep them away from Comic Con. We came. We saw. We absolutely geeked out.
Riding the train into Manhattan on that Saturday morning, you're not surrounded by zombified commuters nursing their morning coffee, heads buried in their New York Times or Candy Crushing on their iPhones and iPads. Everywhere you look, you see happy, smiling faces. Some of them are in full-blown costume. Others are just wearing that worn in Superman or Star Wars t-shirt that you know is their favorite all-time article of clothing. And they all have that same excited look on their face. It's like boarding the Disney bus first thing in the morning on your way to the Magic Kingdom en route from your favorite Walt Disney World resort. Everyone is there for the same reason and everyone has this look of gleeful anticipation about them.
The same goes for arriving at New York's Penn Station the morning of Comic Con. If you were there the day before, you'd be lost in a sea of commuters. But on a Comic Con day, things are a little different. There's still a sea of people and travelers, but now the majority of them are all on the same journey. It's about a five to six block walk over to the convention center from the railroad and you soon find that you've joined a parade of like-minded individuals all giddily headed toward a long day of fun. Walking through the streets of one of the world's busiest cities you would typically be surrounded by dozens of people all headed to different places. On a Comic Con day, especially a weekend day, just about every single person surrounding you is adorned in costumes or carrying swords and giant Harley Quinn mallets or wearing robes and wielding light sabers. It's a& unique experience for sure.
My approach to New York Comic Con as a writer for a Disney fan site is a little different. Sure, I'm there as a lifelong comic fan. But it's not just my Spidey senses tingling as I make my way there. My Disney senses, while pretty much always active, are even more in tune when I'm visiting Comic Con. From the moment I board the train I'm on the hunt for all things Disney. Let's take a look at what I found this year with my second annual wrap-up of the Top 5 things I found for Disney fans at the 2017 New York Comic Con.
5 – Star Wars
You can't walk 10 feet without seeing something from Star Wars at an event like New York Comic Con. Almost every booth has merchandise related to arguably the king of all geek franchises and there are enough Jedis, Stormtroopers, Princess Leias, and Han Solos walking around to fill the Millennium Falcon several times over.
I do, however, think that Disney and Lucasfilm hold back a little on the official Star Wars booths and experiences in New York preferring to feature them at gatherings like Star Wars Celebration and the D23 Expo. There was an impressive looking Star Wars: The Last Jedi booth that contained costumes and models from the film, but the line to get in was so consistently long, we kept passing. We did, however, happily get to take our picture with a fully functioning BB-8.
4 – The Muppets
There was no official Muppet booth or experience at Comic Con. Regrettably, in my experience there never has been. Someday us rabid Muppet fans will get our day in the sun. But this year I noticed that the fans weren't letting my beloved Muppets be forgotten. Indeed, I saw more "Muppet action" then ever before on the part of the fans. I saw many Muppet T-shirts on fans and there seemed to be a slight uptick in Muppet merchandise. But I must dutifully offer major kudos to the guy walking around wearing a full-blown Jedi Gonzo costume, complete with Camilla the chicken.
I also was overjoyed to run into this girl dressed as not just Miss Piggy but Miss Piggy in her "Pigs in Space" costume. Brilliant!
3 – Disney Cosplay
Once again, the Disney cosplayers were out in full force. I saw several Belles walking around with several Beasts. Captain Jack Sparrow was there, and so was Captain Hook. Bert and Mary Poppins showed up. Several of the Disney princesses were regally walking about. I saw a full family of Incredibles. This was one of the more unique combinations of Disney characters though. There were several Rapunzels in attendance, but only one was walking around with Linguini!
I realize this isn't a Disney cosplayer, but I couldn't believe someone was walking around the Jacob Javitts Center cosplaying as the Jacob Javitts Center, so I had to give them their due.
2 – Darkwing Duck & Disney artist James Silvani
One of my favorite parts of New York Comic Con is what's referred to as Artist Alley. At its core, Comic Con is a celebration of art and storytelling and nowhere is that more celebrated than in Artist Alley. This is where you will find the authors and artists that make the stories come alive on the pages of the comic books and graphic novels that probably brought you there in the first place. Walk through the rows of Artist Alley and you will find established artists at their tables next to up and coming artists trying to get their names and their art out there. I talked to so many different artists, but as a Disney fan, it was a pleasure to visit with James Silvani for a few moments. James has been a freelance artist since 1994 and is best known for illustrating the Darkwing Duck series of comics for Boom! Studios.
James has also illustrated books and merchandise for Lilo & Stitch, The Muppets, Duck Tales and Star Wars. We spoke about the new Duck Tales TV series, of which I am already a fan, as was he, and about one of my favorite Disney characters Darkwing Duck. He knew MousePlanet well and signed a comic for me and included a quick sketch of Launchpad McQuack from Duck Tales.
It's a pleasure to speak to one of the artists that actually draws the books you read and it's one of the best things about spending time in Artist Alley at Comic Con. It strips away all the hype and commercialism that now surrounds these massive events. It's brought home to a fan speaking to an artist while he's sitting there at a table drawing and creating. For lack of a better term, it's the spiritual center of Comic Con and it shouldn't be missed by anyone in attendance.
1 – Disney Artist Tim Rogerson
Walking through the massive show floor at New York Comic Con, you are surrounded by booth after booth of T-shirts, collectible toys, memorabilia and the like. Then all of a sudden, you will come across a large booth filled with actual animation and comic art. We wandered through and admired actual production cels from the Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and real concept sketches from The Jungle Book. These are the real things, actual art used in the creation of your favorite films. We weren't buying—some cels ran as high as $22,500—but it's a treat to see the real things in front of you. As we turned the corner, we saw a wonderful Sorcerer Mickey painting on an easel that was being painted on the spot.
We stopped and spoke with the creator, licensed Disney artist Tim Rogerson. Tim paints those wonderful works of art available in Walt Disney World and Disneyland that you can buy in shops like Epcot's Art of Disney and in the art shop on Main Street U.S.A.
Tim showed us a painting of Stitch that was still wet that he recently finished right there at Comic Con. Watching Disney art being created right before our eyes was a real treat. This was just one of many, many magical Disney moments that I've shared with my kids. One of my daughter's best friends, who's sort of my "honorary daughter" hopes to be a Disney animator one day. Listening to Tim talk to her about being a Disney artist made it even more special. Special thanks to Tim for, once again, bringing things home and proving that once again, the heart of an event like New York Comic Con is celebrating art, storytelling and creativity.
The similarities that exist between the Disney crowd and the Comic Con crowd are no coincidence. It's a crossover of two worlds. There's not much difference between the grown man that walks around Walt Disney World or Disneyland with mouse ears on his head and the grown man that walks around Comic Con dressed as The Mighty Thor. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if more often than not, they're the same person.
Disney makes you feel like a kid again. It makes you want to celebrate the endless possibilities of youth and the escapism that resides in the wonderful world of storytelling. Above all, there's an inherent acceptance from all those around you to let you indulge in that world while celebrating your inner child. The same can be said of New York Comic Con and events like it. You're free to be who you are and to celebrate the heroes and icons whose worlds you love to get lost in.
I feel very at home when I'm walking around Walt Disney World and I feel much the same way when we go to New York Comic Con each year or the various other like-minded events that have begun to pop up in recent years. If you haven't been to one, make sure you check out the "biggies" like New York, San Diego, Chicago's C2E2, or Wondercon in Anaheim—take your pick, just about every city in the country has their own version. If you're a Disney fan—and you must be, you're reading MousePlanet—then you'll feel right at home.
Thanks for visiting New York Comic Con with me again. I know I'll be back next year with another report. In the meantime, click on the link below and let me hear your thoughts and I'll see you next time when I resume my Top 5 World Showcase series with a trip to Italy.