My Disney Top 5 - Disney at New York Comic Con 2021by Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that the COVID mess we've all been in for close to two years has robbed a lot of us of the things that make us whole as individuals. Needless to say, there has been so much loss on so many levels. That said, here in New York the fall season has definitely ushered in some hints of a return to normalcy for many of us. As a teacher, I welcomed back an entire building of students after about a year and a half of near solitude in the building. At times I enjoyed the peace that the empty building was granting me as well as the reprieve from some of the standard high school insanity, but the place had no vibe. My TV studio, usually filled to the brim with an energetic sense of controlled chaos, was more akin to a funeral home last year. So seeing the halls full again has certainly brought some much-needed normalcy to my workday.
That normalcy also began to creep into another tremendous hole in my life brought about by the pandemic, the lack of seeing music performed live. As a bona fide Deadhead I thrive on the live music experience that I've been indulging in since 1983 when I was 15 at my first Grateful Dead show. Not being able to have that experience for more than a year was extremely foreign to me. Late August finally found me at New York's Citi Field for an amazing night of live music with my extended Deadhead family. September put me on the road to Massachusetts for another show with my daughter and just a week or so ago I attended my first indoor Dead related show since…wait for it…November of 2019! Trust me, that's an extraordinary amount of time to pass for a guy like me. I haven't missed a Dead summer tour since 1988 and man oh man was it good to be back.
Just this past week, my sons and I achieved another normalcy milestone as we returned to another fall tradition of ours. We ventured into Manhattan to the Jacob Javits Convention Center for our first Comic Con since October of 2019. To be fair, this past August we did hit a much smaller local convention at a local college. It was great to dip our toes in the water, but New York Comic Con is a whole other beast. I've been in football stadiums for concerts with 50,000 other people. Obviously, I've been to jam packed Disney theme parks where god knows how many people are around me at any given time. But Comic Con always seemed like the most crowded place I've ever been. In 2018 they sold 250,000 tickets spread out over the four day event. 2019 was about the same, if not a little bit more. To be honest, I wasn't really sure how they'd pull it off given the way things are out there right now, but we canceled our trip to Walt Disney World this past weekend, so a day at Comic Con was hopefully going to make the boys and I feel better.
I've been covering New York Comic Con for MousePlanet for several years now. As an invited member of the press, I would typically spend one day there with my kids and another day on my own reporting. Both days, however, were always spent on the lookout for any signs of Disney amid the mayhem and madness of the convention floor. As expected, New York Comic Con was a little bit different this year. First of all, they restricted ticket sales. They capped the entire event at 150,000 in sales for the four days. Now, that still seems like an enormous amount of people and it is. But, as I indicated above, it's a significant reduction from the quarter million mark they've been hitting in pre-pandemic days. Second, they limited the press passes to only the major outlets, so for the first time in 5 years or so, I wasn't wearing a press pass around my neck. Lastly, they scaled back on the vendors. If you looked around the hall, for the first time in my ten or so years of attendance, there were no Marvel, DC, Disney, or Funko booths to be found. The major entertainment companies sat this one out. All of this led to, in my personal opinion, one of the best cons I have ever been to. There was more open space. We weren't shoulder to shoulder with everyone and the absence of the majors let the independents really shine, and I'm sure they needed that after the last two years. Despite all the changes, was I still able to find Mickey and friends at New York Comic Con this year? After two years away, let's find out with my Top 5 Disney at New York Comic Con 2021.
5 - Cosplay
The reduced crowds this year meant that there was a visible reduction in the amount of cosplayers in attendance. For those of you not in the know, cosplay is short for costume play. If any comic convention has ever come to your city or town, I'm quite sure the local news has covered its arrival by showing the throngs of fans dressed up as their favorite superhero or pop culture icons. I'm not saying Comic Con had none this year. They were absolutely there. But this year in particular, I had a tough time finding too many Disney cosplayers. Of course, these days with the Walt Disney Company owning so many different intellectual properties, that's not really the case because I saw plenty of Jedi and dozens of Marvel superheroes of every kind walking around. But one of my Disney favorites was this Rapunzel…
Even without a frying pan, Rapunzel's ready to rumble. Photo by Chris Barry.
…and major kudos go out to Thanos, walking around in raised boots complete with glowing infinity stones in his gauntlet.
Don't let him snap! Photo by Chris Barry.
4 - Disney Funko Pops
I've written about the Funko Pop phenomenon here on MousePlanet before. Indeed, between my sons and I there has to be close to 400 of these adorable figures in the house. So, it was no surprise that once we were at New York Comic Con this year, we made it a point to seek out some new possible additions to the ever expanding collection. There have been dozens upon dozens of Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Muppet Funko pops made in the last decade or so and just about all of them were present in booths and tables spread all throughout Comic Con. Here are three of my favorite sightings from the Disneyland 65th collection. The Mad Hatter was a Target exclusive and has been a hard one to find.
Some of the Disneyland 65th Anniversary Funko Pop Collection. Photo by Chris Barry.
Ironically, not one Funko Pop made it home with us this year. My sons and I agreed that there were just too many to choose from and look through. We were there at 10 in the morning and stayed until closing time at 5:00 pm. We could have literally spent the entire 7 hours just poring over the stacks of Funko Pops to be found on the show floor, but that would have taken away from all the rest of the fun. Still there were some really cool ones on display. I realize it's not Disney, but I had to give a special honorable mention to this particular Funko Pop set.
If you know, you know. Photo by Chris Barry.
I've long admired Funko's ability to dig deep into the shows and films that they mine their characters from to find that unusual figure that only the true fans will appreciate. For instance, there are Funko Pops of the 6 principal cast members of the show Friends, but there's also a Funko Pop of Gunther the barista at the Central Perk coffee house. That's a nod to the fans for sure. Years ago, Funko made Pop figures of Mike Wazowski and Sulley, but they also made George Sanderson. You may remember him as the monster that had the human sock on his back, and the Pop figure? You guessed it, also had the sock on his back. I had to look at the set above twice before I got the joke. This is Jan Brady and George Glass from the Brady Bunch. My 19-year-old son asked me, "How come George Glass is missing from this set and they're still asking $75 for it?" After a second glance, it dawned on me that George Glass was Jan Brady's imaginary boyfriend and therefore couldn't possibly have an actual figure, but they left a blank space in the box for him anyway. This set just reinforced my belief that there's someone at Funko with a deep knowledge of pop culture and a fantastic sense of humor.
3 - Disney Pins
I'm a big Disney pin fan and for the last few years at New York Comic Con, there has been this massive booth containing a veritable treasure trove of little cloisonne Disney gems.
Pins as far as the eye can see… Photo by Chris Barry.
He's got dozens of cork boards full of Disney pins priced everywhere from $5 for the most common to hundreds of dollars for some of the most rare and collectible pieces and everything in between. I spend a nice amount of time there and came out with about a dozen finds from the parks to add to my own pin boards at home.
2 - Official Disney Art
Comic Con has something for everyone. When it comes to merchandise and collectibles, you can find $5 Star Wars keychains and $1,500 Iron Man mask replicas. If you're a comic collector, there's bins of $1 comics, bins of $10 comics and then, of course, behind glass, there's that vintage, high grade Spiderman for $100,000. The same goes for art. If you want a nice postcard from one of the fan art tables, it might run you $10, a nice poster $15. But then each year, there's the Choice Collectibles booth which specializes in officially licensed artwork from the likes of Disney, Marvel, Hanna-Barbera and Charles Schulz to name just a few. One corner of their sizable booth always has actual Disney animation art. We're talking original animation cells from every era of Disney's vast lexicon of animated classics. This year was no different and they really had a few pieces that I would just love to get my hands on. For example, this triptych from Peter Pan is signed by Disney artist Bill Morrison.
A Peter Pan triptych from Disney artist Bill Morrison. Photo by Chris Barry.
Someday, I'll get my hands on a real vintage Mickey mouse pencil drawing like this one from the 1936 short Mickey's Elephant.
The sketch still shows amazing life 85 years later. Photo by Chris Barry.
What Disney fan wouldn't want one of these original pieces of art from Fantasia?
Do you prefer Mickey's maelstrom or Hop Low and his family? Photo by Chris Barry.
1 - Unique Disney Fan Art
Would you be surprised when I say that the $5,000 Fantasia concept art sketch didn't make it home with me? I'm not quite in that tax bracket and probably never will be. What I could find at New York Comic Con this year, and it's something I revel in each year, is Disney fan art. The art of Disney obviously inspires many, many fans to take pencil to paper or paintbrush to canvas and create art based on their favorite Disney films and characters. I tend to gravitate towards these tables and booths for several reasons, the most obvious is that they're in my price range. The second and really the most important is the fact that we're talking about a shared passion between myself and the artists. I can't paint or draw like they can, but we share a love for Disney's rich history of storytelling. I try to pass that on to you readers here on MousePlanet and these fans pass it on to the world through their art. Some of it is straightforward drawing like this wonderful graphite sketch of one of my favorite Disney movie moments. I spent a lot of time in this artists booth. Her name is Megan Withey. Check out this sketch and others at her Etsy page, 18th Century Shop: The Art of Megan Withey.
A loving family reunion. Photo by Chris Barry.
Other artists go in a more unusual direction. Music teacher Elexa Bancroft uses recycled sheet music and paper to create these cool works of art. She picks a quote from a film or book that rings true to a particular fandom and turns it into something special. I, of course, loved the fact that she chose the line, "Thank the Phoenicians," from Spaceship Earth. Only a real Disney fan would choose that, so she had me at hello. Check out her work here at her Lexicon of Love site.
Remember how easy it was to learn your ABCs? Photo by Chris Barry.
I found this booth on the very last aisle of the Comic Con show floor and what a unique take he had on some of Disney's most iconic images. You can check out the work of illustrator Jacob McAlister here on his website. I absolutely love this particular illustration of The Magic Kingdom and it's one of the reasons that Disney fan art made it to the top spot on my list.
An amazing tribute to the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Chris Barry.
Comic Con is a lot of things. Sure, it's a way for media companies and artists to get the word out on their latest efforts. New movies are previewed. The latest video games are premiered. It's become a huge tool in the public relations arsenal throughout the vast pop culture universe. But at its core, at the heart of the whole thing, are the fans. It's about the fans getting together and sharing their passions. After two years of no New York Comic Con, that was the overwhelming theme and feeling that I took away from it all that Sunday. We haven't been together in a while – too long really – and now was our time to reconvene and celebrate the very simple yet pure notion that so many of us walking the floor of the Javits Center on that day; We're fans…big ones.
So, yes, I was able to find the usual smattering of Disney Stuff at New York Comic Con this year. More importantly, however, was just the mere fact that I was back. Over the years I've come to realize that these extracurricular activities of mine like skiing, Dead shows, Walt Disney World trips and comic conventions, have become increasingly more and more important to me. These are the things that make me who I am. But it's not just about me being there. It's about me feeling like I'm part of a community of like minded individuals. I couldn't wait to get back to seeing the music of the Grateful Dead live again, but even more than the music, I wanted to reconnect with the crowd. I can honestly say that I love those people. they're the best. I'm quite sure that same feeling will overwhelm me when I finally get back to Walt Disney World, hopefully in the not so distant future. I definitely felt it at New York Comic Con this year surrounded, once again and at long last, by that amazing, unique, creative and accepting conglomeration of individuals of which I'm rather proud to say that I belong to. Quite honestly, I'm counting the days until next year already.
That's all for this time. As always, I'd like to hear your thoughts. Click on the link below and let me hear what you have to say. Stay safe and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.
At a loss for words this time?