My Disney Top 5 - Disney at New York Comic Con 2022by Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. As always I hope you are all safe and well out there.
I've been a little under the weather this week and that means I've been home on the couch nursing some sort of seasonal head cold type of thing. I can't complain because I've caught up on my movies and streaming series. I've also managed to catch up on some of my reading material that has been piling up on the end table next to that awesomely comfortable, overstuffed chair in our sun room. Now, anyone who knows me well enough knows that doesn't mean that there's a stack of novels waiting for me. No, I'm talking about comics and graphic novels and proudly so. I'm fairly confident that forcing me to read books in school that I had absolutely no interest in kind of turned me off to reading books and novels. I don't mind reading about Disney or The Muppets or books about The Grateful Dead or Springsteen, but I've grown quite comfortable with the fact that the latest work of fiction just doesn't do it for me.
Truth be told, there are more comics and graphic novels here in this house than pretty much anything else when it comes to reading material. It's been that way for a long, long time now and I don't see that changing. You know how they say you shouldn't go food shopping when you're hungry? Well, on any given day, don't point me into the graphic novel section of a Barnes and Noble or send me into a comic shop with some time to kill. I inevitably come out with a bag full and I place it on the pile and when I get to it, I get to it.
Not so coincidentally, one of the true joys of my life has been attending comic conventions, and not just for the reading material. I've grown to realize that I have found a few communities in my life that make me happy and define who I am. I'm a Deadhead. I'm a Disney fan. And I'm a guy that goes to New York Comic Con every year and hits up smaller cons whenever I can as well. I love the Deadheads. I love the Disney fans. And I really do love the people at Comic Con. I've always found them to be an amazing, creative, accepting and remarkably diverse group of people and I simply love being around them.
So naturally, I was at last months annual gathering of all things pop culture at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan, as I have been every year for more than a decade. For the last 7 or 8 years, I've been fortunate to obtain a press pass and have been covering New York Comic Con for MousePlanet. When I'm there, I'm on the hunt for all things Disney and that's not too hard a task. Disney fans and Comic Con fans are one and the same, especially if you consider that Marvel and Star Wars are now under the Disney umbrella. Let's face it, you can't walk ten feet at Comic Con without seeing a Jedi or a Spider Man walking around, and just about every single booth has something from the Disney universe represented. So, what did I find this year? Let's take a look with my Top 5 Disney at 2022 New York Comic Con.
One small caveat to this list would have to be that I was extremely blessed to be on the press list for the Muppets Mayhem panel and round table of interviews held on Sunday, the final day of New York Comic Con. While that would certainly take over the number one slot on this list, that awesome event became its own separate article.
5 – Disney Merch
Typically, what I like to do at New York Comic Con is spend most of Saturday on the show floor hitting up all of the booths and seeing what the vendors are selling. Then I gravitate towards Artist Alley, which is yet another whole massive floor of comic artists both independent and mainstream. Sunday is more of a "work" day and Saturday is shopping day. That said, I saw all sorts of cool Disney stuff throughout the show floor and in Artist Alley. The massive Funko booth – it's hard to call it a booth, it was more like a pavilion – had some very cool Disney Halloween clothing for sale.
Over at the Bandai booth, they were showcasing their new Millennium Falcon replica that you get to build. While it was a bit out of my price range, the level of detail and accuracy was pretty astounding.
Anytime I get to see a rarely utilized Disney character on a shirt or a piece of merchandise I get pretty happy, and this Kuzco shirt fit the bill perfectly…
…as did this Statler and Waldorf shirt.
Super-7 is a pop culture company that specializes in a wide variety of licensed material including action figures, clothing and much more. Their Ultimates line of figures cover everyone from Andre the Giant to Star Trek. They've released several really cool Disney figures including Robin Hood, the Mad Hatter, Hyacinth Hippo, and The Big Bad Wolf.
I spotted these two in a vendor's booth. Despite the fact that it looks like Mickey and Pinocchio have several severed heads included, these are high quality and very detailed representations of your favorite characters. You can see many of them on their official site, but many of their figures are limited editions and you'll have to go through after-market vendors like the Big Bad Toy Store or eBay to complete your collection.
The Good Smile Company is a Japanese toy maker that mostly specializes in the massive Japanese anime figure market. Their booth had a few Disney characters that are being added to their Nendoroid line in February and March.
I like the look of these guys and was pleasantly surprised to find several other Disney figures on their website like Chip and Dale, Baymax and even someone more unusual like Jose Carioca of The Three Caballeros.
I always hit up the Disney Publishing booth to see what they are promoting. I had a nice conversation with one of their reps about the Limited Edition National Geographic book 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime.
I also checked out the latest in the Star Wars High Republic series.
And I'm sorry my kids are grown because I would definitely have read them Night Night Groot!
4 – Fan Art
I'm always impressed at Comic Con with the amount of effort the die hard fans put into their art, especially when it celebrates their Disney fandom. I came across several booths of art that I have covered in past Comic Con articles. Favorites like Pat Kenrick's Amourable Art were back with even more beautiful silhouettes.
Every year there's something different though, and this year was no different. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through this series of profile drawings. The artist included personal favorites like Kida from Atlantis, someone who, in my humble opinion, never gets any attention.
I also really loved these colorful drink coasters, something I haven't seen at any other convention before. You know a real Disney fan created these if they have Figment, Archimedes from The Sword in the Stone and Gurgi from The Black Cauldron.
In that same vein, I was thrilled to see this poster for another under-appreciated Disney film, Treasure Planet. Once again, it's obvious a real Disney fan created this piece.
On the Star Wars front, I got a good chuckle from the artists at the DisParody booth, especially these fishing stormtroopers. Check out their work on their website. They have quite an odd assortment of parody paintings featuring characters like Darth Vader sitting on the toilet that I personally just don't get, but there's a lot more to their collection so check them out.
The Comic Con fans are so passionate and creative when it comes to their respective fandoms, and every year I love spending time at these types of booths talking to the artists, looking through their collections and buying some of their work.
3 – Wonders of Xandar
I've found that Disney tends to save their big show floor booths for their own version of Comic Con, D23 Expo. I was pretty surprised to come across the Wonders of Xandar booth this year. Straight out of Epcot and loosely promoting the Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind attraction, the Wonders of Xandar was quite a lot of fun. The premise was that Xandarians were here in New York to offer a cultural exchange. If you provided them with any little bit of Terran culture, they would provide you with Xandarian currency and you could then go into the Wonders of Xandar break room and use the currency in a Xandarian snack machine. The prize from the snack machine was a bag of Zarg Nuts, which are, in fact, mentioned in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. I spent some time talking to a wonderful Walt Disney World cast member named Mallory while I was in line, and she gave me the whole skinny as to what I was supposed to do. I did not get her last name, but I'm giving her a shout out here because she was playing her role as a Xandarian ambassador just perfectly.
Other guests would offer a story or some sort of artifact that they had on them. For example, the young girl in front of me offered a coupon for a free pizza from her Brooklyn neighborhood pizzeria. I overheard her telling Xodek, another Xandarian ambassador, that this was the best pizza in all of New York. When my turn came I offered Xodek the remainder of my convention center bag of popcorn. Let me tell you right now, Xodek turned his performance up to 11 for sure. He asked me if this was the best popcorn in New York. I replied, "Not really." To which he swiftly, humorously and sarcastically shot back, "Wow!! So, you're offering me a half-eaten bag of sub-par convention center popcorn in exchange for official Xandarian currency?" I have to say, he earned his ears that day. What a great performance.
I entered the break room and found another Xandarian ambassador on his break. He showed me around the room a little bit. All of the signage was in Xandarian and they did provide you with a translation card if you wanted to walk around and figure out what the signs all said. I scanned my currency in the snack machine and got my bag of Zarg Nuts, which I still haven't opened.
All in all, it was a fun, unique Comic Con experience made even better by the excellent cast members who really played their roles to perfection.
2 – Mary Blair Original Art
Each and every year at New York Comic Con, I make it a point to spend some time at the Choice Fine Art booth. This is the real deal. You can find concept art, actual cels from classic animated films, and storyboards, as well as modern pieces by officially licensed Disney artists. Each year I find something truly amazing here to look at. Whether it's Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Warner Bros., Hanna Barbera, Peanuts or DC, you can always find something really awesome to look at; and if finances are no worry, maybe even make a purchase. But this year, for this particular Disney fan, they outdid themselves. As I turned the corner into the Disney section of the booth, I spotted this rather simple unassuming framed piece of concept art. Then I checked out the label and it read, "Song of the South, 1946 Mary Blair Concept Art." I was frozen in my tracks.
If you're a Disney fan you know Disney Legend Mary Blair. She was a Disney artist and color expert and worked on classics like Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, Fun and Fancy Free and So Dear to My Heart. But it was her color styling on a string of films like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan which really made her the legend that she is today. The look and feel of those three tremendous classics are driven by Mary Blair's beautifully sublime art direction. Disney Parks fans experience her work firsthand every day. She was the designer and color stylist for "it's a small world" and Walt Disney World guests can admire her 90 ft high floor to ceiling mural in the lobby of the Contemporary Resort hotel. If you've never seen it, it's worth a monorail stop over there to check it out. It's breathtaking. I'm such a huge fan of Mary's work and her particular style. This simple concept art painted by her of Uncle Remus as he's walking down the path singing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" is a moment that, despite the troubled history of this film, is as iconic as Hollywood and Disney gets. I've seen some cool stuff in this booth over the last decade or so, but I've never seen anything like this before. Once again, as a fan, I was stopped dead in my tracks looking at this. If I had an extra 24 grand, I probably would have bought it on the spot.
1 – Disney Artist James C. Mulligan
I found artist James Mulligan on the main Comic Con show floor on Saturday. He's what is known as an official Disney artist as opposed to the fan artists that I spoke about above. I loved the work he was displaying and immediately made plans to come back and interview him on Sunday. We sat down for a few minutes and spoke while he was busy creating new art, signing purchases made by fans and taking photos with others.
James has been with the Walt Disney Company since 1996. He said that joining Disney was a "…natural moment for me because of my history as loving Disney as a kid." We spoke about one of his most popular works, "Tiki Trouble", featuring Stitch, which he said was "…well known at the Polynesian and the (annual) Festival of the Arts." His favorite Disney character to paint is Ariel. "She's difficult. She's hard to get right sometimes…but I find that people connect with her in a very deep level and I do as well."
I spent some time looking through his books of artwork and was most impressed with his attention to the lesser known characters. "I do love the more obscure characters…Robin Hood, of course is a favorite and I love doing the classic Ducks series, Donald, Scrooge and Duckburg characters." We both agreed how much we love the fact that the fans and companies like LoungeFly and Funko are keeping the classics alive. "Especially with Funko and LoungeFly. There's not too many companies that are honoring the classics on that level, that they really do deep dives in the classics." I found James to be a kindred Disney spirit and deeply appreciated his artwork. He was super easy to talk to and very welcoming, not just of someone like me, wearing a press badge, but of everyone that stopped by his booth to admire or purchase his work. Check out his work at his official site. Once again, New York Comic Con is about the fans and there's no doubt about it; in addition to being a gifted artist, James is a big fan. I mentioned Robin Hood several times to him as being a favorite of mine and before I left his booth, he made sure to fish out this wonderful Robin Hood print of his, signed it and handed it to me as a gift. From one fan to another, James, that truly made my day.
So, once again, New York Comic Con was an overwhelming experience for both me and my son. I spent all day Saturday walking around with Alex, looking at art, collectibles, comics, books, clothing, props and having some one-of-a-kind experiences at several different booths. I spent Sunday with my beloved Muppets and talking to some incredible Disney artists. Most importantly, I gathered with about 100,000 close friends and like-minded individuals celebrating creativity, inclusivity and the collective bond of fandom. I can't wait to be back again next year. Follow the Comic Con website if you're interested in learning more about New York Comic Con and get yourself on their email list.
That's all for this time. As usual, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below to share your thoughts. Stay safe and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.