Thursday, June 20, 2013

G-FEST Junior: A Look Back

This heretofore unpublished article looks back at last year's G-FEST Kid's Thread. This year's thread will have nearly three times as many offerings for young participants!

G-FEST is an event that nurtures the child in each participant; at the same time, a growing number of the participants are actually still children. With that in mind, G-FEST XIX featured coursework aimed right at our youngest students. The half hour sessions informed and entertained kaiju kids and their families in a classroom filled to capacity.
First up, the Dean of Kaiju U., J.D. Lees, gave a crash course in Japanese language, with an emphasis on monster nomenclature. Students spoke the names of their favorite creatures, and Mr. Lees explained their Japanese roots. One fact that delighted the class was the revelation that "Hedorah" can mean "to vomit." It was an enlightening way to start the school day.
Next, Tom Tvrdik, whose work has repeatedly graced the pages of G-FAN, delighted each aspiring artist with the gift of a Far East Monsters coloring poster and turned them loose. The Crowne Plaza's Haneda room became a makeshift studio, as kids and parents alike unleashed their creativity. Mr. Tvrdik actively shared tips for coloring and shading, but also let each artist experiment for him or herself. His generosity made for a very memorable session.

Doctor of Ultraman Studies Tim Bean began his presentation with many students still engaged in activity, but he quickly commanded attention with a video presentation of Ultraman toys. The classroom was soon transfixed by images from Japan's Bandai Museum and Mr. Bean's own extensive collection. The discussion took an even more interactive turn when he produced an authentic Beta Capsule and ray pistol. The questions and answers were flying--our instructor successfully fanned the flame of interest in Ultra collecting!

Finally, associate professor of kaiju history Mark Matzke provided the ambitious "Diary of a Kaiju: All of Godzilla's Films in Thirty Minutes." Accompanied by a slide for each movie, Mr. Matzke filled the air with fun facts about the entire Godzilla series, only occasionally stopping to breathe. Students had the chance to remember favorite flicks or look for new movies to view. 

Then, all too quickly, school was out. Nevertheless, it was great to witness the proficiency and enthusiasm of the students in attendance. Many thanks to the faculty of Kaiju University for sharing their expertise with a new generation of G-Fans!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pickwick Preview

This photo, taken at the Pickwick Theater box office in Park Ridge, IL, surfaced on Facebook yesterday. Can't wait!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

G-FEST XX Countdown Begins

Artist Tom Tvrdik shares his knowledge at last year's Kids' Thread

One month from today, G-FEST XX will be in full swing, and we have begun to prepare for it in earnest. For the second year in a row, the "brains" (and I use that term loosely) behind this blog are overseeing the G-FEST Kid's Thread, which is informally being referred to as "G-FEST Junior" (as a tip of the cap to the G-FAN Junior insert in recent issues and the Godzilla Junior character from "G. vs. Destoroyah"). We are somewhat stunned to report that there will be almost three times as many sectionals as last year, jumping from four to eleven, with an influx of new volunteer presenters to complement the veterans returning to the lineup. All of last year's "Kaiju U." faculty will be back, including J.D. Lees, Tom Tvrdik, and Tim Bean.
This year, sectional titles include "How to Draw Kaiju," "Ultraman 101,""Gamera: A Friend to All Children,""Godzilla Story Time," and "Intro to Kaiju Kaos: Smackdown," a game demonstration run by its creator, Bryan Borgman. Also this year we are introducing "Kaiju Kids Quiz Show," which, as the title suggests, is an interactive game show experience that will yield special prizes for lucky participants. (Prizes include Godzilla comics, issues of G-FAN, and, yes, perhaps, even toys.) If you are attending G-FEST XX, please stop by G-FEST Junior (we'll probably be downstairs again) and say hello. We'll have lots of fun and giveaways aplenty!
Artist Matt H. with Andy

Looking forward to this year's films ramps up the excitement even more. Thursday's first feature is "Twenty Million Miles to Earth," Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion tour-de-force. Meant as a salute to the late special effects titan, "TMME" also happens to be a atmospheric, well-paced story, and the Ymir creature is instantly recognizable by sci-fi fans. Not surprisingly, Harryhausen imbues the space monster with a depth of feeling that is the hallmark of his work, making the reptilian a sympathetic character.

Next up will be Shusuke Kaneko's epic "Gamera 3: Awakening of Iris." At the risk of waxing hyperbolic, there are moments of transcendent awe in this movie, such as the flight and graceful (?) touchdown of final-form Iris. It's a serious film, yet completely fun and engrossing.

After a break for supper, it's on to a pair of pictures from 1967, the first being "Gamera vs. Gyaos." I remember as a kid being fascinated by Gyaos' beam and its ability to pierce Gamera's exterior. I also appreciate the angular and vicious quality of the Gyaos suit. He seems irredeemably mean, which makes him the perfect foil for the friendly turtle Gamera.

Last but not least, we will be treated to "The X from Outer Space," and I am very excited because I have somehow never seen this movie before. I've seen its satirical sequel, "Monster X Strikes Back" (and even reviewed it for G-FAN), but the original has escaped me, until this summer. The G-FAN website describes it as "weird" with a "peculiar charm," and that's good enough for me. It's not often one sees a "new" movie at G-FEST, so when it happens, it's memorable.

Friday night will see the screening of "Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla," an ambitious G-flick that wants to tell a dynamic story and succeeds, some of the time. There are a lot of elements to "G. vs. SG" that are clearly meant to appeal to children, and do--kids seem to love MOGERA a lot and Little Godzilla a little bit less. Many of the Birth Island scenes are top notch. Unfortunately, some of the space scenes, as well as portions of the final face-off, are embarrassingly bad from a spfx standpoint, straining the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point of even the most ardent fan. Overall, though, "Spacegodzilla" has a sort of 70's vibe to it that I can't help but enjoy.

Saturday night's entry is "Godzilla vs. Megaguirus," one of the best Millenium series films, in which it truly seems that the big G faces insurmountable odds, as human technology and its unforeseen consequences align to pose serious threats to his survival. Every time I watch it, it's always better than I remember it being, so I have modest hope that seeing in the G-FEST context will bring out the film's best qualities. We can't wait to walk through the doors of the venerable Pickwick Theater again!

Our G-friend from FL, Chris, and Andy

Finally, we're looking forward to seeing a special group of people that we are privileged to now consider our friends. G-FEST has become for us a reunion of sorts, as well as an opportunity to meet others who "get it," who share a sense of wonder and camaraderie over this specific imaginative world. It's a very unique bond, one that we build our summers around, and here we are, less than a month away from enjoying it once more. We'll be counting the days to G-FEST XX!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Big Fun Columbus!

Vintage Star Wars fans, get your drool cups out

Our friend Jason F. Williams has opened a new toy shop in Columbus, Ohio. It's called Big Fun Columbus. The Short North District will never be the same!

Ultraman and Jesus...welcome to my internal world...

BFC applies the formula of the Big Fun stores in Cleveland (not to mention Jason's Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys, formerly of Madison, Ohio) to central Ohio in a fantastic location, right on North High Street.

An interior shot of Big Fun...note the vintage lunchboxes

It will be intriguing to watch the "collection" change over time as Columbus toy geeks get acclimated to the place. Hopefully it will bring strange and unusual stuff to the surface.

Some "scores" from BFC: a Bigfoot Air Freshener and Little Godzilla!

At this point in time,  kaiju-related goods are a little thin; we walked out with our first Little Godzilla action figure. (The large Ultraman isn't for sale. There were a few Mothras, a small Red King figure, and some American Bandais to be found.) I'm sure that will change over time as word-of-mouth takes hold.

 If you are ever in downtown Columbus, Ohio, you have to have some Big Fun.

Big Fun is located at 672 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215