Wednesday, August 29, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "The Godfather of G-FEST"

Akira Takarada's return made for an extra special experience.
His affection for his North American fans is genuine!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Ultra Fans"

After the kaiju kids' thread wrapped up, we headed upstairs, and happened upon Mr. Bin Furuya--Ultraman himself. Thanks to Tim Bean for loaning Andy his Beta Capsule; it makes this a priceless shot.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Good Morning, Class"

Tim Bean, collector of all things Ultra

It was not a clean break from the end of Tom Tvrdik's art session to the beginning of Tim Bean's presentation. The child artists were still very much involved in their creations when Tim and I got his DVD up and running. However, as images of vinyl delights began to appear onscreen, attention began to shift, gradually at first, and then growing in intensity over the next twenty-five minutes.

Tim shared footage of figures from Japan's Bandai Museum, which is enough to cause embarrasing salivation from kaiju collectors. But then the video presentation turned to his own gargantuan collection, and by this time, a number a kids (and their parents) had amassed near the front of the room, and began to pepper Tim with questions and comments. It became a very interactive session, and was also pretty awe-inspiring, as Tim shared not only what he collected but why.

Andy takes aim at clueless kaiju

Last up was yours truly, giving a madcap half-hour crash course entitled "Diary of a Kaiju: All of Godzilla's Films in Thirty Minutes." Using a Powerpoint presentation timed to change slides once a minute, I broke down each film's plot from a kids' perspective. In other words, my point was not to say, "This is the best Godzilla film," or "This is the worst." I just treated each film as a vaild document about Godzilla (which is really what kids do) and tried to mix in a few interesting factoids for the adults who were present. How did I do? Aaron (Dr. AC) Christensen, writing on his blog, "Horror 101 with Dr. AC," called it "an awesomely inspired whirlwind tour," which is a better assessment than I could've hoped for, and was grateful to receive.

And then, just like that, the allotted two hours were gone. The kids' thread completely exceeded my expectations in terms of participation, and the presenters--J.D., Tom, and Tim, each brought a unique perspective and activity to the table. Best of all, Andy and I both made new friends, sharing the instant bond that happens the moment you ask, "You mean, you like Godzilla, too?" (Right here I'd like to give a special G-greeting to our friend Tommy from Wisconsin--looking forward to seeing you at G-FEST 20!)

Your friendly author firing up the laptop for "Diary of a Kaiju"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "Class Is In Session"

J.D. breaks down kaiju names while his "pupils" look on

It all began with a letter. An e-mail, actually. After last year's G-FEST, I thought about things that could potentially enhance the experience, and kept returning to the idea of a "kid's thread." In other words, it seemed to me that many of the panels, interviews, and other presentations, while not kid un-friendly, were maybe a little too long for young attention spans. So why not create a little thread for G-kids? That's basically the question I posed in an e-mail to J.D. Lees, the editor and publisher of G-FAN, and he surprised me by including my correspondence in the letters section of the magazine. He further surprised me with a follow up question: would I be willing to organize the type of programming I had mentioned in my message? Of course, the answer was yes, which led to the events that took place on Saturday morning of G-FEST XIX.

Andy and I had scoped out the Haneda room the night before, to make sure there was a computer projector (there was) and to check various lighting levels (which, as it turned out, we never messed with on Saturday). So the only thing I was nervous about come Saturday morning was: would anyone actually show up?

I was optimistic, mainly because J.D. had voluteered to lead a session about the origin and meaning of Japanese monster names, and he was up first. It seemed reasonable to assume that he would be able to draw a decent crowd of interested kids. He did, and by the time he got rolling, it was a standing-room-only showing. I was relieved, delighted, and interested in the topic at hand. The kids were, too, and the discussion continued right up until the scheduled stop time. It was fun and fascinating, precisely what I had hoped we could provide. And then came Tom Tvrdik.

Tom Tvrdik shares the fun of kaiju art

Tom generously provided a Far East Monsters coloring poster and markers to each participating youngster, and let them go to work. (If you've ever seen (or perhaps own) an American Greetings Godzilla ornament, that's Tom's handiwork.) One of my favorite memories about this experience is handing out the posters to each child and seeing the looks on their faces as they received them. There was definitely a buzz in the room as the kaiju kids set to coloring. What Tom was able to do, then, was offer some practical advice about coloring the poster in such a way as to produce realistic reflections and shading. Mostly, though, he let each artist unleash his or her creativity. It was a perfect complement to the informative first session. And we were only halfway done!

Friday, August 3, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "King of the Monsters"

Exactly three weeks ago, my dad and I headed on down to the Pickwick to watch "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" with the G-FEST crowd. I love the original film in both forms, and I was reminded that just two years ago the Japanese version was being screened with Mr. Takarada in attendance. Plus, with the Criterion Blu-ray release, I've been seeing a lot of this movie. Well, I'm not just drinking the Sollgel Island Pond Water when I say that "Godzilla" gets better with time and repeated viewing. Over time I have become more and more enamored of Takashi Shimura's understated Dr. Yamane, the American dub's egregious "phenomemon" notwithstanding. And then there's Godzilla, with the intensely iconic scene where he lumbers toward the trainyards, which is one of my favorite moments in the film...
and the brooding silence of the underwater climax...

...and as much as I enjoy all these things, I have to admit: it is hard to stay awake for these late night showings. There. I said it. I mean, they start at 10:30 p.m., which is really 11:30 for those living in the East, and it's the tail end of an extremely exciting day, and now with the Pickwick's new rocker seats (with cupholders), well, let's just say that I had some missing time between the Prayer for Peace and Godzilla's demise. It's still worth it to go and applaud the Toho logo and the Godzilla puppet peering over the mountain ridge with other like-minded folk. It was a very satisfying Friday.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

G-FEST XIX: Kaiju U. "More Friday Fun"

Toho's Kong, courtesy of Kaiju Modeler

Dealers Room Treasures: Mini-Gomess and Gomora

Tempting treats at the Chibi Goji Toys booth

Grampy gets his first official G-FEST tee