Friday, February 7, 2014

Once Upon EnchantaCon part 1

Well, here we are a few months later and I still feel afterglow from the convention. Would have posted my experience earlier, but thought I would be able to relate it better, once I had calmed down, got some rest, collected my thoughts and saw all the pictures. Plus, the busyness from the holidays got in the way. Short version, met cool people, best experience thus far. For the long version, here we go…

When I first heard about the convention last Spring, I immediately wanted to go and started planning what I needed to do. Up until this one, I had never been to a convention before and was a bit hesitant over what to expect. Of course I had heard of ComicCon and DragonCon and was impressed with how big they were and the dedication of the fans, it seemed intimidating and a little overwhelming. Not to mention the expenditure for tickets, travel, hotel and costume. I was lucky in that the convention was going to be in Orlando which is only a little over an hour away so I could drive there easily. As for tickets, hotel and costume, that could be decided once I knew I was going.

When I heard who was coming such as Lee Arenburg, Michael Coleman, Raphael Sebarge, & David Anders to name a few, I knew I had to go. Not that I didn’t love the others, but I had some nice Twitter interactions with Lee, Michael & Raphael and as for David, I’ve been a fan since Heroes. Upon deciding to go, I immediately began planning my costume. Fortunately, I was not lacking for ideas as OUAT has some of the most beautiful costumes I’ve even seen. It was a little difficult to choose at first, but then I began to take certain things under consideration such as portability for travel, comfort, ease of construction, and uniqueness.I ended up deciding to be the Siren that tempts Charming in season 1. Not only was it a beautiful outfit, but it seemed comfortable to wear as it didn’t require a huge skirt or corset and since I was doing the Siren when she’s a blond, no wig was needed. Another reason I picked that was because even though I love the characters of Snow, Emma, Regina, Cinderella and Belle, their costumes (except for Emma) were a little too complicated and I figured there would be a few others who would dress as them. I did hem and haw about what package to get because even though the biggest package had the best options in terms of photo ops, seating and more opportunities to spend time with the cast, the expense was a bit much, particularly before the holidays. I ended up going with the Emerald package which was just as good, I just wouldn’t be able to take part in the cocktail party on Friday night or the breakfast on Sunday.

As the months went by, my costume really came together and I was getting more and more keyed up about the convention. It was so nice to chat with other fans who were going as well as with the actors and everyone was caught up in the excitement. Then came that news that Lee Arenburg, Michael Coleman, Faustino Di Bauda, and Beverley Elliott were no longer able to attend due to their filming schedule. It was so disappointing and I briefly considered not going, but I thought about it and since I had already gotten my ticket and put so much effort into the costume, I decided I would still attend. After all, I liked all the other people who were attending and I figured it would still be fun. Boy was I glad I reconsidered.

I didn’t get to the convention until Saturday as I could not get out of work on Friday. I arrived at about 8:30 so that I could check in early and get the layout. I was able to meet the amazing Laurie Mahoney who was one of the organizers and picked up my badge and tickets for my photo ops and autographs. While waiting in the lobby outside I chatted with some other fans and saw many people carrying their costumes which was impressive. After a little while we were allowed to enter the main room and take our seats. It was there that I made the acquaintance of three lovely ladies, Kristi, Linnea and Linnea’s daughter Alix who also had the Emerald package. They invited me to join them in the second row and made me feel comfortable right away. I also got to meet our fabulous MC Joshua Reid-Davis who was so funny and sweet.

Josh got things started by announcing the photo ops for that day, the first of which was for Raphael Sbarge. As we waited in line, we all talked about the characters and how good he is as Archie/Jiminy. I’ve actually been a fan of his for a while having seen him in Independence Day & Pearl Harbor and on shows like Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, Will & Grace, Star Trek: Voyager, and Ghost Whisperer to name a few. I have to admit I was really nervous about meeting him and got a little shaky from excitement, but he put me at ease right away. For one thing, his smile is just wonderful and he’s very personable and has a way of putting you at ease. We shook hands and introduced ourselves. He asked how I was and if I was having a good time and was just so friendly. They were moving things along pretty quickly so there wasn’t much of a chance to say more, but he did say he hoped I enjoyed the rest of the events. I thanked him and said I would be at all of the events and I that I hoped to chat more later. I came out of that so thrilled that I had to refrain from doing Snoopy’s happy dance.

I went back to my seat and me and my seatmates all talked about it and agreed that he was just such a nice guy. He looked good too as he was wearing a blue checked shirt that brought out his eyes. The next photo I went up for was with David Anders, who I’ve enjoyed since Heroes. He was yet another great guy and quite handsome. That was my last photo op and once my friends had finished, there was time to kill before the Q&A with Raphael, Keegan Conner-Tracy and Tony Amendola so we all decided to get lunch. As we walked out we saw Ethan Embrey on the outer patio. I almost didn’t recognize him as he had grown a beard and I did a literal double-take. It wasn’t until we made eye contact that I recognized him and then I gave him a little wave and he waved back. I’ve known of his work since I saw Can’t Hardly wait so that was a thrill.

My friends and I split up for lunch as I also had to see to my room check-in. It hadn’t been ready when I arrived and they kept telling me to keep following up with the front desk. It still wasn’t ready yet, so I decided to just have lunch on site so I went to the outside patio of the main restaurant. Good thing I did because who should be sitting there but Raphael and Tony. I almost had a total fan-girl moment of “oh my God Jiminy and Geppetto are having lunch together.” It really ticked me because it’s mentioned on the show that their Storybrooke counterparts (Marco and Archie) have lunch together. I didn’t want to bother them so I took a table a little ways from them and ate my lunch. I was in Raphael’s sightline and he smiled at me and I even called out to warn him to watch out for a bird that was sitting on a pipe above his head which he thanked me for. I even saw David Anders a little later.

On my way back to the convention room, I ran into Raphael again. Seriously he was all over the place. He was by himself on the patio and chatted with me for a bit. I asked if he was enjoying his time in FL to which he said yes and also that he loved the weather (It was a beautiful sunny day in the 70’s with no humidity). He asked if I had traveled a long way to attend the convention, but I explained that I was a FL native and only lived a little over an hour away and he said that was such a lucky thing for me. He also asked if I was attending the ball and I said yes and that I was looking forward to it and wearing my costume. He asked what character I was going to be and when I said the siren and that I made it myself, he said he couldn’t wait to see it.

It was getting close to the time for the Q&A so I went back to the room and met up with the girls. Josh had everyone really excited and when it was time for them to come out, the crowd was so enthusiastic. Tony, Raphael and Keegan were so nice although poor Keegan’s voice was giving out as she had been sick. She was a trouper though and such a great dresser. Each of them was funny and very personable when answering the questions. I even got to ask a question about how they thought fairy tales could remain relevant and fresh given how cynical society has become. Each of them responded to it with Keegan saying she thought the show was important in showing the deep relationships between the characters and how despite being fairy tale characters, they still had real issues that people in the real world deal with, but they still meet those issues with strength and hope.

When Raphael answered, he remarked on how the show has touched people all over the world and brought them together. He even mentioned that there were fans from as far away as Scotland and Brazil who attended the convention which he thought was awesome as it proved the show had great power to affect and touch people’s lives. Tony responded by saying he thought the most important messages in the show were having faith and hope, doing what’s right, not being afraid of love and the importance of going out and getting your happiness. He said those lessons were important to remember every day and the show not only embraces those lessons but reinforces them.

What I liked about the Q/A was that they gave each question careful thought and consideration and made sure that each person they responded to felt comfortable and recognized by keeping eye contact and thanking them. The next Q/A was for Gil McKinney who plays Prince Eric. Out of all the actors, I knew only a little of his work. Of course I’d seen his Progressive commercial and I knew that he was on Supernatural. I had even seen Grudge 3, but as I spent most of the movie covering my eyes due to how scary it was, I couldn’t really recall much of his role. I unfortunately missed a bit of his Q&A as I was still trying to get checked into my room and got held up at the front desk. I did see him before the Q&A when I was walking outside to go to the lobby. I actually didn’t recognize him because he had some facial hair. I did make eye contact with him because I thought he was just a really handsome hotel guest and we smiled at each other. It wasn’t until I got back to the Q&A that I realized who he was. What I saw of the rest of his Q&A was really great. He was so funny and he even reenacted his Progressive commercial. He also talked about his interest in theater and ballroom dancing which was cool as I’m into that as well.

After Gil’s Q&A, the next event was the autograph signing. Thanks to the package I got, I was able to get autographs from all the actors. I got to Keegan first and I said I admired her for gutting it out even though her voice was giving her trouble and I asked how she was feeling. She said she was doing better then she’d been on Friday. I also complimented her shoes which were these amazing nude stilettos with rhinestones. They had to have been five inches at least and I asked if they were comfortable and she said they were. I said I loved them even though I could never wear them due to my being a klutz. I next went to David Anders and I said I loved him on Heroes which was the first thing I’d seen him in. I told him it was a shame they didn’t explore his character more and he replied that was due to the season he was in being cut short by the writer’s strike. Before I left I said I hope there would be more of him playing Dr. Frankenstein so we could see how his brother being a monster played out.

Next I went to Ethan Embrey and I immediately noticed he was a lefty. I told him I was a lefty as well and joked about how lefties are always in their right minds and he laughed at that. I next went to Raphael’s table where there was a bit of a wait as he was taking the time to talk with each person who came up. When I got up to him I remarked how glad I was that both Disney and Once Upon a Time went against the original Pinocchio story and didn’t have Jiminy Cricket die at Pinocchio’s hands as then we would not have the character for Raphael to bring life to. He said he was familiar with that version of the story and was glad also. He then asked about my hometown and I said I actually lived by the beach and was quite close to Kennedy Space Center which he liked as he said he had an interest in the space program and he said it must be fun to be so near. I said yes as I could see the launches from my backyard. As before it was a quick conversation, but very nice.

I proceeded to the next table which was Gil’s, but I’ll save that for later. After Gil I went to Tony’s table and he is just such a gentleman. I honestly could not imagine anyone else playing Geppetto and told him so. He said thank you and I said that I hope there would be more Geppetto and Pinocchio interaction as it was always so touching and that I cried in the scene when Pinocchio died, but then became a real boy. He said those were some of his favorite scenes. He then asked if I was going to the ball and if I was dressing up. I said yes and told him about my Siren costume and he said he was looking forward to seeing it.

Once I had finished getting all my autographs, I went back to the ballroom to wait for the next event. There was a bit of anticipation with this because Josh our MC said it was an extra surprise that was super hush hush. Of course everyone was trying to get him to talk, but he held strong. However, a few of us started to suspect it was a Skype session with a special guest because a laptop with a built in camera was onstage facing the audience. We all began to hope that it was one of the actors who had to cancel and soon we were rewarded. Josh started the Skype session and who pops up but Granny herself Beverly Elliot. Unfortunately, the connection was bad and we lost her for a sec, but Josh got her back. After that she was joined by Michael Coleman, Lee Arenburg, Faustino Di Bauda and Gabe Kouth. Needless to say the room was going wild with excitement. There were still some technical issues with the sound and there being a delay, but we were all so thrilled we put up with it. All of the actors were so great and said how sorry they were that they couldn’t be there in person. Everyone later said how cool it was that they did their best to honor their initial promise to be there and surprise the fans.

After that was done, there were several more things going on such as a fan panel and the dinner for those with the highest package. I didn’t go to either as I was pretty hungry and since my room was ready, I decided it would be better to get some dinner and relax as I had been up since about 6am that morning. I did get a surprise when I took the elevator down to scout dining options. I was staying in the separate tower portion of the hotel on the 15th floor and apparently most of the actors were also in the tower and were on the 16th floor. I didn’t know this so it was a shock when I ran into Ethan in the elevator. The way this happened was that I had summoned the elevator to my floor from the ground floor. After entering the car, I went to hit the button, but just before I could, the up arrow lit up indicating that someone on the floor above summoned the car.

When the doors opened, who should be standing there but Ethan. Fortunately I kept my jaw from falling to the floor and smiled and said hello. He smiled and greeting me in return. He recognized me from the convention and asked if I was having a good time. I said I yes and said how glad I was that he was able to attend. I inquired if he had been to Florida before and he said it had been several years and he had never been to Orlando before. He asked me if I had been to Orlando before and I replied that I’ve been too many times to count as I lived a little over an hour away. He replied that was lucky for me to be so close. By that time we had arrived at the ground floor so we said goodbye and I said I would see him at the ball.

See part 2 for the ball.

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