San Diego Comic-Con 2011: Day 2 – Flaming C, Spielberg, True Blood and downtown street fun

in Entertainment, Events, Movies, Television

Though the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con has ended, there is still plenty to share from the massive event. I managed to find enough free time over the last few days to post recaps of Preview Night and Day 1, but only found enough spare moments to upload our photos from the remaining three days. But now that the long lines are gone and seemingly endless schedule is complete, it’s time to take a look back at what happened, resuming with Day 2.

Anyone who looked at the SDCC schedule can see that it’s impossible to see all of the panels and presentations at the convention. But the schedule doesn’t even show all of the events and exhibits that are actually outside the convention center halls, throughout the surrounding streets of downtown San Diego. Even those without tickets to Comic-Con can enjoy these extra sources of entertainment.

Within a couple blocks of the convention center, an official fan art gallery was set up featuring paintings, sculptures, and other impressive creations all themed around The Flaming C, Conan O’Brien’s superhero alter-ego. This is where Day 2 began for me.

While the art inside the gallery was impressive, the highlights were all the freebies to be found here. Posters were handed to everyone. T-shirts were available to anyone who “checked in” via FourSquare. And a green screen photo put visitors in an action scene with the Flaming C himself, with each fan allowed to leave the gallery with either a purple Flaming C cape or oven mitt.

Throughout the streets, plenty more swag was available for the taking. Ninjas handed out small Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle posters.

Frank the Bunny promoted the upcoming release of “Donnie Darko” on Blu-ray with free buttons.

And attractive stewardesses handed out the highly-sought after blue bags promoting ABC’s upcoming show, Pan Am.

Closer to the convention center, girls in small, tight clothing handed out flyers encouraging Comic-Con attendees to visit a restaurant, bar, night club, arcade, or other experience. Most guys gladly accepted handouts from the girls, even if they had no intention of going.

I saw all of the above in the distance between the parking garage where I parked (pre-paid and sold out online months prior) and the convention center – and all at 9am. A trip to San Diego Comic-Con is an all-day experience, usually lasting 12+ hours. It takes dedication to pack in every amount of fun possible into each day.

Friday at San Diego Comic-Con 2011 welcomed Steven Spielberg in his first-ever appearance at the convention. The morning Hall H presentation filled its 6,500 seats with fans who came to watch Spielberg accept the Inkpot award given to him by the convention organizers as well as reveal a first look at his upcoming film, “The Adventures of Tin-Tin.”

Surprise guest Peter Jackson also showed up to discuss “Tin-Tin” on stage, as Jackson’s WETA company worked with Spielberg on the motion capture technology used in the film. And speaking of motion capture…

…actor Andy Serkis also made a surprise appearance, posing as a crazed fan in the Q&A session that followed the film discussion. It was a good laugh for everyone. While “Tin-Tin” looks like a good movie, complete with excellent virtual camerawork by Spielberg himself, the highlight of this panel happened when one fan stepped up to the microphone to ask a question wearing a shirt that read, “If possible I would love to meet Steven Spielberg just to shake his hand and say thank you very much.” Well, Spielberg spotted the shirt and happily obliged, inviting the fan up onto stage where Peter Jackson took a photo of them together. That photo made its way online:

And that is the magic of the San Diego Comic-Con.

But not all celebrity encounters come that easily at SDCC. With an increasing number of popular television shows presenting at the convention, more fans line up each year to see their favorite TV stars. And with movie studios taking over Hall H, the smaller Ballroom 20, with 2,500 fewer seats, becomes the hardest place to get into at the show.

Early in the day on Friday, the line for Ballroom 20 stretched across halls, through outdoor tents, down stairs, and reached the nearby harbor. It simply couldn’t get any longer.

Fans (myself included) waited more than five hours to enter the room and grab a seat. Fortunately, time passes quickly in Comic-Con lines, with plenty of like-minded fans to talk to nearby and people/costume watching always an option. Here are a few costumed attendees who were nearby, passed by or were in line too:

Rooms are not cleared between sessions, so many fans will take a seat in the morning just to wait until a panel at the end of the day. As a result, many attendees sit through presentations about TV shows they have never seen and don’t particularly care about, leaving fans of that show sitting outside the hall wishing they could get in. It can be frustrating for both parties, but clearing the hall between each presentation would be worse.

So in order to see the panel for HBO’s “True Blood,” I first sat through one featuring the stars of SyFy’s “Warehouse 13.”

I haven’t seen that show, but the fans in the audience sure seemed to love it.

And finally, after a total of around 7 hours of waiting, I did get to see the “True Blood” panel – one of the largest at Comic-Con, packing 9 of the show’s stars along with its creator all onto the stage.

The eager audience hung on every word that was said, laughed at every joke, and often shouted about how attractive the whole cast is. And if the lively discussion wasn’t enough, everyone in the audience was given a ticket to redeem for “True Blood” swag at the Comic-Con fulfillment center. (More on that coming up in Day 4.)

The exhibition floor was open from roughly 9am – 7pm for the first three days of the convention, offering what seems like should be enough time to explore. But when tens of thousands of people are all grabbing for the same freebies or wanting autographs from the same celebrities, time runs out very quickly, forcing attendees to use every minute available. So after the “True Blood” panel finished at 6:30pm, it was time for a quick trip onto the floor to get a bit more accomplished for the day.

Over at the booth for Telltale Games, free “Back to the Future” game posters were being given out and autographed by voice actor AJ LoCascio and BTTF1 star Claudia Wells.

The end of the day often offers a few additional photo opportunities, particularly with booth babes no longer having a job to do but to sit and look pretty, which they do quite well.

The day that began in the streets of downtown San Diego would end that way as well, with a trip inside one of the most entertaining offerings in the area for Comic-Con: The Haunted Hotel.

I’ll write much more about this haunted attraction when it reopens in September for the Halloween season, but for now I’ll simply say that it was great to get a taste of Halloween in July.

At the end of Day 2, rest was absolutely necessary leading up to Saturday at Comic-Con, a day which promised to bring out the most costumed attendees, one of the biggest highlights of the convention each year.

More photos from Day 2 of the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con:

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