Fandemonium Day One Report

The Red Stick International Animation Festival has been growing nicely as a Louisiana attraction, honoring filmmakers from around the world and screening works people wouldn’t get to see otherwise. Animation in all forms is being celebrated and over the last five years, the event has been growing.

This year, it was decided to grow by adding a component they called Fandemonium, bringing aboard local SF fans that run their own convention, Babelcon. Red Stick wanted a fan convention experience to attract more people to Baton Rouge and that is how I wound up being invited down here as a guest of the show. The con headliner is Robert Picardo and there’s a dealer’s room, masquerade and charity auction all on the schedule.

Now, I don’t know all the politics or players but I have to note that the connection between Red Stick and Fandemonium is not all it could be. The website, for example, never really played up this aspect of the convention. The online schedule, for example, is about evenly split between Fandemonium activities and Red Stick lectures and screenings but panel participants in the former are not mentioned so you have no idea when I’m talking.

Still, I have been personally made to feel quite welcome.

I flew in on Thursday and was greeted by my old pal Alan Chafin and his cohort, Polly Luttrell. Together, they usually make con appearances talking all things Star Wars, but this time, I was entering Polly’s world. She is the curator at the nearby Rosedown Plantation, and I was given a private tour. Having never been to a plantation before, I wandered slowly; gaping at everything I was shown. I enjoyed the experience immensely.

On Friday, I was given a badge (no lanyard or pocket sleeve, just a card to carry around) and handed two four-color sheets of paper which was the schedule. Given the lack of Fandemonium promotion and publicity, I was wondering how many people would come to the con aspect and then with two tracks of programming, how many would attend either panel.  I also learned the entire Red Stick/Fandemonium event was spread over several venues.

My first panel was “So you want to be a Professional Writer” and the seven members of the audience and I had a lovely and informative chat. I was free for a while so returned to my room to work on stuff then after some wonderful Po Boy sandwiches for lunch, Alan and I regaled four others with a discussion of American genre TV compared with its British cousin. Later, I had a solo hour they cheekily billed as “Bob Greenberger, the man, the myth, the legend”. I’m apparently not all that legendary since one guy came to hear me. He’s an 18-year army vet, having done two tours in Iraq and so we discussed his experiences there but he then peppered me with questions about my editing days at DC so we revisited the late 1980s and it was fun (and boy, do I miss some of those titles).

As a VIP, I was invited to the Awards banquet where the Fandemonium folk were given their own table. I got to meet Howard Nash, Picardo’s producer on next year’s The Legends of Nethiah, which will screen tonight. Picardo himself was delayed after being booked as a guest on an episode of The United States of Tara but is arriving as I write this. Anyway, the lifetime achievement award was posthumously given to animator Pres Romanillos, the man who animated Shan-Yu in Mulan, Pocahontas and Little Tree in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. His career was nicely covered with a video retrospective and live comments from Spirit’s producer and a video tribute from Pres’ mentor, Glen Keane. His wife, Jeannine, accepted the award from Baton Rouge’s mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden.

A new category, SciAn, presented an award to CNN for their consistently excellent use of computer animation in their scientific reporting. Then Golden Baton Awards were given to winner of the student film, music video and all around excellence. It was nice to see clips, showing us the potential available in film today. Many of the LSU student volunteers told me they were art students hoping to become animators so this was especially encouraging and inspiring to them.

And now, another day of programming awaits…

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