This past weekend, The Fan Room got an inside look at FAN EXPO New Orleans. We brushed arms with celebrities, talked to cosplayers, and had a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of fans. Take a look at what you missed as we relive the experience.
As we reviewed last week, FAN EXPO New Orleans had quite the roster of talent, so there was always a line going in the autograph area. On one side, some of the greatest voice actors to ever grace the recording booth: Chares Martinet (Mario), Samantha Kelly (Princess Peach), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano), Jodi Benson (Princess Ariel), and—my personal favorite—Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh.)
The other side of the hall was lined with actors from both small and the big screen, like Royce Johnson (Daredevil), Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian), Matthew Lewis and Bonnie Wright (Harry Potter). While most stars were too busy to leave their seats, Henry Winkler (Happy Days) spent most of his time on the wrong side of the table, signing autographs and taking selfies with his fans. Sean Astin had one of the slowest moving lines, just because he spent so much time with each individual person who came to see him. Handlers did what they could to keep the line moving, but sometimes Astin even stopped to talk to people who weren’t on line. Rest assured that he’s just as sweet as any of the characters he’s ever played.
But one corner of the autograph area was packed every moment of the day: the line for Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things). His autograph table was actually blocked from view behind a set of extra curtains—partially for crowd control and partially for Quinn’s privacy. While this was the actor’s first appearance at a US convention, he’s had a long year of European conventions and intense fan encounters. Despite the long lines and constant flow of people, Quinn wore a smile the whole weekend, occasionally accompanied by his mother and father in his booth.
Panels and Events
There was no shortage of things to do at the Ernest N Morial Center, whether you came for fandom, gaming, or anime. We caught some great panels with the stars of The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Harry Potter, and—the final and most anticipated panel—Stranger Things. In fact, the Stranger Things panel was the very last event of the entire convention. Some dedicated fans showed up at 9AM to make sure they had a front row seat for the 4PM panel. The interviews were all cast-oriented, with very little chances for spoilers on upcoming projects.
Except for one cheeky comment from Joseph Quinn: “I can’t wait to see what we—I mean, they—do next.” So…take that how you will.
There were smaller panels too, where groups discussed con etiquette, traded cosplay techniques, and discussed the best practices for content creators on YouTube and other forums. Artist Alley was full of big name comic personalities, and smaller artists with cult followings. (I was thrilled to receive an autograph from Aaron Reynolds, author of Effin’ Birds.) On other floors of the convention center, there were rooms dedicated to online gaming, the walls lined with more computers than a NASA control hub. We even got a sneak preview at a new Syfy show, The Ark. From the minds of Dean Delvin and Jonathan Glassner—producers of films like Independence Day and both the Stargate film and series—The Ark tells the story of a new generation lost in space and fighting for survival. Keep an eye on The Fan Room for our full review later this month.
As with any fan convention, one of the best parts of the weekend was seeing all the amazing cosplayers who put in their all to bring their favorite characters to life. From the procession of Star Wars cosplayers who weaved their way down every aisle in the vendor room to the pack of furries in the lobby, you never know who or what you’ll find after you scan your badge—but what you need to know is just how seriously they take their craft.
One costume that stopped me in my tracks was a gorgeous rendition of Sarah’s ball gown from the 1986 classic, Labyrinth. Wendy and her step-daughter Belle, who suited up as Jareth the Goblin King, were happy to show off their work and talk about their process.
“This was actually the first [costume] I ever wanted to do,” Wendy said of her ball gown, “but I never worked up the nerve to do it, because I’m older… This is an old wedding gown from my first marriage…I was like, ‘What am I gonna do with this thing? I hate to throw it away—this can be Sarah.”
Starting with a real wedding dress was a good base, but there was still a lot of work to be done: adding sleeves, the pearlescent top layer, the lace and embroidery. It’s a project that she’s been working on for nearly four years. Yet, with all the adaptations and detail work, when I asked what the hardest part of the costume was, she immediately replied, “Being sure I could fit in it still!”
Cosplay has been a great way for Wendy to connect with her step-daughter, who has always been a fan of both Jareth and Bowie. Even after two months, her costume is still in the works. Belle is going to keep working and, in her own words, “add the bling” so she can wear it to future conventions. She’s also ready to tackle skills like contact juggling and ballroom dancing if it adds a finishing touch to her costume.
Very rarely is cosplay a “one and done” hobby, like a Halloween costume. Each outfit is a labor of love and time that could be years in the making. And sure—it’s always a confidence boost when someone asks for you picture because they love your costume—but it’s also a great way to make connections with other people, whether that means getting closer to people who are already in your life, making new friends at a cosplay meetup, or just brightening someone’s day in passing.
“I like making friends with little kids,” one Harley Quinn told me. “You know like, the little school erasers of animals? A pack of twenty-five for like five dollars? I got a bunch of those, and then [the kids] come by and they’re so excited. I give them an eraser and they’re so happy! It makes me so happy!”