Wizard World was in high gear on Friday, opening its doors at noon and getting straight into the cosplaying, panel attending, gear-buying madness. We were there from beginning to end, and caught quite a bit of the panel action.
Our first stop was the Charmed panel, which featured Holly Marie Combs, who played Piper in the cult favorite series, as well as Brian Krause, better known as Leo. The panel wasn’t as heavily attended as we’d expected but it did seem heavily policed, as after a long wait for the stars to arrive handled masterfully by Wizard World’s emcee Victor Dandridge, the celebrity handlers got threatening with the crowd and press regarding photography, stating they’d “take away” photos anyone had taken and physically moving a press worker’s camera after Wizard World staff had already given members of the press photo rules to follow that no one was in clear violation of. Moving on from the incident, we enjoyed Brian Krause’s easy manner and great sense of humor, both as he revelled in his opportunity to play (and dress up as) “Evil Leo” as well as his many silly barbs at on-screen wife Holly Marie Combs. There was talk of where the cauldron went and what happened to the clock and even some talk of silliness post-Charmed, including Holly Marie Combs inexplicable ties with green Jeep Grand Cherokees, which she possessed both in Charmed and Pretty Little Liars and which might also be her “spirit animal.”
Talk was steered away from the new Charmed that had been announced, as both Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause had vocally expressed their objection to it, though this later became a bit of a joking matter between them. Many of the fan’s questions were typical—what favorite moments they had or favorite villains–both of the actors chose Balthazar, played by Michael Bailey Smith, in that case–and they talked about how fans of supernatural shows were different and more heartfelt than fans of other genres, much to the audience’s appreciation, with one fan in particular mentioning that she only believed in love because of Leo and Piper, and had used some of the show’s music at her wedding. After a rocky start, it seemed Charmed fans came away with what they wanted—good banter between a beloved couple and some juicy behind the scenes tidbits that made them feel a little more connected with a show they loved.
Later in the afternoon, we filed into a crowded main hall for a Wizard World Chicago exclusive–the reunion of the cast of Boy Meets World, which featured the core cast—Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, Will Friedle and Ben Savage. This was billed as the first reunion of the show’s cast anywhere (though all the appearing actors and much of the original cast did feature in Girl Meets World more recently on the Disney channel in a working reunion of sorts.) Fans of the show, myself included, found that the chemistry was indeed real, as the panel felt much more like a bunch of friends hanging out than a moderated panel.
One of our favorite things about the Boy Meets World reunion was the undefinable demographic of its audience. There were wrestling fans, biker guys, kids and parents, teenagers and 30-somethings from all walks of life who over and over again expressed their love and appreciation for the show, and how much it went beyond the inherent silliness to reach out to kids who felt different or who were simply trying to figure out how growing up worked. Most of the cast had already done the con circuit, but Danielle Fishel, a self-professed newbie, was an absolute joy, too. She gave the audience quite a bit of background of what it was like to film Boy Meets World and how the cast interacted behind the scenes, telling of times she’d be driven to Strong or Savage’s house because she lived further from the set, and would sit waiting with one of their parents while they got ready, and she also talked of her friendships with cast members, including the deep conversations she enjoyed having with Strong.
Will Friedle, much as he was on the show, was the heart and comedic relief. He talked about some of his sillier side stories, the famous Feeny call (which came out of his “tendency to milk things a little bit”) and the way that his character got more and more integrated with the main three as time went on. Will is a live wire in the best way, and it truly showed just how much the part and his fellow cast members meant to him.
Later in the day, we went to the Animation Domination panel to talk voice acting and cartoons with the amazingly talented Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche. If you’re not immediately familiar with their names, think of a show you watched as a child in the late 80s to early 90s and you’ll probably land on one they had a part in within a minute, from Paulsen on Mighty Max, GI Joe, Animaniacs and of course Pinky and the Brain to Lamarche’s Chief on Inspector Gadget, Egon on The Real Ghostbusters, Dizzy Devil on Tiny Toons, The Brain in Animaniacs and Pinky and The Brain and Zapp Brannigan on Futurama.
They were in rare form, bantering as Pinky and the Brain even before the panel had officially started, and were delightful from start to finish. One of the nicest things about the pair is their admiration for each other and their work. They feed off each other and kept the audience engaged and laughing from start to finish. But more than just a fun panel, the two touched on voice acting in general, and what it’s like to do the job. Though both feel, as Paulsen put it, “Like we’ve won the lottery every day” they discussed that up until recently, voice acting wasn’t so much an end goal for an actor as something they did on the side until they got other work.
Both really impressed on the audience the difficulty and talent involved in voice acting, though, mostly by pointing out the ways the other worked, from La Marche’s great physicality and talent for impressions to Paulsen’s fantastic ear and great singing. Maurice LaMarche spent a little bit of time discussing his work on Disenchanted, and encouraging people to check it out, and also spent a little time talking about the industry’s tendency to overlook great voiceover talent, like that of colleague Jim Cummings, who’s recently been recognized for his fantastic work on Christopher Robin, something both Paulsen and LaMarche agree is a step in the right direction, but not quite all the way to the recognition at industry events and awards shows deserve, and we feel like he’s 100% right on that matter. Overall, it was a great panel for anyone who grew up with these two voicing their favorite Saturday morning cartoons , loved Futurama or simply wanted to know more about what the day to day is like for a voice actor, and hear some amazing voice work in a playful, fun environment.
Our final panel for Friday was the Windy City Ghostbuster’s first appearance on the programming circuit, and was on Real Chicagoland Hauntings. There was a full complement of Ghostbusters both onstage and off for the event, and quite a bit of banter amongst the members of this charitable group of cosplayers, with a bit of the time spent on some hauntings in the Congress Hotel and at Liar’s Club, and some time for guests to tell of their own paranormal experiences. Overall the panel was a mixed bag, and we wished we’d heard about a few other haunted haunts around town, but could appreciate the excitement the group had for the subject matter and hope they’ll return with more next year.
Tomorrow’s another day full of panel fun up to and including the X-Files panel with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and if the truth is out there, you know we will be too. Stay tuned to Third Coast Review for all things Wizard World til Sunday, and follow us on social media for live updates from the floor!