Dante Basco who voiced the character ‘Zuko’ from Nickelodeon’s Avatar series was the main draw amongst this weekend’s collegiate crowd. For some of us older fans in attendance, we more readily identified with him as ‘Rufio’, the leader of the Lost Boys, from the 1991 film ‘Hook’ starring Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams.
Jennifer Hale was also one of this weekend’s guests of honor. Hale was popularly known amongst this convention as the voice of ‘Commander Shepard’ from Mass Effect 1 (and 2), and recent versions of Disney’s ‘Cinderella’.
John Swasey was a last minute addition to the convention, but attendees readily recognized him as a popular voice-over actor for ‘Gendo’ of the Neon Genesis Evangeleon.
At first, I had some concerns about how the attendance would be for an anime convention held at a college campus during the summertime. However, my mind was pleasantly put to ease. Knightrokon made parking passes available on their Facebook page, so that attendees’ parking fees on campus would be waived. Upon entering the student union I saw a well-coordinated group of volunteers manning the registration table, eager to assist with directions and advice on where visitors should go. The vendor room was down the hallway from the registration table, and I could see numerous cosplayers parading the main atrium en route to the vendor room. I was glad to see that the Q&A panel discussions were held upstairs, apart from the vendor crowd. One suggestion for next year’s event would be for them to announce at the start of a scheduled discussion what the plans were for the subsequent session in that same room – could the guests stay for the next session, or was it in their better interest to exit the Q&A slightly early in order to improve one’s position in the next line? I was informed though that Knightrokon was in accordance with how most other ‘cons’ operated, so maybe it’s just me.
The most popular panel discussion of the weekend was the Q&A involving all 3 special guests of honor at the same time. Some of the funnier moments included when the guests were asked how different the characters they each played was different from the actors themselves to which Dante Basco quickly responded, “I AM Prince Zuko,” which got a pretty good chuckle out of the audience. A guest from the audience threw a question out to the panel asking how it would be like if Prince Zuko, Commander Shepard, and Gendo were trapped together on an island, to which Jennifer Hale smiled and said that life would be wonderful ‘because (she) would be in charge,’ which drew silence and head nodding from her male counterparts while driving cheers from the female onlookers.
Throughout the course of this particular discussion, each actor detailed their career path, inclusive of special times they experienced over the course of that journey. Basco fondly recalled how in the movie ‘Hook’ as a young actor he had done very little ad-libbing while he essentially recited the script verbatim; comparatively, his more seasoned counterpart, Robin Williams, frequently broke from script inserting his personal genius into the dialogue making Basco’s experience an educational one. Hale was very insightful to attendees, encouraging them to invest in themselves and into their futures by volunteering their time and money towards charity. Swasey recounted personal experiences with his wife, referencing her surprised expression and astonishment when she first realized overseas just how big of a celebrity her husband actually was to his fans.
Immediately after the Q&A, a queue quickly formed for the meet and greet. Most of the fans were there to take their photo with Dante, but Hale and Swasey had a very good fan base as well. In addition to the 3 actors, popular cosplayer Fenix D’Joan was also present for the autograph / photograph session with the fans. D’Joan also had a few breakout sessions themed around fashion over the weekend, and was very accessible and friendly to the attendees.
Considering the rather extensive autograph line, the popularity of the celebrity actors, and the willingness of each actor to spend quality time with every single guest in their line, the allotted 1.5 hours for autographs on Saturday was not long enough to accommodate all the guests; however, the compassionate actors had their handlers make an announcement that they would stay until the last person in line had their chance to get their autograph / photograph. They even relocated to another section of the student union in order to facilitate the continuance of the meet and greet beyond scheduled hours.
Knightrokon, now in its second year, was held in an accessible and spacious venue, had a very good turnout despite its timing during off-peak season of the school year, and had made sure to invite more than a couple of very relevant actors specific to anime. I look forward to Knightrokon’s event for summer 2015 and so should you.