The Dragon Con 2019 Progress Report

“Dragon Con is always either a year or a day away.”

-Clay Gilbert

I feel more ready for Dragon Con than I have in years.

Most of that is due to any game shows I might be involved with being on hiatus. As hard as we always worked on those shows to be prepared and make them just right, I don’t think we ever felt truly ready until it was go time. That “always working on it” mentality lent itself to a certain amount of nervous anticipation.

This year I have a much more traditional schedule of activities going on, though there is one event that is by far the most special thing I have ever been a part of at Dragon Con. The official announcement on that is coming at noon on August 1st, so set your clocks!

I’m pretty sure I have fewer panels in 2019 than I have had in years, and that is fine by me. I need a vacation like nobody’s business and I’d love to have time to actually cruise the famous people storage facility and maybe even finally check out the armory.

This year’s Progress Report is now available on DragonCon.org. You might also be able to pick up a physical copy at your Local Comic Book Shop. Or you might have already gotten it in the mail.

Every year I like to run down the newest Progress Report and provide summaries of the Tracks, Performers, guests, and maybe a few events that are confirmed.

This post is a way for me as both a performer and as an attendee to start getting my ducks in a row and planning for Con. Normally I’d say I had been planning for months now, but this year it really only started after the Summer of the Bat panel.

I’ll be looking mostly at the things that interest me personally, but there will be plenty of general information, as well. Dragon Con is simply too massive for me to cover every Guest or detail.

For now, pull out your Dragon Con Progress Report and follow along!

In case you’re not already familiar with it, Dragon Con normally takes place across five hotels  – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriot Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza – within walking distance of one another in Downtown Atlanta. Because of this, you need to plan your schedule beforehand and allow at least thirty minutes of travel time between events if they’re in different hotels.

This year, however, the Sheraton has been struck by a relatively shocking phenomenon – an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. As of this writing, the most recent report is that the hotel is closed at least through August 11th, with Dragon Con officials working on possible alternatives in the event that the hotel is not available.

FOR HILTON GUESTS:

Good news, fellow Hiltoneers! Our favorite hotel has finally updated their archaic reservation process! That’s right – the interminable line of doom is NO MORE!

** CHANGES IN 2020 RESERVATION PROCESS **

 Your 2019 reservation will automatically be enrolled for a 2020 reservation. See below for important details and dates.

Aug 27, 2019 – You will receive a confirmation email for 2020.
The 2020 reservation will include the same room type, date pattern and length of stay as your 2019 reservation. Once you receive the
confirmation email, you may modify your reservation accordingly.
There is a 4 night minimum length of stay requirement.
*Update your credit card information prior to Sept. 6, to ensure a
successful booking process for 2020. Expired or inaccurate credit cards
will result in incomplete 2020 reservation bookings.*

This is absolutely wonderful. The old way really ate into valuable Dragon Con time!

Speaking of Dragon Con time, having at least a general idea of what you want to do and when will help you maximize your enjoyment of the world’s greatest con. In order to plan your schedule, download the Dragon Con app from iTunes or the Play Store.

IMPORTANT: As of last year Dragon Con is no longer releasing a Pocket Program. Instead, a Quick Start Guide will be available that will feature the schedule grid in a new format. It sounds like it is a more convenient tool, especially considering how much the app has evolved over the past several years. A full Pocket Program is somewhat obsolete at this point.

If you’re staying in a host hotel, be sure to find out what channel is carrying Dragon Con TV. This is the network run by a bunch of crazy Dragon Con volunteers. It provides original content, music videos, comedy sketches, short films, and also broadcasts many of the guest panels. It’s the best television channel I’ve ever seen and I look forward to seeing it every year. I just leave my TV tuned to it and on all weekend.

Announcements

Just a few things worth noting. Some are new, some are not.

You can read all of Dragon Con’s policies here. I felt that these paragraphs were particularly important:

“If you feel you have been harassed please find the nearest Dragon Con volunteer.  This year, all 2000 Dragon Con volunteers will be easily recognized by their bright tie dye lanyards.  They will direct you to the security operation in the Marriott.  If, at any time, you feel that your personal safety or the safety of others is in jeopardy, please contact the Atlanta Police Department in an emergency via 911. The Atlanta Police Department non-emergency phone number for Zone 5 is 404-658-7830. 

You may also go directly to the security operation – room L405-L406 in the Marriott, on the Marquis level – to report an incident.  We have set up a private screening area, staffed by an Atlanta Police Department officer to counsel individuals who feel they have been harassed.  We will work closely with the APD to determine the best course of action.”

*Dragon Con offers Thursday-only badges (on site only). This means that you can come down for Dragon Con Wrestling, the Classics Track sing-along, the Bunny Hutch party, and many other events that have now become Nerd Year’s Eve traditions! Count down to midnight with your ol’ pal Phantom Troublemaker in the Marriot!

* Due to capacity issues, the bridges between AmericasMart Buildings 1 and 2 will be closed for the duration of con. To access either building, you will need to enter through the main entrances.

*If you already purchased your passes to Dragon Con, bring that postcard with the barcode on it that they sent you in the mail. It will make your badge pickup much faster. And if you didn’t receive it or lost it, let them know now. They can send you another one. I know this because a few years ago I thought I hadn’t received one and I asked for another and they sent it. Then, after Con, I found the first one.

*You will need your badge to get into the host hotels. Not just into panels and stuff – into the hotels. This policy started in earnest in 2013 and I approve one hundred percent. I invest a lot of time and money in Dragon Con and I don’t need any freeloaders bringing down the tone.

*Once again, some Tracks have moved from their traditional stomping grounds. Be sure to check the Dragon Con app – don’t make assumptions about where things are happening and miss out on fun stuff!

*The Comics and Pop Artist Alley will be on the fourth floor of AmericasMart building 2. This gives that area much more space and also allows the expansion of the vendors and exhibitors on the first three floors. I’m good with this decision because the Alley is a destination for me and it gets frustrating when it’s buried in the middle of all of the vendors.

*Every year Dragon Con hosts auctions and events for a designated charity partner. This year’s partner is the Atlanta Affiliate of the American Heart Association, in honor of Comics Director Thom Trainor, who lost his battle with heart disease in July of 2018.

Dark Crystal

Tracks

“Track” is the term used in reference to all of the events involved in a particular genre or field of interest. For example, the Trek Track encompasses all things Star Trek. There are panels featuring celebrity guests, genre experts, and fans. There are also parties and events such as the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant, which involves costuming as various species from the Star Trek universe. So to make things easy, you simply find the Track that represents your area (or areas) of interest and look for that schedule. Typically most or all of the events for one Track will take place in the same hotel and even the same general group of rooms. It all depends on the size of the Track.

Here are all of the Tracks, with brief notes about the nature of each:

Alternate and Historical Fiction – Exploring themes of time travel, old world culture, Steampunk, and historical “what-ifs?”

American Sci-Fi Classics – Celebrating science fiction movies and TV of the past. One of the most fun and immersive Tracks at Con! I am thrilled to be a part of this family.

American Sci-Fi and Fantasy Media – Modern and current genre programs and movies.

Animation – Your home base for the creators and voices of your favorite cartoons.

Anime/Manga – All about the art of Japanese sequential storytelling.

Apocalypse Rising – Media dealing with the many different ways that civilization could end, as well as what happens afterward.

BritTrack – This one focuses on the many genre and entertainment contributions of Great Britain.

Costuming – Where the art of character building through costumes, props, and apparel gets its due.

Digital Media – Podcasting, YouTubers, Twitch, and every other form of modern media will be spotlighted here.

Diversity in Speculative Fiction & Literature – A Track looking at representation in all of genre entertainment.

Electronic Frontiers Forums – Internet, law, technology and their impact on society.

Fantasy Literature – Focusing on the written form of the genre.

Filk Singing – Folk music about genre topics.

Film – Packed with screenings and panels devoted to and featuring filmmakers.

High Fantasy – This Track seems to encompass any form of fantasy media that Fantasy Literature doesn’t.

Horror – Focusing on the gruesome and macabre aspects of genre storytelling! I’m excited to be returning to the Horror Track for a fourth year!

Kid’s Track – Providing family-friendly explorations of genre entertainment.

Military Sci-Fi Media – Franchises such as Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly tell very specific kinds of stories that utilize military settings to sell genre stories. This Track covers them all!

Puppetry – Every year the Puppetry Track manages to grow and encompass more facets of the entertainment world. Puppetry is everywhere, and these folks are going to share that magic with Dragon Con.

Robotics & Maker – For those that create.

Science – For fans who enjoy a little reality alongside their fantasy and speculation.

Science Fiction Literature – Where we all (or at least most of us) got started – exploring the words that brought us to where the genre is today.

Silk Road – Asian cinema and culture.

Skeptic – A Track for critical thinkers and lovers of science

Space – Still looking to infinity and beyond.

Star Wars – Business has never been better for these folks, huh?

Trek Track – Focusing on the books, comics, movies, and, of course television inspired by the mind of Gene Rodenberry and those that followed in his footsteps.

Urban Fantasy – I’m not sure how to describe this one, but some of the television shows it covers include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost Girl, Being Human, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries. You get the idea.

Video Gaming – This is pretty self-explanatory, but for the first year the Track will have panels on Augmented and Virtual Reality gaming. Also, the second round of the Cadaver/West Annual Mortal Kombat Challenge will commence!

Writers – Where writers help writers write.

X Track – It seems like this track focuses on cryptozoology and the paranormal as they relate to conspiracy theory. Sort of. I believe it takes its name from The X-Files, so that should clue you in.

Young Adult Literature – It’s funny how this category has exploded over the last twenty years – Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and the like have created a whole new fandom that didn’t exist when I was a Young Adult.

That’s thirty-one Tracks covering every major aspect of genre entertainment and some straightforward real-world subjects as well – Electronic Frontiers, Science, Space, and more. Every year Dragon Con looks at its Tracks and figures out where there is a need or not so much of a need anymore. The people in charge are very good at adjusting Dragon Con to its attendees’ interests year after year.

Guests

This is simply my own personal list of guests that I am super excited about; my highlights, if you will. Just because someone isn’t mentioned here doesn’t mean I’m not stoked they’re at Con. I just can’t write about everyone. This list is nowhere near compete. The website is the most current resource for Guest Announcements. Chances are even more will be announced between now and Con.

Note: Many guests have been added since the publication of the Progress Report – most notably Dustin Rhodes, aka WWE’s Goldust!

Featured Guests

Freema Agyeman – I think Martha Jones is a criminally underappreciated Doctor Who companion. She was smart and charming and simply had the bad luck to follow one of the most notable companions of all time.

Jane Badler – Diana from V will be at Dragon Con! Hide your small pets and rodents!

Ronee Blakley – It’s not every day you get the chance to meet Nancy’s mom from A Nightmare on Elm Street! I’m trying to decide if it would be appropriate to have her sign the new die-cast car from the end of the movie. You know, from right before she gets sucked through that tiny window. That scene still freaks me out.

Dave Chapman – A puppeteer who has worked on Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets Most Wanted, 101 Dalmatians, and is one of the two performers behind BB-8 in Star Wars.

Kathleen O’Shea David – A talented performer and writer and one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at Dragon Con. Her work includes Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek.

Peter David – One of my all-time favorite comic book writers. From Hulk to X-Factor and everything in between, I always love his work.

Barnaby Dixon – Barnaby Dixon is an artist who designs and builds innovative and dynamic puppets. Dixon has a strong online presence and his work has achieved international acclaim through media coverage, competitions, and viral success, which has led to collaborations with companies like Bad Robot Productions, the Jim Henson Company, and Netflix.

Robert Englund – The man who plays my favorite slasher, Freddy Kruger, also happens to be one of the nicest con guests I have ever met. If you’re any kind of horror fan at all, make a point of stopping by Englund’s table. Hopefully he will have panels scheduled, as well.

Mark Gagliardi – The Drunk History guy! Neat!

Zach GalliganI interviewed Zach Galligan a few years ago, but never got to actually meet him. Everyone knows him from Gremlins, but my personal favorite is Waxwork.

Gil Gerard – Buck Rogers!

Rick John Goldschmidt – I just interviewed Mr. Goldschmidt for a future episode of the Needless Things Podcast! He is the official historian for Rankin/Bass Productions and has a lot of interesting stories and information. His panels and his table are going to be huge points of interest.

Malcolm Goodwin – Clive from iZombie definitely deserves a con circuit victory lap for the final season of the show. I can’t wait to see what he has lined up next.

Chris Hamer – Atlanta’s own URBNPOP will be on site with his unique, unforgettable artwork.

Brian Herring – The other half of Team BB-8, Herrings has also worked on Muppets projects, Doctor Who, Hellboy II, Prometheus, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and many more.

Josh Keaton – Keaton voiced Peter Parker/Spider-Man on the excellent Spectacular Spider-Man, as well as Shiro on Voltron: Legendary Defender.

Rahul Kohli – For me to say that Kohli is the most entertaining part of a show that features the incredibly talented Rose McIver would be crazy. But I almost said it because he’s that good. Ravi is seriously one of the best characters on television.

Jae Lee – One of my all-time favorite artists. Once he has put his stamp on something, his is the art that sticks in my mind forever. If you haven’t read the Transformers vs. GI Joe miniseries that he provided the artwork for, go find it now. It’s beautiful, very different from the other crossovers, and chock full of iconic panels that are singular works of art on their own.

David Mazouz – The best live action Bruce Wayne is coming to Dragon Con! Judging by Sean Pertwee’s social media presence, if they do a panel together it will be the best.

Rose McIver – So charming, so talented; the star of A Christmas Prince and A Christmas Prince: Royal Wedding is basically the best guest they booked this year. I would wear a Christmas Prince costume if I had any idea what that was. She’s also on iZombie.

(I know exactly what a Christmas Prince looks like because I have watched that movie a dozen times – don’t tell Rose I haven’t seen the sequel yet; a Christmas wedding just seems like jumping the shark)

Sean Pertwee – I first knew him from Event Horizon, then Dog Soldiers, and then as the most bonkers live action Alfred Pennyworth. The first two were before I even realized he was the son of the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. He’s one of those actors that stands out but still does the job and I’m always happy to see him.

Matt Ryan – Very rarely do characters from cancelled TV shows get resurrected elsewhere, but that’s exactly what happened with Ryan’s pitch perfect portrayal of John Constantine.

Mark A. Sheppard – In this day and age it is illegal to have a genre television show and not at least have Sheppard on as a guest star. Illegal and, let’s face it – straight-up foolhardy.

Marc Singer – THE BEASTMASTER!!!

Joonas Suotamo – Oh, wow – it’s Newbacca!

Dana Swanson – You might know her as SARA on Toonami, Malison from the Dark Ages podcast, or even as Miss Lady Flex from the sexxxiest band in the world, Le Sexoflex, but I know her as a friend and mentor and one of the most outstanding people I’ve ever met.

Robin Lord Taylor – Let’s just go ahead and throw Penguin in there with Bruce and Alfred. Man, Gotham is going to have some excellent panels. Who do I talk to to moderate a Gotham panel?

Catherine Tate – I didn’t fully appreciate Donna Noble at first and I was so, so wrong for that. She’s one of the best companions ever. Tate was also brilliant on The Office.

David Tennant – ANOTHER DOCTOR!!! I have met three Doctors and you had better believe I’m going to meet a fourth. Not the Fourth, obviously, but Tennant’s charming performance made the new era return a smashing success and guaranteed its longevity for years to come. He’ll always be one of my favorite Doctors because of that.

Kirk Thatcher – Kirk Thatcher is back! Last year I discovered that this man is an absolutely amazing delight and I can’t wait to see what he’s up to this year.

Performers

Crüxshadows – They aren’t actually in the Progress Report, but c’mon – you know they’ll be there. Dragon Con without Crüxshadows does not bear contemplation.

Cybertronic Spree – This band is eleven billion times more amazing than they have to be. It would be enough if they were just dressed up as Transformers playing songs from the soundtrack. But they go so far above and beyond what you expect of a gimmick band that they end up on another planet. And that planet is Cybertron. This isn’t just one of the best rock shows I’ve seen at Dragon Con, it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen ever. Period.

Frenchy and the Punk – This duo puts on a fun, high energy show. I highly recommend you catch one of their hallway shows.

For the full list of guests and performers, go to DragonCon.org.

Events

Obviously you can’t just base an event of this magnitude on guests. They’re important and all, but there has to be stuff going on. Dragon Con has more stuff going on than you would be able to do in a month, let alone in five days. Here’s just a little sample of the scheduled events (once again – the stuff I care about):

18th Annual Dragon Con Parade – If you’ve never seen the parade, you must see the parade. There’s just nothing else like it. No Hollywood movie can compare to the spectacle of hundreds of costumed nerds/dorks/geeks/superheroes/knights/wizards/ zombies/paranormal investigators/Hobbits/spacemen/etc. marching through downtown Atlanta. It’s breathtaking.

2016’s parade blocked me from getting to the Westin for a Horror Track panel, so be aware that if you’re not planning on watching the parade, it can still impact your plans.

Blood Drive – No, no – this isn’t a panel about SyFy’s surprisingly great and sadly canceled TV show. It’s an actual, literal blood drive that Dragon Con hosts every year to carry on the long tradition of sci-fi convention blood drives started in the 70s by Robert Heilein.

Can’t Stop the Signal Dance – It’s a huge party celebrating Joss Whedon’s Firefly, which was canceled way back in 2003. Maybe they’ll play that disco mix of “Let it Go”.

Charity Events – To keep up with updates of new events, fun ways to help with Dragon Con’s goal of giving back, as well as new items being added into the Auctions, follow Charity Events on social media: DragonConCharity on Facebook, and @DC_Charity on Twitter and Instagram.

Comics and Pop Art – This is absolutely one of my favorite aspects of Dragon Con. There has always been an effort to shine a spotlight on comics, art, and creators no matter how big or impressive the media guests might be. Artist Alley is a destination where you could easily spend a whole day and not see everything. From mainstream comics to lowbrow art to hand-crafted plush of every shape and size, it’s a phenomenal marketplace.

The Heroes and Villains Ball – DJ Spider will be spinning at Dragon Con’s best known cosplay dance. The doors to the Westin Peachtree Ballroom open at 10 PM on Saturday and the party will go all night long! So you don’t have to be there at 10. Because there is definitely something else you will want to attend first.

Saturday Night at 10 PM – Keep about 90 minutes clear here. Announcement coming soon.

The Late Night Puppet Slam – This is the greatest and best thing at Dragon Con that isn’t wrestling or a game show hosted by me. I cannot possibly express to you how strongly I feel you should attend. They should build a Bob and Carl amphitheater behind the Hyatt just so that everybody at Dragon Con can attend the Puppet Slam.

DC FRAKKIN’ W! – The very best live wrestling you will ever see. Wrestlers from all over the continent descend on Atlanta and Dragon Con to put on a show that is energetic, fun, and unforgettable. DCW is unlike any other wrestling on the planet.

That’s it, folks. I strongly encourage you to visit DragonCon.org, download the app, and go listen to all of the Earth Station One Dragon Con Reports for the best information available.

Stay tuned to Needless Things through August and beyond as we cover all things Dragon Con!

Be sure to join the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group and get in on the conversation for this week’s episode! Let us know what you think!

You can follow Phantom Troublemaker on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for all the latest on pop culture!

Hungry for more movies, music, and pop culture? Visit the Needless Things Archives for a decade of dorkery!

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