Welcome to the House of the Mouse and JoeCon 2011!!

In a few short days, the attention of the Joe fandom will be focused on the Mouse’s Kingdom for the annual Collectors’ Convention.  For some, this is a yearly pilgrimage.  For, what seems of many, this will be the first of several conventions to come.  Regardless, once again, welcome to the best four days on the calendar.

We are literally at the 11th hour.  Some collectors are already on-site getting ready to take part in pre-con activities.  A bulk will come in Thursday just in time to line up and register.  If you are a first timer, read carefully, this is what you need to know.

Hopefully by now you are fully paid, have your plane tickets, and room reservations.  If not, well, you’re pretty much attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis…or put bluntly, screwed.

There have been a number of community postings about what to pack and what not to pack.  Hit your favorite forum to read those posts.  Do not weigh yourself down with unnecessary gear.  You won’t need to lug a PS3 or Xbox 360 to this thing.  If you stay locked in your room you are missing the purpose of the con and you might as well save the money and stayed home.  This is a social event.

If you are flying, know what to check-in and what not to check-in.  If you are going to be in the costume contest and have weapon props, for the love of God, CHECK THESE ITEMS!  If you are bringing any expensive items to trade or share at the con, it is a really good idea to carry these on.  Do not worry about TSA if they open your bag at security.  They see far more stranger items packed in a bag then a handful of action figures, accessories or comics.  Worst case is that you strike up a conversation about GI Joe with the security guy.  Chances are he tells you he played with them too as a kid.  Remember, most airlines allow a personal bag (laptop bag, backpack, etc) and one other carry on, so basically you can take two bags onto the plane.  When you get on the plane, stow your gear, sit down, order up a cool drink and enjoy the ride because this is the last bit of rest you will get for a while.

For me, the #1 must have item during the weekend is my mobile phone.  Your phone will be your lifeline to connecting with your friends throughout the weekend.  Bring extra batteries.  You will only have a chance to recharge at night unless you lug around your laptop so you can syphon off a low volt charge off your USB port.  You will be on your feet a ton so I don’t suggest carrying around the extra weight of a laptop.  Plus, there is always the risk you having it stolen or damaged.  Prepare to move light when you are at the con.  If you have a good Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile or newer Blackberry phone, you are a walking news gatherer.  Document as much as you can.

Another handy item to pack are breakfast or snack bars.  You will want these to help you when you sit through back-to-back-to-back seminars and don’t have time to hit the food court between sessions.

For those of you ready to go, PRINT OUT all of your convention registration info.  At the very least the club asks for you to bring your PHOTO ID, a copy of your ONLINE REGISTRATION RECEIPT and a copy of your CONFIRMATION AND PACKAGE PICK-UP email.  I suggest you print out and have ready ANY and all communications you have had with the club leading up to the convention, especially if you have changed your registration package.

Package Pickup night (aka Registration) for some will be Wednesday night.  This is for attendees who are attending a pre-con trip or class.  People who paid for the new Golden Ticket will begin registration at 4:00 EST on the 31st.  Those who ARE NOT going on the pre-con tour, attending a pre-con class OR purchased the Golden Ticket will start at 6:00 EST on Thursday.  In either case, I highly advise you line up early.  And when I mean early, I don’t mean a few minutes or a half hour.  No, you may want to line up WELL in advance.  It doesn’t hurt to line up early, trust me.

With the addition of the Golden Ticket, I don’t know how the club will present the convention souvenirs.  In the past, club president, Brian Savage makes an announcement to the group prior to the start about what the items are, how much they cost and how many you can buy on pickup night.  Last year it was $195 plus tax for one of everything.  Past pricing lists have been posted within the community.  I suggest doing some forum searches if you are looking for a rough average.  I always say, bring $300 and you are covered with room to spare.  Keep in mind the club also sells past convention and exclusive items in the store as well.  Maybe now is a good time to pick up a Dr. Venom figure or a past club membership figure that you’ve missed.    The club does take credit cards and travelers cheques, but nothing beats good old cash – plus that line moves faster at the club store, which I will discuss below.

The club should have send you an email with a PDF attachment telling you what time slot you are in.  The early group goes from 6pm to 8pm, the late group goes from 8pm to 10pm.  Line up in the queue that corresponds to the first letter of your last name.  Meet the people around you.  Be social, make friends, mingle.  This is a good reason to line up early.  Don’t be a stranger!

When you get to the front of the line, you will get the package you ordered, your convention badges, a packet with additional convention information and your free attendee bonus item.  Give your gear a good once-over.  Make sure everything looks good before moving onto the club store.

The club store is an exercise in patience.  The club has been getting better in the past by anticipating a typical one-of-everything order to speed the line along.  Last year they had bags of one-of-everything ready to go.  Unfortunately, the club is still a little old fashioned in the order taking process and you have to fill out a sales form.  A club staffer will be handing these out at the end of the line.  If you have a clip board handy, this is a good place to bring it.  Fill the form out, get your sub total and show the club staffer behind the counter your order.  They will pull your items, take your money and send you on your way.

That’s it, you’re done!  There are no more official activities of the evening.  Now is the time to meet up with your old pals or new friends for dinner and drinks.  Enjoy a night out.  You see these people only once a year, so catch up and have fun!

Friday for most everyone starts at 10:30 with the parachute figure drop.  In the past the club has a sign up list so you can be a thrower – if you will.  I don’t know if they will do that again this year, but be looking for the list if they do this again.  The drop is primarily for the children.  PLEASE fight the urge to start swiping airborne figures from the waiting hands of a child.  Don’t be a jerk!

After the drop, you will have a couple of hours to eat, hit the amusement park, or rest.  I am suggesting the latter.  At 2:00pm the convention exhibit hall opens for business.  Get on down to the hall and start filling your Joe needs.  While you are down there, grab the autographs of Morgan Lofting (Baroness) and Hank Garrett (Dial Tone).  Be sure to thank them for coming.  There are no seminars or roundtables on Friday, so focus on spending money, talking to your buddies and taking in the sights of JoeCon.  While you are down there, be sure to hit the JoeDeclassified booth.  Yes, I know, shameless plug.  For those of you at home, you will also begin to see the first of the Hasbro booth pics, but do not be surprised we don’t see much more than what was unveiled at Toy Fair.  New stuff will work its way into the displays following the Saturday seminar and possibly into Sunday.  The hall closes at 5pm still giving you some daylight hours to hit the parks or sit next to the pool.

Saturday can either start for you at 8:30am when the exhibit hall opens, or you can sleep in a bit and grab some breakfast before the first of the seminars start at 10am.  For those of you who are not a registered attendee and wish to drive in for the day for General Admission, the doors open for you at 10am.  I hope you enjoy your experience!  You are in for a treat!

While the floor opens at one end of the hall at 10, the seminars start at the other with a good one to see, a panel discussion on the GI Joe Comic Universe.  This should be interesting in lieu of the latest comic controversy.  Regardless, grab a seat, sit back and listen.  The comic seminars are always a wealth of information.

The first of the MUST SEE seminars starts at 11am; Hasbro.  Here is where we will find out what is on the horizon.  Not only will we see what was at Toy Fair in February, we will also see some stuff that hasn’t be debuted yet.  Will there be any store exclusives?  What happened to the availability of Sgt. Slaughter?  Why is WalMart seemingly dropping the Joe line?  Why was Renegades put on hold?  Hopefully we will get the answer to these and more.  Typically the attendees are allowed to ask questions.  Please, for all that is holy and good, DO NOT ASK IF THERE WILL BE A NEW USS FLAGG/TERRORDROME/DEFIANT!  Save those questions for the Hasbro booth on the sales floor.  Make your questions count.  Typically photography and video is prohibited here.  That doesn’t stop Twitter though, so keep your eyes on Generals Joes for the play-by-play.

The seminars are non-stop.  Now is a good time to enjoy a snack bar to help you through the next seminar; a panel discussion on the voicing of GI Joe at noon.  Get to listen to the two special convention guests who voiced Dial Tone and the Baroness in the GI Joe cartoon.  Keep your MP3 recorders and video cams ready as I am sure we will hear them break into character.  Hopefully they have some good stories too.  It should be interesting.

For those of you interested in the history of the birth of the 3.75” toy line, I recommend the 2pm seminar: In The Beginning – The Real American Hero is Born.  Learn how Joe relaunched itself from Adventure Team hero to America’s Highly Trained Daring Special Mission Force defending human freedom from COBRA.  Find a comfy seat and don’t move because…

The second MUST SEE seminar is next at 3:00pm.  It’s the GIJCC Roundtable.  An hour is never enough at this roundtable, mainly we have so many questions and typically the key people we want to talk to are always busy during the weekend working (HINT Brian!!).  However, we will probably get a peek at how this year’s set went from concept to finished product and learn about some upcoming projects the club is working on for the remainder of 2011 and a little beyond.

Following the club roundtable, the schedule calls for the costume contest to start.  I am not sure why this isn’t part of the dinner as in the past.  Maybe this is so General Admission folks can participate as well.  Regardless, the question is what will Kuukuuson’s costume be and what large playset is Nova dressed as this year?  Well, at 4:00 on Saturday, we will find out!

Following the closing of the exhibit hall at 5pm, you will have a few hours to recuperate, clean up and get ready for the Casino Night Awards Party.  In the past, this has also been a dinner, but the schedule does not show one this year.   Not sure what’s going on here.  Stay tuned.  Casino Night runs from 7pm to 10pm.  It is a rather underrated event.  I suggest you give it a try before knocking it.  Also, once in a blue moon the club will actually announce where next year’s con will be.  Can we hope for such luck in 2011??  Anywhere but Indy is OK with me.

After Casino Night, continue the party into the night with the Crappy Figure Brigade, aka the CFB.  For the seventh consecutive year the CFB will meet to nominate, then debate and vote on some of the more infamous figures and vehicles from Joe history.  The meeting place is still TBD, so keep your ears open for the site.  EVERYONE who goes to the con is welcome.  Attendance is optional, fun is mandatory.  Check out www.cfbrigade.com or search “Crappy Figure Brigade” on Facebook for details.

You will probably want to sleep in on Sunday to recover from the previous night of partying.   The events of the day are short, but the day is a long one.  You will spend much of it searching for last minute deals in the exhibit hall, packing up your goods to come home, or saying farewell to your friends as they depart.  Sunday is truly a bittersweet day.  If you got free moments, the panel at noon looks interesting: GI Joe Re-Designed, Re-Energized & Re-Armed – 1990-94.  Ah, the neon era.  This should be fun.  At 1pm, the Treasures from the Hasbro Archives sound interesting as well.  I am sure there are countless goodies of unseen history that we have not seen.  What will we see here?

At 3:15 the club draws for the trip to the 2012 convention (the schedule has a typo that says 2011 – unless they know something we don’t…).  You need to fill out your survey paperwork that was in the bundle of papers you got at package pickup time.  Give that form back to the club to be entered.  You MUST be present to win.

At 3:30pm, everything is wrapped up for at least another 12 months or so.  Between now and the end of the evening, the tables are folded down, the boxes are out the door and our friends leave us yet again.  Sunday is like the last chapter of a good book.  You are glad you got there but you don’t want it to end.  You go home knowing that you have plenty of time to save up for the next one but the memories are priceless.

JoeCon is not a box set and exclusives.  It’s not even a site or a vacation.  No, no, JoeCon is more than that.  It is an experience – an adventure – a wild ride you don’t want to end.  It’s making 4 days seem like 2.  It’s staying up into the wee hours just to swap stories.  It’s not only saying ‘what happens at JoeCon, stays at JoeCon’, but believing it.  It’s all this and so much more.  I cannot begin to explain to you the lasting and rewarding friendships I have made from the convention.  From my buddies Don and Martin I met in San Francisco, to the old-old-old skool TNI crew and CFB founding fathers from the first Orlando con, to meeting the Declassified guys in Dallas, these are the types of friendships that last beyond websites and eras we support.  These are the friendships you will cherish.  It is more than a screen name and an avatar.  It is personal and real now.  Beyond a face and a voice, you’ve shaken a hand, shared a meal, toasted a drink and exchanged laughter.   THIS, this folks is JoeCon.

See you in Orlando everyone – you’re buying the first round!  Don’t be a stranger!

One thought on “Welcome to the House of the Mouse and JoeCon 2011!!

  1. Have fun everybody! I’m extremely jealous. My wife and I were both planning on going and we talked ourselves out of it last minute. I really regret that now. Lol. My only complaint about Joe Con in 2009 was that it was extremely clicky. Thankfully I brought along some of my friends because if you aren’t a regular, no one wanted to include us in anything. That was a huge disappointment as I was really wanting to meet some of the people I chat (and argue) with on a daily basis. But regardless, it’s a blast no matter what!

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