The Woodlake Hotel, located on 500 Leisure Lane in Sacramento, hosted this weekend’s Winter 2012 SacAnime convention. Formerly known as the Radisson Hotel, the Woodlake Hotel opened its doors to over 5,000 visitors who came to see several of their favorite voice actors and celebrity panels, enjoy Café Hoshi, play games, and attend how-to workshops, music video contests, and live concerts. Most important of all was the time spent enjoying each other’s company.
The event began on Friday morning and had many well organized activities for the thousands of fans that attended.
The multi-talented Vic Mignogna was the first guest to participate in a question-and-answer (Q&A) session with polite fans who waited in anticipation of their voice actor heroes. Mignogna is well-known for his roles as Vega in Street Fighter II, Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemists, Dark in DN Angel, Kurz in Full Metal Panic, Broly in Dragonball Z, Hikaru in Macross, Takanaga in Wallflower and many other roles.
Presently, Mignogna is involved with the new Iron Man and Wolverine series on G4. His impressive résumé in the anime world is well-known. Mignogna is also a music composer, singer and producer. As the SacAnime Concert Series opened on Friday night he was the opening act and sang a few songs to commence the concert.
During his Q&A, a fan gave Mignogna a phaser from Star Trek II and a hand written script modeled from the Real Fans of Genius web series.
In describing the Real Fans of Genius Mignogna said, “Steve Blum and I decided that we were going to make a bunch of parodies about Real Men of Genius similar to the Bud Light commercials. We made a whole bunch of them that were based on the kind of people you would meet at an anime convention. Steve Blum did the narration and I did the singing parts and I even created the music track underneath it. It sounds exactly like the originals, they’re all on YouTube.” Mignogna noted that the fan had written him an email that he had written another parody. After they finished Mignogna said, “That was awesome. Thank you!” and hugged the fan.
Mignogna’s interaction with his fans was quite remarkable and made his fans feel appreciated. Fans asked for suggestions on voice acting, asked questions about his other live and anime works, and other personal questions. He answered them all in kind, patient and encouraging words.
“I never even planned to be a voice actor. I have been acting ever since I can remember and I was involved doing church plays, school plays, Community Theater, drama camps and anything I could do to build up that skill because I loved doing it. I never even thought about voice acting. What’s funny to me, now that I look back on my life, is when I was 15 or 16 years old my friend and I were running around all the time imitating characters from Speed Racer. How surreal that many decades later I would be a voice actor sitting in a chair beside the guy that voiced Speed Racer and be working in the same industry that created Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion and the things that I loved as a kid. I never planned to be a voice actor that was never my intent. “
Mignogna shared how he became involve in voice acting saying, “I’ll tell you exactly how it happened. I had done all this theater work, my minor in college was theater and I was always acting in something or another and then I was working for a video production in Houston, Texas and a friend of mine that I was working with said, ‘You’ve done a lot of acting haven’t you?’ I said, ‘Yes, a lot.’ ‘You have to go to this place and audition. There’s this company in Houston called ADV films and they buy these Japanese animated shows and they dub them into English and they need actors.’ ‘I was like, you’re kidding, that sounds fun.’ I didn’t ask how much it paid; I didn’t ask anything about that it just sounded like fun. It was another opportunity to act. Voice acting required a different set of skills but it sounded like acting to me. I auditioned and I got cast as Vega in Street Fighter II and that was the first thing I ever did.”
As Mignogna continued to share his voice acting training he said, “For those of you interested in voice acting, acting has 30 percent to do with your voice and 70 percent with acting. Every one of the people you’re going to meet this weekend and 99 percent of the voice actors that I know have huge backgrounds in theater; in acting they’re all actors who got an opportunity to voice act so if you’re interested in voice acting get into acting, drama and theater classes and audition at your schools, universities, community colleges, churches, any place that you can develop those skills.”
Mignogna shared that the markets for voice acting are in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Vancouver and New York. He also shared that voice over opportunities done mostly for commercials can be found anywhere.
Mignogna does not have an agent and shared that everyone else at the convention has one.
“My understanding is that when an agency takes you as a client they want you to make them money. They’ll send you scripts, radio, commercials, voice over as well as video games, animation. I don’t want to do commercials. I’m afraid, and I know this for a fact, you do what they tell you. Your job is to make money for both.”
Pixar, Simpsons and Family Guy roles are spots Mignogna says he probably won’t get without an agent. Without an agent he knows he’s limiting himself in getting certain roles.
“God has been so good to me that I can hardly stand it.” Mignogna said and continued, “I’m so thankful, I am so profoundly grateful for the opportunities in my life. If nothing else happens I have been more than blessed. I am so grateful for the things I get to do and yeah, I would love to do bigger things but it doesn’t drive me, I’m not obsessed with it.”
According to Mignogna, being rich is overrated.
“I know people who are multi-millionaires who jump out of windows. I know people that hate their lives and they have yachts and houses all over the place; that is not the answer. It’s a lie. It’s cool to have money but at the end of the day when you put your head on your pillow and you’re alone with yourself there is a sense of satisfaction you have and no amount of money can change that.”
Following Mignogna’s Q&A the Gaia Online Variety Hour ensued. Chris Castagnetto, also known as DJ Helsing, hosted the event. During the Variety Hour fans participated in interactive games and it allowed everyone in the audience to participate in at least one event. One of the things that makes SacAnime such a popular event and that keeps fans coming back is the feedback that’s solicited from the audience. In the Gaia Online the host made a point to ask the audience which games they liked in order to bring them back, and which ones to replace.
SacAnime brings people of all ages to the convention. The devotion of fans is tremendous, not only to the characters they dress up as, but also to the celebrities that attend. Many fans stand in line an hour or longer to get autographs. The actors that attend and sit in Q&A sessions and panels are just as devoted to their fans and show their appreciation as they interact with guests.
One of the most apparent things about SacAnime Winter 2012 was the amount of people who attended the panels, Q&A sessions, gaming, workshops, Artist Alley, Sac Café, Sac Club Raves, the Vendor Hall and other gatherings around the hotel. People on hand made up a large all-ages crowd. Many of the attendees were dropped off by parents and I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat astonished as to how well they got along. I think that parents who may worry about dropping off their kids can rest assured that their kids are well behaved and are in good hands with the SacAnime staff.
SacAnime’s Director of Programming, Jodon Bellofatto, hosted the opening ceremonies that were held after several Q&A events in which Vic Mignogna, Quinton Flynn and Tara Strong participated. Bellofatto went over the weekend program and encouraged the audience to visit the gaming rooms and check out the tournaments, attend and participate in the art contest, and view the arts and crafts created by artists.
Bellofatto answered questions and shortly thereafter the AMV contest took place with three categories open for voting: drama, romance and comedy. He noted that winners would be announced on Sunday. One fan asked if they would post the entries online and Bellofatto indicated that they would like to do that if it’s possible.
Friday night’s Sac Anime Concert Series had three acts on hand. Vic Mignogna opened the concert series by singing on the floor with the audience. He never set foot on stage. Mignogna played a couple of songs and introduced Kazha and Lemon Drop Kick.
Kazha is a Japanese band and its spokesperson is Kazuha Oda, who has a history of working with different performers. Earlier in the day I spoke with Oda and asked her a few questions. I learned they are from Tokyo, Japan and it appeared she was the only member of the band who had a command of the English language. Her personality was very pleasant. The other members happily signed autographs and tried to answer questions but relied on Oda to translate.
When asked if they were going to be playing both concerts (Friday and Saturday) she said, “We’re going to be here for the full convention but we’re going to perform tonight and tomorrow night.”
Kazha is made up of four members and has been performing for two years. They have previously performed in the U.S. and have played at other anime conventions but this was their first performance in Sacramento.
With guest drummer Mike Kim, Hideki Matsushige, Shintaro Kasahara and Kazuha Oda took the stage to bring their brand of rock to the concert. They began their set with a melodic pop tune, “Close to You,” that was brought to life by Oda’s smooth vocals. One thing that’s quite noticeable is how well the music moves to the rhythm of Oda’s singing.
Fans were delighted by the Kazha set. After their first song, Oda addressed the audience.
“It’s our first time being in Sacramento and we are so happy. Thank you very much. We are from Tokyo, Japan. Are you guys having fun at SacAnime?”
Fan reaction made Oda smile and she thanked them.
The last act of the night was Lemon Drop Kick. They are based out of Los Angeles and are described as a Japanese rock band influenced by different musical influences and cultures. They energized the crowd and invited several audience members to the stage as they performed.
Lemon Drop Kick had the audience jumping up and down and moving. Their beat included several genres of music including rock, pop, metal and others. They were a great choice to end the evening’s concert series.
A swap meet, a club rave, open gaming and karaoke contests kept the evening alive for guests, who gathered at different spots throughout the hotel to chat about their experiences and share stories.
A designer that I have met before known as Carlyfornia had a station set up to showcase her designs and new items. When asked what new items she was showing at the convention she said, “I brought a lot more steampunk stuff. I brought a lot of fun stuff including furry ears like little kitty stuff, doll clothes and more dolls.”
Carlyfornia will be exhibiting more of her work at the upcoming Animation on Display (AOD) in San Francisco February 18-19. When asked if she had a store front Miss Carlyfornia noted that she doesn’t have one because, as she put it, “I don’t have a storefront because I can’t keep up merchandise because I sell, sell, sell so fast and I’m at a different city almost every weekend. “
McCommon and Jaeger were quite enthusiastic about hosting the panel and offered numerous pointers to help the comic publisher want-to-be’s. They covered the various common drawing programs used to create comics as well as the various tablets used to illustrate.
Their passion for comic book creation was quite evident and their knowledge was quite immense, giving audience members a wealth of information to get started and insights into what can make comic publishing a good experience.
Low budget tools, programs and tips were also discussed and they mentioned several programs that are free.
The tips and information passed on by McCommon and Jaeger also included a section called the Language of Panels and what it takes to be successful at sketching, coloring and making story bubbles as well as printing and publishing. The advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing were also discussed and their valuable insight was well received.
The passion for anime comic drawing and illustration as well as passing on their knowledge was priceless. Jaeger and McCommon emphasized the need to draw on a regular basis, motivate yourself, not give up, write, and practice as much as possible.
There is always a lot to do and see at the SacAnime conventions and the staff is to be commended for the topics they choose, the guests they bring in, the panels they put together and the feedback they solicit from attendees. Organization continues to make SacAnime a great event year after year. Fans are the best ambassadors for conventions such as this, and if they continue to follow and attend SacAnime it helps the community grow and flourish.
Bellofatto hosted the closing ceremonies where the AMV winners were announced. Third place went to Yosef Ghiassy for Manly Tears, second place was Erinn Thompson for Say Good-bye to Yesterday and first place went to Shelby Nickles for Oran I’m Sexy and I Know It.
Volunteer positions for the next convention were discussed. Bellofatto also solicited comments from the audience as to what worked and what did not work during the convention and he made note of the comments on a laptop set up on the stage.
One of the final announcements was that because of the large crowds that came to the convention (breaking the 5,000 mark) it was decided that a larger venue was necessary to accommodate the growing crowds and that the 2013 Summer SacAnime was going to be held at the Sacramento Convention Center.
More photos from the SacAnime Winter 2012 convention can be found here.