Despite the record breaking heat, over 39,000 people descended upon Atlanta, Georgia for MomoCon over the course of four days during Memorial Day weekend. From Thursday to Sunday, the halls of the Omni Hotel and the Georgia World Congress Center were filled with fans of cosplay, gaming, animation, and Japanese culture. Celebrating its 15th year, MomoCon has come away since it’s days as a small convention on the Georgia Tech Campus. I remember those early years, with vendors in the halls of the buildings, panels in classrooms, and cosplayers wandering the campus. To see what it has become now, with it’s high profile guests, major game tournaments, rows and rows of artists and vendors, extensive charity involvement, and diverse group of attendees, is amazing and I can’t help but feel pride for the little con that grew to do so much.
When you first enter MomoCon, you immediately get the idea that this isn’t like a lot of other cons. There is a community there. One of diversity, inclusion, support, and respect. Two cosplayers, portraying the same character, do not see each other as competition but instead are excited to discuss the techniques and construction of their cosplays. The wide variety of skill level is embraced there, where beginners don’t feel shamed but instead are acknowledged for the skill they’ve shown and encouraged to keep learning. Having been to many conventions of various genres, the MomoCon community was one of the friendliest I’ve encountered.
I will admit to most that I am not well versed in the expansive world that is animation so I attended MomoCon this year with eyes wide and eager to learn. First stop for me, the Patrick Warburton panel. You may know him as Kronk from Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, Lemony Snicket from Netflix’s The Series of Unfortunate Events, or Joe on Family Guy. As one might expect, Patrick is very funny, often having amusing anecdotes to go along with the answers to questions, even beginning the panel with a comedy of errors from the night before that included him locked out of his hotel room in his underwear. He later spoke about growing up in a very religious and conservative household and how his parents never approved of his work on Family Guy. He told stories about working with Eartha Kitt, finding the voice of Kronk, taking over the roll of Buzz Lightyear in the TV series spinoff of the Toy Story movie franchise, and how he got the role on Series of Unfortunate Events. When asked if he could play any other character on that show, he responded that he thinks Neil Patrick Harris did an amazing job, but who wouldn’t want to play Olaf!
After a hooping class, where I learned about hoop and flow dancing, and a medieval armor and weaponry demonstration, I decided to check out Susan Egan’s panel. I knew her as my favorite Disney character, Megara from Hercules, but she is a prolific voice actress as well as an actress in numerous Broadway productions. Particularly, she was attending MomoCon with the cast of Steven Universe, in which she voices Rose Quartz. Having seen a total of three episodes of Steven Universe, I knew basically nothing going into the panel, but after listening to her talk about the show I am definitely curious enough to go give the show another try.
Susan’s panel was humorous and informative. She talked a fair amount about the process of voice acting. Sometimes, like worth Disney, she would get storyboards which slowly progressed into glimpses at the final animation. Sometimes she would need to make sure her mouth moved in time with the animated project on screen.
Perhaps one of my favorite things Susan talked about was the Broadway Princess Party. As the first actress to play Belle in Disney’s Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, she has partnered with other Broadway princess actresses who gathered to perform re-imagined princess songs at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City. Broadway Princess Party has since grown into a brand of its own, encouraging everyone to “unleash their inner princess,” for princesses are strong, independent, and empowered. They are currently on tour, with performances coming up in Utah, California, Virginia, Texas, and New York. They are also working on an album due out, hopefully this year.
After hours of photographing cosplayers, wandering the vendor halls, and attending panels I often like to head over to the gaming sections. There are almost always competitions being shown on big screens that you can sit and watch. Sometimes they are table top or miniature games and other time they are PC or console gaming. I got to sit and watch the first round matches for the Soul Calibur competition.
There were open gaming consoles and PCs, as well as a stage area where you could play Just Dance with your friends. I always gravitate towards the open table top and board gaming sections. These are often great ways to test out new games that just hit the market, are still in play-testing, or that you’ve just been looking at on the shelves for a while but haven’t made a decision about. I tested out several new games this MomoCon, including Tiny Towns, Azul, Koi, Portal Heroes, and Marvel VS.
MomoCon is now also the largest gaming convention in the Southeastern United States. The guest list this year included big names from the gaming industry, including Goichi “Suda51” Suda of Grasshopper Manufacture, who announced the the PS4 & Steam releases of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes at his panel over the weekend. Additionally, MomoCon hosted their 5th Annual Indie Game Awards showcase, highlighting 20 independent game developers. Selected by a panel of 5 judges, the Top 5 games, NITE Team 4, CrossCode, Hexologic, Eagle Island, and FrostRunner, were each awarded a cash prize and a dedicated panel and exhibit space at next year’s MomoCon. I know I look forward to checking them out next year.
MomoCon has a lot of variety to offer. From cosplay to gaming competitions, from big names to local artists, from raves, parties, and concerts to getting your own PhotoOp with a life size Toothless and Lightfury from How to Train Your Dragon; if you enjoy anime, gaming, Japanese culture, or american animation, it definitely will have something to entertain you. Next year, the event will be held in Hall B of the Georgia World Congress Center, which will provide even more space for growth. You can already pre-register for next year at MomoCon.com.