MonsterPalooza once again graced the Pasadena Convention Center with its presence. This year, the convention saw “Freddy Kruger” himself, Robert Englund, in attendance as well as Cassandra Peterson and many others. The convention had some terrific celebrity signing tables setup, and the main floor of the convention center was lined with exhibitors selling their Halloween/monster/genre related wares. There were booths from people like theatrical makeup company Ben Nye to silicone mask makers Immortal Masks. This year also saw the return of the museum which housed all manner of scary creations. While not being “scary” in the traditional sense, the sculpt of Robert Shaw as Quint from JAWS was easily the most striking. Check out the photo gallery below for a look! If you would like to attend MonsterPalooza in future years, check out their official website.
Tag - photoblog
Another WonderCon has come and gone, and we are left with nothing but fond memories of the San Diego Comic-Con’s little brother. Each year, we watch WonderCon grow, and this year saw some great expansions to the event – it has even more panels as well as a huge amount of vendor space for those of you seeking to purchase your geekly desires. While we were there, we saw a multitude of cosplayers showcasing their costuming abilities – my favorite being the rebel trooper who gets ran through with Darth Vader’s lightsaber at Rogue One’s conclusion. We also got the chance to take in the Geek & Sundry “Talks Machina” panel, featuring the cast of their loved Critical Role web series. Overall, WonderCon is an amazing convention that Orange County geeks should make it a point to visit. You will not regret it!
Here is our official photo gallery of the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, which took place from July 21 through July 24, 2016. As usual, the San Diego Comic-Con is a hotbed of interesting visual goings-on, with elaborate booth designs, cosplayers, and more. Enjoy!
The Walking Dead walk through attraction, the latest feather in Universal Studios Hollywood’s cap, is scheduled to open on July 4. However, we were among the lucky few to get access the attraction at a recent park media event which saw several members of the AMC show’s cast and crew in attendance. As alluded to, The Walking Dead attraction is based on AMC’s hit series, The Walking Dead, which is based on Robert Kirkman’s amazing comic series, The Walking Dead. No, this just isn’t a grab for Google search terms, there is just a lot of The Walking Dead zombie goodness to go through.
The Walking Dead walk through attraction can best be described as a Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights maze taken to “11”. The sets, props, and animatronics are all outstanding and look like they belong on the set of the television show. The starting cue area of the attraction was populated by Negan’s goons – however I am unsure as to how many of the actors will be on-site during actual operating hours.
A big positive aspect of the attraction was that guests are permitted into the experience in groups of about 5 people at one time. The attendants space the small groups out just enough so that each one gets an individual experience. Hopefully they can continue this when crowds get larger. I have found that a cattle call of guests can ruin an attraction like this – especially one that features tight corridors and timed effects/scares. Smaller groups also help make the attraction more intimate – it feels like your group’s personal story of the zombie apocalypse instead of just an animatronic museum to walk five feet, look, and repeat ad nauseam. With these group sizes, you ARE part of the experience.
Also used, albeit with way more restraint than in the park’s Horror Nights mazes, are some smell effects! Again – they are sparingly used to a much greater effect in The Walking Dead attraction, which I appreciate. I have always felt Horror Nights mazes rely on those scents too much, but I digress…
After going through the gauntlet of Negan’s goons, you end up in the Harrison County Hospital featured in The Walking Dead’s pilot episode (where Rick wakes up, confused and hurt). From there, it is a very cool walk down memory lane – going sequentially though the (so far) six seasons of the AMC show. You will visit several of the show’s major locations – all made real by some seriously talented craftsmen. The prison, Arno Farms, and a lot more are featured so look sharp for little Easter Eggs planted about the various sets you’ll walk through.
A big question we kept wondering was what would happen to the attraction during the park’s annual Halloween season Horror Nights event? Would it become a maze or would it stay the same. It appears as though that the attraction will get additional set pieces, live-actor talent, etc to ratchet it to an even scarier level! This is a brilliant move by Universal Studios and I can’t wait to experience it first-hand when the scary season comes around. Does this mean that the attraction will take the place of any other The Walking Dead experience for Halloween Horror Nights? Time will tell.
Speaking of live actors – yes, there are definitely live actors portraying both the living, the dead, and the walking dead inside the attraction. However, more of the scares and gimmicks come from some amazing animatronics than a traditional haunted house with live monsters around every corner. This smaller amount of live actors does not detract from the experience, however, as the actors that are in the walk through attraction are used to great effect and, as I mentioned, the animatronics and props are incredible.
Overall, The Walking Dead walk through attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood is a terrific addition to the park and shows off a lot of elements from the AMC television show which fans will love. I definitely recommend checking The Walking Dead attraction out when it opens on July 4, it is a scary and fun romp through an amazing television show brought to life all around you.
The Walking Dead Media Event Photo Gallery
Another Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone. E3 2016 was a fun event where I got the chance to see a lot of upcoming titles from a variety of publishers and developers. Still, there was a strange sense of emptiness while on the show floor – and no matter how large booths became, that emptiness hung in the air like a bad smell. Was it the big companies that pulled out of the show that caused this or simply a lack of some “killer apps” on the horizon? I do not know. What I do know is that E3 is still the premiere industry gaming show in the United States and there is so much of the media spotlight to be had, I don’t see where it is going anywhere anytime soon. The big game houses seem to do this mass exodus every so many years – but history has shown that they always come back soon after.
Here is my photo gallery from around the expo, enjoy!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has finally opened at Universal Studios Hollywood. No longer will the taste of butterbeer and chocolate frogs be relegated to the guests of Universal Studios Orlando. We got the chance to attend the park’s big media event on April 5th, 2016 – not only getting to see legendary John Williams conduct but, also, to hang out in Hogsmeade and give it the full review treatment.
The event began with us on the red carpet, getting to take shots of various celebrity guests. From the Harry Potter films were Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), and Warwick Davis (Griphook). Of course, there were plenty of other celebrities walking around, including Steven Spielberg and Billy Bob Thornton!
After the red carpet was concluded, we were ushered into the pit area of the stage setup near Hogwarts Castle. We were lucky to get a spot on the risers that had been setup to get a great view of the event. The opening ceremony featured speeches from numerous Universal and Warner Bros executives as well as L.A. Mayor, Eric Garcetti. Finally, some of the cast was brought on stage as was legendary, iconic composer John Williams. Williams then proceeded to conduct the L.A. Philharmonic as Hogwarts Castle became the canvas for some seriously awesome projection effects – topping the whole thing off with some great fireworks/pyrotechnics. The technicians behind the opening ceremony need to be commended for what was a great experience.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is very similar to its Orlando sister – with some exceptions. The footprint of the Hollywood Wizarding World is only 6 acres, much smaller than that of the Florida attraction. This will not be visible to most guests, however, as much of that extra space in Florida was taken up by an additional roller coaster ride. Our Wizarding World of Harry Potter actually has an additional street not seen in Orlando, containing the wand shop. Overall, I actually like the flow of Hogsmeade in the Universal Studios Hollywood park a bit better. As expected, the architecture of the various Hogsmeade buildings and other minor details are all extremely well designed, and stepping into the area immerses you into the world created by author J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s signature attraction, taking guests on a trip through Hogwarts Castle and a flight alongside the likes of Harry Potter and more. The attraction is similar to the Universal Studios Florida version with one HUGE exception: Our ride features 3D video. This was somewhat of a controversial move, as during the area’s soft opening phase, it was reported that certain people were getting motion sickness because of the 3D video. Park engineers added fans in the ride cars that blow cool air onto the riders faces, which seems to have helped greatly. Personally, I could have done without the 3D video gimmick. The glasses/goggles given to riders that allow you to see the projection effects in 3D limit your field of vision and the 3D seems up-converted from 2D video with that slightly blurry look. Still, the overall ride experience is a lot of fun and I had a great time when I removed the glasses and took in as much of the physical, practical set pieces as much as possible. The ride designers did a spectacular job on this one. My biggest concern about Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is one that also plagues the Florida version of the ride: Its small seats. Be sure to utilize the test seats they have in front of the attraction to see if you will fit on the ride. Also, take time to enjoy the various set pieces located throughout the ride’s queue area. Along your walking route, you will see Harry Potter, Professor Dumbledore, and more in hologram form – the actors returning to their roles to film these small segments for the ride. I especially dug the moving portraits, made famous in the film.
Outside of the Forbidden Journey attraction, we had a terrific time taking in the sights around Hogsmeade. My favorite location was the Hogs Head Pub, where Universal Studios Hollywood set designers have recreated the watering hole and inn from the books with outstanding detail. A hog’s head (hence the name) mounted on the wall is an animatronic character and will randomly survey the room and snort. Be sure to listen at the base of the stairs leading to the Hogs Head Pub’s second floor. You are not permitted up there but, maybe you can overhear the people who are…
Also worth mentioning are the three special, Harry Potter themed beers that Universal Studios has ordered to serve at the pub. They have three themed offerings: a stout, a red, and a lager. I got the chance to taste each and they were all very good – each with their own taste offerings. Speaking of the previously-mentioned butterbeer. If you haven’t had the opportunity, I highly suggest you try it when you visit the park. Just be warned: You WILL become addicted to its sweet, sweet goodness. I prefer the frozen butterbeer but they also offer a more beer-like version. From what I hear, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando also has butterbeer ice cream and hot butterbeer! Those will, hopefully, be coming to our park at some point soon. If butterbeer or regular beer are not your favorites, you will also find pumpkin juice in Hogsmeade.
On the food front, the Three Broomsticks restaurant will provide some very good eats – way better than most theme park fare I have encountered. My favorite offerings are the bangers and mash plate, but you will also find shepard’s pie and a whole lot more. If your sweet tooth needs satiating, you should checkout Honeydukes candy shop. They have candy… LOTs of candy. I also discovered that they have butterbeer fudge. JUST. DO. IT!
A big part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is that the fun comes from exploration. Designers have installed actual props from the films throughout the area while not drawing undue attention to them. It all feels like it comes from the world of the books and films. There are so many easter eggs littering the area, it is a Harry Potter overload of information. For instance, I was personally surprised when entering the men’s restroom that park designers have built decorative, European style water tanks above each urinal and stall. Of course, they don’t do anything, but you find them in the area of Britain in which Harry Potter is based, so you find them here. I have also heard that there are some strange, ghostly moaning sounds coming from the girls restrooms. If you are female, you should probably go investigate.
Also, be sure to stop by Ollivanders Shop to purchase your own wand. A cool thing to do in Hogsmeade is to use your wand to interact with the various displays and store fronts with magic. The catch is that only certain wands will interact with them – look for the wand boxes with gold labels foil labels. I personally picked up the wand style wielded by Sirius Black (portrayed in the films by Gary Oldman). After getting your wand, look inside for the map of Hogsmeade with the various spells you have to cast at each interactive location. Be very specific, though, as you don’t want to have a negligent spell discharge!
Overall, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood is an outrageously-excellent addition to the venerable movie studio and theme park. You could spend the entire day just wandering around and taking in the ambiance – not to mention taking turns on the rides. With the opening day being officially sold out on Universal Studios website, its success seems guaranteed – now we just need to find out when Diagon Alley will be constructed![easyreview title=”The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ] [button target=”_blank” style=”” class=”btn_blue” link=”http://gamingshogun.com/gamingshogun-rating-system/”]Learn About Our Rating System[/button]
The press releases have happened, hands have been shaken, products have been showcased, and the press has tried to capture what they can of the information tsunami that was CES 2016. The event is second only to the European show IFA in size and attendance and that is arguable because of how just how much of CES takes place off of official show floor in suites, trailers, and tents. It is so large that it is easy to miss thousands of things while trying to see others. So here is what I managed to see on my running around town making sure to try to see some of my friends who make it out for the event while at the same time seeing the technology of tomorrow from giants such as LG and Panasonic – a glimpse into our future lives… if we can afford it.
Drones, VR headsets, OLED displays, Ultra HD TVs and yet I still got to stop by booths with phone cases and notice trends such as smart cars, larger cupped headphones, and Google Cardboard based headsets. Smart homes have settled heavily in the kitchen with refrigerators and ovens more widely being showcased by larger companies doing things smaller companies did years ago. It’s like a sea of circuses with people like Noel Lee, “The Head Monster” at Monster, spinning on his Segway while spherical video rooms whirl with excitement.
GamingShogun.com walked the great show spaces and small meeting cubicles to try to bring you a visual glimpse of the “Electronic Disneyland” that is opened long enough to wear anyone down and yet never long enough to see everything you want. Just make sure you hit Stern Pinball every year. In the middle of madness, a game of pinball with the same beautiful physics from your childhood still intact will help maintain perspective when walking through the future. This year, they brought back the classic “Whoa Nellie”, a very historical machine with a mischievous subject matter. For now though, remember if you ever hit the show stay hydrated, take vitamins and get your flu shots, though this is a worldly show with worldly ailments as well.
Here is our CES 2016 Photo Gallery
From E3 to ScareLA to CES, to a variety of theme park-related events, we have certainly had our fair share of traveling adventures for GamingShogun.com. But, when the opportunity to attend the recent media day at the Mountain High resort presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up. I had never been skiing before and, up until the media day, I was under the impression that I would careen down the slopes wearing only one ski to show up Ski Patrol bully “Blaine” and win the heart of the beautiful “Beth” only to realize that I truly belonged with “Monique” all along. Yes, I am referring to the venerable John Cusack classic, Better Off Dead.
Back to Reality
With these 80’s film-inspired ski fantasies living in my brain, I knew that I had a lot to learn about real world skiing. So we packed up the GamingShogun family truckster and headed off for the resort in the early morning hours. That was a good thing too, as it didn’t take long for the entrance road to the Mountain High resort to get backed up with cars trying to get to its three parking lots. The best advice I can give anyone wanting to have fun at Mountain High is to get there as early as humanly possible. This is one popular resort and skiers and snowboarders arrive in droves – the earlier you arrive, the better. You will get a better parking spot as well as place in line for any equipment rentals you need to do. As we waited in line for our equipment rentals, the nerves started in as this was actually going to happen. We were going to be sliding across a field of snow on a couple of “flimsy” sticks!
Mountain High is also home to three “lodges” were you can rest, chat with other resort guests, browse the pro shop, and grab a quick snack. However, Mountain High also has a great grill up the hill a bit on the West Resort called the Bullwheel Grill. I highly recommend taking some time out of your visit to dine here and enjoy the sights of the mountain – plus, the food is very good! Aside from that, Mountain High is also home to “North Pole Tubing”! This attraction is, as you would expect, a tubing ride down their special tracks located in the North Resort. We were unable to get to this attraction on the media day as it had already sold out by time we arrived. Again, if you want to do this stuff be sure to arrive early! From the looks of it, however, North Pole Tubing is a lot of fun.
The First Lesson
So, we got our ski boots and skis and duck walked up to the West Resort’s “moving carpet”, which is a slow conveyor belt to take you up to the bunny slopes/training area. Our instructor lined us all up and provided us with the necessary pre-lesson safety briefing and we began. The lesson started with the basics of how to fasten your boots and, after about an hour of training, we were slowly making our way down the bunny slope practicing our “pizza” and “french fry” ski configurations.
Unfortunately, I am not the most agile or coordinated of individuals and it took me quite a bit of time to get the hang of this. By the end of a two our session, I had gotten fairly good at going down the bunny slope at slow speed, still doing my pizza and french fries. I was feeling a lot more confident about it after that and think that, with some more practice time, I could be ready for hitting actual slopes in the future. Above all else, it was a lot of fun to do!
Additionally, it was a killer workout! I wore some heavy snow gear thinking that with the low temperatures, I would be a human Popsicle. With all the movement and maneuvering of the skis, I was warm and toasty – a little too much, actually. I would highly suggest wearing layers of light garments so that you can remove them if/when you start heating up.
An 8 hour lift ticket will put you back $69 dollars on most Saturdays, which works out to around $8.60 per hour of enjoyment – not too shabby! You can also purchase a 4 hour lift ticket for a little cheaper, but the 8 hour is definitely the best value. Mountain High has also introduced an online Express Pass purchasing method which allows customers to purchase and print out their passes. This will help customers avoid waiting in lines at the ticket window!
You can also rent the “Complete Ski Package” equipment set, consisting of skis, poles, and boots for only $30 dollars! Helmets are a separate rental, but can be donned for the low price of $5 dollars.
Mountain High was a lot of fun and something I would highly recommend everyone who lives in Southern California do, if physically able. It is right in our own backyard, located just off the 138 in Wrightwood, CA. While I never encountered Blaine or zoomed down the mountain on just one ski, the whole event was a blast and I can officially claim to have caught the ski-bug. I simply can’t wait to go back up and try it again. The snowfall this season has been really good thus far, and they estimate the end of season date to be sometime in March, so you have plenty of time to get on out there.
Here is our official photo gallery from the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con. It was a whirlwind of activity from start to finish. I ran straight into Bill Murray, got tossed out of an event which I had an appointment for, screened M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, and a whole lot more. Checkout our photo gallery below!