Denver Comic Con 2014 – Kevin Conroy

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Panel Name: Batman 75th Anniversary: Kevin Conroy

Topic: Kevin Conroy spoke about his experiences being a voice actor on the highly acclaimed television series Batman: The Animated Series along with other Batman franchises since then.

Featured Guest: The one, the only, Kevin Conroy.

 

Going to the famed voice actor Kevin Conroy’s panel, I expected certain things.  Namely, that he would talk in his famous Batman voice for the entire hour, and while he didn’t do exactly that, he surely didn’t disappoint either.  He came out on stage and exclaimed in his gravelly voice, “I am vengeance!  I am the knight!  I AM BATMAN!”

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I don’t know who was more excited, Kevin Conroy, or all his adoring fans.

For about the first 20 minutes, Conroy spoke extensively about his how he got “the job” (it’s the voice of Batman if you haven’t caught on yet), his time on the show and other Batman franchises, and what he learned along the way.  Conroy had gone to Juilliard and done theater acting in New York.  He also had some experience in L.A. on TV.  With the combination of the two experiences, he had done some voice over work before.  His agent sent him to meet Bruce Timm and Paul Dini at Warner Brothers.  He initially told them the only thing he new about Batman was the campy 60’s TV show starring Adam West (let’s hope Adam West didn’t hear this panel).  Timm and Dini immediately let Conroy know that The Animated Series was very noir and had a much darker tone because it was about a man avenging the murder of his parents.  He said using his imagination and (in full Batman voice) “going into a deeper and darker place” both Timm and Dini stopped him to tell him he got the role.

His piece of advice about Hollywood and getting a job was more about luck.  He said that anybody can get a job who has talent, but it is about “the right person that day making the right choices who gets the job.”  Over 20 years later, Conroy is still here and he is still the voice of Batman.  He never planned on the path his career has taken him, but he is happy where is career has gone.  He also spoke on the difference between voice acting on the shows or movies vs. the video games.  On the show, he and the other actors were all together and were able to interact with one another, specifically Mark Hamill (The Joker), Richard Moll (Harvey Dent), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Alfred).  Ice-T was even a guest voice once.  When Conroy asked what he was doing there, Ice-T replied “Are you kidding?  My kids love Batman.”  The games are much different because the every line has to be perfectly clean.  There is no interaction with the other actors.  In addition, the different plays of the game lead to different outcomes, and therefore, different lines of dialogue.  Conroy said there are “zillions and zillions of lines.”  He does say that the result for the audience is well worth the tediousness of that kind of voice acting work.  And as a little teaser of excitement for the audience he said “The new Arkham Knight is…” then he just looked down and shook his head.

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Conroy talked about his belief about why Batman has lasted so long.  For one, he isn’t a superhero.  Everyone can relate to a guy, which Batman is.  He makes the choice to do the things he does because he makes all his weapons and goes out and fights crime.  He also has high morals.  Instead of killing the criminals, he puts them in Arkham Asylum… “which means you get a great game!”  But the psychology of Batman is interesting to Conroy and to the fans because of his baggage and childhood.  It is what Batman does with it, trying to help people, that people connect with because everyone has an inner hero.  “Batman is the personification of that.”  As far as difference in Conroy’s voice when playing Bruce Wayne rather than Batman is based on how everyone has a double life.  But for Batman, the costume is Bruce Wayne.  “Batman in the cave is his naked self.  That is where he being the most honest.”  Bruce Wayne though is the business man, the show.  Conroy says we all have a face that we put on.

He also talked a bit about how production on an animated series works.  The voice actors record months before anything is aired because the animators match the mouth movements to what is being said.  He had no idea what anything was going to look like.  He and Mark Hamill were together when the first animations came back and watched it on a huge screen.  He said he looked at Mark and said, “Did you have a CLUE that this is what we were doing?!”  It was then that they both realized what they had been working on was pretty special.

Conroy spoke on the anonymity of voice acting.  However, this has changed more recently.  Then he told this amazing story about getting recognized in Hollywood:

Conroy took many questions, where answers ranged from an embarrassing story about shaking a bosses hand after he had coughed a loogie into his own hand, and working with voice actors who weren’t cut out for the business.  The last request from a fan was to sing a verse of any song as Batman.  What happened after was totally unexpected, but absolutely made my weekend.  Here is Kevin Conroy singing, “Softly, As I Leave You.”

 

 

Denver Comic Con 2014 – Batman 75th with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar

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Panel Name: Batman 75th

Topic: Q&A with the main characters from the 1960’s TV Batman series

Featured Guests: Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman)

 

It’s safe to say that a lot of 80’s babies and beyond don’t have the same appreciation for Adam West and company that our parents did. Most twenty-somethings know Adam West as Mayor West of Quahog from Family Guy, and that’s great, but I think the world needs to be reminded of just how vital Adam West’s portrayal of Batman was to the legacy of Bruce Wayne. The show spanned 120 episodes over a three-year period and had it’s own spin-off movie; it was great fun for the whole family – something that Batman titles have since moved away from.

The Dark Knight, as he is today, is a brutal and melancholy figure. He’s seen multiple close friends die – including his own son. He’s terrifying to his opponents, and off-putting to his colleagues. Oh, and his rogues gallery is filled with sick, twisted freaks that murder children and blow up hospitals. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t love every stinkin’ second that I read Batman, but there’s no denying he’s become more of an adult figure than the one I’ve grown up with in the slightly-dark Batman: The Animated Series, let alone the Batman that my parents grew up with in the 60’s.

This has all been changing. Ever since the Batman 66 series launched last July, adults and children alike have been gravitating back to this light-hearted Batman, which grabs at the nostalgic crowd, and puts Batman back on a relatable plane for children to connect with a character that’s celebrating his 75th birthday this year. The idea of solving riddles and catching the bad guys is a universal concept; not every child needs to see their parents murdered in front of them to relate to the Batman.

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Let’s get to the panel, shall we? As Burt Ward, then Julie Newmar, and finally Adam West made their ways to the stage, they were met with possibly one of the warmest welcomes that I had seen at a panel all weekend. Fans from 7-70 years old were so grateful for their chance to meet the cast of Batman. Burt Ward ran out like a contestant on The Price is Right, hands in the air and looking like the most excited person in the world to be there. After Ward comes Julie Newmar, who looked just fantastic! How Newmar manages to stay so fabulous is beyond me, she even smooched the two volunteers that helped her to her seat on the cheek; it was adorable. The real roar happened when Batman himself, Adam West, came strolling up the ramp and onto the stage.

Mee-oww
Mee-oww

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We went straight into the Q&A here, which led to some pretty thoughtful questions right off the bat. When one of the audience members asked the cast if anybody ever felt the show was too campy or silly, West broke the silence with, “No, we’re terribly serious crime fighters!” The show was designed as family entertainment and it was nailed to the history books as such. There was no need to pretend to be more dire than it had to be. When compared to modern Batman, West said that Christian Bale “may be the Dark Knight, but I was the Bright Knight.” Batman ruled the 60’s in pop culture. West said that in the 1960’s, there were 3 B’s: Bond, The Beatles… and Batman.

Julie Newmar was an absolute diva at the panel, which was very reminiscent of her days at Catwoman. She commanded attention, and often became animated when talking about how to be sexy. If you’ve never seen an 80 year old woman take control of her sexuality, all you need is five minutes with Julie Newmar. When asked how her milkshake managed to get all the boys to the yard – I’m paraphrasing here – she says that all you need to do if pour licorice all over your body (dress in all black, not actual licorice for those of you at home trying this) and walk down the street; it’s all in your mind, she says. Somewhere along the line, at this family-friendly panel, she pretended to go down on Adam West, which is shocking only if you don’t know who Julie Newmar is.

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It was Burt Ward, who was quiet for a duration of the panel, that had the funniest story to tell. There was a stunt being performed that involved the Batmobile speeding out of the BatCave, then taking a sharp, 90 degree turn at 55 miles per hour. So Burt hops into the Batmobile in costume and turns to see somebody who isn’t Adam West sitting next to him. When asking who is he and where Adam is, the stuntman explains that they are about to do a dangerous driving stunt, and that Adam is over at the break station, drinking coffee. Burt says, “If this is a dangerous stunt, where is my stuntman?”… “Oh, he’s over there drinking coffee with Adam.” When Burt asked why his stunt double isn’t performing the stunt, the response was a flabbergasting, “Well, he doesn’t look like you.” They proceeded to make Burt do the stunt, and when the turn was made, the Batmobile door flung open. The only thing keeping him in the car was one little finger, which dislocated. Burt told us how, over the span of the next week, there were multiple trips made to the ER due to various explosions and other stunts. He laughed it off though, saying that it was the producers’ attempt to make good on his hefty life insurance policy.

The panel was full of nostalgia, just as you would expect from the fan favorite Batman show. The chemistry that the three have is still apparent after nearly fifty years of being off the air. You almost have to remind yourself that these faces of American television are that old, because their faces still light up with life, their voices still bring joy to anybody still breathing. Never take yourself too seriously and always enjoy new experiences. And never be afraid to charge $80 for an autograph – right, Adam?

 

Denver Comic Con 2014 – Arrow Actors

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Panel NameArrow Actors

Topic: Q&A with the stars of The CW’s Arrow

Featured GuestsStephen Amell (Green Arrow), Caity Lotz (Black Canary)

We arrived a few minutes late due to the overlap of the Batman 75th anniversary panel, but were pleasantly surprised to find the place filled to the brim with people. This is selfish of me but the more fans of this show there are, the longer it will be on air. I am hoping for a strong ten years like we got out of Smallville and I wish the same for the upcoming Flash show. By the time we arrived, the moderator had started a few questions of his own and I made it just in time for the audience to start asking questions. On a very basic level, I learned that these two people are totally awesome and in a different life, Stephen and I might have been best friends.

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There were tons of questions about the show, which is great, but I am surprised that there weren’t any questions asked about his time on Hung or any of the other popular shows he was on. There was no way that I was going to get a question answered because the line to ask questions was almost out the door on both sides of the room. We did learn that DC is very open to allowing them to use name and places from the universe and that will be a pretty big deal going further into the show. Stephen also divulged that he prefers a recurve bow to a compound, as he considers compounds to be cheating, and that he preferred the pain on his face to the mask he currently wears. The panel was filled with fan questions like these, and while I could fill up a page alone with the answers to these questions, I would tell you to check out the YouTube video that Stephen posted on his Facebook account.

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I didn’t get the opportunity to ask a question of either of them during the panel, after a combined wait time of an hour and a half, I was able to get the autograph of both actors and ask each a question or two. I can confirm that they are both genuinely nice people and are truly appreciative of their fans, which made talking to them all the more awesome. Caity all but confirms, quite coyly I might add, that we haven’t seen the last of Black Canary and Stephen assures us that SPOILER!! we haven’t seen the last of Oliver’s child that Moira pushed away. I can’t wait to see if they bring in Connor Hawke next season and I think this was a question that generally surprised Stephen so I don’t think he has been asked it yet. I also go the chance to ask Stephen about his charities and the video he did for BatKid. Check out the YouTube video for this and also take some time to look into the vineyards he has as well as the breast cancer charities he supports. Overall, this was an awesome experience and knowing that the actors of the show are such nice people, it will make watching next season that much better for me. I also hope that we see this version of the Arrow in the upcoming Justice League movie.

Denver Comic Con 2014 – The Oatmeal

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Panel Name: The Oatmeal

Topic:  The Inception of The Oatmeal, Michael Inman’s start, Jizz Castles

Featured Guests:  Michael Inman (creator of The Oatmeal)

 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the start of this panel, and I felt the exact same way when it was all said and done. This was one of the funniest experiences I’ve ever had at a panel in the last three years. What started out as a history lesson about Michael and his website, accompanied by awesome drawings, slowly lead into science lessons about some of the more interesting creatures in the animal kingdom.

I actually had a deep appreciation for the way Michael got his start in the business, as I had a similar experience a year or so ago myself. Waking up and realizing that he wasn’t happy with what he was doing, he decided to make a change. He got his first start founding a a website for online dating that included cat pictures, which eventually led to the creation of the book How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You.

The Oatmeal I can make a website too

During his presentation, we were told all about different aspects of the website such as his dislike for making money from ads to making sure he includes bonus material in his books so people have an incentive to purchase. He also talked about how the simplicity of his drawings are what makes them funny and how the more detailed you get, the less funny something becomes.

From this point forward, the panel consisted of a science lesson about things like the Red Velvet Mite, how shitty it is to be a Male Angler Fish, Penis Fencing, Mallard Ducks and the Mantis Shrimp. The accompanying pictures were absolutely hilarious and only added to the stories he was telling. This, however, pales in comparison to watching the ladies there in charge of sign language for the hearing impaired. Certain parts of the panel actually had people paying more attention to the two ladies up front than the guest of honor – so much so that it was even mentioned during the Q&A. If you ever wondered how to say jizz-castle in sign language, than this was the panel for you. It almost left me in tears, it was so funny.

The Oatmeal Penis Fencing

The Q&A went just about how I expected but nothing meaningful was really asked. We did learn about a charity Michael took part in in town and how he would love to run a marathon for his charities here as well but Coloradoans are too cheetah-like for him. This panel was amazing and will make my future reading of the website even better after having gotten a glimpse into the mind of the man behind these tales.

Sign translators were the best here
“Jizz Castle”

Denver Comic Con 2014 – Look! It’s Bruce Campbell

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Panel Name: Look! It’s Bruce Campbell

Topic: Bruce Campbell being classic Bruce Campbell, Q&A

Featured GuestsBruce Campbell

 

The set-up of this panel was different from the beginning; the normal table on the stage was gone and only two chairs remained. There was a feeling of unrest in the air, as if the dead has risen. All that went away when Bruce Campbell came out in his classy three-piece suit and cowboy hat. Bruce came out and said this panel was going to be different because he was going to audition audience members to be the moderator for the panel. Campbell looked around and chose one guy, one girl and an odd guy cosplaying as a guy from Duck Dynasty. He had them all recite the opening monologue from Burn Notice. The first guy fails about half way in, the girl does a much better job but need to pause for laughter a couple times and ends up failing a little after the spot the first guy did, and we get to the Duck Dynasty guy and he takes forever to start, but once he does, he gets in done perfectly. This panel has been a crazy ride thus far, so of course he ends up being Jeffrey Donovan – who plays the lead, Michael Westen, in Burn Notice. After fans start calming down from the surprise, we learn this is Donovan’s first convention and that, as a native Coloradoan, he wanted DCC to be his first con experience.

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This all was in the first five minutes of this panel, so once the audience learns of this, we insisted that Jeffrey Donovan walk around the crowd and ask questions instead of the normal walk to the mic fashion most of the other panels had. This added a whole new level to the con experience because instead of waiting in line for hours to meet someone they are the ones coming to you which had some people freaking out a bit. Once the questions start we get right off the bat what we can expect from Bruce Campbell at this panel. I say this because the panel started with a young boy who asked Bruce to say his famous line, “This is my Boomstick!”, Bruce’s response – as to say he is not the kids dancing monkey and moved on. Now, although a lot of people would find this rude, you should expect from Campbell as he is notorious for being very open and unapologetic with his fans. From he we got questions regarding Evil Dead’s future with Ash which was a bleak and quick, “Don’t hold your breath.” from Bruce.  This led to a question of whether Bruce would reprise the role of Ash in Evil Dead the Musical which was answered with a “No,” because Bruce said he could not sing well, which led to him singing a song from The Fantastiks and then forgetting the lyrics.

Another subject that was discussed at this year’s con more was Xena, which of course brings up Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. A couple people asked about what Bruce’s favorite moments within these series were, where he played Autolycus, the self proclaimed King of Thieves. From Xena, Bruce remembered an episode where Xena’s mind was put into Autolycus’s body and he had to go around as Xena but looking like Autolycus. Bruce said the best part was he got to kiss Renée O’Connor and grab her ass, which he quickly replied, “and not having to grab Kevin Sorbo’s tight ass was the best part of Hercules.”

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A rather interesting question was that of what was Bruce’s favorite line to deliver for any film or show. This was mostly interesting for the story because Bruce said it was, “Give me some sugar, baby,” from Army of Darkness. He explained that it was his favorite because he had a fan come up to him and thank him for it, not knowing what he meant. When Bruce asked him to explain, the man said he was overseas with the military and had that saying translated, and because of this, he used it at a bar later on and it got him laid. So Bruce took credit for that and likes that line best because of it.

Then Bruce fixed his Pocket-poof and made sure that you called it a poof and not a square because pocket squares are for squares. After this Bruce got tired of answering questions so he got up and walked around the audience asking people about themselves which usually ended up with Bruce insulting them in some way until they sat back down, usually pulling a strange Colorado town out from nowhere to reference and make fun of. Not much happened with audience question but that until we were told time was up and since the Star Trek: TNG panel was on next Denise Crosby came running out to give Bruce a hug and make a quick reference to her character in Brisco County and to make a couple flirtatious remarks to Bruce to end the panel with another quick surprise.

Denver Comic Con 2014 – Gargoyles 20th Anniversary Reunion

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Panel NameGargoyles 20th Anniversary Reunion

Topic: Q&A with cast, crew and the creator of Gargoyles

Featured Guests: Greg Weisman, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Jim Cummings, Salli Richardon-Whitfield, Greg Guler, and Vic Cook

There are and have been a lot of anniversary events this year and one Denver Comic Con decided to cover was the 20th anniversary of Gargoyles. It worked perfectly since another was the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which goes right with this as the entire Star Trek cast, other than Patrick Stewart, did a voice at some point during this series. This panel only had Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis as they played main villains in the series but the panel also included, Greg Guler, Vic Cook, Jim Cummings, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, and the creator, Greg Weisman. Greg W was supposed to moderate the panel but if anybody knows Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis and most of the Star Trek: TNG crew, you know nobody is in charge when they are in the panel.

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Frakes pretty much took control of the panel and there was not much from anyone else but Marina Sirtis, occasionally Greg Weisman, and little things from everyone else. This aside, It still was very entertaining and gave us all as deep of a look into Gargoyles we could get with Frakes and Sirtis going nuts the whole time. The series itself was made by Disney and although you can see things like The Lion King and Donald Duck displayed on televisions in select episodes, Disney did not have much control over the series itself (that is until Disney destroyed it for the Goliath Chronicles). You can definitely see influences from Disney, as well as how Goliath has similarities from every child’s worst nightmare from Fantasia, the demon Chernabog.

Even with Disney making it and ultimately destroying it with what can honestly be called an entirely different series with Goliath Chronicles since the staff and crew were pretty much entirely different. A lot of the themes and ideas from the great two original seasons the show had such as Shakespearean references are what made the show great and that much more wonderful for children to watch all seemed lost within this supposed “Third” season Disney made. Shakespeare had such a big impact on the show that we had characters of the Weird Sisters, and Macbeth, but many other historical and literal references such as King Arthur, which made this not only a great fantasy series but took so much stuff kids should learn and set things up so that they would actually seek out who these people were furthering their interest in learning and reading, I am looking at you Anansi, or LeVar Burton as he is known outside of Gargoyles.

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Now, the final thing to mention was there was talk of a live action Gargoyles film and Greg Weisman actually told us all it may happen but Disney has a different script of Scottish gargoyles coming to life in New York and working with a female cop and it is not Gargoyles (This type of copying with no credit sickens me). However, after the initial mention Marina Sirtis made sure to mention that if any fans want anything, all you have to do is bombard the studios that own the properties. In a day and age where fans have brought back Family Guy, Futurama, Arrested Development and more because of their constant badgering of the studios has proven useful and ultimately shows that there is always a chance something can come back after death, at least in the world of television. Hopefully, if this film does get made, we can have another Star Trek reunion and maybe Patrick Stewart could finally make his Gargoyles performance which he would do according to Marina Sirtis because as she said, “Patrick is a whore now and he would do just about anything.”

Denver Comic Con 2014 – Reading Rainbow: LeVar Burton

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Panel Name: Reading Rainbow – LeVar Burton

Topic: Reading Rainbow Kickstarter, Q&A

Featured Guests: LeVar Burton

 

Imagine the thunderous roar of a room full of twenty-somethings as the panel opens with, “Butterfly in the sky…” The crowd chimes in, “I can fly twice as higgggh!” LeVar Burton, whether or not he wants to take credit for it, has helped raise a generation of readers. The revolutionary show Reading Rainbow lasted over twenty years and 150 episodes; each episode was comprised of a guest reader, who would read pages from a children’s book, and field trips, where LeVar would take kids to explore various careers or investigate the moving parts that make everyday activities so interesting. To this day, I’ll always remember the bowling alley episode, where Burton’s explanation of an entire mechanical part of the back room blew my little mind. For most of the 90’s, RR was like my Sesame Street, my Dora the Explorer. I could go on for hours about how great Reading Rainbow is, but I think the rest of the world already knows.

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Late May 2014, LeVar Burton headed a Kickstarter campaign to make the Reading Rainbow app more accessible to children. The initial goal of $1 Million was intended to bring Reading Rainbow back to schools. Yes, back – we all remember when the teacher would roll in the TV/VCR cart into the classroom, and nurse a hangover while LeVar Burton took the class on a fantastical journey. What a lot of people didn’t know, us included, is that the Reading Rainbow app for tablets had been around for two years. The app works off a subscription basis and instantly gives kids access to hundreds of licensed books, accompanied by virtual field trips and other neat additions to the story to give kids the complete revamped Reading Rainbow experience. With the Kickstarte-funded project, a new app – specifically designed for classrooms – would be able to fund year-long subscriptions for over 1,500 classrooms. The thought of bringing a premium service to mostly under-privileged schools, whose students’ parents may not have the technology at home, made this an easy sell.

Even with over a month-long period to reach the goal, Burton was a little worried it would not get funded. When the Kickstarter went live on May 28th, it reached it’s goal a mere 11 hours into the campaign. LeVar said that he cried when he got the news. He was so endeared that a generation that grew up watching his show is now helping fund the show for the next generation of readers. Now with 15 days left of the campaign, Reading Rainbow’s goal of $5 million is certainly a reachable one, but it will be close. With this new goal, which they are approximately 75% of the way to fulfilling, will give children universal access. That means the app will be available on mobile phones, gaming consoles, OTT boxes – you name it. It also means putting it in the hands of public libraries, who have been seeing book collections shrink and digital media catalogs increase. While Burton did not eliminate the possibility of bringing back the TV show, he was focused on the direction that the app (existing and new) was headed. “To reach today’s children, you need today’s technology.” It’s hard logic to argue with – and the fact that he will be trying to bring it back to the schools and libraries backs up the plan for streamlined service. A good point that somebody in the audience led Burton to was that while the app is ideal for 3-9 year old readers, it works wonders for ESL students.

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The panel wasn’t all Kickstarter, though. A lot of questions were aimed at LeVar personally. LeVar shared that he is always reading, and that his summer reading is his “escape” reading, so he always science fiction in the summer. Right now, he’s reading Octavia Butler’s The Goldfinch. He also revealed that his family loves to read books aloud to each other, and stated that the best way to get your children to read is to read in front of them. Burton even gave us an insight of what he used to read his daughter: Goodnight, Moon and  Harry Potter. The two books he recommends most are: Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman for girls and Enemy Pie by Derek Munson for boys. The panel wasn’t even all about reading, as Burton told the audience that he wasn’t even there. He was still with Troy on Community, fighting off pirates on the Gambino. Burton called Donald Glover “one of the most talented people on Earth,” which was just kind of a twist of the knife already in place that Community has been cancelled and Donald Glover left the show before it was over. Glover’s moments on the show with LeVar Burton were some of my most cherished.

Most of those attending the panel had already contributed to the Kickstarter, or were familiar with the what the campaign was trying to accomplish. This panel was all about The House that Love Reading Built. I was astonished at how many teachers and writers and volunteers were directly affected by having this show in their life. Question after question was full of love and a few of those throwing up questions were brought to tears just by getting up to the mic. One of the most sentimental to me was a young lady who had been home-schooled growing up in a poor learning environment. When she got to public school in 8th grade, she had a 2nd grade math level, but a college level reading level – thanks to Reading Rainbow instilling a love for reading. She graduated high school on time and now has a career in writing. That’s just one example of many touching anecdotes we heard at the panel… But you don’t have to take my word for it! We have the full panel on YouTube below.

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