Dragon Con will be free and virtual this weekend — yes, even the parade

The "Star Trek Discovery" panel will be moderated by Marc Lee and include Jason Isaac, who plays Capt. Gabriel Lorca in "Discovery," along with several castmates.

The annual event has five days worth of programming available for fans.

While there won’t be Wookies or Captain Americas strolling the streets of downtown Atlanta this weekend, fans of Dragon Con can still celebrate all things pop culture, science fiction and comic book with Dragon Con Goes Virtual.

It became apparent to organizers earlier this summer that the massive gathering — last year more than 85,000 attended, with 90,000 anticipated this year — would be quashed due to the coronavirus and its habit of spreading among large groups of people.

But even though Dragon Con as it is beloved — the packed ballrooms of Atlanta hotels, the corridors crushed with fur costumes and plastic weaponry, the panels boasting some of the biggest names in movies and TV, the iconic parade — is being shelved for the first time in 34 years, the free virtual angle was a natural pivot.

“We’ve been doing online components of Dragon Con for three years, so we had the infrastructure in place and knew we could pull it off,” said Dan Carroll, director of media engagement. “The most important thing was keeping everyone safe.”

The Dragon Con Puppeteers of Color panel: Noel MacNeal is best known as Bear from the children’s program "Bear in the Big Blue House"; Aymee Garcia is a puppeteer for The Jim Henson Company and was Mama Bear in the Broadway production of Shrek The Musical; Kevin Clash was the puppeteer behind Elmo on "Sesame Street" from 1985 to 2012 and has worked on a number of other Muppet productions. The moderator is Raymond Carr, an Atlanta-based, Jim Henson-trained puppeteer.

From Sept. 3-7, Dragon Con Goes Virtual will offer three channels of programming.

  • Channel One will be dedicated to classic programming, including 20 years of the best panels (think William Shatner with Leonard Nimoy, Stan Lee and Carrie Fisher), as well as DCTVLand sketches and music videos.
  • Channel Two will feature original programming from 35 fan tracks, including science, comics, literature and science fiction.
  • Channel Three (the “Main Channel”), will highlight new guest programming with actors, authors and artists, as well as the Dragon Con staple Tai Chi with Erin Gray (“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”), the online versions of the Dragon Con Parade and the Masquerade presentation/costume contest.

According to Carroll, the past two months, people who wanted to participate in the parade recorded themselves marching down the street in costume and submitted video.

“We have more than 100 entries for the parade, with people social distanced,” Carroll said. “We even had 12 Jawas (from “Star Wars”) get together and walk down the street together.”

The parade submissions will be edited and commentary will be added, “just like you’re watching the real parade on Peachtree,” Carroll said.

The three Dragon Con Goes Virtual channels will livestream on the convention’s existing streaming site (dragoncon.tv/virtual) as well as DragonConTV on Vimeo, the Vimeo app and Roku. Select content, including the parade, will be streamed to the Dragon Con YouTube channel.

After the content airs live, it will be available on-demand at dragoncon.tv/videos for a $10 membership, valid for a year.

In addition to the streaming content, a chat room app, Discord, will be set up for virtual convention-goers to discuss all things Dragon Con.

“We want to keep Dragon Con in people’s hearts, because we know they need it,” Carroll said.

Shae Carys expresses her love of Dragon Con through the Dragon Con Love Notes feature, a series of short, fan-submitted videos.

Two other aspects of the event — shopping and charity — will also be available in modified form.

More than 160 vendors, artists and comic book creators will sell their wares in the Virtual Marketplace, available 24 hours a day.

“It’s been a hard year for everybody, but for people who make their money at conventions, it’s been devastating,” Carroll said.

As for Dragon Con’s charity affiliation, Big Brothers Big Sisters — more than $150,000 was raised for them last year — Carroll is encouraging Dragon Con-goers to volunteer.

“We want to give (Big Brothers Big Sisters) the full Dragon Con charity experience and take that momentum into next year,” he said.

Among the programming highlights (for the full lineup, visit dragoncon.org):

Sept. 4: Colin Mochrie of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and the cast from Dad’s Garage will play “Dungeons & Dragons” as Mark Meer, the voice of Commander Shepard from the video game “Mass Effect,” serves as Dungeon Master. Also Friday, a panel on Puppeteers of Color and the voice acting cast from the video game, “Overwatch.”

Sept. 5: The cast of “Star Trek Discovery,” including Jason Isaacs (“Capt. Gabriel Lorca”) and Anthony Rapp, Kenneth Mitchell and Mary Chieffo. There will also be an interview with Literary Guest of Honor John Scalzi, author of science fiction novels and the “Whatever” blog.

Sept. 6: A Q&A session with the voice acting cast of the “Animaniacs” cartoon (1993-98), some of whom returned for the 2020 reboot.

Doug Jones at the Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash. (Freeform/Valerie Durant)

Credit: Valerie Durant

Credit: Valerie Durant

Sept. 7: A Q&A session with cast members from the Disney film, “Hocus Pocus,” including Doug Jones, Tobias Jelinek and Larry Bagby. Also, an interview with Jim Butcher, author of the popular “Harry Dresden series”; and a series of science experiments — “Science That Was Too Dangerous for Dragon Con” — that feature explosions, poison gas and other things t—hat wouldn’t have been allowed in a hotel ballroom.

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