Star Wars 40th

HawaiiCon 2017 – the Best Convention Under the Sun

Early last week I arrived at my office in San Francisco almost resenting the fact that I had to be at work that day.  It was a brisk 54 degrees outside and, as are most days in San Francisco, it was a very foggy and overcast morning.  As sat down at my desk to begin my workday I longingly looked at my September 2018 calendar and said to myself, “only 49 more weeks until the next HawaiiCon, right?”

What is HawaiiCon?

As I’ve said many times before, HawaiiCon is a convention unlike any other.

HawaiiCon is unique in that it has focuses both on science fiction and science fact—you’re just as likely to walk into a panel with an actor from your favorite show as you are a lecture from NASA astronomers.  Mix in some mythos and magic from the Hawaiian islands and you’ve got HawaiiCon.

We returned to the stunning Mauna Lani Hotel and Bungalows this year.  Seriously, look at this lobby:

mauna lani lobby

Wasn’t kidding when I said “stunning”

This year at HawaiiCon

o3ISUlg - ImgurDespite being only four years old, HawaiiCon is one of the best organized conventions you could even hope to attend.  Each year HawaiiCon has a theme or two that it focuses on.  For HawaiiCon 2017, attendees got best of both in the form of Slayer Wars: the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the 40th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise.

HawaiiCon17 (64 of 141)Gracing panels throughout the weekend we had Nicholas Brendon (“Xander”), Emma Caulfield (“Anya”), Amber Benson (“Tara”), and Charisma Carpenter (“Cordelia”), all of Buffy fame.  This was the first time that this particular group has ever gotten together at a convention.

We also had quite a few guests from the Star Wars franchise as well.  You may recognize Temuera Morrison (“Jango Fett” from Attack of the Clones), Daniel Logan (young “Boba Fett” from the prequels), and maybe even Paul Blake (“Greedo” from A New Hope), but voice actors extraordinaire Steve Blum (“Zeb Orrelios” from Rebels) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (“Arihnda Pryce” from Rebels) were celebrating this weekend too.

HawaiiCon17 (117 of 141)

HawaiiCon17 (45 of 141)

Some of our other favorite HawaiiCon alumni were able to return this year—Rod Roddenberry, Aaron Douglas, and Gina “GK” Bowes to name a few.  All of Roddenberry’s panels were relocated outdoors, and at least one of them was done poolside.  Aaron Douglas, although a few minutes late to his own panel, stayed an extra 45 minutes to make up for his tardiness.  (To be fair, he was a bit late because he was picking up some delicious fish tacos from the food trucks for his wife.)  GK represents the best of both worlds at HawaiiCon because she’s an accomplished voice actress as well as a scientist with degrees in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics.

Rod's poolside panel (Credit to Jon Teves, HawaiiCon Staff Photographer)

Rod’s poolside panel – credit to HawaiiCon for this photo

Speaking of scientists – HawaiiCon has always made it a point to bring in some of the best and brightest in the field.  Returning this year we had Derek Buzasi, Lou Mayo, Stephanie Slater, and Tim Slater, among others.  The panels on HawaiiCon’s science track are always packed with attendees who are eager to learn about the world around us and beyond.  As a result, the scientists become even more excited about teaching their respective disciplines.  Some of the best attended science panels included “Astronomy and Star Wars”, “News in Planetary Science”, and “Astronomy of the Year”.

You've gotta grab your seat early at the science panels, otherwise its standing room only!

You’ve gotta grab your seat early at the science panels, otherwise its standing room only!

Some of our favorites

HawaiiCon17 (119 of 141)Although all of HawaiiCon’s panels are truly unique, there are definitely some that stand out among the rest.

Any time Temuera Morrison and Daniel Logan were on a panel together, it was absolutely endearing.  You may know them as father/son duo Jango and Boba Fett from Attack of the Clones, but even today they still call each other “father” and “son” off-screen.  Morrison had just come from filming Aquaman and you could tell he was relaxed and happy to be there.  Logan is a very active fan of Star Wars to this day and took every opportunity to share stories with us.  (To the right, you can get a brief glimpse of their haka!)HawaiiCon17 (49 of 141)

Next, the annual lūʻau is still one of our favorite add-ons for HawaiiCon.  This year was special for two reasons: first, Temuera Morrison was selected during the Maori pōwhiri to receive a token, which, given that he is Maori made this a special occasion; second, there was a wedding proposal!  What better place to propose than Hawaii?

One event that took me by surprise was a class called “Becoming a Jedi”.  In this class, participants arrived at the beach by 8am and took part in an introductory Aikido course.  George Lucas himself admitted “the force” was based on Ki, which is the fundamental principle behind Aikido.  Leading this course was Lou Mayo, a NASA scientist and Aikido instructor.  We extended our ki towards the horizon so that our arms couldn’t be bent, learned how to disarm someone from behind us, and even got to work a bit with “swords” (re: pool noodles).

Rounding out this list, I’ve gotta give it to the Star Wars Shakespeare panel.  Any panel that where actors are doing what they do best is always going to be entertaining.  This panel had Steve Blum, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Aaron Douglas, GK Bowes, Kannon Kurowski, and more reading from William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, a retelling of Return of the Jedi in iambic pentameter.  I’m going to go ahead and say that McGlynn stole the show with her improvisational sea shanty that had us all clapping along.
HawaiiCon17 (137 of 141)

Other conventions, please take note…

Every year to wrap up HawaiiCon festivities there is a panel called A Hui Hou! wherein attendees can give feedback directly to the convention staff.  Throughout the weekend this year we saw some changes that appeared to be directly influenced by last years feedback.  Guests had previously asked for a HawaiiCon app, and sure enough this year at the opening panel it was announced that HawaiiCon had an app.  Guests asked for more science panels and HawaiiCon definitely delivered with 50 panels covering a multitude of disciplines.  Although there is still room to grow, the minds behind HawaiiCon are up for the challenge.

Next year

HawaiiCon 2018 will be taking place at the Mauna Lani Hotel and Bungalows for the third year.  GB Hajim, CEO of HawaiiCon had this to say about next year’s con:

We’ve been approached by Ron Moore and have been talking to Diana Gabaldon. If we can put together a good program, we’d like to celebrate both BSG and Outlander. We also have some interest from key people in ST: Discovery, so that’s our initial focus. Bill Morrison, editor of Mad Magazine, has agreed to return and do our convention poster design again. Seth Green has promised to make an appearance if his schedule permits. Pat Tallman will be coming back as our Tour Director and if people want a longer HawaiiCon experience they should check out her Quest Retreat for a full week trip.

We are trying to expand our programming and our reach, so having a 501c3 status will hopefully allow us to attract even more sponsorship dollars. One of our goals for next year is to make it free for all kids 12 and under. We are very dedicated to inspiring the youth in STEAM programs. Our model is that the kids come to see their favorite celebrities, but then dive into the underlying science, tech, engineering and, of course, art.



Check out our photo gallery below, as well as a few bonus videos from Aaron Douglas’s Solo Panel.



If you’ve made it this far, here are bonus pictures of my Padme cosplay (courtesy of Mary Anne Butler)

IMG_9614 IMG_9539 IMG_9642

Stephanie Cala
Stephanie is the resident event planner, Pokémon trainer, a very shy newbie cosplayer, and a horrible amateur photographer. When she’s not playing D&D or playing with her puppy (or playing D&D with her puppy?), she’s likely to be found either behind a computer at work banging her head on the keyboard because people don’t update their Flash Players, or behind a different computer at home banging her head on a keyboard because COME THE F– ON I TOTALLY MADE THAT SHOT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *