WonderFest for young and old geeks alike

May 23, 2006 at 6:48 pm

Now in its 17th year, WonderFest, Louisville’s premier sci-fi/horror/fantasy expo, is still going strong. Initially just a collection of hobby modelers showing off their kits, it’s grown into one of the nation’s most revered memorabilia shows, highlighting artifacts, creators and actors from both behind and in front of the camera.
This year’s show, running from May 27-28, is no exception. Guests will include Bob Burns, one of the world’s foremost fantasy film archivists, designer and illustrator Basil Gogos, gorefest make-up man John Goodwin (“The Thing,” “Men in Black,” “CSI”), comic book artist Joe DeVito and none other than Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl on the original 1960s “Batman” show. Also included is the usual array of model vendors, panel discussions and workshops as well as a silent auction and raffle for charity.

But the most anticipated guest is the actor who started it all — the original, golden-era “King Kong” model. At 18 inches tall, it can be said to be taller and more talented than our most popular contemporary actor, Tom Cruise.
As always, WonderFest will bring fanatics from far and wide. And they in turn will be bringing their own props, toys, kits, costumes and dioramas in an effort to show their own contributions to legacies of their favorite movies.

Such devotion may be perplexing until you sit back and think of the iconic status of some of the movies worshipped at WonderFest — “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Frankenstein,” “Alien.” Some of their most intricate details didn’t actually get all that much screen time. And many of the monsters deserved so much more than a few hours of celluloid.

WonderFest founder and “CEO Emeritus” Lee Staton feels that not wanting these movies to end is only natural. He sees it inhabiting the same world as fan fiction, but for people who think in 3-D.

“I think they model because something about these movies catches their dreams,” Staton explains. “Building a model is like capturing a moment from that movie.”

Dave Conover, who’s taken over as programming director of WonderFest for the past few years, agrees. He recalls growing up watching WDRB’s “Fright Night,” WLKY’s “Creature Features” and 4 o’clock matinees of Ray Harryhausen movies like “Jason and the Argonauts.” Putting together so-called “garage kit” models became a natural for him just like it did for millions of other kids.

The difference between him, Staton and the WonderFest attendees and so many others is that the WonderFest crowd decided to never “grow” out of it.

Any why should they? We all need to escape sometimes, and why not get your inspiration from when your imagination was its strongest — your youth?

Conover explains, “What you love in your youth is what sustains you as an adult — if you’re as lucky as I have been.”

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