Last week I had the pleasure of attending Syfy’s 4th Annual Digital Press Tour. This year the event was taking place in Orlando, Florida which was close enough to justify driving down from our offices in Atlanta. Little did I know what an awesome two days were in store for me.
The event started off with a welcome dinner hosted by Syfy President Dave Howe which took place at the Bice Ristorante at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. I had the pleasure of sitting with some fabulous Syfy execs as well as some really great bloggers during dinner (which was amazing!).
Following dinner, we were granted with exclusive complimentary “RIP” access to Halloween Horror Nights XX: Twenty Years of Fear at Universal Orlando. We departed from the Portofino Bay harbor boat dock and were accompanied by a few interesting escorts on our way to the welcome reception at the park.
At the welcome reception we had a chance to learn first-hand what it takes to create the country’s most intense Halloween event from one of the event’s creators – Mike Aiello. He explained that every year this event is completely different. They tear down everything and start from scratch – which is pretty impressive once you see how detailed these houses are.
After our reception we headed off for our private tour of 8 all-new haunted houses, scarezones, and hundreds of “scareactors”. I found the costumes to be amazing, the houses to be incredibly detailed, and our hosts to be fun and informative. I will say though (having recently been scared the crap out of at Atlanta’s Netherworld) that I didn’t find the haunted houses too scary. We were told they try to move 1,600 people through per hour (which they have to otherwise the lines would be unbearable – luckily with our “RIP” access we got to skip those lines… which got us some friendly looks from those in line…). When you’re trying to move that many people through per hour, you’re not really able to space people the distance you need to so that they don’t see what is coming up. And that was really my only complaint was that I didn’t get surprised or scared.
Can you spot me? I’m 3rd in from the right!
The next day was the start of the Syfy panels. We had breakfast provided to us by Syfy, and then were directed into a room with tables lined up for the press in front of the stage where the talent would be answering our quesitons. I quickly grabbed a seat in the front and got ready for our first panel for Warehouse 13 and Eureka with Allison Scagliotti and Neil Grayston.
For the full transcription click here: Warehouse 13 And Eureka Transcript
Next was the panel for Sanctuary. We were informed that because of a personal situation that Amanda Tapping wasn’t going to be able to make it, but they still had Robin Dunne for us (Who I later had the privilege of riding The Forbidden Journey with in Wizarding World).
Next we had Joe Maddalena from Syfy’s upcoming series Hollywood Treasure talk with us. We’ve interviewed him once before on the site in promotion of the Lost auction back in August. And starting on October 27th, you can watch Joe and his team of experts travel the globe in search of the reatest and most sought-after Hollywood collectibles in hopes of auctioning these iconic relics to avid fans for top dollar.
I asked Joe a couple questions including how he obtained the famous Mary Poppins bag in the series opener as well as the other items that would be featured in the series.
Joe Maddalena: The “Mary Poppins” bag was a fantastic story. The family that had it kind of was doing a search on their own to try to find out what it was worth. And they went to a blogger, who referred them to me. And this kid, Eric Rosen — I think he’s in his early twenties — called up and said, “You know, we inherited this bag.” And you’re always a little skeptical. “Where did you get it?” And back in the day when “Mary Poppins” came out, part of the marketing campaign was they were working with Kraft, which was one of their big advertisers, and they basically gave the bag away in a raffle. The bag was full of cash back then. It was stuffed with hundred-dollar bills. So the family won it, and one relative took the cash; the other relative took the bag. So all these years later, the guy called up and said, “You know, this is really the bag.” So you’re always skeptical. Flew out, looked at the bag. And because the bag is made of carpet, it’s actually — the way it’s constructed, no two would ever be the same. So it was easy to go back and screen-match it and actually match up the pattern of the bag. And it’s definitely the bag. And we estimated it at 10- to $15,000, and it sold for $95,000. So that’s what we do. We travel all over the world, and we look for these objects that are lost because, see, most people know if you have a coin, a baseball card, a stamp, by now you’ve taken it out and sold it. People know it’s worth something. This stuff, other than comic books, people have no idea still. There are so many people who have these things in their homes. They just have no idea what they’re worth.
Next up we had the WWE Friday Night Smackdown panel with Kofi Kingston and Beth Phoenix. Who are naturally in incredible shape.
Our last panel before lunch was the Being Human panel which I had been really looking forward after hearing how passionate fans were about the UK version. Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath, and Sam Huntington were all present.
I have to say that I found Sam Huntington hilarious and charming. As you can tell from the interview transcript, he had everyone laughing. I have to imagine that any show that he works on has a pretty good time.
At lunch we were joined by Allison Scagliotti and Neil Grayston and offered a buffet of pretty tasty food. Though all of us agreed they skipped out a bit on our desert options… but totally made up for at dinner (more on that later).
After lunch we had panels for Destination Truth, Syfy Ventures, and Fact Or Faked. I especially enjoyed the Syfy Ventures panel as we were informed of some cool things the network has coming down the pipe for fans including kid programming, a cool clothing line for the girl nerds ( HerUniverse.com (headed up by the charming and talented Ashley Eckstein)), and new gaming opprotunites as well.
Ronald D. Moore and David Eick from Caprica were on hand for our next panel. They talked with us about the possibility of another season, which we were told we would hear about no later than November 15th, but hopefully much earlier.
And to finish up our day of press panels we had a cooking demostration from Marcel Vigneron (best known from Top Chef), who will be starring in Syfy’s new series, appropately entitled Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen. Marcel has an interesting cooking style which is classified as molecular gastronomy. In honor of upcoming post-dinner trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, he had some Harry Potter themed dishes for us starting out with Harry Potter themed chips and dip (not my favorite). However everything else he prepared including some dry iced carmelized popcorn and dry ice pumpkin milkshakes were delish!
After all our press panels were done, we all met back up in the lobby of the Portofino Bay and hopped on a shuttle to Islands Of Adventures. We arrived to a red carpet just as the park was closing down. We were escorted in past the park goers who were being ushered out.
We enjoyed a welcome reception at Mythos patio including passed appetizers and a fabulous open bar (with a Syfy ice sculpture drink chiller that I couldn’t get over).
A little bit later we were brought inside for dinner. I had the pleasure of sitting with a Syfy executive, a fellow blogger, and Ashley Ekstein (founder of Her Universe) and her husband San Diego Padres player and 2006 World Series MVP David Eckstein. After an amazing dinner, we were finally escorted to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was closed to everyone except the Syfy digital press tour attendees, Syfy executives, and Syfy talent.
We walked into be greeted with butterbeer (which I do not recommend drinking before riding rollercoasters. Drink it afterwards, frozen, and split between 3 people. Trust me.). Everyone instantly loved it and conversations ensued about the intense amount of sugar we were all ingesting.
Syfy had an amazing desert spread for us, a DJ, performers, and all the stores and rides were fully operational for us. No waiting in lines that night!
I stuffed my camera and other items in a locker and spent the rest of the night riding rides and chatting with new friends. The Forbidden Journey is by far the best ride the park has to offer. You get ushered through Harry Potter’s world on a robotic arm that simulates flying. The first time I rode the ride I was partnered up with fellow blogger Aaron Sagers, a Syfy executive, and Robin Dunne from Sanctuary. Everyone was amazed after the ride concluded, and Aaron and I jumped the gate and instantly went again. I believe I rode the ride in total 4 or 5 times that night. It’s hands down the coolest ride I’ve ever been on. And I have to say the park as a whole is amazing. You truly feel like you’re at Hogwarts.
We had the park to ourselves for 3 hours, and as the night drew to an end I found myself in a conversation with Robin Dunne and Eureka‘s Neil Grayston long with some other bloggers. “Living On A Prayer” played over the speakers and several of the female bloggers grabbed a last drink from the open bar (which only supported drinks that would be true to Hogwarts. AKA no coke products. Those that know me know the problem here.) and hit the dance floor. As we were ushered back to the hotel and soon parted ways from newfound friends, I couldn’t help but reminisce over just how awesome the last 2 days had been. I’m extremely grateful for the experience that Syfy set up for us, and I look forward to next year’s press tour. Until then, I have plenty of Syfy programming to watch and lots of people to keep up with on Twitter!
Be sure to check out some additional photos below from some of the press panels!
Your Pop Culture Junkie,
Disclaimer: Our wonderful experience was brought to us by Syfy.