The Jim Henson Exhibition (Museum of the Moving Image)

This was our first time visiting the Museum of the Moving Image!

In such a historic location, the Museum of the Moving Image is in Astoria (Queens, NY) and is found in the former building of Astoria Studios. After intensive renovations, it reopened in 2011 and is still an amazing spot for learning about the history & significance of various mediums including, but not limited to, film and television.

Currently, one of the permanent exhibitions found at the museum is The Jim Henson Exhibition, celebrating the life and legacy of Jim Henson with more than 300 pieces!

I grew up watching various Muppets programming, Sesame Street, and Star Wars, so Jim Henson’s work had a huge impact on my childhood. It was so amazing seeing some of these classic characters up close. Here’s one of my favorites (and one of my favorites to do impressions of)… Kermit the Frog!

As you can see, next to the Kermit puppet is the special headpiece that Jim Henson would wear when puppeteering him. It’s so crazy to see how well inanimate objects can come to life with the right hands!

Even something that appears to be a slinky/tube, named “Java” below, was a blast to see on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966:

But, of course, we had to see some of our favorite Muppets like Rowlf, The Swedish Chef, Statler & Waldorf, and Miss Piggy!

But what’s fantastic about the Jim Henson Exhibition is that it not only teaches you about his work, you get to be a part of it too!

My favorite kinds of museums are the interactive kinds, and thankfully this exhibit is one of them!

Step right up and try your “hand” at puppeteering a couple characters on-screen! You have to get low and build a scene from scratch, and then you’ll see a live playback! (Check out the video at the end for more)

In addition to this booth, there’s also a station to build your own puppet! This is for demonstration purposes only so you don’t get to keep it. But feel free to customize the look of your very own Muppet! Here’s our take:

What will yours look like?

But as I mentioned, one of Jim Henson’s biggest involvements was of course Sesame Street. For any Sesame fans, you’ll be very pleased with this next area! No introduction is needed:

And last, but not least, one of the final displays for the Jim Henson Exhibition was for his non-Muppets projects like Labyrinth and Dark Crystal.

There were puppets, animatronics, diagrams, videos, and so much more going on here!

(And don’t forget, Dark Crystal returns to theaters for 2 days only in February!)

It’s just a thoroughly detailed exhibition and I highly recommend it for fans of Jim Henson or the movies/TV shows mentioned earlier. His work and legacy continue to ripple into today’s franchises… Star Wars’ Yoda (Frank Oz), for example, and even Nien Nunb (Mike Quinn) in this week’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi! (Who’s ready for it??)

Which leads us into the rest of the Museum of the Moving Image.

The whole museum is filled with rich history and beautiful displays of vintage toys, collectibles, arcade games, film & TV props, and more.

So be sure to walk around and explore the techniques used in soundtracks, dubbing, sound effects, and visual effects. You might even be able to make yourself into a flipbook/GIF!

The Museum of the Moving Image is open to the public (starting at $7) Wednesday-Sunday. Free for Museum members & children under 3, and admission is free every Friday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Visit the site for specific hours & holiday closings.

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Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (Baltimore, MD)

Tucked away in Baltimore, MD and hidden from plain sight is Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Opened over 11 years ago in September 2006, Geppi’s is a moderately sized pop culture museum. Special exhibitions are constantly rotating but inside you’ll always find a collection of over 60,000 amazing items including retro posters & artwork, collectibles, and rarities.

Tickets are reasonably priced and there are also memberships available.

The only way up to the museum is with an elevator spammed with pop culture decals… Random meters and dials, comic book character logos, and other references are plastered all over its walls:

And once you’re upstairs, you’re greeted by none other than the bounty hunter himself, Boba Fett!

Before you even pay for your ticket, you get an idea of the vibe awaiting you inside the museum. Vintage posters, framed art, things you’ve only seen on Google and Pinterest:

In no particular order, we began to wander the halls of this 16,000 square foot museum. And by chance we entered the massive room filled with old comic books and magazines… Amazing!

Not only did they have Superman’s first appearance, Action Comics #1 (1938), but also Batman’s first appearance, Detective Comics #27 (1939)! I’ve never seen these up close and in person before, so this was truly a one of a kind experience. Plus, this year Superman and Batman both released their 800th issues, so that’s something!

Not to mention all the other fantastic and iconic covers throughout the decades!

I thoroughly enjoyed each room, which housed its own era or theme. One room in particular was home to a very cool Daily Planet display case, surrounded by Superman artifacts and clippings. Toys, certificates, games, and art were all present here.

Check out this 1943 issue of World’s Finest #9 featuring Superman, Batman, and Robin throwing baseballs at the heads of the Axis alliance:

Other rooms pay tribute to popular television icons like sports teams, Howdy Doody, or the Three Stooges.

But one of the coolest rooms was the one that honored everybody’s favorite caped crusader… Batman!

Inside was a life-size statue of the Dark Knight, along with the iconic red 1960’s Bat Phone and Shakespeare bust with moveable head (see the video at the end for more)!

(Don’t worry if Superman is more your thing… Geppi’s has 2 lifesize statues of the Man of Steel!)

When I visited, Geppi’s was also running a special exhibit, “The Dark Knight Through The Decades”, which featured many rare collectibles and photos throughout the years. Autographed pictures, one of a kind art pieces, and more! It was a pretty hefty room, but here’s one part of it:

But with The Last Jedi releasing in one week (AHH!!), I’d be remiss not to mention all the great Star Wars items on display.

From vintage toys to vintage comics, Geppi’s has Ralph McQuarrie art, AFA graded Kenner figures, a CBCS graded Marvel Star Wars #1, and even the original folded 1977 27″x41″ movie poster!

As a huge Star Wars fan, this was a lot to take in!

So much eye candy and so little time!

I couldn’t believe how many spectacular pieces this place had acquired… But it’s important to note that while many of the exhibits are Geppi’s, many are also on loan from dedicated collectors all over the world.

It’s what allows the museum to have such pristine condition collectibles displayed, like these Transformers toys of Grimlock, Hot Rod, and Bumblebee:

Or like-mint condition boxes of Nabisco DC Super Heroes cookies and Mr. T cereal!

All in all, for the low admission price, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is just that: entertainment. If you’re a collector, pop-culture pundit, or just love watching reruns of Pawn Stars or American Pickers, you have to check out Geppi’s!

And as if all of that isn’t enough, as you exit the museum you’ll walk through a very extensive gift shop! You’ll find modern collectibles both cheap and not, as well as an impressive selection of comic books. (If you’re looking for any back issues, be sure to ask!)

Try to walk out empty-handed!

So check out Geppi’s Entertainment Museum! It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm and closed on some holidays. Check out www.geppismuseum.com for contact or more info.

Louis Vuitton Exhibition: Volez Voguez Voyagez #NYCVVV

We got to check out the brand new pop-up exhibit by Louis Vuitton in New York City during its opening week. Volez Voguez Voyagez is in NYC for a limited time: October 27, 2017 to January 7, 2018. Admission is free but timed reservations are recommended. There’s also an interactive app you can download for the exhibit, plus feel free to check out the audio guide tour and guided tour options as well!

Above: The Trunk of 1906…

The line to get in wasn’t too overwhelming but it wasn’t moving swiftly either. But time goes by rather fast, and it’ll all be worth it once you step inside and learn all about Louis Vuitton’s history. Plus, some great Insta-worthy photo ops (video at the end for more)!

Volez Voguez Voyagez is a multi-floor exhibit ranging from classic trunks from the 1800’s, to fashion pieces, retro advertisements, and even collaborations. Here’s a cool collab between LV and skateboarding brand Supreme:

The beginning of the exhibit is a huge history lesson which is really interesting because LV didn’t start off right away with high-end bags.

As you can see, the Vuitton empire is massive. You learn how LV started as a box-maker and developed unique and revolutionary trunks that paved the way for modern luggage… The Trunk Of 1906 is still used as inspiration for luggage today!

In addition to the trunks, many relics and artifacts were on display – tools used to build LV products, photos of LV’s start, and (one of my favorites) even records that keep track of numbered keys after the invention of the tumbler lock in 1890:

As you’ll see, the iconic monogrammed canvas was used from a very early time. This set Louis Vuitton’s creations apart from the rest and allowed him to stand out as the brand we all know today.

From room to room, a different theme or layout is used to match the historic pieces. One of the more popular rooms was called The Rise Of Yachting (see it in the video at the end). As you step inside, it feels like you just stepped aboard the Titanic! A giant mast & sail greet you as an imitation deck displays the invention of the steamer bag by LV:

Another popular room was Aviation which featured a 3D airplane displaying early 20th century bags:

The following room, Trains, reminded me of the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios! The windows were changing scenery as you’re transported to another time & place. Here you’ll find new modes of travel with the invention of narrower trunks that can be tucked away in the train and a very particular fashion style for transportation.

The last room before the gift shop is “Louis Vuitton Loves America”! This is the most modern of all the rooms and showcases many pieces of Louis Vuitton from today. (Think: Red Carpet Premiere)

After going through this exhibit, all I can think of is “my, how times have changed!” Isn’t it crazy how easy it is to travel today? Wardrobes are easier to carry, bags come in all shapes and sizes, and we get from place to place faster than ever.

There may be times where you’ll find this exhibition a little dry and slow, but if you’re interested in learning how Louis Vuitton became the company it is today, I highly recommend checking it out before it closes its doors on January 7, 2018! It’s free, it’s informative, and you’ll get some great photos to remember it by too.

On your way out, be sure to see if there are any souvenirs you want to pick up at the gift shop. I even saw some people purchasing customized luggage tags that get stamped in the shop. And don’t forget to pick up your free #NYCVVV pintrill:

Rhode Island Comic Con 2017

Following the great time I had at Rhode Island Comic Con last year, I decided to attend the “The Biggest Show In The Smallest State” again!

While last year’s RICC had it’s ups & downs, it was still a well-put-together event given its venue restrictions. And even though some of its faults carried over into this year, it was still jam packed with amazing guests, fun panels, and cool vendors (feel free to peruse last year’s post to supplement the look & feel of RICC). Let’s photographically travel to Providence, RI together:

Of course there were many vendors who had the latest collectibles, ranging from plushies to statuettes, from cards to comics.

The art was also amazing this year. New techniques are becoming very popular trends… Maybe it’s because of the influence of DC’s recent “Metal” series, but the metal art I saw at NYCC a couple years ago has now blown up to a whole new level! At RICC not only did I see metal prints but also metal trading cards, poster sizes, and even Michael Golden (co-creator of Rogue & Bucky O’Hare) is upping his booth with 3D/lenticular prints. (I was yelled at for trying to take photos/videos of them…)

3D printing has also started to become a dime a dozen.

The more and more I attend cons, the more vendors I see creating 3D printed props and figures. This Baby Groot took many hours to print but you can tell that given its size, the printer is creating him in high detail!

Even the 501st Legion got in on the action with a life size 3D printed K-2SO!

This year, the 501st had an amazing section upstairs in the Rhode Island Convention Center. In addition to their costume/helmet gallery & R2 Builders Club, they put up an Endor Shield Bunker & speeder bike for photo ops. And of course, fully costumed 501st members were present. (Check out my video at the end for more)

I scoped the tables, picked up a few 501st trading cards that I didn’t have yet, and made my way over to Scarif again where I ran into Cassian. We almost got the Death Star plans out of there but an Imperial surveillance unit caught us in the act!

Smile! You’re on Imperial Candid Camera!

I saw a lot of great cosplay at the con, including a Spider-Man Homecoming version of Vulture. Check him out in the video below! (I think he had to check his wings in at the door!)

There was also a life-size Gal Gadot Wonder Woman statue on sale at FYE. It’s a lot more convincing than their previous Batman, Harley Quinn, and Deadpool statues.

Speaking of Deadpool… While in the past Deadpool was a popular fan favorite for comic con cosplay, I’ve actually been seeing more Ricks from Rick & Morty these days! Regular Rick, armored Rick, Piccolo (Dragon Ball + Pickle) Rick, Ronald McDonald Rick, etc…

With their third season done, I recently binge watched all 3 seasons for the first time. This allowed me to actually get all the references around the con, including artists appealing to the ever-growing Rick & Morty fanbase:

In particular, Adam Soltys‘ table caught my eye with my favorite Rick & Morty charcter: Mr. Meeseeks (look at me!)! In addition to prints & t-shirts, Adam also had his zombified Disney Infinity and Nintendo amiibo figures.

Check out some of his designs, including Super Saiyan Rick:

Unfortunately, meeting Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland was no easy task. (We’re talking about 2 hours on a line to meet him…) Rhode Island Comic Con estimated about 100,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, and with last minute cancellations from many guests such as The Walking Dead cast, Mark Ruffalo, Val Kilmer, Jon Bernthal, and Freddie Prinze Jr., many fans were upset and had to “settle” for the remaining guests. My guess is that the long lines are due to the fact that TWD fans had to resort to their second, third, and fourth choices for meet & greets.

Justin Roiland, Jason Isaacs, Christopher Lloyd, Weird Al, Paul Reubens, and Robert Englund definitely had the longest lines throughout the con!

But I did manage to find time to meet some of the people I planned on meeting:

Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, was such a nice guy! The line was moving slowly but it was worth it because he spent time talking to each fan, getting to know them, and even asking what they do for a living. The guy in front of me must have had an interesting job because Paul asked his assistant to continue interviewing him! When it came to my turn, we talked about Pee-Wee (of course), his voice as RX-24 in the Disney ride Star Tours (and how he reprised the role in the Star Wars Rebels cartoon), and his role in Gotham.

I’m not a fan of getting my autographs personalized, so when I handed over my Pee-Wee comic and RX-24 figures he jokingly asked, “Are you going to sell these?!” We laughed and continued our conversation. The book above and the one below for Weird Al are currently on their way to CGC!

If you’re just tuning in, I got this Obi-Wan & Anakin #1 comic sketched by Creees a few months ago at Garden State Comic Fest. Hoping to meet Weird Al at RICC, I asked Creees to draw Al in his Saga Begins attire (a la live performance) along with the first line of the chorus. It was perfect! Be sure to check out more of Creees’ art if you’re interested in prints or commissions!

When I showed Al, he was in awe and wanted to snap a photo of it on his phone before he signed it for me.

The funny thing about Weird Al’s booth was that instead of being a table out in the open like the other Headliners, he had a closed off booth which was accessible through a curtained entrance. I felt like I was lining up to meet a fortune teller or the Wizard of Oz! Upon entering, I exclaimed “Hey, they told me Spatula City would be behind the curtain!” (A reference to his 1989 movie “UHF“)

So glad I got to meet him though. Growing up, Weird Al was an influence on me in many areas: musical genres, pop culture references, humor, and even his fashion (just kidding!)!

We talked about his VH1 Behind The Music special and how my friend lost my VHS recording of it… The “Remastered” version on YouTube just isn’t the same. Unfortunately he couldn’t help me there!

Weird.

A post shared by Andy (@lesdudis) on

The third book I’m sending to CGC is my first Neal Adams signature:

If you know Neal Adams, then you probably know Deadman, and vice versa!

This is a highly anticipated comic book series that just launched two weeks ago. Above is the glow in the dark variant cover. I was lucky enough to grab one from my local comic book shop before they sold out!

Neal explained why he signed at the bottom of the cover: the raised glow in the dark lines repel the marker ink! He said he ruined two books earlier because he didn’t know this. Glad mine wasn’t a guinea pig!

Lastly, I was able to meet the new Chewbacca actor, Joonas Suotamo:

Joonas is a Finnish basketball player turned actor. He played Chewie alongside Peter Mayhew in The Force Awakens. He’ll do the same for this year’s The Last Jedi. And he’ll be the sole actor as our favorite Wookiee in next year’s Han Solo movie!

I did have to wait a few minutes though because one of those “autograph service” companies had just stepped in line ahead of me. They had stacks and stacks of items to be signed with Post-it’s indicating where Joonas should sign… and with what color. Insanity!

But I absolutely love the way he signs his name, incorporating a little Chewbacca face into his autograph. I told him it looked a lot like the Chewbacca Dog, and he said that Chewbacca Dog is his favorite picture!

All in all, Rhode Island Comic Con is still one of my favorite conventions because they don’t skimp out on the celebrity guests. Navigation is still something that can be improved, but was definitely better this year than 2016. I do feel bad for the fans who bought tickets just for 1 star who ended up canceling, but unfortunately that’s to be expected once in a while from any comic con. But even if that happens, walk around the show floor! There are always amazing artists, actors in roles you never realized before, or a collectible you never knew existed!

Until next time, RICC! You know how to get in touch with me…

Chow: Making The Chinese American Restaurant (Museum Of Food And Drink)

The Museum of Food and Drink is extending Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant until the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018!

Step inside the Museum of Food and Drink as you experience the history of Chinese American cuisine with artifacts, 100 year old clippings, infographics, and even a fortune cookie machine! This limited time exhibit also features tastings at their exclusive Culinary Studio.

As the world’s first large-scale food museum, Brooklyn’s MOFAD delivers a visual walkthrough of the Chinese American Restaurant timeline (almost 200 years)!

You’re immediately greeted with a massive wall of takeout containers. But as soon as you step behind it, prepare to be immersed in a rich past. This exhibit was interesting and though it was quick, you learn a lot about the culture and cuisine, leading up to today.

As you walk around, you’ll find fantastic displays: photos, articles, even videos. One of my favorite sections was the wall of old restaurant menus. It was amazing to see how much has changed over the decades. Imagine paying only 75 cents for a plated dinner combo (soup, entree, and dessert)!

For Chow, MOFAD also houses a special fortune cookie machine that will create the cookies live with custom fortunes submitted using their in-house tablet/Twitter/hashtag (#ProjectFortune).

Powered by Infiniti, the purpose of #ProjectFortune is to spread messages of goodwill so that when visitors come to the exhibit, they’ll hopefully receive your fortune and share it with friends & loved ones!

See the fortune I submitted here!

Though the machine wasn’t working this particular day, we still got to learn about the whole process and see many of the submitted fortunes colorfully displayed at the end of the exhibit.

MOFAD also had part of Flavor: Making It and Faking It on display, their previous/debut exhibit. In this MOFAD Lab, different smelling stations were set up. Here you can experiment with a few apparatuses that would release a combination of various smells of your choice.

For example, what combination of cilantro, peach, caramel, and candy will create “strawberry”? Or how much orange oil, lime oil, cinnamon oil, and vanilla extract is needed to smell like “cola”?

Build different flavors at 3 stations or try your hand at the Smell Synth, a scent organ you can play! With over 500,000 different combinations, your senses will go haywire!

As you make your way to the exit, don’t forget to stop by the Chow Culinary Studio! Each General Admission ticket includes a small complimentary tasting (MOFAD states that they cannot guarantee dietary accommodations). And for an additional $11, you can upgrade to the Chow Down ticket which turns your tasting into a 3-course meal!

Tastings will vary from the chefs on duty to the featured dish of the month. We had the pleasure of sitting with in-house Chef John Hutt, who was not only very knowledgeable about authentic Chinese cuisine but also able to deliver a delicious meal!

He started us off with the dish of the month which was the Peking Pork with Sweet and Sour Glaze over rice. Great texture and great taste – the chef meticulously cooked the pork (see more in the video at the end).

Next, he served up some Malai Mushroom Dumplings with 7 year old vinegar. He taught us a brief lesson on Ma (numb) and La (spicy) – explaining that the mushrooms will create a tingling sensation, ultimately giving off a “spicy” effect. What a rush!

Lastly, we wrapped up with a Rice Pudding with Fortune Cookie. I normally don’t like rice pudding but it was a great finisher as we continued talking about Chinese cuisine and his involvement with the museum.

We were fortunate to have Chef John rather than one of the rotating guest chefs. His experience made our meal all the more enjoyable and it was educational too! The exhibit itself takes about 30 minutes with an additional 30 minutes for the full tasting. Be sure to check out the video recap below for more and click here for tickets.

The Museum of Food and Drink is extending Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant until the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018!

Warner Bros. “Get Animated Invasion” Pop-up (October 6-8, 2017)

Zoinks! From October 6-8, 2017, Warner Bros. partnered up with Boomerang and BoxLunch to bring some very iconic cartoons to life! To name a few: Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and Flintstones…

In the style of Refinery29’s 29Rooms, this completely sold-out (but free) event contained a handful of interactive rooms & corridors that featured popular animated properties. Guests could fully immerse themselves in the world of Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner (with a “real” hanging anvil trap) or experience something spooky with Scooby Doo (complete with fog machine):

As soon as you enter, you’re given a voucher which entitles you to one of three Flintstones themed ice cream treats brought to you by Milk & Cream Cereal Bar. Choose from: Dizzy Dino (Fruity Pebbles blended ice cream topped with Fruity Pebbles & Dino Bones Candy), Bamm-Bamm Thank You Ma’am (Cocoa Pebbles blended ice cream topped with Cocoa Pebbles & Salted Caramel Rock Candy), or The Bedrock-y Road (Cinnamon Pebbles blended ice cream topped with Cinnamon Pebbles, Marshmallows & Chocolate Rock Candy).

I chose Bamm-Bamm Thank You Ma’am!

They came in a specially marked cup with a color changing spoon! I’m telling you, the whole experience totally makes you feel like a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons all over again!

In the main hall was a line of tablets to watch clips of your favorite cartoons. But right by this section was the home of Bugs Bunny:

Pick up a giant carrot or two, pose with Bugs, or just grab a secret lollipop stashed inside his mailbox (you read that right)! You won’t be happier that it’s rabbit season!

As you feast your eyes on all the great wall decals and neon lights, you’ll also find some fantastic art pieces. The next room featured a collection of Marvin the Martian figures painted to resemble popular superheroes. Each was painted by a different artist. Here’s a “Wonder Woman” Marvin the Martian by Tony B. Kim:

As you make your way towards the end, the exhibit doesn’t slow down yet… Giant Jetsons art can be found right next to the Warner Brothers Water Tower!

And if you blink, you’ll miss that clever cat Tom trying to catch Jerry! Sneaky sneaky…

But all throughout the pop-up there were screens, big & small, playing clips from your favorite cartoons. It was great to just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, while eating our ice cream. Mind you, this was all during New York Comic Con 2017, so some sitting was absolutely priceless!

There were also some fun inflatable chairs by the gift shop, accompanied by (you guessed it) more cartoons!

And the gift shop itself was pretty extensive. Brought to you by BoxLunch, you had everything from apparel to accessories: Flintstones hats, water bottles, Space Jam shirts, even Funko Pop figures!

The Get Animated Invasion Pop-up was a lot of fun and even though it wasn’t necessarily huge, it had tons of photo opportunities – plus it was completely free! Be sure to scroll to the bottom for a quick video tour of the pop-up!

My Ocha – Matcha Shop (Shops at Riverside, Hackensack, NJ)

“Whole Lot A Matcha… We Got Ya!”

My Ocha is a new café inside the Shops at Riverside (Hackensack, NJ) with a focus primarily on matcha, or powdered green tea. With a very modern interior and fantastic fresh menu, My Ocha is a wonderful addition as the Bergen County mall undergoes renovations this fall.

Their menu currently consists of various drinks & snacks including French macarons from the popular Macaron Café in NYC, soft serve ice cream, and a selection of refreshing spritzers (20 oz) for only $4.95: enjoy flavors like matcha limeade, cherry yuzu, blueberry matcha latte, and much more! They also serve both hot & iced matcha drinks (you can even choose from regular, almond, coconut, and soy milks), hot & iced teas, and coffee.

The owners, John & James, take great pride in what they do and as I spoke with James, I instantly loved the direction they are taking My Ocha! Get this: they only use ceremonial grade matcha and 90% of their inventory in house is organic… even their water is triple filtered!

The shop will actually continue to expand its offerings in the near future. James indicated that as their food menu grows past macarons (think crêpes and poké bowls), one of their goals is to provide tall tables for dine-in guests.

Personally, I think the inside is perfect from the colors, down to the decor. It’s very inviting and James is very hospitable, leaving for a great experience from beginning to end.

They’re also one of the few shops in this area that use the Coffee Ripples service, which is an app-powered machine that “prints” high quality images on your coffee foam using coffee bean “ink”. This is an awesome bonus I discovered during my visit! I printed a Darth Vader onto my foam, and the possibilities are endless because you can customize your own image with your smartphone app & it gets sent directly to My Ocha’s machine. Check out the video below for how it all works:

My personal favorite here is the strawberry matcha latte. What is it? Imagine hand-ground ceremonial grade matcha powder via mortar & pestle, meticulously brewed & then swirled with a milk of your choice (regular, almond, coconut, or soy), and a layer of utterly delicious housemade strawberry compote at the bottom. What you get is this:

Not only does it look good, it tastes even better!

You can find My Ocha right by Au Bon Pain and Mr. Cupcakes on the first floor of the Shops at Riverside (390 Hackensack Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601) and online at Yelp & Instagram.

New York Comic Con 2017

It’s that time of year again for the biggest pop culture event on the East Coast! This marks my 6th year attending New York Comic Con, home to the latest in comics, video games, movies, toys, anime, and much more!

If you’ve only attended small cons before, New York Comic Con is exactly the same… except pumped up on Bane’s Venom formula! Just imagine your favorite local comic con amplified 10 times! So without further delay, here are some of my favorite moments:

Despite the space restrictions this year due to the $1.5 billion Javits Center expansion, I think ReedPOP did a good job managing their 12th NYCC. And as always, they had a great display for DC Comics in the South Concourse. A giant Justice League banner & costumes were out, DC television show clips were playing, and some cool freebies were given out.

On top of that, Graphitti Designs had some incredible t-shirts and variant covers of this year’s Dark Nights Metal issues as well as their tie-in’s (Red Death, Murder Machine, and Dawnbreaker). I waited on their line which was almost an hour long and many covers sold out for each day’s allotted quantities! Thankfully I got the ones I wanted.

Along with DC were some amazing booths for photo ops, VR/AR, and fan experiences. You could hang like Spidey in an upside-down room, step inside SpongeBob’s Pineapple, or snap a photo with some Justice League cardboard cutouts.

But I had a blast inside on the show floor.

One of my favorite exhibitors is trading card company Topps. They were offering giveaways and Star Wars autographing all weekend.

On Thursday, I got to meet Jerome Blake (who I had the privilege of meeting last year as well) and even got to hang with him a little afterwards. Such a nice guy and his presence in Episode I is quite important! He signed an 8×10 and my Oppo Rancisis figure.

On Saturday, I met Philip Anthony-Rodriguez (the voice of the Fifth Brother in Star Wars Rebels) who signed an 8×10, my Fifth Brother figure, and my Topps card.

Just as they did at Star Wars Celebration 2017, Topps authenticated the autographs with their special holographic QR code which verifies that specific signature. And on top of the free autographs, Topps was also offering some great giveaways by participating in a scavenger hunt & app demo!

To get the exclusive chase droid cards, you had to receive 3 stamps found on the map card. They were also giving out an exclusive trading card each day from The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Garbage Pail Kids, and Mysticons. Lastly, you could win exclusives like a Star Wars poster, card holder, or Rey pin by earning a high score on their game Topps BUNT’s Batter Up.

In addition to Topps, Konami had a section set up for Yu-Gi-Oh. They were handing out Yugi hair headbands and had a booth to turn yourself into a custom token card!

Like many others, we went for the New York Comic Con exclusive design! This was a great freebie and the line wasn’t that long either.

Some other great photo ops were Bandai’s Power Rangers morphin’ grid and a Dragon Ball power-up video (more in my YouTube video). I even met Sean Schemmel (voice of Goku) while waiting to power up!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet David Yost (the original Blue Ranger) this time around. He & Amy Jo Johnson are the last of the original MMPR cast I’ve yet to meet. But I did get to meet some other amazing stars.

Kevin Conroy – He’s not just the hero of Gotham. He’s the hero of my childhood. “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!” A long line to meet him, but well worth it! I told him how much Batman The Animated Series impacted me growing up. I brought one of my favorite childhood Batman Adventures comic book to get signed too. I explained that Loren Lester (Robin/Nightwing) signed off to the side to leave room for Kevin’s autograph. Mr. Conroy laughed and signed up top to leave room for Tara Strong (Batgirl).

Tara Strong – This was Tara’s first NYCC! One of the most popular voice actors of our time: Timmy Turner, Bubbles, Raven, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, the list goes on and on! And while she arrived late to her last autographing session, Tara stayed extra to meet every single fan instead of cutting the line short. I told her the story of Loren & Kevin and how there’s tons of room for her name now… and she signed a very tiny autograph on Batgirl’s cape. What a story! This comic book is now being graded by CGC with their Signature Series program.

Jim Cummings – Kind of a Disney legend. You may know him as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Pete (Goofy), Razoul (Aladdin), Bonkers, Darkwing Duck, Dr. Robotnik… You can check out his IMDb for more! But I just had to finally get his autograph on my Hondo Ohnaka figure from Star Wars The Clone Wars. Initially, we were worried on the line because a lot of time passed and he hadn’t shown up for his autographing session. But when he finally arrived, we all had a fun time. As I was leaving, he even did the voice for me: “Do me a favor… [voice] Be careful out there. There are Jedi EVERYwhere!”

Nolan North – Another voice actor legend. His credits are too long to list (IMDb) and his line never got shorter! He was a very nice guy and took the time to chat with fans. He told me a great story about how he was directed by George Lucas for the episode of The Clone Wars he voiced as El-Les. I told him that that episode was so good and kicked off one of my favorite story lines in the whole series.

Along with the autographing area downstairs was the new Artist Alley. Because of the construction being done at the Javits, Artist Alley was moved to the “experimental” hall from last year. Frankly, it was too warm down there and I can’t imagine spending all day in the cramped aisles. I had to navigate through here a couple times to reach the lower level CGC (because the upper level CGC would not travel to the autographing area). But at least I got a free print from artist Christopher Jones!

Meanwhile, upstairs on the show floor you could find some great artists & writers for meet & greets and book signings.

Early in the morning I received the wristband which entitled me to purchase the convention exclusive of From A Certain Point Of View – Penguin Random House’s compilation of 40 Star Wars stories from 40 different authors! Over the course of the NYCC weekend, I was able to get my exclusive book signed by 4 of the authors who worked on it (which is 10%… not bad, I guess?): Chuck Wendig, Delilah S. Dawson, Pablo Hidalgo, and Jason Fry. They each signed standalone posters for their respective books as well.

IDW also had a signing with Star Wars Adventures creatives Derek Charm (artist) and Landry Q. Walker (writer). They signed my SDCC Star Wars Adventure #0 ashcan issue and it’s on its way to CGC too! Surprisingly, they mentioned that they didn’t get any of these to sign this weekend:

What’s beautiful about New York Comic Con is that it appeals to all kinds of fandoms whether it’s comic books, movies, or pop culture in general. And the Fandom Fantasy Food Truck is no letdown in this category. Featuring food & drink from Star Wars, Stranger Things, Rick & Morty, and The Walking Dead, this food truck serves up sweet & salty treats to give you a little boost during the con.

Quantities were limited and were on a first come, first serve basis. But throughout the weekend we were able to try out all 4 items: Porg In A Blanket (chocolate cake pop with royal icing, white chocolate, and marshmallow wrapped in a mini tortilla), Upside Down Waffle (whole grain waffle covered in milk chocolate, cotton candy, unsweetened coconut flakes, and marshmallow), Pickle Rick Soda (dill pickle juice, fresh dill, club soda, and pickles), and Lucille Bat Pretzel (a pretzel stick covered in caramel, white chocolate, red food coloring, and a candy eye)!

Also, throughout the con, food vendors were serving up Brooklyn Defender 2017! We didn’t get to pick up a pint but we got to check out the launch party last month. Check it out here.

But one of the best parts of the con was the surprise booth by Verizon to showcase Star Wars: The Last Jedi (and how about that trailer??)! This immersive experience deserved its own post so be sure to check it out here.

Some other highlights from the con were the world premiere of 8K at Domo! World, the DIRECTV NOW Walking Dead photo booth, Weta Digital’s Planet of the Apes mocap station, and the Lego BrickHeadz truck for the Boba Fett/Han Solo Carbonite exclusive!

We wrapped up our time at New York Comic Con with An Evening with Mark Hamill at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Because we got to meet Mark at Celebration for photos & autographs, we decided to skip the meet & greet at NYCC and opted for the paid panel. Recently ReedPOP started offering a variety of off-site panels that don’t require NYCC badges but do require payment. This is an excellent alternative for non-attendees, but additional hurt for already paying con attendees. (Not to mention the extensive bag check removing all Sharpies, gum, etc. which we sort of got back after the show…)

For $1500, you’ll be in the first row with a post-show meet & greet with Hamill himself – plus an included autograph & photo session. Needless to say, we got the best seats on the first balcony and enjoyed 2 solid hours of #Hamillstein – stories of his journey as Luke, his voice acting career, an extensive Q&A, and a heartfelt tribute to Carrie Fisher.

15 random audience members received a blue Post-it indicating that they would be moved to stage seats, which they called Hamill-vision! This also guaranteed them a free autographed headshot presented later in the show. And during the Q&A, the first 15 people also received autographs.

It was truly a memorable talk even if you’ve heard some of the stories before. Mark has a way with words and you can tell the man really cares about the fans too!

To wrap up, New York Comic Con 2017 was so much fun! Honestly I was worried about the crowds and space issues due to the construction but not only was this not an issue, ReedPOP did an unbelievable job managing the morning queue lines too! We got to do almost everything we planned, and even had time to visit the WB/Boomerang/BoxLunch “Get Animated!” pop-up on top of that. I’ll be curious to see how next year is handled as the Javits goes through even more changes.

Until then, see you at the next con!

Legoland Discovery Center: Lego Ninjago Movie Days + Giveaway!

*Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post to win a Family 4 Pack of tickets to LDC Westchester!*

Find your inner ninja on September 22-24 and September 30-October 1 at Legoland Discovery Center!

With this fall’s new Lego Ninjago Movie, Legoland Discovery Center is launching a special series of events especially for Ninjago fans! Here you can take part in a ninja-themed scavenger hunt, help build a big mosaic portrait of the Green Ninja Lloyd, build something special in the master class, and much more!

I had the privilege of checking out the Lego Ninjago Movie Days this past weekend and it was a blast for kids and families of all ages.

Apart from the existing Legoland attractions (which you can read about here), new Ninjago fun has been added. Up above, you can snap a photo with Lloyd, Nya, or Master Wu – completely made out of bricks! Or be your own ninja with the cardboard cutouts next to Ninjago City Adventure, a two-story 2,300 square foot interactive play area!

And as if that still wasn’t enough, keep your eyes peeled for Kai the Red Ninja who makes his rounds throughout Legoland. Strike a pose and help defend Ninjago against Evil Lord Garmadon!

The positive energy at Legoland Discovery Center Westchester is always a plus and the staff is always helpful. Thanks to them, I was able to find the room where you can help build the big mosaic of Lloyd (or as Garmadon calls him, La-Lloyd)!

Simply pick a 6×6 plate (or try to find the corresponding number if you prefer a specific spot on the mosaic) and build along with the mapped out colors!

I played my part! Here’s plate #215, one of the last available spots on Lloyd’s face. It was so much fun to take part in, and I can’t wait to see the finished product! Don’t miss out on your chance – visit Legoland Discovery Center this weekend!

Not only that, there are plenty more activities that are unique to Lego Ninjago Movie Days:

In the Master Builder Workshop, you can build mosaics of Ninjago characters! Simply use the examples on the screen provided by the instructor. There are buckets of colors on the tables for you to build on a 16×16 plate.

It could be one of the main ninjas, or you can be creative and make your own! We decided to build Master Wu and an original ninja, J:

The second Master Builder Workshop is to design your initials using the Ninjago language. At the start of the class, you’re given a translation sheet and practice paper so that you can map out how you want to design your initials.

Using the same buckets of bricks and 16×16 plates, the instructor walks you through the basics of creating your initials. We decided to make our initials with their English counterparts, with some white highlights. What will you come up with?

And again, the staff here is so friendly and great with kids. If your family is big on collecting minifigures, be sure to bring some to trade! Many staff members have a nametag with a minifigure connected to it. Offer a trade and see what happens – you never know! (During the Lego Ninjago Movie Days, all staff members will have a Lego Ninjago Movie minifigure on their nametag, unless they’ve traded already for a non-Ninjago figure)

Lastly, a newer feature in Legoland Discovery Center is the Lego In-Store Action app!

This AR (augmented reality) app allows you to scan displays around the attraction to see Lego characters come to life.

In this particular case, the Master Wu #BENINJA Activity Station will allow you to see this popular Ninjago character:

Watch as Lloyd comes to life! Pose with him, or just take a picture of him next to your favorite section inside Legoland.

Once you save your awesome photo, tag @LDCWestchester and use hashtag #BENINJA on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook for a chance to win a Lego Ninjago Prize Pack!

And speaking of winning, I’ll be picking one lucky winner on October 5, 2017 for a Family 4 Pack of tickets to visit Legoland Discovery Center Westchester! Entering is easy, so you won’t want to miss out on this: Enter Here.

Brooklyn Defender 2017 Launch Party with New York Comic Con

Tonight was the launch party for the latest Brooklyn Defender IPA by Brooklyn Brewery partnered with ReedPOP’s New York Comic Con. Every year, this power couple releases a new take on the “Official Beer of New York Comic Con” featuring brand new artwork of an original modern Brooklyn superhero.

Defend Beer with Brooklyn Defender IPA, our heroically hopped golden IPA featuring strong notes of tropical fruit, well-muscled hop bitterness, and an incredibly dry finish. Cape not required. #DefendBeer Brooklyn Defender IPA is proud to be the official beer of New York Comic Con.

The event was jam packed with fans eager to try the new golden IPA but the night wasn’t just about beer, no.

ReedPOP/New York Comic Con was in the house, providing fun all night long! As we entered, we received a raffle ticket for the end-of-the-night prize drawing, a couple of NYCC stickers, and a voucher to redeem a limited edition Brooklyn Defender pint glass!

Once we were inside, everyone was already enjoying the Brooklyn Brewery Tasting Room atmosphere, except this time it’s been decked out with #DefendBeer artwork and photo ops!

You could enjoy the existing arcade games inside, grab a seat at one of the many tables for coaster/paper sword decorating, or head over to the superhero backdrops where you can pose with props in front of the skyline or a wind machine!

Eventually, the pizza that was promised showed up and it didn’t disappoint.

Brought to you by Sizzle Pie, an assortment of slices fed the hungry crowds!

While waiting for the raffle drawing, we got to sit down and check out the “Design Your Own Coaster” baskets:

But honestly, even the printed side of the coasters were keepers!

Next, we had to check out the fondant cake by Rock Candy Cakes. Modeled after the Brewery, this cake was intricately detailed, down to the building design and the superhero pose on top!

As the night came to a close, the MC announced the Instagram story winner who would win a 4-day pass to New York Comic Con next month! Though multi-day passes are not an option this year, these special passes would allow entry for all 4 days. Lucky!

The same top prize was given to the raffle ticket winner… except this was 5 minutes after the MC attempted to read off winning raffle tickets pulled from the wrong bucket… (Runner-ups won Brooklyn Beer swag!)

The final event was the cosplay contest. Many entered and I saw a bunch that were phenomenal like this Batman costume from Christian Bale’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

Winners also won the special NYCC passes, with a Grand Prize of 2 passes. Check out the top 3:

Congratulations to all the winners!

The whole event was well thought out and didn’t leave a single second for a dull moment. And the night just made me that much more excited for New York Comic Con, October 5-8, 2017 (buy tickets here)!

And to top it all off, on our way out we were able to redeem our vouchers for that limited edition pint glass! Originally behind schedule, we were told we would need to return to Brooklyn after 2 days to pick it up… but thankfully the shipment had arrived just as the event was winding down!

Thanks, Brooklyn Brewery & ReedPOP for hosting a fun event for us! Cheers!