CMX 2014: Dante Basco and Janet Varney Panel

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Image taken by the Mesa Comic and Media Expo staff at CMX 2014

Image taken by the Mesa Comic and Media Expo staff at CMX 2014

The Mesa Comic and Media Expo (lovingly dubbed CMX 2014) hosted some rather big names in anime and voice acting for it’s inaugural year. Dante Basco (the voice of Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Janet Varney (the voice of Korra in The Legend of Korra) were two of those names. I had the chance to sit in on one of their open Q&A sessions at this event. I was not expecting much, typically these panels are composed of fan requests for the voice actors to say things their characters typically would not however; this panel was suprisingly entertaining. The discussion started with the moderator asking Dante and Janet when last they were in Arizona. Janet, a native of AZ, answered frankly that she visits often. Dante, on the other hand, had an interesting anecdote that involved he and Alfonso Ribeiro (aka Carlton) getting into a street fight with some unsavory fellows some fifteen years ago in Phoenix. This slowly moved into a discussion about the antics that Janet and Dante got themselves into during their teenage years as actors. Janet mentioned being on the film lots and discovering that there was often more than one film in production at once. Janet noted that during one of her breaks she discovered the Jim Henson lot near her own filming lot. This discovery lead to hours of speaking with the puppet masters at Jim Henson Productions. The discussion then segwayed into how actors and actresses interact with puppets. It was here where Dante left the audience with a more than amusing quote: “When you work with a puppet you feel like you see it. Like, I look into that puppet’s eyes and say ‘I see you’.” Janet agreed that she will often get angry at the puppet and not the puppet master; she used Triumph the Insult Comic Dog as one such example of human to puppet communication.

After personal histories were provided the two reached out to the audience for questions on their work with Avatar and The Legend of Korra. Questions ranging from how Dante and Janet felt working with producers down to their personal preferences on bending powers were asked. Each answer was well thought out and delivered with the kind of finesse you don’t often see in small convention panels. In fact, this panel was one of the most enjoyable events I have attended at a convention so far. Janet and Dante worked well together and were extremely friendly to the fans. They treated the panel as if it was the most important aspect of their day; they also took pictures of Avatar and Korra cosplayers – supporting their craft and giving them kudos for their efforts.
Dante offered free hugs after the panel and Janet was more than happy to take pictures with the crowd. If ever you have a chance to watch these two in action do so – for voice actors they are very charismatic with extremely down to earth personas. I commend CMX 2014 for securing these two and look forward to future guests.
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