Iowa, a land where there are more pigs than people. Seriously, there’s roughly eight pigs for every person. But for three days, it briefly became a utopia for fans of both western animation and anime. GalaxyCon hosted one of their Animate! convention in the state’s capital, Des Moines! And I was privileged enough to attend it’s inaugural weekend.
Two of the guests this year were James Urbaniak (Rusty/Phantom Limb/Jonas Jr./David Bowie on The Venture Bros.) and Dana Snyder ( a legend of Adult Swim who’s lent his voice and acting talents to numerous characters and shows), making it quite an impressive weekend for me, someone who both happens to be an Iowan as well as the resident Venturologist of this lovely website.
Day One: The Calm Before The Storm
I arrived in Des Moines just after 1PM, and got myself checked into my hotel. Both the Iowa Events Center (where the convention was being held) and the Hyatt (the hotel were I was staying) were on the Skywalk, a massive trail of indoor walkways that connect most of the building in downtown. Using the Skywalk made the trek back and forth incredibly easy, taking only about eight minutes between both locations.
As is true for a lot of conventions, day one was a bit of lazy day. The exhibit hall didn’t open until 2PM and it wasn’t that crowded as it was still in the middle of the work and school day. It gave me time, however, to pick up my badge and orient myself with the space.
The convention was spread over four floors.
Floor one held a VIP lounge, screening rooms, a manga library and a quiet room for con goers to calm down if they get overstimulated.
Floor two held registration as well as the exhibition hall where vendors and guests set up shop, it also housed a massive gaming area for both table top games and video games with multiple board games free for anyone to use as well as video game tournaments and set ups for a variety of PC and console games.
Floor three held panel rooms as well as a maid café.
And the fourth floor was the location of the main stage, where Q&A’s were held.
I spent most of Friday wandering, though I did get the chance to stop by James Urbaniak’s booth to get my copy of Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart signed as well as to give him a set of Guild of Calamitous Podcasts pins lovingly crafted by Twisted Garden Studios.
I also gave a “Go Team Venture!” to a Pikachu statue.
Day Two: GO TEAM VENTURE!
I arrived at the convention just before 10AM (when doors were set to open) and there was already a pretty decent line. This particular Saturday happened to have quite a lot going on outside of the con, just a few miles away the yearly rivalry game between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University was kicking off, and a certain former president was in attendance. Despite that there was still a great turn out!
James Urbaniak’s Q&A was scheduled for 3PM and as expected the Venturoos were out in full force. It was lovely getting to interact with fellow fans, and there were two excellent Triana and Dr. Venture cosplays, Dr. Venture even had a tiny version of The Bat tagging along.
Due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, some topics were off limits or had to be worded carefully, specifically his work in live action film and television but blessedly anything Venture Bros. was completely in the clear.
He talked about getting his start in acting, how performing with an off-off broadway theatre company led to Jackson Publick asking him to do the pilot and about the day he sounded “too happy” as Dr. Venture because he’d just found that he was going to be a father of twins.
We also learned his favorite episode is “Tag Sale, You’re It!”, that one of his favorite quotes is from the season two montage of Hank and Dean’s various deaths (“We had a gas leak that time. The silent killer.”) and just what goes in to creating the voices for Jonas Jr., Phantom Limb and David Bowie.
Unfortunately the midnight screening of The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart was canceled, and I found out after showing up for it, but other than that Saturday was an enjoyable day.
Day Three: Thank You, Dana Snyder, For Wasting My Time.
Sunday. The final day of Animate! Des Moines. I started early once again, getting there just before the exhibit hall opened. It was going to be a short day for me because I had to travel home. I knew that going in. But I did manage to maneuver my schedule around in order to attend “Dana Snyder Wastes an Hour of Your Time”.
I visited Dana at his booth in order to give him his own Guild of Calamitous Podcasts pin and get my action figure of the Alchemist signed. The nice thing about smaller sized conventions is that you get the time to genuinely have a conversation with the talent in attendance, which has always been an incentive for me. Dana was hilarious, and charming as ever.
And his panel was exactly what it said on the tin.
Coming in late Dana proudly stated he’d already wasted nine minutes of our time (off to a good start), what followed was a multi-subject tangent filled discussion including but not limited to: dye jobs, The Poseidon Adventure, different slang terms for kids, weather conspiracies, The Eiger Sanction and the act of stealing menus from restaurants.
A memorable moment was when a man flanked by his two young children read the ‘Senpai Stage’ schedule in the middle of the panel and loudly proclaimed “Dana Snyder Wastes an Hour of Your Time? FUCK THAT!” as he walked away.
While Animate! Des Moines lacked Adult Swim representation in the cosplay department, there were still some pretty stellar get ups on display and I took more than a few pictures. It was actually pretty hard to narrow it down to just a few highlights for this article. But I did my best.
My favorite, by far, was the really impressive Alf cosplay.
All in all, Animate! Des Moines 2023 ticked all the boxes on my list and was a good time. There were some hiccups that just come with hosting a convention in a new place for the first time but that’s to be expected. And GalaxyCon has already announced that Animate! Des Moines 2024 will be happening next September and I, for one, can’t wait.