Monday, June 12, 2023

Adventure in the Land of Aladdin!

We were honored to be invited to attend the Middle East Animation and Comic Convention as their special guests. We arrived a bit early at LAX and were invited up to the lounge to relax and enjoy a sumptuous buffet of roast beef. (Did see one young lady choosing only the vegetables. I’ve never seen herbivore. LOL). The lounge had a direct connection to the upper First Class and Business cabin on the plane so the boarding was a breeze. Enjoying a bit of liquid encouragement to steady the nerves before take off. In this case the designated driver is the pilot.

The Emirates hostesses were incredible and brought over an assortment of warm nuts and a tasty collection of olives. The Mojito was absolutely the best version I have ever had of my favorite Cuban cocktail. The seats even had their own mini bars! So I guess I would have to call those drinks marteenies?

Our hostess also brought by a gluten free snack. We were handed menus as lunch will be served soon. Gee, I’m wondering how much weight I might gain just during the flight? Enjoying these delicious meals is like not inviting Scrooge McDuck to join you for dinner. You never have to see the “bill”.

Patty and I finished a delicious multi course dinner. Like the cows who gamble, the "steaks" couldn’t have been much higher, at this altitude. They served us over white linen tablecloths and used fine china complete with heavy silverware. So like Luke Skywalker used to say during his meal, may the forks be with you. After dessert we took in a movie before turning in for the evening.

They come to your seat and place a comfy fitted mattress along with a soft filled blanket and pillow. The seat control buttons can turn them into various shapes from reclining like an easy chair to a completely flat and spacious bed (your feet won’t even touch with all the room it creates!). 

The ceiling lights are dimmed to blue and thousands of tiny little lights slowly fade up to give the feeling of a magical night sky spreading across the entire cabin. Patty was obviosly zonked and fell asleep quickly. She'll get me later for this shot, lol! Well, goodnight all.

We really enjoyed the flight and the helpful and friendly staff but it was nice to finally unpack at our hotel for the evening. It was just amazing!

As far as taste, it was “suite”. (The towels are so lush and thick I could hardly close my suitcase!) Patty made me promise to take in some sights tomorrow and I readily agreed to her suggestion.

Patty checks out the daunting view in the main stairwell. Thank goodness there was an elevator around the corner or it would have been a toss up whether our knees or vertigo would have won out, lol.

We have the honor of sharing the main entrance of the International Artists space with our good friend Hirokatsu Kihara. He was the right hand man of Hayao Miyazaki, founder of Studio Ghibli. You may have enjoyed their wonderful films including Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and other animated classics.

We were thrilled to be sharing our space with such an amazing and talented icon! Hiro and I are really having a blast! As he puts it, "DISNEY & STUDIO GHIBLI!" They placed our tables at the very beginning of the entry area for the International Artists and that was an honor in it self! Literally hundreds of folks came to our tables during the Expo and it was quite a nice experience to meet so many fans from around the world.

I was happy to put on a workshop for children and adults of how to draw some of their favorite animated friends. I drew on a small digital tablet that showed my live sketching up on a large screen. People could sit at the tables and use the tablets provided to follow along.

The area was completely filled to over flowing and they allowed the extra people who wanted to attend to stand in the back, some using their sketchbooks to follow along.
Of course I did it all while speaking in each character’s voice which they really got a kick out of! I also told brief histories of each character's creation including in this case mentioning my old friend Carl Barks who was Scrooge McDuck's "pappa". I don’t remember the last time I received a standing ovation (actually make that a sitting ovation) for simply drawing the things I truly enjoy. They even laughed at my corny jokes!

Patty and I attempted to put on an entertaining if not downright embarrassingly hilarious show sharing our 45 years in the often wacky animation business. From the age of traditional hand drawn on paper to the cutting edge of today’s digital dreams and all the bumpy roads inbetween. Folks have been coming up to us all afternoon to tell us how much they enjoyed it which makes us feel pretty darn good! At least no one threw any tomatoes at us, or if they did they were terrible shots.

Abdul was staying in the suite next to ours in the hotel and on the second day of the event, he decided to drop by as… me! What he didn’t know was that moments earlier I had been given a beautiful brand new box set kaffiyeh, the traditional headdress of Arab men complete with ghutah made of woven goat hair and hand embroidered white linen skull cap by a wonderful fan and new friend who placed all the pieces on my head properly just moments before he arrived.
In Abdul’s words, we had switched places!!

We were sad to bid farewell but promised our many wonderful new friends we would return. We set sail on the “ships of the desert” and cruised across the sandy seas to the airport for our 16 hour flight back home to California. It was certainly a wonderful trip and the magical memory of a lifetime.

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