JPL’s PlanetaryKeri finds the droid she was looking for

I hereby mandate that, from now on, the role of the cool female scientist in every science-fiction movie be played by Keri Bean.

Keri, aka Twitter’s @PlanetaryKeri, has more nerd cred than anyone I’ve met.

I can’t even begin to describe the awesomeness of her educational background (studying the weather on Mars),  job (at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), and hobbies, which involve everyone’s favorite droid, R2-D2, and everyone’s new favorite Star Wars heroine, Rey.

At JPL in Pasadena, Keri works on Mars rovers; the Dawn, which is orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres; and other fascinating space missions. She’s also part of the lab’s outreach team, making the science accessible to the general public.

In her downtime, Keri has quite the obsession with a certain sassy, blue-and-white Astromech droid. As a member of the R2-D2 Builders Club, she and her husband built their own functioning R2 unit, which goes well with Keri’s other hobby, cosplaying as Resistance Rey with the Rebel Legion club. 

And though we didn’t discuss it because it occurred after this interview, Keri was recently at the premiere of “The Last Jedi,” where she met Daisy Ridley, who signed Keri’s Porg.

Perfection!

You work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. It sounds like the best job ever. What do you most enjoy about it?

It absolutely is the best job ever! From the moment I was exposed to what JPL does when in high school, I knew I wanted to work there. I’ve now been working at JPL for over four years, and I still get excited to come into work every morning. I often can’t believe I work here. I think my favorite aspect is that I get to work with some of the best, brightest, and most passionate people in the world. Where else can you work on Mars rovers??

For the sake of laypeople like me, I’m going to ask you to explain some things — or maybe everything — about what you do. You’re a missions operations engineer. What does that entail?

My job is to operate spacecraft and tell them what to do. Since I have a scientific background, I focus a lot more on what’s called science operations. That means I spend a lot of time making sure as much data is taken as possible so scientists can use it to make amazing discoveries.

Currently, you’re working as a science planning and sequencing engineer for the Dawn mission. The Dawn is orbiting and exploring the dwarf planet Ceres. Could you explain your role in the mission?

So we use bits of code we call sequences to control each spacecraft. On Dawn, my prime responsibility was to work with the instrument teams to develop the sequences that would fulfill the science objectives safely. I am part of a small, four-people team that designs and executes all of the science data acquisition.

What information about Ceres has the mission yielded so far?

So, so much! Before Dawn arrived, all we had were these small fuzzy pictures of a round object. We found a large amount of evidence towards water ice, organic molecules on the surface, a transient atmosphere, and so much more! You can find out more at https://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov.

You are the tactical uplink lead and mobility/instrument deployment device engineer for the Mars Explorer Rovers. What do those titles mean? 

The Tactical Uplink Lead means you are in charge of the team planning the activities on Mars that particular shift. It’s a very mentally intense job because you have to remember a lot, make tough decisions, and more under a time crunch. I find it really satisfying. I get to tell a Mars rover what to do!

The latter role (we often shorten to Mob/IDD) is a downlink analysis role. After the rover drives or uses its arm, I’m one of the people that looks at the data and figures out what actually happened, did the activities complete safely, etc. It’s one of the first steps towards becoming a Mars rover driver!

That must be an exciting mission to work on! Tell me about that experience.

Opportunity, and her past twin, Spirit, were actually the first missions I worked on when I was an undergrad. I’ve been on and off the team since 2007! Both my undergrad and master’s thesis were based on data from Spirit. And now I’m a part of the Integrated Sequencing Team, and one of my responsibilities is also training people new to the mission on how to operate it. It’s a dream!

Keri Bean, dressed as Rey from “The Force Awakens,” with the Opportunity rover.

I read that you were interested in weather as a child and watched the Weather Channel a lot. What was it about the weather that fascinated you?

I wish I knew! It was an innate draw.

I also read it was the 2003 Columbia disaster that sparked your interest in space exploration. Tell me about that. 

I remember being at a Texas statewide academic competition called UIL, and they brought all the students into the auditorium. They announced the space shuttle had broken up over Texas and we had a minute of silence. I remember being angry. Not at what had happened, but why didn’t I know we had a space shuttle around Earth at the moment? I knew of the ISS, but what were they doing up there?

As soon as I got home I started reading as much as I could about space. My interested really got locked in a few years later when I got to witness in person the STS-114 launch, the return to flight mission post-Columbia. I went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, the following two years. Between all of that, I got the space bug hard.

You attended Texas A&M University because it enabled you to combine your love of weather and space. You studied with Dr. Mark Lemmon whose focus is weather on Mars. Please tells us, are all the movies about Mars terribly accurate?

Mostly not. But you know, they’re movies and for entertainment! I’m willing to separate fact from fiction. “The Martian” is the closest I’ve seen to accurate, although even that has flaws.

If you could tell us only one fact about the weather on Mars, what would it be?

It snows!!!

You were able to work on several NASA missions as a student. What did you discover about yourself during this experience?

I found a couple of things. One thing was that I enjoyed astronomy as a hobby and not as a profession. I also found that I really like working with a team. A lot of my school experience was sitting in a cubicle by myself coding, and I just didn’t like the social isolation. I’m glad I got to experience spacecraft operations, as that was the balance between having a cool technical job while requiring social skills and interacting with people on a daily basis.

Are there many women working in your field?

A lot, actually! On Dawn, my manager, in the Science Operations Support Team, is a woman. Our deputy principal investigator and project scientist are women. On my JPL management side, almost all the managers up the chain are women. On MER, women rule! Up until very recently, all Tactical Uplink Leads were women for many, many years.

Right now, our lead systems engineer, lead Rover Planner (aka Mars rover driver/arm operators), and lead Mobility/IDD are all women as well. We also have more women Rover Planners than men. It’s quite often that mostly women staff the tactical team on Opportunity. I’ve seen quite a few shifts where there has only been one guy! But I also know that my experience is an anomaly, and I know many other women who tell me they’re the only women working on the team or in their job type. So while things aren’t perfect, I think there’s tremendous progress at JPL.

You’re a member of JPL’s Advisory Council for Women. How did you become involved with that? What does the council do?

So I try and help out with events that the Advisory Council for Women puts on. They have a yearly banquet (and this past year I nominated my best friend and STEM outreach extraordinaire Dr. Nicole Sharp to be the guest of honor, and she was!) and also do other events on lab.

Keri does some outreach for JPL.

You also do a lot of public speaking and outreach. And you’re an Internet celebrity with a big Twitter following @PlanetaryKeri. How did you get started in outreach? Why does it appeal to you?

I like people! A lot of my job is “translating” between the scientists and engineers, and that skill allows me to translate for the general public as well. I know there are so many people that want to do what I do, so I feel being public about it on social media is the best way to get people to experience what I do.

I could probably ask you about your job all day long, but I’d like to move on to another very important topic: Star Wars. You’re a member of the R2-D2 Builders Club. For those who are unfamiliar with the group, what is the purpose of the club?

The club is for those who want to build their very own Astromech!

How did you become involved with the group? Are there many female members?

I met a member who had built his own R2. I don’t know what it was, but when I saw R2 in person, I just knew I had to have my own. Luckily my husband was immediately on board, saying it looked like a fun engineering project. I wanted to wait a bit until I had a house, but then I saw all the droids in the droid builder’s room at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim and I just couldn’t wait anymore. I went home and ordered my first part that night. As far as I can tell, there aren’t many women in the club, but there are some! There’s now a group called Stardust Builders Initiative that spans over all the builder clubs (so BB-8, Mouse droids, etc.) and there’s close to 100 women or female-identifying people in the group.

Keri works on the dome of her R2 unit.

You built your own R2 unit. Tell me about that process. 

Oh gosh, where to begin?

It’s a long process. Most people take two to three years to build their droid. Mine was two years and a month. I had joined the forum and been reading for a good six months before I bought my first part, and that time isn’t included in that two years and one month duration.

My husband’s skills and mine complemented each other well. I took care of figuring out ordering parts, making sure they were cut/sanded/painted appropriately, etc. My husband has a background in electrical and computer engineering, so he did pretty much all of that. We still had a lot of help from friends! In fact, I have been having anyone that contributed sign the back panel of my droid.

It took a lot of nights and weekends to build. Honestly, over a year of that time was just waiting to get enough parts to actually assemble the droid. The first part we got was the dome, so we actually had our dome nearly complete in the first month of our building process. Then we had to wait a long time to get a frame, legs, and feet so we could actually assemble and stand R2 up. Once we could stand R2 up, things went pretty quickly. The last three months or so of building were pretty constant.

Once the droid is built, what do you do with him? Does the club do events? I’ve seen them at conventions and the droids are always a big hit.

I’ve only had my droid done for about six months now, so he hasn’t done a lot. We actually had a big, big push to finish because I had signed us up to troop at Legoland for their Star Wars weekend!

So we finished very late on Monday night on Memorial Day weekend, did a “soft opening” troop that Friday at a local school, then on Sunday was Legoland! It was super stressful but absolutely worth it since I got to troop as Rey with my droid there. I’ve brought my droid to JPL a few times and he is well-loved there. My husband and I want to make some more refinements before we really take him out and about more. Droids are never really done!

Tell me your personal Star Wars saga. How did you become a fan?

My first memory of watching Star Wars was in a car on a tiny 8-inch TV screen with an attached VHS tape player as my mother drove me across the country. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was in elementary school. The copies I watched were ones my parents had recorded from on air in the ‘80s, so commercials and everything.

So I liked Star Wars, but it wasn’t my main obsession until recently. I mean, I always gravitated towards the droids and had a small collection of R2-D2 things and I went to the midnight premiere of the prequels. But it wasn’t until I met the R2 builder that my love really expanded. “The Force Awakens” compounded that. I connected with Rey long before the movie came out. Now I’m hooked!

You’re a member of Rebel Legion, specifically the SoCal Sunrider Base. How did you discover the Legion?

I don’t remember exactly, but I have been going to comic cons for quite some time and probably first heard of them at one. I knew about them for years, but never had a strong desire to join since I didn’t have costumes that were up to requirements. I had a lot more fun costumes, like a feminine Han Solo, R2-D2 themed Jedi outfit, etc., that aren’t what the Rebel Legion is for. I finally decided that I would get a Rey costume up to snuff and join not only to enjoy being Rey, but also to find events to take R2-D2 to as well. The R2 builders aren’t organized in that regard like the Rebel Legion and 501st are.

What requirements did you have to meet to join the group?

Since I knew I wanted to be Rey, I had to pick which Rey costume to focus on. I really like her Resistance Rey (gray vest outfit), so I focused on that one first. I read the requirements listed on the Rebel Legion website and went from there.

Resistance Rey is an amazing character. Why did you choose her?

I just really connected with Rey in a way I have never connected with a fictional character before. She has so much of my personality and we share a lot of common traits. I eventually want all of Rey’s costumes, but I started with Resistance Rey because I loved the vest!

Was it a challenge to put the costume together?

Yes, especially since I don’t sew! I’ve tried to learn many times but I just can’t seem to do it. So I had to wait for the movie to come out then find someone willing to make it to RL standards on Etsy. I picked pieces from a few different vendors, and luckily it all worked out.

A large part of Rebel Legion’s mission centers around charity and volunteer work. What are some of the events you’ve participated in? 

I joined in January of this year and I’ve already done 18 events! I tried to pick more STEM-focused events since that’s what I’m passionate about. The highest profile events I’ve done were Legoland and Star Wars night at Angel Stadium. My first two troops were back to back for a STEM workshop for Girl Scouts. Another fun one was the El Centro Airshow since there were a lot of fun planes to take pictures in.

What kind of reactions do you get when you show up as Rey?

Rey is so popular, so I get a big response! I was a little worried that since this version of Rey is in so little footage in “The Force Awakens,” I wouldn’t be recognized. Luckily, I haven’t had that issue. Maybe it’s her distinctive hair that helps. Either way, I’m well received! It’s especially fun if I get to troop with a Kylo Ren and we play off of each other.

The little kids always think I actually am Rey, so I get to act a little bit and act like Rey for these kids. At my first troop, a young girl approached me asking me what my favorite food was. I said I had only ever eaten Unkar Plott’s portions, so I asked what her favorite food is. She said spaghetti. I said I had never heard of it, so what was it like? She said it was a plate of noodles. I asked what noodles were since I had never heard of them. At that point I could see the gears turning in her eyes and her blanking out so I said, “Ok, ok, I’ll look it up in the Resistance database. So cute!

When I was at Angel Stadium, I locked eyes from a distance with a small boy, maybe 3 years old? Anyway, he started sobbing and I had no idea what to do. His parents comforted him, and after a minute he bolted straight to me and wrapped himself tightly around my leg and through his sobs I heard something like, “Don’t let Kylo hurt you. I love you too much,” so I comforted him and told him the Force is strong with me and I’ll be ok. It was super touching.

Are there other characters you’d like to portray in the future?

I’m working on a few other costumes, but no other named characters besides Rey yet. I’ve got a Jedi and a Rebel Fleet Trooper costume in the works. I might do one of Jyn Erso’s because I really like her style.

Are you excited about “The Last Jedi”? It’s almost here!

I’m super excited! I’m excited to see where Rian Johnson takes us, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where Rey goes on her journey.

You once gave a talk about the Dawn mission to Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. Please tell me about that!

Through the R2 builders, I ended up meeting someone who works at ILM and he invited me for a tour any time I was in San Francisco. So, of course, I had to go visit as soon as possible! My husband and I took a mini vacation up there. When coordinating my visit, I asked if he thought there would be any interest in me giving a talk about Dawn while I was there, and the rest is history! I’ve now visited a couple of times and it’s really fun every time. Once I even visited Skywalker Ranch … and when checking out at their store I met Dave Filoni!

What other fandoms are you interested in?

I think it’s obvious Star Wars is my main thing now, but I also like Star Trek, “Doctor Who,” “Battlestar Galactica,” Harry Potter, “Lord of the Rings,” and probably more I can’t remember right now. I’m not a huge comic book person, but I did like the Christian Bale “Batman” trilogy and the “Wonder Woman” movie. I used to really be into anime in high school but that faded when I went to college.

As a kid you were into Disney movies. Are you still a Disney nerd?

I’d say so. I go to Disneyland once or twice a year. I have watched a lot of the recent movies (for example, I just saw “Moana” over Thanksgiving break).

You once gave talks about Star Wars science and Dawn at Gallifrey One, the Doctor Who convention. Are you a Whovian?

A little bit! One of the things my husband and I want to do is have our R2 cosplay as a Dalek at the next Gallifrey One. Last year, I attended as Jakku/Scavenger Rey but used 4th Doctor scarf-patterned arm sleeves. That was well received.

I have to point out that there is a YouTube video in which you talk to Morgan Freeman about science. Morgan Freeman! How did that happen? Did you ever recover from it or do you still hear that magnificent voice in your head?

So the JPL media office contacted me that he would be doing an event at JPL and I had been picked to ask him a question in advance, since he wanted all questions pre-screened. So I asked him about how to do more casual outreach to reach the general audience without formal events like talks. It led to a bit of an interesting discussion. It was pretty neat. And the voice in person is just as awesome as you’d expect!

You’ve done so much professionally and personally. What is still on your career bucket list?

Well one thing I never expected to get to do is become a Rover Planner, as I thought that was mostly for robotics/computer science people. But I’ve now begun down that path, and over the next few years I’m working towards becoming one for Opportunity. So I guess there’s only crazy things left. Director of JPL? Astronaut? I don’t know! All I know is whatever I do, I’m going to have fun along the way.

What is on your geek bucket list?

I want to head to Ireland and hike Skellig Michael in my Resistance Rey outfit!

Let’s close with a few key Star Wars questions:

Is R2 the droid you were looking for?

Absolutely!

Besides R2, obviously, who is your favorite droid?

I think next I’d pick Chopper. I love the snark. K-2SO is almost tied on that front.

If you could visit any Star Wars planet, which would it be?

Definitely Ach-To. So pretty! And Porgs!

The Han Solo spin-off. Terrible idea or should we give it a chance?

I think we should give it a chance. I trust the people working on it to make it great!

And finally … Porgs. Yes or no?

Yes!!!!

 

In memory of Carrie, the princess who became a general

On Dec. 18, 2015, Carrie Fisher made a glorious comeback in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” reprising her role as the ultimate self-rescuing princess, Leia Organa.

A year and nine days later, she left this Earth after what the newspapers called a “cardiac event” or “incident” on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

Her mother, Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds, followed her a day later, as if she could not bear the separation.

I was just as saddened as anybody by the abrupt loss of Fisher. A friend reminded me that, a few months earlier, she had suggested we attend a signing in L.A. for the writer’s new book, “The Princess Diarist.” I had shrugged off this idea, but now regretted it.

I guess I assumed I would have other opportunities to meet her. I was preoccupied with other things. I now stand corrected. Always take the chance to meet your heroes when you can. This is my new mantra. When it comes to amazing people who can never be replaced, carpe diem.

I think we’d all agree that last year, especially the end parts and on into early 2017, were pretty rough, politically, socially, globally. Maybe that’s why I mostly put Carrie out of my thoughts and moved on.

Lately, though, I’ve found myself thinking about her a lot.

This is probably because Ms. Fisher is about to make her final appearance in the Star Wars franchise as “The Last Jedi” officially debuts Friday. Trailers feature images of her, stoic and regally clad in diplomatic robes. The cast and makers of the film payed loving homage to their absent co-star this weekend at the film’s premiere.

I’m sure I’m not the only who has suddenly found myself revisiting the memory of Carrie, and the cinnamon-bun-haired princess she so famously brought to life.

Leia Organa’s first appearance in “A New Hope” is the stuff of fairy tale tropes. She’s the enigmatic damsel in distress, peering furtively from behind her hooded cloak, the beautiful princess who triggers the hero’s quest and all the ensuing action of George Lucas’ original space opera.

We first see Leia literally as a hologram, an ephemeral figment of fantasy. “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

But when we finally meet the real Leia — in the scenes that most riveted me, a girl of 12, when I saw “A New Hope” — she is so much more than a tired, old stereotype.

Lifting her chin up to look Darth Vader square in the eye … er, mask.

Spitting rebukes at the Dark Lord himself.

Leia is terrified, but she bravely endures torture and, most devastatingly, the sight of her home planet and everyone she loves blasted into oblivion by the Death Star.

When Luke Skywalker and Han Solo finally show up to save her, she is deliciously unimpressed by them. Her sarcasm is unparalleled.

“Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

Sure, Lucas can’t resist romanticized nonsense, like that kiss on the cheek before Luke swings her across that chasm, but Leia spends a good deal of her time rolling her eyes at the ineptitude of her so-called saviors. She never hesitates to pick up a blaster and charge into the fray herself. She knows it’s up to her.

Fisher imbues Leia with qualities that might be stereotypically classified as “difficult.” She is a leader. She’s the boss. She’s convinced she is smarter and more capable than Luke and Han. She has no patience for male bravado or recklessness. She clearly doesn’t care that anyone might be intimidated by her competence and strength.

Later in the trilogy, we learn more about Leia. She’s a rescuer, masterminding the carbonite-frozen Han’s escape in the guise of a bounty hunter, and a total frickin’ bad-ass — strangling Jabba the Hutt with her bare hands while clad in that demeaning gold bikini is one giant F-U to the creep who tried to enslave her.

We also witness Leia’s vulnerability in her interactions with Luke. The scene in the Ewok village, in which she shares her memories of her mother, only gets more poignant as the franchise progresses. The fact that she is the one who remembers Padme is fraught with significance.

Let’s face it. It was always inevitable Leia’s romance with Han wouldn’t last. She was far too grounded, too honest, too sensible to put up with a restless rascal like Solo, however good he might look in those striped pants.

When I was younger, one of my biggest frustrations concerning Leia was that she was never allowed to pursue the path of the Jedi like her brother.

Yoda and Luke speak of her power – “My sister has it” — and we catch glimpses of her gifts in her psychic connection to Luke.

For a long time, I was enamored by an imagined alternate reality in which Leia would train, face trials, and embrace her Force power, wield a lightsaber and fight the Dark Side alongside her brother.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to see the Leia of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” as someone who has actually embraced her perfect destiny, sacrificing the sacred path of the Jedi to lead the Resistance against the reemergence of the Dark Side in the form of the First Order.

Leia chooses the path where she is most needed and steps into the role she was born to fill, becoming General Organa. She never wields the lightsaber, but plays a more vital role in the battle for Light.

She is also the one who doesn’t turn tail and run after the devastation of Ben Solo’s transformation into Kylo Ren. While Han and Luke are too weak to face their failures as, respectively, father and Jedi master, Leia holds the line as leader of the Resistance. She is the only one who holds out hope for her son’s redemption.

“You think I want to forget him? I want him back,” she tells a wavering Han, imploring him to bring Ben home.

Leia is the true hero of the Star Wars saga because she is courageous enough to sacrifice personal ambition and overcome her fears to serve the greater good of the galaxy.

Much like Leia, Fisher was sometimes labeled as “difficult.” The progeny of Hollywood royalty, she survived a turbulent childhood, but struggled with addiction and mental illness her entire life.

She chaffed at and called out the hypocrisy of an industry that didn’t quite know what to do with her. She was a brilliant, scathing, eccentric author of books and screenplays and was refreshingly frank and irreverent when it came to her flaws and personal failings.

Most of all, she was always, unapologetically herself.

“She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding (addiction and mental illness),” Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd said, shortly after her mother’s passing.

“I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.”

Thanks to “The Last Jedi,” we’ll enjoy Carrie’s talent a little while longer and be inspired by her once more.

She deserves this final moment in the spotlight.

Photos: comicbook.com, MovieWeb.

Stuff comic book reader’s stocking with season’s best

So, maybe you’re looking to impress the comic book reader in your life this Christmas, but don’t know where to start.

Or, you’d like to spark a love of comics in that friend who geeks out over every superhero movie.

Or, you’re thinking a Star Wars comic book might be the perfect gift for that co-worker who can’t wait for Friday’s release of “The Last Jedi.”

Well, have no fear, holiday shopper. Our friend Roger May, of Horizon Comics in Lancaster, Calif., is here to save the day with professional advice on what to get the comic book fiends on your Christmas list.

According to May, there are two hot properties this season that comic book fans will hope to see sticking out of their stockings.

The first is “Doomsday Clock No. 1,” one of a 12-issue maxiseries from writer Geoff Johns, artist Gary Frank, and colorist Brad Anderson.

“It’s basically DC merging the ‘Watchmen’ universe into the DC universe,” May said.

No. 1, a single, 40-page comic with no advertisements, would be essential gift giving “if there’s a ‘Watchman’ fan in the family.”

The second issue in the “Doomsday Clock” series will be released the Wednesday after Christmas, but first prints of “No. 1” are “already getting really scarce,” according to May.

“We sold 250 copies of the comic in one day, just to show you the level of excitement surrounding that book.”

If you’re buying for someone who’s interested in “Doomsday Clock,” but has never read the original “Watchmen” graphic novel, consider treating them to Alan Moore’s hugely influential comic masterpiece.

You could also gift them with director Zack Snyder’s 2009 film adaptation of “Watchmen,” which May said is “really close to the graphic novel.”

The other surefire comic book gift option this season is DC’s “Dark Nights: Metal,” written by Scott Snyder.

The concept of the series is “the DC universe being invaded by characters from their own ‘upside down,’ to borrow a ‘Stranger Things’ reference,” May said.

Indeed, “Dark Nights: Metal” even goes so far as to reference “Stranger Things” itself.

“It’s like a Justice League made up all of Bruce Waynes, Bruce Waynes that made really bad decisions that led to an unstable world,” May said.

The series is set in a “Dark Multiverse where all untenable universes go to die.”

“Dark Nights: Metal” is about halfway through its run, May said. “It’s been a really insanely popular series.”

Early issues may be difficult to find, at least first prints, but Horizon Comics should have in stock second or third prints of issues 1, 2, and 3, as well as a mix of first print and second print tie-in companion pieces to the main series.

Those tie-in books feature Bruce Wayne versions of various DC characters, including Flash, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.

“They’re all dark, twisted versions of that character,” May said. The books tell their origin stories and detail the “decision Bruce Wayne made to end up where he is.”

In the “Red Death” issue, for instance, “Batman decides he’s been thinking too small and needs to save the world instead of Gotham,” May said, so he kidnaps The Flash and straps him to the hood of the Batmobile.

If you’ve got a Marvel fan on your list, however, the recent release of the “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer has sparked sales of a certain graphic novel, which would make for good gift giving.

The “Infinity War” movie borrows from Marvel’s “Infinity Gauntlet Trilogy,” in which “Thanos fashions a gauntlet that will hold all of the infinity gems,” May said.

The gauntlet “gives him almost complete and total dominance over all of reality, makes him basically a god. In the movie he’s assembling these gems. The comic is gonna be a little different but it will definitely give you a basis for what is going to be going on in the movie.”

If you’re wondering what to get the Star Wars fan on your list, May suggests two ongoing comic book story arcs: the current “Darth Vader” series and a main “Star Wars” series.

May has two personal favorite story arcs: “Star Wars: Vader Down,” which revolves around Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, and “Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel,” which he describes as a “really good story arc, too.”

According to May, you could also opt to buy your Star Wars fan one or more of several short Star Wars miniseries, which center around characters from the universe, including Darth Maul, Lando Calrissian, Poe Dameron, Princess Leia, and Captain Phasma.

As far as other gift options go, May said you can’t go wrong with “anything Batman, Superman, Harley Quinn, or Thor.”

For that very special comic book nerd, the one you don’t mind shelling out a lot of cash for, there are also luxe omnibuses and “absolute editions”, featuring favorite characters or stories, to consider.

As an example, May cites his favorite series, “Batman: Hush,” which can be purchased in a large format, hardcover absolute edition.

These editions typically retail for around $75 to $100, but “they’re beautiful,” May said.

“It’s kind of like reading comics in IMAX.”

Still totally confused about what to get the comic book reader on your list?

Drop by Horizon Comics, if you happen to live in the Antelope Valley, or your closest local comic book shop.

“Come see me,” May said.

“I’m a firm believer that there’s a comic for everyone, whether they’re into superheroes, or horror, or action adventure, or comedy.”

Photos: Comics Alliance, DC Comics, Rotten Tomatoes, Heroes Assemble. 

Early comic book forays inspire filmmaker to honor women’s legacy

As a girl, filmmaker Marisa Stotter followed her older brother into the local comic book shop for a Magic: The Gathering tournament, and found herself browsing the shelves, igniting a spark that would grow into a full-fledged comic book habit in high school.

Years later, she would illuminate the hidden history of women’s contributions to the industry in the empowering documentary “She Makes Comics.” (Read a review here.)

The film sheds light on the achievements — not to mention the discrimination faced by — female writers, artists, fans, and creators. It also features interviews with power players in the comic book world, including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Jenette Kahn, and Karen Berger.

After touring film festivals and other events around the world and winning a major award at San Diego Comic-Con, “She Makes Comics” recently made its debut on Netflix. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you should remedy that immediately. You can also view it on Amazon and iTunes.)

As a fan, I’m ecstatic that Marisa graciously agreed to  discuss the making of her documentary, along with other fun and geeky subjects, including her history with Dungeons & Dragons, the “Wonder Woman” movie, her “Doctor Who”-themed short film, and “Stranger Things.” 

“She Makes Comics” director Marisa Stotter and producer Patrick Meaney with the logo for their documentary.

What sparked the idea for the documentary “She Makes Comics”?

I was working with Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert of Respect! Films on a couple of comics-related documentaries, one on Chris Claremont and one on Image Comics. As those projects started to wind down, we discussed what to focus on next.

At the time (fall 2013), the Internet was abuzz with discussions about sexual harassment, discrimination, and other issues facing women in the industry. Against this background, it seemed like the right time to produce a documentary celebrating women in the comic book industry, although we also wanted to touch upon the discrimination that they face.

The seeds for the project were sewn when you were an English major at Wesleyan University. First of all, English majors rock. Second, tell me how the documentary began to take shape during this time.

I think my English education provided me with a great advantage going into the project. Although I did not specifically study comics as part of the English department’s curriculum, the critical reading and analytical skills I honed at Wesleyan proved to be useful as we studied the history of women’s contributions to comics and used that research to flesh out the arc of the documentary.

You were first introduced to the mysteries of the comic book shop by your brother, but it took you a while to jump into buying and reading comics. Tell me more about that.

Like most younger sisters, I wanted to do everything that my older brother did, and that included playing Magic: The Gathering, the card game, as a kid. A local comic book shop in my hometown hosted tournaments on Saturdays that my brother and I would participate in. I wasn’t very good at the game so I’d lose early on and kill time until my brother was ready to leave by browsing the comics rack. That’s when I first became interested in comics — I think one of the first that I picked up was a “Simpsons” comic since I recognized the characters.

What were some of your formative titles as a young girl?

I didn’t read a ton of comics as a kid, just the occasional “Simpsons” or “Archie” comics and some kid-oriented Batman comics. It was in high school that I began to read comics more regularly and developed my own personal tastes. As a freshman in high school, I read “Persepolis” and “Maus,” which really blew me away. They showed me that the medium could tell any kind of story, and they were particularly appealing to me as a student of literature. I did also get into superhero comics, but those graphic novels broadened my understanding of comic storytelling.

Are you still a comic book reader? If so, what titles are you into now?

I do still read comics, although I don’t have the time to read as much as I’d like to. I’m in a catch-up period reading some comics I missed in the past few months. I’ve been catching up on “Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, which I absolutely love. And I’m catching up on Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Bitch Planet.”

DC Comics editor Shelly Bond in her New York office in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

What sort of research did you do before you began production on “She Makes Comics”? How much did you already know about the subject?

We were fortunate enough to have on board our creative team Karen Green, the curator of comics and graphic novels at Columbia University’s Robert Butler Memorial Library. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the medium. Karen was enormously helpful as we began researching for the project, suggesting interview subjects and particular works for us to focus on. I was already familiar with some of the people we were planning to interview, but I learned plenty more as we conducted our research.

Why aren’t people generally familiar with much of the history of women in comics presented in your doc?

Women’s contributions to comics aren’t as well-known as those of such legends as Stan Lee and Will Eisner. I think there are a lot of elements that factor into that, but perhaps the biggest reason is that comics has long been considered a medium for male readers, so it is assumed that men are the main creative forces behind them.

How did you go about making your list of interviewees? Was it a challenge to land any of the interviews for the film?

We initially had a very long “wish list” of interviewees that we then narrowed down as the film took shape. Patrick and Jordan had existing relationships with some of the people we wanted to interview from working on their previous documentaries, and Karen personally knew a number of people and facilitated getting in touch with them. We were fortunate that just about every person we contacted was interested in and excited by the project. In some cases we couldn’t overcome logistical obstacles, but we certainly made every effort to get the interviews that we felt were important for the film.

Marisa and “Captain Marvel” writer Kelly Sue DeConnick doing DeConnick’s specialty, the “duck-face selfie.”

Was there one interview in particular you geeked out over?

I’m a huge fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work, and she’s a pretty big superstar in the comics world, so having the opportunity to interview her was really special. I was fortunate enough to get a duck-face photo with her, too!

You funded the film via Kickstarter. What was your crowd-funding experience like?

The “She Makes Comics” campaign was my very first experience with Kickstarter, and it was quite the wild ride. It was equal parts thrilling and stressful, given that we had a 30-day window in which to achieve our goal. I honestly had no idea what to expect at first — I wasn’t sure if the project would strike a chord with potential backers, or if there would be a backlash given the subject matter.

Fortunately, we received very positive feedback early on, and as the press began to cover the project, we saw an incredible outpouring of support. Managing the campaign, however, was a full-time job in itself. We constantly updated the campaign page with new rewards and communicated with backers on a daily basis, while we continued to spread the word about the campaign via press coverage, fan sites, and social media. I was on edge until we reached our goal, which was both an exhilarating moment and quite the relief.

You also worked with the Sequart Organization. Tell me about that organization and how were they involved with the film.

Sequart is an organization promoting comics literacy and the study of comics in academia, so it was a natural partnership given the nature of our project. Sequart had previously been involved in Respect’s other comic-related documentaries, so Patrick and Jordan had an existing relationship and had no trouble getting them on board with “She Makes Comics.”

Readers browse in a local comic book shop in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

Let’s talk about the actual documentary shoot. What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Our biggest challenge was coordinating the logistics of the interviews, since the people we wanted to interview lived all over the world. We attended several comic conventions where we were able to conduct a number of interviews in one location, but even then it was difficult to coordinate with many creators’ busy schedules.

What did you enjoy most about the shoot?

I think I had the most fun shooting at comic conventions. I love to wander around the exhibition floor at a convention and just take in the sights, particularly the creative cosplay. We shot a lot of b-roll footage of amazing female cosplayers, and I was especially excited whenever we met a young girl in a great get-up.

I love the film’s logo! Tell me about how it was created.

Our logo is courtesy of the talented Courtney Wirth, who designed it for us. We wanted the logo to evoke one of the most iconic symbols of female empowerment, Rosie the Riveter, while remaining specific to the subject of “She Makes Comics.” We loved what Courtney came up with, and in fact, I have the original artwork hanging in my apartment!

Marisa and producer Patrick Meaney answer audience questions during a panel at the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival in Las Vegas, Nev.

“She Makes Comics” screened at a lot of film festivals and events. Were you able to attend many of them?

I attended quite a few screenings, mostly here on the West Coast. The movie has screened all over the world, including in South Korea, Australia, and the U.K. It’s really amazing to me how She Makes Comics has managed to resonate with audiences across the globe.

What was the response to the film? Have a lot of women approached you wanting to talk about it?

The response to “She Makes Comics” was wonderfully positive and affirming. I was nervous sending the film out into the world, and I was particularly worried about our Kickstarter backers who had pledged to the project and would now be seeing the product of their support. Fortunately, I heard positive feedback from our backers as well as others who discovered the film. I was approached by many women for whom “She Makes Comics” struck a personal chord. I’m glad that the film opened up the conversation about women in the comic book industry even further.

What about the reaction from men? I was disappointed to see some pretty clueless comments from men on the IMDb website.

I’ve spoken with a lot of men who were fascinated by the documentary and came away having learned something new about the medium and its history. There will always be anonymous trolls trying to tear down a project like this, but I received very positive responses from male viewers, some of whom are fathers and art teachers trying to nurture young talent at home and in the classroom.

“She Makes Comics” won the best documentary prize at the 2015 Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. That’s quite an achievement. How did that feel?

It was wonderful to receive recognition at such an iconic convention, and it was fitting given that so many of the stories in “She Makes Comics” have some connection to San Diego Comic-Con.

How did you land a distribution deal with Netflix? That must have been exciting. How has that changed the doc’s reception and prospects?

We initially made a distribution deal with XLRator, and they handled the rest. It’s an enormous milestone to have “She Makes Comics” available on services like Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix because the film will reach a whole new audience. We’ve seen a renewed interest in the film thanks to that exposure.

What would you ultimately like to achieve with “She Makes Comics”? 

What I’m proudest of with “She Makes Comics” is that the film has become a source of inspiration for young girls whose artistic talent is emerging. I think it’s vital for them to see role models, to see the women who have come before them, so they know that creating comics is something that they can do when they grow up. That, I think, is the project’s legacy beyond telling the story of women in the comic book industry.

Filmmaking and acting troupe Team Unicorn in a scene from “She Makes Comics.”

You also made a short film, “Tenspotting,” which is set in the “Doctor Who” fandom. That sounds amazing. Where can we see it?

You can watch “Tenspotting” on Vimeo!

Tell me more about the inspiration and making of the short.

“Tenspotting” was a fun one because it started as a joke! I was at Comic-Con the previous year having drinks at the Hyatt bar with two writer friends of mine, Emily Blake and Michael Patrick Sullivan. We kept noticing lots of “Tens” and were having a lot of fun counting them, and thus began the germ of “Tenspotting.”

Emily and Michael went on to write the script somewhat as a joke, but I told them I was interested in producing it — seriously! — and I brought it to Patrick and Jordan, who thought it would be a fun project to take on.

I’m assuming you’re a Whovian. How did you get into the series?

I’m actually not a Whovian, although I’ve seen a number of episodes. Don’t revoke my geek card!

Who’s your Doctor?

Although I’m not a big Doctor Who fan, I’m super excited about Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the next Doctor, and I plan to tune in when she debuts. I really like her as an actress, and I’m excited to see the first female Doctor.

What are your other personal fandoms? How do they manifest themselves in your life?

I’m such an equal opportunity fan — I get invested in almost everything I read or watch, but sadly I don’t have the time to be as involved in fandom as I used to. The Harry Potter fandom will always hold a special place in my heart, and I still have some great Potter fan fiction bookmarked from over a decade ago.

Is it true that while you were at Wesleyan, you were part of a secret group that played “Dungeons & Dragons”?

I wouldn’t say we were a “secret” group, but I did learn how to play D&D in college with a great group of friends. I absolutely loved it, although I think our Dungeon Master got tired of our antics derailing our progress. I’ve been meaning to join a campaign since I recently got the itch to get back into D&D.

“Stranger Things” is packed with “D&D” references. Are you a fan?

I am a big fan of “Stranger Things.” I had the greatest experience watching it for the first time. I didn’t know much about it except that it was set in the ‘80s and starred Winona Ryder. I was totally hooked on the first season, and the second season was just as good, if not better. Along with “Freaks & Geeks,” “Stranger Things” features one of my favorite portrayals of D&D campaigns in television.

I’ve heard you also really like board games. What are some of your faves?

I love Settlers of Catan, although I tend to get fairly competitive with that one. I’m also a big fan of card games like Munchkin and Bang. There are some really innovative games raising funds on Kickstarter, so I often get brand new games to test out with my friends.

Marisa is joined by several of the film’s interviewees for a Q&A following the premiere of “She Makes Comics” at Brave New World in Newhall, Calif.

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change in the world of fandoms and geek culture?

I think it all boils down to inclusivity and respect. There is a gatekeeper mentality in some fandoms, based on this idea that you can only be a “true fan” if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the work and have been a fan since “before it was cool.” I’m of the opinion that we should encourage new, enthusiastic fans to become involved in fandom.

I think a number of fan communities would benefit from a change in attitude towards new fans, because ultimately, we are all involved because we love the thing that is bringing us together. It doesn’t matter if you have been reading Marvel comics since the 1970s or if you started after the “Avengers” movie — we all approach fandom in different ways and from different perspectives, and to me, that is what makes these fan communities so enriching and fun to be part of.

Do you have thoughts and/or opinions on the recent success of the “Wonder Woman” movie? 

I really loved “Wonder Woman” on its own, and I appreciate how it seems to have touched a whole new generation of women (and men) who are excited about the character and what she symbolizes. I think the film is a much-needed reprieve from the chaos that is 2017. It has clearly inspired and empowered women in a way that no superhero film has done in the past few years. The “no man’s land” scene in Wonder Woman was perhaps my favorite movie moment of the year; it was so breathtaking and personally gave me goosebumps.

What’s on your career bucket list? Would you like to make more documentaries and films or go in another direction?

I loved the experience of making “She Makes Comics,” but I’ve found my calling, career-wise, to be in television. As I pursue my goals in that part of the industry, I’m bringing along with me a lot of what I learned working on “She Makes Comics,” as well as my lifelong passion for inclusivity and diversity. My ultimate goal is to develop and produce television that depicts stories we don’t ordinarily see on TV, from storytellers with varied backgrounds and perspectives.

What advice would you offer to women who still may be intimidated to go into their local comic book store?

Arm yourself with knowledge! Engage with the fan community online and get some recommendations for titles you may like based on the kinds of books, movies, and TV shows you enjoy. Fortunately, there are more and more comic book shops that are warm and welcoming to new readers and want to help you find your new favorite book. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and ask an employee to recommend some comics. It’s such an exciting world to explore!

 

The 12 Porgs of Christmas

We don’t yet know what “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will inspire in us. What feelings of joy it may bring. What questions about George Lucas’ universe it may raise. What awe and wonder it may stir. We’ll find out on Friday, Dec. 15.

We do know, however, that “Last Jedi” has already given us something very special and memorable. I’m talking, of course, about the Porg, those so-ugly-they’re-cute little bird things that look like a cross between a penguin and a pug.

The world has gone crazy over Porgs.

Porgs stole the “Last Jedi” trailer. Since Force Friday, they have become a merchandising machine to be reckoned with (and that’s, of course, why they were created).

They have their own hashtag, for the Force’s sake: #porgnation.

Here’s what we know about Porgs so far, according to Wookieepedia: They’re a species of coastal, cliff-dwelling birds native to the planet Ahch-To, home of the exiled Luke Skywalker.

They can apparently fly and build nests. Baby porgs are called “porglets.” How adorable is that?

Wookieepedia says Porgs were inspired by puffins that populate the Irish island Skellig Michael, used as a film location in “The Last Jedi.” They’re brought to life with computer-generated imagery and puppetry.

Now, I know not everyone loves the Porgs. Some find them annoying and not in keeping with the “Empire Strikes Back”-tone of seriousness “The Last Jedi” is aiming for. 

If you’ve been reading my blog or Facebook posts for awhile, you’ll know I am not among the Porg haters. I fell for those buggy-eyed, overly-nostriled frowny faces the moment I saw them peeking at me from the shelves of the Target toy section. 

Only time will tell if Porgs go the way of the Ewok and become enshrined in the venerable company of cutesy pop culture icons or become an embarrassing footnote in cinema history. (Ahem, Jar Jar Binks. Ahem.)

Until then, we celebrate them. There’s no use resisting. ‘Tis the season of the Porg! 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … The Last Jedi Porg Soup Mug with Spoon.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … a “Calm Porg” Star Wars Snowflake by Anthony Herrera Designs. (Make your own!)

Calm Porg

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a Star Wars Porg Deluxe Plush with Sound and Motion to be my new bestie.

Star Wars Porg Deluxe Plush with Sound and Motion

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … Porg emojis to express myself (available on Twitter and from the Star Wars App).

Image result for porg emojis

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a Chewbacca Bobblehead holding a Porg, of course!

Chewbacca Pop! Vinyl Bobble-Head Figure by Funko - Star Wars: The Last Jedi

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … an angelic choir of Porgs singing the Star Wars theme.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … the merriest T-shirt of all.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … the best part of “The Last Jedi” trailer. (Yeah, I said it.)

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … two Porgies in my pocket.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … Porg stationary for the office. (My co-workers are jealous. I can tell.)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Porg Stationery Set - Exclusive

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … the cutest children’s book you’ve ever seen.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … fabulous Porg fashion from Her Universe.

 

‘Tis the Season for Geeky Gifting: A Holiday Guide

Most of the geeks I know are easy to shop for.

Almost too easy, in fact. The sheer amount of merchandise tied to any one fandom these days can be mindbogglingly disorienting. And when it comes to fandoms, most geeks are into more than one.

Would she like a Tardis backpack or Matt Smith socks? “Game of Thrones” coasters or a Hogwarts house mug? BB-8 cookie jar or R2-D2 cardigan? Wonder Woman cellphone case or “Nightmare Before Christmas” throw?

In this post, we endeavor to simplify the geek gift-buying process with a lively curated list of items that should appeal to nerds of all varieties and fandoms. Best of all, you can get started with your shopping immediately by clicking the links accompanying each entry.

Perhaps you’re wondering where all the porgs are? Just you wait, my friend! The 12 Porgs of Christmas are coming. There’s also a Ghost of Christmas Future lurking with an upcoming Comic Book Gift Guide post.

Happy gifting! Your geek of choice will thank you for it.

There’s a Pop! for everyone.

Funko, maker of those cute little, dead-eyed vinyl pop-culture licensed figures, quite literally has something that will please everyone, from the obvious franchises, like Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel, to characters from more obscure properties.

For the old-school “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan, there’s bad girl Faith from the Pop! Television collection:

For the Disney Princess dreamer, how about this adorable Ariel?

And for the friend who already has more Pops than she has room for, there’s a collection of too-cute mugs, including the Sally Pop! Ceramic Mug. (Other options include Kylo Ren, Snoopy, Hulk, Batman, Chewbacca, and Captain America.)

The year’s geekiest movies.

Give the gift of the year’s fangirliest flicks by choosing one or more of the following.

For your friend who cried during the No Man’s Land scene:

Wonder Woman [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD]

For the anglophile in your life (available Dec. 12):

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle [Blu-ray]

For the indie movie fan:

Colossal [Blu-ray]

For the Marvel fan who likes it goofy:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [Blu-ray]

For the moviegoer whose Spidey senses are tingling:

Spider-Man: Homecoming [Blu-ray]

For the emo X-Men enthusiast:

Logan [Blu-ray]

For your friend who went crazy over “Justice League”:

Exclusive DC 4K Collection: Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice 4K Ultra HD (4K Blu-ray+Blu-ray+Digital)

For the feminist action movie buff:

Atomic Blonde [Blu-ray]

For the “GoT” fan in mourning until Season 8 (Season 7 is available Dec. 12):

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season

Socks, they’re not just from your Aunt Betsy anymore.

Here’s a comfy foot-pampering twist on the traditional Christmas countdown. Keep their feet fashionable with “12 Days of Socks” featuring colorful pop culture-themed patterns, like this set:

Other patterns include Harry Potter, Disney Princess, Minecraft, DC Comics, and The Nightmare Before Christmas in varying sizes for men, women, girls, and boys.

For the Lego lover who has everything. 

This year’s Lego must-have is the Women of NASA set, which is, sadly, temporarily out of stock on the official Lego website.

Image result for women of nasa lego set

If you can manage to snag one somewhere, your Lego-obsessed loved one will surely thank you. The set features minifigures of four pioneering women of NASA: astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist and entrepreneur Margaret Hamilton, astronaut, physicist and entrepreneur Sally Ride and astronaut, physician and engineer Mae Jemison.

Fortunately, there are lots of other Lego sets available for the brick-inclined, featuring such franchises as Star Wars, DC, Disney, Ghostbusters, Marvel, Minecraft, and NINJAGO.

Deck your geek in tacky sweaters. 

The Ugly Christmas Sweater is back in a big — and, frankly, kinda disturbing way — but what the heck? Why not embrace the trend by picking out a hideously festive top that perfectly expresses your favorite geek’s fandom?

ThinkGeek has an array of eye-straining sweaters to choose from, including:

Star Wars Darth Vader Lack of Cheer Holiday Sweater

The Star Wars Darth Vader I Find Your Lack of Cheer Disturbing Sweater.

Firefly Holiday Sweater

Firefly Holiday Sweater.

Super Mario Bros. Holiday Sweater

Super Mario Bros. Holiday Sweater.

Wonder Woman Silhouette Sweater

Wonder Woman Silhouette Sweater.

And speaking of Wonder Woman …

You can’t go wrong with movie merchandise for anyone whose world was rocked by Patty Jenkins’ record-breaking comic book flick.

Image result for wonder woman bomber jacket

Keep her toasty with the Wonder Woman Movie Ladies Bomber Jacket.

Image result for wonder woman amazon princess handbag

For nights when she leaves the sword of Themyscira at home, there’s the Wonder Woman Movie Amazon Princess Handbag.

Image result for wonder woman the art and making of the film

For reliving the wonder of Jenkins’ epic, give her “Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film” (Hardcover).

On a side note, DC’s official store also has great gifts for fans of  Superman, Batman, Arrow, The Flash, and Harley Quinn.

For seekers of magical creatures.

Harry Potter-philes can possess their very own fantastic beasts — as Hagrid and Newt Scamander will testify, this can be a risky endeavor — with the “Harry Potter Magical Creatures” collection.

Their are many wizardy critters to choose from, including:

Harry Potter Magical Creatures #1 Hedwig

Harry Potter Magical Creatures No. 1 Hedwig.

Harry Potter Magical Creatures No. 2 Dobby.

Niffler Magical Creature No. 1.

Gifting made easy and tropical breezy.

Nerd site extraordinaire ThinkGeek has basically turned your Christmas shopping into a vacation with its irresistibly cute Geeki Tikis collection. Take the guess work out of what to get the thirsty nerd on your list by simply selecting the appropriately themed set.

Among the many available fandoms:

Star Wars Geeki Tikis - Series 1

Star Wars Geeki Tikis — Series 1. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Geeki Tikis - Exclusive

Guardians of the Galaxy Geeki Tikis — Exclusive.

Star Trek: The Original Series Geeki Tikis

Star Trek: The Original Series Geeki Tikis. 

Inspire them to throw away that ratty T-shirt.

If you know geeks, you know they love their nerd shirts. A little too much perhaps. Especially that holey one that’s been in their closet since San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

Maybe it’s time to get them a new shirt to love. Fortunately, TeeTurtle offers a variety of officially licensed, cute and cuddly, original designs from popular fandoms.

For the Disney fan:

Double-Edged Sword T-Shirt Mulan TeeTurtle

For the Star Wars fan:

It's a Trap! T-Shirt Star Wars TeeTurtle

For the Marvel (or Hiddles) fan:

Chaos and Destruction T-Shirt Marvel TeeTurtle

For the geek in need of Demotivation.

If you know one of those people who rolls their eyes at trite, inspirational sayings and cheesy motivational posters, ThinkGeek has just the cynical thing for them.

The website’s annual Despair Wall Calendar features 12 months of demotivating designs and geeky dates — like Talk Like a Pirate Day! — as well as “holidays” submitted by ThinkGeek customers.

2018 ThinkGeek Despair Wall Calendar - Exclusive

And while you’re shopping at ThinkGeek, here’s another items to consider. It might just be the perfect addition to Nana’s cozy miniature Christmas village.

Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe

For the friend who’s looking for something to cuddle. 

I give you … the Funko Stranger Things Supercute Demigorgon Plush.

Dustin would love it.

Funko Stranger Things SuperCute Demogorgon Plush

Too scary? How about Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro Dust Bunny Slippers?

The droids your kid is looking for. 

With the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit, kids create their own droid and bring it to life using littleBits electronic blocks. Using the Droid Inventor app, they can give it new abilities and take it on 16-plus missions.

For the fashionista who’s one with The Force.

Her Universe recently unveiled its new Star Wars collection, which features whimsical, Lucasfilm-inspired designs, including this amazing Star Wars BB-8 Retro Skirt.

The best “Stranger Things” shirt ever?

No Christmas list would be compete without this awesome “Stranger Things”-inspired tee.

The Babysitters Club - Steve's Scary Situation Classic T-Shirt Front

And no T-shirt sums up the way we’re feeling about 2017 better than this one:

Star Trek Picard Facepalm T-Shirt

Boba Fett fan, Orthodox Jew finds fun, acceptance as Mandalorian Merc

Boba Fett fans, you’re going to love this week’s edition of the Geek Goddess interviews.

Corinne Finkelstein was practically raised on Star Wars and, like many fans of the franchise, she was fascinated by a certain enigmatic bounty hunter.

One fateful day at WonderCon, she met members of the Mandalorian Mercs, a club that celebrates Star Wars through the creation and display of costumes representing Mandalorian characters and culture from George Lucas’ many sagas.

As an Orthodox Jew who abides by a strict set of religious rules, she worried she might not be able to meet the club’s costume requirements or be accepted by the other members. She quickly learned she had nothing to worry about as her fellow Mercs warmly embraced her, helping her create a unique costume and character that honored her religious beliefs.

Corinne went on to be accepted into one of the club’s elite brigades and now troops with her clan at charity and volunteer events around Southern California. She’s also become something of an expert on Mandalorian history and culture. (She really digs “Star Wars Rebels,” by the way.)

Her story suggests the ways of the Force can be a path to religious tolerance, even in our troubled galaxy.

How did you first learn about the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club?

I first found out about them at WonderCon in Anaheim this year.

When did you join and why did you want to be part of the group?

I started asking questions right away to see if the religious requirements I had would be OK. I wanted to join because one, Boba Fett is my favorite, but also they were really nice when I chatted with them at the con. They were friendly, engaging, and seemed really fun and accepting. I joined the forum right away, became official about 2 1/2 months later, and became a brigade member six months later.

Tell me your personal Star Wars saga. How were you introduced to the films? What role have they played in your life?

I was taken to see “A New Hope” when I was only 6 months old. It was the first movie my parents took me to. Truthfully, I was so young, I don’t ever remember a time without Star Wars. I have always loved Star Wars. I even had the old Atari game, so as far as I can remember, I have been obsessed.

So you’re a huge Boba Fett fan?

I am. I love everything Boba Fett, but as I have learned more about Mandalorian history, I have really come to admire Ursa Wren and Bo-Katan Kryze (of “Star Wars Rebels”).

For those who aren’t as familiar with Star Wars, what is a Mandalorian?

Mandalorians are predominantly human (and) originated on the planet Mandalorian. They have their own culture and language that is different than the basic spoken in much of the Star Wars galaxy. There are, however, other races that chose to join the Mandalorian culture, as one major saying is, “Family is more than blood.”

They have a very civilized culture and a very strong legacy. They can be found on a few different planets throughout history and primarily are a civilization that puts family and honor first. They were widely regarded to be the most feared warriors in the galaxy and had a love for single combat. The most precious item a Mandalorian owned was their armor.

What requirements must potential members meet in order to join the Mandalorian Mercs?

The requirements to join the mercs: basically be over 18 (though we have a junior group that the kiddos can join once their parents are official members), be a member on the forum, and pass the costuming requirements set out by the approval team. This includes Mandalorian armor, other requirements like weapons, and soft goods (textiles).

Before you joined, you were concerned because you are an Orthodox Jew. What were some of your specific concerns?

My biggest concerns were the modesty standards. I am not allowed to touch gentlemen other than my husband or immediate family, and since I am married, I am required to cover my hair in mixed company. I also must keep anything above my elbows and knees, as well as my collarbone, covered and must wear female clothing. I am not allowed to wear pants, only skirts.

I also can’t troop or do events during Shabbat (Friday night around sundown to Saturday night an hour past sundown) so I was worried I wouldn’t get to do anything. Plus, I keep strict kosher (religious dietary laws) and I thought they would find that strange and maybe not accept me.

You said the members of the Mercs were “really accepting,” and that you were able to create a “kit,” or costume, that worked for them and you. Tell me how you arrived at that happy compromise.

I was so lucky. They were! First off, they were all really respectful of my restrictions. I explained to them and, truthfully, the whole clan and members of the approval team had suggestions to help. I also had to have females from the clan help me with placement of my armor since that needs to be done on the body.

The club was a concern since one of the requirements was knee armor. And a flight suit. Since flight suits are pants, I was able to wear leggings, make a skirt that looked like two pieces — loincloth for the front and Kama (command skirt) for the back — and made “shnees” — knee and shin pads — together. That way, I would have the knee requirements covered, but since I can’t show my knees, the approval team could see they were one piece attached to the shins. Also my loincloth and Kama are much longer than normal to cover up my knees.

Mandalorian Mercs encourage a fair amount of creativity and individualism when designing one’s kit. Tell me about the process of creating your armor.

I looked at pictures of the current female mercs. Looked at what I liked and what I didn’t. Picked a color scheme I loved and drew some inspiration sketches. I also wanted to keep it very feminine, so I added some pieces on top of the chest plate that add to the femininity. From there, it was a lot of work to get the weathering right, the color scheme right and to make sure it also wasn’t too flashy where it became immodest and drew attention to certain areas.

Did you have to research or learn about Mandalorian culture and history during this process?

I really learned a lot! Before, I was a fan, but I had no idea of the details in the culture, from the language, to the value system, to the belief system. I was able to do a great deal of research and was continually surprised with the beautiful culture that was very similar to my own.

Does your character have a name and/or backstory?

My character does have a name. It’s S’keara Charev. It’s inspired by the Hebrew words for “Hired Sword.” In my brigade profession, I am an acquisition operative. It’s my job to steal things for the highest bidder, be that Imperial plans, Kyber Crystals, relics, or anything else that needs to be liberated from its current owner.

My character lost her parents young, and was pretty much a loner until she found love. After this, she and her love were accepted by a clan and now, she makes a lucrative living. (It’s also nice when she can throw a wrench in the wheels of the Empire from time to time.)

After you were approved for official membership in the Mercs, you applied for a brigade membership. Tell me more about that.

Fortunately, my armor was designed with the brigade specs in mind (It’s different for each profession.), but I did have to add a lot of tools to my kit. I had to upgrade all my weapons, and everything had to be top quality.

I worked with my brigade marshal to make sure things were going in the right direction. It was a bit of a challenge as all my tools really had to look amazing and being a brigade member is a big honor. After about three months of working on my upgrades, I became a member of the Special Operations Brigade.

The Mercs are grouped into clans. Where is your clan based and what is its name? Is it a large group?

My clan’s name is Manda’galaar. It kind of translates to “Heaven Hawk.” Mandalorians don’t really have a word for heaven so this word is used for soul or spirit. We consider ourselves the “guardians of all things Mandalorian.” We have  68 (I think) members currently and our range is Los Angeles, Orange, San
Bernadino, Riverside, and Ventura counties.

Corinne Finkelstein plays water balloon toss at a picnic with children from a pediatric burn unit at a local hospital.

Charity and volunteer work is a big part of the Mercs’ mission. What are some of the events your clan has participated in?

This is the best part of being a merc! The charity work! I have been able to participate in Star Wars days for a special needs children’s camp, science night at elementary schools, our clan does reading days at the library and children’s events at the zoos. They have even gone to visit sick children in hospitals.

Have you attended any conventions?

I have. Comic Con Palm Springs, Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con, Comic Con Revolution, Ontario. So a few.

How do people tend to react when you guys show up in your armor?

They really like it. The kids go crazy and think it’s the coolest thing. The adults really like it as well and we get a lot of compliments. Sometimes, we look intimidating but we try, especially for the kiddos, to show them we’re nice.

Are there many female members in the Mandalorian Mercs?

There are a lot of females. Being Mandalorian and being a merc are not gender specific. There are a lot of really amazing female kits out there, and I have made some amazing friends from this.

Corinne poses with a group of kids, troopers from the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion, and the Mandalorian Mercs at an event for children with special needs.

As far as you know, you’re the only Orthodox Jewish woman in the mercs and the only Orthodox Jew in the brigades. What is that like for you?

I think it’s a really cool privilege. There are some times that events will pop up on Shabbat and I would really love to go, but can’t. So sometimes, I wish more things were on Sunday, but the whole clan really includes me!

They even gave me a nickname. I was looking for something in one of the baskets of food we were given and I found a granola bar that was kosher. I got really excited and said, “Yes, it’s kosher!” And one of my clanmates said, “That’s it … we will call you the Kosherlorian!”

I love it and it was so cool that they accepted me like that. They ask questions about my religion and culture and now they get super excited when they find something kosher. I have had a couple of them come up and say, “Look, I found the mark, its kosher, you can eat this,” and they are really excited. It’s a truly special group of people.

Corinne does a craft with Princess Leia (Jennifer Joan) at a camp for special needs children.

Do you draw any parallels between Judaism and the ways of the Force?

I do, actually. There is a philosophy in Judaism called “tikkun olam,” which means, “repair the world.” It’s the idea that as a Jewish person, you bear the responsibility not only for you and your family’s wellbeing but for society’s welfare too. I think that the Jedi especially try to do this. You see things in a broader perspective, there is a mystical side to this as well. So I think a lot of ideas parallel.

What does your Rabbi think of your involvement in the Mandalorian Mercs?

I have full support! It’s a chance to do great charity work and acts of kindness for strangers, which is a major tenant of our faith. And it also allows other people to get to know me and maybe learn about my faith since most people don’t really know any Orthodox Jews. As long as I observe what our faith prescribes, then it’s a great thing.

With all the spin-offs Disney is planning for the Star Wars franchise, would you like to see one about Boba Fett and the Mandalorians?

100%, yes!

The animated “Star Wars Rebels” series has delved a bit into Mandalorian culture. Are you a fan of that series?

I love “Rebels” and really like their showing of Mandalorian culture.

You are also a “Lord of the Rings” fan. How were you drawn to J.R.R. Tolkien’s series? How does your love of “LOTR” manifest itself in your life?

“The Silmarillion” is my favorite book ever, but I reread all the books at least once a year. I also love the movies and watch them every chance I can. I also do other sewing projects where I make costumes for horseback, and a lot of my designs could be considered Elvish inspired.

What about Harry Potter? How did you first discover J.K. Rowling’s series?

I discovered the movies first, and as hard as it was, tried to read the books after the movies to avoid spoilers.

What’s your Hogwarts house?

Gryffindor.

You also mentioned you love “anything vampire.” What are some of your favorite series/franchises/stories in this genre?

I love Bram Stoker’s original. We also have a vintage-inspired “Nosferatu” poster in our bedroom. I loved “Interview with a Vampire” and “Van Helsing,” as well as a couple others.

What is it about vampire mythology that fascinates you?

I really think it’s fascinating that most cultures have a legend of the vampire in some form. Everyone has a myth of the undead. It’s very interesting.

As a woman, is there anything you would like to see change in the world of fandoms and geek culture?

I think I would really love to see a bit more modesty and respect. What I mean is, women can be awesome regardless of how much skin they show or don’t show. Not everyone has to have this ideal body style with plunging necklines. I would like women to be just as valued (if not more so) for their minds and abilities rather than their looks.

Is there anything else we should know about you in terms of fandoms, personal interests, work, or life?

As far as work, I just started a custom sewing business. I love to ride horses, and if you see someone who has a different religion, ask them about it. I have felt so loved with my clan and others I have trooped with respectfully asking me about my religion. It has been an honor to have them learn about mine while I learned about theirs. I think it promotes tolerance and acceptance, which is desperately needed, especially now.

What’s the next upcoming release you’re looking forward to (books, movies, TV, etc.)?

“The Last Jedi”!

Photos courtesy of Chief Geek Photography, Brent Rudmann, Kristina Gunderson-Rudmann.

About the Geek Goddess Interviews:

No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We’re always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who would be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email lavendervroman@gmail.com.

Custom Mickey ear craze ignites fans’ creativity

Jessica Danker, RecyclEARS

Last weekend, we explored the burgeoning fashion trend known as DisneyBounding, in which fans put together outfits based on their favorite Disney characters or attractions.

I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t delve into another fascinating fashion trend gaining popularity with fans of the theme park.

It’s the custom Mickey ear craze, characterized by Disney enthusiasts who ditch the official mouse ear-shaped headbands and hats that can be purchased at the parks in favor of handmade creations they fashion themselves or buy from savvy crafters.

If you’ve visited a Disney theme park lately, you’ve probably spotted people sporting these custom-made pieces, which range from elegant floral arrangements to elaborate headdresses themed after favorite rides, characters, movies, or even sports teams and non-Disney properties.

You may have even wondered, “Where can I get those?”

Susan Mitchell in Dole Whip ears, purchased from Etsy. Gwenyth Rooney in Marie ears, and Christy Rooney in Perdita ears, custom-made by Susan.

An Etsy search for the phrase “Mickey ears” yields 46,018 results, so you can see this trend isn’t just a blip on the Disney fashion radar. (If you happen to be looking for official, Disney-made ears, you can find them here.)

I interviewed five makers of custom Mickey ears, ranging from passionate amateurs to seasoned professionals. You can read about their motivations and methods below, as well as gawk at tons of stunning photos of their clever and colorful creations.

You may even be inspired to tackle the challenge of crafting some ears for yourself, family, or friends.

According to these ear makers, it’s an excellent way to express your love of Disney, tap into your creative side, bask in the attention to detail Walt’s company is celebrated for, save a little money, or simply provide yourself with headwear that better matches your DisneyBound ensemble.

Jessica Danker, RecyclEARS

Jessica Danker, RecyclEARS

Jessica Danker, of online shop RecyclEARS, has elevated custom ear-making into an art form with elaborate creations she crafts from recycled Mickey Mouse ears.

The Nampa, Idaho, resident’s “ear hat” business was sparked by headwear she designed for a family trip to one of Disney’s Star Wars Weekends.

“I wanted something unique for characters to sign on our vacation,” Jessica said.

One of her very first designs was a Darth Maul hat, which she blocked in felt herself, instead of her current approach of using recycled ear hat blanks.

“I’ve always loved to create, and had so many ideas, but what could I personally do with all those ear hats?” she said. “Creating for others gave me an outlet for my passions, and a reason to create.”

Four and a half years and more than 400 unique designs later, Jessica’s business is booming to the point that there’s no more room to grow unless she hires an assistant and raises prices, which she is loath to do.

Jessica’s handmade ear hats can take anywhere from eight to 40 hours to fashion. The process begins with a chat with the client, followed by a design and a sketch. Jessica then preps the ear hat blanks, “removing embroidery and the binding,” or constructs the headband.

“Once they’re ready, I break down the sketch into individual pieces and cut them out in felt. Those are then painted and applied, and the binding is reattached.”

The final step is cleaning and packaging the ears for shipping. Jessica primarily works with felt, acrylic paints, and fabric adhesives.

“I go through more fine-tipped paint brushes than I can count,” she said.

Though she never formally studied art, Jessica inherited her creative inclinations from a “wildly creative and talented” aunt who taught her to sew.

“That led to a passion for creating elaborate and detailed costumes and props. I have a chronic case of ‘I-bet-I-could-do-that-itis,’ which has led to lots of trial and error experimentation.”

Jessica said her favorite designs tend to be themed after Disney attractions. These have included the Haunted Mansion, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, and It’s a Small World.

“I also really enjoy working with some of the Disney classic films. My favorites quite often include modifications to the overall shape of the ear hats as well.”

A lover of all things Disney since childhood, Jessica often visited Disneyland with her parents, who had fond memories of honeymooning at the park. She now shares “the magic” with her husband and two daughters.

According to Jessica, the “driving force” behind the custom Mickey ear trend is fans’ desire to “choose and create something unique and meaningful.”

The fad has produced a demand so broad even Disney cannot possibly fill it.

“The breadth and the scope of characters created over the decades by Disney is so vast that it would be impossible for them to anticipate and create ears to satisfy the desires of all the guests at their parks,” she said.

In the future, Jessica aspires to “divide her time” between custom orders and creating stock to feature at events such as WonderCon, the D23 Expo, and Dapper Day Expo. She’d also like to branch out into Disney-themed fascinators and flat caps.

“It brings me so much joy to create something that means something special to someone.”

Spider ears by Susan Mitchell.

Susan Mitchell, ear-making matriarch

A longtime Disney fan and annual passholder, Susan Mitchell didn’t actually own a pair of Mickey Mouse ears until 2016.

After her first official ear purchase at the parks, the Palmdale, Calif., resident quickly became bored with wearing the same pair on every visit. So she bought another pair, thinking two options would be enough.

“I was wrong,” she said.

In search of a pair of ears to complement a favorite Belle shirt she planned to wear for a special lunch at Ariel’s Grotto, Susan discovered the world of custom ears sold on Etsy.

“After that trip, I had the ear-making bug,” she said. “I love themes and have found this new avenue for theme-related creativity so inspiring and satisfying.”

Ears by Susan Mitchell, modeled by her granddaughter Gwenyth Rooney.

Indeed, Susan has become the designated ear maker for both immediate and extended family.

Her creations include a pair of Tsum Tsum ears for her granddaughter; an array of fall-themed ears featuring sunflowers, sparkly acrylic leaves, florals, and pumpkins; spider and web ears for Halloween; and custom creations for a recent family DisneyBound, featuring characters such as Marie from “The Aristocats,” Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan, and Perdita from “101 Dalmations.”

Susan said she finds inspiration for her designs on Pinterest and Etsy, “but I also love to come up with new ideas. Now, when my husband and I shop, ear-shaped items seem to leap into our bags.”

When it comes to materials, she’s used felt, flannel, cotton fabric, glitter foam sheets, tulle, lace, faux fur, ribbons, leather, flowers, wire, trinkets, foam board, batting, stuffing, feathers, holiday decorations, pom poms, wooden skewers (to make a Pan flute), cup hooks (for Captain Hook’s hook), and “other things I can’t remember.”

Among the attractions of making her own ears is the “satisfaction” she derives from “attention to detail (one of the main reasons I love Disney).”

“My fingers tingle, my brain whirls, and my iPad opens when I’m inspired by the season change or an outfit that a family member has.”

Gwenyth and Gavin Rooney model grandmother Susan’s custom Halloween ears.

For those who may be interested in following in Susan’s ear-making footsteps, she advises watching a lot of how-to videos “to ascertain the different types of ears and the different levels of perfection achieved.”

The reaction of those she creates for is payment enough for her creative labors, she said.

“I love how excited and happy my family members get about designing and wearing the ears.”

Christmas ears designed by Rebecca Mettler.

Rebecca Mettler, @earsbybecka

Inspired by a couple pairs of custom Mickey ears she purchased for her sister and herself, Rebecca Mettler transformed a hobby she indulged in during her infant son’s naps into a business.

“I loved seeing everyone’s custom ears at Disneyland and on social media so I was inspired,” she said. “I knew people sold them on shops so that’s how I decided I would sell mine.”

Rebecca specializes in simple yet elegant floral ears based on Disney characters, sports teams, and cute color combinations.

She started her shop on Mercari two months ago and has already sold about 25 pairs of ears with more orders in the pipeline. You can view her designs on her Instagram, @earsbybecka.

A lifelong Disney fan, Rebecca said her father would save money all year to treat her family to an annual Christmastime trip.

“It was our family tradition that I am now continuing to carry out with them and my own little family.”

When she began making ears, Rebecca found inspiration on Pinterest, but now dreams up her own design ideas or chats with customers to “toss ideas back and forth.”

She purchases premade headbands, then adds different colors and styles of flowers and ribbons using hot glue.

Rebecca said her ears are more affordable than the official theme park offerings, “and mine are unique.”

“I love seeing how the end result turns out. Turning a blank pair of ears into something cool!”

Dawn Branch models a pair of her own Gaston ears.

Dawn Branch, the “crafty one”

It may be hard to believe, but Dawn Branch never set foot inside Disneyland until she was 24.

Around the time of her first trip, she purchased her first official set of Mickey ears and also noticed and coveted the custom ears worn by other park-goers.

Dawn’s first ear creations were born out of a need to save money and to coordinate with outfits for whatever DisneyBound theme she and her friends had selected.

“Sometimes friends would ask about ears for their cosplays,” she said. “I get asked as ‘the crafty one.’”

After worrying over whether her inaugural pair of Cinderella ears would stand up to wear and tear, Dawn began purchasing packs of “generic ears” online to eliminate further structural anxiety.

Her typical materials are glue, fabric paint, and felt. She searches Pinterest and Google for ideas, “but really the stories lend themselves to design inspirations. If I’m making ears, I usually know exactly what I want already.”

Dawn said her headgear has elicited comments from Disney cast members who “like seeing the creativity other people bring” to a variation on the licensed theme park merchandise.

The beauty of fan-created ears is that they offer a more varied park experience, she said.

“I generally don’t like the park ears quite as much.”

Without custom options, “everyone will have the same ears!”

Jennifer Mitchell and daughter Emma model Haunted Mansion and “Doctor Who” ears while posing with Minnie Mouse.

Jennifer Mitchell, “complete Disney fanatic”

Jennifer Mitchell was on one of her annual Disneyland trips when she spotted a woman exiting the security line wearing “the cutest pink and yellow mini roses on some ‘ears’ on a headband.”

Jennifer (who is no relation to Susan Mitchell) inquired about them and discovered the woman with the pink and yellow rose ears had made them herself.

“I thought, ‘Heck, I could do that,’” Jennifer said.

The Henderson, Nev., resident is a “complete Disney fanatic” who grew up in Southern California and enjoyed annual trips to Disneyland.

After her family moved to Northern California, her mother kept the tradition alive, packing her five kids into a station wagon for an annual pilgrimage that offered an escape from a stressful situation at home.

When she was 12, Jennifer began channeling her sewing skills into the creation of matching T-shirts for her family to wear to the theme park. She now visits Disneyland with her husband and their five children.

A couple of years after she spotted the woman with the custom floral ears, Jennifer decided to try her hand at making a couple pairs for herself and her daughter to wear on a special Disneyland trip they’d worked hard to save up for.

Some online research and a couple of trial attempts yielded three fine sets of ears themed after “Doctor Who,” the Haunted Mansion, and Minnie Mouse.

Jennifer began making more ears for family members and as gifts for friends.

“I’ve made Star Wars and Wall-E and Marvel themed ones. I’ve done really simple and plain, and big and sparkly!” she said.

“I even made some for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan with the ‘ring’ on the ears in a woodsy Hobbit-type style. People just love them!”

Eventually, Jennifer began earning money from her ear-making endeavors, which included a custom Princess Tiana-themed order for a customer across the country.

Jennifer and her daughter, Emma, even made a batch of about a dozen ears to give away to strangers on a Disneyland trip.

“It was an amazing, fun bonding trip for us and it was even better because we were able to make people happy with the ears we’d made for them,” Jennifer said. “It was like being part of the magic, just a little bit.”

Jennifer favors a ¼-inch metal ear-shaped headband, which she typically wraps in black ribbon. The center of the ears are made of foam, covered in fabric, and stuffed with batting to make them “a little poofy.”

She embellishes her ears in satin, cotton, fur, lace, sparkly fabric cut from clothing found at thrift stores, ribbons, beads, pearls, buttons, pieces of broken jewelry, and fabric flowers she makes herself.

Her inspiration comes mostly from “the park itself, the rides and characters, but also in whatever people like. The ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ ears were sure not Disney, but it’s fun to mix the two and show the wearers’ personality by creating a hybrid of two of their loves.”

Jennifer urges fans who are new to making ears to “make a practice pair first.”

“They’re quite inexpensive to make, so if the first ones don’t turn out just right, just try again!”

For Jennifer, the appeal of custom Mickey ears comes in the connection it creates with the theme park and other Disney fans.

“I just love Disneyland and when I make a pair for someone and they wear them in the park, it’s like a tiny piece of me gets to go! So I guess it’s selfish, too. … It’s a great and easy way to interact with other Disney fans — and I’ve even talked with folks who have made (their own ears). We share our DIY experiences and a little about ourselves. It makes a day at the park even better.”

But wait … there are more amazing custom ears below. Enjoy this gallery of gorgeous creations by the ear makers featured in this post.

By Jessica Danker, RecyclEARS:

By Rebecca Mettler, @earsbybecka:

By Susan Mitchell:

Animator, dinosaur enthusiast lives geek life to the fullest

When it comes to the geek lifestyle, Christine Simon isn’t holding back.

An animator, artist, and maker of exquisitely nerdy sock monkeys, Christine is active in several prestigious animation guilds and societies, a sign of her enduring passion for her craft and desire to keep learning about and growing in her field.

Christine also finds time to embrace a broad spectrum of fandoms, including “Game of Thrones,” Harry Potter, Star Wars, “Doctor Who,” “The Twilight Zone,” the films of Tim Burton, “The X-Files,” “Jurassic Park,” and Nintendo.

She never misses an opportunity to immerse herself in all things Disney at the D23 Expo, cosplays with her family, and has actually attended the Annie Awards, which are the animation equivalent of the Oscars.

However, the thing I find most delightful about her — besides her adorable 1-year-old daughter, Amelia — is that she has never lost her childhood fascination with dinosaurs. She loves the prehistoric beasts so much, in fact, her wedding was dino-themed.

I am not kidding you. You’re going to want to see the pictures!

You studied film directing and animation. Were you interested in visual arts as a child?

I was very into all kinds of creative arts as a kid. I started drawing at age 2, and remember noticing differences in animated TV shows as a kid. I appreciated certain shots and lighting in films that I know no one else my age paid attention to.

Why did you decide to pursue these specific forms of visual media?

Directing caught my attention because it’s a way of orchestrating your creative vision by working with other creative passionate people. Animation has been a part of what I love for so long that it seemed like a no brainer for me. I wanted to make my drawings come to life in the magical way that only animation can.

Art by Christine Simon.

Is there a certain type of animation you specialize in or a style that’s uniquely yours? Who are some of your influences?

I feel that all artists have their own style, which is what makes art so amazing. Mine has always been cartoonish looking. Some say more Disney-like. There are several artists I look up to and admire their work, but I could never be the level they are. Haha. The nine old men of Disney, as well as the newer nine. Chuck jones, Tim Burton, J. Scott Campbell, Don Bluth … the list goes on.

Have you made any films or shorts? If so, tell me about them.

I made a few short animated films years ago. They were done traditionally (minus a few which were stop motion) and were no more than three minutes each. I made a few short live action films as well. I’ve done illustrations, story boarding, and maquette making more recently.

Art by Christine Simon.

You’re a member of the Burbank chapter of The Animation Guild. Why did you decide to join this group?

Someone told me about it, so I went to check it out and took a liking to it. They offer classes for professionals to brush up on their craft, or for students looking into getting into the business. They’re taught by working professionals who are all very hands-on and kind. There are some great opportunities there. They also make sure animators are getting treated fairly in the workplace and keep records of wages, etc.

Christine with a maquette of Shaun the Sheep at an ASIFA event.

You’re also a member of the International Animated Film Society in Hollywood and participate in many of their events. What are some of your favorites?

ASIFA is absolutely fantastic. They restore old animations, educate the public on animation history, and hold special events for aspiring artists. There are many screenings a year of anything animated (shorts and features) with professionals and filmmakers for members. While those screening are among my favorites, the absolute joy for me is the Annie Awards. This is the biggest night in animation, for the Annies are like the Oscars, just for animated works. They happen in February and talent from all over come together to celebrate. It’s been slowly growing and I’m glad for it.

Christine with an Annie Award, the animation equivalent of an Oscar.

What do you find beneficial about being a part of this society?

I love this group and what it does for animation. It preserves and respects it. It is full of kind people who are part of animation history but are also so down to earth and helpful. They encourage young artists, offer advice, and provide opportunities to interact in ways not many people get to. I’ve met so many amazing people through their events, and learned so much about the craft I love.

Christine and her husband, Joshua, at an ASIFA event for “The Boxtrolls.”

Are there many women in the field of animation?

There aren’t as many women in the animation industry as men, but the numbers and diversity are growing. Another amazing group for this is Women in Animation, very much like ASIFA but highlighting works done by and/or for women. They, too, organize screening events that allow you to meet and hear exactly what current professionals have endured and experienced. I encourage any female looking into animation to become a part of their group as well as ASIFA.

Art by Christine Simon.

You have many creative outlets, including painting, sculpting, illustrating, sewing, crafting, and photography. Many of your creations are geek-related. Tell me about some of the things you’ve made and how they express your fandoms.

I’ve done a lot of different fandoms through a lot of different art forms, but I feel my splash paintings and sock critters are some of my most creative works. I feel like splash paintings can show a feeling in a neat way. They’re a little bit random and a lot of fun to make.

I must know more about the custom sock monkeys you make.

I started making sock monkeys many years ago. My friend Heather taught me how to make one, and it was so enjoyable that I had to learn more. I got every book and followed all the patterns. I learned what I liked and didn’t like, what looked good and didn’t, and started to craft my own pattern and designs.

I sew more than monkeys!

I adore making something as seemingly mundane as socks come to life. Each one is sewed by hand (That’s right — no sewing machines.) so that the personality of each sock can come through the best possible way. Every one is different, even if the pattern is the same. I’ve done regular ones as well as geek related ones. They each get names (renamed when the new owner tells me) and numbers. I remember every single one I ever crafted. They take about an hour to two hours each to make –depending on the animal.

Art by Christine Simon.

Have you sold your wares at vendor events? What about your Etsy shop?

I have sold my sock critters at events, yes. There are craft fairs I’ve been a vendor at a few times. They’re actually my favorite because I get to see the new owners’ reactions to them. So many amazing little moments. Kids who light up and want one above all the other amazing crafts nearby. Adults who stop with a smile and share stories of their sock monkeys as kids. Fellow geeks like me who reach that wonderful level of excitement when they find something to add to their fandom love collection.

I do have an Etsy shop but it’s been inactive for a while (since I was pregnant with my daughter). My shop and sock creations are under “Feeture Creatures.” They have their own Facebook as well. I still do custom orders but my vendor events are less.

Christine with Nathan Fillion at the “Castle” wrap party.

Aside from your many artistic pursuits, you’re into a lot of different fandoms, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and “Game of Thrones.” Who do you think should sit on the Iron Throne?

Oh, man, yep — there are too many fandoms I love. Haha! I am a fan of Jon Snow. I like that he has a more grounded base of morals than the rest, but Tyrion intrigues me as well. He’s a character with a lot of depth. But if I had to say who should actually rule — I say, Jon.

How are we going to survive the long wait until the final season airs? (No, really, please tell us.)

I’m already dying without it, hahaha! I’ve been filling the void with funny GOT memes. They make me laugh and keep it fresh. Rewatching from season one  is helping, too.

Art by Christine Simon.

What’s your earliest Star Wars memory?

When I was a kid, my dad (who is where I get my nerd side from) proudly watched it with me on VHS. We popped popcorn and he explained the intricate universe with such an exciting passion that I could not help but get into it, too. The sounds caught me, as well as the effects (the animator in me).

Do you lean more toward the Light Side or the Dark Side?

Well, I am light side, but the newer Star Wars releases have me intrigued by Kylo Ren. He’s the only one who fights to keep the light out while all others fight the dark. I suspect he will turn light by the end of it.

Do you have any big plans for the release of “The Last Jedi”?

I already have my tickets and my outfit — counting down the days for the Thursday night release!

What about Harry Potter? How did J.K. Rowling’s series first grab you?

I was a little older than the target audience age for the books when they were released, so I read book one before the film was released. I enjoyed the story and got into the world quickly, but after I saw the first film opening day, the love of Harry Potter solidified in me. I enjoyed the movie so much, that I did a very hard and rare thing — I vowed to NOT read any of the books until after it’s corresponding movie came out.

I successfully achieved my goal and am very glad I did. Reading the books immediately after seeing the movie made it more like a behind the scenes experience for me. Nothing was spoiled beforehand and I had no expectations for how the film “should have” been made, and I was able to enjoy the books and view them more as an in-depth look into the characters’ experiences that the movies weren’t able to show. For this I love them both, the books and the films.

What’s your Hogwarts house?

I’m proudly a Hufflepuff.

Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Heck to the yes! I’ve been to both parks in Florida and LOVED it. What a fantastic world to disappear into.

Art by Christine Simon.

Were you into geeky stuff as a child? How did the “geek life” begin for you?

Definitely my dad started it for me. He loved “The Twilight Zone” and so I watched it with him while small. Those short stories of sci-fi and fantasy with a touch of intriguing creepiness got my brain going. He also loved Star Wars, “Back to the Future,” Star Trek, and Godzilla films. His passion and excitement when watching these is what got me and still gets me with fandoms of all kinds.

People love them and that love is infectious. It’s great to get excited about something. I also watched animation nonstop between these sci-fi wonders and found that love for myself in those on my own –creating the wildly eclectic jack of all trades girl I am now.

Christine’s daughter, Amelia, with Belle and the Beast.

I understand that your 1-year-old daughter, Amelia, is a geek, by default, and your husband is supportive, even if he doesn’t necessarily share your enthusiasm for certain fandoms. What geeky activities do you enjoy together as a family?

Halloween was the first time I included them both in my geek love. Amelia was a month old and it hasn’t stopped. We all enjoy Disney related outings and I do drag them to some of my ASIFA events. We watch Harry Potter and Star Wars at home together and I’ve been reading Harry Potter to Amelia since she was born. She reacted to the theme music in the womb so I think she’s destined to be a fellow lover of geek related fun.

Christine and husband Joshua at the Hollywood Bowl’s live concert event for “A Nightmare Before Christmas.”

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change in the world of fandoms and geek culture?

I do honestly believe it’s getting better, and my experiences with the geek community have been fairly positive, but there are still quite a few men who don’t believe women are as into it as they are. Try and talk video games with some and they look at you like you’re faking it, for example. I think it would be nice to have a mutual respect for all genders who love the same thing.

A dino-themed photo from Christine’s wedding.

I love the fact that you are a huge dinosaur enthusiast. This passion began in childhood, apparently, and never died. What was your first dino love? And why has this love endured for you?

Thank you! Dinosaurs have always been a bit of magic of their own for me. As a kid, they were like a puzzle, and they made my imagination soar with what they must of sounded like, how big they could of gotten, and how they even could of smelled. Haha! I had posters, books, toys, even wallpaper as a kid. I knew all their names and how to say them.

My favorite dinosaurs (and non-dinosaurs) are deinonychus, dimetrodon, and plesiosaur. “Jurassic Park” is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I still enjoy seeing them at museums and talking about them. I think it’s still strong for me because they’re still so incredibly amazing. I mean …. millions of years these things have been on Earth, and we are STILL discovering new things about them.

Literally this year in March the most intact fossil of a Nodosaur was shown to the public (discovered initially in 2011) and has created a ton of new insights on dinosaurs. Freaking amazing.

You mentioned that there were dinosaurs at your wedding. Please elaborate.

There was no question that when I got married it would deviate from the norm. I chose a vintage, time travel, dinosaur themed wedding. Now, adding dinos to a wedding is a fine line between cheesy and a kid’s birthday party, and there are even more limited things available to purchase, so I put my creative skills to work and made a lot of things myself.

Our centerpieces were dinosaur topiaries (made from scratch), there were dinosaurs in my bouquet, as well as the boutonnières. Our musician played the “Jurassic Park” theme song as we walked down the aisle after we were wed. Our photographer made some amazing shots with dinos cause he knew my love for them.

As a “Jurassic Park” fan, did seeing those amazing CGI dinosaurs for the first time blow your mind?

What I love about the first “Jurassic Park” is that almost all the dinosaurs you see on screen are practical effects. They’re really there with the actors on that set as truly frightening things that only the puppeteer knows how they’re going to move. No amount of CG can replicate that. I was fascinated by the computer animation it did have, but being the keen-eyed nerd I am, even at age 10, I was wowed by the practicals. Those sound effects too! Ahh! I still love them.

You’re also into Nintendo. What’s the first Nintendo game you played?

I honestly don’t remember. I wanna say it was Mario, but I also remember playing “Donkey Kong” on Atari.

How do you currently keep the Nintendo flame alive in your household?

I proudly own every single Nintendo console (minus original Atari and Virtual Boy) from original to now. They all work and they’re set up to play with a wide variety of games for each one. Ironically, my husband had a great collection of Xbox and PlayStation consoles, so when we got married we gained a vast mass of gaming entertainment.

You are also an “X-Files” fan who sometimes answers to the nickname “Scully.” How were you first introduced to the truth that is out there?

I was told the show was good when it first came out, but didn’t pick it up till a little bit later upon another suggestion that I would like it. Sure enough I did, and do. It’s very much like “Twilight Zone” in a way, but with the FBI duo that kept everyone on edge with their relationship.

Why do you associate yourself with Scully?

I gained that nickname in high school, when I chopped my long brown hair to shoulder length and dyed it for the first time in my life to Scully’s auburn red for Halloween. I had not told anyone I was going to do it, so it shocked and hence gained me the nickname. I loved it, and it likely solidified my enjoyment of cosplay. I got way into it, copied her badge and even got a replica cross necklace that she donned on the show. I enjoyed how smart she was. How she’s seen a lot and experienced a great deal, but still tries to remain grounded and use logic.

Were you excited about the series’ recent return to television?

Yes! And I’m excited about the next (season) coming out next year, too!

One of your other TV fandoms is “Doctor Who.” Who is your Doctor?

Hands down, No. 10 — David Tennant.

Christine with animation writer-director John Musker at D23.

This interview would not be complete without mentioning Disney. You’ve attended Disney’s fan convention, D23, since it began. What are some of your favorite memories from that event?

My favorite is when I had lunch with (Disney animation writer-director) John Musker. It was one of the earlier years of D23 and I was lucky enough to be at the same table as the animation legend. It was just us and my best friend. We ate our lunch and talked about films. It was absolutely amazing and still one of my favorite memories. Another is meeting friends there that I still have to this day because of that convention.

Christine, far right, partaking in some “Gatsby”-themed cosplay.

You’ve cosplayed a few times, along with your baby, dog, and hubby. Tell us about the costumes you’ve put together.

I’ve done steampunk and “True Blood” myself, did Wonder Woman and Joker with my husband, as well as 1920s “Great Gatsby”-style cosplay. My dog has done Target (he’s the Target dog) and Frankenweenie. Amelia’s done Wonder Woman, Disney princesses, and Pokémon. Actually, we did Pokémon as a family — it was our first together.

You’ve also dressed up for midnight movies and screenings. Tell me about some of the specific events you’ve done that for. What do you like about dressing up as characters you love?

Harry Potter all the way. I quickly found other lovers of the films with the same passion as I for getting excited enough to dress up for a movie — and we all collaborated to go as a group. I was Hermione for those. I love getting into it so much. Playing the parts makes it that much more fun.

What’s the next upcoming release (movies, TV shows, video games, etc.) you’re looking forward to?

Next up is “Coco.” I already feel like it’s going to win a lot of awards, and I’m personally very excited for it. After that — Star Wars!

Is the truth really out there?

Absolutely.

About the Geek Goddess Interviews:

No Man’s Land chats weekly with a “Geek Goddess” whose devotion to her fandoms manifests itself in unique and inspiring ways. We’re always looking for interview subjects, so if you know someone who would be ideal, please respond via the comments, private message, or email lavendervroman@gmail.com.

 

 

What is DisneyBounding? It’s fandom and fashion at its pixie dust-sprinkled finest

It used to be that when you visited a Disney theme park, the typical dress code was jeans and a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

Increasingly, however, the parks have become a backdrop for fans to express their creativity and individuality through fashion inspired by their favorite Disney characters and attractions.

Today at the Magic Kingdom, hundreds of fans dressed up in their semi-formal and vintage best for Dapper Day, which continues tomorrow at Epcot.

Dapper Day has become a seasonal event, unofficially sanctioned by Disney. Meanwhile Disney-themed Facebook groups have taken to organizing their own informal park meet-ups with members dressed in coordinating fashions in varying levels of elaborateness.

Of course, Disney doesn’t permit adult guests to wear full costumes into the parks – except during annual Halloween celebrations – but fans have embraced a new trend that allows them to express their inner Disney fashionistas, despite the costume restrictions.

That trend is known as DisneyBounding. It refers to fans who wear outfits modeled after their favorite Disney characters, attractions, and other theme park elements, but in a subtle, everyday way that might go unnoticed by anyone but especially savvy Disney enthusiasts.

Leslie Kay

“DisneyBounding” was coined, created, and popularized by Leslie Kay, who put together her first character-inspired outfit for a trip to Disney World.

Eventually, she founded a website featuring inspiration for Bounders in the form of themed outfits for everything from “101 Dalmations,” to “Cinderella,” to “Star Wars,” to “Winnie the Pooh.”

According to Kay, her website is “meant to be inspiration for you to pull together your own outfits which work for your body and wallet whether from your closet or local mall.”

Columbus, Ohio, resident Kirsten Kerr started following Kay on Tumblr several years ago, but only recently made her first leap into DisneyBounding.

“I immediately fell in love with the creativity of her outfits and started to follow other DisneyBounders’ pages as well,” Kirsten said.

“I’m not very comfortable with fashion, but I really enjoy what others do with it.”

Kirsten visited Disneyland frequently when she lived in California and now makes occasional trips to Disney World.

“Now there are sometimes a few years between visits,” she said. “Looking at Disney fan pages helps to tide me over until I get there. I like the idea of clothing having a deeper meaning than just what looks good.”

For a recent trip to Disney World with her husband, Kirsten put together several DisneyBounding outfits, despite feeling “intimidated by clothing and fashion in general and that includes bounding.”

The outfits included a Merida-inspired blue-green dress with a belt, Etsy-commissioned pendant, and arrow earrings; a “painting the roses red” ensemble inspired by “Alice in Wonderland” that included a red dress, white rose necklace, and paint-speckled earrings; and a smoky purple dress and skeleton cameo earrings that evoked Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

Kirsten Kerr bounds in a Haunted Mansion-inspired outfit on a recent trip to Disney World.

“It was so much fun,” Kirsten said of her first DisneyBound.

“I got lots of compliments. … I really enjoyed putting the bounds together and I hope to do some family themed bounds for our next trip in a year or so.”

Kirsten isn’t the only DisneyBound newbie to get hooked on the trend.

According to veteran bounder Sara Parrott, the trend’s reputation has grown rapidly and that’s largely due to social media.

Something of an expert on the subject, Sara said Kay has 163,000 Instagram followers, while the hashtag #disneybound yields 536,975 posts. Social media influencers who regularly post about DisneyBounding include @damfino, @lonicatherinec, @sarahgsterling, and @mrleozombie.

Sara Parrott poses with DisneyBounding inspiration Merida at Disneyland.

Sara said she got serious about bounding in 2013, during her freshman year of college. After a lifetime of private schools and uniforms, she found herself “suddenly struck with having to dress myself every day.”

She discovered the bounding trend on fashion website Polyvore, then graduated to Instagram.

“I love being able to show my love for various Disney characters through my clothes, and it also helped me wear more than just jeans and a graphic T-shirt to class,” she said.

Sara has participated in two month-long DisneyBound challenges and also took the opportunity to rock bounding fashions frequently during an eight-month stint of employment at Disneyland in 2015.

Sara and Captain America.

Most of her inspiration comes from Disney animated features, she said.

“I’ve occasionally drawn inspiration from the live action films — especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and even made a dress inspired by one of the floats in a Disneyland parade, but I’ve found most of my inspiration in animated features like “Toy Story,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Lady and the Tramp.”

Potential bounders may be surprised to discover you don’t necessarily have to visit a Disney theme park in order to participate.

Krista Reince has woven DisneyBounding into the threads of her everyday life.

A travel planner for Disney Destinations who enjoys Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, Krista discovered a much-needed outlet for self-expression in bounding.

“I found DisneyBounding at a time when I really needed to start giving myself time each day,” she said.

“I’m a mom of young twins and I wasn’t giving myself the care or attention I needed. By starting to bound daily, I created at least a little time for myself each day. Add to that the welcoming acceptance of the DisneyBounding community and connection with people who have similar interests and I felt like I had found a new groove (without being turned into a llama).

Krista Reince DisneyBounds on a daily basis. This is one of her unique ensembles, based on Gaston of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Krista is a hardcore follower of DisneyBounding challenges. “It’s how I get inspired,” she said.

Her first such endeavor was one of Kay’s challenges in March. “I had so much fun with the themes, I wanted to continue.”

And she has each month ever since. She posts her daily bounds and other Disney-related images on her Instagram, @disneyfromhome.

“I’ve used photography prompts, doodle/drawing prompts, and this month I’m using inspirational phrases to guide me to a character,” she said.

Krista has hosted challenges, including one modeled after the alphabet and one dedicated to Disney villains. She once issued herself a personal challenge to put together outfits based on different elements found in Disney’s Main Street USA.

She said her bounds can be somewhat “obscure,” or difficult to identify, because she takes her inspiration from a broad array of less obvious sources.

“I don’t limit it to just characters. If it’s tied to Disney, it’s fair game to me. I’ve bounded as storefronts, park decorations, park foods, attraction cars/buggies, parade floats, figurines, and art. I’ll pull from animated films, live action movies, stage productions, TV shows. I use current and classic, beloved favorites and barely knowns. All of it.”

Krista modeled one bounding outfit after a popular Disney theme park ice cream sundae.

And for those worried about the potential expense of building Disney-themed ensembles, Krista is living proof that shopping for new clothes isn’t always necessary.

After finding inspiration and ideas on Google, “I think about what I have in my closet that might work,” she said.

“I pull it out at night to wear the next day. For me, the challenge can be having the right pieces to complete a look. I do this daily from my existing closet. I haven’t really bought specific pieces.”

Combing through your own closet for bounding resources can be tricky, however.

“The biggest challenge for me was the cost of the bounds,” Kirsten said. “Even ‘cheap’ jewelry adds up when you’re buying for multiple outfits.”

Elements from Kirsten Kerr’s “painting the roses red” DisneyBound.

Another challenge of bounding is figuring out where to start when designing an outfit.

Sara said crafting an appropriate ensemble can be “a very tricky line to walk.”

“The purpose of DisneyBounding is not to appear as the character, which is the purpose of cosplaying; the purpose of DisneyBounding is to use clothes to suggest characters from Disney.

“For example, you don’t need to wear a blue ballgown with a blonde bun and glass slippers to be Cinderella. You can wear any variety of blue dresses and a black choker and people are going to recognize the influence of Cinderella.”

Sara Parrott bounds with Elsa and Anna of “Frozen.”

According to Kirsten, the Internet is an indispensable tool for overcoming creative blocks or dealing with the intimidation factor that can be overwhelming for rookie bounders.

“Just google the characters of the idea you’re hoping to bound. Chances are you aren’t the first to put together an outfit.”

Perhaps the most important quality for a potential bounder is a willingness to jump in and give it a try.

Lancaster, California, resident Christy Rooney attempted her first bound earlier this month and it became a family affair.

Christy Rooney and her family did a group DisneyBound on a recent Disneyland trip. They dressed as (top row, from left) a tourist, Sorcerer Minnie, Minnie Mouse, Belle, Alice in Wonderland, Jack Skellington, (middle row) Pocahontas, Sorcerer Mickey, a Dole Whip, Perdita, Tinker Bell, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, (front row) Baby Cinderella, Marie, and Peter Pan.

“I had heard about DisneyBounding from my Disney-loving cousin, Wendy, but hadn’t really looked into it,” Christy said.

“At the same time, my mom had been starting to see the trend popping up on Pinterest and in Disney YouTube vlogs.”

With members of the family planning a California visit for a cousin’s wedding, they hatched a scheme for a group bound.

Christy’s mother, Susan Mitchell, coordinated the group effort via text and phone calls. Fifteen family members participated, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and Christy’s two children. Flexibility proved key to the success of the outing.

At first, Christy planned to bound as Princess Aurora of “Sleeping Beauty.” “But my wardrobe consists mainly of black, and nothing seemed to work.”

A polka-dot dress purchased for a 1950s-themed party became the basis for a costume modeled after Perdita of “101 Dalmations.”

Christy’s daughter, Gwenyth, dressed as Marie of “The Aristocats” and her son, Gavin, wore a “Peter Pan”-inspired outfit.

“To make us more easily identifiable, my awesome mom made several custom ears for our group,” Christy said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll further explore the custom Mickey ear craze in a blog post scheduled for next weekend.)

The family enjoyed the attention they received during their DisneyBound day, especially from enthusiastic Disney cast members.

The clan is tentatively making plans for a “Tangled”-themed outing in January.

“I highly recommend it,” Christy said.

Photos courtesy of DisneyBound, Kirsten Kerr, Krista Reince, Christy Rooney, Sara Parrott. 

Can’t get enough DisneyBounding? Below are more photos of the bounders featured in this story.

Kirsten Kerr selfies her Merida-inspired outfit, complete with custom-designed pendant.
Sara Parrott finds inspiration in the god of Thunder.
Above and below, just a few of the many wildly creative bounds designed and worn by Krista Reince.

Christy Rooney and family (above and below) rocking their first — group! — DisneyBound.