A furry pilgrimage to the Adult Swim Festival and the Prancing Skiltaire house, Part 1.

by Patch O'Furr

Part 1Part 2Part 3

If you could do a furry travel tour, where would you go? Try some big conventions and mainstream destinations like Disneyland or the Mascot Hall of Fame, and some special stops that a non-furry wouldn’t think of. California has ones like the Prancing Skiltaire house, a shrine to cartoon animal art made by the founders of the first furry con, who open their house to fans by the hundreds.

A travel story wasn’t my plan when I got an invite from… let’s call them “Dr. Girlfriend”, to go to the Adult Swim Festival in Los Angeles on November 15-16, 2019. The opportunity just fell on me, so I made it a casual mini-tour including a stop nearby in Garden Grove, CA to visit the Skiltaire friends.

Dr. Girlfriend had tickets to the second live festival for Adult Swim, a now almost 2-decades old TV programming block for absurdist comedy and alternative animation. Cartoon Network hosts it at night while young audiences sleep, unless naughty kids are sneaking it (like I used to do for MTV Liquid Television). The leading show is Rick and Morty and it rarely has anything furry. But the show creators definitely know about us, and festival goers gave fist-bumps to a 6-foot rat scurrying among them. As “Patch Packrat” (I’m usually a husky dog) I was the only fursuiter in sight at the 22,000 capacity Banc of California Stadium.

Festival concept:

I’m not a huge fan of all Adult Swim shows (I’ve seen all Rick and Mortys and sampled others) but this multi-media mutation had me saying MORE PLEASE. The lineup had music acts tied to the TV shows, with rap, heavy metal, DJ/house, and the dancy, synthy, or darker side of indie rock. Live comedy sets had talent from their own shows and voiceover artists for animation. Animation screenings mixed with creator Q&A panels like you’d see at Comic Con. The live experience included games/rides and stadium-sized sound and lighting.

The geniuses behind it created more of a rock show/carnival vibe and top-down organizing, compared to furry cons with their focus on fan-led panels, small dealers, dances and dance comps, room parties, and personal art.  Even if this much larger event was media-centric, it was full of energy you don’t get from a film fest or animation industry event. And how much would you expect furries at a rap or metal show? This hybrid event is a killer place for a furry meetup!

I was surprised to be the only one strutting my stuff in fursona, although several stealth-furs high-fived me for being bold. Here’s what I got into.

The music:

HEALTH was my main draw besides Dethklok because I like industrial rock, but it wasn’t a great start. It was early on Friday and the crowds were nowhere near the size it got later on Saturday. They filled a small corner of the stadium without much movement, while the band thudded on stage to try filling the void, but the emotionally-distant singing felt lost in the racket.  It wasn’t bad and made me bop a little but I’d prefer to see it in a dark cave instead.

DETHKLOK killed it. They made maximum use of the venue for their first show in 5 years. Brutal gore-toons splashed across jumbo video screens and blasted my eyeballs with shock editing. It included a couple of comedy breaks and super helpful read-along lyrics so you could laugh at the blurts of blasphemy from the singing. I only like small doses of death metal (Pungent Stench <3) so words and cartoons filled in what I’d miss by just having my ears pummeled. “Impeach God” had a hilarious live debut. The crowd wasn’t the most active, but it was OK with the 110% effort on stage.

RAPSODY was a rapper with good danceable beats and conscious lyrics that charmed the crowd. The LA crowd was different from who I’d mingle with in the SF Bay. The music made it feel good to be there, and other people must have felt the same with the air getting smoky. I barely listen to rap but this won me over.

JAMIE XX did a stellar DJ set of dance/house music that made me do a beeline to the front to make it my personal furry rave. Here too the crowd was lower energy than a fur con, but it was packed for the peak of the festival and they loved a giant rat jumping like a kangaroo. I got hugs and gave piggyback rides to people who surely wouldn’t have done it without a furry invading their ranks.

RockNYC has a festival review mostly for the music.

Panels, screenings, and interactive stuff:

ROBOT CHICKEN had a panel with the writers and makers. Writer Jamie was on stage after she got a pic with me at the afterparty on Friday night when I just thought she was a random fun person. Seth Green took questions about the show and how to get work at Adult Swim (make your own shit to get noticed.)

SQUIDBILLIES had the show cast doing live dirty comedy country/rockabilly songs, and one doing off-kilter puppeteering of Granny Squid, dressed head to toe in the same fuzzy pink as her puppet. And a standup comic named Connor O’Malley seemed perplexed at a furry in his crowd, then did a bit about his ancestors being “ratters” who would chase the vermin in their fields.

RICK AND MORTY Season 4 episodes were on par with previous ones, but LAZOR WULF disappointed. It’s a show based on a Tumblr comic with some talking animals. I wanted to like the nifty vaporwave/future funk vibe (it has a predominantly black voice cast) with graphic objects floating in animated space, but the “so random” humor got few laughs.

Those used smaller screens, but ERIC ANDRE LIVE used the same stadium stage as the music acts, which made certain stunts so… extra(!) like pulling a random guy from the audience and making him call his ex-girlfriend live to the world.

For interactive fun there was a “bull ride” with a hot dog, and cat-jousting. I avoided that and the giant inflatable slide in fursuit… wouldn’t want another hole knocked in my ear or get tossed and have my tail caught. The “Meatwad dome” was very worthwhile for trippy animation projected across the inside, and there was an elaborate rig to 3D-scan your dancing and add it to a scene of Rick and Morty doing the “Show Us What You Got” dance for “Get Schwifty.”  They said they would try the extra high-def scan for my fursuit but it didn’t seem to scan that well and the app won’t play on my phone. Get furries to test it next time?

Location, crowd, and fursuiting:

The LA weather was as mild as could be. The stadium entrance level was a ring you had to circle to reach the stairs for access to the lower field level, sending you past all the vendors for merch and food with festival prices. If I was a poorer rat, for $14 beers I might fill up on cheese before the show or scurry in through the sewer (don’t do that, the entry cost was nice). Decent choices though. I like trash, but a grilled chicken sandwich felt healthy. That vendor had no line and was sympathetic to my sweaty costuming, handing me free beers for both paws.

To know where to go, the festival app had super useful multiple views by time, place, a visual view, a “favorites” list and an RSVP list for panels with limited capacity. The stadium seating always had space for breaks. A fursuit lounge could have been nice but at no point was I ever pressured by crowding. Attendance started slow but by late Saturday everything was raging.

The crowd was half normies in street clothes, and then nerd/comic/anime types with only moderate cosplay, like casual Ricks. Staff was abundant in standout color. There wasn’t a fursuit everywhere you turned, so anyone like Dr. Girlfriend stood out nicely. It wasn’t nearly as queer/misfit/young as fur con goers, and there was some funny side-eyeing at my fur but not enough to get ugly, and appreciation too. There was fandom magic. Shoutout to the nice woman who called me brave and said she was too shy to come in partial suit!

I lied a little about this trip being casual. Making news means eye for opportunity, so I asked ahead to the festival’s media/partnering contacts about interviews or backstage access. Of course they don’t care about a mere furry blog when big Hollywood people do their thing there every day. This fandom is the size of a flea on a dog to them. Something else worked: being there.

They didn’t answer when I tried asking for a little face time, but they kind of made us the ass of the fest. I’m so honored!

Can’t wait to go again! Tomorrow in Part 2: A review from Dr. Girlfriend, visiting the Prancing Skiltaire, and more about furry traveling.

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