The coolest old-school things we saw at WonderCon 2023

The coolest old-school things we saw at WonderCon 2023
Classic Nerd

There’s nothing quite like opening your doors to thousands of nerds in a confined space and pumping them full of sugar, caffeine, and nostalgia.

WonderCon was back in full force for 2023, packing Anaheim with more cosplay and expensive collectibles than any sane person should possibly be able to handle — which is, of course, exactly what makes it great.

Human innovation was on full display once again, and at every turn it was hard not to smile and say, “oh that’s neat!”

I was only able to make it the full day for the Saturday session, but there was more than enough to take in (and frankly, I wasn’t able to get to everything I wanted to).

And for those of us who had to pop a few extra ibuprofen to get through the day, there was plenty to like. Here are some old-school highlights from the 2023 edition of WonderCon.

Animaniacs 30th anniversary celebration

Go ahead, sing the song in your head. You know you want to.

The north exhibition hall was packed with a bunch of people who knew every word to the original Animaniacs theme song, and we belted it out together as the panel led us through a singalong to kick things off in celebration of the 30th anniversary of this legendary so-called kids show.

The panel featured show creator Tom Ruegger, writer and voice actor Paul Rugg (also the voice of Freakazoid), writer John McCann, and songwriters Steve and Julie Bernstein.

They recalled working on the show in an office that was inside a mall, where the things that happened to them made it into the show (e.g., “Survey Ladies”), John and Paul playing the Terminator 2 arcade game, and their favorite songs from the show (with more singalongs!). And yes, Paul Rugg busted out his Jerry Lewis-inspired Mr. Director voice.

It was a reminder of just how brilliant this show was. The reboot’s third season is out now on Hulu, and the fourth (and from the sounds of it, final) season is in the works.

Saturday Morning Cartoons with animator Tom Cook

Remember getting up at 4:30 in the morning, sitting through an infomercial and pouring yourself a bowl of cereal, and then settling in for about 5 hours of non-stop cartoons?

Someday I’ll write an angry op-ed about the loss of this Saturday-morning ritual, but today is not that day. Animator and animation director Tom Cook took us back through a legendary animation career — one that almost didn’t happen when he thankfully was able to quit his job as a bus driver due to a bit of luck and recognition of his talent.

I’m sure you’ll recognize a few of the shows Tom worked on, including but not limited to: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Godzilla: The Series, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, Heathcliff — and yep, you guessed it, Thundarr the Barbarian.

Thank you, Tom, for your contribution to my childhood.

The toys!

See that silver dude with the beak? Yeah, I had the crap out of that toy and we’ll just say it did not look like that when I was done with it.

These toys come to us from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, which ran for a single syndicated season in 1987.

Then there are Visionaries and Silverhawks. Two shows and toylines that I completely forgot existed but were 100% part of my collection.

There were A LOT of retro toys to be had at WonderCon 2023, but the collection at the aptly named I Had Those Toys booth really tickled my pickle.

Mandalorian Ghostbusters and Skeksis

Is there any end to human ingenuity? I doubt it.

There are plenty of well-done WonderCon cosplay roundups out there, but I had to highlight this crew. Mandalore and ghostbustin'? Sure.

Also, this Skeksi getup at the Masquerade was **chef’s kiss**.

There were also some excellent Transformers wandering around, and of course tons of Star Wars costumes.

These are people who are taking the time to make these insanely intricate costumes in between night shifts as nurses, on break from making your latté, or taking a weekend with friends and family to create something truly inspiring. I love it.

The mashup t-shirts!

I love t-shirts. If you want to get money from me, just get a clever/nerdy shirt somewhere within my field of vision.

And boy oh boy, it was hard to keep my wallet in my pocket at WonderCon this year. From a mashup of Jurassic Park and Itchy and Scratchy Land to the Vader/Slayer shirt below, my wardrobe is feeling refreshed.

Check out Warlord Clothing and Comic Book Clothing among many, many others to live out your t-shirt dreams.

Line dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart”

One of the joys of WonderCon is the spontaneous moments that occur when you put a bunch of geeks together and let them do their thang. Those moments tend to happen just outside the convention center, where Spider-Men gather to reenact memes, people are filming their YouTube vids, and, apparently, several costumed people get together to line dance to a 1992 hit from Billy Ray Cyrus being sung in Spanish.

Yes, that’s at least a couple of Spider-Mans, a Jake from State Farm, a Joker, and who knows who else joining in the fun. Next year, let’s do the Macarena in French!

Life-sized statues

Here's an easy way to grab my attention: Build a life-size replica of a Xenomorph.

That's what the good people at Sci-Fi World did, and I thank them. Plus they had reproductions of some excellent arcade games, like Dragon's Lair.

Also, Ultraman. ULTRAMAN.

Other stuff

This is but a tiny sampling of the coolest old-school things from this year’s WonderCon, but whoo boy, there were plenty more. Alas, I am but one human and have not yet mastered the art of cloning.

There were panels on the Power Rangers, Doctor Who, X-Men: The Animated Series, and tons more.

Thanks for a great Con, and we'll see you next year, this time with more ibuprofen.