PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

ToyLanta 2019 Diary

The PopCulteer
March 15, 2019

Today we’re going to begin to look back at what was one of the most fun toy convention experiences I’ve had. ToyLanta 2019 was a blast from beginning to end, although I have to admit that I didn’t quite make it to the end.

Your PopCulteer and his wife had a rare chance to take The Walking Dead studio backlot tour, and skipped out early on Sunday, the last day of the show. Unfortunately, when we booked our tour, we didn’t know that all the GI Joe panels would be moved to Sunday, so I’m hoping that folks recorded them and will post those panels to YouTube so that we can bring them to you here in the coming days.

For us, ToyLanta began Wednesday evening. Yours truly spent about an hour hanging out in the lobby of the Marriott Century Center with Ralph (who’s last name I have not managed to learn in the years that I’ve known him) and two online friends I was meeting in person for the first time, Randall Wall and Sean Huxter.

Randall creates these amazing cut-out and glue kits of 1/6 scale diorama pieces, notably for GI Joe’s Adventure Team, and Sean, with whom I’ve been online friends with for over twenty years, is a pioneer of 3-D printing for action figure accessories and vehicles. You can find work by both of these guys for sale at Cotswold Collectibles.

The great thing about hanging out was that we were just talking about cool toys, and not working or anything.

That’s actually the great thing about ToyLanta in general. Once a year I get to go hang out with friends from all over the world who like the same cool toys that I do, and it’s just a quality social time. In the diorama room (which you will see much more of on Sunday here in PopCult) I got to talk with Mike Gardner (he did the World War Z diorama seen with him at left that included more than 600 figures) and my old friend, Dave “Tanker” Matteson.

Dave and I have been friends for a long time, but because we used to indulge in hilarious, over-the-top political debates on the old “Sandbox” newsgroup, people thought we hated each other. What made that funnier this year was that somebody overheard us talking about how we weren’t going to talk about politics, and ran off yelling “Hey, Tanker and Rudy are arguing politics again!”

Thursday moring, as I mentioned yesterday, we picked up Jack Hall at the airport, and took him to Senoia for our “pre-backlot” visit, and then returned to the hotel before heading out to Hawg & Ale. That’s the restaurant co-owned by Buddy Finethy, one of the founders of ToyLanta, and the guy who twisted my arm to get me to attend my first “JoeLanta” back in 2013. Buddy was the art director of Mellow Mushroom for a couple of decades, and defined the look of that restaurant chain, and this new venture looks to be off to an impressive start.

Most of the early arrivals at Toylanta dined there, and it was also open mic night, so your PopCulteer was reduced to reading lips while enjoying the food. Our dinner partner and ride to the restaurant was Andy “Doc” McGrady, and it was a real; treat to hang out with him. Later Andy would be responsible for helping with the film festival, and I have to thank him again for not only picking up the tab for dinner (we’ll get you next time) but for offering his A/V expertise later on.

After we got back we were able to pick up our Commander’s package figures and spent time in the diorama room, staring at Mike’s diorama and hanging out with more friends.

Friday morning we slept in until noon. On a weekend like this you have to learn to pace yourself.

Jack Hall’s Banana Splits figures won first place in the custom figure contest, while the Banana Buggies came in second for best custom vehicle.

Later on Friday we shot some video, saw more friends, got into the early preview of the dealer’s room and had a blast at EJ’s Lobby Swap. This year, I was frantically searching for two missing cameras when I should have been gathering up cool stuff to trade, so I wound up just bringing some weird odds and ends, some of which wound up being given away. One of these years I’m going to remember to take some of my good stuff down to Atlanta for the lobby swap.

I also picked up my diorama set, designed by Bryan Tatum, to go along with the Commander’s Package figure. You can see the whole set-up at right, in a photo swiped from Scott Norris (thanks in advance, Scott!).

After the Lobby Swap we had the State of the Hobby panel, with Buddy Finethy, Greg Brown from Cotswold Collectibles and Sean and Randall, and the consensus, as it has been for the last few years, is that we collectors are on our own, since Hasbro doesn’t seem interested in creating any new high-quality 1/6 scale action figures. The good news is that, we’re in control now, and we’re making cooler stuff than Hasbro ever could.

Saturday was a whirlwind, with the general public rushing to the show in record numbers, terrific panels and even some live music during the day. After hours we had the parachute drop and then the film festival.

The film festival was curated by Tim and Lisa Weedn, who sadly could not attend due to a last-minute schedule conflict. I was entrusted with a copy of the film festival and with the substantial help of Andy McGrady, we managed to pull it off with just one glitch.

That glitch caused part of Tim and Lisa’s film to be skipped, so for the sake of completism, you can see that entire film right here…

After the film festival a record-breaking ToyLanta auction happened, and then Radio Cult and friends treated everyone to another epic jam session concert.

You can see my quickie video wrap-up of the show right here…

I pulled an all-nighter editing that video and getting it posted online, and Sunday morning I was pretty much zombified, but I did manage to see a few more friends and make a few more purchases (including a vintage Action Boy, which has been on my “want list” for fifty-two years) before we hit the road back to Senoia.

I’ll tell you about the Walking Dead backlot tour next week, and over the weekend I’ll post photo essays of the goodies I got at the show, plus an extended video of the dioramas, along with photos, on Sunday. This was a remarkable weekend of friends and fun and toys, and I can’t wait until next year’s show. In a week or three, expect a much longer video wrap-up of this year’s ToyLanta.

For now, I’m still in recovery mode. Keep checking PopCult for fresh content every day.

Back In The Saddle

Your PopCulteer has returned from his annual trek to ToyLanta, and I will write extensively about that event tomorrow in The PopCulteer. But today, since I’ve been on the road for more than a week and this is my first post since returning, I’m going to tell you about the non-Toylanta parts of the trip leading up to the big show.

I and my lovely wife, Mel Larch, left last Tuesday, heading West on I 64, then picking up I 75 South around Lexington. We could drive straight to Atlanta, but because we want to enjoy the trip, we usually stop somewhere in Tennessee for the night. I’ve not been able to travel until the last few years, and I’m really learning to enjoy the travelling part of the trip, instead of just getting to the destination.

Specifically, I wanted to stop at some cool places along the way like the Peddler’s Mall in Winchester Kentucky, and Lee’s Fried Chicken in Morehead. Back in the 1980s we had Lee’s Fried Chicken in the Charleston Town Center and in Saint Albans, and it’s still, far and away, the best fast-food fried chicken on the planet. I know there are people who worship at the altar of Chic-Fil-A, but Lee’s is easily a thousand times better.

There’s actually a Peddler’s Mall near the Lee’s in Morehead, but the one in Winchester has much better stuff. Peddler’s Mall is basically a chain of antique malls that set up like a hermit crab in abandoned retail stores. I imagine they’ll make it to Charleston sooner or later. They’re a bit hit-or-miss, and the selection depends on what city they’re in.

Winchester is also where the Ale 8 1 bottling plant is, and we stock up on Kentucky’s finest regional soft drink while we’re there because it costs about a third as much as it does at Cracker Barrel locally.

On this trip we decided to stay at a Hampton Inn in Ootlewah, Tennessee, largely because it’s a fun name to say, and also because the rates were low.

We’ve been travelling through Tennessee for a couple of years now, but there’s still so much to explore as we fly by the weird sights on the way to ToyLanta. Someday we’ll find out the story about the decrepit and decaying amusement park right by the Interstate, or figure out why so many of the intimidating 90-foot tall crosses are right next to stores that sell “adult novelties.” This time, however, we were on a mission.

I never have my camera ready when we pass the decrepit amusement park going South, and this is about all you can see of it going North, on the other side of the Interstate.

Wednesday we arrived at the Marriott Century Center hotel in Atlanta which was hosting ToyLanta for the last time this year. It’s a great hotel, but the show has outgrown the space, and to be honest, last year’s renovations made the stay a little less pleasant, as they got rid of the microwaves in every room, replaced the noise-deadening carpet with acoustically-transparent laminate, and replaced the spacious desk with a shallow ledge right in front of the television. They also replaced the desk chair with a wretchedly uncomfortable non-wheeled chair, but the hotel staff was able to trade that out for a comfy chair with wheels for your fidgety correspondent.

Next year ToyLanta will relocate to a fancy Hilton in Marietta, Georgia, which is not only about half an hour North, and therefore closer for us, but also on the good side of the famous Atlanta traffic, so it’ll be a breeze to get there. I’m excited to see what the new place looks like, even though it will likely mean the end of of the parachute drop.

Anyway, we got checked in and this year decided to forego the annual giant hamburger challenge at Lucky’s on Wednesday night because, to be honest, We didn’t care much for the food the two previous times we went there, and last year the high chairs wrecked my back for the entire show. We had pizza delivered and hung out in the lobby as people returned from Lucky’s and confirmed that we had made the right decision.

Thursday morning we got up early to pick up our friend, Jack Hall, at the airport, and then drove straight to Senoia on a beautiful sunny day (see right), where they film The Walking Dead. We’d promised Jack we’d take him down there last year, and it just made sense to pick him up on the way. We mapped out our route ahead of time and got into the airport with no problem, which apparently is not common. Here’s a few photos from Thursday in Senoia…

The wall at Alexandria. I’ll tell you about our trip inside the wall next week. Notice that they take the blades off the windmill when they’re not shooting. That’s a working windmill, and the high winds would rip it to shreds.
Mel, buying something from “German Abraham” in his gift shop below The Woodbury Shoppe.
Not in Senoia, this is in nearby Harrelson, where we also took Jack. You may recognize the Esco Feed Mill from the opening credits of The Walking Dead for a few a few seasons early one.
Here’s Jack with German Abraham.

It was a blast having Jack come along for his first visit to Senoia, and we all had a great time.  We got Jack back to the hotel by check-in time.  The Walking Dead fun was not over for me and Mel, but we’ll have more on that later.   Mel and I would return to Senoia on Sunday for the new Walking Dead studio backlot tour.

During our time in Senoia on Thursday, Jack shared photos of his top-secret project that took first place in the ToyLanta custom figure contest, and second-place in the custom vehicle contest. You’ll see those tomorrow.

Thursday night the early arrivals all made their way to Hawg & Ale, a new restaurant co-owned by ToyLanta’s Buddy Finethy. We rode with Andy McGrady, who is a master at sculpting and customizing action figures. And even though your PopCulteer partakes of neither pork nor beer, we found stuff to eat on the menu that was fantastic. I believe that Buddy’s plan is eventually franchise this restaurant concept, and I can’t wait to see it take off. Nobody every went broke selling BBQ and beer, and Buddy knows more about designing a restaurant than you could possibly imagine.

It was open mic night, and we had great music to go with the food, and yours truly took a couple of shaky photos…




Friday was the start of ToyLanta, and I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. We actually cut out of ToyLanta early on Sunday to go on The Walking Dead studio backlot tour, and that is something I’ll write about next week. But the photo at the head of this post is your PopCulteer and his wife INSIDE the wall at Alexendria, a set that is located in Senoia.

Right now, I have to schedule the rest of the week on The AIR, which will remain in reruns until next week.

The First One Who Stealth It, Dealt It

The PopCult Toybox

I’ve been telling my readers about the emergence of poop and fart toys in PopCult for some time now. This unexpected, but hilarious, development has not subsided, and at Toy Fair last month dozens of companies were showing off scatalogically-inspired playthings for the young and easily-amused, and for the young and easily-amused at heart.

Today we’re going to look at one of the more clever toys in this new genre, Fart Ninjas.

Made by Funrise, the folks who currently produce Tonka Trucks, Fart Ninjas are little figures, trained in the art of espionage, ‘gassassination’ and skilled in ‘martial farts’, the collectible Fart Ninjas figures have electronic fart sounds that surprise and gross out unsuspecting individuals when they least expect it!

At this point, we have no choice but to quote extensively from the press release:

“Gross toys and collectibles are evergreen play patterns for boys,” said Randy Shoemaker, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Funrise. “The magic of  Fart Ninjas is combing these two authentic play patterns with an awesome theme to deliver a fun new experience that boys will love. Fart Ninjas are cool to collect and display, and you can surprise your unsuspecting friends with farts!”

Fart Ninjas will launch this Fall at major retailers around the world with two main assortments. FART NINJAS Series 1 is a collection of 8 different figures, each with 10 realistic fart sounds activated by a motion sensor. FART NINJAS XL Series 1are larger scale, 5″ figures styled in Fart Ninjas armor and come with a ninja start remote control allowing kids to “fart on demand” with the push of a button. And FART NINJAS XL figures allow kids to record their own fart sounds and surprise their friends with a fart attack when they least expect it! Each figure also includes a ‘martial farts’ accessory. A free to download app is also available with fun, fart-filled features like a Fart Ninjas photo booth.

Please note: These are not to be confused with Buttheads (seen below). That’s a totally different farting ninja toy figure, made by Wowwee. The two toys have nothing in common with one another, except perhaps for the whole “ninja figure that makes electronic farting sounds” thing.

PopCult Note: Your PopCulteer has returned from his annual trip to ToyLanta, and promises that tomorrow we will have a post or two that have nothing to do with toys.

Remember last week when we told you about how we’re going to be playing reruns on The AIR for a while? That’s still a thing.  I’ll explain below, but in the meantime, you can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

ToyLanta wrapped up last Sunday, and if all went according to plan, you got to see a cool wrap-up video that very same day!

And if it didn’t, we’ll just pretend that it did anyway, okay?

But because your PopCulteer and his wonderful spouse like to enjoy a good road trip, they still aren’t home yet. In fact, they’re probably still poking around in Senoia, Georgia, where they film The Walking Dead, this morning, before hitting the road home later today.

But that means that The AIR is still bringing you the highest-quality encore broadcasts of our amazing exclusive programs, and you can greatly improve the quality of your life, and perhaps even lower your serum cholesterol, by tuning in to listen to the great musical programs that bring you local artists, Swing Music, Musical Theater, Progressive Rock, New Wave Music, Alternative Music, Psychedelic Rock and more.

The only thing you have to fear is quality diverse music…and giant spiders…and bears…and maybe the Republican Party…and manatees.

Especially manatees. Those guys can’t drive worth a damn! Check out the schedule of our little internet radio station…

Monday Morning Art: Embrace


This week we bring you an abstract expression of love and desire, in digital painting form. As always, click to enlarge.

Monday on The AIRThe Monday Marathon remains shrunken from 24 hours to 8. It still kicks off at 7 AM, every Monday, and it still showcases one of our popular music programs, but now it wraps up at 3 PM, to make way for two weekly marathon presentations of the best of two of our regular shows. This week it’s a marathon of random local music from our library, beginning at 7 AM.  At 3 PM you can settle in for eight hours of great New Wave music with Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. Then at 11 PM you can spend you overnights with eight hours of the best Progressive Rock of the last half-century on Prognosis

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

Sunday Evening Video: ToyLanta

The plan all along was to shoot video like a demon and wind up with a short recap of ToyLanta posted in this space by Sunday morning.

Barring any issues with rendering the file, that’s sort of what happened. The clip is longer than I had intended, due to the inclusion of several interviews, but it’s still a quick look at the sights and sounds and people of ToyLanta, which I really shouldn’t have to tell you about by this point. I’ve been writing about it for weeks.

I’ll be posting a proper photo essay and recap later this week, but for now, enjoy the video.

And don’t forget about next year. You have plenty of time to start planning!

The RFC Flashback: Episode 174

From November, 2012 you see Radio Free Charleston 174 “Mark Wolfe Design Shirt.”

This week’s episode of Radio Free Charleston featured music from Qiet and Farnsworth, plus a special performance from the Dan Khede/Mark Scarpelli rock opera, MARY. We also have some fresh DEVO hat animation and part of a complete breakfast. Host segments were shot on the river side of our beautiful State Capitol Building. Our titular shirt comes to us from our good friend, Mark Wolfe, and plugs Mark Wolfe Design, which is still pretty much the hippest design firm in town.

We started the show with something childish and hysterical and we’re still not going to say anything more about it.

ToyLanta Starts Today

The PopCulteer
March 8, 2019

Friday, March 8, ToyLanta 2019 kicks off. This is the annual huge, gigantic, epic toy show that is also a fundraiser for The Cody Lane Toy & Diorama Museum. This will be your PopCulteer’s seventh trip to the big show, and all week long we’re going to offer you special previews of what you can expect at the show. ToyLanta will run March 8 through 10 at The Marriott Century Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10, and attendees who purchase the Commander and Cadet packages get in to all sorts of cool pre-show and after-hours events.

Before it grew into ToyLanta, this huge toy convention began life as JoeLanta, devoted to the original 12″ GI Joe. Today we’re going to look at some of the highlight videos I’ve made for previous years of JoeLanta/ToyLanta.

Today we’re going to link to some of the many (and many, and many) articles and videos we’ve posted over the last six years, so you can trace the evolution of The South’s Biggest Toy Show (That’s not an official slogan, by the way. It’s just what I call it).

My first time as a guest of JoeLanta was in 2013. I was just wrapping up a twenty-year stint as a caregiver for my parents and various relatives, and was able to get away to travel to my very first big toy convention. You can see video of me on the Hobby Roundtable Panel HERE, and watch my very first JoeLanta wrap-up video HERE.

The next year I was able to go to JoeLanta more prepared to chronicle the trip. I posted about all the cool stuff I got HERE. We had a great collection of videos from the show HERE, not all of which were by yours truly. I did manage to bring you videos of The Joe At Fifty Panel, The State of the Hobby, The Marx Toys Panel, Video of visits with two collectors, and a wrap up video that was twice as long as the one from the year before.

In 2015 I posted tons of videos, but was smart enough to collect them all into one post, which makes my job here, much, much easier. However, I did produce a bonus video of the dioramas after that, and also featured the Saturday Night Radio Cult Jam on The RFC Mini Show.

I was also smart enough to collect a bunch of videos into one post in 2016, which was the first year that I shot so much video that I never really got around to editing it all. Much of that was because that was the year I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis–just a few weeks after JoeLanta, and dealing with that greatly reduced my video output. However, I did manage to crank out videos of the panel on Star Wars collecting, Big Jim and the Parachute Drop. And then, eight months after the show ended, I finally got around to finishing the wrap up clip.

In 2017 JoeLanta became ToyLanta, expanding it’s scope to collectible toys of all kinds. 2017 was also the year that Mike Gardner assembled a spectacular Marvel Superhero diorama, and we covered its construction in photos, in two parts, HERE and HERE. We offered up more photos of ToyLanta HERE. You can see all the videos of panels I produced in 2017 HERE. However, I did get the wrap-up video posted in a timely manner that year. Plus we had even more photos.

Last year I attempted to produce a wrap-up video for each day, but that was an experiment that must go down as a nobel failure. I managed to crank out a video for day one of the show, but it took more than a week for me to get around to wrapping up the whole show.  On top of that, complications with my eyes kept me from digging into the videos of the panels until last week. You can see the two that I did get edited HERE and HERE.

I hope these posts and videos give you an idea why this show is so special to me, and maybe entice you to make the trek to Atlanta one of these days (if not this weekend). This year the plan is to try to have the wrap-up video ready by Sunday. Wish me luck, and check PopCult to see if I pull it off.


ToyLanta Tomorrow, Today Toys

Friday, March 8, ToyLanta 2019 kicks off. This is the annual huge, gigantic, epic toy show that is also a fundraiser for The Cody Lane Toy & Diorama Museum. This will be your PopCulteer’s seventh trip to the big show, and all week long we’re going to offer you special previews of what you can expect at the show. ToyLanta will run March 8 through 10 at The Marriott Century Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10, and attendees who purchase the Commander and Cadet packages get in to all sorts of cool pre-show and after-hours events.

Today we’re going to look at photos of some of the toys that you can find at ToyLanta. Vendors come from all over the world to sell the coolest toys ever made. Here’s a bunch of photos of them, many of which I bought myself.

But first, let’s look at a promo clip for the show…

This is last year’s exclusive convention figure, limited to 100, and it’s a real work of art.

The figure is made by Cotswold Collectibles, with an outfit by Felipe Monaco’s Locos Por Boneco.

Descend Into Danger was just the latest figure in the JoeLanta/ToyLanta collector series. In previous years we’ve seen Steampunk Zepplin Commanders, Nautilus crewmen, Spelunkers, Big Game Hunters and others.

This year a Mountain Man is the limited edition figure to go with the Commander’s Package. This outdoorsman comes with a full Mountaineer outfit, flocked hair and beard, Kung-Fu Grip, plus weaponry, including a musket that would allow him to fit right in during football season in Morgantown.

Continue reading…

Special Guests At ToyLanta

Friday, March 8, ToyLanta 2019 kicks off. This is the annual huge, gigantic, epic toy show that is also a fundraiser for The Cody Lane Toy & Diorama Museum. This will be your PopCulteer’s seventh trip to the big show, and all week long we’re going to offer you special previews of what you can expect at the show. ToyLanta will run March 8 through 10 at The Marriott Century Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, March 9 and 10, and attendees who purchase the Commander and Cadet packages get in to all sorts of cool pre-show and after-hours events.

Here’s a quick trailer for the show…

Today we’re going to look at three of the special guests, Larry Hama, Larry Selman and Shane Morton.

Larry Hama is a writer, cartoonist, illustrator, actor, and musician who has worked in comics, tv & film. He’s best known as the writer of Marvel’s GI Joe and Wolverine comics. Most recently, he’s the author of The Death of Captain America a prose novel for Marvel that features characters (Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Nick Fury) who are prominent in the new Captain America movie.

Larry is currently continuing the adventures of GI Joe for IDW Publishing, and his co-creation, Bucky O’Hare, has recently returned to the world of toys after nearly a thirty-year hiatus.

Personally, I’ve bee a fan of Larry’s since his days working for The National Lampoon inking the comic strip, One Year Affair.  It’s been a wild ride, watching as he jumped to Atlas Comics to create Wulf The Barbarian before a stint as an editor at DC Comics, and then his long career at Marvel Comics, editing, writing and drawing.  It’s been great to get to meet him at JoeLanta/ToyLanta, and talk about his other endeavors in film, music and theater, as well as comics.

Larry Selman was born in Pennsylvania and raised in a military family. Following graduation from York Academy of Art in 1982, he built a successful career in the paperback novel illustration field. Collaborating with the top art directors and major publishers in New York and around the United States such as Bantam, Dell, Avon, Outdoor Life, New American Library, St. Martins and many more while establishing a reputation of excellence.

As an illustrator his work appeared on many of the Classic Collection of GI Joe- over 125 pieces of box art in an 8 year span. Several ofthe illustrations received prestigious awards from the packaging industry.
Leaving the illustration field he has been firmly established in the American historical art market for several years. Original works of art can be found at the US Army War College, Command and General Staff College Ft. Leavenworth and on bases and museums throughout the United States. He is the only artist to depict every era of American military history and every branch of service.

Larry has also contributed to the Jurassic Park franchise with some amazing packaging and promotional artwork.

In over two decades as a professional in the horror business Shane Morton has worked with such greats as Stan Winston studios and Rob Zombie. He has designed and built horror attractions and haunted houses all over the country, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, being his biggest and best.

You can see his recent film work in the indie, grindhouse hit, Frankenstein Created Bikers, in Sam and Mattie Make a Zombie Movie, and on television with Adult Swim’s smash hit, Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, where he was the Art Director of Hell and supplied special effects and make-up before becoming a producer of the show with its second season.

He continues to make music videos with Mastodon, his latest being Asleep in the Deep. He is the producer, writer, director, and lead actor of The Silver Scream Spook Show, which has been running for over 6 years now with 50 episodes and over 100 performances.

The guests are only part of the attractions at ToyLanta. The show kicks off Friday for early attendees, and opens to the general public Saturday.