the guildThe Guild panel at Comic-Con is about as close as the web series world has to a Steve Jobs keynote. The annual tradition packs the Indigo Ballroom at the San Diego Hilton with 1600 or more teeming Guild fans ready to see what rabbit Felicia Day and company have to pull out of their hats as a new season gets under way.

The tricky part is their jaw-dropping previous years’ surprises set a bar even themselves would have a hard time besting. Who can forget two years ago when the cast strode out in full Guild avatar costumes to debut their mega-hit—17.5 million views and iTunes best-selling—music video, “Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?” followed by Wil Wheaton himself announcing his addition to the cast.

Then there was last year’s Bollywood-themed “Game On” music video—with 2.3 million views—that would even top Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” on the iTunes charts for paid downloads.

With four seasons under its belt, The Guild is growing up, much as the industry of online video is around it. Felicia Day, its creator and star is busier than ever with side projects like her upcoming Dragon Age: Redemption series and work on Syfy’s Eureka. And with Day as booked solid as Stan Lee at this year’s Con, it was to some dismay that the Guild camp had to answer one fan’s question about the lack of a music video this year, with an admission that there just wasn’t enough time.

To be sure, Saturday’s panel still delighted fans eager for glimpses of the most ambitious season yet of the long-running web series, one that sees over 75 speaking parts and 273 extras—many of them Guild fans on hand at the panel—as they created a fictional convention for the “Convention Timez” storyline. The new season debuts on Xbox Live on Tuesday July 26, and hits the web on Thursday, as the show tries a slight variation on its distribution windowing this season.

Before showing the full first episode from Season 5, a specially cut recap video garnered laughs as it was voiced by the snarky Honeybadger narrator, Randall. The video will hit YouTube later this week. There were some minor technical snafus that plagued the first attempt at the video screening, but Day aptly quipped, “We are A/V cursed, but audience blessed.”

Licensing Deals

The Guild characters were practically tailor made for some ancillary product extensions, though its small team had yet to venture beyond the Dark Horse one-shot comics and Jinx t-shirts. That’s when Day and fellow producer Kim Evey decided to “clean out their email boxes” and respond to some of the dozens of solicitations for partnerships.

jones

The biggest crowd reaction came when Day revealed the six specially branded Guild character editions of Jones Soda due out later this year. She also announced a line of limited edition six-inch-tall animated maquettes with QMx, due out next spring.

During the fan Q/A, one entrepreneurial fan even asked the panel if they would let him license the Cheesy Beard’s restaurant from the show, to which the group laughed, saying “it’s not a very nice place at all.”

Guest Stars

One of the biggest reveals the Guild camp is sitting on right now are the names of the guest stars, some of them very well known. They opted to only tease out a few of them during the panel—Erin Gray, Doug Jones and Dr. Horrible co-creator Maurissa Tancharoen—but several big names were held back from fans until later in the season.

Tubefilter’s photos from The Guild panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011:

(Photos by Carly Feingold for Tubefilter)