Expectations were very high by fans to see if the organizers could successfully pull off Fan Expo Vancouver for a second year. Problems were abound in its first year because nobody from the East Coast team knew what the West Coast interest would be like. The major complaint heard from the grapevine, especially on Facebook, was with the lineups. At least that looked better managed in this event’s second year. More signage could have helped direct traffic and one out of the many problems that still needs to be addressed is with hallway congestion. If that issue is not enough, detractors say Fan Expo is a form of Creation Con, a style of organization where the show is designed to take every penny out of a fan’s pocket, and true fan-run conventions are few and far-between.
At least the die-hard masses tends to ignore the naysayers and find enjoyment in everything that Fan Expo celebrates: pop culture.
This year, the show took over three ballrooms at the Vancouver Convention Center’s West Wing and it stretched out to the conference rooms on the second level. The exhibit hall was organized to have dealers for one-third of the space, exhibitors (like LEGO and Sony Playstation) in the middle and displays from special organizations at the end, near the loading docks.
The 501st Legion and Ghostbusters of BC commanded their own section of the show. That interestingly gave one side of the exhibit space a carnival atmosphere. To cram in a flight simulator next to the Reviews on the Run (a television show) booth only reinforced the idea. In terms which side was easier to navigate, none of it was.
The marketplace area was busy during the primetime hours of noon till three since everything from comic books to (mock) sci-fi weapons were found. A few big name comic book artists like Neal and Josh Adams took up their own sizable section, with signs stating that their work and signatures came at a price. That’s unusual when artists appearing at comic book conventions never charge for an autograph. At least, for other well-known comic book creators like Ken Steacy, they were simply pleased to be present at this show and provide their signature for free.
Tucked between the vendor tables and product displays were voice artists like Veronica Taylor, the voice of Ash from Pokémon. Some exploration was required to find them. Sadly, Cassandra Lee (Pokemon, Winx Club) may have been missed because a few areas looked more neglected than others. Perhaps next year, the organizers may consider putting the voice talents together into their own special area than spread apart.
The headliner this year was Stan Lee. His celebrity status was cemented because of the success of movies like the Avengers and Iron Man. And many baby-boomers and Gen X’ers who grew up enjoying his gee whiz style of comic writing and his hilarious bulletin editorials flocked here to meet this icon. At his Q&A, he was quite the persona that everyone knows him to be even though people can tell his advancing age is starting to show. And for people who adored his work, the weekend only offered a few chances to meet him, either at a special meet n’ greet event on Friday night or all day offering autographs/photo opportunities on Saturday. He was suspiciously missing for part of Sunday.
In this year’s event, some of the locals—Amanda Tapping and Lexa Doig especially—made an appearance. Tapping appeared Sunday to do a day’s worth of interacting with the fans, and the latter specifically appeared at a ‘Meet the Cast of Continuum‘ event. But more locals appeared, like Michael Benyaer, the voice of Bob from the cartoon Reboot, and even stuntmen Ken Kirzinger (Jason, Halloween) and Brad Loree (Mike Meyers, Friday the 13th) appeared as part of Rue Morgue Magazine’s Festival of Fear, a mini-event within a major one. And the organizers plan on returning with expansion in mind. The guest list was impressive since there were an equal number of names for this specialized event when compared to Fan Expo’s list of top name celebrities.
And Fan Expo will grow. More space is going to be required to handle this event’s massive growth. Advance tickets for Saturday sold out a few days before, and if that’s not an indication, maybe a look at how to make the most of the venue space will be required. Maybe, Hobby Star Marketing, the organizers, will consider moving from Vancouver Convention Center’s West building to East. One level is nothing but exhibit space, and the other floors can separate out the sections, like autograph alley. Maybe each room will give the companies the space required to properly show off their wares. The Playstation and LEGO booth felt small when not a lot of product was being displayed. While some shows with exhibitors tends to give out swag, nothing of this nature was found. LEGO was the only exception.
And something must be done to handle the sardine like crawl in the hallway that stretches along the West Building. That’s a fault created by the architects of the building than the organizers of this event; they did not consider how people traffic can stagnate when sections get locked off. During a convention, some areas are closed to allow the guests to move about freely whilst attendees have to handle using a single escalator to move between levels. The Seattle convention center was better built for that. The Emerald City Comic Convention has an exceptional method of handling lineups and directing crowds and other convention organizers can benefit by taking their model and adapting it for their own use.
When people cannot move around quickly enough, some creative planning will have to be made to ensure that flow will happen. Without it, growth for any exposition can potentially be limited. Sometimes three ballroom spaces is not enough when a football arena should be used instead.