Cheers and Happy Spring, kittens! It’s me, your Hannah Hart, ghostdame of the Del! It’s been a spell since we’ve visited, but last weekend was WonderCon and, naturally, I have a thought or two about it.
Like Waldo, something was missing, or at least hiding adeptly, this year at WonderCon Anaheim (WCA, Anaheim Convention Center April 3-5, 2015). Maybe something was amiss on the con floor: no behemoth media structures; no celeb sightings; no multi-screen overload; no roaming camera crews from the big-news outlets. Maybe something was amiss outside: no hordes of the gawking, general public, curious shutterbugs or looky-loos. Then again, maybe nothing was amiss and I misread the whole situation. Whatever occurred, as satisfying as WCA2K15 eventually turned out to be, something intangible was mislaid; and its absence left an energy-void, and not just for Yours Truly.
“You know, I’m just not feeling it out there,” a steampunk pirate/photographer was overheard lamenting on the con floor Saturday morning. “Maybe I need coffee, or a shot, but it’s kind of dead.”
“Yes! A shot! Rum!” his pretty steampunk piratess concurred. “I’m not feeling it either.”
“I go to both Comic-Con and WonderCon every year,” a guest of the Anaheim Hilton stated Saturday night during an elevator ride down to the hotel’s Mix Bar. “I usually prefer WonderCon, ’cause it’s so much easier to deal with. But it’s almost too mellow this year.”
Though the energy levels would pick up by Sunday afternoon, the last day, WCA2K15 had a perceptibly slow start, like that quiet auntie who doesn’t like to talk politics, religion or the Great Pumpkin at Thanksgiving, but eventually loosens her corset (What? Your aunties don’t wear corsets?) and calls out Grandpa after a few glasses of absinthe. (What? No absinthe either? Your family sounds boring.) Maybe attendees needed some absinthe; maybe they needed to loosen their corsets; maybe they just needed to talk politics, religion and the Great Pumpkin.
“They’ve never done this before, with the barricades,” stated a local couple from Orange, standing in line at the Anaheim Hilton Starbucks, waiting sadistically to pay $26 for two Frappuccinos. “We come every year, just to hang out in front and take pictures, talk to the cosplayers. It’s a blast! We’re just going to go ahead and go home though.”
Psst, local couple. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go to an off-property Sbux somewhere else and save the hotel premium? IDK. I would.
Indeed, there were new security measures this year, new barricades. Well, not really barricades: just paper signs in metal stands and a few kindly guards casually checking badges. Still, the heightened security imagery kept out most folks sans badges. Where mortals and muggles could once roam, ogle and shutterbug to their hearts’ content, the space was now reserved for badge-holders only. Though only a small stretch was blocked, a winding swath of concrete around the main entrance to the convention center, there was enough elbow room, compared to previous years, to note the omission.
The first sentry I happened upon was a stern fellow in a yellow tee bearing the Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC) logo, the crowd management company charged with monitoring WCA. Posted at a barricade between the Hilton food-court entrance and the convention center steps, I asked about the very paper sign he oversaw. He said he was not allowed to answer any specific security questions, but suggested I find a manager in a CSC blue tee. That I did.
Past the paper barricade with my three-day badge and amidst the palm trees and badge-holding Harley Quinns, Chewies and hot Scooby-Doos (Note: I was previously unaware “hot Scooby-Doo” was a thing. Who knew?), I tracked down a CSC manager. He was tolerant enough to stop and entertain a quick series of questions.
Were there certain concerns for this year’s con? Was there any information that more security was needed? Being such a pop-culture venue, had there been any terrorist threats?
“Nope,” he said succinctly. “This is just the security this year,” proffering no further details.
His companion though, a hearty and happy yellow-teed guard who usually works Angel Stadium, and who looked like a bodyguard in a Guy Ritchie film, elucidated with a wide, wonky smile and added, “Changes with the wind. Could change tomorrow!” Yellow-tee also admitted there had been concerns of “possible protesters interfering with people who paid good money to be here.”
Sure enough, “possible protesters” were there, as they are at every con, just outside the barricades, making life quasi-uncomfortable for con-goers and hotel guests alike. In their short-sleeve, missionary shirts and black ties, lofting on high their giant yellow-and-black signs, the protesters warn of impending eternities in hell for sporting steampunk Star Wars and trading Pokémon cards. They do interfere and are mildly annoying, but are easily ignored, unless you’re stuck at a very long light or trolley crossing outside their bigger haunt: San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC, San Diego Convention Center July 9-12, 2015 ).
Behind the barricades and smiling Yellow Shirts, WCA continues to grow, in popularity and scope. Still, whether intentionally less frantic or just organically more mellow, it remains the easy-peasy training wheels for those headed to San Diego in July, as well as those unfortunate enough to nab a coveted SDCC badge.
Comic-Con International (CCI) organizers may not wish for WCA to reach the frenzy of SDCC. Maybe it never will have the same cache and, frankly, that is rather relaxing to rely upon each year. As opposed to the “Comic-Con or Bust!”, lottery-style mind$%*# of getting into SDCC, one can still attend WCA on the fly and even grab a reasonably priced, last-minute hotel room. (Note: badges must be purchased online, no door-sales, and Saturdays and Three-days do sell out relatively quickly, but over period of weeks.)
Finally inside WonderCon and on the main floor, the atmos was more market faire than entertainment convention, with more Star Trek dog-accessories and anime erotica art than interactive gaming booths and video displays. The day was starting to look up, though, with a general buzz beginning to tickle my brain. An impromptu interview with the kindly and winged Kaleigh Kailani at Sharp News certainly set things apace. Cheers, Miss Kaleigh!
If the floor was mostly merchandise and an overpriced, crappy food court, upstairs, and in the major halls, WonderCon was all big com. BBCAmerica, TNT, Crackle and FOX all offered special screenings this year: Orphan Black, The Last Ship, Dead Rising: Watchtower and Gotham, respectively. Throw in the “WonderCon Anaheim Int’l. Children’s Film Festival” and a three-day anime festival featuring “some of the best in Japanese animation” and there were never enough hours in the day to view and do to your heart’s desire.
Panels were numerous and dotted with the media giants, even if most of those giants left their beanstalks and booths in San Diego storage, just waiting for July to put out the really good stuff. Panels ran the gamut from American Dad to Walt Disney Animation Studios Kids’ Workshop; from Whovian Costuming for Beginners to Star Wars Goes Steampunk; from Science in Science Fiction to Fairy Dust: LGBTQ Disney Fandom. Of course, if simply watching content is not enough for you, whereas you’d rather argue with anyone around, pointing out every technical and historical inaccuracy you note, then Rotten Tomatoes has the perfect panel for you: Your Opinion Sucks!
Back on the main floor, away from the nerd-packed ballrooms and academic panels, cosplay seemed a victim of this year’s mellow vibe. Whilst there was the usual overkill of handsome Doctor Whos and off-the-rack Lolitas, it seemed far fewer folks dressed this year. WonderCon looked a lot like Preview Night at SDCC: more professionals and their families than fervent fans. Even our diligent Dr. Lucy (GoodToBeAGeek.com‘s official, SoCal-con photog) and her trusty Canon EOS found pickings few and far between. For a full slideshow of those whom put some effort into their ensembles, visit the land of JennyPop!
In the end, did the new barricades keep out some fun? Probably not. Did Jebus protesters kill the vibe? Probably not. Did Easter Sunday step on the gestalt? Actually, no. Sunday was the busiest day of all. Seems plenty of families planned a WonderEaster. If nothing else, the best part of any con can be the Meet & Geeks and surprises, with old friends and new acquaintances, after the con doors close. The official-hotel bars (Hilton’s Mix Bar, being this girl’s haunt) and nearby Downtown Disney, Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Gardenwalk are perfect caps to any WCA day. To boot, it’s all walking-distance so everybody’s safe to enjoy their adult beverages of choice.
Maybe early-April in Anaheim will never have the same energy as mid-July in San Diego. Maybe CCI doesn’t intend WCA to be another SDCC; really, what could be? Whatever was in the air this year, WCA was decidedly more chill, but that’s not a bad thing. Conventions can be exhausting, expensive and physically painful, depending on your costume and/or shoes of choice.
Funny enough, each con starts the same way, for Moi anyway. As I realize the cabbage I’ll spend could get me a lovely weekend in Dublin, as I swath my eye makeup in the hotel mirror, as I wait in line for my badge and study all the other dorks around me I wonder, What is wrong with these people? Look at them. Look at me. What is wrong with me? My parents spent a lot of money on my upbringing. Shouldn’t I be Attorney General by now? Maybe I’ve outgrown this.
Then, after three days and nights of dressing, shopping, chatting, journaling, photographing, imbibing and laughing, each con ends the same way. As I peel off my boots and wipe off the eye shadow, as I slide business cards, flyers and show-guides into my journal, as I carefully fold my costume to send it to the cleaners, as I check the room one last time for phone chargers and Piglet -my plush who travels with me everywhere and who has been mailed back to me by more than one hotel- I look around the empty room and think, That was so much fun! I love these folk! I can’t wait to start on my next costume! Boo, I can’t believe I have to wait another year.
Well, at least for now I only have to wait three months for San Diego Comic-Con!
Abyssinia at Comic-Con, kids!
(Cross your fingers I get into the SDCC Souvenir Book again; this would be #5 for me! This year’s theme? 75th anniversary of Catwoman.)
Post Script: So, if you’ve read my coverage for a few years, you’ll know I choose a fave vendor each con. This year’s WCA is Hoodsbee and BrickBrick. Cheers to the mirthful purveyors, Han (Solo?), Miguel, Eric and Stan! Now, whilst I didn’t buy any Brick Brick gear, it does look rather inventive: designing and crafting your own caps with a patented brick work system. Besides, the owner is a BFF of the Hoodsbee crew and shared a booth; so I was happy to include him here.
Hoodsbee is the home of “The Hoodie That Becomes a Friend”. When you’re ready to take it off just roll it, tuck it and snap it. Voila! You’ve got yourself a plush, a pillow, a friend! Hoodsbee currently proffers a Sanrio-licensed, limited-edition, numbered, Hello Kitty hoodie in shocking pink or black; natch, I chose pink. Number 171/1808 in fact. If Kitty isn’t your cup o’ cuppa, Hoodsbee offers a selection of other characters. “Mimi the Curious Fox” is my other fave, she “loves to hike up hills” and “pick flowers for her friends”. How could I not love Mimi?
Cheers and Follow @JennyPopNet
Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?