Fan Expo Vancouver 2012

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Fan Expo Vancouver has been touting itself as the first “comicon” for the West Coast city. Organized by the same group behind Fan Expo Canada, its much larger sibling in Toronto, Ontario, the convention was able to secure a strong line up of well known actors, guests, artists and vendors. While there was plenty of hype leading up to the event, Fan Expo Vancouver fell flat in terms of venue selection. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Vancouver Convention Centre, but cramming a couple thousand people into one and a half halls in the bowels of the building isn’t exactly the best way to go about a fun weekend.

I had been aware of Fan Expo Vancouver for a couple of months and was looking forward to attending to try something a little different than a straight up anime convention. The prices were quite reasonable for the two-day event ($30 CAD for Saturday and Sunday) and the location was easy to get to in terms of taking transit.

Line up to get in on Saturday afternoon
Line up to get in on Saturday afternoon

I purchased my pass online hoping that it would enable me to bypass the lines of those who would pay onsite at the convention centre. I would learn that this would not be the case. After arriving in my latest costume, Soul Evans from Soul Eater, I was corralled with everyone into one long line up inside the building that wound its way along the glass walls overlooking Canada Place and down the escalators to the lower level. I had asked three different staff members/security guards where I could go since I bought my pass online. They all had the same response: get in line. Once inside the narrow hall, there were seven booths or so staffed by two people each — four booths for onsite cash payments, two for pre-purchased tickets and one for will call. The biggest lines were for those printed their tickets at home — those paying in person seemed to sail through with little hindrance.

The configuration of the convention centre was less than stellar. The exhibit halls on the lower level are split into three rooms A, B and C. The ticket booths were in B1 which was shared with the main stage, while the rest of the expo was crammed into hall A — vendors, artist’s alley, autographs, photo booths, the Batmobile and so on. I discovered later that there was a lone room on the first floor for some of the Q&A sessions and with no directional signs (only a room number in the schedule email that was sent out during the day).

Rocksteady from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Rocksteady from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Fan Expo Vancouver turned out to be a true multi-genre event with plenty of colourful costumes and outfits parading inside and outside. Everything from Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Thor, The Hunger Games, Captain America, InuYasha, My Little Pony, BlazBlue just to name a few. Although I only cosplayed a single day, there were still many masquerading as their favourite character.

I liked the wide selection of vendors and was able to pick up a few shirts, a Sasuke figure, a miniature Asterix figure, a can of Final Fantasy Dissidia potion with Zidane Tribal and Kuja on it and some fan art. Of course, there was a wide selection of manga, DVDs, figures, art books and other anime/manga related trinkets. Not an anime fan? No problem! A number of tables were stocked with North American comics, toys, DVDs, memorabilia, swag, plus more. I did discover that a couple of vendors were selling bootleg anime CDs, which was disappointing.

Saturday afternoon, I sat down and took in the John de Lancie Q&A panel with a coworker I met up with. With two microphones in the aisles, anyone could come up and ask Star Trek trickster a question or two. Down to earth and seemingly stumped with the popularity of his character in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, de Lancie had the crowd laughing more than once with his responses.

Veronica Taylor and Brian Dobson answering questions
Veronica Taylor and Brian Dobson answering questions

On Sunday, I caught the Veronica Taylor, Brian Dobson, Sam Vincent and Trevor Devall Q&A panel which was surprisingly located in the only room that wasn’t in the lower level of the convention centre. The voice actors took questions about their profession, past projects and joked amongst themselves in character or with a silly voice. I brought along my 55-300mm lens and was able to get some up close shots of the guests even though being seated a ways back from them. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do at a panel and most of them turned out nicely.

I left early both days since there wasn’t too much to do except wander around the vendors and artists or take photos of  the costumes. With the experience that the organizers have running Fan Expo Canada, it should be a no brainer that there would be more to do. I would assume that because this is their first venture out to Vancouver, that they wanted to test the waters and see the response from attendees. Considering the large number of people that showed up, I believe they weren’t prepared for the turn out — although this should give them much needed feedback if they decide to come back next year.

Fan Expo Vancouver needs to work on a number of things should they return in 2013. Namely venue sizing and organization are probably two of my biggest recommendations; making sure that those who pre-paid have some benefit of doing so, such as not lining up to enter the event and maybe doing away with wristbands (I dislike them if you have to wear one more than a day at a time). I did enjoy the guest selection and variety of items available for purchase, although some of the vendors had higher prices than what they offered in their online stores (Stylin’ Online, I’m looking in your direction).

Photos from Fan Expo Vancouver are available on Gallery.


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