Another year, another FanExpo. This particular convention continues its constant growth in terms of events and patrons every year. It's interesting to think back to my first FanExpo back in 2001, when the event was a tiny hall that barely fit the number the visitors. Flash forward to now, and you can see just how much the convention has grown over these last few years. In fact, one could argue that FanExpo's growth is going to make it the premier convention to go to in Canada, as it seems like it's trying to rival that San Diego Comic-Con. What we are starting to see is more big name celebrity guests, an author's alleyway, and more content at panels and games to get more bang for your buck.
This year had some major highlights in terms of celebrity guests such as Tom Felton of the Harry Potter franchise and Kevin Sorbo from Hercules (I realize he's not that huge, but darn it, I love him). It also let us see one of the most remarkable television actresses of the mid-1960s, Barbra Eden, better known as Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie, alongside her counterpart from the show Larry Hagman, who played Anthony Nelson. He also is best known as J.R Ewing on the popular show Dallas. In terms of guests, there was a great variety to them; so every nerd was able to have his or her day.
One guest I did go out of my way to see was voice actress Veronica Taylor, famous for the voice of Ash Ketchum on the hit anime Pokémon. It's hard to believe she was Ash for over ten years, but perhaps what you didn't know is that she's done her fair share of video game voices. Most notably she was Freya in the original Valkyrie Profile, Cosmos in both Dissidia: Final Fantasy games, Lupay from Link: Faces of Evil, and Alice Elliot from the original Shadow Hearts. She explained the major differences between acting for anime versus video games, and stated that most of the time when she's cast for a voice in a video game; she never gets to see any assets of what her character looks like. Often she has to adapt her voice based on a simple description of that character. The turnout for her signing was enormous, and the majority of people in the line were certainly between the ages of eighteen to thirty. You could tell how much people adored her work in the Pokémon series considering the wait.
Speaking of the fans, what a crowd this year! Last year there was barely any space to move, and this year it seems like Hobby Star got their act together. Sadly there weren't as many costumers compared to Anime North, but the ones there were pretty fabulous. You can check out the costumers we found over in our gallery section. In terms of Artist Alley there were far more original works being sold, though not a lot of it stood out in any way. I did, however, find a Nu plushie from Chrono Trigger that was made by Closet Monsters, who I always purchase from whenever I see their booth. One other thing to note for visual novel fans is that Sakura River Interactive was at the convention showcasing the follow-up to Fading Hearts, Infinite Game Works, which looks to be a solid title. Any ways, enough of my babbling, let's see how FanExpo was for Becky Cunningham and Scott Wachter.
This was my second FanExpo, and it was easier to get the most out of it this year now that I have more experience with cons. I was disappointed to see that once again there weren't any RPGs on the show floor, but I had fun playing a number of the games that were there. I managed to come in fourth out of six in an Assassin's Creed: Revelations (Scott's note: I got third, thus claiming the title of RPGamer Champion Assassin) PvP match, then learned afterwards that I'd done so by repeatedly ganking my husband. I didn't know the big bald guy was him, I promise! I also played co-op in Rayman: Origins and Disney Universe with Sam. Both were fun little platformers with a fair amount of mayhem injected into them. Nintendo was promoting Star Fox 64 3D in a big way, and I actually had quite a bit of fun demoing it. Finally, I got to play through a lengthy demo of Batman: Arkham City, which led to us saying "I'm Batman" for the rest of the day.
One of my FanExpo projects this year was to get some autographs signed for my dad, who is the biggest Trekkie who ever Trekked. I got to meet Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), who was a very classy lady, and the very sweet and kind Marina Sirtis, who was thankfully much more down-to-earth than Deanna Troi. I also got Kevin Sorbo's autograph and had a great chat with him. All three of the celebs I met were kind and gracious to their fans, which was great to see. I declined to stand in the ridiculously long William Shatner line, especially since the old blowhole charges $80 for the pleasure of his John Hancock. Finally, I learned that fantasy author Violette Malan was at the con and hurried over to meet her. I'd read and enjoyed a couple of her books, and had a lovely time chatting with her and getting one of her books signed. It was neat to see an Author's Alley at the con this year, and I hope that even more of Canada's great sci-fi and fantasy authors will be present next year.
FanExpo is always a good time, and it was nice to see all the RPG cosplayers representing. Next year, I hope we'll get some actual RPG companies showing off their stuff!
Saving Throw Curator
Is it possible for an event with attendance of more than seventy thousand to feel small? This year's FanExpo was crowded don't get me wrong, but I found myself limited in how much there was to do. For an event that is trying to build itself up as being Canada's version of San Diego Comic-Con, it should really be offering attendees more to do than just shop and stand in line. Maybe the lack of corporate presence had to do with competition from PAX, or the stigma of last year's mismanagement of fire codes, but it seems like this show didn't have much to offer nerd-dom as a community. I saw LARP groups there to promote themselves, but I don't think there was any actual LARPing going on over the weekend. Similarly, the con advertised five tabletop game designers as special guests, and only invited two of them to the single gaming panel over the course of the four days.
All my jaded bitterness aside, I did enjoy walking the show floor, feeling the excitement of the crowd, and keeping my eyes peeled for attractive ladies in skimpy costumes. Also enjoyable were the interviews I did with Robin D. Laws, Jon Lavallee and Malcom Sheppard, which you can look forward to listening to after I recover from my current case of nerd plague.
If you have any questions or would like your picture removed, send me an e-mail. See you all at FanExpo 2012!