Fan Expo, Kaylin and MaksI wasn’t even planning on going to Fan Expo this year.  I’ve been pretty much every year for the last eight years, and this year I thought I’d skip it.

Then some stuff happened, and I realized I’d like to see my friends, some of whom I only get to see once a year.  So I contacted Peter, and asked him if he had space at the All New Comics booth.  He did, so it was settled.

Then I mentioned to my kids that I was going to the convention on Friday, and I got a chorus of “awww’s”, and I thought…why not take them?  It meant paying $35 for a ticket, and waiting in line ups…but what the heck?

No sooner had I suggested it, than they had figured out their cosplay (Finn and Fiona from Adventure Time), and promised that they would be up bright and early.

Friday morning they were up at 6am, ready to go.  We managed to leave the house before 8, and were on the highway by 8:20.  Through some crazy loop in the time/space continuum, we arrived at the International Hotel’s parking lot at 10:30.

The line up for people to get in looped around the entrance to the south building, but there were clear signs for tickets over near the parking lot.  Meanwhile, there were half a dozen people armed with wrist bands and mobile devices, selling tickets on the street.  We stood in a line up for about 10 minutes, when someone told us that this line was for adults paying by debit only. If we wanted to pay by cash or credit, or had children, we had to go to the ticket counter.

We rushed over, Kaylin saying “Daddy, we don’t have to go so fast.”  I replied with “Look behind you.” there was a crush of people coming behind us.  She agreed that our speed was warranted.

We raced to the loading entrance where they were indicating the ticket sales were, sped down the ramp, and ended up in a line up of about 20 people across 10 aisles.

By 10:45, a mere 15 minutes after we arrived at our destination, we were on the show floor.

Fan Expo - Chopper!…and wow, what a floor it was.  Every year Fan Expo gets bigger, and better.  This year we each had a mission.  Maks wanted to see Disney Infinity 2.0.  Kaylin wanted to find some Japanese Stuffies, and I wanted to go to the Artist’s Alley (I also was looking for a copy of “The Star Wars”, the Ralph McQuarrie inspired retelling of Star Wars based on George Lucas’ original Star Wars script).

I asked the kids what their favourite part of the show was.  For Kaylin, it was seeing Yaya Han briefly in the North building, and looking at all of the cool Japanese Stuffies.

For Maks it was getting to play Disney 2.0, being the Guardians of the Galaxy and playing the Spider-Man set (which I will admit was super awesome), nearly a month before the game is actually released.  He loved it so much that he went back to the booth three times.

Disney 2.0For me this year it was seeing their reactions to everything.  Wide eyed reactions to what was happening, not wanting to leave because they were having so much fun, and having such a good time that neither one of them complained about how much we were walking.

We walked…a lot.  Fan Expo has grown to take over both the North and South halls.  The North hall had the live gaming spectacular, the celebrity signings, a lot of Cosplay stuff, and the horror show.  That’s really great because I was able to keep the kids mostly away from some of the gorier things that the vendors have over there (I love it personally, but it’s not great for a 5 and 9 year old to be seeing).

The South hall was Artist’s Alley, the big vendors like PS4, Xbox, the big video game companies, and of course cool stuff like the Canadian Mint, Legoland, and Teletoon, as well as a ton of comics, games, and anime vendors.

Fiona, Finn, and PeeblesOverall, I was amazed by how well run Fan Expo Canada was this year, it is my first year attending as a fan, and not a dealer in about 8 years.

It’s always interesting to read Facebook and the reactions people have to the show, I posted the following stuff to the Fan Expo Canada Facebook page on Sunday after a ton of negative reactions started showing up based on how busy Saturday was.

Saturday was too busy – Saturday has ALWAYS been too busy, even back when they held this show at Exhibition Place.  They have expanded this show to be four days.  They charge more for Saturday to encourage people to go another day. If you want a better experience, go a day that does not begin with the word “sat”…perhaps try getting there early on Sunday?  Early is key.  The earlier you get there, the better your day will be!

The Minions couldn’t answer “question X” – True, some minions were clueless, but when I stumped a minion, I would ask if they could ask someone.  They did and often seemed surprised they hadn’t thought of that.  Minions are people too, and people get overwhelmed.  If the one minion you asked a question to is unhelpful, look for another red shirt…sometimes you catch a minion at the perfect storm of bad times.

The Venue isn’t big enough – They keep expanding this show, and it keeps growing.  They now have the entire run of the convention centre, and it still isn’t enough.  This year was amazing in that both sides of the convention centre had compelling reasons to go there.  I hope they keep it downtown, and while adding more venues like the ACC is interesting, it will cause logistics problems.  I hope they don’t move it out of the city.  Being downtown has lots of benefits including Go train access, and tons of great restaurants.

The Intel booth was too big – Holy cats that booth was big…but competitive gaming is a thing! I saw a packed audience cheering someone playing StarCraft with actual commentators.  This isn’t my thing, but I was so happy that these people have found their tribe!

The PS4 booth was too big – think of these uber booths as oasis’s, where you can go to get away from the crowd!  They are very strategically located, and offer a nice breather.

It was hard to find “x thing” – My biggest fear as a retailer was always that we’d get lumped together as vendors “all the comic vendors in this aisle, manga vendors in this aisle, gaming vendors here”.  Our best year as a vendor was when we were opposite the Guitar Hero stage…despite the fact that I heard “Sweet Child O Mine” eleventy billion times, we saw so many new faces and sold so much stuff to people who were asking “What would be a good first comic for me?” – my favourite thing is selling to lapsed or new comic readers.

Thanks Fan Expo for providing an amazing day with amazing memories.