This year at WonderCon (April 18-20) was the year that I missed a lot of things. It’s not at the SDCC level where you have to assume you won’t get to what you want unless you’re really lucky, or deliberately go for the less popular events. Even if you’re at the very end of a long line, or arriving five minutes before, you might still make it into the room. Mostly, I got there late two days out of three, and spent most of Saturday finding things for a three-year-old to do (more about that later).
WonderCon is settling in at Anaheim. The crowds are coming even on Friday, and parking…well, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than the first year, when they sent people out to Anaheim Stadium for overflow, and a lot simpler than San Diego’s collection of dozens of tiny parking lots scattered around downtown. After the first day following signs from lot to lot to lot, I just went straight to the Garden Walk structure for the next two days. It’s a bit of a hike, but not much worse than parking at the far end of the Toy Story lot, and the time you save waiting to get into the lot will probably make up for the extra 5-10 minutes on foot. (But if you leave the con before sunset, make sure you walk out to Katella along the convention center, where there’s shade, and not along Harbor, where there’s a wide street to let the sun reach you and a wall to reflect the heat right at you.) Continue reading →
A convention needs additional days at the convention center to set up and tear down the event. So for a 3-day weekend event, they need to be in Wednesday or Thursday through Monday.
They’ve been trying to avoid conflicting with other big comic conventions, specifically C2E2 in Chicago and Emerald City in Seattle. I remember one year they were the same weekend as MegaCon, but it was all the way on the East coast, so the two events were drawing from a different pool of guests and attendees.
WonderCon’s last year (so far) in San Francisco was 2011. C2E2 launched in 2010, and grew to 41,000 attendees in 2012 and 50,000. Emerald City has been around for a decade, but expanded dramatically over the last few years, jumping from 13,000 attendees in 2009 to 32,000 in 2011. This year, all three cons* were in the 53-56K range.
The other shows’ explosion in size coincides with WonderCon’s move out of San Francisco. Both shows were already growing before WonderCon moved to Anaheim, so while I’m sure some former regulars decided to go to Emerald City instead, I doubt it accounts for the bulk of the growth. It makes me wonder (no pun intended) whether WonderCon might be facing similar scheduling conflicts even if it had stayed in San Francisco back in 2012.
If they do have to go up against another high-profile convention, it’s going to be one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations. My feeling is they’d be better off scheduling for the same weekend as C2E2, since Chicago’s three times the distance and two time zones away. Sure, it could be seen as a proxy battle between the NYCC and SDCC juggernauts, but it would play better than looking like they’re stepping on the little guy.
*I couldn’t find figures for ECCC 2013, but Wikipedia cites 53K in 2012, and they’ve been growing every year. C2E2 2013 was 53K, and WonderCon’s site cites 56K for 2013.
WonderCon has officially announced that they’re returning to Anaheim in 2014 for a third year, from April 18-20. It’s turned out to be a good venue for the convention, especially if they can work the remaining kinks out of parking next year, and it means it’s easy for us to attend, since it’s close enough for us to commute. (That really takes some of the pressure off of trying to get tickets for San Diego, too.)
Still, I hope they find a way to move back to the Bay Area soon. I attendedthreeyears at the Moscone Center when it meant traveling (it probably helps that we have family and friends in the area to visit on the way up and back), and while the show still feels very much like part of the same family, it does feel like a slightly different show. I was in San Francisco on a business trip last week, and when I realized I was in the neighborhood, I just had to stop by Yerba Buena park and the Moscone Center for old time’s sake. Continue reading →
It’s looking more and more likely that WonderCon will be staying in Anaheim again for 2014. That makes it easier for me to attend, but I still feel like the show’s out of place. I’d like it to return to the Bay Area even though it means I’ll have to travel.
I’ve been in San Francisco this week for a training course. Tuesday night after dinner I wandered down Market St. until I recognized the pedestrian path that led toward the Yerba Buena Gardens, Metreon mall, and Moscone Convention Center. I had to look.
There was an art installation in the path, a set of benches including an open-air whisper gallery. The church nearby was covered with scaffolding. The nearby buildings were lit up, as was the Martin Luther King, Jr. waterfall at the south end of the park, and I decided to try taking some night photos with my phone. HDR mode surprised me by turning out astonishingly well for a phone.
Compare that view of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial waterfall to this daytime shot from 2010:
And here’s a look at the buildings on the east side of the park:
Would I have liked to have a better camera with me? Sure. But the software did a great job of counteracting my jittery hand and the low light level. It probably handled the image stabilization better than my camera would have.
I walked on across the bridge to check in on the convention center itself, for nostalgia’s sake, and noticed for the first time the children’s museum and playground in the same block. If WonderCon ever does make it back to San Francisco, we’ll have somewhere to take our son in the middle of the day. Though the way things are going, by then he’ll be old enough to enjoy a full day at a comic con anyway!
WonderCon 2013 returned to Anaheim after last year’s experiment, and the event felt more solid this year. As much as I hope they’ll be able to return to San Francisco, they’ve shown that they can put on a really good convention in Anaheim as well.
The Anaheim Venue
Since last year, the Anaheim Convention Center has replaced a long driveway between hotels with an extended pedestrian area, with fountains at either end. This turned out to be fantastic for the convention, because it gave people a place to hang out, visit, hold photo shoots, and more. This was also where five food trucks set up shop to handle the lunch rush, which added not just supply but more variety. Compare to San Diego, where most exits from the convention center make you cross a driveway, a major street, and two sets of railroad tracks, one for freight and one for the trolley, before you get to any sort of open space, and even that has been co-opted by off-site events.
Another difference from San Diego: The sections of the main hall are separated by permanent walls, including the food courts…and as I discovered on Friday, an atrium. That atrium was a bit of a shock the first time I walked into it, because it gave me an overwhelming sense of deja vu, like I’d just walked out of WonderCon 2013 and into WorldCon 1996. I could swear it’s left over from before the major remodeling they did in the late 1990s.