WonderCon has always been a wonderful experience for the Nerds Doing Stuff crew. We’ve loved every trip down to Anaheim in the years we’ve attended, gotten to know many new friends and just take in the whole electric atmosphere that comes with a convention. With WonderCon making its home in Los Angeles this year, we found ourselves thinking if it would have that same energy, that same spark that we felt in Anaheim the past few years. Needless to say, the energy was there. There was fun, excitement, friends, great panels, new opportunities, but in the end, something felt missing.
I’ll get into the “something missing” in a bit. Let’s focus on the parts of WonderCon we loved first!
WonderCon has always been a convention where the panels bring in great talent, amazing creators, and well-run fan-driven panels. This year’s WonderCon was no exception. From big panels such as CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., DC Comics Rebirth announcements, the Ratchet and Clank movie, to smaller panels such as Star Wars VFX, Nerd Business, and Cosplay Makeup, anyone who attended the show could find something enjoyable.
We were able to sit on a few panels, some of which were mentioned above. We lived our love of video games and the Ratchet and Clank series by sitting in on their panel for the upcoming film adaptation and game (see some of the coverage in our latest on that panel here) which was fantastic and full of energy. We were able to learn a bit about the “Nerd Business” during a panel with the creative minds of Loot Crate, Nerdstrong Gym, Geeky Teas, and Badali Jewelry. These creative minds shared some of the tips behind their trade, how they got started, and shed some light on how it was to be in the business of being nerdy. Quite the eye opening experience!
As far as big-time entertainment goes, we were excited to see the DC’s Legends of Tomorrow panel, starring talent such as Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Ciara Renee, and Franz Drameh, who were just as fun outside of being their characters as they are on the show. The cast and crew brought some footage of what is to come on this last end of the season (you can see it here) and talked about what we might see in Season 2. They did not spill too much information, but gave just enough for fans to keep watching!
WonderCon is very much a cosplay convention. There are cosplayers everywhere you turn, with extravagant costumes down to the most simple yet stunning outfits. It really is an environment where the cosplay community can come together and shine (rather than SDCC, where it’s just too busy to cosplay.) The lobby floor of the South Hall fills up throughout the day with groups, this year from The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Mortal Kombat, Harry Potter, and even Duck Tales! Did you happen to see the “Mickey’s Mandalorians” group? We’ve seen the group start small and continue to expand in characters, each of them adding to the great crossover of Star Wars and Disney characters (fitting combo, don’t you think?)
On a personal note, we were able to try out three new cosplays this past weekend at WonderCon. As we try to further ourselves as Nerds Doing Cosplay, we wanted to bring something new to each day. Our own Stacey Shuttleworth was cold as ice on Friday as Captain Cold from CW’s The Flash! On Saturday, we mixed two of our loves, Star Wars and Game of Thrones in an epic mash-up of Sith Cersei Lannister and Jedi Jamie Lannister. It was so much fun to walk around as those two! On Sunday, we rounded out our convention by being a part of a large Harry Potter cosplay group, with characters ranging from the main Trio, to Death Eaters, the Hogwarts Founders, and even the Dark Lord Himself! The energy from the group was pure magic.
But what about the bad of WonderCon…
WonderCon introduced the use of RFID Badges, which was the test of the technology for CCI (Comic-Con International) and their other convention, San Diego Comic-Con. In theory, the RFID badges are a good thing. Convention staff can keep count of how many people are in a specific place at a time, cut down on counterfeit badges, and more. But the system only works if its firing on all cylinders.
While we did not have any trouble with the RFID throughout the weekend, reports early on Friday discussed badges not scanning, bottlenecks at the RFID stations, not enough RFID readers, and even the readers themselves not working. All of this called for a longer waiting period to get into the Exhibit Hall and panel rooms, long lines for those who’s badges did not scan properly, and an overall sense of “why am I standing in line to wait in more lines?” We hope that the technology improves before its next implementation, because something like this weekend cannot happen at the large scale that SDCC is each and every year.
The Convention Center and Microsoft Theater
When it was announced last year that WonderCon would be moving to the Los Angeles Convention Center, we were skeptical. The tl;dr of our comments included:
- Los Angeles Traffic
- Lack of Easy and Affordable Parking
- Close Hotels
Some of these were indeed a factor of WonderCon this year. The Los Angeles traffic getting down to WonderCon, as well as traffic around the convention center and L.A. Live area come the weekend was horrendous. Adding to the already existing crowds was the lack of easy parking (unless purchased beforehand) and the planning of having a convention during a Clipper game, Laker Game, and Kings game. That is right, all three teams played from Thursday to Sunday. We understand that you cannot just stop all other activities when a convention comes to the LACC, but some extra planning would have helped.
Hotels did not seem to be an issue, with the shuttle route always on the move. We did not hear any complaints from social media or friends about hotel issues. Our fears were unfounded on that front!
As with any convention, there is a fair amount of walking that has to be done. You’re going from room to room, aisle to aisle in the Exhibit hall, you know the drill. But when does the convention become too large, hold too much ground that it becomes more a pain to get from place to place? This may have been one of those times. The LA Convention Center felt just a tad too large for WonderCon, especially with the addition of the Microsoft Theater as the location of the Arena-esque panels.
The experience in the Microsoft Theater did not add any bit to the convention itself either. While yes, a nice space with comfortable seats and good visuals are ideally perfect for a convention (to get off your feet, of course) but when the experience begins outside and on a negative note? Not so much. It seemed as though the Microsoft Theater treated the panels not as such, but as a concert or a high profile event. Highly-regulated entrance, metal detectors, bag searches…it all just felt out of place. One of our team was further inspected by the sensor wand because of her belt, and if not able to prove it was just a belt, looked quite certain she would not be let in by the security guard. It felt as though that someone who may have wanted to attend a panel in the Microsoft Theater in any resemblance of a cosplay may have had trouble if something on their person went off, and they could not prove it was merely harmless. This left a vibe not of welcoming, which we have always found WonderCon to be. Once inside, there was no direction besides a single employee who sent us down a hallway, in which once reaching the end, were told to turn around and go the other way. The lack of organization inside the theater continued to be demonstrated when attempting to find seats and having an employee tell us that we were in the way. No attempt at helping find a seat in the darkened room, but a “friendly” quip that we were in the way. If it were not for the Legends of Tomorrow panel beginning shortly after, the overall mood would have been a complete miss.
So where does that leave us on WonderCon in Los Angeles? It was a great experiment. Some things went well, while others not so much. CCI should have been able to get plenty of information that they needed for future conventions from what occurred throughout the weekend. We’re just happy to know that WonderCon 2017 is back in Anaheim (not on Easter Weekend) and we can look forward to the WonderCon we have in our memory.