Fan Expo Toronto 2012

So, I went with my two cousins, Mark and Kyle, and some friends, Tom, Tracey, Greg and Sue to Fan Expo in Toronto last week, and it was a good time. Three and a half days was a bit too much, especially when the crowds were crazy thick on Saturday, but I got to listen to some great celebrity Q&A’s, and see some amazing costumes. I took a fair number of pictures, and had a nice time. The whole thing was far too expensive, but at the end of the day, I have some great memories.

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Thursday

Got up at six thirty in the morning to get ready to leave. Tom and Tracey wanted to arrive at the train station early to pick up tickets. The train left at eight thirty, and I spent four and a half hours on the rails before arriving in Toronto. I met up with my cousins when we got there and checked into the hotel.

After spending about two minutes in our room dropping off our bags, we turned around and rushed to the convention centre. There wasn’t anything we wanted to see right away on the Thursday, but Mark and I had purchased premium passes that were supposed to give us early access to the main floor.

We got in various lines and waited to get in. Kyle didn’t get in too much later than us, but I took advantage and started taking pictures right out of the gate.

After walking the entire hall, being careful not to buy anything upon arriving, we all met up, and sat down for a bit. I realized I had to get going to the speed dating session I signed up for, and left, only to realize that I had forgotten to grab the free tote bag they gave us upon entry. Of course, I couldn’t get another one, and by the time Mark and Kyle checked out where we were sitting, it was gone. I didn’t let that put a damper on the day though.

Speed dating was interesting. I signed up for the sci-fi session, and I was one of a dozen men that showed up. There were one less women at the session, and an interesting mix. I think if they were to run it again, having certain age limits might make things a bit better as I don’t have as much in common with a nineteen year old or a forty year old.

I met two really nice women at the event that I later found out thought I was pretty okay too.

I then went to see Stan Lee with my cousin and enjoyed listening to him answer questions. Old people can get away with anything, and while he didn’t hear all the questions being asked of him, he was super entertaining.

After that, Mark and I went to see Joe Flanigan from Stargate: Atlantis. He was a great guy to listen to, but his mannerisms reminded me of Greg, which made things even funnier.

Rainbow Sun Francks showed up a few minutes in and heckled a bit. It was cool to have a celebrity in the crowd. I wished he would have been invited up to sit up at the front table. It was large enough to accommodate half a dozen people without issue and I think some more stories from the early days of Atlantis would have been fun to listen to.

And that pretty much ended day one of Fan Expo for us as we went out for a late supper and then returned to the hotel to relax and finally go to sleep.

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Friday

We woke up early, as I always do, and got ready to go. Mark dressed up in his Saints Row outfit, and Kyle and I just went as ourselves. I went to see Introduction to LARP, but didn’t find it very engaging. I then saw High Tech on the Table, and was even less impressed with that session. I had high hopes for both of them. High Tech on the Table could have been really interesting, but it devolved into “what’s wrong with using gadgets for D&D” discussion. Since I don’t play D&D, nor really consider it a table top game, I ran out early.

Then I went to see Levar Burton with my cousin, and that was really great. It was a bit of a Reading Rainbow love-fest, but his stories from Star Trek were pretty amazing.

There were many questions about his portrayal of someone with a disability that actually turned into an advantage, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the right venue or time for that discussion. A shame because I find the modification of humanity and turning disabilities into super-human abilities a really cool potential societal change that is already peaking its head around the corner.

After that, I checked out the Lego Master Builders session, but that was really more for kids than adults.

Then I was going to go to the Space Preview and Revolution Series Premiere sessions, but after waiting in line for a bit, my cousins reminded me that I would see all this stuff soon, and was just wasting time, so we cut out early to head and get some basic groceries for the hotel, and then get a good nights sleep.

Waiting in hour long lines was a bit exhausting, but I was able to get some good pictures, and enjoyed half of the sessions I went to.

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Saturday

This was the big day for the event and we all knew it. The lines were going to be longer, and the day was more packed with cool things we wanted to see, but we knew it was going to be frustrating to move around. Our plan was simple: arrive early, and leave early.

In the morning, I had planned on going to So You Are A Gamer And No One Understands You, but one of the women from the speed dating session had contacted me, and I wanted to spend more time talking to her.

So we met up pretty much first thing, and took over a small corner of the big tabletop gaming room, since it was reasonably quiet, and not too busy. We chatted for a few hours, and had a great time. We discussed our families, what it was like growing up, why we decided to come to Fan Expo, and just about anything else we could think of. Both being science fiction geeks definitely helped.

Thankfully, my cousin saved me a spot in line (a no-no, I know), so that I could go to Kate Mulgrew’s Q&A session because our discussion ran a bit longer than I thought it would.

After that, I slipped back into Hall G, and got to see the Cast of Continuum, my number one pick for new shows this past year. They had a ten episode first season that was amazing. I curse the writers for figuring out how to hook me on what is essential a police procedural by adding a sci-fi/time-travel twist. If you haven’t checked out Continuum yet, please do.

So once that was done at four in the afternoon, we decided it was a good time to go eat something. I messaged A. from the speed dating event and Mark, Kyle, A., her friend and I all went to Salad King.

The convention centre had become so busy, and there wasn’t too many things I felt I was missing out on. We knew we wanted to go see the Masquerade, but beyond that, it was easy to leave in the afternoon.

Salad King is one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. It was a bit of hike to get there, but it was worth it. It is inexpensive, nice sized portions, quick to arrive at the table once ordered, and tastes good. I’m not normally a huge fan of Thai food, but I could probably eat the same thing at Salad King every day for a very long time just by changing the spice level.

It was also nice to have company, and grow our little group a bit. I really enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. My cousins can certainly attest to that, as people seem to randomly want to talk to me, and I usually end up having conversations with strangers wherever I go.

On our way back, we noticed a promotional truck handing out mixed alcoholic drinks. We didn’t stop as there was quite the crowd, including A. and her friend, but instead we went back to the convention centre to line up for the Masquerade.

Upon arriving, we were told that no one was being let in. The security person had been told that they were clearing the building, and that people wouldn’t be let in until eight. My cousin and I tried to argue the point a little, but we weren’t getting anywhere. Eventually Mark just said, “I’m lining up here”, and people started following in behind us.

About twenty minutes later, there were about fifty people lined up outside waiting to get in for the Masquerade. One of the Fan Expo staff members, not one of the volunteers, came outside and saw my cousin. He asked “why are you guys lined up?”

To which my cousin curtly responded, “for the masquerade.”

With a surprised look on his face, he waved us in and said that we should go inside.

By the time we got to the hall, there were already hundreds of seats taken up. I was a little frustrated, until Mark noticed some spots near the front. We went and sat down, and a volunteer came over and let us know that the seats were reserved for people hard of hearing.

We told the volunteer that we would move if anyone needed the seats, but no one ever came to claim them and we were able to get some decent pictures.

I ran out of memory for my camera about an hour into the event, and passed my 24-105mm lens to my cousin to carry on with my L-glass on his camera. I am not sure if it helped or hindered him, but it definitely made his camera more front heavy.

The Masquerade was good fun, though the host was a bit creepy sometimes with some of the female entrants. Overall, I’m very happy I attended this part of the Con.

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Sunday

The last day of the event, I was pretty tired. I haven’t been sleeping well for a few weeks at this point, and the crowds, noise, lines, and whatnot had all started to get to me.

I have to admit to almost snapping on my cousins a few times through the day. And I feel bad for being a bit grumpy, but I was “done”.

We went to see John Barrowman at noon, and he was an absolute hoot to listen to. I would pay over a hundred bucks just to listen to him talk all day about whatever he is interested in. He just has a powerful personality. He attributes it to being “gay”, but I don’t think you can attribute all of his charisma to that one label.

I also made sure to see the Who is the Doctor session, but that wasn’t very fulfilling. They spent most of their time promoting their book, didn’t talk much about the next season of Doctor Who, and between the two people talking, their opinions were far enough apart on issues that they pretty much spoke for the entire crowd of attendees.

After that, it was pretty much time to pack up, and we grabbed our bags from the hotel, as they had been nice enough to hold onto them for us for the day, and we went to get a drink, and prepare ourselves for the long train ride home.

I’m a bit bummed I missed out on hearing Billy West and Amanda Tapping talk, but with our train around the same time as their talks were scheduled to end, I didn’t want to risk anything, and I was pretty tired of being at the event by this point anyways. Three and a half days was just too much for me because of how I was feeling going into the event.

Conclusion
I had an overall really great time. I uploaded a bunch of pictures from the event onto my Flickr account. A huge thanks goes to Tom and Tracey for giving tips on things to bring. The little stools we brought were invaluable when we were allowed to use them, and having snacks on us made it so we didn’t have to spend a bunch of money every day on the overpriced food that they had at the event.

The question I keep getting though is “would I go again?” And while I wouldn’t say, never, now that there is an event in Ottawa (Ottawa ComicCon) and one in Montreal, which is half the distance away, I really don’t know that I would go back to Fan Expo.

The event was way oversold on Saturday. Thursday and Friday panels and Q&A’s were fairly light. The food and drinks were twice normal street price. And like Ottawa ComicCon, there weren’t enough signs. Add to this the snafu with sending tickets to people that bought before ticket shipping options were available, and you have an event that isn’t necessarily worth it on a cost to value basis.

At the end of the day, it depends on a number of factors though. We will see where I am living next year, what job I have, and what kind of line-up they get for celebrities.

Oh, and darn you Patrick Stewart!

One thought on “Fan Expo Toronto 2012

  1. Pingback: Geeky Stuff | David Peralty's Ramblings

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