So we’ve walked you through the San Diego Comic-Con, Gen Con and the Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas. What could possibly top those?
D23 Expo, The Ultimate Disney Fan Event
The Walt Disney Company has influenced millions around the world with its legendary theme parks, blockbuster films, television shows and merchandise. Since it acquired Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm in the last decade, millions more fans have been brought under the Disney umbrella.
No doubt with that in mind, the official Disney fan club, D23, was formed in 2009; D referring to Disney and 23 being the year 1923 when Walt Disney founded the company.
The D23 Expo was launched that same year as the ultimate fan event to celebrate all things Disney at the Anaheim Convention Centre adjacent to the Disneyland parks in California.
The year 2015 marked the fourth D23 Expo held over a three-day weekend in August. It occupies the entire 148,600sq m convention centre with Hall D23 offering 7,500 fans to hear firsthand the latest announcements from Disney. This includes presentations on upcoming movies by Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, with those exclusive clips seen nowhere else in the world.
Hall D23 also hosted an awards ceremony for new Disney Legends George Lucas, Johnny Depp and other talented individuals as well as a musical celebration for animation hit Frozen.
Four other stages provided an assortment of panels and entertainment on all facets of the Disney empire.
For fans of stage musicals, “Disney of Broadway: The Originals” offered excellent live performances by the theatre stars of hit musicals like The Lion King, Aladdin, Tarzan and more. For cosplay enthusiasts, the costume competition dubbed “Mousequerade” showcased best of the best cosplayers under categories such as Animations, Weird Wild & Goofy, Disneyland, Marvel and Star Wars.
The massive exhibit halls showcased Disney properties in all their glory. For example, Walt Disney Studios displayed the fanciful “Wonderland” costumes of Alice Through The Looking Glass and First Order Stormtroopers from The Force Awakens.
Meanwhile Walt Disney Parks & Resorts shared plans for the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland and offerred attendees a preview tour on Pandora, the alien world of James Cameron’s Avatar. Of course, there was an abundance of merchandise to spend on, including a wide assortment of limited edition convention exclusives from the Disney stores. Last year also marked the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland with special activities and souvenirs to celebrate this occasion.
D23 Expo is a biennial event, with the next convention scheduled from July 14-16, 2017. Tickets recently went on sale at the official website D23expo.com. A three-day ticket is priced at US$238 (RM972) and D23 members receive a discount.
Moving from the South-West United States to the South-East, Dragon Con is a multigenre convention held annually in Atlanta, capital of the state of Georgia.
The convention takes place over four days ending with Labour Day which is a public holiday on the first Monday of September in the US. In fact once Dragon Con kicks off on Friday morning, events run almost non-stop all day and all night until Monday evening!
Established in 1987, Dragon Con’s 30th convention takes place this year from Sept 2 to 5. With over 70,000 attendees last year, Dragon Con has long outgrown the floor space of any single venue in the city. Over 3,300 hours of scheduled events are hosted in five downtown hotels – the Hyatt Regency, Hilton Atlanta, Marriott Marquis, Sheraton Atlanta and Westin Peachtree, plus exhibit halls in the Atlanta Convention Centre. Anyone attending Dragon Con for the first time would likely spend their first day just learning to navigate within and between these venues.
A major highlight at every Dragon Con is the costume parade through downtown Atlanta. Over 3,000 parade participants march down 1.4km showcasing their fandom via costumes and props as well as vehicles like jeeps from Jurassic Park, the DeLorean of Back To The Future, and even a pirate ship float! Last year Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame led the parade as Grand Marshal.
Dragon Con boasts programmes catering to every form of nerd and geek.
Last year offered 44 Fan Tracks comprising panels, workshops, performances and parties organised by fans for fellow fans. Fandoms varied from the more mainstream Star Wars to the more niche Whendon Universe and acquired tastes like Filking (“Filk”, for the less geeky who may be reading, is a musical culture linked with science fiction and fantasy fandom) and Puppetry.
There is also a mini-convention for gamers offering various forms of tabletop and video games as well as live-action role play (LARP); “mini” being relative to the main convention since gaming activities occupy most of the function space in the Hilton Atlanta hotel.
Attending Dragon Con is by membership priced at US$120 (RM482) and still available from the official website www.dragoncon.org. Members are entitled to attend all four-days of Dragon Con for year of their subsciption. For those intending to attend Dragon Con annually, an eternal membership is available for US$2,500 (RM10,000) until Dragon Con ceases or that member leaves this plane of existence.
New York Comic Con
Despite its “Comic Con” namesake, New York Comic Con (NYCC) is not related to San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and instead organised by ReedPOP, a division of Reed Exhibitions.
Closer to home we may be more familiar with ReedPOP as the organiser for the Singapore Toy, Game & Comics Convention (STGCC). Last year marked the 10th NYCC held at the massive Javits Convention Centre along the west bank of Manhattan Island in the area named Hell’s Kitchen. Fortunately Hell’s Kitchen today is an upscale neighbourhood for yuppies and nothing like the crime infested neighbourhood of Marvel’s blind vigilante superhero, Daredevil.
NYCC claims an official attendance topping 167,000 over the four-day pop culture convention last year. ReedPOP counts this number from total tickets sold and therefore cannot be directly compared against SDCC’s 130,000 unique attendees. Nevertheless, demand for this leading comic convention of the United States east coast still far exceeds supply when most tickets sell-out within a couple of hours.
With such a massive following, many of the major brands present at SDCC are also at NYCC. Marvel, DC, Weta Workshop, Lego, and Funko on the 38,000sq m show floor remain major attractions for their respective fans. While there is no shortage of merchandise to empty the wallet, there is much less NYCC exclusive product compared to SDCC. However NYCC hosted a more expansive Artists Alley which was in fact housed in their own 7,400sq m exhibit hall. With roughly double the headcount of artists compared to SDCC, some big names present from the comic book industry include Chris Claremont, Rob Liefeld, Peter David, Humberto Ramos and Todd MacFarlane.
Panels in 2015 heavily featured popular TV franchises such as Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead as well as unveiling of upcoming series like The Shannara Chronicles by MTV adapting the books of Terry Brooks, and the return of The X-Files presented by series creator Chris Carter and show stars David Duchovny and Mitch Pileggi. For the movies, Vin Diesel himself provided sneak peaks into The Last Witch Hunter while Sony Pictures presented the Goosebumps movie.
New York Comic Con takes place this year from Oct 8-11. A four-day ticket costs US$115 (RM460) whilst single-day tickets vary between US$40-50 (RM160-200). For latest updates on ticket availability, refer to the official NYCC website www.newyorkcomiccon.com.
Richard Chua has been a sci-fi geek for the last three decades. He is an avid explorer of major pop culture conventions, on a never-ending quest to meet his sci-fi idols. Chua’s day job involves geek consulting, entertainment marketing and event services.