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Calgary Expo 2013

If you'd like to see some video I took at the convention, check out my YouTube channel.

The wife and I went to Calgary Expo (CEXP) loosely accompanied by my wife's niece and grand-nephew, who drove ahead of us and got us there.

My first impression of the con was "holy $%^&*" this thing is big!  Cons I'd been to before had 2000 people, maximum... this one was sold out at 60 K!   The fairground they held it at was appropriately large as well... too big for my old bones, it turns out.

Swapping our tickets printed from our online purchase was a total surprize... other than all the walking to get to the table to do it, the actual exchange tool less than two minutes.  The whole process, from in the door of the "Big Four" building to headed back out, less than ten mins.  Beats the heck out of waiting in line for hours like I've done at other cons.

We went to the dealer's room from there and spent the first hour mooching around... it was another "holy $%^&*" moment for me.  The place was the size of three football fields, and totally packed.   T-Shirts, toys, comics, etc, etc... all "priced to sell" at expected convention prices.  We bought some little "dollar stuff" to give to a grand-niece, and Tina got some Unicorn slippers for herself (they're so fluffy, I could die!).  I looked at the prices, and decided looked like a better deal.  While we wandered, we saw several good costumes; a Gir, and an Iron Man. 

The 11 am panel with Misha Collins was hilarious!  He spent a fair amount telling back stories of the filming of Supernatural, some stories about his co-stars, and a few things about some of the side projects he's involved with.  I managed to record the whole panel on my $12 "shakey cam", but can't upload it to YouTube.

We went back to the food court over at the "Big Four" building at noon, and spent about an hour with sodas, pulled pork sandwiches, and chips, while resting.  My grand-nephew managed inhale two hot dogs and a sandwich (I swear, the boy doesn't eat during the week).  My wife's niece spent some time getting ready for a photo-op with Nathan Fillion.

We left there, and the three of them went to the Stan Lee panel while I wandered off on my own. I spent some time looking at more of the dealer's room, and went through the area where the comic artists were, to find some favorites.  Adam Warren I found easily; he was inking a sketch and was nice enough to chat with me for a few moments.  I found out that one of my favorite books of his is not going to be continued, due to the difficulty of obtaining the rights to do so.  I went looking for Amy Provonost, and Adam Hughes but both were MIA (for the rest of the con as well).  I did find one webcomic artist I liked, but he was so busy, I walked on.

I went on to the autograph area in BMO D, because I planned to get autographs from the two star voice artists of  Invader Zim and didn't want to end up last in line.  I discovered Nathan Fillion's signing booth, and got my one and only glimpse of him on the other side of a mob of several hundred fans, before a staffer leaped between us. I saw several other stars there, like Carrie Fisher, and Gary Elwes.  About 2/3s of the booths were empty at the time I walked by.

The Weta booth seemed to be mostly for selling replicas of the models they'd created for LOTR, most of them costing several hundred dollars.

I finallt found Richard and Rikki's booths near the front right corner of the area.  After I managed to fix the location in my head, I quickstepped back across the fairgrounds to the Corral to wait for my relatives to to finish the Stan Lee panel.  While I waited, I saw the Iron Man I'd seen before go skating by on a pair of "heelies"! o.O

Once I'd collected Tina, we walked back through the dealer's room, headed back over to BMO D.  After some more walking, we were both worn out, and tried to rest in the hall outside one entrance to BMO D, were we found out about  "fire zone rules" (scroll down to "my complaints")  While Tina rested, I went to get my autographs.

Here's Richard Horvitz from Invader Zim, arriving at the table to sign an autograph for me (and others).

Both he and Rikki were fun to talk to, and were constantly joking with the fans.  I don't think Richard ever spoke normally the whole time I was there... it was always in a Semi-Zim tone.

Here's what a nutty old animation fan will drop $40 for... 
Richard (Zim) signed at the top right, Rikki (Gir) at the bottom left.

After I got back to my wife, we both decided we'd had enough.  By then, she had a headache, and just wanted to go home, so we did.

My Complaints about the Con:

Calgary Expo (CEXP) was rather disappointing for me.  What the con billed itself as, and what I felt I got were two different things.  Now that I've attended one, and read more, I understand better what to expect.
If I ever go again, I'll do things differently.

To give you and idea of what I expected, I've been to about twenty SciFi and Fantasy conventions, most in 1980s and 1990s in Florida, most with a total attendance of 600 to 2000 people.  Trekon 10 to 15 times, Necronomicon four or five times, and several other odd cons besides those. During that period, I never had a guest ask me for a fee to sign an item, or have a photo taken, so I expected similar at CEXP.

Boy was I shocked... media guests at CEXP were charging $40 to $120 for each "interaction" with each star.  The bigger the star, the higher the fee.  After some some research, I found out exactly why. 

Calgary Expo is the first con of this size I've ever attended (sold out at 60,000 people).  Besides, things have changed over the last 20 years.  Unlike the cons of the 80s and 90s, many conventions do not pay their guests appearance fees.  Cons now pay guests only their air fare, lodging, and meals.

If the guest wants to make any money just for appearing, they have to charge the fans to get it.  They also have to pay their agents, promotional companies, etc a cut of any money they collect at the con.  This is why it's now considered "normal" for  celebrities to charge huge fees for "interacting" with fans. 

It still feels like gouging to me, but at least now I understand it.

However, I found several other things I disliked at CEXP which I feel they can fix.
  1. It's TOO BIG. 
    CEXP is as big as some theme parks!  Here's a map of the show floor
    To get an idea of the scale, the floor of "The Corral" seemed the size of a football field.
    The schedule has you constantly running back and forth from BMO D for autographs, to the Corral for panels.  The only reason I can come up with for this silly placement is to encourage you to walk through the dealer's room multiple times (and spend more money).

  2. The "one way doors" between the three halls. 
    If you walk out a door, and if you try to go back the way you came, a "helpful" staff member blocks your way, and says you have to leave the building, and go in the "designated entrance".  I was told this was because of fire marshal regulations.  If so, someone needs to find a better way to deal with that issue than driving the fans (who pay them) nuts.

  3. No seating for rest areas
    Only in the food court in the "Big Four" building are you allowed to sit.  If you're exhausted, you can't sit on the chairs and couches in the halls (that are turned to face the walls), you can't rest by sitting on the floor against the wall... "helpful" staff members will tell you you're blocking a fire lane, and must "mooooove along".  That's why my feet felt they'd been beaten with broomsticks by the end of the con.

  4. Panels are far from easy to watch.
    If you want to see one of the panels, you'd better take binoculars.  Panels were held in "The Corral" which has seating appropriate for a rock concert.  Unless you pay extra to sit in the "VIP Section" up front on the floor, all you'll see on stage is a tiny white blob.  Yes, they had two "jumbotrons" showing a magnified view of the stage; but I'm going to watch a screen, I might as well stay home, and see it on YouTube.

  5. The media guests they use to get you there cost extra to actually meet.
    The only time you actually get to see the "media guests" is when they do their panels, or when you pay extra.  If you walk by the autograph tables just to get a look, a "helpful" staff member will quickly move to block your view.   I get it, the con's protecting their income stream, but again, it still feels like gouging to me.
Overall, I give this con a D minus because: 
  • I went to see Nathan Fillion, John Carpenter, Linda Hamilton, and Carrie Fisher, and never saw them.
  • I went to see Adam Hughes, and Amy Provonost, and they were never at their booths.
The only reason Calgary Expo wasn't a total loss for me was getting to meet Adam WarrenRichard and Rikki.
At least the autograph fees that Richard and Rikki wanted seemed reasonable to me.