Monday 20 March 2023

FanExpo Vancouver Review 2023

As someone who got in to cosplay just before the pandemic hit in 2020, I have been very excited to get back to conventions. So of course, when my local con announced it’s dates, I bought VIP tickets immediately. Fan Expo Vancouver is the first convention of many planned, and I hope to take you all on a review journey with me this year as I hit up other cons such as Emerald City Comic Con, Calgary Expo, The California Mermaid Convention, Kelowna Comic Con, Fan Expo Canada and Fan Expo Edmonton.

Day 1

The first day I attended, I was dressed as punk Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. I brought along my nephew, who was dressed as punk Hiccup. For my costume, I had small wings that did stick out a bit from my back, and a skirt with a train on it.

Caption: Punk Hiccup and Toothless on the red carpet
I arrived around 10:45 am, and the line up to get in the Con was around the building but moving fast. The line for weapons check was a bit longer, and we waited there for about 10 minutes before we got our check and were able to go down and in the Con. Once inside the main building, there were short lines to pick up our wrist bands, and then we were off and on to the main Con floor.

I will note that both Saturday and Sunday were sold out days. In my (few) years of Con, I haven’t seen it sell out before. This was obvious on the Convention Floor, as it was already crowded with folks.

Caption: Black is very sus
I thought the array of celebrities this year was decent - the cast from the Flash, Star Wars cast members, as well as newer and older Star Trek Celebrities were in attendance, plus of course, fan favourite Sean Astin from the Lord of the Rings. Personally, I wasn’t as excited for the voice actors this year, but they weren’t my fandom (last year I met Billy West, Will Friedle, and Mark Meer!). The VA that stood out for me was Robbie Draymond, who I knew from his time of Critical Roll as Dorian Storm.

Artist Alley was vibrant this year - lots of folks I’d seen in years past and lots of new folks as well! I always love walking the artist alleys to see what kind of creativity our collective fandom can make. There was a little something for everyone.

The Outer Rim Garrison, Vancouver’s chapter of the 501st Star Wars group, was there in full force. Their area was large this year; one side for information - I got to look through the books of what elements go in to each costume to be ‘screen accurate’ and talk to one of the leaders of the Vancouver Wasu’ran Clan of Mando Mercs - and the other side was their charity photo set up. That being said, there was a large amount of Mandolorians and Star Wars cosplays in attendance that day, which is always enjoyable to see.

Caption: With our local 501st

By about 1 pm, the crowd was becoming overwhelming. I had to hold my skirt over my arm as it would get stepped on, and my wings were constantly being jostled. I am always happy to see lots of folks at con - this is a measure of the success, and part of it I attribute to conventions not really running the last few years! It did make the con floor feel claustrophobic, and difficult to interact with folks; there was just no room to grab a photo with a fellow cosplayer, or strike up a conversation with a business owner. Even the larger booths were jam packed, and for someone with a larger cosplay, it was impossible for me to get in and shop.

I stopped for lunch across the street, and re-entering the Con was a breeze.

I was able to attend Robbie Draymond’s panel at 2:15pm, which was delightful. He regaled us with his experiences as a voice actor, how he got into the business, and then stories from his time as Dorian Storm on Critical Roll. It was also nice to see so many CR cosplays in attendance - particularly with the release of The Legend of Vox Machina.

The outside of the Con also had a lot of activity. Even with the clear weather - a rarity for Vancouver in February - it was still very cold outside. That didn’t deter cosplayers and photographers from using Jack Poole plaza - where Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Cauldron is - from running photoshoots. From planned photoshoots, to pick up ones, the cameras kept clicking from when I arrived to when I left for the day.

Caption: an Eevee group cosplay

At 3:30pm, the nephew and I were about done, so we decided to end our con day there and head home.

Caption: after a long day at Con

Day 2

On the second day, I participated in a group cosplay: a crossover between the Greek Gods and their Sailor Scout counterparts. I was cosplaying as Sailor Jupiter/Zeus, and went through my first real ‘con crunch’ experience, creating my costume over the course of 10 days, matching art we took as inspiration.

Caption: Mistress 9 applying my forehead symbol
I’ve done many group cosplay shoots before, but never for a convention! It was a success, even if my toes were very cold in my gladiator sandals after!

Caption: Luna/Athena, Sailor Jupiter/Zeus, Sailor Saturn/Cronus, Sailor Venus/Aphrodite, Dark Lady/Eris, Mistress 9/Apate, Queen Beryl/Medusa

After our photoshoot, I hit the con floor on my own at around 1 pm.

In line with Saturday, the day was sold out, and by 1 pm, the Con floor was quite crowded. I started with a good walk of the whole con floor, trying to see what I missed from day 1. I got to stop and chat with quite a number of other cosplayers, and could actually take a few photos.

Caption: a stunning Laudna from Critical Roll

I want to mention that the con had a large family area, and I saw lots of families with kids. There was always something going on in the kids area - from Pokemon based cornhole, to an agility course, or life-sized building blocks; the family area was hopping. I am always happy to see kids getting in to fandom!

They held baby races this year on the cosplay red carpet - which was super cute.

Caption: Hilarious and adorable

I wasn’t able to catch any panels that day - after walking the floor again and seeing the usual display of dice, Funkos, and vintage toys, I was starting to tire out. Having poor shoes didn’t help, and I had to get some autographs for a friend before I left, so around 4 pm, I decided I was going to use my VIP pass to skip the lines and meet Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner of Star Trek, both of whom were lovely. A special note that Jonathan was absolutely lovely as I went on to him about how The Next Generation shaped how my brother and I viewed the world and who we became as people.

At about 4:30 pm, I packed it in and headed home.

Day 3

I had intended to go in casual cosplay - either Commander Shepard from Mass Effect or Castiel from Supernatural - however, 2 intense days had left me exhausted and I decided to stay home and catch up on the laundry that I hadn’t done, since I’d been in Con Crunch with my Greek Sailor Gods cosplay for 10 days!

Caption: Star Wars on the Cosplay Red Carpet

Overall Thoughts

Firstly, I am always so happy to be at Con, and Fan Expo did not disappoint this year. They had a great mix of celebrities and VAs to meet, and I know lots of folks got photo ops. There was always a panel or a meet up, or some kind of event going on. There were so many people in attendance which is a testament to the popularity of fandom, plus so many folks were in cosplay!

Caption: A magnificent Deanna Troy

However, this can also become an issue. With the con being sold out, and it only being a year or so out from a global pandemic, I was concerned about risk of infection with so many folks. Plus it made the con overwhelming for a lot of people; trying to move from one area to another was difficult. 

If the con was going to continue at this size, I would suggest moving the wristband pick up section to the upper levels of the Vancouver Convention Centre, and have the whole downstairs available for booths/food/stages. This would give them a bit more breathing room and a bit of extra space. I’ve seen suggestions to move the panels to the upper floor ballrooms as well; this would help with the stages not have as much sound bleed - an issue when I was at Robbie’s panel.

Caption: Lord Farquaad from The Shrek series

The catering was also a bit underwhelming; the food inside was the usual catering from the convention centre, plus a lemonade and fizzy drink place, which both had really long lines. Trying to get food at the food court across the street wasn’t much better - though I was impressed at one of the hustle one of the vendors had, getting folks to get food from his place. I’ve seen others suggesting food trucks - I think this would be a wonderful idea, and great for local business as well, since Vancouver has a really healthy food truck community.

Tickets went on sale for Vancouver 2024 the day after Con ended. I haven’t gotten mine just yet - I want to see how this year shapes up in the way of experiences for me before I buy VIP tickets again - which get me in to all Fan Expo events up to Vancouver 2024.

Overall, a lovely Con for my first of the year, and the first of many for 2023.

Caption: Sailor Zeus from my Sailor Greek Gods group



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