Another year, another con gone. I can honestly say this year might have been my best year yet, and for better or worse, a large majority of it all took place outside of the convention center. I’ve had the idea that I’d probably still fly out to San Diego even if I didn’t get SDCC badges so that I can enjoy all the festivities, but this year cemented that sentiment even further. Here’s the recap:
OMG OMG STAR WARS PANEL!! Yeah, no, I didn’t do that. I kept on holding out hope that maaaaaaybe I could handle it, but as soon as I saw how ridiculous the line was by Thursday morning, I noped out of that idea pretty quickly. It would have been pretty cool to be there for what was undoubtedly a historic moment at Comic-Con though! The only panel I went to was for Drunk History, and I was perfectly happy with that. There was no line, I got to see the tail end of the Supermansion panel (hooray, Bryan Cranston!), and I got to see some hilarious footage for season 3 of Drunk History. Got everything I wanted to see and more, which is perfectly fine with me.
Conan O’Brien Tapings:
I’ll say it right now: having Conan O’Brien at SDCC is going to be a HUGE game changer from here on out. I was lucky enough to get tickets to Wednesday’s show, and we had so much fun that we decided to try our luck to get standby tickets for Saturday’s “mystery” show. The show tapings were tons of fun, you got to have the star-struck moments of seeing your favorite celebrities, and you walked away with what might have been one of the most sought-after pieces of swag of the convention after the show. I have nothing but good things to say.
And the swag: everyone got Conan Funkos! People were offering to buy them off of us as soon as we walked out of the theatre…and hours later they were up on eBay for hundreds of dollars a pop. Helllll no I’m not giving up my super cool Conan Funko. I honestly feel like the show tapings were better than any Hall H panel that I’ve ever been to, and here’s why:
- Wait times: I feel like the folks at SDCC could learn from Team Coco in this category. Line management was incredibly organized and efficient. If you wanted standby tickets, you lined up in the morning, then at 8am you’re given a numbered wristband, and then you can leave. Then you line up a little before 3pm to see if they call out your number. That still leaves the hours between 8am-3pm for you to go back and take a nap, explore the rest of the convention, etc. etc. Even if you didn’t get a spot, the amount of time you’d spend waiting on standby tickets was nothing compared to the number of hours you’d have to put in to attempt to get a spot in Hall H. This alone already made the show tapings a better bet than Hall H to me, as time is a precious commodity when there’s SO much going on at Comic-Con.
- Venue: Spreckels Theatre holds about 1,500 people and is very well laid out. Even if you had seats towards the back you still had a good view of the stage (I could see faces!). I really hope they keep the show tapings here, it was just large enough to hold a good crowd, but small enough so you can still see the action.
- Fun factor: Conan’s show tapings were just plain FUN. Hall H panels are a unique experience in that you get to feel the fervor of the crowd and get a first look at exclusive footage, but there’s still an underlying agenda to push whatever movie/TV show is in question. On Conan’s show that agenda is still there, but it felt like the guests had more freedom to goof off and say what they want, making things more fun for everyone. See: Jennifer Lawrence cussing for charity from Thursday’s show.
- The swag: Everyone in the audience got Conan Funkos! In the past I’ve spent an entire day sitting through Hall H panels, had a great time, but left empty-handed. And if I didn’t leave empty-handed, I left with some crappy stickers and an oversized T-shirt. I was already giddy from a fun show, but to have an AWESOME piece of swag in my hands on top of that? Let’s just say it was a HEAPING load of icing on the proverbial cake.
So you spend less time in line, you get a better view of the stage, you have more fun, and you get better swag. It’s a no brainer. Needless to say, I’m excited to hear that Conan will be coming back to Comic-Con next year, and I hope some bad apples won’t sour the experience for everyone in the future (scalpers, etc.). It’s a win-win situation in that it gives more publicity to Conan’s show, it helps disperse some of the crowds from the convention, and it’s a good chance for anyone – badge or no badge – to have a Hall H-like experience and more. After having such a great time at two different show tapings, I can enthusiastically say it’s 100% worth aiming for tickets for Conan if it doesn’t interfere with other plans.
The Convention Floor:
To be honest, I think once you go to Comic-Con enough times the convention floor gets kind of “meh.” It’s the same big booths pimping out their next big movie or TV show, the same display of props and costumes, crowds of people trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities…once upon a time I was trying to squish my way through the crowds to catch some photos of celebrities at autograph signings, now I squish my way past the booth, keep my camera on video mode and held up high, and then get birthed from the crowd and hope I catch something on tape. That’s pretty much how it went for the Game of Thrones signing this year before I picked off to the Walking Dead booth to take advantage of the fact that there was ZERO line because everyone was mobbing the Game of Thrones signing table. Overall the convention floor was business as usual this year.
This year the outside events really shined. I’ve already talked about the Conan show tapings, but Adult Swim had a great setup this year with the carnival. They had a ring toss, skee ball, plinko, and the one that cracked me up the most:
The “smack my uvula” station. You climb the rope ladder and…yes, you smack the poor cat’s uvula. If you smack it, you get a ticket to pick any prize you want from the prize counter, in which they had some pretty seriously good stuff there. Otherwise admission to the carnival also scores you a free T-shirt (Adult Swim shirts are always the best because THEY ACTUALLY FIT), and you can turn in your game tickets for prizes. I got a sweet Adult Swim thermos out of it. Good stuff.
I also got tickets to see Guillermo del Toro, Tom Hiddleston (TOM!! TOMMMMM!!!), and Maisie Williams at the live Nerdist podcast. After being gouged by Ticketmaster fees, a $35.00 ticket was suddenly turned into a $47.40 ticket, and I was in the orchestra section to see Chris Hardwick chat with these guys! Yay! I hop into the theatre, see that there’s a big screen projecting audience tweets and I’m thinking this is going to be great. The show starts…and it IS a good show. BUT DAMMIT, YOU HAVE A HUGE SCREEN, WHY WON’T YOU USE IT?? The lighting on the stage was harsh, so all you could see was washed-out talking blobs. For anyone who wasn’t sitting close to the front, you could barely see what was going on. I guess you could argue that since it’s a podcast you don’t need to see what’s happening, but then what’s the point of having tickets to fill a theatre full of fans if we were only supposed to listen to it? Aside from the poor visual situation, the podcast was a fun time, and Guillermo loved poking at Tom by saying “awwwww…” as a response to just about anything Tom said. Because he is freaking adorable. They also tried to get him to drop an F-bomb, and eventually succeeded. Because even Tom Hiddleston can make an F-bomb adorable. Sigh.
This is the only decent pic I got. And none of my photos of Maisie turned out.
And to save the best for last…the single best outside event that I attended was again thanks to the Conan O’Brien team: Conan Bingo. It involved free food, an open bar (that’s where things got REALLY got crazy), ridiculous karaoke contests, dance-offs, a super sweet swag bag for everyone (which included yet another Funko!), and even sweeter prizes if you won. Again, if Team Coco is coming back and bringing in more fun like this, it’ll definitely be a game changer for everyone at the convention as it gives more chances to have a great time, with or without a badge. They’ve really set the bar this year, and I’m curious to see what else they’ll bring from here on out.
ALL HAIL THE KING OF BINGO!!
So. Much. Swag. Kind of hard to see in the pic, but one of my favorite items in the swag bag was the mason jar. Thanks, Conan!
The critter drops:
I’ve already made a post about this, but ALL 8 WERE FOUND!! Woohoo!! Best year yet for critter drops, with a 100% response rate!
This was easily the best year I’ve ever had for swag. So much good substantial stuff, and most of it was from outside events:
Viking drinking horns, selfie sticks, ridiculous Sharknado hats, LOTS of Conan-related goods…lots of good stuff given out this year, and you didn’t even need to have a badge for most of it.
I wish I could say more about the convention itself this year, but I honestly didn’t see much outside of the usual crowds, and this year I felt like the booths didn’t have as much going on as they have in the past. But whatever the convention lacked, the outside events more than made up for it, and it really solidified the idea that you absolutely do NOT need to have a badge to have fun at Comic-Con. With a 100% successful critter drop, good celebrity sightings, and a great swag haul, I’d say this year might have been my best year at Comic-Con yet. Badge or no badge, I hope I’ll be back again for round 6 next year!