Monday, September 01, 2014

Sean Kelly

Fan Expo 2014: Lukewarm Experience at 20th Edition

fanexpo2014

The 20th edition of Fan Expo Canada has come and gone.  I had a reduced experience at Fan Expo this year, since the convention conflicted a bit with my preparations for the Toronto International Film Festival.  As such, I opted to only get a single day pass, for the first time since 2010.  Not wanting to deal with the Saturday crowds, I opted to go on Friday, which I presumed would be less busy.  Even though I had become a bit accustomed to going to Fan Expo for the whole weekend, I didn’t really miss getting the deluxe pass this time around.  The only thing I am missing out by going for a single day is that I cannot see as many panels as I usually do.  Other than that, I see more than enough in a single day.

North Building Show Floor

This was the second year Fan Expo was booked into both the North and South building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  Last year’s Fan Expo Sports sidebar was discontinued this year and the North Building Show Floor became a true extension of the convention.  Probably the most notable change this year is how the entire Rue Morgue Festival of Fear, consisting of Fan Expo’s horror content, moved to the North Building this year.  In addition to the Festival of Fear, the North Building also had the celebrity autograph area, which made the building somewhat more desirable for me to be in.  While I’ve slowed down on getting celebrity autographs in recent years, due to the steady increase in fees, I did end up throwing down cash to get my blu-ray of Friday the 13th signed by the film’s director Sean S. Cunningham.  I also dropped by the IndieCan Entertainment booth and picked up an advanced blu-ray copy of Motivational Growth, which I saw last year at Toronto After Dark.  Speaking of which, Toronto After Dark had a booth, where visitors could get a sneak peak of this year’s festival line-up.  While it’s probably too early to say anything about these film selections, I will say that I liked what I saw and I can’t wait for the festival in October.

Batman: Arkham Knight Batmobile

While the South Building is the larger of the two buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, it was much less desirable this year.  While some classic elements, such as the vendors and artist’s alley, remained in the South Building, much of the space was taken up by the large corporate booths, which seem to get bigger each year.  While there is undoubtedly some interesting content at these booths, such as the Lego sculptures, there is little that requires more than a quick walk around the show floor.  Once I saw every booth, there was no real reason to stay in the South Building, unless I wanted to buy stuff or see one of the smaller panels in the upstairs rooms.

This leads to what is possibly my biggest criticism of Fan Expo this year, which is one that has been developing over the last few years.  Without a doubt, Fan Expo is getting bigger and more crowded each year.  I went to the convention on a Friday, since I expected it to be much less busy than Saturday, which has typically been so busy that I could hardly move.  It turns out, even though I went on a Friday, the crowds weren’t all that better.  Probably the biggest problem I had was moving between the North and South buildings, which I did multiple times during the day.  The only way between the two buildings is a series of escalators and hallways, which resulted in quite a bit of bottlenecking, particularly when leaving the South Building.  Since I had a slow time moving between buildings on Friday, I can only imagine how much worse it was on Saturday.

In many ways, Fan Expo has grown too big for the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, however there are not that many viable alternatives within the city.  The only other convention space within the city limits (and easily accessible via public transit) is the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place.  However, since the Canadian National Exhibition is going on at the same time as Fan Expo, there is no way the convention can move there, unless it takes place in early August or September.  Another possible option is the International Centre in Mississauga, near Pearson airport, even though it’s much more difficult to access via public transit.  As such, I don’t see Fan Expo moving from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre anytime soon.

Nightmare on Elm Street Reunion Panel

One aspect of Fan Expo that I missed the most this year was attending the Q&A panels by the celebrity guests.  I wanted to make the most out of my single day at the convention, so I didn’t end up scheduling in that many panels.  One panel I ended up going to was the “Blood on a Budget” independent horror panel, in which filmmakers Justin McConnell (The Collapsed), Anthony D.P. Mann (Ghostkeepers), and Brett Kelly (My Fair Zombie) talked about self-producing horror films on a micro budget.  A larger panel I went to towards the end of the day was a Q&A with Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp for the 30th anniversary of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Even though I previously saw a Q&A with Robert Englund when he was last at Fan Expo in 2011, it was still an interesting panel.  Not surprisingly, the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street was brought up during one of the questions.  While Langenkamp opted to make no comment, holding back her rage, Englund said that, while he is not against the concept of films being remade for new generations, he believed that A Nightmare on Elm Street was remade way too early, especially since the original is still quite accessible.  That said, Englund had nothing but praise for his replacement Jackie Earle Haley, who he hopes returns to the character in a more original context.

Well that wraps up the overview of my experience at Fan Expo Canada this year.  Even though I had a decidedly lukewarm experience this year, I still believe that I will continue to attend the convention in the future, even if it’s just for one day from now on.

Fan Expo 2014 Photo Gallery:

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).