Canadian geeks flock to Fan Expo in Toronto

2015-09-04 11.10.47

While plenty of geeks were headed down south to Atlanta for Dragon Con, another mass herd of nerds made their way up to Toronto for the Labour Day weekend for Fan Expo. Fan Expo is North America’s third largest pop culture event behind San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con with well over 100,000 attendees. From September 3rd to 6th fans from all over Canada and beyond graced the halls of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre along with a bevvy of famous faces.

The convention’s exhibitor floor has much of the same feel of its two larger counter-parts, but with a touch more of a Canadian flare. Canadian television channels like Showcase and Space have their own booths, displays, and programming, often to promote globally popular series like Orphan Black and Outlander. Video game developer Ubisoft was also present to advertise games like Just Dance 2016 and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which was developed by their team at Ubisoft Montreal, a five-hour drive away. Curiously, both Marvel and DC Comics were absent from the exhibitor floor this year despite having been present in the past. While seeing these heavy hitters always creates a bit of a buzz, it’s always the local exhibitors whose unique products give a convention floor its own specific charm. Seeing the incredible hand-made works like intricate cakes inspired by different fandoms or fine crafted leather holsters for cosplay is where Fan Expo really gets to shine.

However, the space remains an issue of contention. Fan Expo’s exhibitors hall is actually split between two different buildings, meaning attendees must shop in one space, wait in line to go up a set of escalators, walk a long bridge, and then go back down another series of escalators before they can continue shopping. It’s less than convenient, especially for attendees who must cope with mobility issues. The area of celebrity autographs in also in the same room as this first exhibitors hall, making the celebrity autograph area crowded and noisy. Staff have to frequently shoo attendees back onto the exhibitor side of a taped line of the floor to keep the area as clear as possible.

The guest list itself included names like Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), and Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who). However, many guests had to either reduce the number of days they were attending or cancel their appearances entirely shortly before the convention due to other commitments. Hayley Atwell, for example, was the first headline guest the convention announced and was only able to attend on Sunday. While the convention cannot control the filming schedules of its various famous guests, it does leave a bit of a poor taste in the mouth of attendees who buy tickets or photo-ops to see a specific guest only to have them cancel. Especially when you’re not allowed to get a refund. Many attendees who purchased photo-ops with Hayley Atwell expressed that the experience felt extremely rushed, without so much as a time for a “hello” or the opportunity to ask for a specific pose before they were sent on their way.

While Fan Expo definitely dominates other area conventions in size, it often feels like a missed opportunity. Many of geek culture’s most popular television series like Flash, Orphan Black, and Hannibal, just to name a few, are actually filmed in Toronto and yet there are no special panels or announcements made about these series like at SDCC or NYCC. The only guests are the ones that are paid to be there for autographs, photo-ops, and Q&As. There are no screenings of never -before-seen pilots for new series or big casting announcements made despite so many popular video games and television series being made within a day’s drive of the convention hall. Quite simply, nothing of real note happens at the convention that would concern anyone not in attendance. Fan Expo may be Canada’s largest geek culture event, but it has failed to make itself a hub for the country’s cultural content.

Overall, it’s a good convention for shopping around, cosplaying with your friends, and maybe grabbing a celebrity autograph or two. But beyond that, there isn’t much going on. Those looking for more from their convention experience still need to test their luck getting tickets to San Diego or New York. Fan Expo 2016 will be returning September 1st to 4th.

Check out of gallery of photos from Friday below!

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