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The Mike Toole Show - The Con That Failed


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Cutiebunny



Joined: 18 Apr 2010
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:38 am Reply with quote
I can think of several horrible moments that I've experienced at West Coast conventions, most of them being from AX.

Anime Expo 2011 - Registration for exhibitors took four hours. Not that there were a lot of exhibitors, but apparently AX's computer system was done and things had to be done manually. At least I got to sit inside and wait the entire time, but still....four hours?!

Anime Expo 2010 - This was the worst convention I've ever attended. The staff was inexperienced and had no knowledge as to how control people. Their idea of a structured autograph session was to push people back as far as possible and then have them race to a desk halfway across the exhibit hall ten minutes before the autograph session was scheduled to start. And then you had to deal with handlers who would try to escalate things. I had one big buff guy tell me to "wait", and I asked him why he was trying to escalate the situation when I was just standing there, patiently waiting. I asked him if that made any sense and got the "I'm just doing my job" response. Wow.

Anime Expo 2008 - While 99.9% of all guests are laid back and/or nice people, there's always that .1% that have to ruin it for others. In my case, this guest was Akemi Takada. After attending her panel and getting the autograph session ticket, I lined up for her. Staff said we couldn't give her a blank piece of paper. I asked if a shikishi board would be ok. They checked with her and said "ok". Waited in the line for 1.5hrs before she arrived. I was two people to the front (after now waiting 2 hrs) when she decided that she didn't want to sign shikishi anymore. I was told to buy a print for $75 and she'd sign that.

On the last day of the convention, I had just finished waiting in another line during open autograph session when a staffer asked me to go over to Takada's line. Apparently she saw how many people another lined up for David Hayter's line and was furious that no one was lining up for her. But at that time, all the shikishi I brought had been signed and all I could do was present her the back of one of the boards. When I gave it to her, she flipped over the shikishi and scowled at me. Yeah, even to this day I won't buy any of her artwork.


Sakuracon 2011 - Similar to AX 2010. Staff had no clue as to how to manage autograph lines. We were told that we couldn't wait until 1 hour before the autograph session started. But we also couldn't wait outside the room because that was a fire hazard. So we formed informal lines which they tried to break up. And then we'd form them again. And 10 minutes to the autograph session, the line would be announced on the other side of the room and we'd all dash over there to get in. And, similar to AX 2008, one of the guests, Jo Chen, was very unprofessional. The woman launched into a tirade, in Chinese, for ten minutes, after a couple of us had waited in the hopes of getting a sketch. I even offered to pay $$$ to either them or a charity for them to sketch and she still ranted about it. I felt bad, especially as one of the guys in the small group of 4 people had traveled from Japan specifically to get a sketch from Vofan.

My favorite cons are Fanime and AM2. Although there will always be minor problems due to technology, schedules, etc., the crew at these conventions always does a good job.
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rootsofjustice



Joined: 06 Nov 2009
Posts: 146

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:09 am Reply with quote
Anime Boston 2008, the year they first tried the automatic bar code kiosks, and all of them failed in catastrophic fashion. Compound on this the at the time record attendance (I think that was the year The Pillows showed up, which might have been a contributing factor) and the fact the Sheraton Boston was occupied by another convention (I think it was some sort of psoriasis coping seminar). I was a part of a high school group that had gone down for the weekend (despite the fact I had graduated two years earlier, it was just cheaper to go with them and all of the graduates who went brought the cost down for the kids so it was a win-win). Needless to say, the line for registration didn't move, at all. We were stationary for more than an hour before the massive line for pre-registration guests finally began to move. It took two hours to navigate before our group made a horrific discovery, this was the line to get into the actual line. The actual line looped around the convention center, up and down stairs and eventually to a third, much shorter line. All in all, I must have been in line for at least six hours. The rest of the group who had to register at the con had variable amounts of luck. Some were accidentally sent farther in line than they should have, getting through in less than two hours while others were in it the entire Friday, having to come back Saturday to complete their registration.

Last edited by rootsofjustice on Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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davemerrill



Joined: 31 Jan 2011
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:03 am Reply with quote
I was at that there Con No Baka and had it been held in a facility with half the space, people would still be talking about how great it was; apart from reg issues (& cosplay contest issues) the attendees seemed to be having fun and enjoying themselves. The lessons to take away from CNB are 1. start modestly, and 2. delegate.

AWA '99's costume contest was the interminable fiasco in which the audience choice award went to a guy who wasn't cosplaying at all. '00 was the first one without skits. Or so I'm told, I haven't attended a costume contest since and everybody's much happier.
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Brakus



Joined: 21 Sep 2003
Posts: 104
Location: Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:04 pm Reply with quote
Hey Mike, thanks for the indirect shoutout to us at Video Ops at Katsu! I just finished my 7th year on staff in Video Ops, and my 4th year as department head. We have a pretty strong core Video Ops staff; pretty much we've become an extended family thanks to Facebook. I dragged my staff to their first post-con reception, and it was an awesome time. We're even planning a mid-year get-together simply to keep the fun going and to give us an excuse to see each other more than once a year.

I haven't been to any cons that have failed per se, but I've been to cons that looked like on the verge of failing, due to low attendance, mostly. I hate to see good cons go under, but at least we can hope these tales of woe will be a teaching point for all the other up-and-coming cons around the country.
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Sailor S



Joined: 20 May 2009
Posts: 2841

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:13 pm Reply with quote
I've been at a few cons that some people (usually a vocal minority, sometimes not) have decried as horrible. I've been at AX 2010 (and had a blast, in spite of the behind the scenes nonsense) and at the infamous LineCon, Anime Boston 2008. At least with that one I lucked out. Since my friend and I had preregistered, we went in on Thursday, were in line for about 20 minutes, and were good to go when it started up on Friday. Sure was grateful that we did when I heard the stories about people waiting over 5 hours in line on Friday and Saturday.

I haven't been at any small cons. I just like the atmosphere and the guests the larger cons can pull in. The only convention that I didn't care much for was AX 2007 when they were in Long Beach. Very poorly run, in large part I feel because of bad coordination between AX and the goons of the Long Beach convention center. Oh, and Otakon needs to do a better job of clearing the homeless out of the convention area. I didn't care to be bothered by panhandlers all weekend.
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Petrea Mitchell



Joined: 12 Jan 2007
Posts: 430
Location: Near Portland, OR

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:21 pm Reply with quote
There's actually a current BakaCon in Finland, although it's taking this year off because the staff is helping run Finland's national anime con in their part of the country this year.

Worst one that springs to mind for me was a little thing called OmniCon one summer in Portland, OR. It's a story you've heard many times in fandom-- brand-new convention which is going to invite every stripe of fandom, get thousands of its people in its first year, and show those old fuddy-duddies who've been running the local sf con for 20+ years (now 30+ years!) how to do it right.

I went there to help with a dealers' room table Saturday and Sunday of the con, which at least meant there were other human beings in my field of view the whole time. Attendance was reported to me Saturday morning as, "They'd like us to believe there are 250 people here." The Friday night dance had been 7 people in a room that was compared to a 747 hangar. Some of the dealers packed up and left on Saturday, and the remaining ones rearranged the room and had the hotel close off half of it when the committee wasn't around so that the resulting space actually had some life in it. The one panel I went to had one panelist and two audience members show up.

There was one part of the con that did get decent attendance-- because filk superstar Heather Alexander was in town, the whole local filk community turned out for the filk track, and gradually drew in the rest of the convention from their gravitational pull. As it happens, I was there to help with a filk dealer's table, so it was actually not so bad a weekend for us.

The thing that really stands out for about OmniCon was their bull-headed insistence on not accepting help from anyone. Not from the organization behind the existing local con, not from individual con-runners acting on their own, not even from the hotel, when it offered to shrink the room block because it was clear they weren't going to make it.

Longest registration line I've been in: about half an hour. I know, it doesn't sound like much in the anime world, but the benchmark at fan-run cons outside of the anime world is 10-15 minutes max before people start grumbling.
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Petrea Mitchell



Joined: 12 Jan 2007
Posts: 430
Location: Near Portland, OR

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:23 pm Reply with quote
Cutiebunny wrote:
Anime Expo 2010 - This was the worst convention I've ever attended.


What persuaded you to go back?
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Dagon123



Joined: 01 Jul 2010
Posts: 191

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:24 pm Reply with quote
cutiebunny wrote:
Sakuracon 2011 - Similar to AX 2010. Staff had no clue as to how to manage autograph lines. We were told that we couldn't wait until 1 hour before the autograph session started. But we also couldn't wait outside the room because that was a fire hazard. So we formed informal lines which they tried to break up. And then we'd form them again. And 10 minutes to the autograph session, the line would be announced on the other side of the room and we'd all dash over there to get in.


Ohayocon 2011 - Almost the exact same story, didn't have the greater convention center because of cheerleaders, so this year, they decided the signing for all guests would be in this really inconvenient hallway that couldn't hold more then 20 people on a wall, and it just so happened this was the signing for Chris Sabat (It felt like it was over 9000, lol). Now whats worse then regular con attendees being in really long lines? Signers in that situation, No room, Chaos, at one point we were all on one wall, then somebody from staff said it was on the other wall, then another staff came along and said "Nope other wall" and that was for about an hour 15, Kung-Fu threats be had, we finally made it in, only to wait for another hour for him not to show up (late flight) only to do it the next day.

Needless to say this year, it got sorted out Wink
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Petrea Mitchell



Joined: 12 Jan 2007
Posts: 430
Location: Near Portland, OR

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:26 pm Reply with quote
Mike Toole wrote:

There are some years when several of the larger conventions happen simultaneously - In 2009, Anime Boston, Anime North, and Animazement all went down on the same weekend. I remember feeling vaguely alarmed when I noticed this coincidence - surely this would have some impact on numbers, right?


Norwescon (general sf) and SakuraCon get held the same weekend in the same metropolitan area, and they're both growing fine. I'm told there's a sizeable contingent which commutes back and forth to attend programming at both.
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otakunomike



Joined: 20 Dec 2011
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:36 pm Reply with quote
The worst con experience I had was at Anime Central about 4 years back when I had to stand in line for over 8 hours to get my badge. And that was because I was lucky enough to pre-register, the poor walk-ups had close to a 10 hour line on Friday.

Over the last 5 years we've had a massive influx of new conventions up here in Minnesota, and while some have succeeded others have been rather haphazardly done at best. The worst however was a couple years ago when a convention in its third turbulent year still didn't have the financial or organizational resources straightened out and couldn't cover the hotel room block or guests costs. The only thing that saved it from getting shut down a la your story was that the Anime-Detour, the main con up here, stepped in a week before the show to take over and paid off the hotel. You think running a con is bad enough under normal circumstances, do it on a week of planning while trying to pick through the mess thats been left for you. Not. Fun.
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Nagisa
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Joined: 19 Aug 2003
Posts: 6128
Location: Atlanta-ish, Jawjuh

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:37 pm Reply with quote
Thankfully, in several years of AWAs and MomoCons, I've never run across anything truly terrible. I remember MomoCon's panels being a bit iffy in its first couple of years (I seem to recall there being only about a dozen panels over the entire weekend, with one fanfiction panel in particular being an hour-long explanation of Introduction > Rising Action > Climax > Resolution and nothing else), and registration lines for it apparently became insane once I stopped going (lines wrapping around the building, in the open, in the rain). However, I will credit MomoCon in that they've learned and grown from all of it, it seems. This year will mark the first time the convention will be held in a hotel off of the Georgia Tech campus, and the program schedule looks downright stellar. It's enough to entice me to go back this year after several years' hiatus (well, that, and the Touhou panel that friends of mine are doing).

As for Anime Weekend Atlanta, the only really noteworthy SNAFU I can really think of is the yearly line for the dance party on Saturday night. Every year, without fail, the line will begin to form about two hours prior to the dance's scheduled start time, and by the time the doors are supposed to open, it will have snaked through the registration lines, across the convention's main floor, and almost all the way around the second-floor balcony overlooking the hotel's lobby. The line inevitably contains way more people than they're able to let in, and the dance itself seems to have a habit of starting about a half-hour late each time. It actually led to an amusing situation in 2009, where a bunch of attendees strapped a sound system onto a Ghostbusters proton pack and created a portable rave of people that were turned away from the official dance due to it reaching capacity. The thing moved through the entire convention grounds gaining followers until the very reluctant con staff (they seemed highly impressed with the whole spontaneous operation) were made to break it up at the hotel's request.
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LagannImpact



Joined: 03 Apr 2009
Posts: 506

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:49 pm Reply with quote
What an amusing story! I haven't been to an AWA since 2008, but I'll admit that in those days they did pack the dance room. One solution from 2007 was a "side" AMV Rave. Why that wasn't repeated for 2009 (and, I guess, 2008), I'll never know.
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Nagisa
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Joined: 19 Aug 2003
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Location: Atlanta-ish, Jawjuh

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:54 pm Reply with quote
Thing is, the AMV Dance is still there. But the main dance party has become such a huge centerpiece to everyone's Saturday-night festivities that either nobody wants to go to the second-banana dance, or they're completely unaware of it.

As for me, I stopped trying to get into the dance party a long time ago. My friends and I have managed to have even more fun spending Saturday evenings at AWA getting tipsy and mingling. Or going into the 18+ viewing rooms and giving them the ol' MST3K treatment. I might step into the dance once or twice once some of the crowd has dropped off and it's not slam-packed anymore, but I never stay long.
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Fifth B



Joined: 05 Sep 2010
Posts: 213

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:24 pm Reply with quote
Dang, I'm surprised to see my hometown in an article on ANN! For the record (and not to sound like a weenie) Winnipeg was misspelled in the article. That is quite hilarious about Chibicon. I remember hearing that there was a smaller con in town around when I started getting into anime and going to cons. Then I just sort of stopped hearing about it. I was wondering what happened with that, but I didn't care enough to actually look into it.

As for nightmarish cons, I have yet to experience one of those. Ai-Kon is pretty laid back, except for one year, when it was held on the same weekend, and in the same convention center, as a hunting convention/gun show. That was hilarious. Hilarious and somewhat unsettling.
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Tamaria



Joined: 21 Oct 2007
Posts: 1469
Location: De Achterhoek

PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:49 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Or the Chibi-con that used to happen in Houten, Holland?


Been there twice as a dealer! The second time was at the last Chibicon. Public transportation is a bitch in Houten, but the staff had been kind enough to arrange buses for dealers, guests and volunteers. At least, that's what we thought. It turned out to be only one bus. We caught it, but a large group of volunteers had to walk all the way across town. And... they got lost. What should have been a 40 minute walk turned into a 2 hour march in a heatwave. Several rooms were understaffed those first few crucial hours.

The dealerroom was really nice and spacious, except for one thing: it was way too hot. Like 35 degrees celsius hot with extremely high humidity. We drank nearly a liter of water an hour to stay hydrated. To make matters worse, the dealer next to us didn't adjust to the heat as well as we did. This woman in her late thirties was very overweight, so she was having a hard time. And let's just say she did not dress appropriately. her outfit of choice as a skimpy school uniform. She informed us that her buttcheeks were really sweaty.

Around 3PM I decided to get some ice cream. The line was long, but it was totally worth it. Cheap too! When I walked back into the dealerroom, proudly holding two cones in my hands, one of the volunteers took a look at them, put his finger in my ice cream and licked it.

Around 6PM the convention started to die down and I decided to pack up. There was a big storm coming and we did not want to get stuck. Our neighbour started yelling at me for making that call, because I breached contract or something (we didn't). We ignored her and I managed to get home right before public transportation shut down.

It wasn't such a bad con though. Mostly unlucky, I guess.

Now Tsunacon 2012, that went horribly wrong. For some reason they assumed one food stand would be enough to feed 2000 people. People stood in line for hours just to get some junkfood. Someone from the table next to us (doujinshi circle Open-minded, they're awesome, buy their comics!) did a little foodrun and got big bag of fries elsewhere. He was kind enough to share it with us. It may not have looked like much, but after some mayonnaise, this was basically the best food ever:



Last edited by Tamaria on Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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