Supanova Brisbane 2011

by Luke Carroll, Apr 6th 2011

In something of a first, Supanova's ninth visit to the Sunshine State was put into crash mode 24 hours before the massively popular Pop Culture Expo was to open its doors. Draw-card celebrity Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) pulled out of his appearance on both the Brisbane and Melbourne leg of the convention, citing a sudden casting position for a television series. With no emergency backup plan Supanova officials concocted a way to make this up to the thousands of attendees no doubt coming to see the Doc himself. This plan was to be announced during the Friday Opening Night, but nobody expected what else was going to be said along side it.

SUPANOVA D-DAY / FRIDAY OPENING NIGHT

This is the evening dedicated to the weekend pass holders. Although the main attraction is later in the night, things kick off during the afternoon when the hall opens to eager shoppers wanting to look around and buy their items long before thousands of people will swarm on them in less than a days time. As well as merchandise, a number of talks are also run during this period at the various halls, all acting as entices to visit before things get busy.

I treat this afternoon as a way to understand the layout and see the changes that have occurred. The first thing to change happens before you even walk in. The main entrance to the building has after many years, been moved from the side ramp to the much more commonly used corner entry. How this will effect the line on Saturday will certainly become clear the next morning. The next obvious change is the thankful removal of the seminar room in the convention hall which didn't win many fans last year with the noise of the hall drifting straight in.

Looking at the Event Guide also reveals some rather interesting changes in both the room locations and the event locations. The most notable change is the Madman Anime theatre moving from the Auditorium to the Lower Commerce Building. Although thankfully the cosplay is staying in the Auditorium (under the JB Seminar Room group), all the anime screenings and side shows such as the Kamehameha Blast Off are moving to the new area. How the room is going to cope noise wise will be interesting to say the least (more on that later). Oh, and did I mention it's sharing its space with the TV1 Talkfest seminar group?

Now to me, on paper it's almost a step back from previous years. Of course things weren't fully up and running yet, so any fears I have could be for nothing. A theory brought to me was that it was all done to stop the auditorium heating up to a sauna as people stayed there all day long. Whether or not that's true we will never know, but after the events of last year and heat, hydration reminder signs are certainly making the rounds at the convention.

Coming back to the story at hand, I decided that after basking in the wide crowd-less aisles on the convention floor it was time to visit the only anime related talk going on during the evening, a talk from ADR Director Mike McFarland. Mike covered briefly the process behind transcribing and where his role fit in with it all. A lengthy Q+A section was also held to the pleasure of fans.

It was here that my previous thought about the noise came into play. The Lower Commerce Building is really just a large concreted room with glass windows. As such it has some rather bad acoustics that allow for echoing and outside noise. There is also some large air-conditioning vents that pour a constant motor sound ever so slightly into the room at times. Where I'm worried most is cross-noise from the Madman Anime Area. It's going to be interesting how it turns out, especially with the Kamehameha contest.

By now it was time to think about lining up for the Opening Night. The line was already 150 strong, and was only growing with each tantalising minute. Thankfully delays were little in line and everybody was quickly ushered in. The opening ceremony began rather nicely with a tune from Kirby Krackle. However it was the big announcement the crowd wanted, and Supanova did not disappoint. Following the aftermath it was time to introduce the rest of the guests and move onto the Charity Auction, this time raising funds for the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal. Unfortunately the crowd were not as enthused, this showed throughout the auction and dampened the rest of the proceedings for the night.

Friday overall certainly wasn't close to the best Supanova has produced. I'm not sure whether it's the straightforward night time schedule that has never changed, or the fact that opening early without enough events leaves many fans with little to do once they looked around, but the night certainly has lost its edge. Worries about the new area changes aside, I feel like Supanova deserves to get a little benefit of the doubt tonight, considering the events that transpired 24 hours previously. Tomorrow however is when all the planning comes into action and the real test on all these changes.

SATURDAY

It's 8:00 am on a Saturday morning. Normally I'd still be in bed enjoying the extra sleep that my week day job takes away from me but today is different. Today I'm in line with over 200 other people waiting to enter the first full day of the Supanova Pop Culture Convention. The only problem is the opening is still officially two hours away!

You see, the crowd Supanova draws on a Saturday is something of a behemoth. I'm not exaggerating when I say people arrive up to three hours ahead to snag a position at the top of the line, because every minute you wait will cost you another 5 spots down the line. Even that estimate I made had to be doubled half an hour later, and from there it grows exponentially to something that winds almost full blocks and that's just the prepaid line.

You would think something that grows that fast would be a problem for staff, it certainly is. A standard inner city footpath is a problem enough for two people, let alone full groups crowding the bitumen as friends join in for a chat. Thankfully the Supanova staff came out in force to keep the line in check and direct traffic in the right direction (the lines had swapped sides unexpectedly this year). There was even a real initiative to fast track the cash line prior to the doors opening in order to get more people through. Unfortunately the line proved much more expansive than planned, and 'operation use the rear entrance' came into play as the lines were split between entrances in order to maximise the hall intake.

I'm seriously not joking when I say the hall would have reached its half capacity within ten minutes. Thankfully I was able to beat the crowd to my shopping and moved onto the first item on my list today, a talk Matt Greenfeld. Unfortunately the crowd was rather small when I arrived and Matt was well aware that he had become the 'sacrificial guest' of the morning. I felt almost sympathetic for the man since he certainly has worked in areas people would love to ask questions about, but this early morning start would simply not allow many people to attend. It is also worth quickly noting that the acoustic issue I brought up during Friday certainly manifested itself as planned with the two areas providing a bit of cross-talk between each other during this talk, but not to the level I expected. That said it did get worse during the certain talks over the day where volume levels weren't monitored well enough.

With the sun out in force, Mike McFarland hit the stage next for another talk. Although the guide listed the talk under FMA, Mike was quick to turn this into a Q + A for any titles he was involved. He was certainly the highlight of the morning as the sun started forcing many people into the shade for retreat. The Cosplay Chess followed, this time adopting a speed mentality in push to remove the speed issues it has suffered in the past. Signs were given to entrants to distinguish their pieces better as the emphasis shifted to fast moves, fast kills and fast deaths. This certainly worked out much better than previous years, although there were a few issues with chattering crowds and the undersized foyer area which caused issues in not only getting to it (the talk beforehand bottlenecked the entrance area), but to the cosplayers who needed to collect or drop gear at the table area on the other side, forcing a few to dart through the game or squeeze around the outside crowd.

Next up on my rather full day was the Siren Visual Panel. Having hyped up some new titles announcements a few days prior, things fell into disarray early on when their planned announcement had to be withheld due to the tsunami and earthquake hitting Japan. With their whole plan out the window, the panel was shifted through the gears straight to a short Q + A and then ended just as soon as it begun. Thankfully this gave me time to swing by the busier Anime Trivia in the other area before heading over for the Madman National Cosplay State Championship.

With the near 950 seat auditorium needing a quick empty, clean and refill before each item, any time delays would compound themselves over the course of the day. By the time the Madman National Cosplay State Championship finally got under way the delay was a worrying 30 minutes. As with the previous year, MC John Robertson took the reigns and did a marvellous job as the six contestants competed for a qualifying position in the National finals to take place later in the year. Things ran surprisingly smooth, in fact so smooth they appeared to have shaved most of the time of their delayed schedule. The adjudication took so long that however that the decision was made to skip the next even entirely to bring things back on time. This left many people who had left due to the expected panel being forced to re-line up at the now growing line.

Nevertheless the crowd was ushered back in and the results of the Championship were given, with the winner surprisingly not present to receive her reward (rumour had it she went to KFC). She eventually showed up soon after, and once her award was presented, the Madman Cosplay Competition got under way. Once again hosted by John Robertson, the competition featured a total of 60 different cosplayers. No Cosplay Competition isn't complete without its fair share of odd and humorous moments and this year was no different. Despite the lack of 'kill the host' moments, John Robertson was tested and wowed by many moments such as playing into an old spice line, creating a 'John screwed up' crowd chant that went off after every blunder, and even meeting a clone of himself.

The Madman Cosplay Competition also unfortunately marked the end of Saturday. There was certainly a number of ups and downs during the day, and the verdict is still out on the venue changes. One thing is certain though, today was the busiest I have ever seen. Hopefully they can keep things running smoothly as another potential hot day looms ahead in this now first Brisbane Supanova of the year.

SUNDAY

As with every year, the wonderful thing about Sunday is the fact it's noticeably less crowded. Although you will still have the die-hard fans rocking up early for their place in line, it is at least comforting to know you can sleep in a little and still snag a good spot. This year was no different, although lessons from yesterday brought on another approach to line problems. The line was split into three - paying at the door and prepaid tickets lines out the front, and wrist banded (weekend pass holders) moved to the back entrance. Although I wouldn't exactly call the back entrance group a line (it was more like a swarm) things still worked out smoothly when the doors opened.

The first event on my list was the Anime Gameshow. Essentially a number or anime themed rounds contested by two teams of three, the event ran rather well despite the moderately small crowd. Following up afterwards was the Madman Anime Extravaganza Panel with Sly and Daniel (our full report can be found here). After things had settled, it was time for Q+A with Yuko Miyamura.

I must admit, the event got a little awkward at times when a few people decided to try their skills at asking questions in Japanese. As kind and encouraging it may have sounded to the guest, it left many in the crowd unable to understand a thing until the translator ironically re-iterated the question back into English. The crowd however was certainly unified when Yuko revealed she was looking into an Australian voice acting program, and even did an unplanned scene for everyone.

I was able to use the free time afterwards to see how the vendor hall was holding up. As expected, it was less crowded and much cooler than Saturday, however the close proximity of the Dominoes booth to the back entrance no doubt caused an issue near the doors as people were forced into bottlenecks whenever a group felt they were hungry. With over half the day gone, it was time to watch the Kamehameha competition.

Despite technical issues causing a delayed start, things ran rather fast for the 5 groups vying to win the competition. As expected, the move to the Lower Commerce Building did also cause the noise to travel to the Madman Anime Theatre and somewhat disrupt them. Afterwards, it was a quick rush across the walkway to get a seat for the Madman Cosplay Competition. Featuring 65 contestants, John Robertson took up the the role of MC'ing for a final time in the convention. Partnering with Jacky behind the screen, the crowd was having a good time as the event ran into a smooth halt a little over schedule. With only Karaoke remaining, the day was very much over.

Supanova certainly continues to grow, and with each year raises the question on just what more can they do. The crowd and clearance of the auditorium will no doubt be of a concern for most. However I'm sure an answer will be given when Supanova returns once again in November. Do yourself a favour and check it out, it really is a great weekend out.


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