I’d never been to a fan con on this scale – I’ve been to conventions, but for things like computer tech, not entertainment fandom, and I’ve been to fandom gatherings, but with like… 30 people. Not hundreds or however many people were there.
We had to go with the Saturday-only pass, rather than going for the full 3-day pass, to save money (not only in terms of the cost of registration itself, but also to avoid being around the temptation of all the cool stuff that would be available to buy at the con for too long!). So, we got up early and made sure we were at SFO before 10AM. The Hyatt Regency runs a shuttle that goes between the airport and the hotel. So, here it is 9:45 or so and we’re on the shuttle. There’s a writer’s panel at 10. So, we may not catch the beginning of it, but if we get there soon, we can see most of it, right?
Con lesson #1: waiting in line to get your badge and get in will take forever, even if you per-registered. It was nearly 11 by the time we were through that line. Oh well.
So we started looking around. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing someone in costume, or at least wearing a pony shirt (which we both were, so hey). Saw a pretty sweet VinylTastic guy early on.
We spent some time in the vendor room, looking at all the stuff we might buy, and of course, the $400-$800 plushies that we could in no way hope to buy. Sigh.
Not that they are overpriced. High-quality fan-made plushies are worth the amount of money being asked for them (I mean seriously, look at this), but that doesn’t change that fact that it’s way more than I can afford, at least at this point in my life. Still, we talked with a few of the vendors that were there about fandom and plushies and other stuff, and just had a good time.
Before long, we dashed (ha ha ha) off to get in line for the VA panel. This was the thing we wanted to make sure we got to attend, more than anything else. The line was quite long, but fortunately, we didn’t have to wait a huge amount of time before they opened up the gigantic room they were using for the panel (which, as I understand it, had been four rooms for most of the day, was converted via movable wall pieces to one big room for the panel, then changed back again) and in we went. And it was a blast! Before they brought in the guests of honor, the awesome video linked at the top of this post was played on the screens that had been set up at the front of the room. It was both weird and awesome to see these people whose voices we’ve heard, on this show that we love, in person. Even from far away, it was still pretty cool. The VAs were relaxed and easygoing, and there was an especially great moment when the announcer dared anyone “to call her sunbutt” when Nicole Oliver was making her entrance, and naturally, some guy yelled out “SUNBUTT!” as she sat down, to which Nicole replied, in a voice that wasn’t quite her Celestia voice but sort of close, “I see you, and we will talk later.” Right after someone else in the audience shouted “To the moon!” The whole sequence brought the house down.
Also, this was the first time that ALL of the mane 6 VAs, not to mention other notables such as Celestia, Spike, Babs, various stallions (over 9000 of them, to be precise), and of course Big Mac (oh excuse me, I mean PRINCESS Big Mac), were all together on one panel. Tabitha St. Germain couldn’t be there in person and had to “attend” via Skype, which was unfortunate because I think sometimes she couldn’t hear what question-askers or other panelists were saying very well (and she couldn’t see anyone, either). Still, a milestone and a really fun panel!
And then the questions line was crashed by a certain rookie FIM writer. The whole thing was great all around.
After the panel, we went right over to the line for VA autographs. And that… didn’t go so well.
Con lesson #2: the line for autographs will be just as long or longer than the one for the more popular panels. If the signings start at 1:45, and you get in line at 1:30… not gonna work so well.
Despite going right from the panel to the autograph line, we were way out near the BACK of this gigantic line that wound down hallways and around corners and then finally outside, and barely managed to move thirty feet in about an hour. Once that hour was up, we threw in the towel and resolved to learn the lesson about planning and picking what you want to do for future cons. To be fair to us, from what I heard from both staff and friends who have attended cons in the past, this was sort of a snafu. The staff seemed to know that it could have been handled a bit better. I also learned that not only was it the first pony con in the Bay Area, it was also the first major con for a sizable number of the staff, and that the attendance was higher than expected. Given those factors, the con overall was actually pretty solid. The oddity with the autographs did seem to be a result of poor planning (which can in turn be attributed to the lack of experience at running these kinds of things), and they seemed to realize that, so hopefully they can iron out those issues going forward.
Later on, we were sort of vindicated too – as I was walking back toward the vendor room at one point (a little before 4PM), I saw that the line (while it had moved significantly and was now entirely indoors) still had a lot of people in it. Right as I walked by, the staff were telling them that the signing event was over because the VAs simply couldn’t stay any longer. Given where our place in the line had been, we certainly would have been one of those who didn’t make it in, so we were glad we’d bailed rather than stand in line all the way till 4 and then get nothing out of it anyway. Felt bad for the people who did just that! But I guess that kind of thing happens at cons sometimes…
After giving up on the signings, we stopped in the (rather awesome looking) atrium seating area of the hotel to eat lunch. And then, with some time to kill before the other panel we really wanted to see (the director panel), we headed back to both the vendor room and “Artist’s Alley.” And then the buying began.
Con lesson #3: you will spend more than you planned. Period. No exceptions, no compromises, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 (just the opposite, in fact).
I brought $100 in cash with me, thinking that I would limit myself to just spending that much while at the actual con. Ha. Ha! As it turned out, many of the artisans displaying their work took plastic, after all. Which was great for me, but bad for my wallet. In the end, I spent just over $200 total. We went back and forth between the two rooms – we must have passed through each like eight times, and kept going “man we really shouldn’t spend any more… oh look at this!” *buys*
Still, I can’t say I really regret having spent the money – it’s a lot but not a back-breaking amount, and all this stuff is just so freakin cool! The bulk of what I got consisted of several really gorgeous art prints. I also picked up a couple beadwork pieces, as well as the book and map for this “Ponyfinder/Everglow” campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG. I don’t even really play tabletop RPGs anymore, but this “it’s not actually Equestria (to avoid the wrath of Hasbro), but then, it kind of is” setting was just a really fun idea. Plus I’m a map geek and this one is gorgeous! Finally, there was this con-exclusive plush of the absolutely adorable BABSCon mascot, Golden Gates.
As we left the vendor room at one point, we found that a bunch of people were gathered in the hallway, singing (and dancing to in some cases) Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows. This was easily the most hilarious “fandom” moment I’ve ever personally witnessed or been a part of, not just for ponies but any fandom.
The director’s panel was a lot of fun. Jayson Thiessen and “Big” Jim Miller had a lot to say about the creative process and how ideas get bounced around and refined. Along with some hilarious stories revolving around “Pinkie Pride” and what it was like to meet and work with Weird Al, whom Jayson has always been a big fan of, as it turned out. A lot of joking around during this panel, it was really relaxed and fun, and of course informative! I’m sure that videos of this and the VA panel (and most of the other big events) will be uploaded to Youtube before too long, if they haven’t been already, so anyone who wasn’t there will have a chance to see what went on.
So yus! We had a lot of fun, and learned a lot about “how to con”, for lack of a better phrase. No doubt we’d be better able to parse our time and be realistic about what we can and can’t make when we attend one of these again. As for that, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it out to any of the cons that are in other areas of the country (which would depend on being able to afford the hotel and travel expenses on top of the con and merch), but by most accounts, this first BABSCon has been a success, and when they do this again next year (it’s already been announced!), I’m there!