It’s been awhile since I attended San Francisco’s WonderCon (it used to be held in Oakland until 2001) and on Saturday, April 2, 2011, I was finally able to check it out once again even if just for a day. This trip into The City to attend WonderCon was actually a last minute deal. I actually bought my One-Day Pass from the WonderCon online site just the day before. I usually like to plan these con excursions in advance so I know which panels to visit and how much to bring to spend. Being a last minute decision I didn’t really plan on spending any amount past what I wanted to eat and panels ended up just being the ones WonderCon had lined-up for upcoming films.
I took BART into the city around 9:30AM and arrived at the Moscone Center South building around 10:20 or so to pick-up my badge. Unlike my experience at Anime Boston 2008 and Anime Expo 2010, getting my badge (even just a one-day one) was pretty painless. Despite a crowd that was already numbering around 10000-plus strong (in my visual estimation and with unofficial total attendance looking to be as high as 40000+) I got through to the pre-register line in less than 10 minutes just in time for me to begin my walk of the Exhibit’s Hall where the dealer tables and exihbitor’s booth were set-up.
For the next hour or so I just walked around the Exhibit Hall just looking at the items for sale and the many comic book related stuff that I used to collect religiously (the thousands upon thousands of bagged and boarded comic books in my house would attest to zealotry). I was surprised to see a lot more indepedent comic book tables. I was also very surprised to notice that the Marvel and DC booths were smaller than I had anticipated. Maybe the bigger booths for these two giants were being saved for San Diego Comic-Con, but with WonderCon getting bigger and bigger each year I thought they’d at least make an effort.
I was very surprised to notice that at least a quarter of the dealer’s tables were dedicated to anime and manga related items. One dealer’s table (more like a booth actually) was all about Gundam and other mecha kits). If I had actually planned ahead for this convention I definitely would’ve dropped at least a couple hundred dollars on several model kits I saw which had me drooling. Below are just a few of the kits that I wouldn’t have minded buying.
Once my time walking around the Exhibit’s Hall was done I knew I needed to get in line for the start of the first film panel that was going to be held at the Esplanade Ballroom. I ended up being in the middle pack of the line despite the line already having wound it’s way outside the Center. The Ballroom looked to have enough space and seats to seat 5000-plus attendees. The line was actually organized very well (I think this is where anime cons could take a lesson from the WonderCon and SDCC organizers). No one was complaining as the volunteers manning the line knew how to keep things organized and actually had the info on whether there was enough room in the Ballroom to accomodate everyone.
The first panel was the upcoming Jon Favreau western and sci-fi mash-up, Cowboys & Aliens, which started around 1pm. There was none of the cast on-stage, but writer-proder Robert Orci and the director himself, Jon Favreau were in attendance. One thing which Favreau said to start off the panel which I (and probably some of the many veteran con attendees) agree on was how WonderCon was beginning to become a major stopover for film studios wanting to promote their big tentpole, genre films.Once the initial talk was over and done with Favreau announced to the crowd that we would be seeing a WonderCon-exclusive 9-minute footage that will never be shown elsewhere with scene that will only be seen once the film was out. This got a huge positive response from the crowd and the footgae didn’t disappoint. It had the right amount of seriousness to the scenes with enough comedy from how these Western-period characters were reacting to a sudden invasion of cosmic proportions.
The rest of the film panels I was able to see were the one’s for the upcoming films Hanna and Immortals. The former had director Joe Wright and the film’s titular star, Saoirse Ronan (who was quite the charming Scottish lass and decided to wear a Wonder Woman tee for her very first comic book convention) on-stage talking about the film. This panel was actually quite good in that several clips from the film were shown to highlight some of the ideas and themes Wright was going for. One thing which got a loud response (positive it seems) was how Wright and Ronan wanted Hanna to showcase the idea of girl empowerment through their use of their minds instead of falling back on Hollywood’s idea of hypersexuality as the one and only way to empower females. To say that Joe Wright didn’t agree with Zack Snyder’s attempt at girl empowerment would be an understatement. I don’t agree with his entire explanation, but then again I don’t think he’s seen Sucker Punch so he’s basing it on the promotional materials.
Tarsem Singh’s Immortals would be the last panel I would see and the film definitely looks to have a 300 vibe to it, but even more fantastical with Greek pantheon getting involved in the matter. A huge response from the female audience roared when the film’s star in Henry Cavill appeared onstage. I like him in Showtime’s The Tudors and still remember him being the young teen in The Count of Monte Cristo, but seeing him onstage made me see what Snyder saw in Cavill. My apprehension in him becoming the next Superman has been tempered now and I hope he does very well in the part.
Well, that final panel ended my day at WonderCon 2011. There were several things I observed which made me hopeful that future WonderCon’s will be something I plan for instead of just trying out. The crowd in attendance by mid-day was bigger than Anime Boston and was almost as large, if not bigger, than Anime Expo 2010. For some the crowd might not have looked that big, but the spacious Moscone Center South building looked as if it could accomodate even more people. The spaciousness of the building allowed for people not to be packed in too tightly while walking around. It is no wonder that Hollywood studios are now seeing WonderCon as an alternate destination, or at least a complementary one, to San Diego Comic-Con to promote their films.
San Diego Comic-Con will always be the big destination but with that event becoming so huge the last half decade other venues became places that could accomodate the studios. One thing I heard people (especially bloggers and entertainment reporters) about San Diego Comic-Con was how many films were being promoted and how those attending looking to write about it could never get to see all of them. This wasn’t the case with WonderCon. Everyone who got into the Esplanade Ballroom could see all the film panels and some never left their chairs once the room opened up.
While a One-Day Pass may seem enough to see all that WonderCon had to offer I think the next time I attend I shall plan ahead and get a 3-Day Pass instead to get the full experience. I will say that this day was a good practice for when I attend Anime Boston 2011 in less than 3 weeks. Here’s to hoping that the organizers of Anime Boston continue to get better with their logistics. As much as I prefer anime and manga to comic books nowadays, the anime/manga convention organizers still have much to learn from the comic book ones in the logistical department. All in all, it was a good time to spend a warm, sunny Saturday.
Oh, while I was walking the Hall I did take a picture of something that I thought Lisa Marie probably would’ve found too cute, but since I decided on not spending any cash at the Hall I didn’t get her an example of Uglydoll:
See you at Anime Boston 2011 next!