Saturday, July 15, 2017

50 for 50: 15 -- Go to a Con with Terry

Con going is actually one of the few things on my 50 for 50 list which is almost bucket-listy.  I can't say I've NEVER been to a Con before, but my Con going history stopped somewhere in the early 1990s (if I could find the T-shirt, I could pin that date down exactly), and I'm pretty sure the whole Con experience has changed dramatically in the intervening 20+ years.  So this is basically a new thing for me.

When I posed the possibility of going to the D23 Expo, Terry volunteered.  We bought tickets for just one day of the three-day All Things Disney fest -- sort of just dipping a toe in the D23 Experience -- rather than a full-scale dive.

And while most people we met there were friendly, a lot of the other attendees were, um, kinda Hard Cord Disnerds who didn't want to waste time with posers.  (Some folks were EXTREMELY committed to their cosplay.)

But let me back that monorail up and start at the beginning.

The beginning was buying the tickets when they went on sale last year.  The middle was when we later actually LEARNED stuff about the D23 Expo and started realizing that this was a super-crowded affair with plenty of lines and the only way you can end up actually seeing the panels that you want to see WITHOUT a massive wait is if you pay way more money (and get a time machine, because you need to have paid the way more money months ago).  The more we learned ... like that there are three speciality shops inside the convention hall selling cool Disney stuff and that THE SHOPS had three-to-four hour waits in previous years ... the more we thought we might be in over our heads.

But, the day arrived and we gamely started our trip to the Anaheim Convention Center.  The Con opened at 9:00 today.  We toyed with arriving at 9:00 too, but figured everyone would do that, so we figured we'd wait out the crowds and aim for something more 10ish.

"Wait out the crowds."  Ha!

We got to the Convention Center around 10 and were simultaneously hit with two signs that we maybe guessed wrong.  The first was the sign telling us to park over at the Honda Center because Convention Center parking was full.  The second was the long line of people.  The looooooong line of people.  Down the block.  Past the hotel.  And turning around and doubling all the way the back.  At 10.

By the time we got to the Honda Center, parked, and caught the shuttle back to the Convention Center, I could not actually tell you whether the line was longer or shorter.  There were two reasons for this.  The first was that they had decided to move the line from the sidewalk to a set of switchbacks they'd taped on the ground on the premises of the convention center itself (but still out in the hot son).  The second was that the D23 Employee helpfully holding the "End of Queue" sign was not, in fact, at the end of the queue, but rather surrounded by a mob of people.  We found her and asked where to join the line.  Since she was mid-line-move, the most she could say was, "You're fine right there," while crowds of people swirled around us -- either moving in their preset line patterns or, like us, slowly spinning around wondering where the hell we were supposed to go.  We eventually found some people who seemed to be near the end of the line, and stood behind them expectantly.

45 minutes later -- including one little line move in which we feared we were being either booted back on the street or (worse) aimed back toward the "End of Queue" lady -- and we made it into the air conditioned glory of the Convention Center.

Yay!  We made it.

We aim to go inside the actual Con, but are stopped by...

OK, I'm not sure whether this is a Good Idea or a Bad Idea, but it's a Damn Frustrating One for the rest of us.  There's a big hall where all the exciting panels are held at one end of the convention center.  They've decided to use ANOTHER big hall as a holding pen/waiting room for that hall.  And the holding pen hall is at the opposite end of the convention center.  So, when we finally get in the convention center, we can't actually get into the convention, because we're stopped by the parade of several thousand people being transferred from waiting room to big hall.

So THEN we get in.  And our first plan is to wait in another line.  Apparently, the four-hour-lines-for-shops thing last time was considered something of a fiasco, so the D23 people decide to create a "StorePass" -- you pick up a StorePass and this gets you in the store later in the day at a designated time.  Great!  Let's get those!

There's a long line.  The End of Queue person somehow sends us to the wrong line (WTF is wrong with these people?!  They have ONE JOB) but we come back and stand in the right one.  It looks to be about 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes in, they run out of passes for the store we want to get into.  (We later hear, from some pin-trading peeps who share our table at lunch, that they waited SIX HOURS to get into that store yesterday.  So, we're thinking maybe without StorePasses, we're just going to take a Pass on that Store.  We later see one of the OTHER stores -- the one we don't really want to go to anyway, has a standby wait time of over two hours.  Yeah, we're not seeing a lot of Disney shopping in our future today.)

We walk around a few of the NOT Disney-owned tables.  The standard con stuff where people sell their collectibles and memorabilia and licensed merchandise and stuff I'm sure isn't licensed (and don't entirely know how it got in there).  We see some dude selling framed posters and cels, and (I am not making this up) a framed square of carpet from Walt's office.  For $2000.  There is also a U.S. post office selling Disney Villain stamps.  There are something like 5 or 6 windows.  The line is longer than your regular post office on tax day.

We move into another section of the Con -- here's the rather more official stuff.  There's a HUGE Marvel area (many, many switchbacks -- there's something Avengersy going on, but apparently you had to get a wristband for it between 9:00 and 9:30.  I think back to the helpful couple we met when we walked in who said they were in line outside the Convention Center from 6:00 a.m. and didn't get in until after 9:30.  I imagine that if they were Marvel fans, they were pretty ticked).  There's a huge area showing off the model of the planned Star Wars land expansion -- the line to GET IN AND LOOK AT THE MODEL looks to be over an hour.

There's a ... thing.  A Pirates of the Caribbean thing.  It's walled off and you can't tell what's going on in there.  You can't tell if it's about the movies or the ride or a wench auction or ... I don't know, an upcoming video game?  It doesn't really say.  There's a line of people waiting for it in a huge set of switchbacks across the way.  We decide to ask them what they're waiting for.  They DON'T KNOW.  We randomly pull over two different guests at various points in the line, and they just say it's the Pirates thing.  We ask if they know what it is, but they don't.  I think about the stories I heard from Communist Russia -- where if you saw a line on the street, you'd just stand in it, on the theory that you needed whatever product they had at the front of it.  We did not join the line.  Wonder if it was toilet paper.

There was a "Lion King" thing -- they had VR Goggles (and headphones) and you sat down and saw about 90 seconds from "Circle of Life" which they'd recorded in 360 degree VR from the Broadway production.  The line for that looked to be less than 20 minutes, and I figured we should do it largely because WE HADN'T REALLY DONE SHIT and I was getting pretty annoyed.  At amusement parks, I think of the "line to ride" ratio -- how much fun do you get for how much time in line.  At this con, all we'd bloody DONE was wait in line, and I was wanting some fun, even if it was just 90 seconds of VR of a show I've seen live quite a few times.  We waited.  We VR'd.  We got little "Lion King" pins.  I felt a measure of victory, but the con still owed us a great deal more fun if they were going to be worth the wait of getting in.

BTW, here is my huuuuuge souvenir Lion King pin (next to a quarter for scale).

I demanded a photo.  Terry and I would, at the very least, have to get a good picture for my 50 for 50 collection.  There were lots of photo opps around the con -- props ("Lola" from "Agents of SHIELD") and promotional-type things (a Lego BB-8) -- but Terry and I eventually settled on this one.

I found its very existence kind of hilarious.  I mean, it isn't like it's THE ACTUAL BOAT from "Moana."  But we lined up for our photo op on the full-scale outrigger created to look exactly like the one from an animated movie because that's how we roll.

Somewhere in our adventures we had to stop walking entirely for the parade.  NOT the next parade of audience from the holding pen to the main hall, but an ACTUAL PARADE down the middle of the convention hall.  With balloons.  And dancers.  And guests standing about three-people deep on each side, all holding their cell phone in the air to catch a glimpse of what they couldn't see.  They had (allegedly) left a path BEHIND the parade-viewers for guests to squeeze past and just move through the convention hall, but someone about three people in front of us was using a wheelchair and unable to fit into the, oh, 12 or so inches we had to sidle through to get to the clearing on the other side.  So we weren't going anywhere, and while our single-file line of people stopped progressing, we stood there NOT watching the parade.  Dude in front of me got genuinely excited when the "grand marshal" came by, but as it was an actor I'd never heard of from a show I don't watch, I didn't feel bad that my only view of him was through someone's cell phone screen in the air.

(Earlier, Terry had glimpsed Jon Favreau being whisked through the crowds -- probably shuttling between something Lion King-y and something Marvel-y.  I toyed with yelling, "Hey!  Happy!  Why were such a dick to Spider-Man?" but he was already gone, and it probably would have been wrong anyway.)

We went back into the questionably-licensed merchandise.  I bought a crocheted tissue box cover with the SHIELD and Hydra logos on it (for the Geeky Guest Room!) and nearly bought a (totally licensed) "Deadpool" handbag.  Terry and I looked at a bunch of pins someone was selling, and I amused myself by asking for a pin which they knew existed, but had never owned -- a Chip & Dale eating apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah.  (I owned one at one time, but may have lost it during the burglary.)

We left.  The fact that we were leaving early dawned on me-- well, it dawned on Terry when we first drove up and saw the line around the building.  But it dawned on me when we sat down for a rest/snack at a table and sat there for over an hour talking about books we'd read.  And as I sucked back my overpriced Italian Ice and chatted about authors who had disappointed us, I started to think, "we could probably have this conversation someplace else."

As we got home, I told Terry I'd had fun and thanked him for joining me on this adventure.  And, we heartily agreed, we're never going back.


Taidan said...

There's a reason these things are called "cons". :)

Lori said...

My kids (who aren't kids anymore, 27 and 21) go to several cons each year. Their favorite is Colossal Con held in Sandusky, OH every spring. I have been to it three years, and I did enjoy it very much. It is an anime con, and it is one of those that is for the fans, as opposed to for the celebrities or for the producers. The atmosphere is wonderful there.