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This year marked my first visit to WONDERCON in sunny Anaheim California, and quite honestly, I was impressed with everything I experienced. WONDERCON is the younger and smaller sister of the world-renowned San Diego Comic Con, organized by Comic Con International. It began in 1987 in Oakland California as The Wonderful World of Comics Con. It was taken over by Comic Con International in 2002 and renamed WONDERCON, and in 2012 it moved to its new home in Anaheim. All in all, it was really an enjoyable experience and I’m excited to add it my yearly con schedule.
The exhibit hall was larger than I expected and filled with a terrific variety of venders. It was a pleasant surprise to find that not every booth was filled with the exact same merchandise like I’ve seen at some cons. The layout of the floor was well organized, and easy to find what you were looking for. For most of the hall, it had nice wide aisles to accommodate the large crowds. The artist alley was four complete rows of tables and they were well stocked with impressive talent. The small press tables were more moderately staffed but it still had some interesting authors and publishers that were worth visiting. Personally, I would have liked to see more of an LGBT presence in that area.
The program had a wide variety of subjects and content available. For the most part I found plenty of sessions that piqued my interest and my schedule was fairly booked throughout both days (I could not attend Sunday). All the sessions I attended were run very well, strictly adhering to the schedule. Not one panel that I attended spilled over or started late. The sessions were all located centrally in convention center making it easy to get from one to the next. The quality of the sessions and panel discussions varied, which is typical for any convention, but I would say that the level of expertise of those who staffed the panels was moderate to good. Recognizing that I am quite spoiled by SDCC and its vast celebrity attendance, I was still surprised that Wondercon, being so close to Hollywood, didn’t have many TV show or movie panels with members of the cast presiding over the discussion. Notable exceptions for me were the exclusive premiere showing of the new Teen Titan movie and the Critical Role panel with nearly the entire cast of Vox Machina present.
I was blown away by the tremendous quality of cosplay that was at Womdercon. I had been told to expect large numbers of participants, but even with the warning, I was surprised by the sheer volume of cosplayers that attended. Cosplayers roam around the long hall just outside the main exhibit hall, but the main viewing area is outside between the convention center and the hotel. The area has a wild party like atmosphere, and the crowd is about half and half in terms of those who are in costume and those that are admiring them. And the quality of craftsmanship very nearly rivaled what I experienced at SDCC. The cosplayers were all friendly and happy to pose for a picture if you ask. Check the EPIC COSPLAY tab for pictures from the event.
The food in the exhibit hall and in the arena (where larger presentations take place) was surprisingly good. There was a great deal of variety and the quality and portion size of the food was high. Drinks available however was rather limited. Not surprising however, the food was a little on the pricy side. My BBQ pulled pork sandwich (no side) and a drink came to around $13.00.
Parking was a bit of a problem due to the renovations that were occurring at the convention center. It appears that the parking garage is being renovated currently and is scheduled to be completed later this year (2017). Finding any parking near the convention center was very difficult, and it was a reoccurring theme I heard throughout the con. Many panelists were showing up late to their own discussion panels because of the parking situation. I do believe that this was a temporary problem due to the construction, and next year with the new space completed, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The Anaheim Convention Center is located right the heart of Orange County. The center is located literally across the street from Disneyland. I could hear the screams of roller coaster riders from my hotel room. It would be worth extending your stay an extra day or two to take advantage of the proximity to Disney, and the smaller crowds that time of year. There are many restaurants located within walking distance of the host hotels that should suit any budget. The weather was perfect—a beautiful 75 degrees every day, although it did get a little chilly once the sun went down.
I will definitely be attending WONDERCON again next year.