Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sac Anime Winter 2016: Robbie's Report

Oh Sac Anime… here we go again.

It’s 2016, and no sooner did the new year begin than a new Sac Anime did as well. While I had a few disappointments last time around, I trusted the staff to take attendee feedback into account and attempt to improve things. In many accounts, they did. On others, I still had some problems.

But let’s begin by giving credit where credit is due: two of the biggest issues from last time was line management and harassment. Both were addressed this time around.

Regarding harassment, they now had signs around the con reminding people that harassment will not be tolerated. I haven’t heard nearly as many complaints about it after this con, so I have to assume it helped.

10nant Cosplay, a good friend of mine, was also starting his Cosplay Havens movement, providing a safe space by his TARDIS for anyone who needed a friend and somewhere they’d be safe from harassment. However, Havens was not supported by Sac Anime, although he did offer.

Wendy from Gravity Falls
As for the autograph lines, Sac Anime put out some new rules to regulate them. Some worked, others didn’t. For example, no one even tried to uphold the “no lining up until 30 minutes before the session” rule, which was pretty well unenforceable to begin with. The ticket system was said to still be in effect, but I only saw it implemented for Fast Pass tickets, which were now a more reasonable $10, rather than $20.

While last Summer’s line was a horrifying mess, consisting of one incredibly long line splitting into three also long lines, it was more properly managed this time. The autograph room was still attached to the dealer’s hall, but it was back to separate lines for the guests that people could get into again after going through one. That was a much better, more managed line experience.

I did, however, notice some people who didn’t bother lining up and just went in by cutting into the line as soon as it started to move. The staff at the door could clearly see that’s what was going on, and yet they did nothing. There was also a miscommunication with Todd Haberkorn’s line, due to his flight being delayed, which caused a good friend of mine a great deal of distress when she lined up all day, was told to leave the line due to cancellation, and then found out later that the line re-opened not an hour later. Additionally, the new rules stated that those who receive badges for volunteering, staffing, press, artists, and any other unpaid means would not be allowed in the free autograph lines, which I feel deprives those who contribute something other than money to the convention of being able to experience its biggest attractions.

A young Greg from Steven Universe
All in all, though, those two aspects were greatly improved from the last con, and I give the staff credit for listening to the attendees and aiming to improve.

I wish I could say the rest of the con went that smoothly, but there were still some very annoying difficulties I encountered. As soon as I arrived and attempted to check in, I was told that the blog was only approved for one press pass, which Matthew had (as is his right, of course).

However, we had an email from the press head which stated, in no uncertain terms, “I will allow one more.” So I showed that to the person working in the press room, who tried to contact the press head to confirm. As the call went to the machine, she started to say “Well, since you do have an email saying you’re allowed another one, I’m going to go ahead and-“

And that was when the phone rang, and the press head said that, in spite of the email from her stating we would be allowed another press pass, that we would not, in fact, be allowed one.

Well, of course I wanted to see what was going on, so Matthew and I spent the next few hours waiting and trying to find the press head. But we had no such luck, and after about three hours I had to bite the bullet and spend money I had set aside for the con on a full-price badge.

Further attempts to find her during the convention proved equally unsuccessful.

Well, that rocky start left me rather frustrated, but at least I could enjoy the con, and having a paid badge meant I could get in the autograph lines without having to buy a fast pass each time. So I hit the con floor, and took a look around.

The convention center was using the floor space more effectively, but they also had more space to work with. As always, the dealer’s hall took up most of the main floor, followed by the artist alley. A new addition were the booths for the guests with paid autograph sessions, where they set up throughout the weekend for their sessions.

There were several fantastic guests there to see, from Borderlands and Attack on Titan voice actors to actors from Falling Skies. Chris Sarandon and Ken Page from The Nightmare Before Christmas were big draws among the paid guests, as well as Veronica Taylor (voice of Ash Ketchum in Pokemon), Steve Carendas (Rocky the second Red Ranger in Power Rangers), and Irene Bedard (voice of Pocahontas). Among the guests with free autographs were Olivia Olson, Zach Callison, and Crispin Freeman, as well as the voice of Mario himself, Charles Martinet.

However, with all the guests, it was easy to spend most of the convention just standing in line (especially considering how long the lines would get). I was a little concerned that they were bringing in too many guests, making it a challenge to meet everyone. Half the guests were people I didn’t really know about, and some of them had embarrassingly short lines when compared to the others. Personally, I think they should focus more on bringing in a few great guests and make sure everyone has a chance to meet them, rather than giving a little time to a large quantity of guests.

Fortunately, with three days I could plan out my schedule to meet everyone I wanted to. I managed to get autographs from Ashly Burch, Damien Clarke, Lauren Landa, and Tina Nishimura, before it was time to meet up with friends for a photoshoot.

Following the shoot, it was time for dinner at the nearby Japanese restaurant - naturally, it had plenty of business throughout the weekend from all the anime fans in attendance, but service was good. We had to rush back to the con quickly after, though, as the swap meet was starting. The swap meet has continued to grow even larger, but it was mostly a swarm of attendees trying to fight through a crowd along the walls, where the sellers were set up; perhaps better utilization of the room space would be appropriate, given its size.
Ranma and P-Chan
Gokai Red and Kyoryu Cyan
The Captain from Nextwave (which you really should read if you haven't)
Pearl from Steven Universe
Saturday proved to be a more active day, beginning with another autograph session. I lined up to see Zach Callison, who voices the main character in Steven Universe, but his was the only free autograph of the day. I managed to get a quick three-question interview with Irene Bedard, which you can see below: 

My main concern was meeting Chris Sarandon, as I was cosplaying from The Princess Bride. However, when I neared the end of the line, I was told that they weren’t accepting credit cards for the $30 autographs. They told me I could pay at the table up front, but when I got there, I was told they weren’t taking cards either, so I then had to dash to the ATM (with its ridiculous $5 withdrawal fees). I did manage to get his autograph, but I was quite flustered and out of breath at the time.

However, I decided to treat myself to Veronica Taylor’s as well, since she voiced the main character from one of the shows that got me into the world of anime. Her’s was a slightly less expensive $25, and her line was very lengthy throughout the entire weekend. While she signed a blank Cards Against Humanity card for me and the back of my Pokedex phone case, the phone case’s autograph was, sadly, smudged away, to my dismay.

Normally there would be some great panels to check out, but both the Cosplay Wrestling Federation and the Chilling With Voice Actors panels did not return, due to completely separate issues. The remaining panels held little interest to me, although there were plenty of panels with the guests throughout the weekend.

The night life at Sac Anime consisted of some night gatherings, the masquerade, and the starlight ball. For those who prefer less crowded times with friends, like myself, it was game night. What better way to wrap up the weekend than by hanging out with friends and having a good time with card games?

Merida and her brothers
Captain Jack Sparrow and the Dread Pirate Roberts
Spider-Man as a Power Ranger? Considering the Tokusatsu Spider-Man lead to the existence of Super Sentai, it's not as far-fetched as one might think.

Finally, we reach Sunday, the last day of the con. There were two people I needed to meet that day: Crispin Freeman and Olivia Olson. To meet Crispin, I lined up at 8:30 for his 11:00 session, and I wasn’t even close to the first in line. Crispin was offering two free autographs plus a photo with him, which was more affordable than the other guests, who only offered one free autograph. I also took the time to meet Charles Martinet, and Adrienne Wilkinson, whose lines were of varying lengths.

Olivia’s session was a bit later on, so I took a little time to wander around and make some last minute purchases in the dealer’s hall. Then it was back in line, where I met Marceline’s voice actress while cosplaying as Marceline’s father (although why they didn’t also invite Olivia’s father, Martin Olson, who voices Marceline’s dad, I can’t say). After getting her autograph, a friend and I hopped back in line for a photo with her, although that one also cost a little. The con was, overall, proving a lot more expensive than anticipated.

You might have noticed that most of my report is covering the autograph lines and the guests I met. Honestly, there’s not much more to report than that; most of the con was spent waiting in the autograph lines. With lots of guests and long lines for them, my time between was only spent wandering the dealer’s hall and checking the time to see when I should line up for the next. Sac Anime has always been a con for two things - the friends I hang out with there and the guests I meet. And since I was denied my usual press credentials, I don’t have any more interviews to provide, nor are the details of my time hanging out with friends important.

However, my issues with the badge was the main stumbling block for this con; that and the cost of doing most things were my only major issues. There were clear efforts made to improve after the last time around, although there’s still some issues in need of fixing, particularly regarding communication. The con has grown significantly, and it’s trying to keep up with that growth. How well that goes over for the attendees will vary, of course, but I hope they can sort out the few remaining issues by next Summer’s convention.
Peridot from Steven Universe

Genos and Saitama from One Punch Man

Old Man McGucket from Gravity Falls

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