Toycon has been a pop culture convention staple for the past decade or so. On their 15th year, they raised the stakes and teamed up with Pop Life Entertainment to bring us Toycon x Pop Life FanXperience.
The road leading to the convention didn’t seem to be easy. Despite the huge roster of guests and the new market they tapped into, many long-time attendees chose to boycott the event for various reasons. One of them was the 233% markup from 2015’s admission price (or a 166% and 122% markup for a two or three-day pass, respectively). Many others were more frustrated at the short notice than the actual price of admission since Toycon announced prices less than a month before the convention. Despite my own misgivings, I decided to bite the bullet and attend the event. Since having a media pass entailed free entrance, I instead paid for a friend’s ticket as a show of support for the local exhibitors (and Dean Cain). I also went on all three days to get the full experience.
Was the gamble worth it?
Toycon teaming up with Pop Life introduced many changes, and some of those changes paid off.
- Venue and Facilities
Migrating from the SM Megatrade Halls to SMX Manila was a huge leap and a very good move on the organizers’ part. From under 4000 square meters to a shade above 9000 square meters plus a higher ceiling and better lighting, the venue felt less cramped than its predecessor. This was especially evident during Day 3 when attendance seemed to be at its highest.
The toy displays were also given a larger venue, occupying a decent amount of floor space to give photographers and figure enthusiasts enough room to take photos or simply admire the displays fellow toy collectors painstakingly set up.
In addition to the excellent venue, the locker rental right outside the halls was a nice surprise. If memory serves, Toycon was only the second convention (after NexCon) that provided lockers for attendees.* Crossing my fingers that this will be the new norm in conventions.
- Celebrity Guests and Musical Acts
Toycon diversified their roster by inviting international guests and celebrities. Pop Life helped bring in Kristian Nairn (very timely, given recent developments in Game of Thrones) and also amped up the nostalgia factor by inviting Dean Cain (arguably the most iconic Superman on TV, who also plays Fred Danvers on CW’s Supergirl). Also, despite some attendees complaining about the appearance of Mario Maurer as a guest, he was relevant as he had his own Funko Pop figure. Additionally, he had a huge following of his own as evidenced by the droves of fans on Day Two. He cleanly ticked off FanX’s requirements for a celebrity guest.
The music acts were a welcome addition as well. Heffron Drive drew large crowds and the main stage was filled with screaming fangirls, in the best way possible. Kristian Nairn also performed a 15-minute Rave of Thrones set. The Tokyo Underground Experience was a bit of a wild card, considering DJ Kazu was the only one who’s relatively known. However, Yanakiku and Electric Ribbon held their own and delivered high-energy performances.
Pushing out local talent and introducing them to the international arena was one of Toycon’s aims and they did not disappoint. The cast of Encantadia graced Day Two with half of them dressed up as their characters. On Day Three, Director Mark Reyes and Head Designer Noel Flores had a short segment to address fans’ questions regarding the upcoming “re-quel.” Later that afternoon, Artikulo Uno went out to promote the nationwide release of Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo, as well as the deluxe edition DVD of Heneral Luna.
A special mention goes out to the host, Hilary Isaac. She did a stellar job on all three days and was very engaging; there was never a dull moment with her and the guests. It also helped that she clearly knew her stuff.
- Legitimate Merchandise
Aside from the larger space in between booths to accommodate more foot traffic, there was something that was blissfully absent: bootleg figures. It’s refreshing to see mostly licensed items or original works up for sale, and grey imports also seemed to be absent. It’s a good move for Toycon to push consumers to support local endeavours to bring legitimate and legal merchandise on Philippine soil.
*This is the third convention with Cosplay Carnival being the first, followed by NexCon and Toycon. Thank you to Jewel for clearing that up.