Despite a formidable roster of guests and the levelled-up venue, it was far from a perfect convention; it was haphazardly organized, some may say. Many of the things that weren’t up to par lay in the execution and some of the changes seemed to be too ambitious for the organizers to handle which led to a number of issues that are hard to ignore.
- Transparency and Proper Expectation Management.
One of the biggest contentions this year was the ticket price. When the ticket price was announced less than a month before the convention, there were only five guests announced: Kristian, Frankie J, Bronson and Kiowa, and Mario Maurer. For many potential attendees, the 500-peso price tag was not worth it at this point. People started singing a different tune once Dean Cain was announced, though a lot of people expressed disappointment because there was not enough time to save up for a ticket.
The ticket price was not the only gripe people had regarding the event. Despite promises that Day One would already be “on full blast,” expectations were not met. The Exhibitor’s Area seemed to be completely set up, but the attractions were far from complete. The Voltes V was only half-built with only the legs set up on Day One and some of the larger booths were only half-decorated and/or not set up at all, as evidenced by the improvements on Day Two.
The schedule of activities was another area that was not properly addressed. In response to an attendee’s complaint about Toycon not posting a schedule, their reply was that it was up to SLCC/Pop Life. It’s not quite throwing SLCC under the bus, but it certainly showed a lack of coordination between the two organizing bodies.
The way they handled Stan Lee’s appearance in the days leading to the convention sounded very ambiguous. In response to queries about whether Stan Lee himself was making an appearance, they were all met with “wait and see” and “who says he isn’t making an appearance?” replies. This was still not very reassuring as it gave off a will-they-or-won’t-they vibe. It was eventually revealed on Day One during the open press con that Stan Lee was going to have a Skype session on Day Two.
Moreover, Parokya ni Edgar’s cancellation was announced only on the performance day itself. Though a last-minute replacement was found in Stereodeal, it still messed up people’s expectations since there was no warning regarding Parokya ni Edgar’s cancellation.
- Floor Planning.
The floor distribution was not even at all. The Exhibitor’s Area occupied Halls One and Two. The main stage, Pop Life, some of the main sponsors and the small stage were at Halls Three and Four, which sounded fine in theory. However, the exhibitor’s area was rather cramped compared to Halls Three and Four where there was a lot of floor space – even dead space.
To add to that, the layout lacked cohesion. In some ways, it seemed like two different events were being hosted in the same space. Hall Four and a part of Hall Three had huge displays with lots of floor space and bright lighting. The rest of Hall Three was rather dark, despite the huge pastel-colored Pop displays, likely to highlight the Voltes V a few meters away. It looked very odd since the light (or lack of it) on the giant figures did not complement its bright colors. The artists were also all over the place, with comic artists like Pat Lee in the Exhibitor’s Area instead of the Artist’s Alley in Halls Three to Four.
- Adherence to the Schedule
There were a lot of delays and mix-ups regarding the schedule, though I gave some leeway since Toycon stated that the schedule was subject to change without prior notice. Day One had the advantage of having a vague schedule, with an open press con at 1PM, FanXperience from 2PM to 7PM and Itchyworms from 7PM onwards. This was mostly followed despite the press con’s delay by over an hour. Day Two had a more detailed schedule and much like Day One, was mostly followed with a few delays.
Day Three, however, was in a league of its own.
As there was no schedule posted on-site, many attendees relied on the schedule posted on Facebook and the Toycon website to plan their day. Unfortunately, 90% of the schedule was not followed. It’s one thing to put a disclaimer regarding the schedule changing without prior notice; It’s another to almost completely disregard the posted schedule. Cutting Kristian Nairn’s Rave of Thrones down to 15 minutes was understandable as he was not feeling well that day, but the delays, shuffling and shortening of everything else was very unexpected and unacceptable, especially considering there were stretches of time when nothing was going on onstage.
Aside from that, it seemed as if even Hilary was not informed of the schedule changes. There were times when she announced the wrong guest or set a wrong time. Most notable on Day Three was when she announced Dean Cain, yet he did not appear onstage for the whole day since he was signing autographs. I also doubt the cosplayers expected neither the cancellation of the morning contest nor a 2-hour delay on the Cosplay FanX competition.
- Proper Attention to VIPs and Legendary Pass Holders.
Toby* bought a VIP pass to get Mario Maurer’s autograph but getting to that point was not easy. None of the marshals they asked knew where to get the freebies for VIP holders and he felt as if he was being passed around the different areas not unlike our local government offices. It was much the same for Mario Maurer’s autograph session; the only reason he was able to find it was because of the throngs of fans who lined up at his booth right after his appearance on the main stage. One bright spot, however, was that Toycon and Pop Life allowed for some leeway regarding autographs. Instead of autographs from two different celebrities, Toby was able to get an autograph and photo from Mario Maurer.
Kay* purchased a Legendary pass to get an official photo with Kristian Nairn. Like Toby, she had no idea when the photo-op session would be held. When she got to the venue, there was no schedule posted. Instead, She was advised that the schedule was entirely up to the celebrity guests themselves. She waited for two hours before learning that Kristian Nairn already left and she missed her opportunity despite having paid 10k for it.
Moreover, one of the perks for Legendary pass holders was VIP seating in the stage area as stated on one of Toycon’s posts. According to various comments on Toycon’s page, this was not followed. Instead, anyone was allowed in the seated area as long as they arrived early enough. No one seemed to be aware of this policy – not the VIP/Legendary/ordinary ticket holders, nor the marshals standing by the barricades in the stage area.
It’s a good thing that the organizers were more flexible and accommodated the request of the VIP holders regarding the autographs and photo op (though not everyone was able to receive that perk, as evidenced by the exchange below). However, there were also perks that were advertised – such as the seats on the main stage and exact schedule for photo ops and autographs – that Toycon and Pop Life failed to deliver, which leaves a bad impression considering that these are the attendees who paid the most to get the fullest experience possible.
- Technical Difficulties
Philippine internet is not the best and this was unfortunately highlighted during Stan Lee’s Skype session. Both the audio and video were not clear and communication was a bit muddled. It would have been nice if Toycon had arranged something with PLDT Home Fibr (one of their sponsors) instead of using the internet provided by SMX.
During Yanakiku and Electric Ribbon’s set, the wrong audio was played at least once and Yanakiku’s visuals on some of their songs were not projected onscreen. Stereodeal experienced something similar because the screens conked out during their set. On a more amusing note: One of the finalists for the Cosplay FanX competition was a Kenshin cosplayer. Instead of having a Rurouni Kenshin op/ed song, it ended up as Lucky Star’s opening song. The proper song played only after the skit was done and the cosplayer made their way down the stage.
All these may not have been the main highlights of the event but anything happening on the main stage is visible to attendees, and a series of visible hitches during the program are not very encouraging signs.