Convention season kicked into high gear last weekend with WonderCon, Anime Boston, Fan Expo Dallas and MoCCA all taking place, and the schedule just gets busier from here.
Of all of them Fan Expo Dallas had the most crowd problems. The event, which is part of the Informa family of shows (which includes Fan Expo in Toronto, MegaCon, Boston Comic Con and many other shows), is a major show, in a major territory, with huge media guests, and as a sign of its prominence, DC used it as the setting for some big announcements.
But it was not without hitches. Reports on social media and vendor message boards indicate that there were huge crowds in the autograph area, and the crowds weren’t always well managed. Lines were as long as 8 hours to get an autograph. Sales for many vendors and artists were also middling.
Even worse, a combination of bad weather and scheduling led to marquee guests Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan having to leave early on Saturday to get back to LA in time for the Talking Dead program following the season wrap-up for Walking Dead on Sunday.
It seems that a tornado watch was in effect on Saturday, and the duo had to leave early to avoid delays. However as many fans had already paid their money and been standing in line for hours, the scene late Saturday was something of a disaster with thousands of disappointed fans standing in the exhibition hall long after the doors were to have closed, leading to security concerns. One person who was on the scene described it as a “near riot.”
The show did apologize and offered refunds:
There are more than 500 comments on this announcement, and if you guessed that most are VERY unhappy, you’re on the money! Surprise! Many describe chaotic lines and crying children.
Sandy Hines Broke the hearts of my two daughters after flying from Colorado. Waited hours for Norman Reedus autographs then turned away 11 numbers away. Waited more hours then turned away from paid photo ops. Ridiculous!!!!
I’m not going to subject Beat readers to all 500 complaints, but here’s a long and representative one:
This was the WORST, most disorganized, disaster of a Comic Con we have ever experienced. We will never go back to the Dallas Con. The crowds were irresponsible, dangerous, and frightening- not to mention straining and HOT. The entire Mark Hamill experience of being in line for the ticket and then trying to FIND the line at 12:30, only to be told that we had to disperse or the fire Marshall would shut us down… threatening the fans who’ve done nothing but pay and pay and pay to be there…
Who was responsible for the crowds and the terrible organization of staff? We had to listen to the staff try and figure out their game plan for an hour while we waited for instructions. Nothing was mentioned about this ticket system prior to 10 a.m. Why on earth would you schedule him to start signing “around 2” instead of first thing in the morning? We arrived at 8 to get in the front of the line in order to get his autograph and then enjoy our day. Instead, Our ENTIRE day was spent trying to figure out getting his autograph and dealing with rude, bossy, and obnoxious staff who kept yelling at us. We paid good money to come today and were mostly treated like criminals who were a bother and in the way.
Even the staff at Mark’s autograph line were so busy shoving the next item at him to sign, after 4-6 hours of waiting and dealing with his line and complications, stress, heat, and exhaustion, we were basically signed and shoved out of the way. No communication, no time of day. Very unimpressed. And that was after the camera security guy kept asking to check phones and forcing people to delete photos (let’s make sure to take ALL of the fun out of the excitement of meeting a childhood hero) and the guy we met first to show what we were to have signed, who commented on the fact that we were having “only just one” item signed for $195. I’m sorry we didn’t bring multiples for him to sign to be shoved over followed by security and volunteers telling us to quickly leave immediately.
Blaming the fans for the crowds was unfair and insulting. Having actors not allow any photos takes away the enjoyment of sharing their love of actors. This con has become solely about making money, and nothing else. Fans are not allowed to have fun, enjoy themselves, go up and simply MEET someone they admire, if they don’t have buckets of money to shove at the con.
There was not enough food options. Where were the food trucks like at the Irving Con?
Bathrooms near Hamill were SHUT DOWN in SPITE of crowds in that area – insulting. Rude. Hateful.
Having all actors on one floor was irresponsible. I will be writing and sending photos I took of crowds to the Fire Marshall and the Mayor of Dallas. I find it criminal how fans were treated. I find it stealing the way no refunds are given even with several last minute cancellations. The photo-ops are a joke and an insulting way to manipulate more money from fans who want a photo with someone they admire. Quit saying the no cell phone rule.
We are the fans and WE make these people worth their celebrity. If it weren’t for the FAN base, these conventions wouldn’t even take place. Stop treating us like we are beneath unless we pay top dollar for breathing within the vicinity if celebrities. Again, it’s insulting.
My back hurts from standing in long, hot, CRAMPED lines all day. I felt angry for much of the day and regretted coming. I hate that the way this Con was put on is the sole reason for how terribly the day turned out. This was the worst Con I’ve ever seen and will never go back.
A site called Nerd’s World has more on the troubles. It seems that someone started posting photos of Reeedus and Morgan in the green room signing autographs, adding more fuel to the fire, although a staffer stated that this was only a five minute thing and not something that took time away from the fan signings. Nerd’s World also has numerous photos of the immense crowds.
The crying children seems to have been the worst part of this, although why little kids are watching Walking Dead is a good question. Maybe they like JDM from P.S. I Love You?
One convention planner stepped into the breach a bit, offering a free ticket to Walker Stalker Tulsa for those who were denied.
— James Frazier (@JamesAFrazier) April 2, 2017
Perhaps most alarmingly about the whole thing, cuddly Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the villanous Negan on The Walking Dead, has turned into a shaggy old grandpappy.
I’ve always been told Informa shows were well run, but there have been crowding issues in the past and this seems to have suffered from overall poor planning. Based on what I know, the weather issues seemed legit, but the long lines and waits prior to that are the kind of things that fans won’t stand for when there are so many options out there.
Some people did have a good time though:
— Rebel Saga (@RebelSaga) April 1, 2017
Thank you Dallas for a fun day! We stayed as long as possible I promise. Sorry we didn't meet everyone we tried ❤️ to all of you. love tx!! pic.twitter.com/2uTDm2A9Nu
— norman reedus (@wwwbigbaldhead) April 2, 2017
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.