Home Conventions FanExpo Canada draws huge crowd

FanExpo Canada draws huge crowd


Sounds like CCI: San Diego isn’t the only comics show having some growing pains: There were HUGE lines and crowds at this weekend’s FanExpo in Toronto, according to the CBC:

Even though they had already purchased tickets for FanExpo, many people were told they would have to wait outside because the crowd was at full capacity inside the north building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“I think they dropped the ball on how much size the convention centre uses this year,” Scott Campbell told CBC News.

Campbell, who was dressed as Cobra Commander, had suggestions for expansion and better utilization of the facility. Commenters on the story were harsh in their criticism, but it’s an internet message board, so use your own judgment:

I had no problem getting into the convention with my deluxe pass on all 3 days. The key is 1) get there early and line up before the advertised opening time and 2) once you are in, do not leave until you are done for the day. As for going out to get lunch, pack a lunch instead. Either make sandwiches or pick up some subway before you leave. A good cooler bag helps keep them fresh all day. And bring plenty of bottled water. That way you avoid having to pay $$ for con food. And you save a lot of $$$ that can be used at the vendors.

That said, the line to get in on all 3 days was ridiculous, and went around the corner as far as Lake ontario. All 3 days I got there early, and the line was at the Go Train overpass by then. But I was still able to get in. Also, the main problem I saw Saturday was them scheduling too many big panels in the same area near the same time, so there was a crush of people who were in 2 different lines and one mob coming out of Stan Lee that caused gridlock in that area, it took a good 30 minutes to get out of there. They need to space these things out over the 3 days better and avoid putting these big guests all in one place.

Also, they should have the concept of “Sold out” like San Diego does. They should not be allowed to get away with selling way more tickets than the venue can hold. Once it sells out, do what San Diego does and stop selling tickets!

Sounds like pop culture is just TOO popular in Toronto.

Artist Jill Thompson twittered some photos photos of the crowd on Saturday and it looks pretty huge.

So who else went? Was it a good time?


  1. While they may be having growing pains – I think we should look at this as a very positive thing. It means that people are still willing to spend money on comics.

  2. From a creator’s standpoint, it was one of the best FanExpos yet. I had a great seat next to pals J. Torres, J. Bone, Darwyn Cooke, Ross Campbell and Eric Kim. And, of course, big crowds make for busy tables and lots of sales, which is of course what we all hope for.

    Can’t imagine what it was like for the people stuck in line, though. It was an exceptionally hot and humid weekend in Toronto, and some of the people in costume must have been ridiculously uncomfortable. And getting around the hall was difficult to say the least (it really did feel like SDCC, at times).

    Still, thanks to Kevin Boyd and the crew for a good show. Hopefully they can iron out some of the problems for next year, because it’s definitely a show that’s growing like crazy.

  3. Another example of the craziness:

    On Sunday I brought my wife to the show, and went into the show office at the Intercontinental Hotel to get her a pass while she parked the car (finding parking anywhere near the con on Sunday when there was also a baseball game happening next door at the Roger Centre was also a real challenge).

    I probably only stood there waiting for her for five minutes, but two different people saw her All-Access pass in my hand and offered to buy it, like I was a scalper or something.

    Problems aside, people were dying to get into that show.

  4. I was a guest artist and yeah, heard a lot of stories about 2+ hours of waiting in line. Felt sorry for the kids.
    Other than that it was AMAZING! Great costumes from the fans, celebrities, not too crowded on the floor. The fire marshall wasn’t allowing the room to exceed capacity so it wasn’t that hard to walk around. But if you left the building good luck getting back in was what I heard.
    Thank god(!) for my guest artist pass – I just walked right in all three days.

  5. Sounds like an opportunity.

    Although there was already a con war in Toronto…

    (And’s what’s with all the exhibition space in Toronto? International Centre, Direct Energy Centre, Metro Toronto… It’s like Vegas, without the glitz!)

  6. I was there with my co-hosts of the Comic Geek Speak podcast and we were set up right near the windows (sunlight!) and near the escalators where the crowd comes up from the street. We saw the crowds down below on the street, saw the crowds moving up and down to the different floors, etc. We heard from our listeners that were stuck outside that it was definitely crazy but even they managed to eventually find ways to enjoy the show.

    It was an exciting show for us (attending cons is low pressure for us since we’re there to do interviews and such) and felt like other major cons such as San Diego, NY, C2E2, etc. with lots to offer: comics, video games, anime, horror, shopping, etc. Unlike San Diego though, it didn’t feel like one genre overwhelmed the other. We’re a comic book podcast but we had all kinds of fans looking and learning about our booth.

    Tons of costumes, families as well as well as older and younger attendees, a huge artist alley, tons of panels, etc. I moderated all but one of the sketch duels and at the top of each, I asked if there were first timers to Fan Expo. Everytime I asked a really good portion of the audience raised their hands. And I was also surprised at how many younger people were there to see the artists draw.

    We’re definitely going back next year.

  7. It is “positive” to a point. How can anyone think a father of two, both under 10, will want to attend this? Sorry, but you can only pack so much to keep the kids entertained in a line for 2 hours.
    Maybe a family access line? I’d really love to take my kids, but this really isn’t worth the trouble/wait.

  8. I blogged about my experiences on both http://www.therantguy.com … in short, they sold twice the tickets they should have, they let new day pass buyers in before people who already had passes, they went into lock down and refused entry on both Sat and Sun at various points.

    Volunteers, staff and security were dreadfully trained (it felt like G20 level of antagonism)

    But if you managed to get in early (like I did) and plan ahead, I managed to get what I wanted out of it.

    They really need to adopt SDCC sold out policy for everyone’s sanity.

  9. Yeah, it was one of the more hotter weekends in Toronto, with the city under a “Extreme Heat Alert”. When they simply shut the doors for a full 90 minutes with the line not moving at all, then there’s problems. I wonder if the convention organizers will try to take advantage of some of the other convention halls in Toronto and break up the con into multiple buildings?

  10. This was my fourth year going to Fan Expo, and this was definitely the busiest it’s ever been.

    But it wasn’t just greater numbers lining up, it’s the fact that they hosted the convention in the north building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre instead of the south building, like they usually do.

    The south building allows for more space for registration and its line-ups, room people to hang out, pose for photos, line up for panels and to get into main convention floor area. Whereas the north building’s layout is a bit more squished together, with less space outside of the main hall and the programming rooms. Despite the natural light in the north building, it had far more claustrophobic feel to it.

    Another advantage of hosting it in the south building is that there’s more space indoors for people to line up to get in, so you have fewer people waiting outside in the heat.

    (Also, according to the MTCC website, there was a urology convention in the south building that overlapped with Fan Expo. Hopefully that won’t be a problem next year.)

  11. In short, great for dealers, but some fans were complaining. One guy said his wife went out for a smoke and was trapped out there for an hour and a half (and counting). And even if they did let her back into the lobby, they still weren’t letting people onto the dealers floor until other people left. Some people, especially those that traveled from out of town and got locked out because they didn’t know they had to be familiar with the con, die hard, line up savvy fans said they won’t be coming back.

    Other people complained of mis or non-communication between volunteers and convention centre staff/security.

    I was also at the Stan Lee panel, when I came out there was a human traffic jam like I had never seen before with the people waiting for the upcoming Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar panel line ups. I ended up missing the Stan Lee photo op after and was late for the next panel I wanted to attend.

    Line ups were an issue as well. There were multiple line ups for different types of tickets and they weren’t that well communicated, people ended getting into wrong line ups. Friends of mine who got deluxe 2pm opening tickets didn’t get in until 4pm (when the non-deluxe ticket holders are supposed to get in).

    They really needed a return of “I’m the Last Person in Line” volunteer that they used to have, along with what type of ticket the line is for (and make sure they know the volunteer knows where the other lines are located).

    Thankfully this year they didn’t have the Rock Band contest set up there, the gaming part was on the bottom floor in some side rooms.

    They may want to consider doing the same for certain celebrities who are signing at specific times. Book them a large room off the dealers floor, put up ribbon-isles to make the best use of space. The William Shatner line stretched out onto one of the main isle-way cramming up traffic.

    While I would like to just chalk this up to growing pains, the con has been growing pretty consistently according to their own numbers for many years now. They also know the convention centre well and what it can hold.

  12. They really didn’t plan well for the convention crowds. Hopefully, they will either get more space next year or have a cap that is known ahead of time. I have been to the capped years of Otakon (largest anime convention on the East coast). People had to be turned away at least one of those years. Otakon never had to make people who pre-bought tickets and had their memberships to wait hours to get in.

  13. It was an awesome 3 days, but wow, was it busy! I felt so bad for the people outside – my cousin, with his prepaid ticket, waited outside for 4 hours on the Friday. I heard many rumors about people having trouble getting back into the con, thought I heard at one point that exhibitors had trouble coming back in also?….

  14. Yes it oversold and yes there were long line ups and yes it is one of the hottest Summers on record in Toronto! It was also the biggest FanExpo ever and amazingly enough actually organized to the point people don’t believe it.
    The thing is there is always too much to do.
    It’s five mini-conventions in one that allows for crossover for each genre. Outside of the fire marshal’s stopping people getting in on Saturday and Sunday (it’s for everyone’s safety) the alternative is to come in via the South or to come in via the loading docks if you already have your wristband. The five big complaints were
    a) How much are they charging for an autograph? shatner’s price of $80 or $150 on Sunday seemed to surprise people as was $40 for David Cronenberg or Felicia Day charging $25 to sign a comicbook or Adam West having security grab cameras if you tried to take his picture.
    b) Where is that and how do I get there? Friday’s James Marster’s concert was to die for! Too bad no one was seated after it started and the back rows went unfilled instead of putting a sing in the hallways saying “See this.” Ditto for screenings of “Lost Girl”, “Todd & The Book Of Evil”, “Star Wars The Clone Wars”, various sketch-off’s and Q & A’s, because the main floor is the third level, the Front Street level is the 200 series of rooms, and the basement is the level 100 which all snaked around each other.
    c) Where are/were the goodies? In past years the amount of freebies increased each year and I do believe this is the first year I saw with shrinkage. Maple and Alliance and DC Nation gave out the most but only Space the Imagination Station seemed to be giving out T-Shirts this year and Marvel seemed to be giving a sampler that some said they had seen before. Avatar, Aspen, ZenoScope, Archie, Boom, had no freebies for the fans even a limited one. No big World Cyber Video games tournament this year with free shirts for participants and no samples of Amp or Chaotic colas (or bottles of water brought to the guests during the last couple of hours of the show). Where were the free intro packs to the new Yu-Gi-Oh or Bakugn or Magic gone to? none this year. Also All for Red posters were in a now you see it now you don’t like it’s special enough that the real fans never saw them. I know I never got any Red posters.
    d) this is supposed to be bigger? Yes it was a largest show ever but the X-Box 360 Kinect, Nintendo DS 3D, and PlayStation Move booths were visibly smaller than other years. Only G4 Tech TV and Rogers felt like a larger booth that before. Really the number of times someone bounced off the back wall of the X-Box 360 Kinect booth will underscore just how useless a gimmick that will be in half the house holds in Canada. The Halo Reach was a nice themed snaek peak but people were coming off one lineup and entering into another half hour wait for a 15 minute chance at a game that is out in less than a month. The number of comicbooks booths was down and no one had Gorilla Man #1 or the latest Flash or Red Robin issues or other recent books (or it might be back at the store). The real problem is anywhere a crowd could form you had a bottleneck that seemed to frustrate people. Look there’s a costume of a skanky X-23 let’s get a picture. They walk five feet and are stopped by the crow in the next aisle for another photo and another bottleneck would occur. The travel path carpet was 8 feet across but the tables went right up to that carpet as opposed to a foot or two from the carpet meaning you stop at a table and everyone stops before they can go around you. It might be bigger but more stuff was jammed in.
    e) when did he she say that? So many people would repeat what someone else heard at a table or a Q&A that people were having a hard time understanding what was going on like Jeff Lemire saying he has a definite end to Sweet Tooth in mind or people noticing that Ernest Borgnine in a wheel chair, or Felecia Day leaving early to do an episode of Eureka or Adam Kubert leaving Saturday after doing autographs and sketches all day saying he is redesigning some famous characters for the “Future”, or Leslie Nielsen canceling because he had fallen and couldn’t get up, or Dean Stockwell saying there will be no Quantum Leap reunion ever, or Alex Maleev mentioning we will be “seeing a lot more of Spider Woman” than ever before, or Dan Didio freaked by Late Night Cheeseburger Doritos and Piri Piri chips and still not getting a Tron disc. There was no conglomeration of the rumours into fact this year like we would have in other years because by the time the fans could say “Wow” they had to move onto some other venue and you were not always in the same company that would appreciate it.
    Now all this set aside, I have not come across a person who didn’t come out of the show feeling they did get something for all their effort. Now if I could just find the black and white autographed picture of Ernest Borgnine the that says “To David, Ships Ahoy! Ernest Borgnine” I wouldn’t feel like someone picked up a souvenir when i wasn’t looking.

  15. BTW they extended the show to 8pm on Saturday from the original 6pm close to make up for all the waiting in lines. Too bad parking lots change shifts at 7pm so you had to leave by then to move your car or be blocked in for the night. On all three days the Toronto Blue Jays played the Detroit Tigers jacking event parking to $30 and one nearby lot is now a construction site for a condo complex so parking was at a premium. They just didn’t extend the parking hours. Or the after party events like the masquerade.

  16. “I heard many rumors about people having trouble getting back into the con, thought I heard at one point that exhibitors had trouble coming back in also?….”

    When the firemarshall took over on Saturday it was out of Fan Expo/the convention center’s hands. They weren’t letting anyone in and had to follow their rules for a few hours.

  17. Being a native of Toronto, and having a table and all access badge, meant that I did not have much difficulty. I knew where to park just a block away, with easy access and escape route. The problems this year can be traced to the Urology group having booked the South Building of the convention centre more than six years ago. The FanExpo will return to the south building next year, which will provide larger space. The South Building has actually posed more parking problems in the past, but there has been a lot of new condo buildings bulit near there, and construction continues, so more parking might be available. This year was the first year in four that the con increased their at the door rates, and it did not keep the crowds away. I would say look for future increases as a way that might be considered to reduce the demand.

  18. When I was stuck in the line up for over two hours with my VIP tickets which had promised me (separate entrance) to avoid line up. There was a distinct anger in the pre-purchased online tickets line that they placed me in. We clearly noticed the line up for patrons who were buying their tickets the day of was moving much faster than ours. Alot of people joked it was because they already had our money that they could treat us anyway they pleased. And greed was a factor, despite them knowing that they couldn’t fit anymore people inside.

    The volunteer staff was badly misinformed of what was going on, and security guards were equally useless in regards to answering my questions, I had to run all over outside of the building to find out what entrance I had to go in. For my first convention experience, it probably will be my last unless the venue changes.

  19. There has already been so much said that is absolutely true so I won’t reiterate it all. I will add to the ridiculous line up situation that there was even a possibility of it becoming dangerous for the deluxe pass holders. Not only was it so massive that cops had to put up the barricades for people to get through the tunnel on Lower Simcoe, but on Sunday they decided to change the direction of the line-up and throw it into the entrance and exits or parking lots. Trying to get thousands of people to shimmy so a car can get through and hoping that nobody suddenly appears and gets hit by a car was too risky. It definitely needs to improve because all of us fans want to keep going and don’t want to see this lack of organization ruin something so fun.

  20. “When the firemarshall took over on Saturday it was out of Fan Expo/the convention center’s hands. They weren’t letting anyone in and had to follow their rules for a few hours.”

    Yes, but it would never have gotten to that point if Hobbystar hadn’t oversold the event. AGAIN.

    The fact that they knew the capacity of the building yet kept selling tickets even when people were locked out due to overcrowding is just pure greed and negligence. The indifference and disrespect to fans is staggering.

    Plus it was DANGEROUS – anybody who was on the second floor on Saturday can attest to how easily people could have been trampled if fire had broken out. There was literally no way to move anywhere.

    The only way Hobbystar will get a clue is if we vote with our wallets. Even if they have more space next year, their attitude and clear lack of respect for anything other than money will not change. I prefer to support conventions that treat me like a human being, not a cash cow.

  21. This year Fan Expo seemed extremely disorganized. I had a table in Artist Alley, and was locked out of the show when I arrived on Friday for an hour because in order to pick up my badge, I had to enter the convention area – yet to enter this area you needed a badge! What a mess.

    There were a lot of horror stories like this with nearly everyone I talked to.

    Hope Fan Expo cleans up their act for next year, because it really is a GREAT comic con.

  22. FanExpo has posted an apology on the front page of their website, with promises of it being better next year with more room in booking all of the South Building of the Metro Toronto Centre. However, I wonder with the increases in crowd this year and any possible increases next year if that will still be enough room or if they should be thinking of booking beyond that.

  23. A rising Nerd tide lifting all Comic Con boats?

    Heartening to see that the “Fantasy Economy”
    is as strong in Canada as it has been here in the U.S. during Convention season…

    WONDERCON drawing 34K. C2E2/WWC drawing similar figures for their events. SDCC again Sold Out for the 3rd year running with its 125K+ attendees. And now FAN EXPO [over?] selling out its passes— due to the warm summer weather encouraging the ‘walk-in’ newbie crowd?

    Bodes well for a record-setting NYCC this Oct. (And just what is the Maximum Capacity for Javits Center anyway?)

  24. According to the Javits website,
    the Third Floor exhibition space has a capacity for 14,702 people. Given the fire marshal situation at the first NYCC which caused a bottleneck at the “dealers room”, this is the most critical concern.

    If 1A and 1E are used for programming, their capacity is 3815 and 3090. 1B and 1C hold 2670 people each. The Special Events Hall (1D) seats 3200.

    The brand-spanking-new North Pavilion (think Hall H) can seat 5200.

    So a ballpark figure? 35-40,000. There are the various meeting rooms on the first and second floors, the Galleria, and the public spaces as well.

    I have seen Javits staff barcode attendee badges upon entry to the third floor exhibit space. Once the limit is reached, it’s mostly a matter of watching people leave the room, and then letting in people waiting in line.

    While the first NYCC was a victim of its own success, Reed has enough experience to deal with any crowd control problems. (They stopped selling tickets once the fire marshal arrived, and made amends afterwards.)

  25. What a total ripoff. Waited in line for hours. 29 bucks just to get in. Ridiculously and dangerously overcrowded. How the fire marshall let them get away with this I will never know. I will never go back or attend anything run by hobbystar.

  26. I hear you Andy. No way will I do another Hobbystar show. $35 for the Saturday show and with all the huge line-ups was only able to meet one of the artists on my list. The food court was a joke but you don’t leave ’cause you’ll never get back in. Crowded, uncomfortable, and not a lot of great deals to be found. I’m sticking to the smaller shows.

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