It’s taken some time and a few turns in the road, but WonderCon 2012 is set to open its doors this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Of course, the annual comic and pop culture convention run by the non-profit Comic-Con International is usually a San Francisco affair, but the change in venue is only one difference for this years show. After having to move cities temporarily due to scheduling and renovation conflicts with its normal home at the Moscone Center in the Bay Area, WonderCon also had to find an amiable solution to its timing to avoid conflicts with the incoming C2E2 con in Chicago. The result is a Saint Patrick’s Day event situated around the corner from Disneyland.
While WonderCon has spent the past several years growing steadily as its sister show in San Diego, the changes to this year’s program have caused a lot of work and a lot of questions for the CCI staff. To get a picture inside the shape of this year’s show, CBR News spoke with Comic-Con’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer to discuss the challenges of making the show all-new yet keeping it the same, the size and scope of WonderCon 2012 and the impact an adjacency to Los Angeles may have on programming.
David, with a new venue for the show this year, I’m sure there’s a lot of changes for Comic-Con staff in putting on WonderCon this year. But in what ways have you guys tried to make continuity for the show for attendees? In other words, what to you is the core of WonderCon as a show, and how have you worked to keep that core in place?
David Glanzer: It really has been a challenging year.
Perhaps the biggest thing we’ve done is what we always do; try to put on the best show we possibly can. To produce the type of show we would like to attend ourselves. While the show is in a new venue and new city, it will be very much WonderCon. Big exhibit floor, stellar guests and programming and we hope that friendly atmosphere that WonderCon is known for.
The truth is, for each of our shows, programming really is a major factor. I mean, it’s obvious that an active and vibrant exhibit floor is also very important. But having great programming is a way to allow attendees to visit the floor, take in a panel or a few, revisit the floor, etc. I think the diversity of the floor and programming will result in WonderCon 2012 having much of the fun that previous WonderCon’s have had.
We’ve spoken in the past how the show sort of found two audiences between Bay Area fans who liked having a big local con and a second segment of folks for whom the show had become a destination spot. With the move to Anaheim, have you seen any evidence of a shift in the makeup of the normal audience?
We really haven’t had much chance to analyze data yet, but we were surprised to see our exhibit floor sell out pretty quickly. Luckily Anaheim Convention Center was able to set us up in an even larger hall. Also, our guest list is pretty impressive once again as is our programming line-up. So in that sense things appear to be the same or better. I will say that I was surprised when we held a volunteer gathering in Anaheim a few weeks ago that some of those who were interested in helping out had never been to Comic-Con in San Diego, WonderCon or any convention.
In terms of people, has the change in venue impacted the show’s growth at all? How have early ticket sales been, and what are expectations for attendance?
I’m not sure if the change in venue was the catalyst in having more exhibitors or if the momentum of WonderCon was simply not affected by the move. That is something we may know more about after the show. I will say we are all guardedly optimistic for a good turnout. As you know, we never forecast attendance so I really can’t speak to that, but I hope we have fair weather and a great turnout.
For a while, people were wondering whether Anaheim and its adjacency to the movie biz would mean it would become the home of Comic-Con. Thank goodness we’re past those interviews! But seeing as movie stuff has also become part of WonderCon’s bread and butter, I was wondering if an Anaheim show meant for a significant uptick in that kind of programming?
I honestly don’t believe so. WonderCon, of late, has had its own pretty impressive Hollywood slate of programming. I remember hoping we could get the cast of the new “Star Trek” at San Diego the year the movie was due in theaters. But we understood they really weren’t doing any conventions. Then WonderCon came around and they said, “This is a show we’d like to do.” Lo and behold, WonderCon got a pretty cool exclusive.
The general impression is that a convention in Anaheim means a convention closer than San Diego and that would mean added programming from Hollywood. I don’t know if that’s actually the case. Without getting too inside baseball, there are pros and cons for Anaheim and Hollywood’s participation. Luckily, WonderCon’s pedigree has helped to secure some pretty great Hollywood programming for the 2012 show. I think that pedigree has helped WonderCon regardless of its address.
Overall, what’s the part of the show that you’re most excited to get to this weekend, or maybe one that came as a result of being Anaheim local?
I am excited to see how the show does and I hope it will do well, but at this time my mind turns to things like weather for the weekend, pre-coverage of the event, coverage during the event — just so many things that I really haven’t had a chance to enjoy thinking about enjoying the show. I think we’re all in that mindset of trying to make sure this show goes well.
That being said, there is some pretty impressive programming that I hope I can sneak in to at some point.
Any word on WonderCon 2013 — will there be one show in San Francisco again, or possibly two different shows in different cities, or will it remain in Anaheim?
The plan was always to return to San Francisco. WonderCon was born in the Bay Area and we’d like to keep it there. I will say, however, that we haven’t received 2013 dates yet. Hopefully our Anaheim version will be such a success that San Francisco will be a bit more embracing of us. That is my hope, anyway!
Stay tuned all weekend to CBR News for full coverage of WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim!