It’s been a little over a week since Phoenix, Arizona welcomed a flood of comic book, anime, video game and entertainment fans to the Phoenix Convention Center. Phoenix Fan Fusion is a four comic convention held in the heart of downtown phoenix over Memorial Day weekend each year. I have attended this convention since 2012. At first I tested the waters with a single day, by 2013 I was a comic vendor and in 2014 I decided to cosplay for the first time. This convention has a special place in my heart (especially when I dedicated 3 years of volunteer hours to it). Unfortunately, the light that once blazed in the Fan Fusion braziers in beginning to fade. Allow me to elaborate…
Programming, Events and Autographs
Fan Fusion has always offered hundreds of hours of programming to attendees. Each year they printed out booklets with lots of detail and they offered all programming information on their site. This year I helped direct MANY people to their program of interest. Staff reductions and a seeming lack of program booklets (if they existed I either walked past them or they were obscured) led to a great deal of confusion for attendees.
Often times I found myself walking into program rooms that had something posted but no panelists were present. Cords were damaged or glitchy and many a bulb burned out on projectors. This is all normal wear and tear for a con and typically a large, dedicated AV staff is there to assist. I presented 4 panels and saw ONE AV tech the entire weekend. He was friendly, brought us water but could not stay as he supported an entire FLOOR. What staff I did encounter did their best to support but it was definitely a strain for those folks.
This generated a sub par experience for attendees going to panels. I heard A LOT of complaining from attendees who were mad at the convention organizers for not planning ahead. Even some of the celebrity panels started 15-30 minutes past their time because there were not enough handlers or there was confusion as to their presentation time. In general programming really struggled to keep their feet under them this year and it showed. I don’t blame the staff, they worked hard, I blame the owner for not budgeting enough help. On a positive note, the programming I did see was high quality and Phoenix certainly brings its A game for content.
Autographs were on the third floor and they ran swimmingly. Sure, there were some line access/control issues but what con doesn’t have those from time to time? I witnessed a lot of excitement from con goers who could SEE their favorite star from the walk way. It gave an open and friendly atmosphere to the experience. Kudos for that setup.
THOUSANDS of people made their way into the Phoenix Convention Center during Phoenix Fan Fusion. I mean…LOOK AT ALL OF THEM!
That’s a whole lot of fans! Despite some arguments over sealed snacks/food (which the convention organizers cleared up fast) the only things you could not bring into the event were:
- Realistic Fire Arms, Blades, Explosives, Chains, Whips and Projectiles
- Opened drinks (liquor license restrictions require empty or sealed only)
- Rolling bags/cases (some exceptions were made)
The security check points ran MUCH faster this year and the event rented fans to keep attendees cool while having their bags checked. Cosplayers were given a separate line so they could be wanded and all other attendees walked through metal detectors. It was relatively simple and very nearly drama free. This was a 100% improvement in their logistics from 2018.
Phoenix Fan Fusion has this down. Honestly, my ONLY complaint is that they threw Artist Alley in the back and did not have signage to denote their presence. This made it hard for me to track down some of the local artists I was looking forward to seeing. Thankfully each aisle had large signs with numbers and the artists were listed online with their booth numbers. If only the mobile app worked in the basement of the convention center…oh well, at least there were LOTS of interesting vendors to shop at.
Phoenix Fan Fusion knows how to draw in talent. The third floor of the North building was dedicated as the “Hall of Heroes”. There were “causeplayers” (cosplay for charity groups), Mermaids, Zombies, famous costumers, Adam Savage (yes, yes he was there), a Star Wars Cantina and SO MUCH MORE! The cosplay groups in Arizona have AMAZING props/sets for people to interact with and their representatives are very friendly. Throughout the convention our photographers at Kincart Photography captured these images (and more) of cosplayers at Phoenix Fan Fusion…
We have A LOT to say about the masquerade from multiple people so we’re moving that to its own article and a video discussion. All in all…I am mixed on how I felt at this convention. The attendees were SO MUCH FUN to interact with and they REALLY like to participate in panels. The security was ok but much better than last year. The poor staff were run haggard and programming just kind of felt…empty. There were panels but there was not as much SPIRIT as there used to be. Perhaps I need a year break from this con…perhaps all my bad experiences from years past are catching up. Phoenix Fan Fusion isn’t expensive, it welcomes great guests but there is something missing. Until I figure out WHAT, I would recommend this comic…wait. I figured it out!
COMICS WERE PRACTICALLY MISSING FROM THIS EVENT. Most comic cons feature their comic book guests in a special area. This year they were SCATTERED in the Exhibitor Hall and VERY hard to find. I guess a bit of re-organization would help break this weird feeling I have towards Fan Fusion. That’s it…they just to need to focus on what FANS want. If they went back to the community focus and stopped trying so hard to compete with other national conventions then the spirit could very well return to this event. I’ll give it a break next year, gather my wits, refocus and come back in 2021 with hope. After all, this event DOES have a lot to offer and IS deserving of second chances.