MondoCon 2014 Attempts to Redefine the Con Experience

I love a good con. I’ve been to a few Star Trek conventions in my day, as well as some smaller local cons, though I’ve never hit one of the big ones. Of course, the doom of something like SDCC is legend, and personally I’m a veteran of a Mondo line or two; so when Mondo announced their intention to reinvent the con experience with MondoCon 2014, I could certainly appreciate the intention. But I’m no optimist, so I didn’t go into it expecting a magically easy experience. Final verdict: some hits, some misses. Some room for improvement, but the bottom line is I think there are some things about the “con experience” that just don’t have fixes.

Mike Mitchell discusses the Mikey toy


I’m no good with crowd estimation, but if I had to guess I’d say there were 2,000 people in line waiting for MondoCon to open at 10 am on Saturday the 20th. (Certainly if they weren’t at or over 1,000, they must’ve been darn close.) Once they opened, pretty much the entire line bypassed the exhibit hall entrance to go straight to the Mondo booth, which was in a tent outside the building. Of course, that was fine by me, because it meant I got to go straight into the exhibit halls and look around before the rush. But it was bad news for the people who went from spending minutes to hours in the main line to spending hours in the tent line sweating in the heat*. The exhibits were a good mix of prints, records, toys, books, comics, apparel, and more, featuring Mondo favorites such as Jason Edmiston, Kevin Tong, and Laurent Durieux. I was glad I got in early, because as more folks started trickling into the exhibit halls, certain artists’ booths started getting lines backing up out of the hall and into the foyer, tricking latecomers in to thinking they were exhibit hall lines and blocking lobby traffic. The good news is that getting into the panels was relatively easy, despite the extra and unadvertised step of having to go outside and stand in a line to redeem your Eventbrite ticket for a paper pass into the theater. None of the panels I attended were 100% full, so I can only assume that everyone got in who wanted to get in — presumably an advantage of the pre-show ticketing process.

Abby North discusses her father-in-law’s 2001 score


More good news: all the panels I attended were interesting and informative, though the moderation was uneven at times (there are both advantages and disadvantages to having a fanboy as a moderator). The Art of Toy-making, with Mike Mitchell, Brock Otterbacher, and Dan Willett, provided a fascinating look in to the process of getting from concept to art to final product on toys. They discussed the Iron Giant, TMNT toys, and Alfred Hitchcock figure, and announced Mondo’s next toy projects: Hellboy and Scott Pilgrim. I was especially glad I made it to the 2001: A Lost Score session with Brian Satterwhite, as I may never have another opportunity in my lifetime to see clips from 2001 redone with the unused Alex North score (for anyone hoping the Kubrick estate would allow the movie to be shown with the alternate score, sorry to disappoint). North’s daughter-in-law was in attendance, and eventually took the stage to answer questions about North and the score. Last but not least I attended the Designing Movies panel, where Geof Darrow, Jock, Mike Mignola, Alex Pardee, William Stout and Bernie Wrightson talked about their experiences designing for movies from Ghostbusters to The Matrix to Pan’s Labyrinth. It was a long panel, but there were plenty of interesting stories, photos, and images of concept art. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to come back on Sunday, but overall I think Mondo can be commended for putting together a good program.

Bernie Wrightson’s concept art for the librarian in Ghostbusters


Mondo has the right idea, trying to organize a festival with the fans in mind. Content-wise, I think they succeeded, but logistically MondoCon still needs some work. Of course, one never expects a brand new conference to be perfect. And frankly, I don’t know if some of the things that are problems are fixable, at least not without some major outside-the-box thinking. A line of several hundred people trying to buy multiple items at the Mondo booth just isn’t going to move very quickly. If Mondo can get creative to solve that problem — maybe something like assigned times in line based on a lottery system — fans would be eternally grateful. Other things are definitely easy fixes, such as a slightly bigger venue to contain indoor lines, plans for when exhibit booth lines get long, and doing better to inform attendees of logistical things (like the need to line up for panel tickets outside; a more robust/informative website and an event app would be awesome for this). I also felt bad for the Fantastic Fest folks who had to make tough choices to miss the Fest or the Con; maybe running the Con just before or just after (or nowhere near) the Fest would be a better option. They did score some logistical hits with the early ticketing system for the panels and the foresight to keep the Mondo booth separate and well away from the other action. Overall, reactions I heard from attendees ranged from satisfied to disgruntled. If Mondo solicits and incorporates attendee feedback, I think they have the potential to develop a great event for fans.

*Disclaimer: I understand it wasn’t nearly as wild on Sunday.

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