With another long weekend of cosplay spectacle and celebrity chaos finally over, FanX ’19 has come to a close. Will eager fans be forced to wait another year before spending a couple of days stuffed with convention food and waiting in lines for hours for guest signatures and photo ops? Time will tell.
This is your Gary the Unicorn FanX wrap and critique: I’m Gary the Unicorn and you only wish you were.
Normally a three-day affair, this year FanX was held to Friday and Saturday; a smart move, particularly considering how relatively slow Friday was. In contrast, Saturday was a vibrant stew of attendees, making it feel more like SLC cons of the past. And most people, I think, had a gay old time. But there were those who didn’t find it quite that way ...
Fans of “The Office,” “Supernatural,” Disney classic animated movies and Marvel television shows might have seen some recognizable faces from the screen. However, many that I spoke with felt there was a level of pandering to their collective sense of excitement over just another convention, rather than a sincere attempt at providing the best possible experience for patrons.
So a valuable question was raised yet again this year: Are those responsible for FanX really delivering the goods? Pros and cons, people ... pros and cons.
Pro: There is nothing wrong with an enjoyable weekend with friends and family, particularly when the time is spent taking in the sights and sounds of pure nerd explosion.
Con: While one can determine the amount of money they wish to spend at the convention, if they really want to make the most of it, they can plan on spending anywhere from $50 up to $1,000 over the course of two days, the latter without breaking a sweat. That’s no small potatoes, and here’s why it matters so much: Unless you’re new to these kinds of events or are meeting a celebrity you particularly admire, you’re apt to find yourself feeling jaded, perhaps even resentful. One leaving with empty pockets and a signature from some actress who was in that one thing that one time is not necessarily a great indication that someone will be back to attend the next convention.
Pro: Almost every FanX event has featured at least one really great guest, one that might alone make the whole weekend worth the effort. For many, this year it was John Cleese. For a handful, it was Ricky Silver Spoons. There’s an idea here, somewhere.
Con: Back to the guests ... There just aren’t enough celebrities which could be considered “A-List.” Not even “B-list,” for Spock’s sake! This might sound petty, but when it costs as much as $120 to meet and greet some of these guests it could be seen a farce ... not to mention the idea that people aren’t exactly thrilled to attend an event where the second biggest name is Alice Cooper. No offense to the very interesting, very smart entertainer, but does anyone shy of 35 even know who he is?
Pro: There is fun to be had. There is a lot to do. Even if you’ve done it before, it can still be pretty great.
Con: If you’ve done it before, it can feel like you’ve done it a hundred times. This cannot be overstated enough.
It would be easy to go on in this fashion, but there’s little point beating a dead unicorn. The bottom line is that the people who created FanX aren’t stupid; there’s writing on the wall, and just because it’s not an immediate requirement to read it doesn’t mean it’s not still there: FanX might be in trouble. But certainly, they’re aware of this. Right?
San Diego Comic-Con International and other conventions of notoriety like Dragon Con or New York Comic Con feature true A-List celebrities, prestigious panels, the highest-quality cosplay and exclusive studio content, such as trailer premieres, first-looks, product releases and more. These are the reasons to spend money and attend conventions, but while the number of cons ranging between magical and mediocre is quite impressive, our fair convention is beginning to show serious signs of wear. If a small sample of FanX attendees represents the whole, and I believe they just might, FanX is becoming mediocre, which means easy to pass on. Yikes.
Then we have the double-header: Spring and Fall, a tale of too much. I had a lengthy explanation of how demographics and markets work but realized it’s much easier to simply say that SLC is not a big place; if you don’t have reasons to draw new people, you’ll stop doing so.
How long until the regulars stop returning?
That might seem a bit morose, and perhaps it is, but it’s not too much of a stretch either. In less than 10 minutes I had well over 25 people express some form of disappointment and doubt over their plans to attend future FanX conventions. Not a good indicator.
This unicorn is a supporter of FanX and those that put it on. I think there are numerous reasons to continue to hold the event — annually — and several reflections on how well they’ve done in the past to help them refocus and repeat that success. But it takes a willingness to admit the current state of FanX, and I’d assume it takes a considerable amount of moolah as well. I don’t pretend to intimately understand the workings, only that there are formulas for success and no reason to believe FanX can’t legitimately compete with the big dogs.
But if at FanX, Warwick Davis represents “Star Wars” and Clark Gregg represents Marvel, you’ve got a recipe for banality. Both are fine actors, but you’d be hard pressed to find an excited nerd who couldn’t come up with at least a dozen more prominent names from each respective franchise. That nerd — and their wallet — will make or break FanX.