Well, here we are, the slow period of the now year round “con season”. It’s slim pickings here in Arizona between now and February so for me it’s important to enjoy each and every con because it might be awhile before the next.
Which brings us to the rebranded Phoenix Fan Fest, formally known as Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest while it took up residence in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Now making its home at the much more spacious Phoenix Convention Center, Fan Fest celebrates many fandoms with this year having a focus on a few different fandoms including Stranger Things and wrestling. There was a lot of raised eyebrows when several professional wrestlers were announced as guests that included John Cena. I don’t watch wrestling but I can appreciate what Fan Fest was trying, they wanted to tap into an under served fan base. For the geek crowd who didn’t appreciate it, Fan Fest brought guests from Agents of Shield (who’s main cast has never been to an AZ con), Stranger Things, Star Wars, and Supernatural. For a convention that is looking to be a smaller alternative to its bigger show, I felt the guest lineup was really solid.
The exhibit floor was located on the third floor of the north building, which is roughly a tad larger than the south building. The hall was filled with your typical vendors, costuming groups, photo op and autograph area, and so on. This is where the move from December to October really hurt. The floor felt really stale with many of the same vendors we saw just a short four months ago at Phoenix Comicon. The floor lacked energy and excitement and I think I know why. The short amount of time between the two shows and many of the artists/vendors being repeats between the two lead to a “meh” kind of reaction.
Another change that was made in the rebranding was the move from a three day con to a two day con which I felt was needed. In a industry that sees many conventions try to stretch out their product to several days all in the name of more money, it was nice to see a convention actually take a step back and focus on just two days. Programming was also a nice change as the amount of fan panels increased due to the location change. If you got tired of the exhibit hall, and you probably did, panels offered a wide variety of topics with a lot offering attendee interaction.
Overall, it was a low key con and I am not sure it’s the good kind of low key. I attended three panels, not one of them were filled. Pokemon merchandise was every where (and over priced), lots of complaining about wrestling guests, and just not much of an exciting vibe. I’m sure Fan Fest will be reevaluated and retooled to the up ante next year.