Today kicks off D23 Expo, the famed Disney celebration that has caught the nerd world's eye this year for its inclusion of Star Wars and Marvel doings. I almost went; today's press has convinced me it would have been a fool's errand, that I would have been hopelessly outclassed by Disney veterans who understand all the tricks that a noob like me is hopelessly ignorant about. What time/day to get in line. What kind of membership is needed to ensure success. How to buy specific collectibles. How to get into certain panels. You know, like San Diego Comic-Con.
Except NOT, because of this: "At 9 a.m., the VIP Sorcerer members, those who paid $2,000 for primary access and shopping opportunities, were let onto the showroom floor. The room was buzzing with excitement and a sense of anxiety as guests wondered if their long hours of waiting would get them the limited items."
Wait, what? $2,000 for "primary access and shopping?" Comic conventions look like the Family Dollar Store in comparison. That's incredible. Even VIP Con packages tend to range from $300-500.
But attendees think it's worth it; Sorcerer members got early access to buy exclusives, front-row access to any panel, exhibit tours, snacks and a 20-minute massage voucher. One guy even put it in SDCC terms: "I'm a San Diego native, so I know how Comic-Cons get crazy. But Disney provides a hassle-free way of dealing with the lines and crowd. It's a better deal."
Better except for the people who can't pony up 2K, of course. Anyway, if you have your eye on the next Expo in 2017 - and who knows, Disney could own 2/3 of Hollywood by then - the Sorcerer's package has been bumped up $500 each convention and there are supposedly about 300 memberships available. So save your pennies or skip your next 10 Comic Cons.
Otherwise D23 looks a lot like your typical Con:
- Some attendees "are frustrated knowing some people are only buying souvenirs to scalp later."
- But others felt like their line BFFs made the weekend more magical. "She said it was the relationships she has formed in line with people she had never met before that are making it worth it."
- Rumors and possible misinformation fuel everyone's agenda: "We don't know if we'll get the dolls, it's rumored 50 or 100 dolls will be given out today."
- Which in turns fuels odd hours and sacrificed sleep: "I'm going to be here at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning to make sure I get those dolls."
- There was an "exclusive preview sale Thursday night."
- And of course people were camped out with blankets and coolers a day in advance - the non-Sorcerers, I'm guessing. One difference: at 10 p.m. they were allowed to go in and sleep on the floor of the convention center. How generous.
Fandom: why is it so intense? Is it because religious people and sports fans get to go to services and games on a regular basis, while we mostly bottle up our passions with just 1 or 2 outlets a year? I don't know. But it does seem that people like not just convention content but the pursuit of it - the drama, the determination, the conquest. Or as an SDCC first-timer said to me this summer, "We want to do Hall H next year. Camping out looks fun."
As someone who will (almost) always choose a hotel bed over a sleeping bag, I don't understand that attitude at all - but it's possible soft attendees like me are being winnowed out of the Con game, a Darwinian selection where only the hardest of hardcore fans succeed at these events. It'll be interesting to see if the next Expo involves longer lines and higher-priced memberships. Maybe it won't. But it's clear that given the demands these events place on attendees, you have to be a very serious fan indeed to make it worth it.