AutoMatters: WonderCon Anaheim 2014

01077-20140419 WonderCon-Anaheim CA-D3SBy Jan Wagner

One of the many wonderful things to see in Southern California is San Diego’s Comic-Con: “the largest comics and popular arts convention in the world, according to the Guinness World Records.” Unfortunately Comic-Con takes place but once a year, for four days (plus preview night) in the summer.

Another similarly themed, although smaller ’Con, used to be far away at the Moscone Center in Northern California. However, a couple of years ago that show was moved (supposedly on a temporary basis) to the Anaheim Convention Center, near Disneyland. It was given the name WonderCon Anaheim.

I’d heard that the reason for the move was because the Moscone Center, which had housed the annual event, was getting renovated. If so, it must have been a very long and extensive renovation because WonderCon Anaheim remains in Southern California and is going strong, with over 50,000 attendees in 2013.

This year WonderCon Anaheim was held from April 18 – 20. I wanted to attend it so badly that I intentionally left Las Vegas early, where I was a participant at the four day, 50th anniversary celebration for Ford’s Mustang, so that I could also go to WonderCon Anaheim that same extended weekend. Despite all of the driving, it was well worth the effort.

WonderCon Anaheim and Comic-Con are both part of the Comic-Con International family. That said, they have similarities and differences.

Both have a multitude of interesting and entertaining panels where fans can watch sneak previews of upcoming TV shows and movies, learn more about their favorite areas of pop culture and enjoy lively, revealing panel discussions amongst stars and key production personnel. Usually at the end of each panel there is also an opportunity for a few lucky fans to ask the panelists questions. This year at WonderCon Anaheim there were over 250 hours of programming.

WonderCon Anaheim is smaller and less crowded than Comic-Con. Despite this, passes for Comic-Con sell out almost immediately after they go on sale, whereas passes for WonderCon Anaheim are much easier to obtain.

WonderCon Anaheim has strong participation from comic book publishers, including major ones, making it “one of the largest comic conventions on the West Coast.”

WonderCon Anaheim does not have Comic-Con’s elaborate, entertaining, purpose-built and interactive exhibits – which are often on a massive scale and dramatically promote specific TV shows and movies.

At both ’Cons large numbers of attendees wear costumes and are ‘in character’ – inside and outside of the convention centers. People work – often for many months, to create original, unique, exquisitely detailed costumes that portray their favorite comic book, movie and TV show characters. Then, on Saturday night, each ’Con hosts a masquerade, where attendees go up on stage and perform short skits and routines in front of enthusiastic, large audiences as they compete for the coveted awards given out by the judges at the end of the evening. The masquerade is a fun, not-to-be-missed event for participants and spectators alike.

At this year’s WonderCon, over 800 exhibitors presented all sorts of cool stuff to see, buy or win. Naturally I was on the lookout for anything to do with transportation, since that’s one of the main themes of AutoMatters.

I spotted someone dressed as The Stig, the tame racing driver from “Top Gear.” Right in character he did not say a word. Outside, near the long row of food trucks, Batman posed for photos near a large replica of the Batcycle. Superman carried a car across the stage at the masquerade.

To generate some buzz for “Mario Kart 8” – a soon to be released new game for the Nintendo Wii U, attendees were invited to have their photo taken while they sat behind the wheel of the latest Mario Kart. Game play includes the capability to “race along walls and upside-down on twisting anti-gravity racetracks!”

Well, that’s all for this week. AutoMatters will be covering Comic-Con this July. If you’d like to go too but have been unable to get passes – which are required to attend the panels and exhibits inside the convention center, I’ll tell you what I tell others. Go anyway. Join the crowds in costume and explore the streets outside of the San Diego Convention Center in the Gaslamp Quarter, where you will discover plenty of awesome free exhibits, things to do, cool giveaways and contests with valuable prizes. Last year inside Petco Park there was even a free concert and fireworks show!

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Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner – AutoMattersTM #333r1