I have been married to a full-fledged nerd for over 15 years. Yet I had never been to FanExpo Canada, or any pop-culture convention or exposition, until now. Inevitably, it was our daughter’s interest in it that got us out of the house and into the throngs of thousands of excited fans. Plus, like many others, we too have “covid-fatigue” and wanted to go downtown and have a fun day out.
After being cancelled in 2020, FanExpo Canada decided to put on a pared-down show this year. For many, this was a sign that life is starting to get back to normal, but covid restrictions have also become complications.
The main challenge for the organizers was to figure out a way to space out the visitors. Trying to keep the spirit of the usual festivities amid government-mandated regulations, the layout of the exhibits was expanded to cover both buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This proved to be difficult, however, as the only direct corridor to connect the two wasn’t in use.
Instead, guests had to trek back and forth outside through the busy downtown streets. The walk between buildings is about a ten-minute walk, either under or over the GO Train tracks, plus going up and down various escalators once inside. Huge crowds covered the narrow sidewalk of the Simcoe side street. So, on the way back, we decided to take the scenic route instead and go past the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Ripley’s Aquarium. Strange when three of the country’s best-known tourist attractions is the quiet option!
It took us some time to get to our first event. But once we figured out the navigation, we enjoyed our time. The celebrities were all happy to be there – in fact, due to the numerous celebrity cancellations, those appearing extended their schedules to accommodate fans on all three days instead of just one or two – and the audiences were extremely appreciative. All throughout the exhibit areas, the visitors were polite and respectful of each others’ space, and the enthusiastic cosplayers brought a youthful and exuberant energy.
A second major change from previous years was that seats had been removed for the celebrity panels, though those with mobility issues could request a chair. This was intended to allow for more spacing between people. We sat on the floor of the huge north building’s trade-show space to see a Q&A with Christopher Sabat, a veteran voice actor and star of one of my daughter’s favourite shows, “My Hero Academia”. He was terrific, regaling the audience with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and performing some lines in character. James Marsters (known to us parental-age TV viewers as Spike from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) even question-bombed the event to jokingly ask him about a project they had worked on together.
Next we ventured back to the south building to see the retail offerings. We told our daughter she could get a little something and she had excitedly searched around for the perfect gift. She settled on a Funko Pop figurine, of which there were many hard-to-find options. There were lots of different shopping options, including comics, books, toys and clothes. We also got Dad and big brother (at home dog-sitting) some funny T-shirts.
Artist Alley & Community Zone
It was really cool to wander around the artist alley area and see professional comic book illustrators create masterpieces live and in person, but the area felt crowded by the early afternoon. Thankfully for our peace of mind (especially since our daughter is too young to get vaccinated), guests over 12 were required to provide proof of vaccination and everyone wore masks except for the food court tucked away in a corner.
We were disappointed to find out the dedicated family zone had been cancelled, with no notification as far as I could find. We saw some kids sitting by a red-carpet set, waiting for a kids cosplay contest, but our daughter was too shy to participate. As with most major events, families should pack some extra patience, as well as snacks and good walking shoes.
The community zone therefore became the gathering area for families, where one could take pictures with props and characters from movies such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters and the Harry Potter series. We were visited by a remote-controlled R2-D2, who I’m sure is a fan favourite on every planet he visits.
Despite the challenges, we had a fun day. Kudos to FanExpo organizers for trying to bring back the best event they could under the circumstances. It was great to be out and to be with people again. Hopefully covid restrictions won’t be so necessary next year and the event can run smoother – we’ll be there!
FAN EXPO Canada: LIMITED EDITION
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd. West, Toronto
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