Want to hear a reporter’s view on the Bronycon convention? You can find my experience of the whole affair after the break!
As some of you may know, I was one of the attendees at this summer’s Bronycon. I came into this convention not knowing what to think. Not only was this my first pony convention ever, but my first convention in general. So armed with my trusty camera, voice recorder, and Cteno t-shirt, I headed into the fray that was Bronycon. And I have to say, though my impression of the convention is mostly positive, I have a few critiques, and a few overarching ideas that began to worry me the longer I stayed there.
First of all, the good news: Bronycon was a fun convention for the attendees and guests. The atmosphere of the convention was nothing but pure bliss. Being the art corespondent, I stayed with the vendors for the majority of the convention. For the most part, the artists and craftsmen at the con had a fantastic time (and made a few small fortunes to boot). The panels were also well thought out (for the most part) and were very interesting. I was also impressed how the staff of the convention kept up with the four thousand bronies running around the con. And the actual venue itself was a great building, with a lot of room and located right next to some very acceptable hotels and food joints. Seeing the cosplayers running around the con was a blast too, a lot of people put a lot of effort into their costumes!
However, there were things at Bronycon that could use improvement. One of the issues I ran into at the convention was the sound quality in the main hall. The acoustics in the room where terrible, and it wasn’t helped by the “soundproof curtain”, which did next to nothing in alleviating sound from the Artist Alley and Tail Hall. Most of the panels there were completely inaudible, even to those of us sitting near the front row. Those who were at the con were still luckier then those who were not, as the official stream of the convention was down fairly often. An actual separate room for these panels would probably be a good option for future conventions.
Another issue with the panels was that all panels were not given equal treatment. I’ll use the panels I attended as an example. The musicians and VA panels were given a lot of attention by the staff, had their own host to cover the panels, and had a lot of techs working to fight with the room’s bad acoustics. Compare this to another panel I attended, the Artist Anonymous. This was right after the Artist Alley had closed on Sunday, the panel was led not by a dedicated host, but by one of the artists themselves, they seemed to be winging the majority of the panel (possibly due to the fact that one of the panelists didn’t know he was supposed to be on this panel until after he arrived at the con), the audio was being drowned out by the cosplay contest in the other hall, yet nobody was around to fix it, and to top it all off they were cut off after about three questions for the closing ceremonies. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to the panelists to be denied the same care that the other panels were given. If you are going to do panels, give all of them the same amount of attention and care.
Outside of the panels, there were a few nitpicks here and there that could be addressed in later cons. Some spots in the Artist Alley were a bit tight, especially when you had people elbow to elbow. The line for the VIP signature vouchers was also pretty insane. If they had devoted a few more staffers to helping with that, it would have kept more people inside, which was important with how hot it was over the weekend. Something else is the timing of the convention. Bronycon was set for two days before one of the largest US holidays. This increased flight fare and made travel conditions a bit more precarious then what they needed to be. A bit of thought should be put into the dates of these things next time, to help more people afford to come.
The biggest thing that bothered me at the con was not the technical hiccups or lines though. It was something that I felt was missing from Bronycon, something that had taken a backseat to the documentary, to the VIPs, and even to the fans themselves. Something that I really felt should have made some sort of appearance.
The show itself.
We came out of Bronycon knowing just as much as we did coming into it. We still know almost nothing about season 3. And the people VIPs at the convention couldn’t really tell us anything, even if we asked them. Lauren Faust is no longer working on the show, and the VAs and writers all only know about the episodes they’re working on, which isn’t helpful in the broad sense of things. Nobody really seemed to care or notice though, which brings me to my next point…
Bronies are fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic TV show. They became fans because, in their objective view, the show is a high quality piece of work. Or at least, that’s what it used to be. The feelings I got from the crowd, and from some of the wording by the VIPs themselves, made me feel it was less about that, and more about being Bronies for the sake of being Bronies. It also felt that they were trying to make being a fan of the show out to be a greater achievement then what it probably deserves. Yes, there are some great charities and fundraisers that the community runs. Yes, the rejection of gender roles is a step forward for our culture. However, just liking the television show doesn’t make you an activist hero. The show itself really doesn’t endorse these ideas either, as the primary goal of the show is to market toys to little girls. All other messages take the backseat.
We need to be careful as a community to not be sucked in by clever marketing schemes, and to remain as objective as we were when ponies first began. We can give praise for good things that the show does, but we also need to critique and ask for answers for things that the show does wrong (the Derpy incident, for example). We need to hold the creators, animators, and musicians of the show up to the standards that we have come to expect, and not blindly follow for the sake of following. The fanbase has become a major check that balances the show, but if we lose the ability to think, we lose any ability to help influence the show in a positive way. We become nothing more then dollar signs.
All of this aside, Bronycon was still a great convention. The staff did a wonderful job, and the convention center only caught on fire once. Would I go to another Bronycon? Absolutely, and I’d recommend it to others. However, I would also recommend some of the many other cons that are on the way as well! We at DHN will be doing our best to help inform you guys about convention coverage around the world. I hope my little testimonial here will help those of you on the fence to make a decision.
Above all else: REMAIN CALM, POST PONIES
(Some of you may have noticed that this is only part 1 of my report. Part 2 will be all about the Bronycon documentary. Stay tuned, I’ll write something up as soon as I’ve seen the final product!)