Photos and a Convention Report from Saturday at MegaCon 2011
This past weekend was MegaCon, a long-running Orlando, Florida convention. Held in the sprawling Orange County Convention Center, it has an estimated attendance of 20,000. Programing spans many different entertainment genres, with gaming, anime screenings, speed dating, live performances and panels. Guests included authors and illustrators, charitable organizations and actors, and featured Stan Lee and William Shatner.
I was only able to attend MegaCon on Saturday, and arrived in the early afternoon to find a line stretching across the front hall of the convention center. Fortunately the staff was skilled, and dispatched a line of a couple hundred in about ten minutes.
I was too late for the Q&A with Stan Lee, which I’m told was excellent, but there were plenty of other ways to kill time. The R2-D2 Builders Association was present, as were some representatives of the 501st. The Florida Blood Center was in attendance, taking donations next to a massive Lego diorama and kids’ entertainment area. This was next to the Skiffytown booth, where costumed superheroes helped children build their own crime-fighting gear. At the other end of the hall there was a cordoned off board game and video gaming area. A section of the room was dedicated to celebrity autographs and pictures.
William Shatner’s Q&A was better than I could have imagined. He has a reputation for being a little rough on his fans, but he was mellow and funny. When asked who his favorite Star Trek cast member was, he opened with a joke about never watching Star Trek, then segued into a story about how people would yell “Beam me up, Scotty!” at him on the street.
“I thought they were making fun of me,” said Shatner, “I developed a diffident attitude…that became a defense mechanism.” He described watching Patrick Stewart performing as Captain Picard with the same gravitas as he would perform Hamlet, and had a revelation: cheesy effects and aliens aside, “We were trying to do something important.”
Shatner attributes his more mellow attitude to turning 80. The only time he seemed irritated by the Q&A was when a fan asked a question in the famous Captain Kirk cadence. “Did…I USE this…cadence?” he bellowed into the mic. Shatner’s sense of humor was self-deprecating and relatable, he even made a dig at his album, Has Been.
On that same note, it turns out Marina Sirtis is hilarious. Sirtis sat for a panel on Star Trek: The Next Generation with co-stars Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn. She dominated the hour with stories of stealing props and the cast’s early arguments over which character was “the new Spock.” When asked if they had ever met anyone as crazy as a Star Trek fan in the general populace, Sirtis drawled, “Yeeah, we live in Hollywood.”
MegaCon’s a great time. The crowd is generally skewed towards high school age, but that gives it a lot of energy. Throughout the day there was a dance circle in the front area where people performed acrobatic stunts and martial arts along with more standard dance to pulsing J-Pop and techno remixes. The line just to get an armband to get into the Cyberia rave wrapped around several hallways. Later the candy-colored ravers spilled out onto the lawn in front of the concourse, possibly frightening the parents of the cheerleaders whose convention was in the same building.
It’s a diverse group of fans. I caught a little of everything, from costume design to comic illustration to the Doctor Horrible shadowcast. While I was checking out one of the vendors I heard someone behind me say “That’s Dungeons & Dragons stuff for nerds.” Turning around I saw two cosplayers from an anime I didn’t recognize. I laughed, because the last time this happened I was at a gaming convention where a live action roleplayer made a joke about a Sepiroth cosplayer.
I only have a couple real complaints about the con. The crowding was a real problem. At an event with thousands of attendees it’s going to happen, but it seems like it could be lessened. The dealers, artists, exhibitors, gamers and celebrities were all in the same very large room, which adjoined to the food court. At any given moment there was foot traffic in every direction, making it hard to browse or hold a conversation. I’m not aware what the costs are of opening other smaller rooms for exhibits and games, but it might be worth it to ease the congestion.
It also seemed like there were fewer activities on Saturday night this year. Last year there were a couple shows and the dance party running into the night. This year the programing, excluding the rave, ended before nine.
All things considered, MegaCon is a great time. I met all kinds of amazing individuals, saw spectacular costumes and even learned a few things. I’ll be back next year.
Check out our photos from MegaCon 2011 over at The Convention Fans Blog flickr account!