The San Diego Comic-Con sibling
I had no idea what to expect at WonderCon 2022. Located in Anaheim, CA, it’s one of the Comic-Con International events. You know - the big San Diego Comic-Con that attracts 100k+ people. Consider this the little brother event. It has a lot of the same features such as a vendor hall and guests and industry events, but just on a smaller scale.
It’s hard to plan for an event like this when you’ve never attended before. Even knowing where to enter the building is a mystery. Just two weeks before the con I was unsure of whether I would even be attending. I had plane tickets purchased and a line on a hotel room, but I was waiting for a response to my press request. They didn’t even open up press applications until nearly three weeks beforehand! The pandemic at work there, I assume.
Obviously everything worked out and I was able to attend. It was actually touch-and-go the day I flew out due to airline issues, but more on that later. Anaheim’s weather was fantastic - 70s with a mix of overcast and sunny skies. To wander around outside without wearing a jacket in April is a novelty for those of us who live in a northern climate.
Table of Contents
So how was WonderCon? It really depends on who you ask. For the average attendee, WonderCon is a fun event where they get to see people in cosplay and wander around a big vendor hall. There's enough to do and see to last half of the day or more. There are some celebrities at the show, although not nearly as many as on a non-COVID year and less than the San Diego event. They can buy some fun stuff from the many vendors, get a bite to eat from the food trucks, snap some photos of cosplayers, and maybe do another round of the vendor hall before heading home. This is why conventions like this sell one day tickets - the average person will spend just part of their day at the con. Tickets for Saturday were $55 for adults, $28 for teens, and free for children with a paying adult. That's not too bad.
I'm not your average attendee. My purpose in attending events like WonderCon is to capture cosplayers on video and make my cosplay music videos. If I'm attending as official press I will make a point to document my experience and I usually try to attend some panels. There's a whole world of movie, television, and other professional media events going on at WonderCon that some people aren't even aware of. Before the convention I was getting emails informing me about producers and actors who would be speaking on behalf of their latest project. It's more of an industry event than many other comic conventions. If you're a cosplayer you attend WonderCon to show off your new build. There are a lot of eyes to see you there and many more online if you make it into photos and videos like mine. The cosplay content runs the gamut of comic book, movie, anime and more. One of my favorites was an Elsa (Frozen) mashed up with Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat, complete with the detached bloody head of Olaf. It's the kind of cosplay I see at DragonCon and it made me smile despite the grisly gore.
I feel a little guilty for not attending any panels. Honestly, I wasn't quite sure where they were. The main entrance leads you right into the vendor hall, so the panel rooms must be spread out on each side of it. I just didn't have enough motivation to walk around and find them. Maybe another year. I was having too much fun filming cosplayers! One thing I really like about WonderCon is the large communal space right in front of the main entrance where people gather and talk and have fun in cosplay. The layout of the space is such that it really encourages social interactions. The pathways guide you there and they all connect with a water fountain and a broad plaza.
The Anaheim Convention Center
If you're like me, you've been to Disneyland a bunch of times but you've never been to the Anaheim convention center. Despite it being just across the street, it just doesn't quite have the same draw as a Disney theme park 😄. The area around Disneyland is of course very developed and packed with hotels and restaurants. The Anaheim Convention Center is tucked in there too, surrounded by hotels.
A pedestrian walkway runs past the Anaheim Marriott hotel and leads you to the grand entrance of the convention center. It's a massive wall of glass and has the WonderCon sign plastered across it. While perhaps not quite as impressive as the glass atrium of the Los Angeles Convention Center, it's still commands your attention. Of course COVID was a thing during WonderCon 2022, so you had to pass through a tent to show your vaccination card or negative test and get a wristband. This wristband was a requirement to get a badge. You also pass by a bunch of food trucks. I love food trucks and I appreciate that the convention center allows them outside of their building. Some civic convention centers would try to prohibit them and force you to eat their bland, overpriced food. Kudos to the Anaheim Convention Center for allowing them.
Technically there's also an entrance on the north side of the convention center. It seemed less crowded than the other entrance, so maybe that's a tip to get in faster. Don't take my word for it, though, because this was my first time attending.
The registration hall was incredibly spacious and very empty when I arrived on Saturday. I don't know whether this is due to a lower attendance or a really efficient registration system. Either way, way to go Wondercon!
Getting There and Staying There
It's not hard to get to Anaheim... usually. It's where Disneyland is after all! If you're local you can just drive. If you are from farther away, the Los Angeles area has five airports including one of the busiest in America - LAX. The closest is the Santa Ana/John Wayne Airport (SNA), which is only 20 minutes away by car. I say "usually" because on the average year you can find a lot of flights at affordable prices. 2022 wasn't an average year. Coming out of COVID everyone started traveling again and airlines were overwhelmed. After reducing their staff during the pandemic for various reasons they just couldn't rebuild fast enough to accommodate the demand. Prices were double or triple the norm, if you could even find one. I purchased mine later than I should have and ended up paying a lot more than I wanted to. Thankfully I was able to use airline miles for a return ticket that would have been over $400 one way! Southwest airlines had a decently priced arrival ticket for $348, which is still a little ouch for a one way ticket. However, the night before the flight they canceled one leg of my flight! I tried calling, but three hours in I knew that there was no way I would get through. I didn't know if I would be able to make it to the convention until I arrived at the airport at 4:30 AM (I had a 5:30 AM flight on Saturday morning). Thankfully they were able to book me on a different connecting flight to LAX and arriving around the same time. Phew! As far as hotels, you're in luck. There are plenty of hotels in the area since it's a vacation destination. The only downside is it's early April, which means spring break. That makes it a little busier than say, March. Still, there are plenty of rooms available. The convention has room blocks at many nearby hotels, so be sure to check that out if you're planning on staying overnight. I once again stayed with some friends and split the cost. In addition, I only stayed one night, so that reduced it down to $82. Score! A friend picked me up at the airport which was really great, and I took an Uber down to SNA for my return flight. All in all, it was a relatively affordable convention. I tend to eat like a mouse at conventions just because I'm out all day filming. I did go out with some friends on Saturday evening, but otherwise it was just a few grab-and-go type meals.
WonderCon has such a relaxed and friendly feel to it. I had a great time talking with my fellow photographers and a number of cosplayers. There were familiar faces and many new faces. Thanks to everyone who shot with me. I had to laugh whenever there was a line of photographers waiting to shoot with a cosplayer. There were some standout cosplayers who caught your attention and people would quickly line up for a shot. It was organized at least. At other times they would just gather around a cosplayer.
From the Part 1 video.
From the Part 2 video.