by The Collected Mutineer
If you follow me or the Collectress on social media, you definitely know by now that we spent this last weekend in Seattle for ACE Comic Con. While we usually don’t go out of state for conventions, espeically ones for which we are not working as press, this one drew us in several months ago when they announced their initial guest lineup. We were ecstatic at the thought of meeting Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston, primarily. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Here is a short breakdown of why I would not recommend attending an ACE event.
Much to our dismay, Chris Evans canceled his appearance. He cited a family issue, which is completely understandable. ACE appeared apologetic and quickly announced that attendees could swap their photos to a Chris Hemsworth op, another big name and hard hitter in the MCU. The Collectress and our friend Ganbaregirl, both of whom had been looking forward to their duo Evans photo op, had to completely change not only their overall plans and expectations for the convention, but had to alter their cosplans for the event.
Not long afterward, Hemsworth also canceled, apparently due to being called back to set. While I’m sure that he fully intended to attend the convention and that certain things were out of his control, it seemed fishy to us that this happened twice in a row. We later found out from some other people who had attended previous conventions that ACE is notorious for cancellations. This was a huge blow for us, as we had already purchased not only convention tickets, but had booked flights and hotel rooms. In the end, the three of us managed to take a photo with Sebastian Stan, who replaced Hemsworth. That was great, but the reasons we ended up there were far from ideal. Please note that we weren’t ultimately disappointed with the lineup, but it really felt as though they used the Chrises as a way to sell tickets that couldn’t be refunded.
Scheduling and Organization Fails
I’ve written at length about another convention that failed spectacularly in terms of organization. I never thought that we would encounter another convention on that scale, but low and behold—enter ACE. Everything from the insane security line to the fact that most events were behind schedule to a lack of ropes or physical designations to keep lines in order…you name it, there was probably a problem with it. One thing in particular that stood out to me was an apparent lack of communication among the event workers in regards to photo ops. For example, they lined us up for the Tom Hiddleston photo op at 3:25 on Saturday. I didn’t get in to see him until 5 pm. Panels started and ran late, autographs ran late. It all ran late.
Another example of poor planning took place during the now infamous Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, and Anthony Mackie panel. At every other convention that I’ve attended there has been a protocol for handling Q&As. At some, questions are carefully screened. At others, the mic will cut out and the person will be led away if they ask something rude or inappropriate. At ACE, however, the tween girls at the end of the panel were allowed to continue their rudeness, causing the talent to have to speak up about it. It never should have escalated to that level in the first place—and the direct repercussion of this was that instead of figuring out a better way to handle Q&As, ACE just didn’t allow ANY fan questions at Tom Hiddleston’s panel the following day.
Due to several of the reasons listed above, in addition to the fact that the con was obviously over-sold with only the talent as the main draw, the photo ops were rushed to an incredible degree. Having had photo ops at previous conventions, I understand that there isn’t a lot of time. This isn’t a meet-and-greet, it’s a photography moment. It’s not the time for long conversation. However, a large part of the photo op “subculture” if I may call it that, is that the person who bought the op gets to decide what they want to do—within reason, obviously.
At ACE, however, it felt like there was no time allotted for those who had general availability tickets, although VIP people seemed to get significantly more time. We poor peons were pushed through like cattle, with barely the chance to even greet the talent let alone tell them what pose we wanted. I was told explicitly that I could not have a prop with me, even though it was part of my cosplay. We also were told multiple times that we couldn’t do any special poses. This is obviously disappointing, especially considering the photos were very expensive. It also meant that not only did we not get to say hi to the people we had wanted to meet, but the talent themselves barely had any time to react to their fans.
In many photos I saw from the weekend, the actors had the beginnings of a smile on their faces, because the photo was taken before they were ready. In other cases, it was obvious that they wanted to talk to us, but basically weren’t allowed to as the photographer was harshly yelling “NEXT” and the ushers were pushing us out of the way. A lot of the time, it seemed as though the poor person hadn’t gotten any rest all day, being rushed from photo op to autograph to photo op to panel, lather, rinse, repeat. Needless to say, it didn’t really feel good as an attendee, and I would imagine that it didn’t feel good for the talent, either.
Venue vs ACE
Apparently, most ACE conventions are held in venues like the WaMu Theater & CenturyLink Field Event Center. This might not seem like a big deal…until you realize that the arena won’t change it’s regular rules for a convention. This meant that we couldn’t bring in all manner of things, from water bottles to cameras with detachable lenses. Yeah, that’s right. Many photographers couldn’t bring in their cameras. To a convention. Where they take pictures. Because it’s a convention.
This difference between ACE’s rules and the venue’s rules caused other problems as well, adding to the already potent air of disorganization and overall rudeness emanating from pretty much everyone there. The outside security appeared to work for the arena, not the convention. We had an uncomfortable encounter with a security guard who leered at us and spoke inappropriately. This would never happen at another convention, where staff and volunteers know how to treat attendees and cosplayers.
So, I don’t really know how to wrap this up except to say that if it hadn’t been for the fact that I got to meet Tom, Seb, and Hayley, I would have found a way to ask for my money back. This was one of the worst convention experiences I’ve yet encountered, and next time I want to attend a con out of state, I will be sure to pick a different one. If this is the only con available to you, please understand that the biggest draw are the names alone, if they even attend at all. The con floor was practically nonexistent and the only panels feature the big names. Please know what you are paying for before you spend $200 on a photo op that lasts all of five seconds. Please don’t buy a plane ticket or book a hotel room for this unless absolutely necessary. You have been warned! Learn from our mistakes.
Dear ACE: you have been weighed. You have been measured. You have been found wanting.
If you’ve had a bad ACE experience, please share it with us here or over on Twitter.