Nerds and Beyond attended FAN EXPO Canada this year, which is the third-largest pop culture event in North America. It was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from August 22-25. This year was exceptionally memorable and special because it was FAN EXPO Canada’s 25th anniversary. This annual four-day convention covers a wide range of themes, including comics, art, gaming, anime, sci-fi, and horror.
The fun began even before fans even entered the convention center — all week at Union Station (located just down the street), there was an impressive display of 36,440 LEGO stormtrooper minifigures that made up a large stormtrooper helmet. It was the world’s largest display of LEGO Star Wars minifigures, and it was in Toronto for people to enjoy and get their photo taken with.
Upon entering the convention on Thursday, day one, we learned that FAN EXPO Canada has officially updated their pass validation process. In previous years, guests had wrist bands and/or lanyards passes, depending on what type of ticket they had. Now, all attendees (regardless of if you were there for a single day or the whole weekend) received badges embedded with RFID technology. After activating your pass online when you received it or with your phone while waiting in line to enter, you simply needed to have it scanned by staff when entering and exiting the building throughout the day. They only gave wrist bands out to children. Using this new RFID badge entrance process gave the convention an official and professional feeling.
First and foremost, we were immediately blown away by the sheer amount of floorspace. The two vendor areas between the North and South buildings offered over 400,000 square feet of shopping opportunities. There were board games and video games galore from EB Games, Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation (to name a few), comic books, collector’s items, and there were walls of Funko Pops, clothing, art prints, and so much more. There were even vendors selling mystery boxes with official merchandise from various shows — Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, etc.
In both the North and South buildings, there were areas to sit down and eat in, with various options for food and drinks, so you didn’t have to leave the convention center if you didn’t want to. There was pizza, hot dogs, a coffee shop, desserts, slushies, and other food vendors as well. This can often be an important concern for convention attendees, so we were glad to see multiple options were available.
Thursday offered various cosplay meet ups, a plushie workshop, a Harry Potter Sorting Hat ceremony, costuming for LARP, Potions class, the cosplay red carpet, a place to make a mini lightsaber, Pokémon origami for beginners, and a panel on how to get involved with collegiate eSports.
Other panels that day were a Q&A with Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Denise Crosby, a “Women in Voice Acting” roundtable with Amanda Celine Miller (Boruto: Naruto Next Generations), Cristina Vee (Sailor Moon), Rachael Lillis (Pokémon), and Veronica Taylor (Pokémon), and “Superheroes and Supervillains: Female Representation in Comics, Movies and TV.” There were even sketch duels between Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz, and later on between Ramón Pérez, Marcus To, Eric Vedder, and Andy Belanger.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not was there at booth 1638 in the South building with some fantastic displays of props and unusual pieces. They were also there to promote their new show that premiered in Canada on the DTOUR channel on Wednesday, August 28. The ten-episode first season is hosted by Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice, The Evil Dead), who is also a producer of the show. The show is documentary-style, where we get to know about people and their stories behind their one-of-a-kind abilities. Ripley’s Believe It or Not premiered earlier in June on the Travel Channel in the US.
At the booth, there were some fantastic movie props on display. They had a Hoverboard used by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Part II, along with self-lacing Nike shoes, an original lightsaber from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back used by Mark Hamill, the whip used by Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Han Solo’s blaster from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi — which, at $550k, is the most expensive item in their collection. If you put on latex gloves, you could hold the lightsaber and get your picture taken for $25.
Also shown was a vampire killing kit sold to naive tourists, a two-headed calf skull, images of original posters, a double tusk narwhal skull, matchbook art done by Mike Bell, a dodo bird cast, a space glove, a meteorite, “axeciting” art by Jeff Bertrand, and a mystery gate — how does it open? On Saturday, there was also a giant ball of hair (and there was even someone on hand to cut hair if attendees wanted to donate a clipping of their own.)
While at FAN EXPO Canada on Thursday, Nerds and Beyond had the opportunity to take part in a roundtable interview with Bruce Campbell to discuss the Ripley’s Believe It or Not television show. We’ll be sharing that soon, so keep an eye out!
Stay tuned for coverage from the other three days of FAN EXPO Canada!