At the midnight of the new year, many cosplayers and convention goers paused from their last-minute costume preparations and packing to declare “Happy new year!” then immediately resumed getting ready for the next day. Because January 1st kicked off 2016 with the first con of the year, Sac Anime.
Twice a year, Sac Anime fills up the Sacramento Convention Center, and this time they had the whole place to use. The dealer’s hall was expanded to fit in the autograph line and guest booths, the game and panel rooms were filled, and the attendees filled the halls.
The layout was pretty familiar to those in previous years; the main hall held all the dealer tables, followed by the artist alley. A new addition was rows of booths for some of the guests of honor; while Sac Anime still offered free autograph sessions for most of their guests, those who weren’t doing free signings had tables they were at during their signing sessions where people could pay to meet them.
Speaking of, the convention did have a wide assortment of guests. In addition to some great anime/game talent, such as Ashly Burch, Crispin Freeman, and Charles Martinet, they also had Adventure Time’s Olivia Olson (voice of Marceline) and Steven Universe’s Zach Callison. They all had free autograph sessions throughout the weekend, although additional signatures, pictures, or any special requests would cost around twenty dollars.
The guests who weren’t doing paid autographs were some of the bigger draws in spite of their pricetags. Chris Sarandon, who voiced Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas and was Prince Humperdink in The Princess Bride, was there alongside Ken Page, who voiced Oogie Boogie. Another draw for Disney fans was Irene Bedard, known for voicing Pocahontas. Pokemon fans were lining up en masse for Veronica Taylor, who voiced Ash Ketchum for the first eight seasons of the show, along with other characters. Each of them charged around $25-30 for their autographs or pictures with them.
The autograph line was slightly more well managed this time around. The ticket system was supposedly still in effect, in spite of the issues it caused last time, but I never saw it come into play. Fast passes were still available for $10, but the lines were more manageable; the autograph room was still attached to the dealer’s hall, but had separate lines for the individual guests once again, so attendees didn’t have to get to the back of a huge, long line just to see a second guest in the same session. However, while the rules said no one would be allowed to line up more than 30 minutes before the autograph session, that was clearly not the case, with lines starting an average of two hours before the sessions began.
There were still some issues with miscommunication, particularly about what tables where accepted credit cards. Todd Haberkorn’s flight being delayed caused some major issues with his first autograph session, causing several fans who had waited hours to try to meet him to be turned away only for a later session to open without warning. But compared to the pain and frustrations of the previous con, it was still an improvement.
Another change of note was the addition of large anti-harassment signs. Last time, there were many complaints of attendees and cosplayers dealing with sexual harassment, and little being done about it. To combat that, there were a few signs around the con reminding people that harassment would not be tolerated. Additionally, 10nant Cosplay was kicking off the Cosplay Havens initiative, setting up pink signs at his TARDIS booth to let attendees know he would provide them a safe space free from harassment. (The con itself did not associate itself with the movement, but Cosplay Havens has my support.)
Of course, there were plenty of events for attendees throughout the weekend. The guests held panels with Q&A sessions throughout the weekend, which always drew huge crowds. The masquerade and starlight ball are always big nighttime attractions, and this time was no exception.
And as always, there were cosplayers galore. Star Wars was certainly well-represented this time around, thanks to the recent release of The Force Awakens, and the amount of guests from Borderlands also meant there were plenty of cosplayers from that game around. An increased amount of cosplayers from Life Is Strange was apparent, no doubt due to Ashly Burch’s presence, in addition to plenty of Adventure Time and Steven Universe cosplayers.
For the more popular series, there were cosplay gatherings throughout the weekend. Each were organized and run by attendees, and drew in fans of the same series to mingle and get pictures together.
Overall, in spite of some remaining issues with communication, it was a step up from last Summer’s Sac Anime; the staff seems to be learning from what worked and what didn’t, and are making efforts to improve, although the growing pains are still apparent.
The increased amount of guests, particularly those who were only doing paid sessions, seemed symptomatic of the convention’s attempts to emulate Wizard World, although it would be more well suited to maintaining its own niche instead of doing what another convention is known for, at least in regards to guests. Better to have a decent selection of guests that everyone can meet than a large array of guests only those who pay extra can see. Still, Sac Anime is known for bringing in some great guests, so it seems the con is always trying to outdo itself.
Sac Anime will be back this Summer, so we can see where the next step takes it.
All photos used in this article are from Danny “Dviouz1” DeLuna
While we work on getting photos edited and published, you can see some from Day Zero here, Friday here, here, & here, some behind the scenes photos from The Geek Fashion Show here and here, and interviews with Steve Cardenas and Irene Bedard here.