There's a whole lot wrong with the world these days. At the time of this writing, there's an on-going conflict with Israel and Palestine. Russia is certainly not getting along with Ukraine and the Ebola virus is raging on in some African nations with no stop in sight. Not to mention gas prices are high as usual and the American economy is still trying to get back on it's feet (Though it seems to be headed that way.) August is rolling in and that signals the end of Summer and many of you are starting college and high school soon. Also, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is on a hiatus, with no date for season 5 in sight.
There is a lot of bloodshed, conflict, struggle and growing up to do. Here comes BronyCon, a convention targeted to the peripheral demographic of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic". That demographic mainly consisting of young men.
That's what the mainstream media wants you to believe.
If you look at the phenomenon on the surface, you're simply not getting the complete picture. Having attended this convention when it was just a 1 day affair in the Flatiron District of New York City, the demographic of this convention is changing rapidly. What was largely young, white and male, is largely young, male, sizably female and full of families with kids. YES, K-I-D-S. This year, they were everywhere in spades. The convention is laser-focused on being strictly PG after an infamous incident that...shall I say was not family friendly ("The Roast of MLP", nuff said.). This obvious focus naturally draws in families. The special guests even joined in on the fun in the youngster exclusive "Crusaders Clubhouse". For example, a sing-a-long with show songwriter Daniel Ingram and story time with G.M. Barrow, writer of several MLP novels (and now is a writer for the show in season 5.)
With the changing face of the fandom, I certainly won't say the average "Brony" isn't going away anytime soon. Though I wish some of them would discover a haircut and lose the fedora (seriously!). I noticed friendliness was a BIG trend amongst the attendees, sometimes on the level of being really irritating. What can I say is this: I'll be friendly, just don't try so hard in doing so in return. The convention adopted a controversial, but optional color-coded system that signified the level of interaction you preferred that was attached to your badge. Green is full on OK, Yellow sometimes and Red is don't talk to me. I refrained from using this system since I feel it's important to convey your feelings with actual communication. I can see it being beneficial for certain individuals, namely those of the Autism spectrum, but a system like this should not be used as a crutch. I'm going off a tangent a bit, but if people can't signify body language telling you something is right or wrong, that is a huge problem.
The convention for the most part was ran smoothly. In comparison to last year, pre-registration was heaven on earth. I was in and out on Thursday in 1 minute. Its clear that the staff focused strongly on getting the registration right this time since they got a lot of heat for 3+ hour lines on Thursday Night in 2013. In the future, will it be as smooth as this year? Only time will tell. Though one suggestion would be to make registration in the same area that Otakon does it. It has such a huge amount of space that largely wasn't used this year, save for a "renegade stage" next to the escalators.
The panels were largely entertaining and I didn't need to walk out of a single one this year. The Apples to Apples panel with the voice actors/comic artists was the highlight of my panel experience - hysterically laughing all the way. The one thing I didn't like was the stanchions everyone had to walk back and forth dozens of times before entering the main panel room. It gets really annoying. The dealers room was HUGE and as expected, I ran away with a lot of merchandise, though I wish it were easier to get a full commission from Andy Price. You know there are other artists that draw the comic you know, like Tony Fleccs, Katie Cook and Amy Mebberson (who was not in attendance) I find these other artists aren't getting the same love, but I digress.
A trend that I'm seeing a lot is more licensed merchandise for sale, namely by the big time vendors. I never felt it was right to spend some serious cash on the custom plushies though. They served a purpose in the fandom's early days when companies like Hasbro was the only company releasing horrible-looking products that didn't resemble the look on the show. Licensing of the property has worked wonders for the variety of merchandise. Thanks to competent licensees such as Aurora and 4DE, you can have a great-looking Pinkie Pie plush without breaking the bank.
With the increase of more vendors, the smaller vendors may be receiving less exposure. I spoke to some artist friends of mine and they felt that experience. Could this be the end of the amateur artist dominating the dealers room? It looks like it's getting closer to that reality. Maybe it's time for the actual vendors and artist alley-type folks to have their own separate area like Otakon does. They certainly have the room.
The music stuff, while a highlight to a lot of Bronies coming to this event is not a really big thing for me. I hung out at "Bronypalooza" for 1 hour before I left. My feet hurt all day from walking an equivalent of 7 miles A DAY. What can I say, I'm getting old and I draw and write stuff, not make wubs that all of you hip, young kids do.
From start to finish, the convention was full of positivity, all the way up to the closing ceremonies, consisting of endless singing and balloons tossed around endlessly. A better name could be a closing celebration as it felt more like a lively Baptist Church that I was forced to go to as a kid. (BTW, I'm an atheist now.) It took me by surprise since you don't get this type of jubilation at Otakon or any major con, where it skews older and have a jaded view of the con experience after many years of attending them.
in all intents and purposes, BronyCon 2014 was a rousing success. It will return to Baltimore in 2015 August 7th-9th and will be back again in 2016, for the 5th anniversary. The question remains, will it still be relevant in a few more years? Unlike a general pop-culture or Japanese/East Asian culture conventions, this event is narrowly focused on the 4th generation of My Little Pony; just one show and it's culture. It's really up to the fans and the creators of the show to keep it relevant for future audiences. The youth are vital to a convention's staying power. Trust me, I'm kinda burned out after going to Otakon every summer for nearly a decade. The attendance of 9,600 while great to see is a modest increase from last year's 8,400 (that doubled from 4,000 from 2012 in Secaucus, NJ). That shows a sign that the convention is slowing in growth. I'm hopeful it will last a long time, but seeing that number makes me worry about its future as a big-time convention.