Convention Reports

August 11, 2002

News for TOTEMCon 2002:

TOTEMCon convention report

by Patrick Delahanty

Day 1: Saturday, August 10, 2002

I first heard about this con only about a week and a half beforehand. Since I'm involved with Anime Boston and have been to all the New England anime cons of the last couple years, I never expected that there was another one that had somehow slipped under my radar. Not only did I not find out about it until the last minute, but I didn't even know about it last year. Very stealthy.

Of course, since I didn't hear about it and I've been out there looking for cons like this, I had to wonder how many people had actually heard of it and how many would show.

Doing a little research online, I discovered that last year's con had maybe around 200 people and a dozen or so of those were in costume. Seems fairly respectable for a small con's first year. Of course, a few well-placed flyers around Boston would certainly have done wonders for getting the word out about this event.

It looks like an office building
The Hampton Inn, Natick, MA
Anyway, having nothing better to do that weekend (and seeking out another opportunity to show off my Renamon costume), I took a 20 minute drive west to Natick. After a quick bite at D'Angelo's, I arrived at the Hampton Inn. I had been here years ago to attend "Presentation Skills Training" as an employee of The Monster Board. Small hotel.

Heading upstairs, I found the registration desk in front of me. I was informed that Paul Dobson could not attend (due to passport trouble) and that Ian Clark was inside and Scott McNeil and Brian Drummond would be arriving shortly.

For a good ten minutes, I paced around the lobby and debated to myself if I should actually attend the con or not. Admission was a whopping $35...and I was told that didn't include going to the guest Q&A panel or any autographs. If I wanted to go to the Q&A or get autographs, that was $50! Fifty dollars! I paid less than that for each of the cons I've been to this year...and it's safe to say that they've all offered more than TotemCon does.

Eventually, I gave in and paid the $35...which itself was still steep considering it has no guest access. My reasoning was 1) "I'm here anyway", 2) "I have nothing else to do this weekend", 3) "Even if I can't go to Q&A or get autographs, I should have a shot at seeing Scott and Brian", and 4) "The prize for best costume is lunch with the guests. Given that there's nobody else with a costume, my odds are pretty damn good."

Handing over the $35 hurt.

Taken with my back to the far wall
Just about everything was off this hallway
I got my hand stamped and entered TotemCon. Unfortunately, there were no convention programs or schedules available. Finding out when events occurred involved asking someone in a red shirt. All questions seemed to get uncertain replies. ...and if you ask two people, you get two different answers. Figuring out when and where stuff was consisted of polling most of the staff...the ones that weren't busy playing console games at least.

Most of the con stuff was down one of the hotel's hallways. On the left side of the hallway was the lone video room, dealers' rooms, and "art" room. After changing into my Renamon costume, I was told the masquerade had been moved from 12:30 to around 3pm. Since I didn't want to have to change out and then back in, I figured I'd just hang out. I plopped myself in a video room to watch the end of the Transformers episode "Rebirth" and a couple of classic GI Joe episodes. The video room also showed some anime and other 80's shows throughout the day. Again, no real schedule. Whatever was shown depended on who put in the VHS tape.

Next to the video room were the dealers' rooms. Since the hotel lacked a single large room, the con split the dealers up. Not a bad setup actually...and a decent selection if you happened to be shopping for Transformers toys or common things you could go buy at the Natick Mall across the street. Oh, and some guy selling a buttload of bootleg tapes for some obscene prices. I didn't even bother browsing that stuff. Bootlegs bad!

The T-shirts seemed popular with attendees
...but is it art?
Next to the dealers' rooms "art" room. At least I think it was supposed to be an art room. I'm not really sure. There was a guy in there selling TotemCon T-shirts. He was surrounded by someone's mismatched collection of He-Man, Transformers, and MASK toys. The collection wasn't really that impressive and the stuff on display wasn't in remarkable condition, so I'm not sure why it was there.

To the right side of the hallway were the PC gaming room and the console gaming room. The PC gaming room had eight rented PCs with Unreal Tournament, Diablo II, Jedi Knight, and a couple others (I think). One of the many times I got bored, I came in here and played some Unreal Tournament. (It's hard when you have three-fingered paws.) Unfortunately, the PCs weren't networked and I could only play against the computer. Disappointing.

The console gaming room was lighted and had more people in it (mostly staff) playing a variety of games on various consoles such as NES, PS2, and Gamecube. During another one of my fits of boredom, I tried Dance Dance Revolution for the first time ever. I sucked...and it wasn't just because I was in full costume. ...and thus ends my DDR career.

From Rainbow Brite
While I waited for something, anything to happen, I played some Unreal Tournament. Just as I fragged some lame AI, the corner of my eye caught someone in costume walk by the room followed by someone with cat ears and a tail. I left the game behind to get a better look. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw Scott and Darcy, my Anime North cosplay partners, coming out of a dealers' room. It was good to finally find some familiar faces and I was really glad to see them...but felt bad knowing that only one of us would win lunch with the guests in the masquerade. ...whenever they decided to hold it.

We hung out for a while. Played some games, examined the dealers' rooms, and repeated the process several times. With the afternoon growing old and our stomachs growling, we asked when they were going to have that masquerade. The con chair decided to hold it right then. We stood in the hall and were judged by a couple staffers and two attendees. It was decided that Darcy and I tied and could both attend the "Celebrity Lunch". Yay! with that out of the way, I changed out of my costume and we went to the restaurant downstairs for dinner.

After dinner, we headed back upstairs and checked out the console gaming room for a while. When the con chair told us Scott McNeil and Brian Drummond were in the dealers' room signing autographs, I decided to check it out. Although I didn't pay for the $50 pass, I decided to stand in line anyway. If anyone questioned it, I'd gladly step aside and merely watch. Nobody questioned anyone and, in fact, I never heard any staff mention the difference between the passes all weekend. Nobody got denied access to anything as far as I could tell.

'Waspinator has a headache in his whoooole body!'
Scott McNeil chats on the phone with Lizzard
A couple of the dealers had HUGE piles of Transformers toys piled up for Scott and Brian to sign. I was a little miffed that the dollar signs in their eyes made everyone else have to wait, but at least with Scott and Brian, it was an entertaining wait. When I got to the front, I had them sign the cover to my Escaflowne movie DVD.

After the fans got their autographs, Scott was busy signing more toys for a dealer and Brian was just sitting there. Since he was the voice of Allen Schezar in Escaflowne, I thought it would be fun to get him to call Lizzard. I explained that she was a big fan of Escaflowne and even had her own Sock Ally doll. Handing him my cell phone, he got her voice mail.

I checked my e-mail on my cell phone a few minutes later. Mail from Lizzard. She was out walking the dog and so disappointed that she missed Brian's call. He called her back and they chatted it up for a few minutes. Then Scott took the phone. Boy, those two can talk! I can just imagine my cell phone bill from the 16 minute long distance call...eep! [Note: This was 2002. Calls weren't cheap.]

Leaving the guests and staff on their own to see the new Austin Powers movie, Scott, Darcy, and I headed back to my place where they started painting their new plastic models.

Day 2: Sunday, August 11, 2002

Note the crowds in the background
Darcy and Scott certainly drew a lot of attention
From the schedule on their web site, I could tell not too much was scheduled for Sunday. Essentially repeating Saturday stuff... Figuring they'd have the "Celebrity Lunch" around noon, I planned to arrive about then. I think I got there at 12:20. Whatever.

I think Scott and Darcy arrived around 1:00. As expected, they were dressed in costumes again. We hung around checking out the dealers' room, video game rooms, and *chuckle* art room while we waited for the "Celebrity Lunch". ...and waited. ...and waited.

Finally, probably around 2pm, we were whisked away to a conference room. It was Brian Drummond, Scott McNeil, Darcy, myself, and two guys who won a video game tournament or something. We were provided with menus for the hotel restaurant while we sat around a rather large table chatting.

Scott learned that his wife had gone into Boston to shop for shoes. He pulled out his credit card and put it on the table. "Watch it start smoking."

Not wanting to jump on them with typical fan questions ("What's your favorite role?", "In episode 7 of Beast Machines...", "Do the Dr Claw voice!", "What's it like working with Venus Terzo?"), most of the conversation strayed away from their jobs. Brian told us about how he and his wife ran an educational program back home. Scott was more than happy to tell us the wonders of Krispy Kreme. (They were both disappointed to learn that it was not in the Boston area yet...mostly because it's the home turf of Dunkin Donuts.)

It took at least an hour for our lunches to arrive. After chowing down, they took the time to sign a few autographs for us. (I had them sign an Escaflowne poster that will be given away in a contest at Tsubasa no Kami.)

After lunch, it was time for "Jeopardy" across the hall. The whole audience (maybe 15 people) were the contestants. One of the categories was "Know Your Canadians". Scott and Brian were hidden behind a curtain. Whenever someone picked that category, one of them would do a character's voice. The audience would have to guess who was doing the voice and what character it was. ...and it wasn't always as easy as it sounds. The second round had them imitating voices of famous Barenaked Ladies.

Scott (the cosplayer, not Scott McNeil) did really well in the second round and ended up with the most points. He won DBZ action figures autographed by Brian Drummond and Scott McNeil.

After "Jeopardy", there was a Q&A panel. Pretty much your typical Q&A questions... At the end, Brian asked what con was next for everyone. The overwhelming response was "Anime Boston!" Apparently those flyers I left at the registration table worked.

After hanging out while Scott and Brian signed some final autographs, it was time to head home. The con was over...and ran a little long.


Looking back, it was worth the $35 for me. I got to have lunch with Scott McNeil and Brian Drummond and got several opportunities to talk to them one-on-one. However, had I not been in the celebrity lunch and if the guests were hidden away, it would have been an almost complete waste of money. I mean, most of the dealers' room stuff could be found online, the "art" room with the toys on display was a joke, and I've got my own video games at home...and they're networked. ...and I could hang out with Darcy and Scott for free.

This con definitely needs a lot of improvements if it wants to attract people back next year. The biggest needs are a schedule for events and videos, more pre-planning, and some actual promotion. Had there been some flyers up at area comic and game stores, I'm sure the attendance would have been at least four times as much. (I estimate an attendance of 60...including staff. I could be off, but it's certainly well under 100.)

I had a good time though. Would I go back next year? I don't know. I'll have to wait and see if they look like they're going to improve. ...and see if I want to have another lunch with the people they get as guests.