ConnectiCon is a medium-sized multi-genre convention held annually in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. ConnectiCon also caters to fans of science fiction, fantasy, comics, webcomics, and Western animation. For its sixth year, ConnectiCon returned to the spacious Connecticut Convention Center, conveniently connected to the Hartford Downtown Marriott. Guests included science fiction actors Ellen Muth of Dead Like Me, Ethan Phillips and Robert Picardo from Star Trek: Voyager, bellydancer Amira Sa'id, and musical bands Konami Kode and Ikeda Katsu. The con also boasted an array of activities including panels, table-top gaming, concerts, AMVs, a masquerade, and several other cosplay events. Despite it's "multi-genre" mission statement, however, ConnectiCon feels mostly like an anime convention, with almost identical programming to other New England anime conventions with a slight emphasis on webcomics. The sci-fi guests seemed tacked on as almost an afterthought, and no other programming really reflected the multi-genre theme. Even the theme for the masquerade was Pokémon, an anime property. Con organizers could easily solve this by allowing non-anime cosplay or music videos into the convention-run contests and encouraging paneling and programing around popular themes like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. In addition, events were so spread out that it was difficult to know what was going on and where. Additional promotion and signage would likely help, as would a more organized staff. Overall, ConnectiCon has a lot of potential to mature into its own unique event; it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
Sketch was looking forward to returning to his fourth ConnectiCon this year as a guest artist, while Shiva was excited to attend for the very first time after missing out the previous year due to a scheduling conflict. She was especially intrigued by the multi-genre aspect of the event as she had previously only been to anime conventions, despite the fact that science fiction and classic comics were her main fandoms. She was especially interested in meeting thel Star Trek: Voyager actors who were going to be in attendance, as Shiva had enjoyed watching Voyager since the mid-1990s. Sketch arrived Thursday night, and after settling in, put the finishing touches on his new Organization XIII coat, which still needed the chains and other decorative pieces added. Friday morning, Sketch got into his Xenmas costume and spent most of the day setting up and manning his table in the Artist's Alley.
That afternoon Sketch and the rest of his Kingdom Hearts II group did an awesome shoot with Christa in the rain outside the convention center; the photos were amazing - especially of Lolita as Dark Riku - but since their coats were made of real leather they suffered from water damage and had to be laid out to dry afterwards. Friday night they rehearsed for their masquerade skit while Shiva arrived and settled in with Crazyflower. After getting into costume and picking up their badges, they met up with with Steve, Ginger, Michela, and PatrickD and hung out for the evening. For a brief period they were followed around by a creepy attendee; they ended up hiding out in ConnectiCon's surprisingly fancy bathroom - which looked more like a parlor with plush carpets, couches, and mirrors - until he left.
Saturday morning Sketch was back at his art table as Xenmas while Shiva got into Poison Ivy and attended the AMV contest where two of her entries had made the finals: "Awakening Saturn," and "Path to Power." There weren’t any voting ballots or pencils in sight anywhere when she walked into main events, despite being on time. None were passed out after seating, so she took note of her favorites hoping she could vote later. There was an excellent Avatar: The Last Airbender video called "Say Goodbye" in the drama category, and overall a lot of strong entries. One of the upbeat category entries, however, was completely bizarre and out of place; it just contained camera-filmed footage of someone playing Super Smash Brothers on a TV screen with techno music in the background. Even stranger, there did not appear to be any editing whatsoever, it was just a straight shot of footage. On the way out, there were still no ballots, so it is unclear how anyone voted for anything.
That afternoon we met Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips; it was such a strange experience to meet someone we were used to seeing on TV in real life! After chatting with them, we headed main events for Anime Unscripted. Sketch was performing in the main cast along with Michelle Knotz, while PatrickD recruited Shiva to help out with the TV Newscasters game as the sports reporter. A random audience member was picked to be news co-hosts with Michelle, but was rambling on for so long Shiva was forced to interrupt to insert a joke about being biodegradable to keep the scene moving. After the show wrapped, we all went out for lunch where PatrickD taught us a new card trick he had learned before parting ways for the afternoon; Sketch went to prep for the masquerade with his skit group while Shiva did several photoshoots for friends, including Andrew, Ellystar, and Crazyflower.
Before the masquerade, Shiva changed into Princess Lenna and with PatrickD's help, got some great seating to watch the show as all of her friends were either competing or judging. The show had excellent hosts playing Jesse, James, and Meowth from Pokémon's Team Rocket who kept the show moving at an energetic pace. They were consistently laugh-out-loud funny, and improvised clever jokes based upon the skit entries. They even managed to make reading the entry cards hysterical, as Jessie struggled for dominance, Meowth struggled against illiteracy, and James struggled against his own incompetence. The masquerade's entries were also refreshing; highlights included a solo Solid Snake cosplayer who, using nothing but a cardboard box, proved what a little ingenuity can accomplish. An xxxHolic dance skit to "RammaLamma” creatively conveyed the plotline of the manga and involved complex dancing. Shiva was also well-seated to get some great photos and video footage of Sketch and Steve's performances. Once all the skits were finished, catwalk music played and the costume contest walk-ons proceeded one after another fashion runway-style, which kept the entire thing interesting but also moving right along - more conventions should treat their walk-ons this way!
In stark contrast to the well-run masquerade, the AMV presentation was a disaster. Before the winners were shown, a new AMV was played because the organizers had forgot to even show it during the actual contest viewing. Then it was announced that the winners were not chosen by ballot, but by the judges before the convention had even began in order to ensure the choices would be "fair." That said, it quickly became questionable that there was any "fairness" involved with the selections; while we were happy to see the Avatar video receive a well-deserved Best Drama, the rest of the awards were a sham. The Best Action winner was a romance video that had zero action in it and at the very least should have been re-categorized, Best Comedy wasn't even remotely funny, and the judges didn’t like any of the Romance entries enough to choose a winner, so they just said nobody won. If that wasn't bad enough, the unedited, filmed off of TV Super Smash Brothers video, which violated every rule for even qualifying for the contest, WON Best Upbeat. For any editor in the contest who slaved over their video, loosing to something not even qualified to enter - an award given by the STAFF JUDGES, no less - was just a slap in the face. Luckily the masquerade awards were on point, with Sketch's group winning second place craftsmanship and the Ramalamma group getting a well-deserved Best in Show.
Sunday morning Sketch manned his art table while Shiva had volunteered for cosplay chess as Princess Tutu; she had to report to main events by 10am but her and the other contestants were left standing around with no direction for an hour and half. FINALLY as everyone was getting impatient, the staff running the event got things started at 11:30, only 30 minutes before the show began. They began by calling out who was going to be which chess piece, which ended up being completely different than what the participants had received in their notification emails prior to the con. Shiva had planned to be a bishop on the board per her notification, with several attacks ready to go, but was suddenly told she was now a special attack for Ceras Victoria from Hellsing. Suddenly everything she, and many other volunteers, had planned to do had to be scrapped and re-done last minute. Even worse, many of the volunteers had never even SEEN a cosplay chess match, much less participated in one before, and nobody from the staff bothered to explain how any of it was supposed to work. Shiva found herself teaching half the cast how the damn chess match worked with only ten minutes to spare. By the end Shiva was frustrated and annoyed by the whole fiasco, and to add insult to injury she didn't even get to do her special attack because Ceras forgot and killed her opponent before Shiva could even get onstage, making the entire five-hour debacle a complete waste of her time.
Shiva was beyond relieved to be released from main events that afternoon after that nightmare, and met up with Sketch who had finished up another photoshoot with his Kingdom Hearts group, this time, in the sun rather than the rain. Christa took some great photos of Shiva as Princess Tutu and everyone hung out and explored the convention for a bit before they all realized it was late afternoon and nobody had eaten lunch. We changed into regular clothes, packed up our cars, and caravaned to a local restaurant; PatrickD volunteered to lead the way but took a wrong turn and we all were dying laughing as we had to turn around when we realized we were collectively lost. Finally we made it to the restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful evening of friends, food, and cocktails. After the meal wrapped up we hung around playing party games into the night. Overall we had a fun weekend with friends and ConnectiCon has potential if it can get its organizational house in order. Hopefully it will learn from its mistakes and improve its staffing and programming for next year.