Con Report: Megacon Orlando 2017

Megacon Orlando is one of the biggest, all-fandom conventions in the southeast United States, drawing over 100,000 attendees and inviting celebrity guests like Stan Lee and Tim Curry. It is four days long and held annually on Memorial Day weekend at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Last year, I attended for the first time with two of my favorite cosplaying buddies, Casey Covel (GUG’s editor-in-chief) and her sister Amy, so I knew I had to come back this year for round two.

Thursday

On Thursday, the convention didn’t officially open until 2 p.m. for Deluxe (four-day) passholders, but my friends and I arrived at about 1 p.m. so we would have plenty of time to find parking, take the shuttle to the conference center, and get our wristbands. Parking was easy to find, and the rate was reduced from last year to only $5 per day. The complimentary shuttle was roomy and got us promptly to the conference center. It took Amy and me about a half an hour to get through the pre-order line and receive our wristbands. Our other friend (who came with us Thursday) had only a day pass, so she couldn’t get into the convention until 4 p.m., and Casey, who was trying to get press entry as a writer for Florida Geek Scene, had to until about 4 p.m. to receive her press badge, so Amy and I went in at 2 p.m. to look at the vendors.

Many of the vendors were still setting up, and the halls weren’t crowded at all. The aisles were wide and spacious. Even with all of the vendors not completely ready, it took Amy and me about two hours to look through them all! There was such a variety of art styles, from comic books and anime, to jewelry, stickers, and metal art.
Finally, Casey and our other friend got into the convention, but by that time Amy and I had gone to attend a panel by Brina Palencia (Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler, Chopper from One Piece). The panel room was well-arranged, and we got seats close to the front. Since it was a Q&A panel, I got to ask Brina a question. Overall: a good panel experience. After the panel, I got Brina’s autograph, which went smoothly since her line wasn’t too long on a Thursday.
That same day, I cosplayed as Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Amy cosplayed as Light from Death Note, and Casey cosplayed as L from Death Note, but we didn’t get too many photo requests, which was odd since we were cosplaying as well-known characters. Later that day, though, the attendance rate increased and we got more cosplay love. I was a little nervous about cosplaying a character of a different skin color, but I was really happy with the reception I received. It made me happy to represent one of my favorite characters in fiction. My favorite cosplays of the day were No-Face from Spirited Away, Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Frozone from The Incredibles.

Friday

On Friday, I cosplayed a Survey Corps flag-bearer and Casey cosplayed Levi (with wings) from Attack on Titan. For some reason the prop inspectors checked her wings and put the ties in an awkward place. We ended up having to remove the ties because she couldn’t get her wings on with the prop-check bands fastened where they were. I understand my flagpole having to be inspected, but the wings were light-weight and harmless, which made their inspection seem overly strict. Amy cosplayed Rin from Fate/Stay Night, and was able to pass through the prop check easily. I understand that prop check is in place to protect Con-goers and I respect that, but this year their methods seemed a little silly.

That day, we met Mike McFarland (Jean Kirstein from Attack on Titan) and Charles Martinet (the one and only Super Mario). Mike McFarland was very kind, and Charles Martinet voice-acted throughout his autograph session and signed all over Casey’s Super Mario Galaxy game! The autograph queue functioned pretty well, with plenty of space for participants to wind through the line, and the actors provided posters to be autographed if you hadn’t already brought something of your own. The actors took cash only, which was accepted by their agent. The autograph prices seemed unusually high this year since anime actors usually don’t charge over $20, but this year some hit as high as $40.
The cosplay game definitely stepped up on Friday. We saw a wider variety, and we, as cosplayers, got much more exposure. My favorite cosplays of the day were Jean Arc from RWBY, Wolverine from Logan, and Eleven from Stranger Things.

Saturday

Saturday is the crown jewel of every convention. The best of the best actors, events, panels, and cosplayers always come out on this day–and so it also has the worst parking. Last year, we had to park in no man’s land and walk quite a distance, carrying a lot of heavy props. This year, we actually found parking quite easily–just a little bit higher on the parking deck than usual–and got a shuttle promptly to the convention center. This day, we all debuted new cosplays, Casey being Hatori from Fruits Basket, Amy being Akito from Fruits Basket, and I being a Fem-King Graham from King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder.

We hit a lot of vendors on Saturday! Some of my favorites were Perly Pixels, The Angry Mask Salesman, Ben Byrd, and Adam Schickling Illustrations.
We took a lot of cosplay pictures on this day. This year, Megacon set up some beautiful backgrounds from different genres for cosplayers to take photos in front of, so you were guaranteed to find at least one that suited your character. My favorite cosplayers of the day were a dragon cosplayer, Avatar Kyoshi from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the Eleventh Doctor from Doctor Who.

Sunday

Normally, Sunday is a very slow day since most vendors and attendees are packing up to go home, but this was actually my favorite day of the convention! A lot of great cosplayers came out on this day whereas, normally, only a few decide to dress up. I got to explore some of the displays I hadn’t before, like the life-size TARDIS, the R2-D2s, the WALL-E, and even a virtual reality game!

One negative note was that the prop check people struck again. On Sunday, I cosplayed as Ino Yamanaka from Naruto, so I had my shuriken props, and Amy cosplayed as Kaori from Your Lie in April. We both got flagged over to prop check, and, after asking Amy if her violin was real (what difference would it have made?), they put ties on both the instrument and the bow. I also had my two shuriken props checked and the inspectors tied them together. I took the tie off as soon as I got out of their sight.
A week or so before the Con, I pre-ordered my ticket online for a Gaten Matarazzo photo op (Dustin from Stranger Things) and Sunday was the day it was scheduled! I’d never done a photo op before, so I was excited. I arrived at the photo op area early, as instructed. The announcer who kept all of the people organized was very humorous, so I enjoyed listening to him until my group was called. We promptly headed to our line and then waited about twenty to thirty minutes until we were let into the curtained back area. Inside were cubbies to put belongings, so we tucked ours in place before heading behind the curtain to the studio area.
And there was Gaten himself! (*inner squeeing*)
I was so speechless. I just shimmied up next to him, and he put his arm around me. Then we looked at the camera, smiled, waited for the flash, and then headed out. I thought to myself, “Wow. That just happened.” It was so fast. I thought it would happen more slowly, and I was a bit worried how the picture would turn out since it was just one go, but when we finally picked up our picture, we were so satisfied! I couldn’t stop staring at it!

Afterward, we sat in the rest area to stuff down some food. Though it was crowded, we managed to find seats after some people got up. Throughout our time at the Con, we actually managed to find good seating for meals instead of resorting to the floor, which was a blessing.
Then we got in line to see Paige O’Hara (voice actress of Belle from Beauty and the Beast 1991). She was so popular, we actually had to get a ticket to come back later because she had to take a break to sign some per-ordered materials for fans. After some ticketing confusion–because apparently our ticket was misprinted so our number didn’t pull off with our ticket–we managed to get into our designated line. Then, we finally got to meet Paige. She was so sweet! It was so awesome to get to meet a Disney princess actress!
After doing some last-minute shopping, including a savory stop at the amazing Truffle Cottage vendor, we left a little before 5p.m., which is when the Con closed. It was a little hard to say goodbye until next year. My favorite cosplays for Sunday were definitely Gaara from Naruto Shippuden, Captain American and Deadpool from the Marvel Comics, The Blue Spirit from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Moana’s Grandmother from Moana.

Conclusion

Overall, Megacon was a great experience. I met many wonderful cosplayers, both young and old, the venue was spacious and clean, there was lots of sitting space, the vendors were fantastic, and, again, I loved the photography backgrounds! Will I be going again next year? Yes!
Have you ever been to a convention? Have you ever been to Megacon Orlando? Have you ever done a celebrity photo op? Tell us your experiences in the comments!

Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.

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