Animation on Display (AOD) is a local convention that has always held a special place in my heart. Surprisingly, it’s one of the few anime conventions available in the San Francisco Bay Area. You would think living in such a major city, we would actually have more conventions, but that’s not the case. We’ve already lost WonderCon due to construction back in 2011 and YaoiCon was held at the Westin Long Beach Hotel in 2012 when it was purchased by Digital Manga Publishing in 2011. For the last couple years, one of the biggest complaints about AoD was how crowded and congested it had become at Hotel Kabuki. It would often be a bit frustrating trying to fight your way through the lobby as well as through the dealer’s hall. So it was about time for them to find a new venue that can ease the congestion as well as provide space for future growth.
This year, Animation on Display was held at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, California. If this hotel sounds familiar, that’s because it’s where YaoiCon was held for many years until 2011 when they switched to the Marriott before they moved to Southern California. The Hyatt Regency is a nice hotel with loads of space, perfect for growth. The additional space is immediately apparent as soon as you go to registration. With plenty of stations open, the registration line was never very long. At Hotel Kabuki, getting to the artist alley and panel rooms was difficult at times as the lines at registration would block the entrance. The dealer hall was downstairs and difficult to find. Now at the Hyatt, everything is on the same floor, but a bit more spread out making it easier to navigate. I spent some time walking through dealer’s room checking out the various vendors. Each vendor had a decent sized booth and foot traffic was definitely steady for both days. I didn’t get nearly as much time to check out the panels, but the line-up schedule was full and had lots of good offerings such as Hideo, charity auction, Masquerade, Cards Against Humanity, and more. Guests included voice actresses Cristina Vee (Madoka Magica, League of Legends), Melissa Hutchinson (The Walking Dead, League of Legends), and many others .
Having gone both days, I can definitely say that Saturday was busier. Lots of cosplayers, lots of foot traffic, lots of cosplay photographers, cosplay videographers, and of course, attendees. The quality of cosplay for a small local con like Animation on Display was suprisingly good. There were many good cosplays that I missed the opportunity to photograph as they were either busy with other photographers or I was busy shooting other cosplayers when they were available. By Sunday, foot traffic had died down quite a bit and while there were still cosplayers, there weren’t as many as on Saturday. A number of cosplayers I spoke to seem to cite work as the reason they were only able to come one day.
I’ve been asked for my opinion a number of times regarding if moving Animation on Display to their new venue was a good idea. In the long term, yes. They need space and a venue that has the space for AoD to grow attendance as well as the program offerings. In the short term, without seeing any hard numbers, to me, there seemed to be less attendees. But on that same note, the Hyatt is much larger than the Kabuki so people were more spread out, but we’ll find out once the official numbers are released. I think AoD will have to work hard to bring high profile guests and programming that many people would like to see if they want to keep attendance numbers up and growing. One of the biggest appeals of past AoDs was its location in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown. Attendees had lots of food options; whereas at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, there aren’t many food options within reasonable walking distance. On top of that, the food in the area is priced accordingly to the demographics: business people flying in from SFO, a.k.a. overpriced. Hotel Kabuki and Japantown offer many places to go for photoshoots and public transportation is much better and cheaper than trying to get to the Hyatt. Also in Japantown, there is always foot traffic, so it’s always busy. What was shocking for me this year was how dead the convention appeared by 5 PM. The previous years of AoD, people would often hang around until at least 8 PM before going to dinner.
So how is the Hyatt Regency SFO for photoshoots? Not nearly as bad as other hotels I’ve been too. I would say it’s almost more difficult to shoot at Los Angeles Airport Marriott where they hold Anime Los Angeles because of how crowded and limited it is. The Hyatt is spacious with lots of windows allowing for lots of natural light filtering through. There is also an unattached parking garage that has lots of potential. Crossing the street offers a backdrop of buildings, shrubberies, and even water.
Overall I had a great time at Animation on Display at it’s new venue. It’s always a pleasure to see the many friends that I only find at conventions. I definitely can’t wait to be back next year. For comparison, you can see the previous year’s coverage of Animation on Display.
Some photos from this year’s convention:
You can see more photos from Animation on Display 2014 over on Facebook.
Did you also know that we have an Instragram? We’ll be posting our behind-the-scenes (BTS) shots there, so be sure to follow us there if you want to see more cool BTS stuff. Here are some BTS shots from Animation on Display: