Jump to content


Board Moderator
  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Community Reputation

0 Neutral

About alabaster

  • Rank
    Grand Vizier
  • Birthday 07/10/1970

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
    Columbia, MD
  • Interests
    anime, duh.

Recent Profile Visitors

5,221 profile views
  1. alabaster


    Quite correct, that's our mascot Hiroshi (his slightly older sister, Hiroko, is our girl mascot, and Crabby-chan is our animal mascot). The theme was fairy tales and legends that year, so the art evokes that. Here's where you can read about our mascots: https://www.otakon.com/info/mascots/ They've appeared in numerous comic strips, several opening animations, and plenty of commercials -- as well as in shirts and other paraphernalia. Each year we have a different theme to unify our art and programming. This year's is giant robots. Prior years have included time travel, super heroes, sports, racing, space, music, and food. Our last year in Baltimore we themed around voyages, and last year's theme was spies and espionage.
  2. A guest panel? do you mean a fan panel?
  3. alabaster

    What are the chances of a Another Anisong World Matsuri?

    Glad you enjoyed it! That was my main job last year, so I am always happy to hear positive feedback. The short answer is that we were never going to do AWM every year, and we weren’t planning to do it in 2018. The longer explanation is that a number of factors, from venue to population to timing, make the economics trickier for us than for our friends out west. We have build out an event space from scratch, first of all, and I have mentioned elsewhere some of the other costs (like airfare, longer hotel stays, more limited flights, etc) that work against us. As other noted, we also want to make sure we aren’t just one kind of thing. we have, however, been working with Lantis for a decade (and TMR for 15 years), and I don’t see any reason to stop working with them, any more than I’d see us suddenly dropping Sony, who we’ve worked with even longer. But at the same time, we have always been willing to try new things.
  4. Heh. Everyone gets sticker shock. Hell, people who know nothing always complain "why is it so expensive to eat out" or "it's ridiculous what this stuff costs", but they're comparing apples to oranges. Paying for food in restaurants, for example, means paying for not only peoples' time, but also insurance and other costs of doing business. They think "oh, i can buy a 35-pack of bottles water at costco for $3.50", and don't realize that it has very little to do with the actual cost of getting such things on site. Know those urns full of coffee? They're $50-75 each (average about $60). A can of soda or bottle of juice or water is $3-4 each. A snack service for 50 (cookies or pastries, coffee/tea service) runs something like $600-800. Standard box lunch (sandwich, chips/salad, cookie, bottle/can beverage) is $25-30 each. Plus service fee, labor (minimum one person for 2-4 hours), and tax (all told another 20-30%). And you're generally not allowed to bring in outside food and beverages to convention centers or larger hotels. And they're limited in how long they're legally allowed to leave stuff out. (We always rented a fridge for the green room, and kept sodas and any leftover lunch sandwich boxes until we shut down around 6.). That's not unusual; that's *standard practice and pricing* everywhere, once you get past a certain size. Why? Because they also have to account for storage, waste issues, labor, shipping, etc. at a scale that most people never really think about. Those big bottles of filtered water on coolers everywhere? They ain't cheap either, and we have to pay to refill them. I'd have to look it up, but it was pretty expensive in our last couple years in Baltimore, and we fought hard to negotiate better terms. Thousands and thousands of dollars. Again, no surprise to people who've run events before, but it never occurs to most attendees what stuff really costs.
  5. Like everything else, it comes down to money. People who live online frequently forget that actual real-world stuff costs money, and when they remember, they often have no clue just how expensive things really are, and how few costs are within our ability to do much about. just quick math here. They had about 40 guests named, and that's probably 60-70 guest rooms, assuming management/assistants and maybe a few room shares for guests -- but very few of those folks are sharing rooms. A rough estimate of costs per person: Hotel: $750 Food/per diem: $300 Flight (econ from west coast): $700 Flight (biz/first from west coast): $1500 Ground transport: $200 (typically LA pickup/dropoff, and assuming local service shared or rented as part of support logistics) So we're looking at raw costs of $1750 minimum per person x 70, with actual guests proper stars requiring a bit more ($200 x 40), and bigger names adding another $1k in logistics costs. Pretty sure Lando Calrissian doesn't fly coach class from LA. Baseline (room, food, flight): $122,500 (for 70 people) ground transport for 40 proper guests: $8000 Upcharges for bigger names ($1k x 20 guests): $20k They had $150k in guest costs before they even paid a single fee. Those can be all over the place (anime guests are much less costly), but TV stars and folks like Billy Dee going to be in the neighborhood of $5k - $50k, and plenty all the way up to $100k+. IIRC, the stars of most of the CW shows pull in $25-75k per appearance. Even assuming they averaged $10k per guest, that's another $400k. Half a million so far in costs. We don't have event space yet. Add in even a very rough estimate of $500k to outfit the BCC and minimally staff it as required by contract. Probably closer to $750k-$1 million, now. Printed materials, photo and autograph setups, at least SOME staff that would need rooms on site (Otakon's always shared staff rooms at 4/per), and you begin to see why I found things a bit unrealistic and assumed some kind of sponsorship, because $56k in kickstarter wouldn't cover much of that at all. Probably a lot of that went to legal and administrative fees, travel and setup costs -- assuming the key players were volunteering, which isn't a great assumption. Now, this is just back of envelope costs, and not to be taken as gospel. But it always looked too good to be true.
  6. I feel bad for all the folks who lost out -- and I think it's cool that a group of fans is trying to organize something with cons that weekend. It's a shame it came to this. But let me be clear (and personal -- I am not speaking for Otakon here in the slightest, but as someone who's been attending cons for 30 years and running them for 20): First, no convention is without risk, and first-year events carry a LOT of risk (some more than others). There were loads of warning signs here, and I'm aware of quite a few vendors who gave it a pass because the promises didn't seem likely to be fulfilled. The vendors and artists who took that risk will unfortunately lose out, as will congoers who booked travel, and guests who committed to this event and found out (some by twitter) that they'd lost out. Second, if other cons absorb the losses of this fiasco, then the wrong people pay the price. Balticon and Philly, if they're the same weekend, see an opportunity to get attendees who planned UFC, and earn some good will, and that's fine, but Balticon can use the new blood (and will likely get few takers, unfortunately, having a very different feel and focus), and Philly's 90 minutes away. At very least, the events have a duty to their own members/attendees -- and being welcoming is great when it doesn't hit your bottom line too deeply. I don't think there is anything we can really do to "make things right" for people who got screwed over by Universal FanCon. The only people who can do that are the folks running that event, and I sincerely hop they do so. And more importantly, I don't really think we should, unless it costs the convention little or nothing to do. How would that be fair to those who paid *us*, competed for the space, etc. for tables at Otakon? Every one of those tables costs money to set up (way more than you'd think). We can't afford to give away something that is considered valuable enough to sell out every year. No con can. And it isn't going to help the folks whose costs are already sunk for that weekend. As the UFC folks discovered, it is VERY expensive to run a sizable con -- and frankly, they should have known better. Some of them *really* should have, given their experience. It makes it hard to chalk it up to inexperience or ungrounded idealism when the folks in charge have done this before. Even a small con ain't cheap, and the only way they had any hope of making good on all they promised was to instantly hit 20k-plus people --- AND have significant angel funding. When Otakon was that size, it cost about $2-2.5 million to run the event. They kickstarted initial funds of $55k. There's no other group with the understanding of what it takes to run a convention at the Baltimore Convention Center that our staff possess, and we have always freely shared that with fellow events. Merely renting the BCC (before you put anything or anyone in it, turned on the lights or air conditioning, etc.) would cost 4-5x that. The only way they were hitting that is if they were funded by someone as a pet project, which was a possibility they hinted at early on. Pretty sure they'd promised more free autographs/ops than they could comfortably conduct, too, but that's less of an issue when you can't pay the facility and hotels. Having said all that, hopefully you've noticed a definite trend of Otakon offering content aimed at the same audience. We consciously select panels and other content that hit a broad spectrum, within the confines of our mission -- we've worked hard to offer panels that focus on minorities, representation, outsiders, LGBTQ, etc., mostly driven by fan submissions. Some have been fantastic. And I think -- no, I know -- that Otakon has been welcoming across the board to those communities, even we don't always make a big deal about it. I'm sure there's more to do, but we've been receptive to ideas. So maybe the best thing we can do is continue to try to address the needs of outsiders where we can.
  7. alabaster

    Nobuo Uematsu at Otakon

    More or less. Last time, he was a late opportunity and planning was a bit tight when it became clear he'd be able to pop over for a while. We couldn't squeeze in a standard autograph session if we wanted to, and he had limited time, so we tried something new (for us). IIRC the proceeds went to the Red Cross, though I believe his team handled all the collection of the money, because we weren't set up to do that and track it. I could be wrong, it was a busy year!
  8. alabaster

    Nobuo Uematsu at Otakon

    Depends on the guest, their manager, and the overall arrangement. When I first started, guests didn't often charge appearance fees, much less autograph fees. There are two basic models for guest autographs and/or photo ops. 1. Celebrity/Guarantee model, used by many for-profit events and comiccons, where the guest is primarily there to sit and sign, the proceeds of which pay the guests's fees. The guest is guaranteed a minimum income from those ops/autographs, and nothing's free. Typically, the convention handles the money, and makes up the difference if the guest doesn't sell the promised amount of stuff. This is how big names do shows -- it's become the defacto model for fan shows. 2. Sponsored signing model, in which guests sign for free (within limits), and the con or sponsor simply eats the fees. A guest might agree to sign the first 250 things, or something. Other guests don't charge at all. This is the old school model which we have followed as long as we could. Things have gone strongly in the direction of the Guarantee model, overall. We have, however, experimented with a hybrid model -- a guest may be given a table, and can sell and sign what he likes there, but be required to do two autograph sessions for free because of the fees we paid, or agree to sign program books at no charge. Photo ops have become popular and tend to be outsourced to operations that do it very well, but we really haven't done that much yet. Until recently, space was a big limiter for us. With no space to line people up, we couldn't really manage the table model very often, so it would have been difficult to make it work. But that has changed now that we're in a vast new space. And we wanted to make sure folks had some chance at free autographs, but as expectations change, things will probably evolve unless they're specifically sponsored. A few guests don't bother charging, even now. Realistically speaking, most guests can do 1-2 autographs a minute, but it can vary widely. It's still a good rule of thumb to assume 100 autographs an hour. Some folks are chatters, some are signing beasts. Either way it requires folks to manage the lines and keep things moving smoothly.
  9. alabaster

    Nobuo Uematsu at Otakon

    In his previous appearance, Uematsu preferred to limit how many autographs he did, and that was one factor in why we did relatively few. Not sure if that's the case this year, but bear in mind that some guests can zip through a load of autographs and others find them exhausting. Really depends on the guest and the arrangement with the management.
  10. alabaster


    As you've already posted in the proper guest request thread, I'm locking this one.
  11. alabaster

    Isao Takahata has died. He was 82.

  12. alabaster

    Otakon 2018 Guest Request

    As always, there will be folks who are loudly disappointed about specific guests that are announced , or specific guests they wanted that aren’t announced. Nobody gets everything they wanted. But.... I also look forward to watching many more people say “wow”. There are a few things in the hopper that will knock some socks off. Every year this plays through similarly. Trust me, unless we hit some really unfortunate luck, there will be stuff worthy of the anniversary.
  13. alabaster

    Otakon 2018 Guest Request

    As I mentioned to Ethan, few things are as predictable as the March Complaints. Most years, we're charging ahead on the guest front months early, and while some stuff has been in the works for ages, one big question that wasn't really resolved until quite late last year was what the actual costs were for our first year in DC. This past year was always going to be one where we had to assess the impact of massive changes, new contracts, new people, and various growing pains. So the budget was not settled until later than we'd hoped, and we still had Vegas to sort out and assess. And while Otakon's guest budget has been pretty stable for some time, the costs of bringing guests, and the sort of assistance we've had from Industry, have changed considerably in the last five years. Also, there have been changes in visa requirements (or in how they're scrutinized) in the last 2-3 years as well, which has some impact on availability of some guests -- especially musical acts from Japan and Korea. All of which has been felt behind the scenes, but probably won't be noticeable by the time con hits in August. But if you look back, we'd typically have maybe 2-3 guests announced by now (usually an early-signed popular US voice actor -- check -- and a musical act -- check), and quite a few others in the works. Historically, our March trip to Japan was where we cemented a lot of the J-guests but it still takes a while to get contracts and other arrangements sorted. And as for US guests, the specific assortment is always partly dependent on decisions that don't get made until early in the year when companies reassess their promotion plans for various shows, a lot of which happens after AnimeJapan/TAF in March. Historically, we'd expect to find out about US releases of new shows that would be timed appropriately to splash big at Otakon right about now, as well. April and May have historically been pretty big months for announcements, but some years we've been announcing new guests up until the print deadline in July! It is *FAR* too early to be worried.
  14. alabaster

    Otakon 2018 Guest Request

    Again, disclaimer: I'm speaking from prior experience and not for Ethan, who's making the calls this year. There's no particular reason why an actor known for video game work would be excluded from consideration. But we've typically aimed for guests who EITHER are tied to a specific hot new property (and thus are possibly supported by industry) or tick multiple boxes. Crispin's a great example -- he's a very popular guests, he brings good content, and he's in a ton of anime, video games, and other cartoons. The more boxes someone ticks, the greater their draw tends to be, and the more they have to contribute to the overall mission. Many voice actors also direct, adapt scripts, etc. which means they have plenty to discuss, and we've never really wanted to be an autograph show (not that there's anything particularly wrong with those). The more ties to our cultural and educational mission, the better. I've usually said we're an East Asian culture convention; many of our voice guests do a wide range of voice work including video games, Disney shows, etc. Nearly all of them are based in LA (because that's where most of the work is, excluding Funimation's Texas studio and a bit in NYC), and some are pricey to get, partly because they're being competed for by events focused more tightly on video games or Disney properties. For example, we tried several years back to get the voice of Solid Snake (David Hayter) for MGS's anniversary. If memory serves, he was already booked too close to our dates for us to score him, but I think another time he was unable to commit due to work as a scriptwriter. In some other cases, the work is frequent and short-notice enough that some folks are reluctant to take bookings that might conflict with likely work -- and our usual timing is one reason it's sometimes difficult for us to get seiyuu guests from Japan as well as guests who do non-anime US shows. In both cases we tend to fall close to the end of the deadline for fall launch projects and that can make it difficult to get firm commitments. That said, I'm sure Ethan's aware of the draw of Overwatch, but it is worth noting that the game itself is not a Japanese or Korean developed game, but one developed by Blizzard, which is firmly US-based, so the connection to east Asian culture's a bit more tenuous.
  15. Because he's in SEED, if memory serves. (bites into green bell pepper) As for Kon...yeah, a few of us staff raced down there after a staff meeting ran late, because we'd explicitly had seats held for us. We parked the car and ran across the mall to get to the screening mere moments before they let us in. Kon and Maruyama were there already, and Tom, our Smithsonian contact, plus the Sony rep. I remember the slightly demented glee of Kon's suggestion that we all "hang on, it's a roller coaster", and Maruyama's pride in both the film and the audience's response. I have one of the posters on my wall, and our friend Maile, ended up with a signed one!