Sunday, April 10, 2016

Off to see the Wizard World

Last weekend, my friend Amanda and I left husbands and kids at home while we drove to St. Louis for Wizard World.

It was announced back in October that David Tennant and Billie Piper were going to appear at Wizard World St. Louis. Chris, knowing how much we love the 10th Doctor and Rose, suggested we have a ladies weekend and go. Plans were made.

We planned our cosplay, Amanda as the 10th Doctor, me as Donna Noble. Donna was an easy pick for a companion. She is one of my favorites, plus I felt I could pull her off. (I'm most definitely not a Rose Tyler, plus I look terrible as a blond.)

Many of our costume pieces were found at Goodwill. My fabulous leather jacket was found at Vintage Vogue by Goodwill. I dyed my hair.
Finger nails decorated to look like a TARDIS, dalek, 10th and 11th Doctors.
Doctor Who nail wraps from Espionage Cosmetics
We both did our nails in Doctor Who style. Fittingly, since it was announced a month or so before the convention that Matt Smith would also appear, the nail wraps included a TARDIS (duh), a Dalek (of course), and the 10th and 11th Doctors.

We knew our chances of seeing David Tennant, Billie Piper, or Matt Smith were slim, since we didn't pay the exorbitant price for their VIP experiences.

A photo of the Arch, taken as we arrived in St. Louis at sunset.
The St. Louis Arch, from the Martin Luther King Bridge, as we arrived
We arrived in St. Louis around sunset. We had taken I70 across Illinois, and our directions pointed us either to the I70 or I55 bridges across the Mississippi River, but we chose instead the smaller Martin Luther King Bridge, which afforded us a lovely view of the Arch as the sun set.

This being our first Wizard World, and our main convention experience being Gen Con, we weren't sure what the lines for wrist bands would be like in the morning, so we woke up early (well, we woke up before our alarm anyway), dressed for the day, had breakfast, and walked across the street from our hotel to the convention center around 8 a.m. The line for a wrist band was very quick, then we were shuffled into the line to wait the opening.

Amanda in her 10th Doctor cosplay, me in my Donna Noble cosplay, waiting to enter the convention hall.
The 10th Doctor and Donna, ready for the day!
During the hour and a half wait, we met some lovely people in line. The group in front of us, a mom and 4 of her teen/twenty-something kids, were also huge Whovians and Harry Potter fans. Sharing our fandom was a big part of why we went to the con.

Once on the con floor, we wandered our way toward the autograph and photo op area to pick up the tickets for our autographs and photograph with Elizabeth Henstridge (and check the schedule). When we discovered she would be at the convention, we decided to get autographs and a photograph with her since we both love that show and her character in particular.

Wandering the floor, we ran into the 4th Doctor and K-9. His K-9, while not as functional as the original, dispensed stickers to kids. The 4th Doctor is Chris's favorite, the Doctor he grew up watching.

Photo of me standing with a cosplayer dressed as the 4th Doctor, plus the K-9 he crafted.
Posing with a 4th Doctor cosplayer and K-9
We also saw this group of cosplayer representing the 4 modern Doctors, the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th. There were very few 9th Doctor cosplayers, which is sad, because I really like Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. (For the record, there were a lot of 10 and 11, which makes sense since they are the most popular and because those actors were at the con. We did see a handful of twelves.)

Photo of cosplayers dressed as the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors.
Four Doctors
There was a booth with a home-built DeLorean raising money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Amanda took a picture with the DeLorean. We also stopped by the Nerditure booth and took photos with their TARDIS. They had some really cool furniture, including a TARDIS laundry hamper and and toy box shaped like a Lego brick.

Photo of me in Donna Noble cosplay in front of a TARDIS.
Just stepping out of my ride.
Elizabeth Henstridge, who plays Dr. Gemma Simmons on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., had her first autograph session early, so we got in that line about half an hour before. She was absolutely delightful. She took a moment to talk to each person in line. When it was our turn, she noticed our nails and asked questions about the nail wraps. All in all, she just seemed so genuine and, yes, delightful.

After the autograph, we rushed upstairs, across the entire convention center to the ballroom for the David Tennant/Billie Piper panel, hoping we might get a seat, only to discover the panel was rescheduled for later since David Tennant's flight was late arriving. This worked in our favor.

So, on to lunch, then a panel discussing Doctor Who with the local Whovian group, St. Louis Celestial Intervention Agency. At the panel, I won an 11th Doctor comic for knowing what show Matt Smith and Billie Piper were in together (an episode of Secret Diary of a Call Girl). 

After that panel, it was time to head back to the convention floor for our photo op with Elizabeth Henstridge. Once again, we joined the line about half an hour before the photo op. Once the session started, the line moved quickly through, with each photo taking about 30 seconds. She recognized us from the autograph session earlier as we went in.

Photo of me, Elizabeth Henstridge, and Amanda, from the Wizard World St. Louis photo op
Our photo with Elizabeth Henstridge, (c) Celeb Photo Ops
As we left the photo op, we stopped to get a picture with a Dalek, because it's a Dalek and we were cosplaying the Doctor and Donna.

Photo of me cosplaying Donna Noble next to a model Dalek.
Oh no! It's a Dalek!
Knowing the David Tennant/Billie Piper panel was going to be one of the most popular events at the convention and that many people camped out in the ballroom to get seats, and the Matt Smith panel immediately before would be well-attended, we headed back upstairs, to the opposite end of the convention center to join the line outside the ballroom to wait about an hour, hoping to get in.

Once again, we were able to chat with the folks near us in line, so it was a nice opportunity to meet some people. We also admired the costumes as cosplayers wandered past. The line grew, snaking around and down the hall. A second line for David Tennant VIPs formed.

As the Matt Smith panel ended, some people actually left the packed ballroom. The David Tennant VIP badge holders were allowed in to the special VIP seating. And we waited, hoping. Luckily there were only about a dozen people ahead of us in line, so we were able to get in to the panel. A few people behind us did as well. I'm sure many people in that long line were turned away.

Photo past heads of a giant screen showing David Tennant and Billie Piper on stage.
Our view of David Tennant and Billie Piper on the giant screens
Although we found seats about halfway back, we couldn't really see the stage. But the giant screens on either side allowed us to see David Tennant and Billie Piper as they answered fan questions. The questions were quite good, mostly not stuff that could be found with a simple online search or look at IMDb.

David Tennant and Billie Piper had a great rapport. He was quite funny. They were both lovely to listen to. Best moment of the con. 

By the time the panel ended at 6:30, we were both hungry but looking for something quick so we could watch the costume contest at 7. We hurried back to the show floor, which closed at 7. Most of the food vendors had closed, but one still had hot dogs, pretzels and nachos left, so pretzels for dinner it was.

By the time we made it back upstairs, all the way across the convention center, back to the ballroom, it was about 7:15, but the costume contest was actually just getting started. They were just introducing the judges. There were some really clever costumes. Plenty of creativity: Han frozen in carbonite, Rainbow Dash Dalek, Sailor Deadpool. Fantastic Batman v Superman Wonder Woman, Jack Nicholson Joker (amazing makeup!), anime characters, female Loki, Jack Skellington with moving mouth (awesome makeup!).

Photo of the winning and honorable mention cosplayers on stage after the costume contest.
Costume contest winners and honorable mentions
And after the costume contest, we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel, our day at Wizard World St. Louis over.

The next morning, we decided to visit the Arch while we were in St. Louis, before heading home. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction going on at the Arch, so only those with "Journey to the Top" tickets can go in, but we were able to wander the grounds and walk right up to the Arch. (We didn't pre-order online because the tickets are timed and we weren't sure of our schedule; they were sold out so we couldn't purchase onsite.)

Photo the the St. Louis Arch framed by the buildings on either side, taken from the Old Courthouse.
The Arch
The view of the Arch from the Old Courthouse across the street is perfect. The Old Courthouse serves as a museum of St. Louis history and is where you can purchase tickets for tours of the Arch or the river cruise. There's an exhibit on Dred Scott, and one about the early history of the city as a French town in an area governed by the Spanish. 

Photo of the Old Courthouse with St. Louis behind.
The Old Courthouse
While we couldn't go in the Arch, we could walk around it, and right up to the base on the other side. 

A view from near the St. Louis Arch, looking up toward the top.
The Arch up close
Walking from the Arch back to the car, we came upon this bit of public art. 

Photo of a sculpture of a band, 3 recycled metal characters with fish heads, playing saxophone, guitar, and accordion.
Sculpture band
And then it was time to drive home. 

All in all, it was a fun weekend. Would I go to another Wizard World? Maybe. I would consider going to one in a smaller city nearby if a celeb I really wanted to see was going to appear. But I'm not looking for the next Wizard World to attend.

Wizard World is all about bringing in the celebrities and then charging a lot of money for people to see them. Which is fine. 

I would have liked to see more panels, but we spent a lot of time in lines waiting. We didn't know the schedule until very soon before the convention, and some schedules, like autographs, were't available until we were on site, so it was hard to plan. 

The user experience of the website and the convention left some to be desired. Too often on the website, I would click on a section and be taken out of the St. Louis convention information back to the main Wizard World site, have to reselect my convention, and start over. There were too many times when we had to find someone to ask something that we should have been able to discover online on our own--the information provided online was not clear or missing. 

There were too many times when we had to approach a line and ask the people in it if it was the correct one, only to hear that they thought it was because that was the line they were supposed to be in. Maybe it's because we've been spoiled by well-run conventions that have volunteers at the end of long lines, especially when it is unclear where the start is, to help people get into the correct line. I notice these things now. I can't help it. 




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