Fan Expo 2015: Gaming, The Vibe, SiriusXM and Mads Mikkelsen, oh my!

The end of summer just wouldn’t be complete without the return of Fan Expo. It’s Canada’s answer to San Diego Comic-Con, including big name celebs, lots to see and do, and lines. Lots of lines.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Over the past two years, under new ownership, Fan Expo has done an excellent job at getting people in and out of the North and South Buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There were years where convention goers were stuck outside for hours at a time waiting to get in. It was horrible, and certainly not fun for the fans. But those issues became more prominent as the festival continued to get bigger and outgrew utilizing only one building. With two, yes, there’s still throngs of people to navigate through, but the experience is far, far better than it was a few years ago. 

There were a lot of things I wanted to hit this year, both in my capacity as Editor-In-Chief of Biff Bam Pop, but also for my day job as Interactive Content Editor for SiriusXM Canada. My colleagues Ward Anderson and Allison Dore from SiriusXM Canada Talks 167 were broadcasting live from the North Building on both Friday and Saturday; I joined them on the air to talk about the Fan Expo experience over the years. It’s always fun talking to these two – as stand-up comedians, they’re both well-versed in the world of pop culture, but they also know their horror. So when they talk to Kane Hodder or Tom Savini, as they did on Friday, they’re not bullshitting. Ward and Al know their stuff.

Mads, Al, and Ward
Mads Mikkelsen onstage with Allison Dore and Ward Anderson from SiriusXM Canada Talks 167’s Ward and Al show.

At the suggestion of Stuart Andrews, a friend of ours and the host of Cinephobia Radio and one of the Horror genre leads at Fan Expo this year, Ward and Al hosted a few panels over the course of the weekend, including the Scream reunion with Skeet Ulrich and Neve Campbell, and the fantastic Mads Mikkelsen Q & A. The duo moderated their own questions while also ensuring that the fans lined up for questions had their moment as well. Well done, friends!

I managed to have my own moment with Mads, which I have to say, was pretty spectacular for me. I’m a Fannibal, and I’ve enjoyed his work as Dr. Lecter over the course of three seasons. After the panel, where I’d been doing social media for SiriusXM, I had the chance to take a picture with Hannibal himself. Here’s the thing – I’ve met a lot of folks over the years, and I typically don’t get nervous. But for whatever reason, with this great actor standing beside me, I just kept fumbling as I tried to take a selfie. Luckily, Allison Dore stepped in to take the shot.

“Sorry, I’m a little nervous,” I said sheepishly.

“Why are you nervous?” Mads asked.

“Umm, I’ve never stood beside a cannibal before?”

“Well, it’s just acting.”

“Oh, acting!”

What was I going to say? “Sorry, I’m actually having a fanboy moment?” Which I was. But hey, out of it came a great picture.

Andy and Mads
Andy Burns with Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen

While backstage, my colleagues and I did have some surreal moments when both Mike Tyson and The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus walked past us (at separate times) on their way to their respective panels. Reedus was all smiles, looking as though he’d just walked off the set of The Walking Dead, while Tyson was just…Tyson. Like I said, surreal…and pretty cool.

Another highlight was getting the chance to spend some time with BBP’s gaming guru, Mat Langford. Typically, when I’ve done Fan Expo in the past, I prefer to walk around on my own and see what there is to see. This time out, Mat and I stuck together – we ventured to the Warner Brothers Gaming Booth, where we tried out the outstanding Lego Dimensions game on Playstation 4, which is out at the end of September. You know we love our Lego games here at Biff Bam Pop, but this new game is something exceptional. Interchangeable Lego pieces ranging from Batman to Lord of the Rings to The Lego Movie, The Simpsons, Doctor Who, and Scooby-Doo, all in one game? When I first heard the idea, I wasn’t sold. I’m not one for mash-ups like that. But playing through a level was a hell of a lot of fun. The graphics were outstanding, and the gameplay was smooth. I can’t wait to get going with my 5-year old daughter on this. I think we’ll both have our minds blown.

Speaking of which, Mat and I also spent some time with our friends at Playstation. You can read Mat’s exclusive experience here.  After playing Project Morpheus’ Kitchen on Thursday, Mat insisted I go and give it a shot. I’m glad I did, as it really was some cool and fascinating stuff. My first Virtual Reality experience left me feeling as though I was literally in the middle of a horror movie that I couldn’t escape from. I was twisting and turning, and I let out some seriously nervous laughter. Thanks to Amanda from Playstation for helping make this happen (along with our pals at Media Profile as well).

Andy Goes VR with Project Morpehus
Andy Burns goes VR with Sony’s Project Morpheus

While Mat and I were on hand, we also had a chance to interview Kane Hodder and Brandi Cyrus, the stars of the upcoming Anchor Bay/Raven Banner horror film Old 37. The film is old school slasher, and will likely be best remembered for its cringe-inducing opening scene. We’ll have our interviews with Kane and Brandi available in mid-October, when we launch the Biff Bam Podcast.

Andy, Brandi Cyrus, and Mat
Andy Burns, Brandi Cyrus, and Mat Langford
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Andy Burns, Kane Hodder, and Mat Langford

If there was something that I thought was lacking about Fan Expo, it’s simply that I do miss the days when the comic book companies like Marvel and DC had presences on the floor. Creators and big wigs are in town and on hand, but not in some central location. The last few years neither of the big two have had booths, and as a guy that started attending Fan Expo specifically for comics, this is an unfortunate change, and one I still don’t quite understand.

Overall though, I have to say that this was one of the better Fan Expo’s I’ve been to in years. A solid line-up of talent and opportunities for fans to interact and explore, the support of our friends and partners manageable lines and some stellar food truck as well (Korean BBQ tacos!) made for a fun time. I’m genuinely looking forward to next year.

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