by Transmute Jun
Over the past couple of years, as Exhibit Floor space at the convention center gets more expensive and difficult to obtain, studios have been moving away from San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) itself and into the downtown Gaslamp area adjacent to the Con. This year, there were only 3 ‘experiential’ booths on the SDCC Exhibit Floor: a brief Star Trek ‘transporter experience’ hosted by CBS All Access, an immersive Dark Crystal experience hosted by Netflix, and a minimal; ‘preview experience’ for various shows hosted by Starz. Yet while the big, showy booths of yesteryear seemed to be mostly gone, these kinds of offsite activations could be found not far from the convention center, and were enjoyed by many con attendees (as well as non-attendees).
By far, the biggest and most popular offsite at SDCC this year was hosted by Amazon Prime, which attracted overnight lineups by some attendees. Everyone who entered was given a bag of coins, which could be spent on a variety of food items. Hot churros and cold ice cream bars seemed to be the most popular choices. Additionally, there were 3 different immersive experiences inside the area, which allowed attendees to experience the worlds of The Expanse, The Boys, and Carnival Row. (Stay tuned to FoCC Blog for an upcoming article on The Amazon Activation.)
FX also provided great experiences for fans, from the Archer Oxygen Bar to the American Horror Story experience (similar to the haunted houses at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights) and the chance to visit the apartment (and interact with its vampire residents) of What We Do In The Shadows. AMC’s The Walking Dead Deadquarters also provided an interactive horror experience, as attendees walked through a re-creation of the final episode of Season 9, avoiding walkers while escaping to safety via a frozen lake. Fans could also walk through the treehouse and transport plane sets from Fear The Walking Dead, as well as preview new Walking Dead games. (Stay tuned to the FoCC Blog for our upcoming article on recapping Deadquarters.)
The new series, Pennyworth, was another popular offsite this year, allowing attendees to immerse themselves in a 1920s-era social club, exploring the various rooms and discovering secrets along the way. Brooklyn 99 garnered long lines (including some overnighters) as fans walked through sets from the show and joined the force.
Fox Animation and Shazam! both provided carnival games and prizes, to which Fox added a giant Ferris wheel that provided a terrific view of the convention center. In contrast, SyFy returned with its ‘roaming’ games, featuring a live band that moved around the Gaslamp, a Trivia Trolley whose riders provided the pedal power for movement (and won cash prizes for their effort) as well as a large Karaoke Bus.
Picard, the newest incarnation of Star Trek, was on display at a small art gallery on Fifth Avenue, displaying various items from the life of Jean-Luc Picard. A similar, yet much more expansive, display was presented at the Orville Experience, which suffered slightly from its distance away from the main travel routes of most attendees. Despite this, everyone who attended enjoyed the museum of this popular sci-fi show very much. Meanwhile, gamers enjoyed a Borderlands-themed museum, which gave out plenty of free poster prints and psycho masks.
As usual, Adult Swim was open for business behind the convention center, with ticketed panels for shows such as Robot Chicken and Rick & Morty allowing fans to enjoy the space without waiting in massive lines. NBC provided a Good Place-themed overlay at a Gaslamp restaurant, giving attendees a fun place to dine while still enjoying the con. Detective Pikachu set up shop along the trolley tracks and garnered a large crowd.
The biggest disappointment this year was the downgrading of HBO’s offsite experience. After the immersive Game of Thrones and Westworld activations in recent years, this year’s minimal Watchmen experience was a disappointment, although the offsite’s extended hours were appreciated by many. PetCo Interactive Zone, while providing a lot of different activities, was also unexciting for most attendees, as the activations there were small, consisting mostly of proper and photo ops. The Gundam offsite was the big exception, with plenty of swag and the opportunity for fans to build their own Gundam,
Despite all of this competition, once again, Conan O’Brien was the King of Offsites at SDCC in 2019. Between his packed television show tapings and the comedy offerings at Coco House, fans flocked to anything offered by Conan.
With all of the many different offsites at SDCC this year, it was difficult to find time to enter the convention center! What were your favorite offsites? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!