Walking up to the convention center on the second day after taking a shower—yes, two showers, over two days—it was a jovial mood. It was set to be another day of ponying out, seeing the creative forces behind the show and reveling in the grandiosity of it all. Yep, no way a fire was going to start at this building or anything like that.
After helping The Round Stable’s KefkaFloyd set up shop, I again watched as the passageways went from bare to hopelessly crowded in a short time frame. To give you an idea of the nature of the crowd, the fact I was wearing a wrestling-related t-shirt (specifically, Daniel Bryan’s “YES YES YES” shirt) inspired approximately seven people I did not know to give me some variation of a friendly “YES” chant throughout the day; at one point it actually caught on in the autograph voucher line. Being cheered on into a BronyCon is an odd emotion. Another gentleman came up to me and showed me the CM Punk/Pinkie Pie (CM Pink) styled commission he had drawn for him earlier in the day, vowing that some Daniel Bryan/Twilight Sparkle crossover was to come later. No word on the success of that operation.
The day began with a personal treat for me: the writers panel. While actor conversations can be a bit limited, It seemed incredibly apparent that Meghan McCarthy and Amy Keating Rogers hadn’t spent too much time in front of con audiences. This isn’t meant as an insult—writing good television doesn’t require public speaking as a skill set, outside of the occasional TV executive. The ultimate result was an odd level of sincerity to the approach: these weren’t rehearsed answers repeated to various news outlets but ‘real’ responses, made in the moment. An exception was the planned recital of Rogers’ original draft of the “Smile” song, which quickly won over the interest of the crowd (and Rogers surprised with some singing ability). I was contemplating whether it would be worth trying a question myself.
Then the fire started.
BurnyCon 2012 Begins
Sitting in the front section of the panel, I noticed a few people turning around – I assumed some kind of incident (best pony fight?) or some overzealous cosplayer, or something like that. It wasn’t until I heard the word “fire” that I actually looked around. There’s three relevant points to make here:
- With no joke intended, had any sort of fire broke out at the January BronyCon, a lot of people would’ve died.
- Even with that being true, the placement of the burning plastic light was extremely lucky. Had it been down a little bit, it very well might’ve caught onto the A/V equipment; had it been on the left or right by one or more, it would’ve fallen directly on some con attendees.
- A con staffer said something to the effect of “Everypony, we have a fire”. This level of dedication to the language of ponies, even in the face of adversity and danger, deserves special recognition: it reminded me of the South Park episode “Super Fun Time”, where old-time re-enactors do not break their old-timey characters, even while being taken hostage.
Joking aside, in the face of an unexpected disaster, the evacuation of the building and protection of everyone was quick and competently done. Some people stuck around for a bit to get video, but the building was emptied in decent time.
Outside, the contest gradually became who could come up with the lamest pony/brony joke about the fact the building was on fire. As noted earlier, Cathy Weseluck won by default when she took credit at the VA panel – but there were plenty of other attempts. A line or two about teenaged dragons. MusicByOctavia’s attempt at making #bronyconflagration trend was my personal favorite. “BurnyCon” seems to have stuck. A notable group of attendees listened to an acoustic rendition of “Winter Wrap-Up” on the sidewalk; panelists for later in the day scrambled to come up with a new schedule; others just watched the fire trucks arrive. I got some Chipotle and noted the employee’s attempted non-reaction at the slew of pony merchandise invading their franchise.
On returning the building, following the aforementioned VA panel (this one focused almost exclusively on audience Q&A), it was time for Ponies: The Anthology II. Before the show began, the crew included some standard-issue “techniques in PMVs” tips and a Blingee-styled tribute to the fire. There’s plenty of material out on Anthology II – and, with any luck, some might be appearing at The Round Stable in time – so I’ll suffice to say in the very difficult task of maintaining interest over eighty-one minutes, the crew passed with flying colors. For those who enjoyed the Anthology and are looking to kill some time, you should check live recordings of the actual panel. It’s one thing to chuckle slightly at a video game reference, but it’s something else to hear a crowd react with pure glee. Anthology II actually seemed to gain viewers as the video went on – many ended up watching from the sidelines. John de Lancie’s contract made his 4 PM convention time non-negotiable, leaving Anthology 2 chopped into two hour-long (ish) segments. Given the length of the video and a fortunate “commercial” break already worked into the fabric of Anthology II, this was actually a good thing.
Some Excellent Chaos
Next to Faust, de Lancie was certainly the most anticipated panel at the con (with another round of seat shifting – I heard it referred to as the “brony shuffle”). De Lancie took the stage with maximum theatrical, proudly flashing a “Brony” shirt to the crowd’s approval. De Lancie gave what came off as a well-practiced, immensely entertaining con routine, focusing on everything from his childhood days of juvenile delinquency to some material with his role in Star Trek to his particular dislike of an unnamed media outlet (which, by the end of the panel, had been named) to other projects he had planned for the future. All the while, he sprinkled in words of approval of the fandom, and referenced his desire to give them a voice via his documentary. When an enthused fan got the crowd to sing the theme song to John, he took it like a champ. De Lancie is a clear pro at these kinds of events, the opposite end of the spectrum from something like the writers panel (with both being entertaining and informative in their own way).
John’s BronyCon performance contained plenty of material, but what struck me most of all was an omission. For all the expertise in handling the crowd, John didn’t talk much about one subject which you thought might’ve come up: My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.
I haven’t heard every single John de Lancie interview since news of the documentary broke, though I seem to recall hearing that he was “planning” on checking out the show itself more. De Lancie also did speak highly of the writing in “Return of Harmony”, though largely stuck to his larger narrative that it was a passing, momentary job which wasn’t particularly memorable until he discovered the fandom – or, more precisely, the fandom got in touch with him. Nothing about the documentary technically requires de Lancie to watch the entirety (or even much of) the show, and his unique entry into the world of bronies makes not knowing the show quite logical. But there’s something fascinating about de Lancie not using his highest-profile appearance since the documentary news broke to express any real interest in the show itself. Those looking for tea leaves into what the documentary will be like can find some clues here: John de Lancie is in this for the bronies.
While this would personally end my BronyCon experience, the day capped off with an artist’s panel that was, by all accounts, well-received, and ended on a closing ceremony.
And as quickly as it started, the pony weekend was complete.
The End of the Road (To BronyCon)
As an attendee at BronyCon in January, I can say with certitude that the crew has come a long way with the difficult work of running a successful convention. For all its infamy, the fire was well-handled, and the con rescheduled with minimal difficulty. Everfree Radio’s Final Draft is to be commended for some good work as “general” convention moderator. Some hiccups remained: namely, the audio issues of reaching a large crowd, which rendered some of the panels particularly difficult to follow.
After saying my goodbyes, I headed off for the long ride back to Buffalo, planning out how I would acclimate back into the real world. Entering the line for the bus, I noticed a teenaged gentleman, who had acquired a Derpy “mane hat” (one of the con’s most popular items). As I thought how that made an appropriate end to a trip, I noticed a second, much older gentleman getting into the line – wearing the same Derpy hat.
Maybe the real world would have to wait a bit longer.
For a more personalized rundown, including stories about people you don’t know and some more personal thoughts, feel free to listen to my lengthy audiolog of the event. Opinions expressed in this audiolog are solely those of BartonFink and do not represent The Round Stable as an entity. ■