What should a kid not miss at Comic-Con 2012?
July 1, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

What events would you take a five-year-old to at San Diego Comic-Con this year?

I'm taking my five-year-old son to Comic-Con this year. It's the first time for both of us. He's got a healthy interest in superheroes, cartoons, movies, books, etc. He watches mainly PBS kids shows with almost no broadcast TV but he's seen every major kid or family-fun movie released in the last 30 years. He has a big imagination. He draws constantly. He's into puppets and puppeteering, as in, he knows all the major Sesame Street and Muppets puppeteers by name, voice, and characters. He also makes his own puppets, in his own fashion. He's pretty much your demo model for a healthy, interesting kid. We let him consume media above his age level -- for examples, he's seen five of the six Star Wars movies multiple times and just saw The Avengers.

But the Comic-Con schedule is massive and I've never been before. I've looked through it and found things that could be very good but I've got a fear of missing out. So, can you recommend events, panels, demos, screenings, activities, etc., that would be good for a kid like that, from age five to 12? If there's a chance of a poster or little gewgaws or other kinds of kid-oriented swag to take home, that's good, too.

I realize lines and waiting are a part of it. We are perfectly happy doing something kind of half-lame if it means doing it right away with little or no waiting, instead of doing a lot of waiting for something super great. Think like a "now now now now" kid rather than a "your rewards will come in time" adult. He doesn't have a preconception of what's cool or what the other kids think he should be viewing or reading, beyond knowing the "big names" among superheroes.
posted by Mo Nickels to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My primary bit of advice for anyone attending SDCC for the first time, regardless of age, is this: you cannot do everything. You are going to miss out on lots and lots of stuff. That's okay. Please don't drive yourself crazy trying to pack everything into your schedule, because it's impossible, and the effort will make you really unhappy. Absolutely go through the program book ahead of time and highlight things that look interesting (the grids are your friends in this departments) but think of them as a list of potential options, rather than a to-do list.

I would definitely concentrate on explicitly kid-centric programming, of which there is a great deal, particularly on Sundays. The panels that tend to have extra long lines are those that have prestigious guests or sneak-peaks at unreleased material, and you might be surprised at how crowded a panel for a "kids" show on Nickelodeon or a former Muppeteer might be. In general, though, if a panel or workshop labels itself as a "For Kids" activity, it shouldn't be too crazy.

If your kid isn't up for line-waiting, then honestly you may as well just cruise by interesting-sounding panels right when they're about to start, when the line outside the room has already been let in and people have taken their seats. The staff member at the door will tell you if there's no more room, but often there are empty seats at the back or at the end of each row, which have the added benefit of being very easy to exit from if your kid gets bored or needs a potty break midway through the panel.

All of that said, if your kid has a high tolerance for noise and crowds, he might be perfectly content to just look around the exhibition floor with you. There are tons of gigantic, entertaining booths to explore, particularly on the big-budget end of the hall where major networks and publishers erect colossal edifices showcasing their current hot properties. An easygoing kid would have lots and lots of instantly accessible Stuff To Look At over there, particularly if he's light enough to ride on your shoulders from time to time. They'll also hand out a metric ton of swag.

If the exhibition floor gets overwhelming, the hallways themselves will be packed full of costumed fans at all times, and if you're lucky you'll happen upon a prearranged photoshoot for a group of characters your son is a fan of.

He'll get overstimulated eventually (as will you!), so try and familiarize yourself with the convention center map and figure out how to get outside with a minimum of fuss when you need to take a break.

The food in the convention center is not very good and pretty expensive. There's a supermarket within walking distance of the convention center -- making sandwiches and snacks ahead of time will be great for both of you, and help you actually enjoy yourselves instead of stumbling around like low-blood-sugar zombies. (I learned this one the hard way)

Hope some of that is helpful! It really is a FANTASTIC experience that I've seen many many kids enjoy! I'm sure you'll both have a great time!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've attended Sponge Bob's panel a few times and it was fun and very kid-friendly. Also, the Quick Draw panel, where cartoonists like Sergio Aragon├ęs battle to make fast drawings from suggestions from the audience. There are many videos in YouTube. In past years, there was a small line in the Sponge Bob panel (but preference was given to families with kids), and there were a lot of free seats in the Quick Draw panel.

Sunday is children's day, and you won't find long lines for the panels.

Does he like to draw? Many panels in Room 11AB show drawing techniques, and there are desks so attendants can bring their drawing materials and follow along.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:11 PM on July 1, 2012

Best answer: (If you're not sure which media-centric panels are likely to attract giant crowds, here's one metric to judge by: go to fanfiction.net and look to see how many stories have been written for the property. I know, I know, it sounds weird, but I can't tell you how many parents I've run into at Avatar: The Last Airbender panels who were shocked to see that hundreds of teens and twenty-somethings had been waiting for hours and hours to get into the room. A fact which is less surprising, perhaps, if you knew it had more stories written for it than any other show in the cartoon category.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:21 PM on July 1, 2012

Best answer: Oh and finally, because it occurs to me this might not be obvious if you haven't been to SDCC before: Don't even bother with anything that's happening in Hall H. Seriously. It's insane.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:30 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconded. You'll see the crazy lines for Hall H.
In the mezzanine, there is a balcony next to the Fan Tables where you can have some sun and fresh air. Bring your lunch. There are LARP battles on Saturdays there.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:12 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Narrative Priorities is not kidding about Hall H. In 2010, someone got stabbed in the eye with a pen over a dispute about whether a seat was open or being held. The rules about holding seats have been changed since then, but fan enthusiasm for the events scheduled in Hall H has not.

And if your goal is to avoid long lines, you'll probably want to steer clear of anything My Little Pony related, as the Bronies are likely to be out in force at this year's SDCC.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:13 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you see people talking excitedly about Batman, go the other way. Just trust me - whatever they're heading towards is going to be extremely crowded, noisy, and uncivilized. It will also profit you to avoid anything Hobbit-related, and anything that might have anything at all to do with Joss Whedon or anyone who has ever been in anything he was involved with.

Personally, I'd go through the schedule looking for these things and make sure I was on the other side of the convention center for all of them (this is a good way to decide between two different equally-attractive panels.)

Definitely devote some time (ideally during the Hall H Batman stuff) to wandering around the exhibit hall floor - there's a considerable amount of entertainment to be had just in looking.

And don't plan on either a) being able to get your car out of that spot you snagged at 7am or b) getting a seat at any restaurant within walking distance of the convention center. If I ever go back I will have a cooler full of delicious foods sufficient to keep me happy the entire day, in the trunk. (I have a low tolerance for chaos, and would never bring a child that young along to SDCC at all, so.)
posted by SMPA at 2:19 PM on July 1, 2012

Response by poster: Big ups and props to all the great answers. I think we'll do the Expo hall purposely and then let anything else happen serendipitously.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:46 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hope you guys had a great time!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:12 AM on July 23, 2012

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