Last weekend, thousands of fans took over America’s Center in St. Louis for a weekend of pop culture immersion. From celebrities to artists and cosplayers to creators, the brilliance and talent of those in attendance truly knew no bounds.
Wizard World is a convention with a true focus on the fan experience and the brains behind that operation is John Maatta, CEO. When we attended our first Wizard World convention in 2016, we sat down for a chat with John about the big weekend in Chicago and what it meant to him to honor heroes.
When you sign up to attend Wizard World, you’re getting more than a pop culture experience. You’re taking part in honoring heroes, supporting local talent, and going beyond the usual expectations of conventions. It’s part of what Maatta hopes fans take away from the time spent there.
We got to speak with him again in St. Louis and he was geared up for an exciting year ahead, but also for some changes that aim to benefit every fan that comes out for the Wizard World experience.
For starters, the company is growing in 2018, visiting more cities than ever which provides the opportunity for fans to congregate closer to home.
There will also be more opportunities for fans to have intimate experiences with their favorite celebrities. In St. Louis, lucky fans were able to share a platinum experience with Sebastian Stan, giving them their own special Q&A session, autograph line, and photo opportunities. These fans raved about the experience and Sebastian did as well during his panel later in the day.
When it comes to these platinum experiences, John says that it’s all about the celebrities, scheduling, and what they’re comfortable with.
Speaking of celebrities, Wizard World is a con that tries to include everyone. We asked John about some of the big names at their line ups this year and it varies by show but also by fandom.
‘The Doctor Who talent is always popular, David Tennant was with us in New Orleans and will be with us again in Cleveland. Stan Lee is with us for some shows and we are working on announcing some Game of Thrones talent now. We always try to have some Marvel/DC talent – Sebastian Stan is coming to some shows this year, he’s always very popular. We’ve invited a number of the Buffy cast and some from Vampire Diaries.’
John said its always special because as the conventions grow, they build relationships with these people and it’s important, it’s nice to see them grow and evolve and come back to shows with those same die hard fans as well as new ones along the way.
‘It’s an interesting thing because we try to find people who are kind of new to it. We’ve got the cast of Outlander coming to Chicago, we’re trying to get the two leads from Psych to come. You know, there are obvious names and then there are more eclectic names. In fandom everyone has their likes and we try to accommodate.’
The conversation trailed to music and John said its a very important ingredient to a successful Wizard World weekend. It truly helps to enhance the experience. For instance, if you come in for a day or a weekend and there’s an incredible soundtrack already programmed for you. The next week, while running errands, you hear one of those songs again and the memories seem almost tangible.
Trust us, it’s happened to us already.
When you think about convention planning, one topic that can’t be avoided is price. The experience can be expensive and John looks at that principle as well.
‘We recognize that every market is not the same. In some markets the economy is better than others and we try to be sensitive of that. We do student discounts, we do two for one days…just so people can come. The more people that are here, the better. We like a high energy and we want to have a lot of people in the hall.’
The hall was full of fans in St. Louis, and that’s what John hopes for. So much so that he asks fans to give him feedback, and he makes sure it’s all replied to. If you have an incredible experience or a negative one (which is rare, trust us), he wants to know! If you want to see certain celebrities or have certain experiences – reach out to John and the team on social media.
He strives to make Wizard World an experience that fans will walk away from with a countdown until the next one. It’s not a one time convention, that’s for sure. You’ll want to continue growing with Wizard World, and there’s no better time than now to do so.
You won’t want to miss what Wizard World has in store for fans this year, so check out their webpage and make sure you get tickets soon. We hope to see you there.