• BronyCAN: CouchCrusader's Retrospective

    Equestria LA has come and gone, and to all of you lucky enough to make it down to the 90210 this past weekend, you have my sincerest and utmost jealousy. This horse had an apartment to move into.

    So in the meantime, I'd like to talk a little about my time at BronyCAN. My name is CouchCrusader, here to offer a uniquely American take on a Canadian classic below the break.


    I believe that plans are overrated. Not Heath Ledger's-Joker-overrated, but overrated all the same. So after I got done swearing up and down that I didn't have the time, money, or ability to travel to the Vancouver metro area, I turned my room upside down that Friday night, found my passport, and slipped into Canada the next morning. From Seattle, it's barely a three-hour journey.

    As it had for its first two years -- and let that sink in: BronyCAN was a third-year convention in 2015 -- the convention set up shop in the Airport Executive Hotel of Richmond, BC. I saw a few bronies with red lanyards shuffling along the sidewalks as I drove in, but very few of my first steps into the venue told me I'd arrived upon the same premises as dwelt the likes of Peter New and Brenda Crichlow. I settled for grabbing a pass and saying hello to a few friends in the vendors' hall before moving out for the DHX animators' panel that afternoon.

    Another time and place: March of this past year, Emerald City Comic-Con. I found myself at the fore of a group including the likes of LeekFish, SteveStreza, OtakuSquirrel, Big "Jim" Miller, and a petite, spunky lady with a pixie cut who happened to supervise the boarding of Rainbow Rocks. This last lady and I quickly bonded over a mutual love of crappy food court Chinese food. So it was that I came to the acquaintance of Katrina "Lunchie" Hadley.

    This is the most flattering angle I could find of her.

    I had come to Canada, bamboozled its border guards, and paid $12 in parking in the hopes that I would get to grab lunch with her again. Unfortunately, the hour I spent in company with border control laid that plan to rest pretty quickly.

    So I settled for linking back up at the panel, and it was good. Katrina took the stage with layout supervisors Chris Leinonnen and Steph Mahoney and animation director Rexis Liwanag. The first part of the panel was a nifty walkthrough of the animation process for all of Episode 1x03 -- of "The Adventures of Scribble Chris". Sorry everyone, they're bound by contract to not draw ponies outside of work. Something about a 100% chance of getting fired if they do.

    It would take a whole 'nother article to go into the panel itself, so keep tabs on the BronyCAN Youtube channel for the recording instead! It looks like they're just getting around to uploading the events of that weekend.

    Something for everyone to keep in mind at conventions is that any guests of honor are there to meet the fans and love spending time with them -- but it's just as important to give them their space and let them go where they will if necessary. So when the animators did not immediately shoo me away after their panel, that surprised me. When they let me hang out with them, that surprised me even more.

    Then Chris the layout supervisor told me that he reads EqD's episode followups. I died.

    We got around to discussing "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3" from Season 4 afterward (an episode he'd supervised the layout for), and learned that there was a point in the episode's production where Twilight's library was so complex to render that it kept crashing Flash (the software, not everyone's favorite horse guard). Chris took it up with one of the showrunners (Jaysen, I think?) asking if there was anything that could be done about the library for future episodes.

    "Don't worry," said Schrodinger's Jaysen. "We're blowing it up in the finale."

    I think it's also important to point out, as Chris did, that sometimes the fandom will attribute, enthusiastically, noteworthy events in the episodes to M. A. Larson the writing team. In some cases, this is misguided. We certainly give a lot of love and tol coverage to the writers here on EqD, but the writers have always given credit to the animators for some of the better gags in the show. All Chris wants for Christmas is credit for the jumped-over shark plushie in "Slice of Life." Will you make his Christmas special?

    I managed to hang around the DHX gang after that (now augmented with Morgan, Alicia, Tim, and Vince), running into my old friend Kuroi in his Princess Twilight cosplay along the way, and found myself, bewildered, in the VIP green room soon after. It was a penthouse suite at the top of the Airport Executive (it had an upstairs level!) and all sorts of snacks and alcohols all arrayed for the guests of honor to partake of.

    Beer lovers: Driftwood Brewing is a local establishment in the Vancouver area. They make Fat Tug IPA. I never could have imagined combining a hop-f**k with grapefruit could ever result in anything drinkable, but it came right back around and laid sweet, citrus-y melodies upon my tongue.

    It was up there in the green room that Katrina told me how the boarders could no longer stick certain pony pairs together in the background -- Lyra and Bon Bon, for instance -- because the fandom would otherwise pay overwhelming attention to their mere existence instead of the more important action in the foreground. Everyone, we've killed the background pony.

    It was also up there in the green room that IMMATOONLINK decided to join the party. He's actually quite the soft-spoken dude, and very humble. I watched him have a heart attack and sink into the couch when DHX told him they loved his work and passed his videos around the studio whenever they're having a bad day. They did the same thing to LeekFish, PixelPrism, and MittyMandi earlier in the day -- they sauntered into their artists' panel and ended the ensuing hubbaloo with several serious recommendations to apply for employment at the studio.

    Weird, innit? The Powers That Be can be fans of the fandom in turn.

    Unfortunately, the day grew late and the animators had to leave the con for other arrangements -- many of those involving work. On a Sunday. I don't think it occurs to many of us just how hard all of them work to bring ponies to our screens, silver or not.

    Saturday for me wound down by grabbing dinner with LeekFish, Pixel, Samirahkitty, BronyDanceParty, and Sugar Clay Cafe "someplace quiet". If you've ever spent a microsecond in the company of other horse fans, you know how hopeless that prospect turns out to be. The six of us found a decently classy restaurant/lounge up the street from the convention and promptly exploded into cacophony.

    Also, Samirah had a Flash Sentry dakimakura in her hotel room and I'm very conflicted over admitting how comfortable it (he?) was.


    After sleeping in until 9, I had, well, a lot of time to kill before the second DHX panel of the weekend later that afternoon. I spent the morning checking out the mane events hall as congoers filed in with all sorts of colorful plastic weaponry for the annual BronyCAN NERF war -- no pictures, unfortunately, but Princess Poutine was there bringing the spirit as one of the con mascots.

    File photo, courtesy of Kairillia


    The short time I'd spent in Wisconisn last year had opened my eyes to the carnal delight of a well-made cheese curd. Since you can't get those out in Seattle, I remembered the mall down the street boasted a poutinerie among its gustatory offerings, so off I went.

    The poutine was good -- running into the Horse Wife mod was even better. Even at a brony convention, Turp rocked the collared shirt and tie, and polished off the vegetables from his food court Chinese take-out first, Among other things, we discussed what must lurk in the sauce they drowned all that bok choy in, the ups and downs of running a popular Tumblr, and the effects of inhaling solvents on brain volume. I also got to meet Benjamin there, who a lot of you will know better as one of the devs of Horse Game.

    It was that morning that I discovered that Canada also sells poutine-flavored Ruffles chips. I'm so glad those aren't available down here in America -- I just bought myself larger jeans a month ago.

    I spent most of the rest of that afternoon chilling with Pixel in the vendors' hall and Turp up in the games room, both of those times doing sketches of whatever. There's something about drawing with friends that makes it so much more fun for me -- I'm not sure if that goes for a lot of other people. I had to re-pay Pixel back for a sketch she'd done of my OC, so I drew hers cuddling a frappucino because that's exactly what you should get her the next time you see her at a convention.

    Finally, the DHX designers' panel rolled around, and I went down there with my friend Jonathan to enjoy the show. Only... we got there 20 minutes late, and the panel hadn't started. They didn't have a moderator.

    I don't remember much of what happened during that next hour-and-a-half, but it all started with making a hurried introduction to Kora Kosicka, Rebecca Dart, and Fernanda Ribeiro, two designers and a color artist respectively, before grabbing a mic and kicking off the panel myself.

    The three ladies had a beautiful presentation about where they come into the process as designers -- they demonstrated how a script might call for a new sun hat for Rarity and how they fired up a turnaround sheet just do draw that hat on Rarity from all the different angles the boarders might need to use when the episode passes to them. I'd never given much thought to where design comes into the production process as I don't think it's something I've seen discussed at most cons. Most cons, however, don't have the animation staff down the street for an invite, either, so BronyCAN is definitely my recommended venue if you ever want to learn more about animation or even figure out how to get into the industry.

    The presentation also went over a lot of the design work that went into "The Lost Treasure of Griffinstone", including a part where Rebecca discussed her approach to Aramaspi's invasion of the kingdom. I wish I'd been in the audience to watch it.

    To my understanding, this was 100% Rebecca's. Holy carp.

    The presentation concluded, and I spent the rest of the panel running questions from the audience to the designers to answer.

    Again, plans. I'll go back on what I said about them before, as I think I could've been a much more successful moderator had I prepared some questions before hand and given more thought to treating audience questions. I'd tried to crib Foal Papers' approach to panels, in that he passes out a bunch of notecards and sorts through the questions he gets back, but that's a lot more successful if 1) you designate runners to collect questions (I didn't), 2) you have a place to sit down and sort through them all (I didn't, and I was literally all over the stage trying to find a place I wasn't being awkward in), and 3) you're Foal Papers (I'm not).

    But at the end of the day, I think I helped moderate a passable panel, especially with the guests I had up on stage. I wish I'd known to ask Rebecca more about Ahuizotl and some of the other specific characters she'd designed, as the room burst into cheers when they learned she was responsible for designing Queen Chrysalis. 4) Know what your guests have done so you can ask them question on your own (I forgot to research).

    All in all, I left that panel in high spirits and hung around for the con to wind down. I said good-bye to Leek, Pixel, Samirah, and BDP and helped them move their gear to their car, and shortly after they left, I left too.

    It didn't really matter, as the five of us ran back into each other at the same Sonic in Ferndale. What are the odds.


    So, I very much apologize to the staff of BronyCAN for being this patient while I collated my thoughts for this write-up. I also want to thank them for being gracious hosts after I decided in the 11th hour to come up, and I'm hoping this write-up is adequate recompense for one of the best weekends I've had in a while. I acknowledge that I focused a lot of this writeup on the people I met over the convention, but to me, I think it's more important to get across the wonderful kinds of people you get to meet, and convention location can certainly play into the availabilities of certain VIPs or other friends you may want to hang out with.

    I've definitely added BronyCAN to my list of conventions I need to go to. Hopefully I'll be able to return in 2016, and that I'll get to meet you all there again.

    Thank you for reading. CouchCrusader, out.