Attending the MTV Fandom Awards at Petco Park has been a long-standing tradition for me at San Diego Comic-Con. It’s always been a fun, entertaining event and, unlike a lot of other SDCC parties, it’s always easy to get in. The evening’s entertainment generally included a series of rides and activities for people to enjoy before the award show. Once that started, people generally settled in to hear the results of MTV’s Fandom Awards before the crowd was treated to a show by some musical guest.

It was fun. It was laid back. The Fandom Awards drew a lot of celebrities and the casts of various shows – with many presenting or accepting awards. Occasionally there’d be sneak peeks of a show’s upcoming series or some trailer would be released.

Basically, they made it fun and even if you didn’t care about the Fandom Awards themselves you got the chance to relax, have fun, and pick up some free swag! Sure, everything was usually pretty heavily skewed toward MTV’s favor but I never really minded. 

This year, though, everything changed.

The Fandom Awards were nixed without any real warning and MTV’s Fandom Fest was announced a lot later than I would have expected. I don’t know why the Fandom Awards didn’t happen but it was a shock. After attending them for years, I was definitely sad to see them go with absolutely no fanfare. And even though I’ve found a post from the SDCC Unofficial Blog from July 6th confirming it’s return to SDCC this year I definitely wasn’t aware until probably the week before the convention.

So how did MTV’s Fandom Fest Lite go?

Some things remained pretty much the same. Everyone who attended got one free drink and one free food item – though there were always bins of Doritos and candy around to be raided. There were various booths and activities all around Petco Park, too. They had a zipline set up and you could joust with giant Burger King fries. AT&T was giving away portable batteries and I’m told there were some photo ops around. So there was plenty to do and the lines seemed pretty manageable.

The atmosphere was different, though.

Without the Fandom Awards to guide everyone through the evening there seemed to be very little direction. When Tyler Posey first took the stage, it was to introduce the cast of the upcoming LEGO Ninjago movie, reveal a trailer, and then randomly toss some swag into a rather thinned out, uncertain crowd.

When Tyler started talking about giving away tickets to the upcoming MTV Music Video Awards a lot of people around me seemed taken by surprise – and the first ones were given out almost immediately to people standing closer to the stage.

Later, the kids from Annabelle: Creation introduced an exclusive clip from their film and they showed a scene from the upcoming Teen Wolf season. At some point the Teen Wolf cast were also presented with a ‘Fandom Icon’ Award – the only award given out that night. I won’t lie to you guys – we had already left by that point.

Honestly, the best and most memorable thing for me that evening was seeing Echosmith live. They had a great stage presence, they seemed to be having a good time, and it was just really good to see a band I knew fairly well on stage. Later in the evening Bleachers also took the stage. So if nothing else they had an amazing pair of musical artists on hand for Fandom Fest. 

But in general I thought the event fell well below it’s potential. This year’s MTV Fandom Fest was a mere shadow of it’s former self. 

What sucks is that I actually liked the idea of this year’s format!

I think it was a GREAT idea to have different movie casts on hand to reveal some exclusive footage and hand out swag. And they brought some really amazing bands to play for the crowd. This could have been a great event with some serious fan engagement outside of the usual award show. But most of the time it just seemed like they were going through the motions.

I think they certainly tried to have fun with it but I don’t know that the crowd presence was there. Even during the coolest moments – like Echosmith’s show – I could have moved forward through the crowd and gotten right up next to the stage. There just didn’t seem to be as many people there as usual, which was sad because the food and the artists were probably better than had been in any previous year (with perhaps the exception of All-Time Low, who were awesome).

There just wasn’t really enough advertising on MTV’s part. It didn’t help that FANDOM had an event all weekend long in the Petco Park Interactive Zone that was also called FANDOM Fest. Any time I googled ‘SDCC fandom fest’ I ended up with results for their event and not the MTV one. I’m sure it was the same for other people.

Yes, I know that MTV has been using Fandom Fest and not actually Fandom Awards as the title of their event for years. But here’s the thing: they should have either shut down the FANDOM Fest branding or competed with it. Instead, for most people that weekend ‘Fandom Fest’ meant the Petco Park Interactive Zone events and not MTV’s Fandom Fest.

Having said all of this, I hope MTV returns next year with their Fandom Fest and I hope that they do it justice. This year’s event could have been great. The musical talent was there and though they didn’t have much in the way of guests they had a couple casts on hand. Next year, they just need to own their less structured event and have fun with it.

I would recommend doing short Q&As on stage much like the ill-fated Entertainment Weekly Con-X from SDCC 2016. Petco Park is as centralized a location as you can get and the MTV Fandom Fest has MTV pulling for it. The promise of seeing exclusive, live interviews while also getting to zipline, smack each other with giant french fries, and double fist different types of Doritos under the MTV Fandom Fest branding could draw a more sizable crowd.

Fans at home could submit questions on Twitter. Fans at the event could be randomly given swag from the various films and shows being advertised. And just like this year they could live-stream everything online almost like a one evening long version of Comic-Con HQ or SYFY’s Live from Comic-Con.

I have a feeling, though, that with Teen Wolf ending this year and Scream in a weird production limbo it’s unlikely that MTV will return next year unless they do something more along the lines of what I’ve suggested. They’re out of the genre game at this point and they don’t have any of their own programs to advertise. So the pared down version of Fandom Fest we had this year could potentially be their last for a while.

Hopefully I’m wrong and MTV Fandom Fest returns next year with bigger and better plans. At this point we’ll just have to wait and see. But if you missed it this year, don’t worry. Other than two awesome bands, you really didn’t miss much.

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