HARK! The first ever Crunchyroll Expo is preparing to blast off later this summer at the Santa Clara Convention Center. And in anticipation of this momentous event focused on anime and the fandom around it, we present an interview with Adam Sheehan, Director of Events for Crunchyroll. Read on and enjoy!
Crunchyroll News: Hi and please introduce yourself!
Adam Sheehan: Hi and thanks for having me! I’m Adam Sheehan, the Director of Events for Crunchyroll
First of all, what are some of your favorite anime?
Ranma ½, FLCL, Kare Kano, Eva, Kenshin, FMA, and Serial Experiments Lain are among my all time favorites. For more recent titles I would say Attack on Titan, One Punch Man, Erased, Jo-Jo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Osomatsu.
Can you talk a bit about your past history with regards to anime events planning?
Absolutely. I’ve been working on or around anime events and conventions for almost 20 years now. I got my start in 1998 when a couple of friends of mine who were running our college anime club with me decided to start a marketing firm to promote local anime events. Our first (and only) client was A-Kon, the largest anime convention in Texas. After college I got my first paying gig in the industry as the Tour and Conventions Manager for a company called Score Entertainment, who put out the Dragon Ball Z collectable card game. I spent the first few years driving an H1 Hummer all around the country covered in DBZ graphics.
After that I spent over 10 years at FUNimation where I worked on multiple projects including helping to build and run their events and conventions department. While there I was able to do a lot of fun things from recreated the Ouran High School Host Club host club with cosplayers and the main English dub cast to helping to bringing CLAMP to the US for the first time back at Anime Expo in 2006.
All this lead me to where I am today at Crunchyroll.
How do you think anime conventions, and geek cons in general, have evolved over the last few years and what do you think is behind those changes?
There has been a spike in pop-culture conventions over the last 10 years. Both the demand by fans for such events and the profits around them have created what seems to be a suitable industry on its on. Video game shows like PAX or Blizzcon raised the bar on what a high-end convention could be after E3 struggled back in the 2007 and shows like South by South West saw their interactive track start to out perform their long time headlining music track around the same time.
Anime cons have grown along with this trend having shown to be one of the largest in average attendance per event of any types of pop culture conventions in North America. The one thing that anime cons haven’t done though over the years is change too much from the core of what we’ve considered an anime convention to be since the early 90s.
Anime cons are not the only offender here I will add. Comic cons only started to change their format that was built some time in the 70s when Hollywood and overall nerd media content became more main steam some 15 years ago. This is one of the reasons we wanted to launch something like Crunchyroll Expo. Anime conventions overall are pretty good as they are laid out today. So imagine if we could nudge them forward a bit more and help take them to their next natural evolutionary step. We spent the better part of 2015 and 2016 looking at events like Blizzcon, SXSW, and SDCC to see what they did to change the mold or build an event without the same traditional base that anime cons have.
The big question is, of course, what will make CRX different from all the other anime cons out there?
Without giving any of our secret plans away yet I can say that Crunchyroll Expo will have a variety of new takes on some of your favorite things at anime cons. We are not going to change out everything you see at an anime con in 2017. We are looking to put on a great event first and for most and if we try to change too many things all at once we could be removing some of the parts that make anime cons so great in the process.
I would say to the fans out there who are planning to attend CRX this year to expect to see a different take on things like how panels are set up, our exhibit hall layout, and more curated experiences when it comes to the kinds of events offered during the show. We still know anime fans want to see great guests, buy lots of anime goods, and connect with friends and other fans of anime in real life. We won’t be taking any of this away. If anything, we are looking to enhance them.
CR is best known as an anime streaming company, but the brand has been involved recently with special events like Anime Movie Night, the Anime Awards, and now CRX. Can you talk a bit about how Crunchyroll is expanding in this direction and what it means for the future?
When I came on board 2 years ago I could tell Crunchyroll was looking to grow their events presence. My third day here our CEO of Crunchyroll, Kun Gao, brought up the idea of doing our own convention so I knew there was a want to expand beyond the digital space. In 2016 we changed around a lot of what Crunchyroll had done at conventions in the past with great feedback from the fans. It felt only natural with this kind of momentum to see where we could take things next.
This lead to events like Anime Movie Night, the Anime Awards, and of course Crunchyroll Expo this year. We also created our ‘Powered by Crunchyroll’ convention program where we work with some of the best anime cons in the country to provide more for our Premium Members. As expected we have a lot of surprises in store for Anime Expo next month but are raising the bar again from what we did last year. Including the premiere of the first 3 episodes of Ancient Magus Bride months before it airs in Japan.
What was behind the decision to hold the first CRX in Santa Clara? What is the convention center facility like?
We looked at many different location options when planning where to put Crunchyroll Expo this year. After taking all our options into consideration as well as where a lot of our Premium Members and fans of Crunchyroll are located holding this in Northern California made the most sense. Having Crunchyroll’s home office located in the Bay Area was also a bonus since we feel an affinity to the Bay Area and the anime community around it.
The Santa Clara Convention Center is a great location. There is more then enough space to hold all the big events and locations we are planning on having like the Exhibit Hall, Artist Alley, and an over 2,000-seat Main Events hall. It also has a lot of lobby space and other areas for activations, gatherings, and smaller high quality engagement points for fans to enjoy.
Can you give us some idea what the logistics are like in planning an event like this? Especially for a first-time con?
Our Events team has almost 50 years of combined experience across all of us. None of us though has ever launched a convention so we made what I think was the very wise decision to bring in some experts to help us get Crunchyroll Expo off the ground. After looking at multiple companies we decided to work with LeftField Media who run events like Awesome Con, Five Points Festival, and Anime NYC. They were founded by some of the people who helped launch New York Comic-Con and New York Anime Fest so we feel that we are in good hands with them.
The overall planning for the event has been going great since there is a wonderful balance between Crunchyroll having access to great content, guests, and connection with our fans and LeftField knowing how to get the most from everything involved with setting a convention as well as create an event space that attendees will love exploring.
What can you tell us about the guest lineup?
I need to keep a lot of this a secret still since we haven’t started announcing guests for Crunchyroll Expo yet. What I can tell you is that we are looking at a wide array of guests for this year. This includes anime and manga related guests from the US and Japan as well as fan favorite influencers and celebrities that have a love for anime and pop-culture. Stay tuned over the next few months for more details and names to squee about.
How about special events or con exclusives?
A lot of big secrets here as well that I can’t yet share. What I can say on the topic of special events is that we will have some spaces that anime fans are familiar with at CRX that will have a different flair or focuse to them than they are use to seeing at other events. This is part of our plan mentioned before to push anime conventions forward.
I can confirm that we will have convention exclusives. We will have a Crunchyroll Expo merch store of goodies that are made specially just for this year’s event as well as we are planning to have a items in our Crunchyroll booth store in the Exhibit Hall that should be exclusive or brand new for that weekend.
We also have two VIP ticket options this year that not only give people greater access to events and guests but will also include exclusive merch that only these ticket holders will be able to get.
What are you personally looking forward to the most at CRX?
I’m really excited to see how what the fans think of all the different and new things we are bringing to Crunchyroll Expo. There are some things we think will be a huge hit with people when they see them in person but you don’t know until it actually happens. I am planning to spend a good amount of just time going around the convention watching people react and engage with different events and activations we have there.
Where should people go to stay on top of new announcements for CRX?
They can visit our CRX Blog at crunchyrollexpo.com/news. We are updating it multiple times a week so be sure to keep checking back. We also have a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for Crunchyroll Expo so they can follow us there as well.
Finally, if you had to describe CRX in one sentence, what would it be?
A forward thinking event focused on entertaining all lovers of anime and the fandom around it.