With an attendance number clocking in at roughly 70,000, this year’s Dragon Con wasn’t too much larger than last year’s 65,000-person extravaganza, but it certainly felt like it, particularly in jam-packed skybridges (we’re looking at you, Marriott to Hilton bridge) and escalator lines. But with more people came more cosplay, more dancing, more swag and ribbons, and more joy. In the four days we spent on the convention floor (walking 23 miles, according to our phones), here are some of the things we noticed.
Costumes (and trends) by the numbers:
246 visitors from Barbie land, and that’s probably not even scratching the surface of how many of these dolls attended the convention. This included 97 Barbies (among them, nerdy mash-ups like Dragon Con Barbie, Harley Quinn Barbie, Mandalorian Barbie, and Darth Barbie), 50 Kens (including 3 Ken-Obis and one Kendolf), 15 Allens (including an Allen R2-D2), 5 President Barbies, and 22 Weird Barbies. While it was widely expected that this would be the cosplay trend of the year, it’s hard to describe just how much pink flooded the halls of the host hotels. And everywhere you walked, someone was shouting “Hi, Barbie!” It might just be the most popular cosplay trend we’ve ever seen at Dragon Con.
5 Barbenheimer mashups, also keeping up with this summer’s blockbuster phenomenon
38 Narkina 5 prisoners from the Disney+ Star Wars series Andor, who conducted at least one prison break in the Marriott, loudly chanting “one way out!” as they marched. Some even cosplayers held inner tubes and life preservers.
21 folks dressed as Ahsoka Tano, the Star Wars hero who got a major boost in cosplay appearances this year thanks to the new Disney+ series
19 characters from Ted Lasso
18 Koroks from the Legend of Zelda franchise, which got an overall boost in cosplay this year thanks to the recent release of the Tears of the Kingdom game
10 folks dressed as Wednesday Addams. The rest of the classic Addams family members also seemed to get a cosplay boost thanks to the new Netflix show.
8 costumes that referenced the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes
9 characters from the popular anime Chainsaw Man
6 folks dressed as Tommy, the Green/White Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, an uptick that was likely a tribute to the late actor Jason David Frank, who died in November
5 characters from Bluey
3 folks dressed as Pee-Wee Herman, in memory of Paul Reubens
3 inflatable Kool-Aid men
3 Taylor Swifts
1 person dressed as Lionel Messi, decked out in his pink Inter Miami uniform
1 pod of Orca whales
A lot of inflatable dinosaurs, whose antics were as wacky and wonderful as ever
We also noticed:
• Celebrity interactions were a little different this year due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. While many popular celebrities—including Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Paul Bettany, Jewel Saite, and George Takei—still took photos, signed autographs for fans, and sat on panels, the strike’s policies prevented them from talking about any specific characters or franchises they are involved with. Signs were posted in the Walk of Fame (the convention’s autograph area) reminding fans not to ask about “struck work.” To avoid awkward unanswerable questions during panels, fans were no longer permitted to ask live questions in-person. Instead, fans could submit questions via Discord, which moderators could then choose to ask the celebrities.
In our opinion, the Discord system was pretty convenient, keeping the flow of panel questions moving and avoiding the awkward situation of someone asking for a hug rather than an actual question. It’s unfortunate that it cuts down on fan/celebrity interaction, but for a year when so many typical questions were off-limits, it was an excellent solution. The fandom-less questions were also fairly entertaining—moderators asked about celebrities’ non-acting hobbies, secret family recipes, pet peeves, what they wanted to be when they grew up, and even some truly odd-ball questions, like what would they choose to be the eighth wonder of the world. (In a panel we sat in on, Freddie Prinze Jr. expertly answered that question with, “It’s already been decided, it was Andre the Giant.”) It was fun to get a chance to learn about the actors lives and interests outside their work.
• The Hyatt got new carpet! While many folks knew blue circular-patterned carpet was coming, thanks to the Hyatt’s team social media team prepping fans for a new Cult of Carpet, we’re not quite sure anyone expected how much that carpet would shed. Fans even starting making little lint creatures from the carpet floof (think tribbles from Star Trek). Still, the new look made the lower floors of the Hyatt look much brighter and calmer.
• Last year was a rough year for the Hilton, with fans angry about a new alcohol policy, premium dining options that didn’t exactly strike a chord, and a small flood that became 2022’s biggest convention meme. But this year, the Hilton came back stronger than ever, returning to previous policies and dining options and decorating the hotel in an extremely cute Super Mario Bros. theme. On Facebook, the hotel even posted a joke about the flood: “Don’t worry #DragonCon fans! The #SuperMarioBros are here for all of your plumbing needs.”
• A new vendor made an appearance at the Marriott, Purifi IV, which offered IV drips and vitality shots for fans who got too dehydrated one way or another during the convention.
• Swag n’ Seek and badge ribbons continue to grow in popularity, with official events on Dragon Con’s schedule allowing fans easy ways to pick up or trade “swag”—small, often homemade trinkets like keychains, stickers, tiny ducks, and jewelry—and badge ribbons. Fan-made ribbons have become ubiquitous at Dragon Con, with even celebrities and vendors attaching them to their badges. Swag n’ Seek’s motto is “kindness is free,” and we love witnessing the sheer joy it brings to kids and adults alike.
• Unlike last year, there was no Jon the FedEx guy standee to decorate—minus a few tiny paper ones that occasionally made an appearance. Thankfully, at least one Jon cosplayer helped fill the void, standing in the hallway between the Hyatt and Marriott and accepting offerings and googly eyes from fans. The Cult of Jon is still strong.
(Costume statistics are approximated and don’t include the parade.)