African-American Owned Company
First Animé Convention
in an effort to stem youth violence (2007)
The first animé convention ever in Philadelphia, TandokuCon 2007, is coming to The Pennsylvania Convention Center, November 9-11, thanks to the efforts of an East Mt. Airy (Philadelphia)-based, African-American owned company, TCON Expressions of Philadelphia. This is the first time an African-American owned group has produced a “con,” the favorite condensed wording used by anime convention-goers. TCON sees the convention as a way to stem the epidemic of youth violence by redirecting energy into artistic expression.
Animé is the Japanese form of animation known to children through the cartoons Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, DragonBall Z and others. The shows and art are extremely popular even among young adults, with trading cards, costumes, music bands, fan art, animation movie videos (AMVs), fan parodies and conventions. Conventions around the world draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Animé crosses racial, gender, age, ethnic, urban and suburban lines. The target market for the con is seven year olds-24 year olds. Estimated attendance is 2,000-10,000 people, although a recent con in Washington, DC drew over 4,000. The web site – http://www.tandokucon.com – receives approximately 5,000 visits a month.
There are other underlying purposes of TandokuCon besides having fun: first, it fills a gap in the competitive landscape of anime conventions in the tri-state area of the Mid-Atlantic States. Of these states, only Northern New Jersey plays host to full-scale anime conventions. Pennsylvania boasts its share of anime-inspired events: the popular Zenkaikon in King of Prussia, The Asian Karaoke Idol Invitational (TAKII) in West Philadelphia, Shikkaricon in Newtown and Erie Anime Experience in Erie. However, Center City Philadelphia has never been home to one even though the Pennsylvania Convention Center is easily accessible to city and suburban residents. The only other metropolitan city in Pennsylvania that hosts a full-scale anime convention is Pittsburgh.
Second, but most prevalent, the creators of the convention feel compelled to be proponents of change. The death rate amongst young people is rising alarmingly fast. In Philadelphia in 2006, 179 youths between 7-24 years old were homicide victims. It is the highest number of young people killed in one year in Philadelphia in the past 10 years. For teens between the ages of 15 and 19, 57‰ of all deaths were homicides making it the leading cause of death for this age group in this area.
“TandokuCon is something more than just a good time,” says Convention Coordinator Terry Arnold-Collins. “TandokuCon is a viable and obtainable alternative offered to young people to re-direct their energies in artistic creation and expression. Violence against our young people is a terrible pandemic that affects all of us. We take it very seriously. The thoughts, the actions, the skills, the talents, the ambitions and the goals of our young people are our greatest resources. Creatively, artistically and technologically our future is shouldered on the ingenuity of our next generation. We embrace our young people. We embrace their similarities, their differences, their strengths and their weaknesses. Also, we have had a huge positive response to our bringing a con to Philly. Many young people in our area have contacted us sharing stories of how they have longed to attend many of the cons across the country but could not because of the costs involved. We felt it time to meld the issues and party with a purpose.
“TandokuCon was born to provide young people with a safe, affordable, centralized, productive and fun environment to express themselves artistically using a non-restrictive art form.” she says. “What’s great is that it promotes diversity and strongly encourages independent and creative yet analytical and positive thinking. You know, if there’s a way to save the lives of our young people, we’’e obligated to try. If there’s a possibility to alter the life paths for our young people from violence to peace, we are impelled to do so and we must advocate diversity by any means.” “Tandoku” means independence or freedom in Japanese, so TandokuCon is an appropriate term.
TandokuCon has received commitments from the top names in voice acting, art and bands (see web site for details). A total investment of $117,000 will fund all administrative costs but attempts are being pursued to gain major sponsorships and partnerships. In 2003, anime merchandising worldwide grossed $16.7 billion. In 2006, anime box office receipts and DVD sales grossed $5.2 billion globally. It is broadcast, in syndication, in the US by several television stations like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, and HBO. Cable giants like Comcast have devoted individual channels to the genre – Anime on Demand; and Sony has the newly owned Animax. There are over 100 Internet websites in the US devoted to it; and, major publishing houses like Watson-Guptill Publications has published how-to-draw anime and manga books by well-known animators like Christopher Hart, which have sold millions of copies. Verizon Wireless includes 13 possible Pokemon ringtones.
The con will include panel discussions by industry experts, a concert, Cosplay Fashion shows, Live Action Role Play (LARP), a Silent Auction, video game tournaments in the game room, video rooms where screenings of licensed anime, Anime Music Videos (AMVs) and fan parodies will be shown, a Merchants’ Room, and Artists’ Alley. Tommy Callahan, 22, of Downingtown is Head Coordinator for Anime Music Video Screening and Fan Parody Screening. He has put together some samples he and friends have created, which will be on the TandokuCon web site soon. TandokuCon also plans on having an area for trading cards “duels” for youngsters.
Other members of the team include Michael Kleiner of award-winning Michael Kleiner Public Relations and Web Design, who is handling the publicity and working with Arnold-Collins’ husband, Wayne, on promotions/sponsorships and has developed ideas to engage youth and the business community in promoting the con. E’Lea Cooper, the Collins’ daughter, whose complaints that she couldn’t afford to attend animé conventions in other cities led to Terry creating TandokuCon, is a student at Philadelphia University and serves as the Volunteer Coordinator and Co-Video Room Coordinator along with Keville Bowen, who is the Video Room and Game Room Coordinator. Keville is a graduating senior at The Art Institute of Philadelphia and created one of the con logos. Robin Staley, a Temple University student, is Artists’ Alley/Merchants’ Room Coordinator and Michael “Lucci” Carlucci of Sick and Twisted Productions is the Head Coordinator for LARP.
There are plenty of volunteer and merchant opportunities available. Anyone interested can find more information on the web site and/or can e-mail Soji@tandokucon.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the convention, call 215-767-4310 or visit the website http://www.tandakucon.com to keep up with the latest developments.
About TCON Expressions of Philadelphia
The host company of TandokuCon is TCON Expressions, a for-profit business located and registered in Philadelphia, PA. Founded in 2006, TCON Expressions was created for the sole purpose to bring the animé convention to Philadelphia. Staffed by one person, TCON Expressions has recruited several volunteers to administer TandokuCon. The volunteers who comprise the convention staff are passionate about art, animé and the young people of Philadelphia. We are Project Managers, students, PR Professionals, Retail Professionals and Customer Service Professionals.
Admission Prices and times of the TandokuCon
Three-day at-door admission is $45 for adults 13 years old and up; $40 for children between 6-12 years old. Friday the 9th only (4 p.m.-12:00 a.m.) is $25/$15; Saturday the 10th only (8:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m.) $40/$20, and Sunday the 11th only (8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.) $25/$15. Group preregistration of 10 or more is $20 per person.