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Vaccine optimism aside, Covid is casting its shadow across the events calendar in the United States. Major animation-related conventions are canceling in-person events and/or committing to virtual editions this summer, according to various official sources.

San Diego Comic-Con has canceled its summer in-person event for the second year running. Instead, the organizers will once again hold a virtual Comic-Con@Home event, on July 23–25. A scaled-down in-person event is also planned for November; the details have yet to be firmed up. The summer event is due to return next year.

Announcing the virtual event, the organizers said: “Unfortunately, the challenges of this past year and the multiple postponements of our two largest events have left us with limited financial resources, so this year the online experience will be reduced to a three-day event.”

Another headache for Comic-Con is the growing competition from official corporate fan conventions. Last year, after Comic-Con canceled its in-person event, Warnermedia created DC Fandome as a showcase for DC content. The company says that the main presentation was viewed by 22 million people — a sharp contrast with Comic-Con@Home, which struggled to generate anywhere near as much hype as past Comic-Con conventions.

E3 has also canceled its in-person event this year, according to notes published by the Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Development Board of Commissioners. The document labels the video game convention, which had been due to go ahead on June 15–17, as a “cancelled live event in 2021.” It adds that the event is “working on” signing licenses to stage events in 2022 and 2023.

The Entertainment Software Association, which organizes E3, has not yet given a statement on the matter. But a spokesperson told Techradar: “We can confirm that we are transforming the E3 experience for 2021 and will soon share exact details on how we’re bringing the global video game community together.” The organizers had previously outlined a proposal for a digital 2021 event in correspondence with game publishers.

Last year, there was no E3 at all — neither in-person nor virtual. Many game companies held their own events instead, while E3 alumnus Geoff Keighley launched the four-month online Summer Game Fest. Like Comic-Con, E3 risks losing relevance as rival events pop up.

Anime Expo is holding a virtual edition this year, according to the same City of L.A. document, which specifies that the event will be held “over 4th of July.” The in-person event is currently scheduled for July 2–5; the document does not state that this has been canceled. As with E3, the organizers have yet to make an official announcement.

The L.A. document also noted that Anime Expo is set to sign a license to stage shows through 2030. Last year, the convention was reimagined as a two-day virtual event.

These three conventions join other disrupted events, including SIGGRAPH (which moved its August edition online) and Disney’s D23 Expo (which has not organized its expected 2021 edition, and will return instead in September 2022).

Image at top: San Diego Comic-Con in 2016


Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.