Review: Sailor Moon Pop-Up Cafe in Toronto

Full disclosure: I was given a complimentary ticket to this event by the organizer. The review is based on my own experiences as well as those observed of others who were there.

The Sailor Moon Pop-Up Cafe in Toronto happened yesterday at Hirut Cafe, who may now be regretting getting involved in a first time Sailor Moon cafe event as some disappointed attendees have been giving the restaurant negative reviews for an event that was run by a separate group.

I arrived shortly after 3pm and I saw a long line of attendees forming outside. On a hot summer day, I was hoping that people weren’t waiting long and that they would soon be ushered inside to be seated.

I went inside (it was difficult to identify who was working for the event outside) and I asked to talk to the organizer. I skipped the line as I was personally invited and I wanted to speak to the organizer. I also have an invisible disability which would have made it problematic for me to stand outside for a lengthy time (I can only walk/stand for a limited time per day).

I was directed toward the back of the front level and I spoke briefly with Deborah, the head organizer of the event. She recognized me as the chair of the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration and said that she was glad that I could come but that they were already running about an hour behind schedule and she was already expecting to receive bad reviews. She also said she had been delayed getting to the event because of Caribana and that it took her nearly three hours to get there in a taxi (which I’m sure only left her stressed at the beginning of the day and it can be challenging to make up for that). She encouraged me to find a seat anywhere to be served.

I noticed that there were a few people behind the counter slicing strawberries for the parfaits and scooping the mango ice cream into glasses for the parfaits. Since I have a family member who works in the restaurant industry, I thought it odd that the strawberries hadn’t even been prepared in advance. It’s generally best to do prep cooking in advance so that it’s quick to assemble things for serving. The staff all appeared stressed and flustered and encouraged the organizer to cut one of the drinks so that they could switch to the next group of attendees sooner (not a good sign).

I walked around the place which had sparse party decorations. Near the front door there was milk and cream for coffee and tea, which is not really a good idea on a hot day. Another set was downstairs on a high table too.

I set down a stack of flyers for the picnic I’m running next weekend at Kew Gardens near the front door and I made my way down the stairs, which had some simple homemade decorations and ribbons hanging down from the ceiling. At the bottom of the stairs was the first vendor, Maho Girls, who had also exhibited at the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration. She said she had limited stock, but it seemed a good variety and quantity of items for this event. The featured artist of the event, Marie Jane Works, was also downstairs, around the middle of the space on the right side, in an area that looked like a smaller bar with an L shaped counter. She had a selection of prints and some original artwork for sale. It was a mixture of Sailor Moon and other pieces. She was also cosplaying Sailor Jupiter, which was a nice touch.

Random j-pop music was playing on the speakers downstairs, too bad it wasn’t exclusively Sailor Moon music and too bad they weren’t also playing upstairs. No music would have been fine too, it just seemed like a missed opportunity.

At the back of the lower floor there was an area set up like a photo booth with a sign written in marker that photos were $5 (this was later reduced to $4). There was a young woman cosplaying Princess Serenity nearby, and presumably she was there for you to take photos with her. There was another young woman there to take the pictures with an instant camera. Both of them looked permanently miserable. This corner was also quite dark and not properly set up for photos. It seemed unreasonable to be charging people $5 for a small picture in a dark location and then the people who were part of the photo booth looked like they were unhappy about being there most of the time. Needless to say, very few people took pictures at the booth.

There was a raffle prize given out around this time, one of the attendees received a Proplica moon stick. I never saw anything about where people would get raffle tickets before or after that and I didn’t see any other raffle items given out. I’m not sure if this was only something offered to a certain time or what.

I sat down at a cleaned table around 3:20pm and took a picture of the themed placemat:

sm_cafe_mat

A little while after, a staff member cosplaying Sailor Moon brought coffee to the table next to me and asked about tea for that table and mine. I requested tea.

The next thing that the cosplaying staff brought around were the cookie and cupcake:

sm_cafe_food

I received one of the cookies that had a more detailed icing design, but I saw others received simpler designs with senshi symbols on them. There was also a blue cupcake that some received instead of the green. The cookie was a simple sugar cookie and the cupcakes had a slightly tangy icing (I’m guessing a cream cheese icing).

At this point I was glad I brought my own water bottle because I hadn’t received any kind of beverage yet, which doesn’t mix well with this kind of food.

The staff member cosplaying Tuxedo Mask brought me a parfait soon after as I didn’t have a drink but the table next to me did.

sm_cafe_parfait

The parfait had a mango sherbet, sliced strawberries, blueberries, and chocolate pieces. I suspect it was supposed to have whipped cream on top, but it started melting before it got to me so it was hard to tell.

Around this time the Sailor Moon cosplayer started checking to see if people wanted water, but she repeatedly came downstairs without much water in the jug and with too few cups to be able to accommodate everyone on that level. It took a few times before she grabbed a larger stack of cups and two jugs of water so that it would be easier to serve people.

The staff were mostly friendly, but they all seemed frazzled and stressed. They were constantly rushing to try to take care of everyone, but they hadn’t planned out who was taking care of which table or when they were serving things so it was a bit chaotic.

The Tuxedo Mask cosplayer asked me what I was waiting for when I had finished the cookie, cupcake, and parfait. I mentioned the tea again (I think this was the third time), and he said he’d go look into it.

After waiting a little longer I decided to leave as I was taking up a table that could be occupied by other attendees instead. I was there about an hour and had requested the tea early on, it seemed strange to offer something they had difficulty providing.

On my way out, the Tuxedo Mask cosplayer apologized about the tea. I said I’d been waiting an hour for it so it didn’t make sense to stay longer. I picked up my flyers and went out the door to still see a long line of fans waiting to get in. Many seemed disappointed and I decided against handing out flyers to them as they mostly seemed upset and I didn’t want that to be associated with the casual picnic I’m running.

All in all, I think the organizer and staff were very unprepared for the crowd and were inexperienced at serving this number of people efficiently. Deborah, the organizer, was apologetic from the beginning and tried to make do the best she could, but was clearly not ready to handle this amount of fans and not enough food was prepared in advance. They also mistakenly assumed that back to back time slots would work and didn’t give themselves a buffer for clean up and switching to a new group of people, which only encouraged delays.

Things I think they could improve for next time:

  • Prep more food in advance — all chopping for starters and portion sizes should be decided so that they can be dished out consistently.
  • Make sure you have enough food based on the number of tickets sold, in fact it’s best to plan for extra so you don’t run out.
  • Don’t leave milk/cream out all day, especially when they aren’t in chilled containers. People can get sick from this unless you use shelf stable milk. Chilling disposable containers of milk/cream would be better for maintaining temperature and could easily and safely be distributed as needed. There are chilled containers you can get for milk/cream too, but I wouldn’t recommend that in the summer.
  • Clarify to attendees that it is a one hour sitting time per ticket, there seemed to be confusion on the event page and quite a few people lingering in the cafe who might have otherwise left a bit earlier.
  • Have a buffer time between sittings so that there is time to clean up and stay organized between groups, this also gives you a bit of time for overflow for attendees who might linger.
  • Consider staggering seating times to make it easier to serve sections instead of trying to serve a hundred people at a time when you don’t have enough items prepped.
  • Have staff dedicated to serving specific tables. They were constantly running around and looking panicked because they couldn’t keep track of things.
  • If you do co-op serving, make sure there is a way to communicate who has been served what — maybe have a white board for the staff to use so they can check things off per table.
  • Have more staff serving items and have them be clearly identifiable — cosplay is not enough as some attendees showed up in cosplay as well. Name tags or badges would be great.
  • Have a few dedicated staff outside giving water and/or juice to the people waiting outside so that they don’t dehydrate (this will also put them in a better mood when coming in). Someone should also be checking for people with disabilities that aren’t immediately apparent so that they aren’t standing outside as long.
  • Have someone paying attention to the door so you know why anyone is bypassing the line.
  • Have some kind of activity that encourages people to interact beyond their own table — many people were keeping to themselves but it would have been easy to encourage people to talk to others. I was there alone, but nobody was ever seated with me which seemed odd considering the limited space.
  • Don’t provide things that are difficult to offer in a timely fashion. If coffee and tea are too challenging to provide consistently, don’t offer them at all. Giving to some and not to others is unbalanced and leaves some people feeling they are missing out.
  • In general, offer less food items and make sure they are easier to prepare and serve. Melted parfaits and missing ingredients quickly disappoint paying attendees.
  • If you’re going to have a photo booth, have it lit properly and allow people to take pictures for free on their own devices. Charging for photos should be only on a more professional level, with proper lights and a backdrop, plus the digital file emailed to the payee.
  • Vendors in the lower level seemed like bad placement for them to get traffic. Hardly anyone went down who wasn’t seated on that level already.
  • If you’re going to have music, random j-pop isn’t really a good choice. There is a lot of Sailor Moon music that could have been used instead. Also, the music would be better to play everywhere, not just on one level.
  • This venue was small and not easy to navigate for the staff of this event. A large party room at a bigger facility would have been easier to coordinate.
  • Consider catering most of the food and drink items and then have the cosplay staff there mainly as greeters and for taking pictures and mingling with fans.

I thought the food was pretty good, and I don’t mind that my parfait was a little melted. But, if I were a paying customer I would have been disappointed about not receiving the tea or “senshi drink” that were advertised and would have likely considered either requesting a partial refund or hesitated about going to a future event until the bigger issues are worked out.

I think that this type of event has great potential, but it is challenging to pull off the first time especially if you are inexperienced with handling a crowd of that size. I hope that another event like this happens in future, but with more planning and perhaps cutting back how many items they serve to customers until they can handle serving all customers consistently.

It’s too bad this didn’t go very well, because I got the impression that Deborah and her team really wanted to create an enjoyable experience for Sailor Moon fans. Here’s to hoping that they can regroup and try again with a bigger team and more organized planning.

More Guests Announced for the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration

In case you missed the announcements on the event page, we have confirmed Jill Frappier (Luna), Susan Roman (Sailor Jupiter) and Ammie Cosplay as the latest guests for the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration that I will be hosting at the Ontario Science Centre on Sunday, September 27th.

Jill Frappier

This will be the first time since 2013 that Jill Frappier and Ron Rubin (the voices of Luna and Artemis) will be reuniting at an event! This is an opportunity to meet both cats that you won’t want to miss.

Jill Frappier is our third announced Guest of Honour, and she portrayed the original voice of Luna for the entire run of the DiC and Cloverway dubs of Sailor Moon. Jill is an actor, storyteller, drama teacher “extraordinaire,” and has performed in well over 100 plays at major theatres in Toronto and across Canada, including the Shaw and Stratford Festivals.

Jill’s voice is frequently heard in CBC radio dramas and televised cartoon series. Her most notable cartoon roles are Luna in Sailor Moon, Mrs. Prysselius in Pippi Longstocking, Doucette in Anatole, the wicked Sherry in Totally Spiez, Little Mutt in Animal Shelf, Auntie Yorkshire in Pecola, and the Lady in Waiting (Jane’s Mom) in Jane and the Dragon. Her pottery, under the brand Jill’s Objets, was recently featured at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto.

 

Our Cosplay Guest of Honour is none other than Ammie Cosplay, who has cosplayed all of the sailor senshi!

Ammie Cosplay

Ammie started sewing well over a decade ago and has been actively making Sailor Moon costumes for 10 years. As a masters level cosplayer she strives to teach other cosplayers, both novice and masters, tricks of the trade and believes through her own trial and error in the art of costume making, she would like to share the wealth of knowledge she has obtained in the hobby. She has been featured in magazines and books around the world regarding her costumes and lives by the motto “if I can make it, anyone can make it!” If you would like to keep updated with Ammie’s cosplay, you can follow her on deviantART.

 

And last, but certainly not least, our latest guest announcement is Susan Roman, the original voice of Sailor Jupiter in the entire run of the DiC and Cloverway dubs of Sailor Moon!

Susan Roman

Susan is also known for many other voice roles including Snowy the dog in TinTin, Melissa Raccoon from the second season of The Raccoons, Champ Bear in The Care Bears Movie and the Care Bears TV series, Good Luck Bear in Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot and The Care Bears’ Big Wish Movie, Oliver and Judy Tate in Beyblade, Salima in Beyblade V-Force, and she had a recurring guest role as the Morlock leader Callisto in the first X-Men animated series. Susan also enjoys gardening and has had her garden featured in Toronto garden tours.

Panels, presentations, and other activities currently on the schedule for the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration include:

  • Q&A session with Roland Parliament: ask your burning questions about what it was like to be the voice of the geeky Melvin, the experience of voice directing Sailor Moon, or even find out more about his book Sailor Moon Reflections
  • Q&A session with Ron Rubin and Jill Frappier: ask your questions about what it was like to be the voice of a talking cat and how being part of the anime series and movies from beginning to end influenced their views of Sailor Moon and the roles of Artemis and Luna
  • Q&A session with Susan Roman: ask your questions about what it was like to be the voice of the powerful and feminine Sailor Jupiter and how being part of the anime series and movies from beginning to end influenced her view of Sailor Moon.
  • Autographs and photo ops with Roland Parliament, Ron Rubin, Jill Frappier, and Susan Roman
  • Sailor Moon merchandise: presentation on a selection of merchandise available in Japan and Canada, includes some real life merchandise that you can see up close!
  • Sailor Moon Classic versus Sailor Moon Crystal: open discussion of the two animes
  • Mythology and Sailor Moon: discussion of the influences of mythology in the story of Sailor Moon
  • Gender, Sociology, and Sailor Moon: discussion of the aspects of gender and sociology as related to Sailor Moon (and Sailor Moon cosplay) in North America
  • Sailor Moon singalong: It’s like a group karaoke! Sing along to various Sailor Moon songs, in English and Japanese. Lyrics will be on a screen so everyone can follow along.
  • Cosplay parade
  • And more!

If you are interested in running a panel or event, you can sign up here.

Pre-registration tickets are $12, pre-registration with a commemorative wristband is $14. At the door, admission will be $15, and the wristbands will be $2 each.

Buy your tickets here! Pre-registration will close on Friday, September 18th.

I hope to see you there!

 

 

Ron Rubin Announced as a Guest for the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration

rrubin_goh

In case you missed the announcement on the event page, Ron Rubin is confirmed as our next guest for the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration that I will be hosting at the Ontario Science Centre on Sunday, September 27th.

Ron is well known for his portrayal of Artemis the cat throughout the DiC and Cloverway dubs of Sailor Moon, including the original anime series and movies. Ron is one of the busiest animation actors around. His voice can be heard on countless anime shows and cartoon series including the Emmy Award winning Beetlejuice (Doom Buggy), Marvel Comic’s X-Men (Morph), Avengers (The Vision), Police Academy (Lt. Mahoney), C.O.P.S. (Dr. Badvibes), Bakugan (Stronk, Exostriker), Care Bear’s Big Wish Movie (Messy Bear), SideKick (Master XOX) and Stickin’ Around (Mr. Lederhosen) to name a few.

Events and activities at the Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration will include:

  • Q&A session with Roland Parliament: ask your burning questions about what it was like to be the voice of the geeky Melvin, the experience of voice directing Sailor Moon, or even find out more about his book Sailor Moon Reflections
  • Q&A session with Ron Rubin: ask your questions about what it was like to be the voice of a talking cat and how being part of the anime series and movies from beginning to end influenced his view of Sailor Moon and the role of Artemis.
  • Autographs and photo ops with Ron Rubin and Roland Parliament
  • Sailor Moon merchandise: presentation on a selection of merchandise available in Japan and Canada, includes some real life merchandise that you can see up close!
  • Sailor Moon Classic versus Sailor Moon Crystal: open discussion of the two animes
  • Mythology and Sailor Moon: discussion of the influences of mythology in the story of Sailor Moon
  • Gender, Sociology and Sailor Moon: discussion of the aspects of gender, race, and socio-cultural significance of Sailor Moon (and Sailor Moon cosplaying) in North America
  • Sailor Moon singalong: It’s like a group karaoke! Sing along to various Sailor Moon songs, in English and Japanese. Lyrics will be on a screen so everyone can follow along.
  • Cosplay parade
  • And more!

Tickets for the Sailor Moon Celebration can be purchased online in advance for $12. Ticket prices will increase at the door to $15. Commemorative wristbands are an extra $2 each.

Hope to see you there!

International Sailor Moon Day Tomorrow and Toronto Celebration Rescheduled

If you’re in the Toronto area, you may be interested in attending the International Sailor Moon Day Picnic on Olympic Island tomorrow. This picnic is a casual meetup of Sailor Moon fans only and there are no events scheduled. No guests have been announced.

For more details about the picnic, please check out the event page.*

 

Not in Toronto? You may be interested in checking out the list of all locations for International Sailor Moon Day to see if there is an event near you!

 

rparliament_gohIf you are interested in the Sailor Moon Celebration that I will be hosting at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, that has been rescheduled to Sunday, September 27th. Roland Parliament will still be appearing as a featured guest and there will be more guest announcements in the coming weeks!

If you are interested in attending on the new date, the new Facebook event page is here.

Events and activities on the day will include:

  • Q&A session with Roland Parliament: ask your burning questions about what it was like to be the voice of the geeky Melvin, the experience of voice directing Sailor Moon, or even find out more about his book Sailor Moon Reflections
  • Autographs and photo ops with Roland Parliament
  • Sailor Moon merchandise: presentation on a selection of merchandise available in Japan and Canada, includes some real life merchandise that you can see up close!
  • Sailor Moon Classic versus Sailor Moon Crystal: open discussion of the two animes
  • Mythology and Sailor Moon: discussion of the influences of mythology in the story of Sailor Moon
  • Gender, Sociology and Sailor Moon: discussion of the aspects of gender, race, and socio-cultural significance of Sailor Moon (and Sailor Moon cosplaying) in North America
  • Sailor Moon singalong: It’s like a group karaoke! Sing along to various Sailor Moon songs, in English and Japanese. Lyrics will be on a screen so everyone can follow along.
  • Cosplay parade
  • And more!

Tickets for the Sailor Moon Celebration can be purchased online in advance for $10. Ticket prices will increase on August 27th.

Stay tuned for more announcements!

 

*Please note that Moon Chase is not affiliated with the International Sailor Moon Day Picnic on Olympic Island.

International Sailor Moon Day Toronto Featuring Roland Parliament

rparliament_goh

If you’re in the Toronto area, you might be interested in checking out one of the International Sailor Moon Day events on Saturday, August 15th.

I will be hosting the Sailor Moon Celebration at the Ontario Science Centre. I am currently reaching out to more possible Sailor Moon guests, but I am proud to announce that our first guest of honour is Roland Parliament!

Roland will be doing a Q&A session with the fans and will be available for autographs and photo ops. If you haven’t had a chance yet to buy his book (which I recommend for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the original dub), you can order a copy in advance from his website. Roland will be happy to sign and personalize your copy in person.

Roland would love to have copies available to sell to attendees, and if 50 books are ordered soon, he will bring them to the event and deliver to you in person!

Other events at the Sailor Moon Celebration at the Ontario Science Centre will include panels & presentations such as:

  • The latest Sailor Moon merchandise news
  • Sailor Moon Crystal versus Sailor Moon Classic – discussing the differences
  • Win, Lose, or Draw!
  • And more!

The event costs $10 to attend and will be running one day only on August 15th. Tentative times are 10am-4pm, but this may change.

If a more casual event is your style, there is also going to be a Sailor Moon picnic on Toronto island, from 12pm-5pm, hosted by Abby Green.