Christopher Canole dresses at Dude Vader at Comic-Con 2019. Photo by Chris Stone

It takes as village to run Comic-Con.

From having dozens of buses to shuttle fans to making sure there’s enough melted cheese for nachos, organizers of Comic-Con 2019 say the convention has become a massive logistical puzzle that requires year-round planning.

With Comic-Con in full swing and headed into a jam-packed weekend, longtime organizers of the gathering talked Friday about what goes on behind the scenes of the convention.

“The thing that’s difficult is that it extends outside the convention center boundaries,” said Tim Pontrelli, who oversees operations and staffing in the many rooms of center.

The numbers tell the story.

  • 800 gallons of nacho cheese are consumed in the four days of the convention
  • 62 buses shuttle passengers every morning from hotels to the Con and at night take them back to the hotels
  • Over the last 22 years, 1.9 million passengers have been ferried on shuttles
  • More than 50 tons of cardboard are recycled every year after the show ends
  • Over 20 miles of electrical cables are laid out each year to power the eye-catching booths on the convention floor

The planning involved in setting up the Con is constant, with organizers calling it “the show that never ends.”

“As soon as the show is done, we start critiquing what happened, what was good, what was bad,” said Carolyn Wormser, the special events director for the City of San Diego.

Yet, as daunting as the task is, it could be much worse. Organizers regaled fans with stories of rejected stunts and promotions from the entertainment industry.

For example, there was an idea by the studio behind the film “Snakes on a Plane” to drop rubber snakes on an unsuspecting Hall H audience.

“They wanted to drop these snakes in the dark on people’s laps and I told them you are absolutely crazy,” said Pontrelli.

“They thought it was a great idea but nobody else did,” said Matt LeVeque, in charge of show productions.

There was also the idea to have a burning stuntman leap off a hotel building, people jump off helicopters onto the streets of the Con and have Arnold Schwarzenegger rapel off a helicopter onto the sails pavilion of the convention center. One director wanted to hand out live locusts for an end-of-the-world film.

“I can’t tell you how many companies wanted to have scary clowns coming out of the sewer system,” said Wormser.

And while planning to make sure the convention goes smoothly and that the public’s safety is protected, organizers have to make sure Gaslamp-area restaurants and stores are allowed to conduct their business during the week and get their food and supply deliveries.

Yet despite all the work that goes into it, organizers said they know Comic-Con is a special event for the city and they work to keep it that way.

Karen Totaro, chief operating officer of the San Diego Convention Center, credits the fans for making things go smoothly by being well-mannered and obedient of the rules and policies.

“It’s a great, almost festival atmosphere,” she said.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture fan who is attending his 29th consecutive Comic-Con.

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