Bumblebee from Transformers Animated joined Jessica and I as we visited the Transformers convention, BotCon 2011 in Pasadena, CA from May 30 – June 5 this year.
This post is long overdue, but I assume it’s better late than never… even if BotCon 09 was well over a year ago.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
So after the Thursday customizing class, the next event scheduled was the opening of the Club store where attendees could finally purchase that year’s at-convention exclusive toys. Furthermore, the store was technically the first location where Revenge of the Fallen (RotF) figures would officially be for sale before anywhere else. I met up with Jessica some time after the class where she was waiting in what was quickly becoming a long line. This was the line for folks who didn’t get to do early registration, so this was 90% of the attendees. They did give out slips of paper in people’s packets that gave people windows when they could get in line, but the line was still getting crazy long. I came to later find out that this registration/store line always takes several hours of time to get through due to the sheer number of people. The BotCon crew came out sometime before they were going to let people in and announced that year’s exclusive at-convention figures and their prices. A few of the sets were surprises, with the 3 pack of Sweeps being the most well received. Luckily right before the doors opened, the crew pulled early registration attendees into our own line that could go in at the same time and straight to the store. To many groans from the other line, we were led into the building.
We walked past several large statues of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime on our way to the store’s new lines. The lines were split into two: one for cash purchases and one for credit. I had heard that the cash line almost always is shorter and faster and so I made sure to bring cash. I later heard anecdotally that some folks were in line for up to 6 hours including registration (mostly due to the amount of varied RotF stock available). We got price sheets to look over and fill out, and Jessica and I ended up in 10th in the cash line. I had pre-planned on what I was going to get earlier, and so filling out the form wasn’t difficult. The only question was what RotF figures they had and which ones I still wanted. We got our turn to go to the store tables and I pretty much got one of everything. It was still early so they had a couple of the limited stock RotF figures and they added them to my pile. The crew member totaled up my order and I threw down a huge wad of cash, about 60% of my convention savings. I walked out happily with the following items:
- Botcon 09 items
- Revenge of the Fallen
We got out of the convention center with several giant bags in hand by 6pm (way earlier than most) and headed out to dinner.
BotCon toy count tally to date = 36
Friday, May 29, 2009
The next day was the first official day of the convention. It was the first day of panels, the dealer room would open, and the initial autograph sessions would be available. I chose to see the panels primarily. I wasn’t sure how busy they’d be but throughout the convention the room was full only for the really special panels. I saw all 4 of the morning panels the first day. The TCC Magazine one was okay, the Stan Bush/Vince DiCola one was kinda sad and pathetic, and sadly the Transformers Animated (TFA) one was filled with clips. We all wanted to learn more about the animated show which had just been canceled, but you could tell they were stepping around the issue. At least the creative team was there which was nice. The Transformers Movie Q&A panel brought out the movies’ 2 writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and it was kinda cool to see them speak with the audience and be cagey out questions on the unreleased second movie.
While the fourth panel was happening, Jessica was already waiting in line for the dealer room private preview. Attendees had begun lining up to be the first to get into the elusive dealer room to pick up even more Transformers merchandise. Jessica waited in multiple lines for me throughout the entire convention. She was always there saving my spots in lines and panels, as well as helping to carry some of my gear around, and trudging it back to the hotel room 3 blocks away. It was very, very helpful having her do that for me.
I had no real idea what to expect with the dealer room, but I knew I wasn’t looking for any old Generation 1 (G1) figures like most folks. I had a list of wants and their current prices elsewhere. Upon entering, I headed for the path less traveled towards the tables manned by some of the attending artists. Those ended up being my first purchases from the room with some art prints by Marcelo Matere (TFA Wreck-Gar print and TFA Wingblade Optimus Prime print) and Alex Milne (G1 Bumblebee with Classics Bumblebee print). I also purchased my favorite poster from the convention: the TFcon 09 “Universe Divided” Classics poster by Alex. I also bought the Transformers Animated trade paperback from the guys at IDW and got a giant RotF one-sheet poster of Bumblebee.
We then moved down the aisles into the Hasbro booth. They had lots of upcoming unreleased figures inside of their glass cases. The RotF Supreme Devastator, Unicron prototypes, and TFA figures were the highlights. More and more people at this point had started to flood the room. The booth also had some free posters and we got 2 free diecast RotF RPMs.
My first toy purchase was a 5 pack Classics Devastator set for $50, which elsewhere was $200 for some strange reason. The next purchases came quicker at the Big Bad Toy Store booth. I wanted 3 Classics seekers from Japan and asked the clerk to price them out for me and haggled for a bundled discount. He stepped away and I was able to get Thundercracker, Thrust, and Dirge for $30 cheaper than I had planned. At this point, my heavy wants for the dealer room were already checked off within the first 30 minutes. After a couple of more booths I picked up the final real big want that was quickly disappearing from the floor, Classics Henkei Red Alert, which again was cheaper than I thought. A final quick pickup was a WST Sideswipe.
The dealer room as a whole was a pretty cool affair. Lots of rare old Japanese Transformers, old US G1 stuff, and lots and lots of memorabilia. Thankfully I wasn’t looking for any of the really expensive stuff. Other cool features were the Optimus Prime truck from the movies, and the contest entries which included customized figures and artworks.
After returning to the room with my purchases and messing with them, the last thing I did on Friday was attend the very end of the Transformers Film Fest and MSTF.
BotCon toy count tally to date = 48
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Saturday was mostly spent trying to get autographs. The biggest ones were Weird Al Yankovic and Peter Cullen. I was going to get in line early for Weird Al, while Jessica got in line for Peter Cullen. We each got in these lines a few hours before they were even going to open. We had heard the lines were gonna fill up for the short and limited sessions that they had scheduled. In fact, the Weird Al session was limited to only Primus Package attendees.
In addition, walk-in attendees who didn’t pre-register began lining up along another entrance. As the convention went on, this line became larger and larger. The dealer room ended up full of local families and children.
I waited outside, in what ended up being a chilly morning, holding my print of TFA’s Wreck-Gar which Weird Al had voiced. Most other fans had sealed boxes of the toy, but we hadn’t been able to find another reasonably priced boxed Wreck-Gar and so I had some Marcelo Matere artwork signed by Marcelo. There were rules about Weird Al’s session and so our time was limited. I was able to get the print signed for my brother-in-law (he’s the bigger Weird Al fan), and was able to shake Al’s hand.
Afterward, I met up with Jessica who had been waiting at the start of the Peter Cullen line. In another nearby line, the voice of TFA’s Optimus Prime, David Kaye was also doing autographs. I persuaded Jessica to get in the line with an Optimus Prime print and Activator figure to have him sign. I held our spot in the Cullen line, and she popped over to his line and got the autographs for me, which was very nice.
A short time later Peter Cullen showed up to many cheers. Peter is the original voice actor of G1 Optimus Prime as well as the recent live action movie Optimus Prime. I had an Optimus Prime Robot Replica figure for him to sign. I made my way up to his table to greet him. I thanked him for what he has done for Transformers and then shook his hand. The entire time he seemed moved by all of the fans who had been waiting for him.
A final quick impromptu autograph in the dealer room was from Mark Ryan, voice of Bumblebee and Jetfire from the movies, who signed some free movie Robot Heroes we got.
After the flurry of autographs, we headed over to get seats for the day’s panels which included Weird Al and David Kaye, Peter Cullen, along with the big panel of the day the Hasbro Review and Q&A. All 3 panels were pretty full. The Weird Al and David Kaye one was a little odd and gave us a taste of how some fans are weird. They asked the pair of voice actors to repeat certain lines and had some groan-worthy questions. It still was a fun panel that got a lot of laughs.
The Hasbro Review panel showed a bunch of upcoming toy releases which included RotF and TFA figures. There were lots of “oohs” and “aahs” when the TFA figures were shown like Arcee and Cybertron Ratchet. It still was just a taste of what was to come with tomorrow’s Hasbro Designers panel, however.
Peter Cullen’s panel also had a full room as well and he came out to lots of cheers. He did do some of humorous bits with his other voiced characters like Eeyore meeting Ironhide and the like. The same awkward questions were asked, and unfortunately it began to turn into every Q&A person asking for a hug or an autograph, because they had missed the earlier session. Those bits put a damper on the panel, but again Peter seemed thoroughly moved by all the fan affection from the room.
Jessica had been a bit sneaky while I was at the panels and picked up a few things for me secretly. A Voyager class of RotF The Fallen (which I thought was too expensive), a Dan Khana Alternators Sunstreaker print (because I like Sunstreaker), and Unicron.com’s Animated Allspark set. Also as it happened I won a door prize on this day for 2 IMAX passes. My final dealer room buy for the day was a sketch request from LilFormers artist Matt Moylan.
By this point the both of us were pretty exhausted. Jessica was already back at the room napping, and I soon joined her. We had been living on little sleep and had woken up quite early for this morning’s autograph lines. There was still one final event for the day that we needed some rest for.
The official BotCon party of 09 was held at the Paramount Studios movie lot. We got dressed, went to wait in line, then hopped on a bus for a ride to the studio. They had set up a concert stage, tables, and buffet stations on their downtown-themed backlot. We got there early and were able to get some food and a table before most of the others showed up. Stan Bush, his band, and Vince DiCola played a bunch of different music on the stage; culminating in old Transformers animated movie classics like “The Touch” and “Dare”. The food was okay and the drinks were kinda expensive. It was also a bit cold and so Jessica and I traded off wearing our single jacket we brought.
Highlights of the Paramount Party were Jessica and I meeting and speaking with Weird Al, taking photos in front of movie Ironhide, watching Tyrese Gibson drive Ratchet into the backlot, and listening to Peter Cullen and Tyrese joking up on the stage.
The final treat of the evening was a special screening of RotF footage in the Paramount theater. We were escorted to the theater where we had to give up our cellphones and cameras due to the security. We were initially told we were only going to see the trailers again, but then the director Michael Bay made a surprise appearance with much hoopla. He showed us two clips from the film: Devastator combining together and Bumblebee versus Rampage. It was awesome seeing these two bits before the movie even came out, especially the Devastator scene. The fans really dug these scenes and were discussing them as we went back to the party.
We hung out around the lot a bit longer until the buses came to take us back to the convention center.
BotCon toy count tally to date = 52
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Sunday was the final day of the convention. There were a few panels and the dealer room was open, but it was going to be a short day since we were going to drive home.
Jessica stayed back at the room to pack up all of the stuff I had accumulated into our car. I went back to the convention center one last time and picked up my LilFormer’s sketch of Sunstreaker that was quite awesome. With my last few dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I walked around the dealer room looking for pretty much anything to buy. Should I buy more WST? Alternity? Something else imported? I finally broke down and picked up a Toys R’ Us exclusive set of Whirl and Bludgeon as my final toy purchases of the show (which we sadly found at retail prices on our way home).
I left the dealer room a final time and headed back to the panel room for the Michael McConnohie and Gregg Berger panel. The pair of classic voice actors had a really great panel that played to the fans. The fans themselves seemed to be better this time around with their Q&A.
The final big-daddy panel was the Hasbro Designer’s panel. This was the one all the fans came to see. We got to see what new figures were planned for the next few years, extended from what we saw at the Saturday panel. Prototypes and concepts were shown. No photos were allowed of either Hasbro panel, but personal highlights were RotF Bludgeon, and all the TFA figures like Blackout, Thundercracker, and Wingblade Optimus Prime. Unfortunately the Q&A part of the panel was cut short by a visit from Tyrese Gibson again. I stayed for a little while he talked, but left shortly after.
I stepped out of the center, waited a few minutes for Jessica in the car, and then we headed off back to Arizona. My first BotCon experience was now over.
We did stop at several stores on the way home looking for other RotF figures that had been released, which weren’t available at the show except for crazy prices. We didn’t find anything RotF, but we did find the Superion box set which I had been looking for the entire show. Luckily it was available at a Target right near our house.
FINAL BotCon toy count tally = 57
I did enjoy my first BotCon, but it wasn’t quite as awesome as I had hoped. Maybe my expectations were too high or I only remember the bad/sub-par stuff?
I sure had spent a ton of money on toys at the show. I had saved up quite a bit of cash over the previous 6 months to be ready, and I pretty much spent it all. I did treat the show as if it was going to be my last and so I picked up all the stuff I was looking for.
I did end up talking with a few people out and around the convention, but I haven’t spoken with them since. I’m not really a social Transformers fan and try to keep my collecting private for the most part.
The thing I hated the most was all the lines. We waited and wasted several hours in a multitude of lines. I know that that was because of a few things like the RotF toy releases, the fact it was in California, and that the show was occurred around the release of the second movie. I’m usually pretty patient about waiting, but I came back from the show with a extreme distaste for lines. This got worse with the lines we were in when RotF was released.
I ended up skipping the next convention, BotCon 2010, that was held in Florida this year. I however did procure the 2010 toys secondhand. Furthermore, we are planning on attending BotCon 2011 when it comes back to Pasadena next year alongside Transformers 3.
I do feel that Transformers have taken over a lot of my life. Lots of time and money are spent on these things, and I am running out of room due to my constant collecting. I thankfully haven’t ventured into vintage G1 figures, nor have I spent myself to death. I do feel I need to step it back with the upcoming releases. TFA’s last few figures are trickling out, but Classics / Generations (my favorites) are now coming back full swing.
Hopefully when the third movie has passed, I’ll really be able to slow down the collecting if not call it quits entirely.
As far as blogging this stuff, it sure took me long enough. The first post was back on June 7, 2009, which was 440 days ago. Hopefully I’ll be more timely for next years convention.
I listen to a Transformers podcast called WTF@TFW which is run by some of the guys from the Transformers site, tfw2005.com. TFW is one of my favorite sites that I visit regularly looking for news and toy sightings. Of the group of different TF sites, I prefer TFW.
On one of the podcasts I little while ago, they decided to have a contest amongst the fans for a few prizes that were donated to them. The contest’s title: WTF@TFW’s Poncho Photoshoot Contest!
A little background on the contest is in order.
There is a character in Transformers Animated called Lockdown. While being lumped into the Decepticon forces, he is a bounty hunter in the TFA universe. He’s a shady character, and in a few episodes he wore a poncho while hiding in the shadows. The fans have since made a note of his distinctive poncho look. The podcasters and TFW decided to run with it.
So the idea behind the contest was to submit a single photo of a Transformer wearing some sort of poncho. It could be photoshopped, but real ponchos would be favored. The concept behind the photo would be judged for atmosphere, effectiveness of the poncho, and the humor.
My immediate idea was to use a Transformers Animated toy called Blackout, based off the 2007 movie character, as my primary subject. As it currently stands, due to TFA’s cancellation in the states, the only way to get this figure was to import it… and import it I did. Being the latest toy I was going to receive after a long drought and his grimacing scowl, he seemed a perfect candidate.
I foresaw Blackout standing in a western town, ready for a gun duel at sunset. He would have his hands (claws really) at his side ready to draw his weapon like the classic spaghetti westerns.
With the idea in my head, I shared it with Jessica and she was game to help get some shots.
After the Japanese Blackout arrived, we went to work fashioning a poncho. Using some quilting squares from the local craft store that looked poncho-esque, I cut out some holes in the middle and fit on Blackout’s first poncho. With some additional fabric, I decided to take my TFA Freeway Jazz and fashion a poncho for him as well to be Blackout’s adversary in a duel.
Initial tests we made inside, with a projector in the background. This didn’t work as I intended because of several factors: no good western town backgrounds to display, the projection wasn’t wide enough, and the lighting was terrible.
We quickly hopped outside into the hot Arizona night to shoot in our front yard. We have some desert landscaping in our front yard (no grass anywhere, even in the back) with some large sandstone boulders along a riverbed. We plopped the two plastic toys down in the rocks and took some test shots.
The “natural” lighting from our porch lights actually lit the scene quite well when using a long exposure. It was a nice soft yellow-orange that matched the hue of the rocks.
The one issue is that we had to place Jessica’s DSLR flat on the hot concrete to get the right angle. This meant I had to lay flat on my stomach on the hot concrete driveway. Lots of tiny little bugs and beetles were also flying around us as we shot.
I was pretty happy with the initial shots but, Jessica was correct in that they needed something a bit more. The ponchos needed a kick… maybe tiny little hats?
Over the next few days, Jessica picked up some tassel-like fringe and some tiny little black cowboy hats. Using some tape and some scissors the ponchos for both characters got a little bit more bling.
We had tried some other shots in the front, but I kept coming back to the idea of blurred shooter in the foreground with Blackout in focus, scowling in the background. We had tweaked some of the positioning and actually started to get some eerie glowing sun / bright full moon shots. The cause was the long exposure we were using coupled with the street light in the background getting blurred. The shot to the left almost made it as my final choice, but the ponchos and character positioning just wasn’t as good as my final selection.
On the morning that the final submittable photo was due, I looked through my favorite shots and chose the image at the very top of this post. I sent off the image to the podcast’s gmail account and waited.
On a prior contest, a poetry contest, it had taken them a while to judge the entries and choose a winner. In addition, their 100th podcast was coming up and that was bundled with the fact that Botcon 2010 was also just around the corner. I did not expect the crew to pick any winners anytime soon. The only hint that I had to the status of the contest was that they posted that there were 41 entries.
Much to my surprise a week before Botcon I got a stealthy private message on TFW from one of the guys on the podcast, Vangelus. He coyly asked if myself and three others in the same message were going to be attending Botcon. That sure was strange and out of the blue, especially when there were 4 prizes for the contest…
As it turned out, just a little while later when I got a response from him, I did end up placing in the contest. In fact, I got third place out of the 41. And in addition to that, I got to pick between 2 of the remaining prizes: Alternity Bumblebee and Japanese Animated Lockdown, neither of which I have.
Of the original 4 prizes, Alternity Bumblebee would have been the prize I would have picked from the 4. As luck would have it that was the one I got to pick!
I responded with my desired prize and was told not to tell anyone that I won until podcast episode 100 was up for everyone to hear. At this point I was feeling pretty good and proud of my photo.
A few days pass and just before Botcon, WTF@TFW episode 100 was released. That morning I loaded up iTunes, downloaded the podcast, and synced it for the drive to work; ready to hear the results from the crew.
Another odd occurrence that preceded episode 100 was that the crew was joined by a very special guest on episode 99. That guest was Transformers Animated art director and character designer Derrick J. Wyatt. DJW is a enormous Transformers fan that got to work on the last TF cartoon series. The sleek, simple lines and designs of the characters were mostly his doing. In addition, he added lots of fanservice into the show. He joined the crew on episode 99 and gave his thoughts on the latest TF news. As an additional surprised, he also was part of episode 100.
About 5 minutes into the 100th podcast, they began talking about the contest winners. They spoke of the first two guys and their entries, as well as the number of votes they got for each member of the podcast team. First place had 18 points, second place had 8 points, and then third and fourth tied at 6 points apiece.
A tiebreaker was needed. That tiebreaker was Mr. Derrick J. Wyatt. While they were recording, Vangelus sent Derrick the third and fourth entries to cast his vote. After a bit of deliberation, he chose my entry with Blackout! He also commented favorably on Blackout’s poncho fabric. Having a member of the crew responsible for TFA choose my entry was an extra layer of icing on top winning third place. That really made it special.
So at the end of it all, I had won third place in the WTF@TFW Poncho Photoshoot Content. I, along with Jessica, had taken a great photo and we were proud of our accomplishment. I also gotten a free Transformer out of it. In the near future, I should be receiving Alternity Bumblebee (seen below) in the mail… all thanks to putting a poncho on a Transformer.
Back in December 2009, I was fortunate enough to procure an Iwata 0.2mm airbrush, lots of supplies, a medium sized air compressor, and pretty much every Createx acrylic paint currently available (thanks Jessica). The point of getting the airbrush was because I had been talking about making my own custom Transformers. I had made the one at Botcon, picked up a couple of duplicate figures intended as customs, and I eventually wanted to make an orange Aveo Transformer to match my real car. So I now have an airbrush in my possession and toys to customize.
I originally played with the airbrush shortly after getting the set, but ended up just being frustrated. Using some random small Venom action figure from Goodwill, I tried repainting it red to redeco him as Carnage. The paint didn’t flow smoothly, it globbed up, the paint flaked when touched, and the pinpoint detail the 0.2mm was supposed to have just wasn’t there. It was not a great first impression.
Discouraged, I put it away for several months.
Then last month, I felt like trying it again. I hadn’t been creative in a while and it felt like a good time to give it another whack.
So at the same time I received the airbrush, I had received some extra Revenge of the Fallen Transformers meant for customizing tests. Using three of those figures, I had it in my mind to re-purpose them as movie-themed Insecticons: Shrapnel, Kickback, and Bombshell. All deluxe class vehicles with similar color schemes.
I started by digibashing the figures. Using some macro photographs I took of the toys, I loaded up Photoshop and recolored the original plastics. Using photos of the original G1 toys, photos of the Robot Heroes, cartoon screenshots, and other images I tried to match characteristic details of each character in their redeco. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time getting the details exactly perfect; as I just wanted a base from which to work on with the actual paint. I tried to use colors that matched paints I already had so I wouldn’t have to mix unique colors. I thought this digibashing process would take quite a while, but I cranked all three rough redecos out in about 2 hours.
The next step was choosing which one to start with, and then taking it apart. Jolt, the basis for Shrapnel, seemed like a good starting point with a larger number of screws versus pins. Pins can be a pain to remove and put back, so I saved the other two figures for later. Piece by piece I disassembled Jolt into as many parts as I could, all along keeping track of each screw and where they went by taping them to sticky notes. Screw lengths and widths are not uniform across the figure as I found out at Botcon. I had to make sure each screw went back where in came. Each part was then separated into separate bowls that were grouped by color.
I decided to start with the pearlescent yellow that was for the windows to mimic the yellow/gold plastic on the original. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep the translucency of the blue windows, but I figured the paint would look good against the other colors. The initial bits of yellow would also not need to be masked off making it a good starting point. I also tried my hand at the pearlescent silver bits with his pincers on his back.
Unfortunately as I came to find out, the non-opaque paints I have do not cover well nor spread well. I had not figured out the correct mixture of paint to illustration base at this point and so I slathered each piece just trying to get it to coat. The paint was thick and much of it was wasted. I did not start with an opaque base and so most of the paint just didn’t stick. I also had not sanded each piece prior.
I also was finding that the airbrush was clogging a lot. Constant cleaning and disassembling of the airbrush were common occurrences. In addition, I was quickly running out of the small bottle of the airbrush cleaner I had. Halfway through the painting process while trying to clean the brush, I ended up stripping the threads off the 0.2mm nozzle. That put a delay in the customizing, after which Jessica headed to Phoenix and nicely picked up both a replacement 0.2mm nozzle and a 0.3mm nozzle (which works via some slight jerry-rigging). That was an additional $80 I had not planned on…
I fumbled through the rest of the colors over the span of 2 weeks, finding better paint mix ratios and seeing that the opaque colors like white, black, and dark colors don’t need much spraying before seeing results. I tested my hand at masking, unfortunately finding that some pieces need to be perfect and ended up with some bleeding such as black streaks in the yellow. Also, the Createx paints don’t cure unless they are heated with a air dryer or heat gun. Even after that they still show fingerprints and smudges. Next time I will try actually using the clear coats intended for finished pieces.
So I had all the pieces mostly painted, they had been heat cured, and I felt anxious to get the figure together. Seeing it all in parts strewn across the table kept irking me.
Starting with his arms, I quickly found out that because I had painted so thick and/or the paint wasn’t fully cured, parts which rubbed or twisted against others rubbed the paint off in spots. Ball and swivel joints rubbed down to their base plastics which was a bright electric blue. Furthermore I found that if pegs had been painted, the pieces wouldn’t fit together cleanly or smoothly. I ended up breaking the base peg on his left knee trying to dry fit the part. At least the screw and other parts that followed still keep him together. On later pieces I ended up scraping away unnecessary paint on these pegs with a exacto knife so the pieces fit better.
Transforming Shrapnel, or even moving some joints, is not as smooth as I would have hoped. His parts are very tight due to the paint, and he is quite hard to actually get transformed between modes. In addition, the colors that I had don’t quite match up to what I had planned. The yellow is not quite orange enough, the purple is a bit dark, and the silver is just a bit too white (even though I can’t quite get the chromed look with just paint).
But I can now honestly say I’m glad to have this first self-designed custom Transformer completed. He does look quite nice on my desk even with his imperfections.
The question now is when I’ll get to the other two Insections I had digibashed. I must admit I’m a bit burned out at the moment as the process wasn’t what I consider fun. Also, do I make changes to the coloring to match what I wished the scheme was or keep the other two the same to match how Shrapnel turned out?
Back to the BotCon 09 posts…
After picking up my boxed set, the next event I had scheduled was the all day Thursday customizing class. I didn’t quite know what to expect with the class, but I knew that they only had 2 classes the entire ‘con with 50 seats each. I had heard that they filled up immediately, and so if you had any inkling of taking one of the classes you needed to jump at the opportunity.
The class sounded like a good idea, and so I tried to reserve my seat when I faxed in my registration. As it happened, I was quick enough and luckily I got in under the cutoff for the Thursday class.
The class was held at the Colorado room of the Hilton Pasadena. The room was somewhat small and had several long tables pushed together, which had been draped in plastic. In front of each seat was a foam tray with a couple of tools inside. There was also a parts guide and a small booklet with information about the class and the character we would be building.
As it turned out, the toy we were going to construct was Shattered Glass Thunder Clash. Thunder Clash was one of the exclusive boxed set toys from this year based on the Energon Rodimus mold. Shattered Glass is the universe created by the Transformers Collectors Club that is essentially the mirror universe of the Transformers with Evil Autobots and Good Decepticons. Several of the Rodimus toys and completed SG Thunder Clash toys were also sitting on the table for reference.
I was kind of disappointed when I saw Thunder Clash sitting on the tables, as I was not a fan on this toy from the pre-release photographs. I also wasn’t a fan of the character, and wished it might have been any of the other members of the exclusive toys. However, we were going to be making SG Thunder Clashes and so therefore so would I.
Shortly after everyone had arrived for the 9am start; the host for the class, Shawn Tessman, introduced himself and discussed what we’d be doing. He and other volunteers then handed out bags (containing even more bags) with all the toy parts still on their plastic sheets. We had to then take each sheet and cut/twist off each part and sort them into quadrants on the foam tray. We would also need to trim any flashing still left on each part so they could fit together snugly when completed.
There was one slight hiccup that they caught during Wednesday’s class and it seemed some bags had 4 of a part, which other bags had 4 of another part. So once we got the parts untwisted, we simply traded 2 of that part with our neighbor for 2 of their part.
The parts themselves were the exact same unpainted mold as Wings of Honor Thunderclash, and it was quite interesting just how plain or “naked” this toy looked. Paint applications really are a key part of each figure.
The next step was the daunting task of separating out all the screws, pins, and springs. They recommended that you lay down strips of masking tape to group each set of pins together. Differences between the lengths/widths of each pin were very hard to determine and the photocopied guide sheet wasn’t perfect (nor could you expect it to be). This by far took the longest and even then I didn’t match them up perfectly as I came to find out.
So with all the prep work done, it was time to start building. Each quadrant of the tray was a different body part such as a left leg, right arm, torso, etc. In the instruction booklet, each body part had an exploded view showing each individual part, what order to put them together, and what pin or screw you’d need.
In some places where there was just a pin, or a larger screw, we’d need to bore out the pin hole with a mini-borer. Sometimes the parts would be too tight if we didn’t clear out the holes, and so we needed to make sure parts could rotate correctly and not have stress fractures.
Slowly my first part, the left arm, came together. It took a little thinking to get started as you had to make sure you wouldn’t screw up. Lots of parts were pressure fitted once combined and so you had to make sure it was right. In addition, some parts needed to be pressed together with a hand-held leather punch (like pins) or hammered with a setting pin at Shawn’s desk.
I kept plugging away at parts and eventually hit on my first snag. I started to screw together one of the hands, but had placed the wrong fist on that hand. In my attempt to fix this I stripped my first screw, and realized that you really did have to put this together correctly the first time. Regardless, arms, hands, and legs were coming together.
The process began picking up speed as I got comfortable with how these toys are built. The construction did start becoming a bit more complicated, especially in areas like the torso where the Powerlinx feature was.
There were a few more missteps along the way: forgotten parts, screws that were too big, over tightening parts, taking things apart to make sure they were right, etc. An example of one of those errors is in one of the pictures above (the one with two legs). You can see a small dimple at the top of his left leg that isn’t on his right leg. That dimple was created by using a screw that was too long and screwing it too far. Doing so made the screw tip poke through and almost push through his left hip. I wasn’t alone with having errors like this, so I don’t feel too bad.
The class had started at 9am and finally by a little after 1pm I had completed the base figure. I hadn’t taken a break for lunch (knowing that my time was limited) and it still took 4 hours to build this guy. I really didn’t think it would take that long, and I had expected to spend most of my time painting and tweaking the figure when I had initially signed up for the class.
However now that I was done building, it was time to paint.
The only set of personal tools I had brought were my own paintbrushes, and I’m glad I did. We were only provided with one to use (along with some toothpicks) and I wanted to have a few more options. We had access to lots of enamel paints, some metallic but most were flats. An airbrush area was also available, which I ended up using later.
I didn’t have any idea what to go with as far as a color scheme. It was suggested to just enhance his normal non-painted colors since the Wings of Honor Thunder Clash had lots of paint apps, and so by leaving him mostly cream/white would make him look evil. I instead decided to go with navy blues and burgundy red colors, with hits of purple.
Painting the figure was a lot harder than I had anticipated. The enamels were pretty thick and weren’t the easiest to get detail work with (at least in the short time remaining). We could use toothpicks to drop bits of paint into spaces (like the face) and it would fill in the crevices. I did my best with what I thought would work. I was happy with my results for the most part, but I had wished I had not used a metallic purple paint. This particular paint was very watery and so did not cover well and also dripped. The clean lines I had envisioned ended up being leaky and streaked. Oh well.
I had used the airbrush station as well. Like most of the others, we painted his traditionally clear blue weapon a flat black. With Shawn’s help I was able to get full coverage easily and I was happy how his gun looked in the end.
By a little after 3pm I had finished painting my personal customized Shattered Glass Thunder Clash. The volunteers had to go set up for that evening’s club store, and so the class was drawing to a close. I packed up my stuff, thanked the crew, and headed back to the room.
I would later do some additional adjustments once I got back home; like fixing his left hand, tightening screws, and adding additional stickers. However, it still had taken me a whole day to complete a single Transformer.
BotCon toy count to date: 21
I initially had planned on seeing the flick, tonight Tuesday June 23 at 12:01am at San Tan Village. I had pre-purchased 2 tickets for myself and Jessica. I had planned on taking Wednesday off to recoup from the long night in line and in the theater.
My timetable jumped up a little over a day when Jessica was able to procure 2 passes to the pre-screening event being held at Tempe Marketplace’s Cine Capri, at 7pm on June 22. A co-worker of hers got the pair of tickets from a relative, who in turn won them from a contest. Knowing that I was a fan, and not wanting to use them himself; I got to see the film early.
Jessica actually got the tickets around noon on Monday, and quickly rushed over to the theater to get in line. These tickets weren’t guaranteed seats, and so we needed to save our place in line. About 30 minutes later I arrived.
By the time I got there, the line that was formed inside was 90% full with about 75 people. Some folks had been there since 6am, just waiting in line. Lots of folks had folding chairs, which spurred myself to go pick up some similar chairs from Target for $10 a piece. There were other lines for radio content winners (maybe 100 people total), but there was also a line outside that was also growing and ended up wrapping around the building. They provided water to these folks, but it was still damn hot out there and they weren’t guaranteed seats (and eventually most wouldn’t even make it in).
So Jessica and I sat there, listening to iPods and talking to folks for about ~6 hours. We had waited in tons of lines at BotCon and so this was yet another bout of waiting. I was really tired of these lines, but it was a special event and we were going to see it before the Hollywood premiere which was a nice bonus.
Once we slugged through the long wait, we were left to get the only seats we had access to: 3 rows from the front and to the far right. They were not optimum seats by any means, and in addition the entire upper middle section was roped off for press and vip’s. Regardless we had seats.
After a quick bit of routines from ASU cheerleaders, radio contests, and then a short intro from Todd McFarlane, we got to finally see the movie I had waited so many months to see.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is an interesting movie. Not great by any means, and in my opinion not as good as the first one. The shots of the robots do seem to be better framed, but there is still lots of blur and lots of debris flying everywhere. In addition there is still lots of camera shake and obscuring foreground objects.
The new Transformers they introduce are not used very well, and many are disposed of very very quickly. In addition, lots of characters seem to have multiple copies just to serve as cannon fodder. A good example is the use of the Constructicons. Great to finally see movie versions, but they are almost disposable characters like clones.
The plot is somewhat hard to follow and honestly not all that interesting. It is passable, but it could have been more. It almost seems like this movie suffered from a bad edit as you can tell bits and pieces that had been cut (and been in trailers) might have helped flesh it out further. It was still over 2 hours so it didn’t really need to be much longer.
The biggest disappointment for me was Devastator. I was really looking forward to seeing the big guy and what they would do with him, but like most others have since stated, he is wasted. From the trailers, and even the clip at BotCon, it seemed like he’d be better utilized. It is epic when he is combining together, but then he gets owned pretty easily for such a massive character. Also the humor at his expense on the pyramid is quite crude and pointless.
In fact, most of the humor is way way cruder than the first. Lots of the jokes and occasional swear words really don’t fit. Drug jokes, sex jokes, etc. I know its PG-13, but the stuff they thought would be funny was just plain dumb.
In the end, I’m glad I saw it. Not quite what I had hoped (I even tried to keep my presumptions low), and maybe it kinda fell flat because of how it was presented. The film was out of focus and our placement in the theater really made the whole experience a semi-dud. Not much too complain about though when they are free and early.
On the other hand, I’m quite happy with the toys they have released so far for the movie. In addition, I’m hoping when I see it again in IMAX the visual experience will be better.
As it stands though, I really can’t recommend the film to the casual moviegoer. Or at a minimum, I’d recommend keeping your expectations low. I like summer popcorn movies, and I’m not picky about movies having to be perfect, but the pieces just didn’t come together on this one the way they should have.
So after finishing dinner at Pinks, we headed back to the hotel and then over to the convention center. On that Wednesday evening, we had the privilege of getting in line for BotCon early registration. Since I had a customizing class the next day, we were able to get registered and pick up my box set before the regular attendees.
We got in line around 7pm for when they opened the doors at 9pm. The convention as a whole was being held at the the Exhibition Hall and Ballroom portion of the Pasadena Convention Center. Although the line outside was fairly short, it was foreshadowing what was to come.
Once inside, they split us up by last name. Dealers received special treatment and got their own instant service line. It seemed that lots of these folks had purchased multiple sets, and many small groups were walking out with 4-5 of the Wings of Honor boxes. Some fans also decided to open their toys right there in the center immediately after obtaining them.
We were greeted by a very enthused convention worker who pulled together everything that I got with my Primus Package. Included with my whole package was:
- Wings of Honor box set which included
- The free attendee exclusive figure: Leozack.
- Convention exclusive Wings of Honor comic
- Our badges with Transformers lanyards
- 2 tickets to the Party at Paramount
- Voting and raffle tickets
- A folder with convention schedules and other information
The final item I received was the very limited lapel pin of the Elite Guard faction symbol. I was able to be one of first 100 people to order a Primus or Iacon Package, and for doing so I received this pin. It was an unexpected benefit of faxing in my registration on the first day several months ago, and it is nice little unique trinket that I ended up pinning to my badge’s lanyard.
Having finally completing the registration for my first convention, let alone a BotCon; we took at my new toys in hand and walked back to our hotel.
Once back in the room, I quickly opened the Wings of Honor boxed set to get a look at all the figures. Now these figures were somewhat rare in that you couldn’t get them in stores, but I open and play with my toys. This box was not going to remain untouched.
Each one was carefully taken out of the foam box and transformed. Only one of the toys (Scourge) was from a mold that I previously owned, and so each toy initially dumbfounded me as I attempted to transform them. At first I wondered where all the tech specs / instructions were at. How was I supposed to correctly transform these guys?
Luckily underneath the foam inset were the instructions and all the remaining pieces of the boxed set including several cyber-planet keys, weapons, and missiles. I also opened up the bagged Leozack and transformed him.
By this time it was roughly midnight and we very tired after a long day of driving. This constant tired feeling ended up being a common theme across all the days of the convention with the long, late nights.
Needless to say after having these items in hand I was getting stoked for the convention. I finally had my first exclusives and was convention ready. The next stop was some sleep and then my customizing class early the next day.
You can see more detailed photos of each toy and item of the Wings of Honor / Primus Package by visiting this Flickr gallery.
BotCon toy count to date: 20
We stayed at my folk’s house a final night before driving to Pasadena on Wednesday morning. The plan was to casually make our way into the Los Angeles area by early afternoon.
Of course, there are many Targets and Wal-Marts on the way along I-10 to check for early toy releases. Plus we had budgeted a little time for these little stops along the way.
The first Wal-Mart had the Revenge of the Fallen themed limited edition Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s. They aren’t nearly as bad as they sound and taste more peanut buttery than strawberry.
Just after crossing the California border, we saw a new Target off the side of the road which we backtracked to on a hunch. The hunch ended up working because I was able to finally pick up the voyager class Vector Prime, and at a discount no less. I had never seen this figure in all my searching, and it was nice picking him up. My classics had be relegated to storage bins but it was probably more sound to get this guy now that at a possible markup in the con’s dealer room.
A little bit further down near Indio we came across another Target that we felt lucky about. Fortune smiled on us and it led to more pre-release RotF toys and I was able to pick up 3 more deluxes: Sideswipe, Rampage, and Breakaway. I really didn’t expect to find any more of these guys before the convention. I thought we’d just take the occasional break by stopping for a drink at these stores, but these were an added bonus.
Sideswipe is definitely the coolest looking of these three, and his package was opened shortly after leaving the store while we were still driving. He has a very sleek look and looks to be an interesting character that they added to the film. He isn’t quite like his old G1 self, and Sunstreaker is nowhere to be found, but I look forward to see what they do with him.
Having hit the outskirts of town, we decided to stop visiting stores and just head to the hotel to drop off our stuff and then head out to an early dinner. The menu for this first day of the trip was Pink’s Hot Dogs.
Last time we visited the LA area, we tried to hit up Pink’s for a quick bite. Little did we realize on that trip it was midday on a weekend and the line was around the building and appeared to wrap several times.
However this time on an early Wednesday afternoon it was much different. We parked along a nearby street and got into a line of about 15. A few minutes later we had one plain dog, one Brooklyn Pastrami-Swiss Cheese Dog, fries, onion rings, and two bottled drinks.
The food was above average, with the onion rings standing out and the fries being fairly bland. It was worth visiting just for the experience and would recommend it if you ever visit Hollywood.
After Pink’s we tried a few more local Targets located on the way back to the hotel to no avail.
That evening is when the real festivities began though as it was time to get into line to pre-register. Soon I would have my first ever convention exclusive toys…
BotCon toy count to date = 14
Since there is just so much content to write about our trip to BotCon this year, I’m going to be splitting it up into multiple posts and maybe going into detail about specific things. So here is the first bit.
I’d say the start of the BotCon adventure began with my parents’ house being broken into the weekend before the convention. They had been out of town on a trip to Ireland and my sister, Jessica, and myself had been watching the house while they were gone. Unfortunately during one of the spans between us checking up on the home, the front door was broken into.
Nothing apparent was stolen, but it did necessitate us having to stay over at the house for several days, installing a metal security door at midnight, and travelling between their home and ours multiple times.
I suppose a good thing that happened while we were there was that Fry’s Electronics released some Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen toys early on Friday May 22. The toys weren’t officially supposed to be available until May 29th, and most places that had them on the shelves weren’t allowed them to be sold. In fact BotCon was advertising the fact they’d have these first figures available exclusively early and with special first release stickers. Not one to wait, Jessica and I headed over there after breakfast and picked up my first RotF figures: Leader Optimus Prime, Leader Megatron, Deluxe Bumblebee, and Deluxe Sideways.
So that was a nice little surprise to a fairly rough start of a weekend.
Fast forward a few days to Memorial Day and on another trip back to the folk’s house for another sleepover and the Tempe Marketplace Target decided to slip some more RotF toys early. This trip netted Deluxe Wheelie, Deluxe Chromia, Deluxe Soundwave, Gravity Bot Bumblebee, Bumble Spud, and a Robot Replica’s Optimus Prime.
So here I was just 3 days before the official start of the convention and I already had 10 toys from RotF. That would be at least 10 less ‘first release’ stickers than I planned and less I’d have to drive home with, or at least so I thought…
BotCon toy count tally to date = 10
While I adore the classic Transformer Robot Heroes line of figures, I never could appreciate the original Transformers 2007 movie versions. The movie’s characters were just too complex to “cute-ify” like the old G1 gang.
I think there will have to at least be one set purchased from the new movie this go round. This adorable little movie Ravage is just too cute to pass up. I mean look at that spiked tail and hind leg missles. It’s just too adorable.
Not quite as cute as standard Robot Heroes Ravage, but worthy of a purchase nonetheless.