BotCon 09 Wrapup

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:

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’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.