Events: Botcon 2014 Coverage

in 2014, Article


Botcon 2014 Coverage

Botcon 2014 was held in Pasadena, CA in the same venue it has been in the past. I really like this area and the convention center, so it's always a pleasure to return to this location.

Remember, this is only part of my coverage. Follow me on on Facebook and Twitter for photos and live tweets from panels!

Friday (June 20)
For me, this was the first "official" day of Botcon. While pick up of materials and some classes happened yesterday, I spent most of Thursday hanging out with friends and catching up with others I haven't seen in ages. Botcon isn't just about action figures and panels, it's also about friendships and reunions with people that I only talk to via social media or email once a year. It's one of the precious aspects of the convention for me.

Friday morning began with a workout. The sun was shining but it was still cool and the air in Pasadena was wonderful. The area near the hotel has sub-districts that all have a historical charm. There's "Old Pasadena" and then the "Playhouse District". Jogging through them really helped wake me up. After a shower and wolfing down breakfast, it was off to package pick up.

I got my gorgeous boxed set and picked up toys for a friend. As I was heading back to my room, I ran into the awesome Randall Ng who was escorting none other than Ms. Sue Blu! This legendary voice actor and director literally beams with energy when you meet her. She's so super sweet it's impossible not to smile as you shake her hand. I was fortunate enough to get a picture with her and chat with her a bit before she had to go. I also ran into Matthew Reinhart, the amazing artist responsible for many pop up books and this year's San Diego Comic-Con "Ark" playset/box for the G1 themed Dinobot set. It was quite a great way to start off the day!

Once the dealer's room opened, Botcon hit the ground running. Time seems to condense and hours disappear before you realize it. It went especially fast this year since Primus package holders were going to be brought over to Universal Studios for our "Transformers Fan Event"! I had just enough time to walk a bit, talk to friends, help judge the art contest then make only one purchase in the dealer's room ("Lost Age" Dino) before I had to run!

The Fan Event started in the afternoon. "Transformers" fans were given free reign to frolic around the park, though at the time we were still mingled with the general public. After 8pm however, the park was ours! Still, my friends and I managed to do all the rides we wanted before 8pm (except for The Simpsons, which was right after 8pm). Among the rides I did were the Minion (from Despicable Me), Shrek 4-D and of course, the Transformers!

Those of you who read my event coverage of Universal Studio's Florida launch of the "Transformers" ride will know what the ride is like (at least in concept, you really must experience it personally to get the full effect). The set up of this facility was different. The exterior had a big paining of Optimus versus Megatron instead of a giant Optimus Prime statue. There were plenty of N.E.S.T. "Soldiers" about, but not as many as I had seen in Florida. Also, when you exited the ride, you had to walk across a path to get to the "Transformers" themed store, in Florida the ride literally exits right into the store.

What was the same was the ride itself, where you ride EVAC to get the Allspark fragment away from the Decepticons. It's a thrilling ride and my friends and I were able to go three times in a row thanks to our special passes!

Off to the side of the area you get into the ride is a waiting room for parents with kids who are too small to get on the ride. This room had an incredible diorama (see the BWTF Facebook page for photos) featuring the Autobot base from the inside and outside from "Transformers Prime". The room had tons of lit up buttons on the walls, some of which activated transformation sound effects when pressed!

After the rides, we attended a Hasbro presentation focusing on the Hall of Fame (which brought in Rodimus, Arcee and Stan Bush this year) and then a 30 year retrospective of the Dinobots. It largely focused on the "core five" Dinobots (Grimlock, Snarl, Sludge, Swoop and Slag) and didn't include lesser known Dinobots such as T-Wrecks and Slapper (which I found unfortunate). Still, it was cool to be in a gigantic auditorium full of fans. During the panel, the Hasbro staff members answered questions about designing the toys and whenever videos played, small "pop up video" type messages would appear, often quite funny.

After that session, Stan Bush held a concert, but I was only able to stay for a bit as my batteries were draining. After a short walk around the restaurant/club portion of Universal Studios, I hopped on my bus and headed back to my room for dreamland.

Saturday (June 21)
I am convinced that when you enter the Dealer's Room at Botcon, some type of artificial time warp occurs. Every time I step foot in the dealer's room, it feels like I've been there fifteen minutes and an hour will have passed. Of course, this is partly due to there being so many distractions. It's pure sensory overload and it's wonderful. I mean, sure I have Transformers figures on shelves at home (sometimes a crazy amount) but to see so many items that I don't own, or rare items next stuff I've never even seen? It's absolutely amazing and one of my favorite parts of the convention. However, time flies when you're having fun so I had to run to the "Rescue Bots" panel.

Rescue Bots Panel
The "Rescue Bots" panel featured Brian Hohlfeld (Supervising producer/co-creator), Nicle Dubac (Story editor/co-creator), Greg Johnson (Story editor), Steve Blum (Heatwave), Parvesh Cheena (Blades), Elan Garfias (Cody Burns), Jason Marsden (Kade Burns), Shannon McKain (Graham Burns) and Imari Williams (Boulder).

If you haven't done so already, check out my Twitter feed to see my (then) live-tweets from the panel. In general, I have to say it's wonderful to see how comfortable the cast is with each other. The all have a wonderful sense of humor and since the cast records together as much as possible, they've clearly developed a wonderful interpersonal dynamic that comes shining through on stage.

The panel also clarified some interesting items regarding the show. I found it most interesting that the producers still consider the show to be happening alongside season one of "Transformers Prime" as a parallel set of events. Also, they are discouraging crossovers with "Prime" (no Decepticons ever for instance) except for Optimus Prime and Bumblebee appearing, partly because the Rescue Bot Autobots are really the "secret" effort to preserve Autobots. So even if Prime and the others fall, these Autobots will be safe and hidden away. It's a fascinating concept.

During the panel, a lot of artwork from the series including character models, backgrounds, vehicles and more. This stuff definitely deserves its own coffee table book one day!

Hasbro Panel
The "Rescue Bots" panel led right into the Hasbro Panel. The room filled up (as it always does for the Hasbro panel). Hasbro's presentation recycled a lot of material from Toy Fair 2014, so those of you who do not attend Toy Fair but did attend the panel actually got a look at some of what the media outlets at the event see. This included a clarification on the segments from younger fans to older collectors. I appreciated them breaking this down for the hardcore fans so they could understand the differences between the segments.

Once again, if you didn't already, follow me on Twitter and you can ready over my (then) live-tweets from the event. Overall, I think they did a bang up job and the reveals of certain figures like Arcee and Chromia had fans screaming in happiness (you can see pictures on my BWTF Facebook page, give it a "Like" if you haven't already!). While 2014 definitely introduced figures that older fans won't want, it also brought us many high quality sculpts (some with less deco than we may want, but economic reality is economic reality). It looks like they really want to kick things into overdrive in 2014 and 2015, especially when a sillouetts of Superion wandered its way into a slide as the theme for 2015!

There was one bit of unpleasantness during the panel however. Each year before the panel begins, it is made clear that once the lights go down, there should be no photography of any kind taken. The images they show us are released right after the panel anyhow, and venues such as BWTF put them up within hours of the panel. Someone (I don't know who personally) decided to violate this rule, and sadly these horrible, grainy pictures have made their way to the internet and seem to have taken on a life of their own despite there being high resolution images out there to enjoy.

My take on this is simple: there are rules, someone broke them. Whoever this person is, he or she needs to understand that they have broken a very basic and fundamental social contract of Botcon. This endangers what we will be shown in the future. In general, we don't get to see this much semi-finished product for the following year. In the past it's been drawings or grey models. Hasbro worked hard to make sure we had something awesome to see and look forward to, and one person decided that instead of appreciating this and letting the news flow out naturally (as it has done for years) they would violate a ridiculously simple rule. To that person, I say if we see less pictures in the future and they reserve most of their reveals for SDCC, we will have you to thank for it. If Hasbro just decided to hold a Q/A panel and show us nothing, we have you to thank for it. Doing what you did was the height of disrespect, ignorance and selfishness. I hope next year Botcon deploys monitors throughout the room to ensure photos/video is not being taken (as other conventions such as Comic-Con sometimes does) to prevent this. You folks know I generally try to keep things positive, but was absolutely taken aback by this action and it deserves strong words.

So enough unpleasantness. The rest of the day was spent tooling around the dealer's room to find the odd figure here and there I've been missing and check out some of the cool artwork done by various artists in the room. I also chatted with dealer's I knew and caught up with some old friends who I only get to see once a hear (if that). I wound up having dinner in Old Pasadena. If you're ever in the area, definitely check it out. Its full of wonderful restaurants and dessert places that are well worth a visit. I also love the architecture and layout of the area. It's a great walk and the weather was perfect! I went to bed early to prepare for Sunday, the final day of Botcon 2014 (sad face).