Events: Botcon 2015 Report with links to galleries

in 2015, News

Botcon 2015 Report

Botcon is the annual Transformers collector's convention. What began as a fan endeavor in the 90's is now an event fully supported by Hasbro and run by Fun Publications. My coverage of the event spanned social media, so check out the links below in concert with this report!

Friday, June 20
Botcon 2015 has been one odd experience so far. One day before I was set to leave for the convention I came down with a case of gout in my right foot, making every step I took very painful. I managed to see a doctor and get some pills, but the side effects include dizziness and drowsiness. Fortunately it also dulls the pain quite a bit so I can walk somewhat normally. As you can imagine, dealing with all this and having to pack was not an ideal situation.

Still, this morning I hobbled my way to the airport, checked in (in pain the whole time) and managed to finally eat a breakfast that was enough food to take the pill and not experience severe side effects. Indeed, it worked out beautifully as I wound up falling asleep on my plane even as a baby fussed and cried the whole way behind me.

Eventually I made my way to the hotel where a day and a half's worth of activity had already taken place. Normally I'd arrive on Thursday so I can "ramp up" to activities. This time I felt like I was just throwing myself into the deep end of the pool. Unfortunately this meant I missed the "History of Transformers" panel which I had really hoped to see. I did however manage to run into many of my friends who really make Botcon a special event for me every year. Botcon isn't just about toys and cool reveals. To me it has always been a place to spend time with people that I only get to interact with online throughout the rest of the year and this year was no different. The faces may change over time, but the spirit is there and that's invaluable.

Botcon is also work for me however, and once I entered the Dealer's Room I rushed straight to the Hasbro booth to begin taking pictures. One side focused on "Robots in Disguise" and "Rescue Bots" while the other showed off "Generations" including the SDCC exclusive Devastator! While pictures online are nice, it's always breathtaking to see figures displayed in a beautifully arranged and well lit display case. This includes figures you might already own! As always, on Friday most of what was on display were items that were either already announced or already on shelves. By Saturday however the display cases would be rearranged for new product to be shown.

After taking tons of photos and uploading while eating (a sequence of events that would repeat itself over and over during the weekend), I settled in to hang out with friends both old and new. While busy, this was still a relatively calm day compared to what was to come.

Saturday, June 21
Saturday was the day that I could best summarize as "relentless". Panels were very closely packed together and in between all that as a site owner I had to take photos of new product, upload them, live Tweet panels and still try to actually get some Dealer's Room time in. At the same time I had to make sure I ate a full meal before I could take my medication (for the aforementioned gout). This meant I was almost always on the go, and the geography of the facility we were in meant you had to go between two different buildings for the Dealer's Room and the Panel Room. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, when you've got one foot hurting with every step it's another matter!

This year was a bit unusual for me in that I was asked to be part of a panel! This panel focused on Transformers Fandom from the old days of print fanzines and newsletters all the way to now. Ryan Yzquierdo of led the discussion. Of all the folks on stage, I was probably one of the older ones who participated in fandom when it was just pen pals writing each other, then later on services like Prodigy and then later Usenet. There was talk of how web sites really began launching fandom into a new level that has only grown with today's social media. It wasn't a very formal discussion. We decided to treat the session like a podcast round table and I think it worked out very nicely. A comprehensive history would probably require two panels, but this gave a very (very) broad overview that may have helped some fans understand things they did not know before. For my part, I tried to emphasize how important fans were not only to each other, but to Hasbro and the "Transformers" brand overall. Several folks came up to me afterward and told me they enjoyed the panel for which I am deeply grateful.

I made it a point to attend the voice actor and Hasbro panels. Susan Blu and John Moschitta were so great. It was wonderful seeing two old friends talking about their work on Generation One, but also talking about careers in general. Moschitta told a great story about how he wound up on "That's Incredible!" and how it unexpectedly led to him getting many calls for work. Blu talked not only about G1, but also her time as voice director on "Beast Wars" (including the infamous Garry Chalk Coke Cola story). The two were true professionals and kept the panel light, jovial and informative. Even when confronted with questions they did not necessarily know the answer to, they handled it very gently and with a smile.

The Hasbro panel is generally where new product is revealed, but in recent years Hasbro has had to stagger their reveals between Botcon, San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic-Con (where they hold their own separate event). That means unlike Botcons of the past, we didn't get everything revealed. Indeed, the "Robots in Disguise" reveals were very light and focused on redecos of existing figures. "Generations" on the other hand had a ton of reveals. Sky Lynx was the clear winner in terms of surprise reveals. While many fans expected Bruticus and the "Autobot redecos" to be made, no one saw Sky Lynx coming and it was proof that sometimes a cool reveal really can elevate the stature of a figure! The Combaticons look great however and represent some really nice retooling and redeco work on Onslaught and Swindle while Brawl is a cool looking original sculpt. The finisher of course is Shockwave as a Legends Class figure that can serve as either a "back pack" or blaster for Bruticus! That reveal literally made my hands shoot up and I cheered!

The Autobots are all redecos and retools of some sort - but fans have speculated on that for months now. Still, seeing them in plastic in front of you really helped them shine. I'm particularly excited about Ironhide who uses the Offroad sculpt and deserves a solid action figure after his somewhat odd "Universe 2.0" incarnation. I'm also appreciative that the white Optimus Prime redeco has a "Star Convoy" inspired head! Anything Star Convoy related makes me happy. Hasbro even mentioned that the Star Convoy association was continued with the upcoming Legends Class Rodimus since Star Convoy came with a Micromaster Rodimus. I also love the use of Sky Lynx as a torso for "Sky Reign"! Some folks may not remember, but Sky Lynx's tech specs had him listed as a Lieutenant Commander. While he was hardly modest, that meant he was fairly high up in the chain of command so having him lead a team of Autobots makes perfect sense to me. What's great is even if you don't want to combine them, the individual figures are still cool just by themselves.

The Frank Welker panel was the one fans were anticipating the most. Welker is a legend among fans of animation. His credits are vast, but to Transformers fans he is best known as the voice of Megatron in the original Transformers series and "Prime". He also voiced Galvatron in "Age of Extinction". Since this was his first panel ever, the format was a bit more controlled and I applaud Fun Publications for that. Questions were taken hours beforehand, then reviewed. A fellow fan, Frank Todaro served as host, keeping the panel moving and asking the questions submitted by fans. The panel went so smoothly that the first batch of questions was finished and a second hand to be handed off! Welker was very enthusiastic and you could feel the pure enthusiasm the actor feels for his work radiating off the stage. He did several voices including Megatron and Scooby-Doo, sending the audience into frenzied applause many times. Both on entrance and exit Welker received a standing ovation and deservedly so.

Saturday night was the "Hall of Fame" dinner which saw a bunch of new entries into this institution started years ago. Frank Welker was finally entered (took long enough!) as were Vince DiCola (musician who worked on "Transformers: The Movie) and Prowl! Welker's thank you speech was very cool and touching. However, the way the other inductees were announced was unique and fun. Pete Sinclair from Fun Publications worked with Hasbro to select animation clips of Megatron's mouth opening and closing. Then Frank Welker recorded lines for those "lip flaps" announcing the winners! It was a unique experience for sure. The food was forgettable, but the presentation was great!

Saturday wound down with some quality hanging out time with friends and a trip to the gym. After that it was time to get to bed and rest up for the next day!

Sunday, June 22
This was the last day of Botcon and this is usually the day when things wind down quick. The Dealer's Room is only open until 3PM so if you're going to make your last rounds this is the day to do it. A lot of people leave early on this day, so if you need pictures at the Hasbro booth or want to try to score some last minute deals on toys, this is the day to do it. After the flurry of photography and Tweeting that was Saturday, it was really great to be able to just take my time around the Dealer's Room, chat with people I hadn't seen in a year and generally just catch up with my own collecting (I found several parts I had been searching for). Special thanks to Renderforms for giving me some weapons to try out on my action figures at home!

While John Moschitta and Susan Blu had signed autographs the day before, I deliberately waited until Sunday to see them as I figured the lines would be shorter - and I was right! Thanks to the short lines, I was able to chat with each of them for a couple minutes, and they are the funniest, sweetest people. I felt like I could have talked to them for hours (and not about Transformers either). Autographs aren't a particularly big deal to me. I mainly wanted photos with each of them and they were happy to do it. As an Old Skool G1 fan I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity.

After all the festivities were over, I gathered with a group of friends to have dinner, and through some raucous conversation and laughing, the hashtag #ItsSoHawt was born as a silly way to describe something that we really like. You may see me use this now and then, and now you know where it came from!

As I'm writing this, I'm on my plane heading back home (after an four plus hour delay) and I feel the same bittersweet sense that Botcon always leaves me with. I had a great time, got to spend time with friends that I treasure, spent way too much money on plastic space robots and got to meet some Transformers celebrities. This Botcon was smaller than the previous one, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a great time. Til next year!