15 Years of BotCon - 10 Years for Me
(griffin's 2008 BotCon report)



Friday to Sunday, plus the return home


Friday 25th

Friday was the Pre-registrant day, with events not open to the general public.

6am (8pm Friday Brisbane Time). Woke up and the sun was still shining, so I checked the weather forecast for the weekend, and even though the chance of rain had dropped remarkably, the storm front was now expected for Monday.  If it is a severe storm, it could affect the flight out of Cincinnati. But at least with the huge (8 hour) gap between connections in LA, it wouldn't be a major problem unless the flight was cancelled.  At least the convention won't be rained on, which would have soured the experience of a lot of Transfans.

Saintly, Timothy and I went over to the convention centre, for them to get their pre-registration pack.  And with hardly anyone left to pick up their pre-reg stuff from the night before, they were queued up at the Club Store within 20 minutes for their extra stuff. But the curse of the slow Club Store queue continued, as it took them about an hour to get through a queue of about 15 people.

As 9am approached, I popped downstairs (Clubstore and Dealer room on level 3, Panel room on level 2) to check out the first event of the day - auditions for the script reading on the Saturday night. The competition allowed for two fans to win the role of two characters (Transtech Shockwave, Flareup), and would read along side the the Voice Actor Guests who would be playing their Animated characters. The judges at the audition were Benson Yee (from the Club) and Matt Youngberg (from Animated production team).

I sat in for about 10 minutes, listening to a few contestants, before heading back up to Saintly and Timothy, just as they were almost finally at the front of the queue.
They got their stuff and we took it all back to the room (it's like 5 minutes away), and then went back to the panel room for the start of the first official panel.

The IDW comics panel started 15 minutes late, and the following two panels (Animated Production Team and Voice Actors) were also about 10 minutes late.

IDW panel (Friday 10am and Saturday 4pm)

Transformers Animated Production Team panel (Friday 11am)

Voice Actors panel (Friday Noon and Saturday 11am)

About 1pm we were back to the room, because there wasn't anything scheduled until the 2pm dealer room opening. Timothy was a bit unwell during the week, so he was very tired and slept most of Friday and Saturday. As such, we ended up leaving him in the hotel room to sleep while Saintly and I went to the Dealer room a little after 2pm.
When we got there, people were still filing in, and I told Saintly that for the next three hours, it was every fan for himself, and that we would meet up later, if we didn't cross paths while in there.

Dealer Room with Art Contest Display and Hasbro Toy Display

This BotCon for me seemed to be plagued with annoying inconveniences, not just with the delayed flight in Brisbane, or the misplaced credit cards, or the three-quarters of my spending money being tied up until after the convention was over (AU$900 refund from the first hotel, AU$500 transferred to the wrong account by accident, AU$400 in toys for others), but to top it off I managed to lose my toy shopping list twice!!!  My toy list was a print-out I did up, listing all the stuff I have on my want list, with prices listed according to what I was willing to pay, or could find elsewhere, like on ebay or online stores.  The whole point of my shopping list, was to not have the worry of buying something I already have, or paying a lot more for something I could get for less online when I get back home.

One of the first things I did though was go to the IDW desk and buy up Trades/compilations I was missing (last year they sold out fast, and I missed out). They were at US Retail price, but that still saved me money. (photo below also shows some other comics I bought over the weekend)

Strangely enough, except for a bit of risky spending the next day (Saturday) on two particular toys, ALL of my Botcon dealer room purchases were on the Friday. I bought nothing on the Sunday at all (no money to risk spending). There were probably 3 or 4 other items I would have bought if I had the money, but to be honest, I would have been regretting buying anything extra that was over-priced, just because I had the money. So the circumstances that tied up my money, ended up being a good, although frustrating, thing. As it left me with money to live on until I got paid again in 2 weeks time.

Saintly managed to get a few bargains as well, including a complete loose Energon Scorponok, for US$3, for Timothy.

When the dealer room closed at 5pm, we headed back to the room, and with 2 hours until the pre-reg evening events begin, Saintly and I went off to the nearby Walgreens (pharmacy and convenience store) for some food supplies, and something for Timothy to be able to eat. Poor kid wasn't able to have much fun, and missed a lot of the convention.

Taking a bit of time getting ready, we ended up back at the panel room an hour late (8pm), but the the Faction Feud trivia contest was still going, and was apparently late as well, due to technical issues. We caught the last few (entertaining) rounds, and the final, which was once again won by the TF Wiki Website team.

Next up 9.10pm, was the Film Fest - where fans submitted short TFs films, and the audience would vote on a winner. There were only four entries in this its first year, but were very funny. Including one about a Mint in Sealed Boxed collector, who 'played' with two of his Transformers toys *in their packaging*, flying them around and making all the transformation and shooting sounds, but dared not have the boxes hit each other.
We were also shown video promos for the Club toys Nightbeat and Topspin (which was a little late, as the cut-off for that toy was in mid April).

Twenty minutes later, we were then treated to an advance screening of an Animated episode. The audience was given the chance to vote on which episode we would watch tonight, and which one would be screened on the Sunday Animated Panel.  The one we voted on would air in America in about 2 weeks time anyway (Garbage in, Garbage out), but was still worth it. It is the episode that features Wreck-Gar, and was filled with heaps of Gen1 references, that delighted the audience.

At 10pm, Jerry Wade and Aaron Archer from Hasbro talked us through a screening of the 2007 Transformers Movie, kinda like a DVD commentary. They started off with saying about when they first talked about doing a movie (way back in 2003) and about certain character and name choices (like Soundwave becoming Blackout), and the how the Scorponok toy needed an Alt mode.
Unfortunately I was having trouble staying awake in the dark panel room, so left after the Scorponok desert battle scene at about 10.50pm. Which was a pity, because this really was a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear about the Hasbro side of things relating to the Movie.
Ironically, when I got back to the hotel room, I was able to do computer stuff (photos and postings) for another couple of hours. I guess it was the darkness and sitting in the one spot for so long, that made it difficult to stay awake in the panel room. I ended up getting to sleep at about 2.30am!

Saturday 26th
We woke up around 6ish again, and after getting ready for the day, Saintly, Timothy and I went to the dealer room and lined up at the Club Store to buy extra Convention toys (we were told the night before that their restricted sales had left them with quite a few left over - 300 of the 1100 made). Saintly and I bought about three of each of the 2-packs for those we knew who wanted them, and dropped them off in the room, before heading to the panel room for the day's events.

First up, at 11am, the second Voice Actors panel was late to start, so the Animated production team filled in for about 20 minutes answering questions.
The rest of the panels for the day were - Club Magazine panel (12.20pm), Hasbro product panel (2 hours from 1pm), Collector Club panel (3pm), and IDW's second panel (4pm).

Voice Actors panel (Friday Noon and Saturday 11am)

Collector Club Magazine panel (Saturday Noon)

Hasbro Product panel (Saturday 1pm - 2 hours)

Collector Club panel (Saturday 3pm)

IDW panel (Friday 10am and Saturday 4pm)

I left the IDW panel after a few minutes, not expecting there to be anything too significant, and spent the remaining hour of the con's opening hours in the dealer room. Saintly and I were having a bit of fun looking for the cheapest priced Clear BT Mirage in the dealer room. We were fascinated at how there were so many of them in the dealer room this year, to the extent that most were heavily discounting them. They usually sell on ebay for a minimum of US$200, but we ended up finding dealers discounting theirs progressively to $120 by the end of the saturday, and I had to buy one (to save $80 and shipping, why not?), despite the possibility of not having enough money left to get home.

Two photos I took after one of the Panels, since they were in the same corridor.  The Cartoon Screening room, showing Animated episodes and other series.

And the 'How to Draw' class room, with someone from Hasbro I think, giving several lessons throughout the weekend on the basics of character model drawing.

And somewhere near the Dealer Room, they apparently had a Transformers Challenge for kids under 15, sponsored by Hasbro.  A limited number of kids could register in two age divisions and be timed transforming Legends Bumblebee.  The fastest kids won various prizes from Hasbro. These three photos are from the Botcon website. In the first photo, at the back, are fan legends Doug Dlin and Benson Yee (well, to those fans like me who have been around a while).

Other items I picked up from the Dealer room on the Saturday.  A double-sided advertising poster for Animated and Cybertron DVDs.

Copy of the current issue of the Club Magazine - they gave it free because I asked them when it was sent out (it hadn't reached me before I left for BotCon).


Above and below are the two sides to a plastic card (about A4 size) Hasbro were handing out at the close of the convention on the Sunday. One side is an Animated group shot, while the other side has a 'How to Draw' Animated Bumblebee.  It was probably something they were using in the Drawing Classes, but had heaps left over. (before you ask, I only got one)

Saintly, Legends Saintly and I got ready for the Awards Dinner, and headed over at 7pm and faced a huge line. It wasn't necessary to queue up early for the dinner, because like last year, they had food set up on several tables around the room, and people just helped themselves to whatever they wanted, and sat where ever they wanted.  Not a huge selection though (pasta, roast beef, wraps, mini spring rolls and some strange tuna dish that came with corn chips), but good enough to satisfy me.
Also throughout the room were casino tables (blackjack, poker, craps, roulette) for fans to use their pre-reg pack token to earn more 'money', which you then use to bid on items at the end of the night. The items up for grabs were mostly assorted convention toys, display banners, toys, and non-TF stuff.
But before the bidding started, they had the script reading, presentation of awards for the art contest, Trivia contest, Film Fest and the fan-vote for favourite websites.
The Auction started at about 10.40, and I left at about 11.30 (was dead tired). I got back to the room and pretty much fell asleep as soon as I got back. Saintly told me later that the auction went on until about 12.20, because of the huge amount of stuff.

Full detail of the Saturday night Dinner.

Sunday 27th
I woke up at 7am. Today only had about 5 hours of convention left, and the Saintlys had to prepare for their departure, which was before the convention ended at 3.30pm.
All three of us went down to the Animated Panel at 10am (Timothy came with us because we were supposed to see another advance screened episode). The Episode 'Black Friday' is supposed to be near the end of the season, which as expected, had elements that were yet to be explained and spoiled what happens in the episodes before it.

Transformers Animated and Hasbro (Sunday 10am)

That was a 2 hour panel, so at noon I went back up to the dealer room for more photos and writing up details on the Hasbro display cases, while talking to one of my best TFs friends in America (Benson Yee).

1pm was the other Hasbro panel, which dealt with the behind-the-scenes elements to the toys, explaining various decisions behind the toys themselves. I sat with one of my oldest TFs friends (Tim Finn) during the panel, as I only just met up with him on the way to it.

Hasbro Designers panel (Sunday 1pm)

Tim was only a walk-in this year, and I had earlier thought that he wasn't even at the convention this year. I was so relieved to see him there, and after the panel we chatted for about half an hour until he had other people wanting to talk to him.

I then went back up into the dealer room to take any remaining photos and fill out the rest of the feedback form, handing it in just before the drawing at 3pm.

The two winners of free entry into next year were drawn, and after a few minutes taking in the last minutes of the convention, I decided to go up to my room before Convention officially closed, to hopefully catch the Saintlys before they left.
I arrived at the room literally as they were leaving. I went down to the front where their taxi was waiting, and saw them off.

My ninth BotCon, and I never get used to how the Sunday afternoon windup makes me feel. After such a huge weekend of events and highs, the shutting down of the dealer room and seeing off people, plus the night by myself and the journey home, I get a little overcome emotionally by the sadness of it. This year though, I was a little surprised at how quickly the week went. I was soon to be on a plane home, and yet it felt like the flight out of Brisbane was just a few hours ago. I must have had so much crammed into the week I was there, I didn't have time to even stop and reflect on my time there.

It was 4pm, and I went out to find something to eat.  With everything closed on a Sunday in Cincy, all I found was an Arbys. I bought a couple of items, and returned to the room to try to pack up everything into my bags and box.  Here's another burger photo to add to my collection... :)

Monday 28th
Asleep by about 2am, I woke up at 7am and posted on the board most of the convention panels.
Aiming to get to the post office by 9am to post off the stuff I couldn't fit into my check-in luggage (bag and box), I was an hour late there, leaving me with only 90 minutes (11.30) to grab some food, return to the hotel room, shower, pack the remaining items, tape up the box, and get downstairs to the front of the other hotel for the shuttle bus to the airport (the Hyatt was where it dropped me off the week before).

On my way back to the hotel with my breakfast, I took these two photos.


The significance?  Well, on my first night, I walked out of the hotel, down the road a little and crossed the road. Then looked up. I was standing underneath the exposed end of this first walkway, and had no idea what it was, or why it went nowhere.  It was like the Gen1 comic issue 'Bridge to Nowhere', and it wasn't until the next day that I saw the Skywalk map (16 blocks of second storey walkways) and realised that the car park was meant to have a building in it, and the Skywalk was built to connect to a building that never happened.  I thought it was so funny, that these two walkways were jutting out into nothingness, and never removed in case something one day is built on the Car park site.
.
So this was the 'healthy American Breakfast' I had on that monday morning - three burgers from Wendys, including one called 'The Baconator', two cherry flavoured sugar-free 600ml softdrink bottles (not available here), and 2 mini-dogs from Skyline Chilli.  I was told that I had to try Skyline Chilli before I leave, as it is a Cincinnati franchise, but with everything closed so early each day, and not open Sundays, I was only left with the Monday morning to get something from there (and I HAD to get something from my second-favourite American burger joint - Wendys). I only managed to eat the mini-dogs in the rush out of the Hotel (didn't even properly check-out).

Managed to rush out of the hotel with my 50+ kgs of luggage (took a couple of minutes to get out of the hotel room because of the spring-loaded door) just as the shuttle bus was there waiting for me and one other person.
Got to the airport within 30 minutes, and after checking in, I got to the Security Screening gate and realised that I had to do something with the 2 bottles of softdrink, because you can't take any liquids on the plane.  I didn't want to have to throw them away (had to last year because they wouldn't let me drink it once I was at the Security gate), so I sat down in front of the Security gate and proceeded to drink the 1.2 litres of softdrink, and 2 of the burgers to help absorb it (otherwise I would be up every five minutes in the plane).
That done, and through the Security gate, I went straight to the Outback Restaurant that was located in the terminal.  This was something I had been wanting to do for 9 years since I had first heard about the franchise back at BotCon 99, but had never yet been anywhere that had one convenient. For those who haven't heard of them, it's a franchise throughout America (celebrating 20 years this year), with an Australian theme to the interior of the restaurant and to the names of the dishes, but the food itself is very American. This was the 'Outbacker Burger'.

And the interior of the restaurant, which had a bit of a western feel to it, but had Australian animals and pictures around the walls.

They were really great with the service (mostly because it was empty), but I told them that I only had about half an hour, they whipped up that burger within ten minutes. And even though I had only just consumed a heap of food at the security gate minutes ago, I was still able to get through this burger with enough time to get to the departure gate just minutes before they started boarding.
Now that I think about it, I don't know if I remembered to include a tip in the rush.  Since it pays most of their wage, it is kinda insulting not paying a gratuity/tip.

I flew out at 1.30pm, which arrived in at LA at 3pm LA time (4 1/2 hour flight), on Delta Airlines.  They had personal touch screen entertainment units for each economy seat (surprised to see it on a domestic airline), and a complimentary snack cart. The only problem was, as they were going through the cabin giving out snacks, BOTH ladies operating the cart asked everyone around me for what they wanted (biscuits or cheese crackers) and totally ignored me.  By the time I realised they were not going to offer me anything and were now a couple of rows away, I was too stunned to say anything at first, but then felt that trying to get their attention for a couple of free biscuits would look a bit pathetic. So I waited until they came back, got the attention of one of them, and gave them a verbal outburst on their incompetence. Then I got myself my free damn biscuits.

Arriving in LA with 8 hours to fill in, I had originally planned to get a taxi to a nearby restaurant that is said to have huge burgers, but without any spending money, I had to cancel that idea and just check in at the International terminal. I think I was the first to check in, which was funny, because I think I was the last to check in in Brisbane for the flight over.
Fortunately I was able to fill in about 3 of those hours online, posting photos to the board, but had to waste a $10 'day pass' on the airport's internet to do it. The computer ran out of power just after I posted the last photo, and I wandered off to find out where my departure gate was (I was so early, it hadn't been allocated a gate at the time I checked in).  The gate my flight was allocated to was one of the new gates added to the international terminal at LAX, built to accommodate those new large planes, whenever they finally get built.
I managed to read most of my comics I bought at the convention, had a nap, and then the plane started boarding half an hour before its 11.20pm departure.

I was actually really lucky to get a row of three seats to myself (flight was half empty), which allowed me to be able to lie across them for most of the 12 hour trip.
It made it really easy to sleep for about half of the trip as well, which meant I didn't watch much TV or movies on the return home. I did manage to watch the rest of '2001 A Space Odyssey' (which made very little sense), and Sweeney Todd. The dinner I had was Chicken because they didn't have the Salmon meal available, as well as the Hot Breakfast.  The standard extras of Hot Chocolate and snackbag rounded off a flight that went very fast, due to being asleep for most of it.

The flight got in at Brisbane at 6.20am, and at the customs hall, the channel 7 'Border Security' TV show were filming. (nowhere near me though)
This year was quite easy to get through customs - I answered a couple of questions to a customs official while waiting for my baggage to appear on the carousel, he stamped my customs card and all I had to do was walk through the non-screening line (which had no queue).
I actually look forward to having my bags scanned at one of the customs tables, to see their reaction to all the toys in the bag. My favourite was in 1999, with Gen1 Scorponok in robot mode filling up most of my backpack, and the strange looks on the faces of the customs people looking at the x-ray screen. It's kinda fun having the bags opened for mere curiosity, rather than looking for something illegal.
I took the train to the station nearest me, and thought I could try to walk home with my luggage (backpack, big bag, big box), but after walking up one set of stairs at the train station, I quickly decided against that idea.
I called up a cab instead for the 5 minute ride back home.
I was home about 9am-ish, and another Botcon adventure was over.

To finish of the report, this was my BotCon Haul for 2008 (comics are missing).

At the top - box to the convention set, RobotMasters 01 Convoy, Kissplay Worlds Smallest Autorooper with Atari figure, Anniversary Superlink Convoy with Kicker, BattleScene Bumblebee.
Next 'row' - Convention Comic, Animated mini-poster, Transparent BT Mirage, Worlds Smallest TFs Megatron Vs Optimus box, Ehobby Black Ironhide, BattleScene Scorponok, Animorphs box.
Next 'row' - Name badge, Postcard-sized flyer, Biocards, ANimated DVD, TFs post-it notes, Animorphs Tobias/Hawk, X-Dimension Space Team, G2 green Slag, Black RobotMasters Megatron, JP Beast Wars Returns Stryka (in show colours), Cybertron Poster.
The rest from left to right, going from top to bottom - Animated Starscream, 2-pack Optimus, Voyager Megatron, Prowl, Bumblebee, Lockdown, Bulkhead, WST Megatron and Optimus, Animated 2-pack Megatron, Deluxe Optimus, Premium Barricade, Premium Jazz, Premium Bumblebee, X-Dimension Street Speed Team (Blue), JP Beast War Returns Thrust (show colours), JP Paradron Medic (green Energon Arcee), BotCon Jazz, Botcon Ricochet, SCF Super Ginrai, SCF Victory Saber, SCF Grimlock, SCF Minerva, SCF truck mode Convoy, BotCon Rampage, BotCon Divebomb, BotCon Razorclaw, BotCon Rodimus, Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream, Blurr, Grimlock, Whisper, Sideswipe.
The comics not in the photo - Trades/compilations of both IDW Beast Wars series, Spotlight Vol 2, Megatron Origin, Avengers Vs Transformers, plus the first issue of the Movie Sequel comic, Focus On Decepticons, Official Convention 2004 program Guide (one I didn't go to), GI Joe Vs TFs Vol 3 and half of Vol 4, and the Takara Visual Works book.

Not to mention all the Hotel stuff I brought home as well. Yes, I'm cheap...

Hope this was worth reading. It was certainly another fun adventure for me, despite the hassles that seemed to be far too common this year.
I look forward to next year, which should be mid-year, for the second Transformers Movie.



griffin @ otca.com.au

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