My 10th year of BotCon
(griffin's 2009 BotCon report)
FRIDAY 29TH MAY
So Friday was the start of the convention events for those who pre-registered. And looking through the program guide, I realised that if I had to cover all the panels, I was not going to get out of the panel room much over the entire weekend.
I woke up at about 7am, and was down at the convention centre just on 9am as they were openning up, and got a good seat in the panel room.
Friday 9am - Official Transformers Club Magazine Panel
Friday 10am - Stan Bush & Vince Dicola (musicians) Panel
Friday 11am - Animated series producers (Cartoon Network) Panel
Friday noon - 2007/2009 Movie writers Panel
For pre-reg attendees not interested in any of those panels, there probably
wasn't much to do until the Dealer Room opened at 3pm. For me though,
my day was mostly full, with only a 2 hour break between the end of the
last panel and the opening of the Dealer Room.
During that 2 hour break, I did some grocery shopping and went back to my room to do a final compilation of what everyone back home wanted (convention toys), and what money had so far been received. Took longer than I thought, so I ended up being about 45 minutes late, leaving me with just over an hour to start buying stuff and hope I didn't miss out on too many bargains.
The entrance to the Dealer Room had a Collector Club Information Booth.
Dealer Room, Art Contest Display and Hasbro Product Display
First stop was the IDW table, because I knew from previous years that
they sell out of items in their first day, and some items sell out in the
first hour. And this year was no different, as the 2nd volume of the G1
profile book was sold out before I got there, but fortunately on the Sunday
I found a dealer selling it (for half retail!!!). So I ended up buying
just about every TPB that had been released in the last year (which I try
to do every year at BotCon), costing me about $300. Below is what I got
- War Within TPB, Animated Almanac, Beast Wars TPB, Profile guide part
1 (and part 2 from another dealer), Hearts of Steel TPB, Armada Vol 2 TPB,
Spotlight Vol 4, TF2 Alliance TPB, TF2 Defiance TPB, Reign of Starscream
TPB, Saga of the Allspark TPB, Art of IDWs Transformers, Ark Vol 2.
As a bonus, for buying so much, I scored one of their last posters (they
were giving them out free, but ran out in less than an hour, so weren't
giving away any of the ones being set aside).
As for toys, I managed to get some Henkeis I was really bugged about
missing when they were released (Hound, Dirge, Thrust) and was happy with
what I paid. Got a coloured Mickey Optimus as well and since the box was
a bit dented, got it down to $50 (I don't care much for the packaging,
so was more than happy to buy that one - and got a free TFs watch in the
deal). My find for the convention was next from a JP dealer who is there
every year - a sealed Gold Lawsons Bumblebee for $60! I had to ask 3 times
if there was anything wrong with it, because this thing rarely sells for
under $200 on ebay, and one other I saw in the dealer room was $150. I
also got those translucent JP Protoform Optimus and Starscream figures,
which were also discounted for being in slightly damaged packaging (something
I don't care about, because I don't keep my stuff in packaging).
And rounding off the haul for the day was Mighty Muggs Starscream and Universe Hotshot. 10 toys for the hour I was in there might seem like a good amount, but I was a bit disappointed, considering all the money I had this year to spend (a record amount).
I 'only' ended up finding myself 24 toys in the Dealer Room this year - I bought more from the Con-store and local retail stores. But coming home with 77 new toys this year was still a record number (thanks to all those darn movie toys). 16 of the 24 years I've been collecting, had less toys bought all year than this one week!
The site map. The Convention was housed in the Ballroom (for the
Panels and Thursday night Con-store) and the Exhibit Hall A (Dealer Room).
In the main corridor inside the main convention centre building, there were a number of visual props and displays.
A Bumblebee Statue.
The Optimus Prime statue from the previous year.
And the 'countdown clock' which doesn't countdown any more, that has
at the last three BotCons.
The display cabinet of BotCon exclusives.
Banzai-Tron & Skyquake, Sweep 3-pack (Sweeps 2, 6 & 7), Elita-1
Kup, Landshark, Scourge (at the back), Thunderclash, Flak (the box shown
behind them had flaps that opened up to reveal the premise of the Elite
Their vehicle modes.
And the bonus attendee toy, Leozak. Plus the convention guide/comic,
and the box the regular set (above) comes packed in.
A Litho poster, 2 different t-shirts, and an Autograph card.
When the dealer room closed at 5pm, I went out the front to meet up
with the Ozformers members (we'd been passing messages between each other
during the week by phone, email, messageboard and in person), and I was
pleasantly surprised that all but one ended up finding out about the meetup
and location. And it was my first meeting of a few people too.
So we had myself, Gamblor, Counterpunch, tinyjazz, Sleeve, TheHandsomeCrab, Paulbot, and Demonac (with Caroline and Emilie). The only one missing was llamatron who we weren't able to track down until the Sunday.
The American couple that Demonac was staying with (Steve and Patty) tagged along as well, to our 'Aussies in Pasadena' transfan dinner meet.
We first decided to drop off our various goodies and meet back in 20 minutes. We then went off to find somewhere to eat. While in the nearby shopping precinct, we had a group photo taken by a Paramount promotion crew (who were drumming up interest for BotCon to the locals).
From left - Gamblor, Tinyjazz, Counterpunch, Demonac (with Caroline
and Emilie in the stroller), (Patty and Steve - people Demonac was staying
with, so ended up tagging along), TheHandsomeCrab, Paulbot, griffin, Sleeve.
The two cardboard props people could have photos taken with - Optimus
And the flyer-card that was being given out to promote the event.
Yes, they were giving away free toys (Robot Heroes and Legends figures), but I didn't chase up one - I preferred to keep this promo-card.
Since some in the group didn't like Japanese food (which looked to be
the only place left in the precinct that wasn't full), we headed off down
the road and found a nice place (Malagueta Bar & Grill) a couple blocks
away with enough room for our party, and big meals.
Well, everyone except Gamblor, who had to go (and didn't return the entire weekend).
Clockwise from lower left - Counterpunch, Tinyjazz, TheHandsomeCrab,
Sleeve, Caroline, Emilie, Demonac, Paulbot, Steve and Patty.
So we ate, and headed back in time for the evening activities that started at 8.30.
Friday Night Events (Fan-video competition, MSTF, TFs Videos)
While waiting some of us waited for Tinyjazz's parents to pick her up, I was able to catch Eric Seibenaler as was wandering about (the Hasbro designer who spent a year in Australia last year that I managed to meet a couple times), said hello, and introduced him to the others with me (he remembered Demonac and Paulbot).
When Tinyjazz finally got picked up by her parents at 11pm, the rest of us retired to our rooms (Paulbot and I were in the lobby of the hotel for a while checking out some things, like trying to find out if llamatron had even made it to BotCon - there was a TFW2005.com party in the bar near the lobby that we thought he might be at).
I got back to my room by midnight and after doing some computer stuff, I was asleep by 2.30.
SATURDAY 30TH MAY
Waking up at around 7am, I tried to get down to the Convention centre
as quickly as possible, because they announced the day before that they
would be allowing people to buy extra sets of the Convention toys, and
I still needed 4 more sets of Sweeps and an a Banzai-tron/Skyquake set.
I got down there at 20 past 8 (which was 10 minutes before they openned
up) and was hoping Demonac would already be in line because him and Counterpunch
said they'd help queue up to get the extra sets. Neither were there, and
because of a huge miscalculation of the Convention organisors (by about
200!!!), they ran out of Sweeps just 2 people before me. The plan was that
we'd queue up around 8am, but since I was late I can't really whinge about
the other two not showing up at all.
Mind you, if the organisers hadn't mis-counted, I was really thinking that we could get enough of everything that people wanted (because Demonac could have bought 3 lots for him and his family who were each registered).
Out in the main corridor, something new was set up for the younger attendees
- Transformers time trials.
The dealer room was opened at the same time as the Con-store, and as
soon as I got the rest of the items I needed for others, I went off to
drown my frustrations with some retail therapy...
Since there were so many panels on this day, I knew I didn't have much time in the dealer room to look for stuff for me, and to photograph the displays. Not to mention all those darn Aussies running into me and wanting to chat...
I did feel bad though, because it felt like I was snubbing people, just so I could document as much of the convention as possible, while also making sure I didn't miss out on buying stuff for myself. I actually didn't end up checking out all the dealer tables until Sunday morning, I was so caught up with all those other duties (for doing this report, and coordinating with the other Aussies there). At least I and the other board members appeared to have a good enough time to have made it all worth it.
Before I headed to the Panel room at 10am, I introduced Counterpunch to Greg Berger, the voice of Outback (and some other characters... Grimlock, Jetfire, Longhaul). And during the conversation, Greg said that when he is next in Australia (and if he doesn't loose my details), he'd try to make himself available for some sort of fan event (depending on what he charges).
Panel room time...
Saturday 10am - IDW (comics) Panel
Saturday 11am - Activision (computer game) Panel
Saturday noon - Animated series Voice Actors Panel (David Kaye & Weird Al Yankovic)
Saturday 1pm - Hasbro Product Panel (2 hours)
Saturday 3pm - Official Transformers Club Panel
Saturday 4pm - Peter Cullen Panel (missed this one so that I could start taking photos and details of the Hasbro toy display in case I don't get a chance on Sunday. Besides, I'd seen and heard Peter at 2 or 3 BotCons before, but it was still a tough sacrifice)
Sign outside near the panel room where they held the autograph sessions,
with limited numbers to certain guests this year.
The Autograph area.
So back in the dealer room for an hour before the convention closed for the day, I photographed most of the toy display and the art contest display, plus picked up my only toys for the day - the last two Battle Scene packs from the 2007 Movie, that weren't released in Australia (Optimus Vs Bonecrusher and Megatron Vs Jazz).
As soon as the 'Con closed for the day I went back to my room to drop off stuff, and headed off to the nearby Macy's store to buy a collared shirt (it was required for the Saturday night event but I forgot to pack one - not that they enforced it, as some still got in without one).
At about 7pm, Tim and I made our way down to the front of the Convention Centre for the Paramount Party. We didn't see any point in getting there really early to stand in a queue for longer than we needed to. We were all going to get there no matter where we were in the queue, and we all had things we needed to do in the 2 short hours after the Convention closed for the day at 5pm.
PARAMOUNT PARTY REPORT CONTINUED HERE.
Since I was on one of the first buses leaving Paramount, I was back at my room by 1am, and asleep soon after (was really tired by now, and there was still a day left to go).
SUNDAY 31ST MAY
Sunday, the final day of BotCon 2009.
I woke up at about 7am, and left for the nearby Target store at 8. The Movie toys were meant to be released on this day, but I forgot that the release date was brought forward by one day, and when I got there, a lot of stuff was already sold from the day before. I did get 4 Fast Action Battlers that weren't at the Con-store (Jetfire, Sideways, Long Haul, Ratchet), so it wasn't a totally wasted trip (and also meant every day so far in the trip, I had bought at least one Transformers toy).
Back to the room, I spent a little too long sorting stuff (I had about 70 toys piled up on my side of the room, plus 20+ toys for others) so didn't get to the dealer room until just before 10am (it opened at 9.30). As such, it pushed back my schedule for the morning, and I didn't get into the panel room until 10.40ish, so missed most of the Gen1 Voice Actors panel.
Sunday 10am - Gen1 Voice Actors Panel (Gregg Berger & Michael McConnohie)
Sunday 11am - Hasbro Designers Panel + suprise guest Tyrese Gibson
Sunday noon - Cosplay and Fan Costume hints and tips (missed - I had
to use this time to record the rest of the Hasbro Toy Display, as I was
running out of time and it was a huge display this year)
Sunday 1pm - Gen1 Cartoon Writers Panel
Another line for Autographs on the Sunday.
I returned to the Dealer Room for the rest of the convention after that
last panel. It was meant to close at 3.30, but they extended it to 4pm
to accomodate the huge turnout on the last day. During that time I managed
to grab another 10 toys, including a boxed JP Sky Garry (with Shotbomber)
that Demonac talked me into.
One of the great things about dealer tables manned by multiple people is that you can often get things for a lot less than the head person wants for them. At one table, I was after a couple of items (Universe Countdown and Movie Whirl Vs Bludgeon), and the head dealer wanted $45 each, but when I ened up being served by his assistant, I was told $40 each, and I grabbed an additional Mighty Muggs Megatron for $10 (which meant I managed to get all six during the week, and none cost me more than $15). A simialr thing happened at another dealer table - I wanted a Sealed European Deluge (to complete my set of those water squirters), but the main guy was busy on the phone so the assistant said $20. Admittedly, these aren't high-demand figures, but are rare enough in America to have dealers like this one (who wanted $400 for a Red Slag), charge a lot more than I got it for.
The last items I got was a black Gen1 Reissue HotRod, and the 3-pack of Henkei Beachcomber, Brawn and Cliffjumper (mostly for the Cliffjumper, which wasn't released by Hasbro).
All in all, I was happy with everything I ended up getting, and will be even happier when they all arrive safely back home by the end of the week.
As the dealer room was about to close I went around saying goodbye to
the American friends of mine, and met up with the Aussies out the front
who were still around at that time (tinyjazz, Demonac and family, THC,
Sleeve, Paulbot and me).
We headed over to the shopping centre for a meal to see off the end of BotCon 2009. Tinyjazz couldn't stick around as her family had to fly out that night, but the rest of us had a quick dinner there.
At the burger restaurant, from left - Sleeve, Patty & Steve, Caroline, Ian, Paulbot, THC and me.
At 8pm when we were finished, most of us then went over to the nearby
Target to see what movie toys they had on offer. Nothing new since I had
checked it out that morning, so I didn't buy anything.
I was back at my room at around 9pm, and since I had the room to myself for that night (Tim was only sharing the previous three nights, and was heading home that night), I was up to about 2am cutting up toy packaging and watching TV (well, more of the latter, less of the former).
Below is the mess I had to condense and pack up for posting home (or fly back in 1 bag and 1 box). It probably took me about 8 hours to do, so it was lucky that I didn't have to check out by midday on the Monday - Ian's family were taking over the room from the Monday until Thursday, so I could check out as late as I wanted on Monday.
MONDAY 1ST JUNE
I still set my alarm to get up early (8am), because I only had until
11am-noon before Ian and his family came back to the room (to stay there
for the next 3 nights), and I wanted most of my mess sorted out before
Coffee was my friend that morning...
All my stuff in the process of condensing and packing into boxes or
Just after they came over with their stuff, Paul dropped by briefly to say hello, before he headed off to where ever he was staying for the next 3 nights. He also left me his Movie Poster from the Saturday Night party (we were all given a poster when we returned from the event). I didn't realise until some time after I got home that he didn't have the same poster as me, which meant I managed to get both the main TF2 Movie posters.
The teaser poster, and the main movie poster.
Jimmy/Counterpunch came by at around around 2pm, and Demonac and I had
some boxes ready to be posted, so we all headed off to the post office
before it closed.
After a bit of mucking around with the boxes (new size restrictions meant we couldn't post boxes I had posted in previous years), I ended up getting 5 boxes posted just before the post office closed at 4.30. I won't expect them to arrive home until after the 9th, and the total cost of postage was about US$600 (but half of that was stuff for others, so it was already paid for).
Since Jimmy and I were both catching different flights that were at
around the same time, I got a lift with him to the airport, leaving the
hotel at 6.30pm. We stopped at a Target on the way, and I was hoping
to find at least one TFs toy (a toy purchased every day I was there), but
failed to find anything other than Voyager Ratchet (which I wasn't interested
in). We did finally find the new TFs M&Ms at this store, so I bought
a dozen bags for me and others.
We also stopped off at a Burger King (couldn't find a Wendys or In & Out Burger place - which I wanted to try out while in LA), and returned the hire car that he had for the week. The car hire place dropped us off at the airport just after 9pm, which was a little late for Jimmy, but he still managed to get checked in for his V-Australia flight. We talked for a while until he had to go to his departure gate, and I went off to check in myself at the other terminal for my QANTAS flight (9.30pm).
Earlier that afternoon I was feeling a tingling in the back of my throat, and it was at this time when I was checking in that I knew I had caught something like a flu virus, but it was still only in the early stages, so wasn't too bad yet. My first thought was Swine Flu (which was the big bad virus at this time, and popping up a fair bit in the California-Mexico area), and that if I was noticed, I would be quaranteened and wouldn't be allowed to travel home.
My two check-in items came in at 27kg, which was well under the QANTAS 46kg 'free' allowance for economy (2 items, up to 23Kg each - business and first class get up to 32kg per item). I was relieved, because the luggage was heavy, and I thought I might have to pay extra to check it in. The luggage situation had changed since I was last there as well. This time, after waiting20-30 minutes to check-in, the check-in counter doesn't take our luggage, but directs us to another 20-30 minute queue to drop off our luggage at a security screening station. Being tired and exhausted was making my virus get worse real fast, but at least I wasn't showing any sign of it yet to others.
After going through 3 queues (check-in, bag drop, security screening),
it took me 55 minutes to get from the front door of the International terminal
to the Departure gate. The flight started boarding at 10.45, which was
only 20 minutes later.
Since I was flying back on another A380, the departure gate was the new one they had to build to accomodate the new aircraft.
When I got on the plane I found that I wasn't in an aisle seat as promised by the check-in attendant. I made a bit of a fuss about it, as I was getting a bit irritable with the rising fever. I was fortunate to have one of the flight attendants be understanding of the plight of those who would have been stuck next to me and my big long legs crushing them for 14 hours. I was fully prepared to unleash my flu upon those around me if I didn't at least get an aisle seat to stretch my legs into. The bonus was that my new seat was located next to an empty seat, so I didn't have to worry about spreading my germs now.
I slept a fair bit of the way back, despite all the movies I wanted
to watch on the personal entertainment units. I did get to watch Slumdog
Millionaire and some TV programs, but that was about all.
The flight left LA just before midnight (their time), and with the crossing of the dateline and 14 hours of night time flying, we were expected in Melbourne at about 8am Wednesday morning (our time).
But we didn't go directly to Melbourne. Due to bad weather, we were diverted to Sydney (not enough fuel to circle Melbourne until it was clear). Would have been frustratingly funny if we landed at Brisbane instead, because I wouldn't have been allowed to get off. We spent almost 2 hours at Sydney, refuelling and checking the aircraft, before flying out again at quarter to 10.
Before we landed in Melbourne, we had to fill out a Swine Flu declaration form in addition to the usual Customs form. I ticked the box to say that I had flu symptoms, and even told the airline staff, but when we arrived, Quarantine didn't seem to have a problem with my flu, saying that it wasn't severe enough to be Swine Flu. The Quaranteen staff not only inspected the plane for 20 minutes before we were allowed to disembark, but they also had screening stations and thermal cameras in the terminal.
Once I got over the fear of being detained in Melbourne (or LA), it was still a bit of fun to see the reactions of people when you said you had flu symptons. Kinda like 5 or 6 years ago when the Bird Flu was going around, and I was in an American airport and made some loud coughing and sneezing noises just to see the panicked look on people's faces.
After rebooking my new connecting flight to Brisbane (because of the 3 hour lateness due to the diversion to Sydney), I did have some fun while waiting at the departure gate for my flight to Brisbane - I called Jimmy/Counterpunch (who had a direct flight from LA to Brisbane), and talking quite loudly about my flu symptoms that I picked up in LA the day before. I had one guy next to me get up and walk off, and I could well imagine there were some nervous people on my flight back to Brisbane.
I can be so evil sometimes...
I landed in Brisbane a little after 3pm, went through the express Customs
lane (thanks to my new Passport with the computer chip in it), grabbed
my luggage and caught a taxi home.
I was home by 4pm - nine and half days after I left.
The flu must have indeed been a mild one, as it only took a day to get over, but then I caught a cold a couple days later (probably from the exhaustion as well).
The following are some miscellaneous photos (mostly of stuff I brought back).
A closer look at the TFs themed M&Ms packet, next to a pack of Almond
M&Ms (my favourite variety, which isn't available here).
The free watch from a toy dealer I got on the Friday (above), who was
giving them away if you bought at least $50 of stuff from him. Not
sure if it is a legit licensed item, but since it was free, I don't care.
I'll probably never wear it. Then again, it is a 2007 merchandise item
(the battery is long dead), with a scratch on the watch face, so the dealer
was probably trying to get rid of excess, unwanted stock. The box is nice
TF2 character cards - a set of 14 that were being handed out in the
Dealer Room (probably at the Hasbro booth).
And the backs of them.
A closer look at the Autograph card.
Tim, my roomie for three days over the Convention, and long-time artist,
did a few quick drawings of me while I wasn't looking.
The one at the bottom of the second scan was what I found in the room Sunday night when I got back after he had left (Optimus got a bit smudged by a drop of water).
He is my longest lasting friend from BotCon, whom I first met way back at my first BotCon in 1999, and is one person I look forward to meeting up with each year. I was really happy to be able to share a room with him this year, to make the most of our once-a-year meetup. A great friend, from half a world away.
The Customising class figure for 2009 - Mirror Universe Thunderclash.
Customising Classes were on the Wednesday and Thursday, while those of
us were off on the Pre-Con tours. They are given all the unassembled parts,
and over several hours the attendees of the 2 classes paint and put together
their exclusive figures. (photo is not mine)
A week later when the boxes arrived home, I had a bench full of toys
(and parts) to sort and put away.
It was an exhausting BotCon this year for me with all the stuff I had
to do, but it was still a lot of fun.
Better than being bored with nothing to do.
Until next year, thanks for reading...
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