My 10th year of BotCon
(griffin's 2009 BotCon report)



INDEX & INTRO


This was the 16th year of BotCon, and the current administration used it to celebrate its 15th anniversary.   Coincedentally, this was my own 10th Anniversary with the BotCon Legacy (my first being in 1999), and it has ended up being my 10th BotCon.

But first, to separate the fans from the non-fans....

If you are a Transformers fan and just want to see the news and info from the Transformers convention, the first block of links are for you to use.
If you are NOT a fan, or are interested in following the entire adventure, skip to the second lot of links that details my entire trip.
 

THE INDEX OF PAGES (an introduction to this adventure begins after this index)
.
BotCon Convention section (the Transformers part of my trip)
Exhibits/Displays:
Pre-registration Package pickup (Wednesday) and Club Store purchases (Thursday)
Dealer Room
Hasbro Product Display
Art Contest Display & Costumes
.
Presentations/Panels:
Friday May 29th
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
Friday Night Events (Fan-video competition, MSTF, TFs Videos)
.
Saturday May 30th
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))
Saturday Night Paramount Party
.
Sunday May 31st
Sunday 10am - Gen1 Voice Actors Panel (Gregg Berger & Michael McConnohie) (missed most of it)
Sunday 11am - Hasbro Designers Panel + surprise guest Tyrese Gibson
(Sunday noon - Cosplay hints and tips (missed))
Sunday 1pm - Gen1 Cartoon Writers Panel
.
.
Details of my entire trip (mostly non-Transformers stuff)
Monday May 25th & Tuesday May 26th (Brisbane to Los Angeles)
Wednesday May 27th (Universal Studios tour)
Thursday May 28th (Hollywood tour)
Friday May 29th to Monday/Wednesday (the actual Convention, and then the return home)



My 10th BotCon!
Can you believe it? 10!
I certainly can't.
I would never have imagined, way back in the mid 90s, desperately trying to go to a single BotCon, that I would ever manage to go to 10 of them.
I still remember like it was yesterday, all those BotCons I had to read about from the other side of the world, and just wishing I was there as well.
It also feels like yesterday, going to my first BotCon in 1999, in Minnesota.  A rather rushed, last-minute adventure, that had me arrive just as the convention started, and leaving the morning after it ended. So last-minute, I had very little money to use while there, and no money left to get me back to the airport (but that's a story I've told before).

So after 10 BotCons over 11 years, I've been to 11 US states, and covered enough miles to travel around the equator almost 8 times (circumference of the Earth is 40,000kms (25,000M)).
And to really make some jaws drop, the accumulated expense of those 10 trips has come in at just under $50,000!!!
With over 600 photos to process, and the TF2 Movie season being very busy for me (being the admin of a fan forum), this report took a while to do.
I try to do these annual BotCon reports in as much detail as possible, for my archival purposes, and for the benefit of the majority of fans here (in Australia) who will never be able to afford a trip to BotCon.


BotCon this year was located in Pasadena, California, between May 28th to 31st.  This was a return to the exact same venue (technically*) as in 2004, and being on the west coast of America, it made for a lot less travelling and expense to get there.  We also had a new entrant in the cross-pacific airline route earlier this year, so flights between Australia and America were the cheapest they have ever been in my 10 years of BotCon-ning.  This year, the two competing Australian airlines were offering return tickets between our east coast and LA for about AU$1000-1200.  This is half the price of recent years, and the previous best for me was in 2000, at a price of AU$1455. Take into account inflation and the price of oil lately, these prices were insane... and it prompted our biggest turnout of Australians this year.
(* - the venue had been completely rebuilt since 2004, so it was the same location and venue name, just new building)

Being familiar with the location from five years earlier, it made it a lot easier to do a lot of stuff and find a lot of other stuff I missed last time. Actually, in 2004 I was so short on money, I didn't do much or spend much. So this year was a lot more liberating... and expensive (I think I ended up spending about $4,000, but about $1500 of that was buying/posting stuff for others).
The Pasadena area is north of Los Angeles, and close to the Hollywood area.  It is an arid, dry climate, and the convention was just on the Summer months, so I was expecting it to be fairly warm. And with the departure point being Melbourne in the Winter, I wasn't too keen on packing warm but dressing for a cold, early morning flight.
Ironically, LA was apparently having really below average temperature that week, and Melbourne was having really above average temperatures, to the point that it was actually warmer in Melbourne (winter) when I left there than it was in LA (summer) when I arrived there.

The location and timing of this year's Convention was also significant in terms of the release of the Transformers Movie.  Being near Hollywood, allowed for TF2 Movie related events and features.  The timing was probably a little off though, as the Movie wasn't completed until a week after the Convention ended.  If BotCon was just a couple weeks later, we could have been the first in the world to see it.

For a bit of perspective for all those Americans who "whinge" about BotCon not being near them...
Distance I travelled this year - 28,408 kilometers (17,653 miles)
And the total accumulated mileage for my 10 BotCons - 300,140km (186,348M)

This year, because of the early airfare sale, I had to go via Melbourne (the sale did not include Brisbane at that time). A first for me with BotCon.
The bonus was being able to fly on the brand new Airbus A380, as well as flying to a BotCon for the first time with a friend.
In the map above:
The trip there - Brisbane (1), to Melbourne (2) to LA, California (3).
Then after the convention, the trip back - LA, California (3), to Sydney (4), to Melbourne (2), to Brisbane (1). (The flight wasn't supposed to stop at Sydney, but was diverted there due to bad weather at Melbourne, and the plane probably didn't have enough fuel to be in a holding pattern for too long)

Time difference was good though, at only 7 hours, limiting jet-lag (something that doesn't seem to affect me much), and making it easier to interact with the people back home on our TFs messageboard.
The worst thing about this year's Convention would be how exhausting it was for me.  I had to cover as much of the event for this report (and for me to not regret missing anything), plus coordinate the purchase of dozens of toys for people back home, as well as keeping up with all of the Australians going (met up with all at some point and organised a few group meets as well).

Aussie Attendance this year
As mentioned above, this year had a record turnout of Australians:
griffin (QLD)
Jimmy/Counterpunch (QLD)
Lauren/tinyJazz (QLD)
Steve/sleeve (QLD)
Ian/Demonac (VIC)
Caroline (non-fan) (VIC)
Emilie (non-fan) (VIC)
Paul/Paulbot (VIC)
Colin/TheHandsomeCrab (VIC)
Lee/Gamblor (NSW)
Steve/llamatron (WA)

Oh, and there were at least 2 other Australian attendees, as I ran into one guy who is on the BW International Forum, and a lady who had a Deviantart web address written on her namebadge.
Definitely a record number of Australians there this year.

My BotCon Rating:
I rate each BotCon in 10 categories, from 1 to 10 (1 is very bad, 5 is average, 10 is excellent) giving a total score out of 100.
1 - Guests and Panels - 8 (another year of recycled big name guests, but the weekend was non-stop with panels - probably too much, as people had to miss stuff that clashed)
2 - Activities and Events - 8 (would have been a 10 if they timed it with the completion of the movie)
3 - Dealer Room - 9 (good range of dealers and official booths, big Hasbro display, but small art display)
4 - Host city & convention location - 9 (west coast gives us Aussies more time and money, but location requires bit of travelling for things like toy sources)
5 - Hotel Value & Features - 6 (it was about AU$200 per night for a room that doesn't get used much, and no free internet anymore)
6 - Cost/value of Convention - 7 (most expensive total registration package ever at about AU$800)
7 - Administration of event - 8 (very few problems this year at the event itself, but issues with Paramount Party and Thursday Tour, and too many elements clashing)
8 - BotCon Merch & Toys - 7 (still too focused on generating a massive amount of stuff to sell, and even increasing the toy count to 13, making it expensive to 'get the set')
9 - Interaction with others - 10 (met and spent a heap of time with 8 Aussie Transfans at a BotCon, plus spent time with most of my long-time US friends)
10 - Toys Acquired - 10 (most ever this year, with 79 bought, thanks mostly to the new Movie line released that weekend, which accounted for 56 figures)
That gives me a total score of 82, which just beats my previous best by one point (ironically, the previous best was in 2004 in the exact same location).  So my 10th BotCon turned out to be my best yet.

The Good
- More Aussies going than ever before, and managing to spend quite a bit of time with them.
- West coast location meants less travel time, giving me more time in America, and less time wasted in planes and airports.
- Pre-Con tours to Hollywood and Universal Studios, which I have been wanting to visit for years.
- Found most of the Transformers toys I wanted at retail, that we didn't get here, plus managed to purchase a few loose ends at the Convention.
- Heaps more money to spend this year thanks to cheaper flight and sharing room for all 7 nights (plus better budgetting beforehand).
- Managed to get almost all of the first few waves of Movie toys, saving heaps (at least $500) compared to Australian retail prices.
- Got to fly on the new QANTAS A380 (the new double-decker aircraft).
- Paramount Party was just the best, plus getting to see a sneak peak at 2 scenes from the movie (and having Michael Bay finally having something to do with the Convention).
- Got to try out a lot more breakfast cereals we don't get here, and even posted back several of them.
- Also got to try the limited edition TFs M&Ms (Peanut Butter & Strawberrry), that weren't released in Australia.

The Bad
- Confirmation of the Location and Date was fairly late again (only 5 months for the actual details, and only 3 months for it to be confirmed with the release of registration forms), but appears to be the standard timeframe of the current administration (pre-2005 it was 9-12 months advance notice). How can people be expected to organise leave from work and book long-distance travel 3 months out from the event (or even 5 months if you go by the unconfirmed details)?
- Promotion of event in preceeding months was again initially focused on toys (you can get without attending), leaving announcement of guests until last (which is more important for wanting to actually be there in person, or encourage people to want to go, or for remembering the event itself because of the activities you experience, rather than the mere merchandise that just sits in a box or on a shelf at home).  By the time the organisors actually confirm the guests, it is too late for those outside of the local area to arrange travel to the event.  People aren't going to make the final decision to cross the country (or globe) based on what Convention Toys are being produced, it will be made on the (priceless) 'in person' elements that you can't buy or have posted to you.
- No recording of event, but the organisors were recording presentation panels, so should at least produce copies for others to purchase.
- Hasbro again prohibited photography of their panel, but like previous years, allowed photography at their panel at the SDCC. They have two presentations at BotCon in recent years, so why not have one showing off the stuff they show at the SDCC and allow us to take photos, and still have a no-photos presentation to show off the restricted stuff for the privilige of the fans at the actual TFs convention.
- Very exhausing week, because I was so busy with reporting the event, meeting up with others, and acquiring stuff for people back in Australia (and posting it all back in 5 boxes).
- Managed to catch the flu on return home, and was worried that it was the (new) swine flu that had been making its way out of LA at that time.
- Probably spent more than I should have (I didn't even spend my entire budget - but in hindsight, it was an obscene amount to spend on this one trip).
- Had to fly via Melbourne to the US, due to timing of flight specials, which meant staying up the night before I left Brisbane to catch the much earlier flight.
- Was really hoping to see an advance screening of the Movie, but timing of the event prevented us from seeing it by about a week.
- I managed to forget my current travelling mascot 'Dispensor', my alarmclock and a collared shirt for the Saturday night party (I really should be better organised after 10 years of this).
- Heaps of counterfeit/fake Transformers still being allowed by Hasbro and FunPub to be sold in the dealer room.

And The Ugly

Not sure how we managed to overtake the Americans as the world's fattest nation, especially with this sort of misleading, sneaky marketting.  We all know that Special K is something of a 'healthier' brand when it comes to breakfast cereals, so Kellogs must have thought, why not corrupt it with something unhealthy, like actual chunks of chocolate?!? And yes, it still tries to promote itself as a healthy cereal with the front of the box suggesting that you can actually lose weight with it. But when you turn over the box, it is actually referring to their other Special K cereals, and regular exercise.  The consumer is being fooled into thinking that this is a guilt-free chocolatey breakfast cereal, but the fine print says otherwise.
And the TV advertisement is just as misleading.  I saw it while there this year, and it has a lady going to the freezer to snack on some chocolate icecream, but a voice tells here that there is a healthier alternative to getting that chocolate fix. The cupboard opens up and there's the cereal.  How can this cereal be considered a 'healthy' alternative?
Considering the huge amount of chocolate chunks actually in this cereal, it should make you pretty suspicious if you saw packaging and advertisements claiming 'healthy' credentials.
And it is obviously a popular variety, because I remember finding it in 2007, and was suprised to find it again this year.



***All pictures in this convention report are mine unless noted. Any that are borrowed, have the source credited, and if you want to borrow any of my photos, all I ask is for you to please credit the source as well. I try to take as many of my own photos as possible, and only resort to using others if I failed to get something, or my photo wasn't clear enough.


griffin @ otca.com.au

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