My 10th year of BotCon
(griffin's 2009 BotCon report)
I woke up 6.30am (longest sleep I had had for several nights) and got
ready for the second pre-BotCon tour - to Hollywood.
This day's tour started an hour earlier than yesterdays, so we (Ian's family and I) were out the front by 7.45.
Soon after the busses arrived, we boarded them and drove off with the
tour guide giving us a brief history of Pasadena and the state of California.
The city of Pasadena currently has a population of about 150,000, and the name itself means 'of the Valley' by Native Americans.
It was home to Native Americans for thousands of years, and it wasn't until the 1500s that it was 'claimed' by Spanish explorers. The area itself was mostly arid/desert, so wasn't really colonised much by the Spanish, aside from a few settlers' ranches and a Mission. In the 1700s it was included in the original land grant of Mexico, but in 1848 California was annexed by the United States. It wasn't until 40 years later that Pasadena was named and incorporated.
A few minutes into the tour, we passed this billboard advertising the
new Transformers movie coming out next month. I noticed that there
was a a lot more visual promoting of the movie than in Australia.
Some places we passed were Griffith Park, Mount Sinai Cemetary, Disney
Studios, Warner Bros Studios, and Universal Studios (which we were at yesterday).
Our tourguide told us that Hollywood was first established in Los Angeles in 1910, and the first Hollywood movie was made in about 1913.
An hour into the tour, we stopped off at the famous Hollywood Bowl,
which is a big outdoor concert arena that was first built about 90 years
Historical photos and infomation on signs at the site, detailing its
origin and evolution to what it is today.
And how it looks today, from way up the back.
And then the view from the stage.
Off in the distance, I was suprised to see the Hollywood sign from the
Bowl. Unfortunately, the pollution that day was obscuring the view, and
this was the best photo I got of it (I took about 5, and this was apparently
not a bad smog day).
On our way to Hollywood Boulevard, we drove past the Capitol Records
building (seen in a number of movies as a Hollywood landmark, including
'The Day After Tomorrow'), and does music stuff as well, but I recognise
it most from that disaster movie.
We drove along Vine St and Hollywood Boulevard, seeing the 'Walk of
Fame' stars on the footpaths all around this area.
At 9.30, our bus parked on Hollywood Boulevard, and our guide took us to the Kodak Theatre, the Chinese Theatre, a Wax museum (was pretty bad), Guiness world Records (was interesting, but no time to get a good thorough look through it though) and the Hollywood Highland Centre.
I tried to look for Walk of Fame stars of people related to Transformers, but only found Robert Stack (voice of Ultra Magnus in the 1986 movie).
At the corner of Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, looking down
towards the Wax Museum, Guiness World Records, Ripley's and Scientology's
Hollywood outpost to convert all those *rich* movie stars for their (financial)
The pamphlets for the Wax Museum and World Records, both owned by the
same company, so a joint ticket of admission was part of our tour package.
But as mentioned already, the Wax Museum was pretty sparce and often a
lot of them didn't look very good or realistic. From what I've heard
though, the internationally famous Madame Tussaud's chain of Wax Museums
is soon to open in Hollywood, and will probably mean the end of this poor
Down the road was the Disney Studio store.
A nearby billboard with a map of the surrounding area and attractions.
The Chinese Theatre, which gives stars the honour of preserving their
hand-prints and signatures into cement if their movie has its premiere
screening there. Some dated back to the 1920s.
One I found of interest was this one of the Star Trek crew.
Next door was the Kodak Theatre - the location of the Oscars.
The main stairway inside the Theatre, with the pillars on each side
listing the winning movie for each year since the Academy Awards started.
(that's our tourguide at the bottom left)
And next door to that was the Hollywood Highland Centre - a retail and
office complex built around the remains of a massive movie set (that big
Egyptian 'wall' structure and Elephant).
There were actually two elephants on giant pedastals (shown below), but as you can see from the photos, the size of these things are like 5-7 storeys high! And they were just built for a movie (and retrofitted for the business/tourist centre).
The movie they were from is from 1916, called 'Intolerance'. (I've never heard of it, but will try to find it now, to see what these things were in it).
From the second storey catwalk (above), this was the view, looking out
to the Hollywood sign.
At midday, we were back on the bus, and off to lunch at somewhere called
'Farmers Market', which took about 30 minutes to get to.
On the way we passed the 'Five Ladies' which is a sculpture that marks the start of the Walk of Fame.
Also passed 'Pink's Hotdog stand', which is apparently famous, and good
enough to sometimes have queues that stretch around the block.
Jim Hensen Company.
The Farmers Market was a large place of markets and food outlets, with
a lot of variety. I just didn't get a chance to sample much, as I (along
with a few others) made a quick dash first to a Kmart across the road to
look for Transformers toys.
They actually had some of the Movie toys out already, but since it was before the release date, the register wouldn't accept them and they said they couldn't sell them to me.
I did get some non-Movie toys I wanted though, so I was still happy. I got the Mighty Muggs Soundwave, Animated Samarai Prowl, Universe Stormcloud, Bumblespud. four placemats and a small pillow (photo at the end of this page).
Returning to the Market after my shopping trip, I did end up getting
some pizza, and chatted briefly with American Transfan Sol Fury (who's
from England, and is like me - a long distant foreigner who will do just
about anything to attend BotCon every year).
At a quarter past 2, our tour bus headed off to drive around more of Hollywood, plus other famous localities like Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Drive,Beverly Hills and Wiltshire Boulevard.
Places of interest I saw included National Lampoons World HQ, Wolfgang Puck's Restaurant (a chef from the American Iron Chef TV show), Directors Guild of America, Ceder Sinai Medical Centre, and a bank with a John Wayne statue out the front. Also...
The Hustler magazine offices.
The House of Blues restaurant.
The Viper Room (the Nightclub the celebrities go to, and die at, like
Actor River Phoenix).
Beverly Hills Police station (as seen in a number of movies).
Just to make sure you know that you driving past the most upper class,
unaffordable place in LA.
And for those who can afford to live here...
Pacific Design Centre (explains the weird, architectural look to the
Art Gallery and Museum.
Where the richest of the rich shop - Rodeo Drive. We actually
stopped near here for about 10 minutes at about 3.30. I guess to
let us lower class tourists say that we walked among the rich for a few
And I thought this was funny when I saw it - the Cookie Diet. It is
actually a diet plan that is centred around dietary biscuits, like those
Another massive visual advertisement for the Transformers Movie, this
time coving the entire side of a 15-20 storey building.
And a bit closer.
At about 4.20, we stopped at the La Brea Tar Pits (see the movie Volcano
with Tommy Lee Jones for a fictional usage of this place). The real reason
behind this place is that there is a shallow oil and tar chamber under
the ground, that seeps to the surface. The Tar is actually tapped and pumped
out of the ground and used, but the excess bubbles into the lake and through
parts of the ground around it.
Some elephant statues mimicking a pre-historic drowning and preservation of creatures that have been found on the site.
Looking along the lake, and the Art Gallery/Museum beyond it.
A spot in the grass where Tar is seeping to the surface.
And a bigger seep, that needed fencing off.
The La Brea Museum showcasing the fossils found on the site (and apperently
in its basement is where they collect and pump out the Tar for use in things).
When we got back onto the bus at 4.40pm, I thought we were heading back
to the Hotel, because we were supposed to be back by 5pm. Instead, we headed
off into Downtwon LA, and spent about an hour more driving around and having
our tourguide pointing out stuff, including Macathur Park, Downtown LA,
LA's tallest building (got destroyed in the movie 'Independance Day').
A giant Synagogue.
The Disney Concert Hall.
LA Town Hall.
We then drove back to the hotel, arriving at 10 to six, so when we got there, everyone else from the customizing classes and other tour bus were already lined up at the BotCon store. And within 10 minutes, the people picking up their registration packs (started at six), would also be queuing up, so I had to dash up to my room (for my convention badge) and back again to get in line.
Outside when we arrived, there was already a huge queue of people there
to pick up their registration packs.
The start of the queue.
The four main convention organisors welcome the fans to this year's
BotCon. From left - Lanny, Rik, Brian, Pete.
The result of the late arrival of the tour bus, and me needing to get
my Convention badge from my room, I was the last person (of those who picked
up their packs the night before) in the Store queue.
As such, it took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to finally get to the front of the line and place my order.
Just before I got there though, a toy dealer had purchased 22 cases
The Store tables as I reached the head of the queue. Learning
from previous years that had the cash line move 4 times faster than the
credit card line, I came packed with a couple thousand in US$. But
it seemed that the organisors had finally heard the complaints from previous
years and the credit card line actually moved at the same pace this year.
When it was my turn (now 8.10pm), I ordered a variety of convention
toys and merchandise items. But when it came to movie toys I didn't
know what they had (and didn't really care if it meant getting new stuff
at cheaper prices), so I just asked for 'one of everything except roleplay
stuff'. Despite them already selling out of two figures (Voyager size Megatron
and Mixmaster), I still ended up with 46 toys, and no way of getting it
all back to the room. A quick call to Jimmy and within 10 minutes the pair
of us carried it all back up to my room.
Damn, that was an extraordinary amount of toys, and I wasn't really expecting it. I put them all out on my bed for a photo.
Top - Fast Action Battlers (Jolt, Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee) and Gravity Bots (Optimus, Bumblebee, Starscream).
Below that were the Voyagers (Starscream, Optimus, Ironhide, Scavanger) and Leader class (Megatron, Optimus).
Below them were wave 1 Legends (Jetfire, Bumblebee, Springer, Optimus).
And the bottom half from the left had Powerbots (Megatron, Bumblebee), Deluxes (Bumblebee, Wheelie, Rampage, Breakaway, Skids, Sideways, Chromia, Brawl, Soundwave, Smokescreen, Sideswipe), Robot Replicas (Ironhide, Optimus, Ratchet, Megatron), Scouts (Dead End, Rollbar, Dirtboss, Knockout, Ransack, Depthcharge) and Robot Heroes Bumblebee Vs LongHaul, Sideswipe Vs Sideways, Skids Vs Megatron, Springer Vs Starscream, Mudflap Vs Rampage, Optimus Vs Blackout).
So many toys all at once, it would take me until the Monday to get them all out of packaging to post back.
The other items I bought from the Convention store.
Convention toys (photo of them from the display cabinet)
Banzai-Tron & Skyquake (1400 sets), Sweep 3-pack (Sweeps 2, 6 & 7) (1000 sets), Elita-1 & Razorclaw (2000 sets).
This year's BotCon t-shirt (back).
And front, with another t-shirt they had produced for sale this year.
Gold stickers to signify the 'early' release of the Movie toys at the
Convention. Each toy was supposed to have a sticker on it, but time restraints
meant that the stickers were handed out with the purchase, for the buyer
to (hopefully) attach to the toys purchased there. For me, I bought
46 toys, so I got a roll of 46 stickers.
From the photo below are a couple Convention Exclusive items (noted
Top - autograph card being sold for use at the convention, with each of the main guests named and represented by the characters they voiced (Gregg Berger, Michael McConnohie, Peter Cullen, David Kaye, Stan Bush, Vince DiCola). Bumblebee and Wreckgar are included at the bottom in case their Voice Actors showed up (both weren't confirmed, and as such, only Weird Al (Wreck Gar) showed). The book next to it was volume 2 of the Japanese Generations series, which I bought in the Dealer room during the weekend.
Below that - the cushion I bought earlier in the day from Kmart. Next to it is a TFs notepad (handed out in the Dealer Room), my Name badge, and the Saturday Night Paramount Party ticket.
Along the bottom is a pack of the Transformers themed M&Ms (Strawberry Peanut Butter flavour, only released in America), Demo CD from Gregg Berger (voice actor of Gen1 Grimlock) he was selling in the Dealer Room, but gave it to me for free after chatting to him for a bit, red-filter glasses from the Hasbro booth, that you needed to find images hidden on the walls of their booth for a competition, Band-Aid brand Transformers bandages (from a Target store on Tuesday), and a 'transformable' pen which was also being handed out free in the Dealer Room.
The BotCon Litho, commemorating 25 years of Transformers. The significance
of those characters is lost to me (it was mentioned, but I can't remember)
- probably 25 characters that were released as toys during the 25th anniversary
year. 500 posters were printed, with 150 signed by the artist Alex
While Jimmy and I were in the room looking over my 'loot', my American
friend Tim arrived (Ian and Co had moved over to the Hilton to share with
another couple for the rest of the convention, and I was sharing with Tim
during those three nights). Paulbot also dropped by, as it was the first
time I got to meet up with him in America.
Closing in on Midnight, Paul and Jimmy left, and I went to sleep soon after. It was going to be a big 3 days with the convention well and truly starting in a matter of hours.
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