BOTCON  AT  DISNEY
(griffin's 2010 BotCon report)



INDEX & INTRO


This was the 17th year of BotCon, and my 11th BotCon.
You'd think after 11 years, I'd have had enough of these expensive Transformers adventures across to the other side of the world.  But nope... it's almost like each one is my first one, and the interest is just as intense as it was in the years leading up to my first one in 1999.
Because it isn't just the convention.
It's more than the toys.
More than the guests, fellow fans, panels, and other convention events.
It's the adventure.
Exploring a new world with each new location every year. The dream of wanting to go, saving up to go, and actually booking and paying for all of the components to live that dream.
For me, a fan from the other side of the world, I love the whole package. From the first day we know when and where, right up to the return home and composing the report for future reflection, and for my friends to read (which has taken 3 weeks to complete - 3 times longer than the actual adventure).

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 and various Exhibits
Art Contest Display
Hasbro product display page 1
Hasbro product display page 2
Hasbro product display page 3
Hasbro product display page 4
Hasbro product display page 5
.
Presentations/Panels:
Friday 25th June
Friday 9am - Collector Club Magazine
Friday 10am - TakaraTomy
Friday 11am - Bob Budiansky
Friday noon - Film Fest
.
Saturday 26th June
Saturday 10am - Hasbro Studios
Saturday 11am - Hasbro Marketting
Saturday noon - Activision
Saturday 1pm - Voice Actors (Paul Eiding & Scott McNeil)
Saturday 2pm - Peter Cullen
Saturday 3pm - Collector Club
Saturday 4pm - IDW Comics
Saturday Night - Hall of Fame Awards Dinner
.
Sunday 27th June
Sunday 10am - Bob Budiansky
Sunday 11am - Hasbro Designers
Sunday Noon - Costuming
Sunday 1pm - Voice Actors (Paul Eiding & Scott McNeill)
.
.
Details of my entire trip (mostly non-Transformers stuff)
Saturday 19/6 to Tuesday 22/6 (Brisbane to Orlando, and stuff done while there)
Disneyworld Day 1 (Tuesday 22/6)
NASA Tour (Wednesday 23/6)
Disneyworld Day 2 (Thursday 24/6)
Wednesday 23/6 to Monday/Wednesday (All things done while at Disney, and the journey home)
.
.



BotCon 2010 was located in its first ever, themed venue - Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida.  It's a convention that relies heavily on its walk-in crowd to make up numbers and revenue... could having it held in an isolated location, miles away from suburbia, ultimately impact on its success this year?
Yes. I felt that it was a smaller turnout, and even returning Official Guests I interviewed noted the drop in numbers compared to last year.  Marketting this year's show didn't appear to adapt to the different demographic making up the potential walk-in crowd - tourists, not locals. The Orlando 'locals' were less likely to drive all the way out to the Disneyworld property.  So they should have asked/paid Disneyworld to hand out flyers with every check-in guest at each of their resorts/hotels in the week leading up to the show.  There would be at least 50 thousand parents and children spread out over the dozen-odd Disneyworld resorts and hotels - everyone of them had free access to the Convention Centre with the busses/ferries... and with a $10/$18 walk-in admission that compares to $50-80 of the Themeparks, it would have been a cheap option for the day for most families on a mult-day stay. When I recover from doing up this comprehensive report, I'll be offering these sorts of suggestions to the FunPub business, and hope others do as well (instead of just sending in useless criticism that doesn't offer any solutions to fix it next time), as it all helps make the experience better for everyone, including me.

Florida was also a new host state for BotCon, so it was also another state to add to my list of US states I have now visited (13 so far) - California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida.  For those Australians (and American beauty pagent contestants) who don't know, that leaves 37 US states to go.
Total mileage for this year's round trip - 31,470km (19,554M)
Added to the accumulated mileage to my 11 BotCons - 330,612km (205,433M)
Just one BotCon trip away from reaching the Moon (it's closest distance to Earth in its elliptical orbit is 356,400 km)


As noted in the banner above, the Annual Transformers Convention this year was during June 24th to 27th at the Walt Disney World, Dolphin Resort, Florida.
This year's theme was promoted as Generation 2 Redux, and despite some conjecture on the legitimacy on such a label, the convention organisors managed to pull together a decent story and gave us some interesting character toys in the process. I accepted that the theme this year was conceived to cover both Gen2 and European era Transformers, but I would have liked to see at least one toy based on a character that originated in Generation 2, not just ones that originated in the European series and Gen2 redecos characters. They paid some great homages to some Euro Actionmasters, Turbomasters, Predators, and even Gen1 Gnaw and RiD Skybyte... but no original Gen2 characters. But to be fair, they may have had all their Gen2 submissions to Hasbro knocked back, leaving the ones we ended up with.

Costs this year (AU$) - Airfares $2305, Registration $475, Accomodation $713, spending money $1900 - Total $5393.

Travel map (below) - Brisbane (1) to Sydney (2), to LA (3), to Orlando (4), back to LA (3), and Brisbane (1).

Winter here and Summer there, was very noticeable. I had to dress warm leaving Brisbane, but not too warm or else the clothes would be excess luggage for the whole week over there.
Time difference was 10 hours, which seemed easy enough to work out at first, but I still got messed up a few times calculating it.

Official Guests this year at BotCon (pics from the BotCon website).
..
Peter Cullen (Voice of Optimus Prime), Bob Budiansky (writer, co-creator of Transformers - the characters and story), Scott McNeil (Voice of numerous TFs characters).

Hideaki Yoke (Takara Designer), Kojin Ohno (Takara Designer), Stan Bush (Transformers Music), Paul Eiding (Voice of Gen1 Perceptor).
..

Aussie Attendance this year
griffin (QLD)
Colin/TheHandsomeCrab (VIC)
Steve/llamatron (WA)
Wilkin/Rokdog (NSW)
(a lot less than last year's record, but still a decent number)

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 - 9 (majority are recycled, but can't be helped now - still had several new guests, and the recycled ones were some of the best ones too)
2 - Activities and Events - 7 (felt a bit light on activities this year, especially with only one pre-Con tour and no Friday activities)
3 - Dealer Room - 8 (fairly good range of toys, and official exhibits, plus the Hasbro Autobot Academy game)
4 - Host city & convention location - 6 (Orlando itself was good for stores and resources, but Disneyworld was too isolated once there)
5 - Hotel Value & Features - 7 (above average expense, felt old with the decor)
6 - Cost/value of Convention - 7 (average expense for the current administration - am still against the dozen-plus toy policy as if they are just souvenirs)
7 - Administration of event - 8 (they are getting better at this - probably should break up the panels a bit, for those who want to attend all/most, but clash with other things)
8 - BotCon Merch & Toys - 7 (theme was good - still too focused on generating a massive amount of stuff to sell, with 13 toys again this year, making it expensive to 'get the set')
9 - Interaction with others - 6 (less Aussies, and a few regulars I knew were missing, but got to know a few knew people quite well)
10 - Toys Acquired - 7 (bought 41 this year, which was less than I was expecting, with almost a third being BotCon exclusive toys, and only 9 new ones bought in the Dealer Room)
That gives me a total score of 72, which puts it at equal 5th out of my 11 BotCons, making this one exactly average.

Once again, this was a huge, exhausting week for me, with lots of liquid caffeine consumed to get through some of it, plus some extended periods of drowsiness that resulted in me miscalculating 2 flight departure times and losing my BotCon posters on the way home.  There were a few absent friends this year, which is always sad to not see all the familiar faces... and there were less Australians compared to last year's record number of over a dozen. But the other 3 that were there this year were still just as much fun to hang with (or try to keep up with...).
This report continues its tradition of being the most comprehensive in the world, beating out the (competing) Global Fan forums and official site, and despite all the hard work, I love having this archive to go back over in the years to come (and aim to have all of them permanently online soon). As such, I've been progressively expanding it each year, with more interviewing of the Guests (most of whom are just the ones I didn't have to queue up for hours to talk to, as I have limited time already).
The only real 'regret' for me this year was trying to be too helpful to other Australian fans.  Thinking that I was the only one going this year, I foolishly offered to help out others get BotCon toys, only to end up obligated to spend quite a few hours and about $900 of my own money because I had their money, so had to make sure I didn't let anyone down or give them false hope. I don't mind helping out, and love to do it, but I over-extended myself this year, and couldn't just help some of the people who had paid me money without helping all of them. I think in future, I won't accepting money beforehand, so that I don't 'have to' compromise my coverage of the event, or cut back on things I want to do, to meet my obligations.

The Good
- New State/Location for me to explore.
- Going to the Disneyworld parks, even if it was just for 2 days, plus visiting NASA!
- The theme this year was done well, as it homaged an officially existing era, like 2006 and 2007 (BotCon should be celebrating Transformers instead of 'creating' it)
- Finally got to see Bob Budiansky, the one I see as being the father of Transformers Lore and Character traits we still see today, some 26 years after he created them.
- Despite a poor range of toys in retail stores, I still managed to find a number of items that are not available here, saving me money.
- Also found a few priority current items in the dealer room too, which also saves me from importing at a higher price later.
- Shared with one person for 3 nights and two people for 4 nights to offset the cost of an extra night accomodation on my own.
- Lucky to find a hotel surrounded by toy stores for the first night in Orlando, before heading to Disneyworld for 7 days.
- Brought all 31 new mid-year toys (Generations, PowerCore, AutobotAlliance) for fans at BotCon to play with, and even sold/gave away some spares.
- Talked to a number of the guests, including Designer Hideaki Yoke, and had three of the current/former comic people on my table at the Saturday Night Dinner.
- Being present for the innaugral Hall of Fame Awards.
- Finding freeze-dried Icecream (at NASA) for the first time since 1988, which I love. Plus chomped through 2 boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal, my favourite cereal ever.

The Bad
- One of the furthest places for me to travel to for a BotCon.
- The heat was difficult to aclimatise to, since I came from the middle of winter in Brisbane.
- Overcommitted myself to others, leaving me with less time and money than I was planning to have to myself (the convention goes so fast, I need to be more careful in future)
- Confirmation of Location and Dates was late again, and I had to book flights before pre-registration details were released (to know how much extra time to spend there).
- Retail stores were light on toys as most were clearing shelves for the new assortments. Had trouble finding Crossovers (they are unreliable here).
- No new Hasbro toys to buy and bring home to show off, as we had them released here before America did.
- Hasbro still didn't take on my suggestion to allow people to photograph their first panel, which they always replay at SDCC (not even a TFs fan Con) for everyone there to photograph.
- FunPub over-extend themselves, creating so many toys that fans will buy for the rarity and value, but would prefer half as many before being sympathetic, because it negatively impacts on the show itself.
- No recording of event, but the organisors were recording presentation panels - no idea why, or why they don't produce copies for others to purchase.
- Forgot a collared shirt for the Saturday dinner, which I was really bugged about because I really respect the formal nature of that one event each year, and felt really bad to go in a t-shirt.
- Lost my BotCon posters on the way home.

And The Ugly
Gotta love the symbolism of (American) Cheese in a Can...

It's so easy, lazy, tasty and probably not the healthiest thing, since it is just pressurised processed cheese.
We don't have it in Australia, but I've seen it a few times in American TV shows, as if it were the ultimate universal food item in the American home.

But when it comes to American Junk Food, why stop there...
Yes, that's right, this year I have joint 'Ugly' winners.
I just couldn't decide which was unhealthier, so figured a combination of the two was necessary.
Our second winner this year, is KFC's 'Double Down Sandwich'.

As you try to work out just what it is you are looking at, let me give you a hint - there is no bread in this sandwich.
It's the low-carb diet option for people addicted to KFC.

Inside this report, you can find out the result of combining these two 'foods'... into something I refer to as - the Code Blue meal.
(Code Blue is the medical term for someone who's heart has stopped)



***All pictures in this convention report are mine unless noted. Any that are borrowed, have the source credited/noted.  If you want to use/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 usually only resort to using others if I failed to get something, or my photo wasn't clear enough.


griffin @ otca.com.au

Ozformers News and Interaction Boards
Ozformers Website and Resource Guide
BotCon website