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A  DASH  TO  DALLAS
(griffin's 2012 BotCon adventure)


INDEX & INTRO


Lucky number 13
This was my 13th BotCon adventure and, wow... do I have a story to tell about just getting there this year thanks to having my appendix removed 5 & 1/2 days before I flew off to America.

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)
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BotCon Convention section (the Transformers part of my trip)
Exhibits/Displays:
Pre-registration Package pickup (Wednesday) and Club Store purchases (Thursday)
Dealer Room (including official guest exhibits)
Art Contest Display
Hasbro product display 1 (Generations, MP Optimus, SDCC Bruticus)
Hasbro product display 2 (Bot Shots & HALL OF FAME)
Hasbro product display 3 (TFPrime - larger sizes)
Hasbro product display 4 (TFPrime - smaller sizes)
Hasbro product display 5 (TFPrime vehicles, SDCC Cliffjumper, RCs & Masks)
Hasbro product display 6 (Kreo & Rescue Bots)
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Presentations/Panels:
Friday 27th April
Friday 9am - MSTF Episode 13 (Comedy commentary of Transformers cartoon episodes - I missed most of it)
Friday 11am - Film Fest
Friday 1pm - Collector Club Magazine/Comic
(Dealer Room open 2-5pm)
Friday 7pm - Golden Ticket Reception
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Saturday 28th April
Saturday 10am - Gen1 Voice Actors Dan Gilvezan (Bumblebee) & Buster Jones (Blaster)
Saturday 11am - IDW Comics
Saturday noon - Animated commentary with Derrick Wyatt
Saturday 1pm - Voice Actors David Kaye & Garry Chalk
Saturday 2pm - Collector Club
Saturday 3pm - Hasbro Future Transformers Products
Saturday 4pm - Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime)
Saturday 7pm - Hall of Fame Awards Dinner, Charity Casino night, Fan-art awards, & Auction.
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Sunday 29th April
Sunday 10am - Script Reading (Bee in the City 2)
Sunday 11am - Activision (TFPrime game & Fall of Cybertron game)
Sunday Noon - Simon Furman (unpublished Dreamwave issues & Regeneration One)
Sunday 1pm - Jagex (Transformers Universe MMOG)
Sunday 2pm - Costuming & Cosplaying
(close 3.30pm)
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Details of my entire trip (mostly non-Transformers stuff)
Before the adventure (blog entries from when the location & dates were announced - NOT PART OF THE ACTUAL ADVENTURE - it's more for my own records)
Tuesday 24th April (Journey from Brisbane to Dallas, & visit to the Book Depository)
Wednesday 25th April (Toy hunting & BotCon package pickup)
Thursday 26th April (Day of rest & BotCon Club store open)
Friday 27th April (BotCon events Day 1)
Saturday 28th April (BotCon events Day 2)
Sunday 29th April (BotCon Events Day 3)
Monday 30th April to Wednesday 2nd May (Journey home)



The most comprehensive coverage IN THE WORLD of the official Transformers Convention (BotCon) returns, with 33 pages and just under 600 photos.
(And all by one person - not dozens of people like on the American fansites.)
It was less photos than recent years, due to not doing much before the convention this year, and missing the pre-Con tour.

The location this year... Dallas, Texas.
A new host city, but the same state we were in for 2005... which in one way feels like a long time ago, but then, I can remember things about it like it was just last week.
One of these days I'm gonna have to re-host all those previous BotCon reports of mine.
At this time though, you can still have a flashback read of the last three BotCons before this one - 2011 - 2010 - 2009.


INTRODUCTION

I want to start off by dedicating this to my Grandmother, Jocelyn, who passed away suddenly last year, well before her time.  She was my mother's step-mother and the last relative on my mother's side. She gave me the inspiration to live, and these reports of mine in the last few years have been written, knowing that she was going to be reading it and talking about it with me later As we were always interested in each other's global roaming. I guess since I didn't do much non-Transformers stuff this year (due to the appendix operation), I didn't have much to specifically direct to her anyway, which would have made it harder to do... knowing that I wasn't going to be able to talk it over with someone close.
Silver lining though - now I don't have to feel bad about disappointing her with all the unhealthy junk food I eat over there.  I can let myself go now, with no appendix or Grandmother holding me back.

The Journey there - From Brisbane (1) to Los Angeles California (2), and Dallas Texas (3).  After it ended, it was straight back to Brisbane (1) from Dallas.

Flying distance travelled this year:
Brisbane to LA - 11,533 kilometers (7,166 miles)
LA to Dallas - 1,983 kilometers (1,232 miles)
Dallas to Brisbane - 13,378 kilometers (8,313 miles)
Total for this year - 26,894 kilometers (16,711 miles)

This means a total distance so far traveled on my 13 BotCons is 380,572km or 236,476m.
(I have now landed on the Moon - as the shortest distance to the moon is 356,400... now for the journey home)

No new US states visited this year, so the total still stays at 13 - California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Ohio, Florida.

Aussie Attendance this year
griffin (QLD)
Stephen/llamatron (WA)
San/Sanbot (NSW)
Colin/TheHandsomeCrab (UK/VIC)

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 (nice to see a new Gen1 Voice Actor at BotCon, plus a number of fan-favourites. Hasbro presentation was short this year, with little new stuff revealed)
2 - Activities and Events - 8 (A lot of stuff on this year, but the two pre-Con tours weren't that exciting)
3 - Dealer Room - 9 (clamping down on KOs and 3rd party items made the Dealer Room much more exciting this year - tables stocked with "pure" Transformers toys, the best variety I've seen in years)
4 - Host city & convention location - 4 (Hotel was not convenient to toy & food options if no car, and Dallas isn't a particularly exciting destination for tourists)
5 - Hotel Value & Features - 8 (one of the better ones, for the price we got it at - I wasn't even bothered about not finding someone to share either)
6 - Cost/value of Convention - 7 (A lot on this year, but I had to buy the Golden Ticket to better cover the event & panels, which makes the whole experience even more expensive than it should)
7 - Administration of event - 6 (some late events, and lots of technical problems with microphones not working & the faulty projector not showing the colour red)
8 - BotCon Merch & Toys - 7 (some great homage toys this year, but do I even need to complain again about all the toys... $600 worth just to complete the set)
9 - Interaction with others - 3 (briefly met two other Aussies, and my foreign friends... but spent most of the time this year on my own)
10 - Toys Acquired - 5 (limited budget this year, and a quarter of my spending money didn't get to me until after the convention)
That gives me a total score of 65, making the second lowest score of my 13 BotCons.  It wasn't a bad BotCon (it's still a score above 50), but it means that most other BotCons were better.
 

THE GOOD
- The Dealer Room was the best in years in terms of variety and quantity.  With FunPub FINALLY enforcing the rule of no Knock Offs or unauthorised toys using Transformers likenesses, dealers had to bring in just real Transformers toys, and it was a great result. I just wish I had more money to buy some of the items there that were out of my price range.
- The running of the weekend seemed to be smoother this year, but still had a few hiccups.
- A new Gen1 Voice Actor (Buster Jones/Blaster), keeps the convention interesting after years of mostly recycled guests. It's not a bad thing having returning guests (especially the more entertaining ones), but mix in a new one each year to inspire return attendees.
- Having the chance to obtain copies of unrelease Dreamwave stories that were left unfinished when the company folded.
- New location for me to explore. (but not much worth exploring though)
- Hotel wasn't too bad.  It wasn't perfect, but for the cost, it was a good hotel.  Good enough for me to not be upset about not finding anyone to share this year to offset the cost.
- Direct flight from Dallas back to Brisbane meant no changing planes or struggling with luggage between flights. And keeping everything under the baggage limit meant no extra cost getting everything home.
- I'm hesitantly putting the Golden Ticket into the "good" category this year, as it helped me cover the event, and not wear myself out waiting several hours in queues. It is a huge extra expense, pushing the total registration & toys cost to almost $1000 now. Compare that to the earlier, fan-focused BotCons that only cost $200-300 to register and access everything and all toys. But if I miss out on a GT in a future year, I'm likely to put the concept in the "bad" column though, as it is an elitist concept, and I would only be wanting it for covering the convention (in a comprehensive way, unmatched by any other fansite, including FunPub's own BotCon site). To be fair, the GOLDEN TICKET concept should be a reward, or at least offered first, to BotCon veterans, who have spent many years and many thousands of dollars supporting FunPub's conventions and products. People who have been to 10 or 15 BotCons (there have been almost 20 now), or all or most of the FunPub BotCons (6 so far), who make up the familiar faces in the crowd every year like the staff themselves, should have some sort of recognition... a bit like how they used to keep track of those who attended EVERY BotCon since 1994 (there's probably less than 5 now).
 

THE BAD
- The panels/presentations were plagued with technical problems.  Microphones were either giving garbled noise or failing complety, while the video projector wasn't showing the colour red during videos (the slide shows were fine though).
- The Saturday night auction was messed up, as there were 15 kiddy items set aside for 10 kids (under-12) to bid on, but the auctioneer just kept auctioning off all 50 toys (many of which were highly prized among collectors), leaving just 40 items for 200+ adults to fight over... most of which were very angry and left in disgust for not having having a chance at anything.
- Missing out on the Custom Class, yet again... as most seats sold out before pre-registration was even publicly announced.  It's hard enough being on the opposite side of the world, but to miss out within an hour of the registration being announced... they need to get better turnover of the class (people from the last year (who get in most years) could be put on a waiting list, allowing others to experience it at least once).
- The Peter Cullen autograph raffle.  Did they not learn from 2007?  If you have a random system that wastes spots to people who aren't interested, at the expense of those who are, YOU DON'T DO IT. All those people who pre-registered had a free entry to be one of 100 people to get an autograph, BUT, it was non-transferable, and if you were busy elsewhere (lie in the panel room), those spots a wasted. A lot of fans love Peter Cullen, and I'd have liked a chance to meet him again... however, if I'd won a spot, since I was in the panel room all day I'd have felt really bad that someone more dedicated and available misses out.  How's that fair?  The same thing happened to fans in 2007 with the Hasbro tour.  People didn't go, or were just relatives of fans, at the expense of the dedicated fans who would have paid good money to go on that "free to the first 200 pre-registrants"... something I missed out on due to credit card issues that year. If they'd made it a paid event (the Peter Cullen Autographs & the Hasbro tour) spots wouldn't have been wasted by those not as dedicated as those who would pay anything for it. Then if you get too many people, a random draw from those would still be fairer than wasting spots on people who don't use them. Why do they have trouble seeing that?
- I would have hoped that by now, after 8 BotCons by FunPub, that some of them would be Transformers fans, but talking to most of them over the weekend, they are still just GIJoe fans doing a Transformers convention because no one else can do it. A necessary evil that I wouldn't want to risk losing, but the passion (or familiarity with the specifics of the brand) just isn't there when they talk about BotCon & Transformers, both publicly and privately. It's a shame, but understandable, because it means we keep getting a GIJoe framework after all these years, with no incentive to change or adapt, because our bigger fandom is probably earning them more their GIJoe side of things regardless of the structure.  So imagine how much more successful it would be if more Transformers Fans were involved. Pete seems to be doing a great job, but the Club panels still has him presented more like an outsourced employee, working on the bigger Brand than their own GIJoe commitments.
- Dallas Texas is so boring... but again, a necessary evil to cut costs (close to FunPub's home), make promoting and setting up easier (hometown advantage), and being centrally located in America (doesn't upset east or west coast fans more than the other).  Having no convenient toy store options made it suck even more, for those travelling into America from other countries that charge double for the same toys... or even American fans looking to do a bit of toy shopping in case they find something not yet out in their area.
- There was also a significant airborne allergen in Dallas. I don't know what it was, or why it only hit me as bad as it did (and no one else), but it was like cutting onions.  Within 5-10 minutes out in the open, the eyes would start watering and itching, and going all bloodshot. Then the nose would follow suit, with irritations and sneezing.  It was lucky I couldn't go off and do anything excessive while recovering from surgery, because I ended up staying inside as much as possible.
- We didn't have much of an Australian presence there this year. Until a week before the event I thought I was the only one.  One was just there as a walk-in, but didn't end up meeting him (San), one was a last-minute registration whom I ran into just once (llamatron), and another guy used to live in Australia, but is now in the UK (Colin).  Probably a good thing, due to my condition, that I didn't have a huge number of other Australians this year to have to worry about or spend time with.
- Which comes to the last "bad" item... my Appendix needing to be removed 5 & 1/2 days before I had to fly out.  I was in hospital with less than a week to go and I was just so worried about missing the trip I'd been planning for, for 5 months.
 

AND THE UGLY

Dinner... QANTAS economy style.
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Mmmmm... doesn't that just look delicious.
For those wondering - it's meant to be 3-cheese ravioli in mushroom sauce.
(lucky I got a cheap sale fare, because this is what I would have had at full-fare as well)



***About 95% of the photos in this report are mine. 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. Let me know if your photo was used and you want it removed.

OZFORMERS - Australasian Transformers News and Interaction (our 15th year - longer than any other moderated Transfan community)
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BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website (check it out for when and where the next one will be)
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Me --> griffin @ otca.com.au


Easter Egg 2 of 3

The bonus section I promised last year that I'd keep doing.

The visual archive of all the junk I ate over there. (keeping in mind, I was just a week out of having my appendix surgically removed)

Do I even need to explain it - this being my BotCon food tradition - continues...

At Sonny Bryans, a platter of 9 different meats, topped off with 2 sides, 3 bread rolls and a bottle of their exclusive sauce, all for under $20 (plus an order of giant onion rings, just to make it a real feast on my first day in Dallas). No, I didn't eat it all in one sitting... I took half of it back to the hotel.
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My favourite foods are pizza, pasta, pastry (like pies), and burgers... You'll see most of those "food groups" here.
You'll see
Three slices of pizza, 2 calzones, and lasagne.
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Deep fried cheese sticks, apple cobbler, sloppy joe, Dr Pepper Chicken burger, Chicken-fried steak, fries, fries and more fries.
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Snacks from 7-11, that we don't have in Australian stores.
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More American snacks, this time from a newsagent at LAX airport.
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Target (store) pretzels (tough and chewy).
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Fresh pretzels from a pretzel store at Dallas Airport.

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Also at Dallas Airport, a burger place called Fuddruckers - A double cheese & bacon burger, and, a BUFFALO burger (yes, real buffalo meat).

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More American foods from a Walmart grocery store. The cookies & cream pie is to die for... so delicious. And I can't go a year without the Cinnamon Toast Crunch (like crunchy donuts in every pack).
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And more American candy & confectionary, from a Target store.

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The week wasn't all unhealthy though... as there was this meal at BotCon, with Chicken and veges.

Well, if that doesn't get you all excited, scroll back up to the links listing and start checking out the Transformers side of things. (I have to go. I have such a craving for pizza right now...)