.

BOTCON SAN DIEGO
(griffin's 2013 BotCon adventure)


EVENTS  BEFORE  DEPARTURE

NOTE - this is just a timeline of events leading up to departure, that include info & image releases by FunPub, and my own planning & booking of all the elements of my trip.

Teaser image, that didn't end up revealing anything.

11th October 2012
BotCon 2013 theme to be revealed soon
Date and location details of the next Official Transformers convention appear to be some way off, as they are only announcing the theme in issue 48 of the Club Magazine (which won't be released until December). Apparently issue 47 was just released last week, so it will be another two months until it is officially announced, but they are going to give some hints at the NYCC this week.

If they are only announcing the theme in December, the location and dates aren't likely to be announced until some time after the new year... which is disappointing. (fan-run conventions are announcing their locations a whole year in advance, so why can't the professional/official convention organisers give us more than 5 months notice to plan and book travel?)
If past procedure is a guide, they'll just focus on promoting the toys anyway, making the actual event and its location less important for them to have the non-scalpers to be excited (because regular fans are less likely to buy up heaps of toys to resell).
FunPub produce and sell over 50 toys per year now, so I wonder if they are committing too much of their resources to earning money, leaving little to plan and promote (build momentum) into the convention for fans of a convention environment. (a lot of fans want to meet up and go to conventions, with or without souviners (toys), but FunPub appear to have always focussed on attracting the people who are more interested in the toys... so when they have a bad year/theme of toys, less people show up).

4th December 2012
Theme revealed in Club Magazine to be Machine Wars.





12th December 2012
Location and Dates released by email - June 27-30 in San Diego, California.

The hotel was revealed to be the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley, and rooms could already be booked (with a first-night deposit).
I booked ten days to cover the week before the convention, and a couple days after, just in case I ended up sharing with someone, who wasn't leaving until a few days afterwards.  The dates could be changed later, but it was better to book in more days than needed while the discount rate was still available.  The convention rate was US$135 plus tax, which meant that the 7 nights I ended up staying there cost me US$1,063.98 ($945 + $118.98 tax).  Hopefully I can find someone to share with to save about $500!
(for some reason, my room only ended up having one bed in it, but I booked a 2 bed room in case I got someone to share with me - I didn't end up sharing, but it was still odd that they did that)

Finding out that it was San Diego was good and bad for me.  Good, for it being on the west coast, making it cheaper for anyone from Australia thinking of going).  Bad, because Ian and I spent a few days in San Diego in 2011 doing tourist stuff, so this could leave me with little to do there for the Convention this time. I had also done a fair bit of what Los Angeles has to offer, so wasn't too keen to spend time there before the Convention either.  The SDCC is 2 or 3 weeks after BotCon, which is probably why FunPub (or Hasbro) wanted to be in San Diego at this time of year.
Middle of summer will mean it could get a bit hot.

Maybe this will give me a chance to finally check out Las Vegas, which I've been wanting to do for a few years now.  If only the Florida Transformers Ride was definitely known to be open by June, I'd consider going to that as another pre-convention option.  After all, going all the way over there, I want to do something significant to make it worth it. (especially after last year, which had my appendix removed 4 days before I flew to America, limiting what I could do while I was over there... and it was in Texas, which didn't have much else to do there anyway)
Since I
I really didn't think it would be in California in 2013, as 2014 is a Movie year, so I figured it might be in LA for that again.  Maybe they are planning another Rhode Island convention in 2014 for the 30th anniversary, so prefered a west-coast Con this year.

At least FunPub move it around each year, but having it in California every second year could get a bit much... especially if it goes back there in 2014 at Hasbro or Paramount's request.  They will give financial incentive to have it there, as they help with promote it.  According to Pete@BotCon, "The show does very well for us in Cali(fornia)"... which means it will keep going back there for the better walk-in crowd (at least, in Pasadena - it didn't do well for them in San Diego on this occasion).

I wonder if their limited number of pre-registration (Primus) packs is actually hurting them, because not only is the cost so high (for fans who travel all the way there, wanting the full convention experience), but when they actually sell out, it seems like the Convention itself is sold out, as all interest is lost in the Iacon pack (access, but no boxset).  If the Boxset was just an add-on to the Convention ticket, no matter how many boxsets are left, pre-registration to the event wouldn't seem any less valuable when any of the add-ons are sold out (including the boxset).  As it is, the Primus Pack price is only seen as paying for the Boxset (especially when people resell the boxset for the full Primus pricing), rather than just half of the cost going to the boxset, and half of it going to the actual events (panels, guests, dinner, movie, casino night, etc), which people would then value more, and be more hyped up for.






1st February 2013
First figure in the Boxset revealed - Hoist, using the Classics Kup mould, and new head.
8th February
Alt mode is shown.

 

9th February
Second toy from the boxset revealed - Skywarp, a recolour of the Movie-verse Dirge with a new head.
15th February
Alt-mode revealed.

15th February
Third boxset figure revealed - Strika, a recolour classicverse Warpath with a new head
20th February
Vehicle mode revealed.

20th February
Fourth boxset figure revealed - Obsidian, a recolour of Voyager sized movie-verse Highbrow, with a new head
27th February
Alt-mode revealed.

NOTE - Obsidian would later be recoloured to match the cartoon (and its Japanese toy) colours, not the bright green Hasbro toy colours.
ALSO - The fifth toy of the boxset was revealed by name in the brochure that was released the same day as the alt-mode of Obsidian was revealed, and an image wasn't released until 1st March.
 

By the time the Brochure was released, it looked like four other Australians were going this year, but only three ended up making it - Paul, Toby/Doubledealer, Gekisou.  I only ended up meeting up with the first two at the convention though.

27th February 2013
BotCon 2013 Brochure released, and we were told that Registration would be up in one week... it wasn't of course. It took 3 weeks.

The Info Brochure contains details of the toys, main events, a couple guests and prices... with only (exactly) four months to go.
It was noted that the Brochure was a copy of last year's brochure, with just applicable details changed (but not all of them, as there were some bits referring to events that were not in this year's BotCon).

Basic Details....

COSTS
$365 - Primus Package (access to all non-Golden Ticket events, boxset, attendee figure)
$665 - Golden Ticket (Primus Package plus extra items)
$175 - Protoform (Primus Package, but NO TOYS)
$365 - Iacon (non-attending option - Boxset posted to you, postage extra)
-
Add-on items (must purchase an applicable main package first)
$275 - Loose Set (5 toys from the Box set)
$90/$190 - Minicon/Golden Ticket Minicon (for family members that want/have to tag along - NO TOYS)
$120/$110 - Wednesday tour Adult/Kids 3-9 (San Diego sight-seeing + 3 hours at San Diego Zoo)
$90/$83 - Thursday tour Adult/Kids 3-9 (Seaworld)
$120 - Custom Classes (2x Wed, 2x Thur)
$75 - Unpainted & assembled Custom Class toy (one per Primus/GT package)
$??? - Extra toys at the Convention (usually a "big" pair, "small" pair, and 3-pack of clones/drones)

Main Events
Wednesday - San Diego Tour (7.45am - 6pm) Historical tour of San Diego & Harbour, plus 3 hours at SD Zoo.
Wed PM - Boxset pickup for those on the tours or classes.
Thursday - Seaworld (8.15am - 5pm)
Thur PM - Boxset pickup for everyone else, & BotCon store opens for all other items.
Wed & Thur - Custom Classes (4 in total)
Friday AM - Fan Film screening & MSTF
Friday PM - Outdoor Movie Screening (1986 Movie?) & Golden Ticket exclusive reception. (food is free at GT event only)
Saturday PM - Casino night awards party. (food provided)
(looks like no Hall of Fame this year, or formal dinner?)

NOTE - Convention Panels and Dealer Room are on Friday to Sunday, BUT, only Pre-registered attendees can access them on the Friday. Walk-in day-ticket holders can only attend Saturday and Sunday.

We also have the first two guests revealed (which is really early for FunPub - a welcome change, as they usually promote the toys to scalpers and investors, and leave the actual "fan" reasons for going to the Convention until after pre-registration has sold out).

James Horan - voice of TFPrime Wheeljack.
David Sobolov - voice of TFPrime Shockwave & Beast Wars Depth Charge.

(I see that they got the voice actor in to play the role of this year's membership toy in case they have a script reading panel this year)

For those planning to register, READ THE FOLLOWING THAT WAS EMAILED OUT TO MEMBERS...

You will have approximately a week to read the information and ask questions before we open registration sometime next week. Before we open registration or send a question, please review the answers by clicking on the FAQ.
You need to CHECK your account at TransformersClub.com/shop to ensure that your account is current as you may need to renew in order to receive the membership discounts. If you are receiving this email, you have an active account with the club, but make sure you know your log-in and password (can be retrieved at TransformersClub.com/shop click on My Account).
If you are registering with another member, you will need THEIR log-in and password to receive member pricing.
If you complete your order with non-member pricing, we CANNOT adjust your pricing. Please understand what you are ordering and confirm the pricing before you check out. If you do not think you are getting the correct pricing, do not continue. If you continue, you are agreeing to the pricing you are being presented.
Per your request, we have added another 2 minutes to the timer.
We suggest that you make a list for each person of the items you want to select for them BEFORE you begin registration. Then you can work from that list.
Please take a look at the souvenir T-shirt and Hat you can add to your order at the end. Images of these items will be on the BotCon site in the next couple of days.
If you have not read the Information tab brochure, please do so before you register as you have 10 minutes to complete your registration before the system puts your items back into stock. You cannot hold them in your cart longer than that amount of time, however you can start over.
We do reserve the right to limit any member's quantities if we deem them excessive.
Please note that we have added a NEW item this year. Because of the concern of people not being able to participate in the class, we are offering to each registered attending member the opportunity to purchase an assembled unpainted Class Figure. This is limited to one per person, per package ordered. However, that person must pickup their items at registration. DO NOT create phantom attendees to get additional Class Figures as you will not be able to pick them up. This is NOT a souvenir and is NOT subject to the Golden Ticket souvenir rules. In addition, we will not pre-announce the figure or class kit mold, it will be a surprise!

This was a good feature that they added this year - a price matrix, showing a visual representation of what each package contains. After 9 years of their weird package names, they finally have a good idea to make the contents of each more visually obvious.

I'll try to get a Golden Ticket again. I don't like the elitist concept, but I'm probably the only person who actually utilises it completely, or needs it.
- The front row reserved seating is good for reporting the news (I have the most comprehensive news coverage of the convention than any other fan or site).
- The exclusive reception to meet the guests and get an autograph card means I don't have to waste hours lining up for autographs, when I need to be in the Panel Room covering the event.
- First access to package pickup and Club Store, means I don't have to spend hours queuing up for each, when I have limited time over the weekend to post up news.
- Three times the exclusives, means less requirement to spend time chasing up more exclusives for fans back home.
 

1st March
Fifth Boxset figure revealed - Megaplex, a recolour of Voyager TFPrime Dreadwing.
8th March
Alt-mode image revealed.

 
 
 

2nd March
Booked flights with travel agent, over the phone while in Melbourne at Toyfair.
After just recently booking leave at work, I found that the Convention was on during school holidays where I was living, which meant cheap flights were disappearing early, and I'd only barely got leave from work.
Since I had to get onto flights pretty quickly, I didn't have a chance to go to the Travel agent before I left for the Toyfair, and I didn't want to wait until I got back on the 6th.  So while sitting in a Red Rooster in Melbourne eating lunch, I went through the days, times and flights.  I managed to get acceptable fares, but the extra US Domestic flights were going to be a nuisence.
I had decided to spend three days in Las Vegas before going to San Diego, but the only direct flight was by a budget, non-refundable airline, which meant that it wouldn't give me any flexibility later if the Florida Transformers Ride was announced to be open by June (I'd either go there instead of Vegas, or squeeze Vegas to just one night, and do a quick dash over and back).
I didn't book a Vegas hotel at this stage either, as the hotels needed pre-payment on weekend bookings, so I was going to leave that until later, when I had to decide if Florida was go or no. (I gave myself until the middle of May to look out for announcements... but that was going to be cutting it close if flights and hotel fill up early for that time of year)
 

7th March
In case Registration was going to be released this week, I was starting to keep an eye out for the early morning (our time in Australia) alert... so I reminded others on our fansite - not just the ones going, but also the ones planning to buy a non-attendee set.  It was also worth reminding them to have the membership pre-paid beforehand, so that there was less chance of it messing up later if it didn't give the member discount.
It was also worth having those people join BotCon's twitter account.

Expecting registration to start this week, the next few days were early for me, with my computer ready to log in and sign up.
 

8th March
In the last day, this was added to the BotCon site (and apparently emailed** )...

An email has been sent to the current and former TCC members. We have decided to delay the BotCon registration start to the middle of March as we have discovered a flaw in the store software that has been deleting recently renewed memberships. This has only occurred to memberships that were declined two times (credit card not on file for the first two attempts or credit card declined). What it is has been doing is randomly deleting the approved memberships after the third attempt. We have the software company working on fixing this issue.
Thus, we are auditing the entire data file to find the accounts who had good transactions but their membership is missing. It's going to take about 20 man hours to finish this task and make sure everyone's log in works for BotCon registration.
After we finish our audit, another email will be sent to the entire group so that you can go test your account and make sure you see your membership. Your log in will then work correctly for BotCon registration. I apologize for the delay but this will make everything much smoother and everyone much happier. We don't want you have have any issues with your registration or miss out because items sell out quickly.
Meanwhile, make sure you have read all of the Information and FAQs before registration starts.
 

At least we should still end up with a bit of advance warning, as members will be contacted to check their membership log-in, just before registration is opened.

**I didn't get the email because my membership had expired, and I've been having trouble renewing it. (not surprising)
Due to their "automated subscription renewal" feature, a subscription was automatically in my cart.... so yesterday I entered in my credit card details to see if that would convert it to being purchased. It didn't. It just sat there, with a billing date that was a couple days ago... so I figured that it was too late for the auto-renewal subscription, and decided to buy a new one manually.
Since BotCon registration could have been the next day, I didn't want to be waiting around for a reply to a query, I just wanted to get the membership organised and be done with it.
But I couldn't buy a new subscription because it said that there was an error, due to there already being one in my "cart" (which isn't actually in the cart itself... it just exists on my account as if it is in my cart for checkout).
So I deleted the one in my account, and then tried to purchase a subscription... but it was still saying that I had one in my account.
I left it, and hoped that maybe the auto-renewal one was just in a state of being processed, so would check it again today.
Logging in, I find that the auto-renewal subscription is now gone, and a subscription is currently sitting in my actual cart (the one I tried to manually purchase).
But before I go to check-out, I look to see if the auto-renewal one was processed... nope, nothing in the purchase history page. So I check out the subscription, and hopefully that is finally done.
(almost as much drama as last year, which required some over-the-phone purchasing while their site was down)

We had some merchandise images released - guy's t-shirt, girl's t-shirt, hat, beenie).... which will be available on the pre-registration form, and at the Show if there are any left.
(the shirt is way too boring, having a B&W image on a grey t-shirt - the t-shirt should have been coloured if the image isn't)
The keen eyed spotted that the art on the Cap is not Skywarp, so is likely to be an unintentional reveal of an at-show toy, Thundercracker.

...
 
 

8th March
Couple of creator credits have been released.
Jesse Wittenrich will be writing the BotCon Comic, while one of the eHobby staff (Hidetsugu Yoshioka) is doing the artwork for this year's litho poster.

Also released was this group shot by the BotCon comic artist Josh Burcham.


 

14th March
Emails were sent out to members yesterday to say that the audit of memberships had finished, and to get people to test their accounts.

I'm thinking tomorrow morning (our time) or saturday morning (like last year), will have registrations open.
(which is kinda stupid, as they had it just before the weekend last year, and people couldn't ring up for answers/help for any glitches... they had to rely on email or twitter)
 

15th March
Registration is open.
It was a bit of a surprise this year, as it is usually opened on Saturday morning (our time), which is Friday afternoon their time... so that they don't get people calling into their office with queries & complaints.
Thanks to the wake-up call by Demonac, I managed to register before anything was sold out.... which was a first for me.  Either this year's was really that uninteresting to fans, or I managed to get in earlier than usual (It was not the latter, I can assure you, as the Boxsets never sold out, even after the Convention).
I was so surprised at still having a choice of Custom Classes, I wasn't prepared to have to make a choice.  I was so sure that I would have to end up with the Thursday class, as the Wednesday would always sell out before Registration was "officially" announced.  As such, I quickly had to decide which Tour I prefered... and ended up going with the Seaworld tour, which meant the Wednesday Custom Class. At least that meant I would be one of the first to get the toy, and the Seaworld tour was the better choice (because I had already done the Zoo in 2011).
As long as I got the Golden Ticket, it didn't really matter that much about the rest.

It was immediately charged to the credit card, so now I just had to wait to see if someone chased me up to fix something that went wrong.
 

FunPub tweeted several hours after opening up registration to say that they've only sold 25% of their boxsets. Usually by the end of the first day they are 50-80% sold.
Looks like the perceived drop in hype and support of the official convention (going over to fan-run conventions that have locations and details out a year in advance) is definitely taking its toll. Last year was the first time in few years that they didn't sell out, but were close (1500-ish - with a portion going to non-attendees), however this year the registrations appear to be even more sluggish.
They also mentioned that the Wednesday Custom Class is not yet sold out either, which surprised me, as Wednesday always sells out so fast, it is usually listed as sold-out before they even make the official announcements.

If they want to get more excitement in BotCon from the dedicated fans, just to sell about a thousand boxsets, they need to get more than one Transformers Fan on the Organising Team. A convention run by fans of a different fandom will keep missing the mark.
Either that, or they need to consider the benefit of surrendering their "official" license, so that their hands aren't tied by Hasbro who needs to approve everything... which they said can takes months for a low-priority element (to Hasbro).
 

16th March
18 & 1/2 hours after opening up registration, they've only sold 30% of the boxsets (which includes non-attendees - in previous years they had to wait a couple weeks before they could buy up non-attendee sets).
Also in the email they sent out a couple hours ago, there were still 2 seats left in the Thursday Custom Class. (might be gone now though)

Damn... it's gonna be a quieter convention this year if they can only get about 300 people (my estimate of that 30% figure) to pre-register as attendees on the first day.
One thing they've said in the past is that their exclusive toys will have the bulk of the sales in the first day and then very little interest after that, because most of their sales are by people who follow twitter, facebook and the global fan-sites (they know beforehand exactly when these things are available and purchase them that day).
I have a feeling that they will struggle to get past 50% this year... but it will be interesting to follow their updates over the next few days.
 

18th March
After doing up a pre-order posting for at-show toys, I looked at the Loose set prices during Fun-Pub's time, and they've certainly been climbing - now double what they were nine years ago.
http://gbblackrock.zzl.org/

2005 - $140
2006 - $129
2007 - $179
2008 - $189
2009 - $199
2010 - $210
2011 - $210
2012 - $250
2013 - $275

A doubling of prices makes it difficult to attract interest from other people with these, as I like to get the extra figures to help out people here. But at this year's pricing, it means an uncarded Deluxe is now about $40 - a little bit more than our Retail prices (and it is a limited edition toy at that), but for Americans it is effectively triple their Retail pricing for a toy that doesn't even come carded or boxed. And that's IF a person doesn't try to make any money (profit) from the extra toys.
It is also worth noting that the loose set this year is about the same price of the boxset from the first three years... and remember, the boxset price also included the full convention experience.
 

28th March
10 days after going live, FunPub have sent out an email to say that they are just up to 60% sold on the boxsets.
They also mentioned that if you are wanting a non-attendee set, they don't have many left. (but if they don't sell out, even after the convention, they will be available on their website later for purchase)
 

13th April
Obsidian from the boxset is re-revealed in a new colour scheme, after less-than-exciting response for the Green version.

Also revealed on this day was a mockup of the Boxset.
It homages the (only four) boxed toys in the original Machine Wars line, with its design, and features the character Obsidian.

 

23rd April
Email was just sent out today to say that the non-attendee sets have finally sold out, and that there are still so many "attendee boxsets" available, that they are looking at transferring more across to the non-attendee option.
Otherwise, they will sell the extra sets at the convention, and on their site after the convention.

Generating so many toys each year means they can use up a popular idea in just one year, instead of being able to build on the momentum of 3 or 4 years that act as chapters to an ongoing story. Remember the Beast Era BotCons which led into the Wreckers (1999 to 2003).... they had a story that spread over five years with just a dozen toys during that era (which is less than FunPub produce in just one year).  The toys should just be souvenirs for the convention, not the backbone that FunPub have created to make heaps of money like Men in Black tried to do in 1996 (FunPub's GIJoe club & convention is so much smaller, that I think they are seeing our fandom as just a mere cashcow). When the toys become the focus of the event and fail to attract the interest of the fans, the entire event fails.
This year, like 2009 & 2005, didn't attract the interest of fans because there was no pre-existing story behind the boxset.  If they had generated some sort of preview story, even if it focused on just the boxset so that it didn't spoil the surprise of the others, it might have had people more interested in these (relatively) new characters. And even if a story or minicomic was released over the months before the toys were revealed (still leaving out most of the at-show toys), it could be more exciting to see which characters in the comic ended up being BotCon toys, and which were just red herrings.  I remember back in about 2000, a character called Cataclysm was introduced in the ongoing BotCon story and even featured in a promotional poster, but in the end was just a red herring to make the true reveal more of a surprise.

Another problem I see is that FunPub is that they keep using their GIJoe format on their Transformers convention, and since they haven't become Transformers fans after all this time doing it (I've asked), we end up with one fandom trying to guess what a different demographically-focused fandom is interested in.
 

2nd May
An updated email was sent out, confirming that more boxsets were added to the non-attendee menu order form.
They also mention that they will have some of this year's membership figure (Depthcharge, shown below) for sale as well, "on card", but only a limited number.
This is because their membership toys and subscription figures are all arriving with their BotCon toys, so they won't be sent out until after the convention, in July.

Also noted was that they were planning to feature artists in the Dealer Room as the main focus of guests this year, resulting in about 20 of them selling their artistic abilities to the fans.

 

3rd May
Florida Universal Studios announces that the Transformers Ride will have its grand opening June 20th... just a couple days before I fly over there, making it a bit of a risk to include it, as any delays (even minor ones) could push the opening until after I'm there.  If I'm only going to be there for one day, it had better be worth going.
I had to do a bit of thinking, and strategising of if I should include a quick flight over there while I was all the way over in America, or, leave it until next year and hope that I would be able to include it before that BotCon. (but then, if I go this year, just days after it is open, I could more confidently claim to be the first fan in the world to have done all three Transformers Rides)
I looked to see if I had enough time before San Diego to do this. It would have to eat into my Vegas time, reducing it from three nights to just one.... but more importantly, would there be the right flights available to give me a whole day in Orlando?  I remembered that I flew over there in 2010 on an overnight flight, arriving just on dawn, which would give me a whole day if flights back to the west coast were frequent enough to at least give me a night in Florida (with time for toyhunting being a bonus if possible).
I would also need to book a hotel room, but I knew a good one already, which I used in 2010 at the Florida Mall (it was centrally located in Orlando, and had four toy sources close by).
I figured that I could look up the flights myself without going to my travel agent... but I would probably have to sacrifice my non-refundable $100 flight from Vegas to San Deigo if I can't use it as a connecting flight.

I also had to get onto booking the Vegas hotel and various tours, as soon as this was sorted, as I was running out of time.
 

9th May 2013
I sent a message to the Orlando Universal Studios to double check that the ride would be open in time for when I was planning to be there (June 23rd), while noting that I had already done the other two Transformers Rides already... but the reply I got the next day didn't make any mention of my 3-park feat.
 

10th May 2013
After several hours fiddling with options on the American Airlines website, I finally booked four flights I wanted within America.  Two from Vegas to Orlando, and then two from Orlando to San Diego.
The site was able to look up individual legs (flights) easily, but when you put in the days and starting times to book all four flights at once, it wouldn't show certain flights I knew were available.  And each time you did a search, you had to start from square one just to change one minor thing like the start time... which was a fairly time consuming process.
Then it would automatically give me connecting flights that were only about 90 minutes apart, but I wanted at least 2 hours to cover delays, transfer to other terminals and security.  After working out the manual options menu settings, I eventually got the four exact flights I wanted.
Unfortunately, I couldn't utilise the Vegas-San Deigo flight that I had already pre-paid, as there weren't any flights leaving Olando early enough to get back to Vegas before the 1.25pm flight to San Diego. And even if there was, it would have meant having no time to toy-hunt in Orlando, and then very little in San Diego. I wanted to get to retail stores before the convention, so that I could then feel comfortable paying slightly higher prices there if they were available to me.
The flights I ended up booking directly from American Airlines...
22/6 - (17.05) LV-LAX (AA668)
22/6 - (18.15) LAX
22/6 - (21.30) LAX-FL (AA204)
23/6 - (05.35) FL
-
24/6 - (14.55) FL-DFW (AA481)
24/6 - (16.45) DFW
24/6 - (18.50) DFW-SD (AA1121)
24/6 - (19.45) SD
 

12th May 2013
Booked room at Florida Hotel, Orlando.
Arrival Date -  Jun 23, 2013
Departure Date -  Jun 24, 2013
Nightly Rate -  $125.99
12.5% tax per night of your stay
$18.00 daily charge. This service charge includes the following amenities: unlimited in-room high speed internet, newspaper (lobby level), two (2) bottles of water upon arrival (replenished daily), self parking, refrigerator and in-room safe, 24 hour access to business center.
 

13th May 2013
Booked Stratosphere Hotel (Las Vegas)
It is a centrally located hotel between the two main Casino Precincts, and was one of the cheapest left available for that day that wasn't a dodgy hotel.
Total:       $ 194.99
Tax:         $ 23.40
Final Total: $ 218.39
Arrival Date: 06/21/13 - Departure Date: 06/22/13

Knowing my luck, the one night I'm in Vegas is the second most expensive night in the next 6 months.  There must be something huge on that weekend in Vegas, as I would have only been paying $40 for this room if I was there two days earlier... but no, I have to pay $200 on the night I want to be there.  That is a huge difference in just a matter of days for the same room.
I was not happy.
Every weekend before and after this weekend has $100 rooms, and weekday rooms are between $37-60-ish... and yet the one weekend I'm there (which isn't even the Independance Day holiday), the room is $200.  And this is one of the cheaper Vegas Strip hotels.
I've already booked all my flights too, so can't really move anything around.  If I did Florida first and then went to Vegas before San Diego, I'd only pay $63 for the room, saving $140... but I'd waste a day when I first arrive in America to fly over to Florida, leaving me with no toyhunting time in Florida and I'd have to pay an extra night accomodation (because I wouldn't be flying overnight).  Either way, the timing sucks.
The hotel I always had my eye on is the Stratosphere - its on the northenrn end of the new strip, which makes it closest to the downtown strip.... and it has a tall viewing tower to look over Vegas with.
Some of the other New stip hotels were charging rates of up to $500 for that night, while the more dodgy hotels were charging over $100 (which I wouldn't risk anyway), so something must have been on that weekend to have everything booked out in each hotel.

It would have been awesome if I had managed to get a Vegas Strip hotel room with a great view for just $40 and sharing with someone else.... imagine that.  If I do this again another year, or with Ian as we had been wanting for a few years, I will need to do research on where the cheaper days are and plan it around the convention.
 

14th May 2013
Booked some of the tours I was interested in for Las Vegas and San Diego.

Tour Name: Hoover Dam Classic
Tour Provider: Pink Jeep
Date: Friday, June 21, 2013
Pickup Location: Stratosphere;West Tour Bus Lobby; 01:15 PM
Tour Total: $96.95

Las Vegas Bus Tour
Tour/Activity: Ultimate Las Vegas City Tour
Travel Date: June 22, 2013
Total Cost: USD $54.99
Time: 10am
Please note: check-in is 20 minutes prior to departure time.
Location: Bally's Box Office Entrance Bus Ramp

San Deigo Trolley Bus (pre-paid ticket)
Date: Tuesday June 25, 2013
USD $35.99

Half-Day Tour to Tijuana from San Diego
Travel Date: June 25, 2013
Total Cost: USD $47.99
Pickup point to be verified at a later date.

Universal Studios Orlando
1 Day pre-paid ticket : Park to Park $123.00
Express Pass $55.99
Selected Dates: 06/23/2013
Purchases  $192.78

Las Vegas Helicopter tour for the Friday night I'm there was already booked out. Probably a good thing, as I'll have too much to do anyway, and it will give me something to do next time.

Since it will be the middle of summer in America while I'm over there, I was looking at the average top temperatures for Vegas in June/July, and it's 35-40 degrees... and I remember Florida being just as sticky in 2010. I might need to pack a lot more clothes this year, to change every few hours when they get soaked.
Hopefully San Diego isn't too hot, being on the coast, as the two locations I'm at beforehand are gonna be a drain.

I also have to stay healthy for the next four weeks, as I don't have much Sick Leave at work. I even got myself the flu shot for the first time ever this year, just to reduce the odds of getting sick before or during the trip.
 

18th May
My Little Pony Micro Series #5 Botcon cover variant announced.
Friendship is magic!  Optimus and Pinky Pie share cover duties on issue #5
An unusual item to have as a Transformers exclusive... as the comic has nothing to do with Transformers.

22nd May
After having two guests announce in the brochure a couple months ago, we finally have some more announced - the main cast and crew of Rescue Bots.  The bonus is having Steve Blum, who does Starscream in TFPrime.
-    Steve Blum, voice of Heatwave and Transformers Prime Starscream.
-    Parvesh Cheena, voice of Blades.
-    D.C. Douglas, voice of Chase.
-    Imari Williams, voice of Boulder.
-    Elan Garfias, voice of Cody Burns.
-    Jason Marsden, voice of Kade Burns
-    Shannon McKain, voice of Graham Burns.
-    Diamond White, voice of Frankie Green.
-    Brian Hohlfeld, supervising producer and co-creator of Rescue Bots.
-    Nicole Dubuc, story editor and co-creator of Rescue Bots, who has also written for Transformers Prime!
-    Greg Johnson, story editor for Rescue Bots, who has also written for Beast Wars and G.I. Joe Renegades!
 

23rd May
IDW announces a special tour of their offices in San Diego, on the Thursday, during the tour (or custom class, if people were already signed up to it).
The cost is US$500 for a 3 hour tour, featuring...
-    Your Choice of a Transformers Red Label IDW Limited book (a $125 value)!
-    Meet with Transformers Artists, including at least one unique sketch!
-    Tour of the IDW Facilities with CEO/Publisher Ted Adams!
-    The Botcon-Exclusive Transformers/My Little Pony Variant!
-    Advanced peeks at upcoming projects!
-    Your name in an upcoming Transformers comic!
-    Q&A session with Chris Ryall and John Barber!
-    Gift bag of IDW comics for every guest!
-    Free shuttle service to and from the botcon hotel!
-    Surprises! Cake! More!

It looks expensive, but when you look at the value of the items you could be getting, as well the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be given a guided tour of the premises, it isn't that bad... especially if you are spending hundreds (or even thousands) to get to the convention.

I really want to go, but the cost is difficult to accept... even if they gave us $500 worth of comics, I don't value the comics enough to see that as part of the value.
Also, I've paid for the Seaworld tour, so that would add to the $500 as the total amount spent for the Thursday, to only end up going to IDW.
It concerns me how little interest there has been for the tour from other fansites.  Was there something about touring a comic company that wasn't worth it?
At least if I went I would have more news in my BotCon report, as they might reveal something new or exciting... and I'd be one of the first to report it.  Not to mention, if the convention itself ends up being rather lackluster, this might end up being one of the better elements of convention, even if it wasn't a FunPub item.
 

25th May
Hall of Fame awards are announced.
The first round will have invited (American) fansites to submit a shortlist of favorites. The second round will have fans vote on the Hasbro website for one of the five finalists.

It's a bit late, but I'm really glad they (Hasbro & FunPub) managed to get this happening again this year, as it would be a shame if it was dropped due to some immature vocal minorities campaigning for joke characters.

Since BotCon is only 5 weeks away, it will mean the nominations period is only expected to be about a week or two long, leaving about a week or two of voting on the Transformers site.

If they end up having this included this year at Botcon as a semi-formal event like the last three years, it is actually something I'm looking forward to now for this year, as it brings a respectable/formal element to the convention, to go with the all the "young fun" the rest of the event has.
(it wasn't included in the BotCon brochure, so must only be a last-minute thing.... and is likely to be part of the Saturday night party/event)
 

26th May
It is announced tha the 2 winning characters from the Hall of Fame vote would just be announced at Hasbro's panel on the Saturday of Botcon... not at any after-hours event.
I hope that it isn't true, as it would make the concept a lot less significant if they don't have it be a part of a dinner or semi-official function like the previous three years.
I guess if this was a last-minute thing by Hasbro, it meant FunPub couldn't organise anything (with 5 weeks to go) around their current convention schedule.
 

29th May
Another two guests are announced
- Jason Jenson, who played the kid Tommy Kennedy in the "Season 5" re-run of the original series of Transformers (in the late 80s).  Not a surprise, considering he was only recently "found" by the fandom.
- Wally Burr, the voice director of the original cartoon series. This is his third BotCon.
 

29th May
I bought a ticket to the IDW tour
After spending a week trying to convince myself to sacrifice the Seaworld tour (that I already paid for), I realised tonight that I can do both if I have the energy for it.
The Seaworld tour starts at 8.15am, so I can spend about 5 hours there before I need to catch a taxi back to the hotel to get picked up at 2pm by IDW.
I'm so stupid for not realising that.
And if I do end up being so tired from the week of running around that I need a rest, I can just skip the Seaworld tour and sleep in that day.
Now all I have to worry about is getting back to the convention center that evening before the Club Store is opened up to pre-registrants (Gold Ticket holders get in first, but only the hour before the store opens to everyone else). If the tour is late or runs long for being a non-FunPub item (so isn't bound by their schedule), I could be stuck waiting 3-4 hours in a queue when I get back.
 

30th May
Another email update was sent out, letting the members know that Pre-registration cut-off is Tuesday June 11th (Texas time)... and any left over boxsets will be available at the Convention.
 

1st June
Another guest is announced - Maurice LaMarche, who plays Chief Charlie Burns in the Rescue Bots cartoon.
 

7th June
The final guest for this year is announced - Glen Morshower, who had a small role in the three recent Transformers Movies.

Production sample of Strika revealed, and the boxset itself.

.

8th June
Production sample of Skywarp revealed.

 

9th June
Production sample of Obsidian revealed.

 

12th June
A schedule is released, for people to start planning their weekend with.

Production sample of Megaplex and Hoist released, plus a group shot of the Boxset figures.


 

12th June
Pre-registration closes after 3 months, and the Boxsets weren't all sold.
 

13th June
I just checked my US Visa Waiver details, and it looks like it expired June last year... lucky I looked now, so I can get it renewed.

(a few minutes later...)
I'm an idiot.
I just went and filled out an application for a new Visa Waiver, and at the end it tells me that there is already a valid one in the system.
I'd totally forgotten about my day-trip to LA in September last year... which I must have registered a new waiver for.  And here I was thinking my last trip to America was last April for BotCon.
That was a waste of time... but at least it tells you before you pay for a new one.
And at least this covers me for next year's BotCon, which should be June/July for the Movie.
 

15th june
Hall of Fame Nominees announced, for fans to start voting on the Hasbro site.
Arcee
BW Megatron
Prowl
Hot Rod/Rodimus
Ultra Magnus

I think it will be close this year... but really should be all five.
 

17th June
Rumour list of the at-show toys.

MW Prowl using the Classics Mirage mould (used already for BC07)
MW Thundercracker using the Movie Dirge mould (makes sense, as some moulds are used twice in the one year)
MW Starscream using the Movie Terrordive mould (a nice mould that was bound to be used)
MW Sandstorm using the Movie Skyhammer (also a nice mould, that had to be re-used)
3-pack being The Classics Rainmakers (yes, even more of that mould)

If these are true, the recent comments by Pete@botcon about this set being an addition to Machine Wars, is wrong, as there are only two in the box-set and 3-pack that aren't original MW toy-characters.

Of the 12 original Machine Wars toys, we so far could be getting...

Optimus - not done?
Starscream - Movie Terrordive mould

Sandstorm - Movie Skyhammer mould
Soundwave - ??

Hoist - GEN Kup mould
Hubcap - ??

Mirage - not done?
Prowl - Classics Mirage mould

Megatron - not done?
Megaplex - TFP Dreadwing mould

Skywarp - Movie Dirge mould
Thundercracker - Movie Dirge mould

That would mean 9 of the 12 MW line done if Soundwave and Hoist are the other two... prompting FunPub to probably do the remaining 3 later (the Subscription Service) to finish the set.

WED 19th June
My last day at work, before time off.

THU 20th June
Last minute running around the day before departure...



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***All pictures in this convention report are mine unless noted or watermarked. 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.

OZFORMERS - The Australian (and Asia) Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction (started way back in 1996 - try to find a Transfan community that's older)
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BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
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To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au