BOTCON - GENERATION 2
(griffin's 2005 BotCon adventure)
This was my seventh BotCon/Official-Con, and it was the first of a new generation of licensed/authorised American Transformers Conventions, but it has taken me 10 years to get around to completing it (this was written in September 2015). As such, it will be rather brief in comparison to my other BotCon reports on my archive (that archive can be found here), because I am working off notes and memories that are now 10 years old. A number of details were also remembered thanks to some people on the TFW2005 fansite, remembering back to their own experiences of the 2005 convention.
STATUS - 16th October - COMPLETE (23 pages & 323 images)
After 11 years in the hands of several different people or businesses,
the BotCon branded Transformers Convention changed hands once again for
2005, and has stayed with that company for the last 10 years.
The collapse of the officially licensed Transformers Convention and Club, Hasbro sought out a business to continue producing the annual convention, to win back fan support and restore their public image for trusting the previous business with their biggest public event for the Transformers Brand. This meant turning to a business that they had already been working with successfully for 10 years with one of their other brands - GIJoe - and offering them the license, with assistance and conditions. Fun Publications was the name of the company that had been running a licensed fanclub and convention for GIJoe, so it shouldn't be too difficult to duplicate and modify that format into another action figure toyline... even if they weren't fans of that toyline.
There were a few teething problems, and numbers looked to be down on recent years because of the trepidation of fans used to a "H" running the show, but for a convention the size and history of BotCon, you would not have thought it was their first one.
In other words, it was just as good as previous BotCons. Despite the predictions fans were making, it wasn't all doom and gloom... at least not for another five years.
Before departure - News and planning before
the start of the Convention (START HERE after this INTRO PAGE if
you want to go through EVERYTHING in chronological order)
- Completed Oct 16th.
September 21st - Wednesday - Journey to Frisco Texas, toy shopping (START HERE after this INTRO PAGE if you only want to go through my trip away from home) - Completed Oct 5th.
September 22nd - Thursday - Toy shopping & movies, Package Pickup & Club store (START HERE after this INTRO PAGE if you only want to go through the Fan Convention events) - Completed Oct 6th.
September 23rd - Friday - BotCon day 1 & Casino & Auction night - Completed Oct 6th.
September 24th - Saturday - BotCon day 2 & Awards dinner - Completed Oct 10th.
September 25th - Sunday - BotCon day 3 - Completed Oct 11th
September 26th - Monday - Journey Home (arrive September 28th) - Completed Oct 11th
BOTCON PAGES (for Transformers fans to jump directly to)
Main Exhibits & Displays:
Package pickup & Club Store Toys (Thursday) - Completed Oct 2nd.
Dealer Room - Completed Oct 1st.
Art Contest Display & Costumes - Completed Oct 1st.
Hasbro Toy Display - Completed Oct 3rd.
Convention Events, Panels and Presentations
WEDNESDAY - 21st
8:30pm - Early bird Package pickup (Lebanon/Hamilton rooms) (no photos or info - I didn't participate, or think to check it out)
THURSDAY - 22nd
7:30am-5:30pm - Tour: Fort Worth - Where the West Begins (Pre-Convene Business Center) (I didn't do this - but I have quoted someone else's details who did do it)
6pm - Package pickup & Club Store (Frisco 7 Lobby) - Completed Oct 2nd.
10pm - MSTF - Greg Sepelak, Phil Zeman & Doug Dlin (Frisco 8-9) - Completed Oct 2nd.
FRIDAY - 23rd
9am - PANEL - Dobson Brothers Voice Actors (Paul, Micheal, Brian) (Frisco 8-9) - Completed Sept 30th.
10am - PANEL - Transformers Rarities (hosted by Rik Alvarez) - Completed Sept 30th.
11am - PANEL - Hasbro/Takara Working Together (Past & Present) - Completed Oct 2nd.
noon - PANEL - IDW Comics - Completed Oct 2nd.
1pm - Transformers Idol - Script Reading try-outs for fans (judging by Wally Burr & Pete Sinclair) - Completed Oct 3rd.
2-5pm - DEALER ROOM open (Frisco Grand Ballroom)
2-3pm - Autographs: Wally Burr, Michael Chain, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson, Paul Dobson (Frisco Grand Ballroom)
4-5pm - Autographs: Wally Burr, Michael Chain, Paul Dobson, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson
5pm - Close.
7pm - Casino Night & Charity Auction (Frisco 1-2) - Completed Oct 8th.
SATURDAY - 24th
8:30am - DEALER ROOM open (Frisco Grand Ballroom)
9am - Transformers Idol - Script Reading FINALS for fans (judging by Wally Burr & Pete Sinclair) (Frisco 8-9) - Completed Oct 3rd.
10am - PANEL - Hasbro Toys - Completed Oct 3rd.
11am - Costume Contest - Completed Oct 3rd.
noon - PANEL - IDW comics (second session)
1pm - PANEL - Original Series (Gen1) Voice Actors (Michael Chain & Wally Burr) - Completed Oct 4th.
2pm - PANEL - Transformers Club - Completed Oct 4th.
3pm - PANEL - The Making of the 1986 Animated Movie (hosted by Paul Hitchens) - Completed Oct 4th.
4pm - PANEL - Transformers Rarities (hosted by Rik Alvarez) (second session)
10-11am - Autographs: Wally Burr, Michael Chain, Colton Dearing (Frisco Grand Ballroom)
12-1pm - Autographs: Paul Dobson, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson
2-3pm - Autographs: Paul Dobson, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson
3-4pm - Autographs: Wally Burr, Michael Chain, Colton Dearing
5pm - Close.
7pm - Awards Dinner & Script Reading (Frisco 2-5) - Completed Oct 11th
SUNDAY - 25th
9:30am - DEALER ROOM open (Frisco Grand Ballroom)
10am - PANEL - Dobson Brothers Voice Actors (Paul, Micheal, Brian) (second session) (Frisco 8-9)
11am - PANEL - The Making of the 1986 Animated Movie (hosted by Paul Hitchens) (second session)
12-2pm - PANEL - Hasbro Designing Transformers (2 hours) - Completed Oct 4th.
2pm - PANEL - Original Series (Gen1) Voice Actors (Michael Chain & Wally Burr) (second session)
10-11am - Autographs: Wally Burr, Michael Chain (Frisco Grand Ballroom)
11-noon - Autographs: Paul Dobson, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson
12-1pm - Autographs: Wally Burr, Michael Chain
1-2pm - Autographs: Paul Dobosn, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson
3pm - 2006 Convention prize drawing (Frisco Grand Ballroom) (I missed this - if photos surface I will add them)
3.30pm - Show ends
Brief thoughts about this year's convention.
Just like everyone else who had been around for a few years in the fandom, I was very hesitant in going to this BotCon, as it was a new business that was unknown to the Transformers fandom (it was a GIJoe club and convention run by GIJoe fans), so it took me a few weeks to register when it was opened up on June 10th, and because the fax from the Post Office failed to go through after several attempts, I had to post it by airmail, which meant missing the July 15th "early cut-off" deadline for the incentive Pin (which I didn't care about) and the first pickup session at the Convention (which I did care about because the first session was more exciting and the Club Store probably had some Retail toys that I wanted that were sold out by the time I got there).
The concept of a Fan Council, set up by Hasbro to help Fun Publications do a Transformers convention (because none of the senior staff were Transformers fans - as I had asked all of them) was curious, as it could either mean a great convention because FunPub had taken onboard all of their input, or a bad convention because FunPub were that unfamiliar with Transformers that they needed outside help.
The longer format was good (for me), but was probably the one GIJoe convention element that I liked, as the massive number of toys at one time means you don't get to appreciate or bond to them as much as a BotCon with 2 or 4 toys. Plus, the cost was a lot more for all those toys.
Speaking of costs, this year's convention was a lot more expensive for the basic package compared to past BotCons, but the cheaper price in past years was probably why they were losing money. For a full 2-day event of previous years, it could have been more expensive and been acceptable to attendees, so having this 3-day event being about twice the price was hard for regular attendees to swallow, but I accepted that it was necessary for the event to come back in future years.
One of the good things for me was that 2005 was the second year of direct
QANTAS flights from Brisbane to Los Angeles, and this year I would end
up going both ways direct for the first BotCon ever (since 1999).
Plus, the exchange rate was continuing to improve against the US dollar, reaching 76 US cents (would be about 72 US cents after bank exchange and fees), which had been climbing 5-10 cents per year since it hit bottom in 2001 at about 48 US cents. It means more US dollars to spend.
This year there were four hours of Hasbro panels, which was a
record amount. We had a single hour on Friday that focused more on
the past, then a single hour on Saturday focusing on the present and upcoming
toys, and then a two hour panel on Sunday focusing on the design process
and about an hour of questions which gave us some more upcoming toy info.
Ten years later though, we have been getting just a single hour from Hasbro,
and often not time for questions.
Other panels this year included a behind the scenes look at the 1986 Movie, a big presentation of Transformers rare and unreleased toys, and the voice actor guests...
(images are promotional images released by FunPub)
Michael Chain -
Original series - Hoist, Powerglide, Raoul, Red Alert, Skids
Wally Burr -
Original series - Voice Director, plus - Kremzeek, Nergill, Dancitron Promoter, plus assorted fill-in roles.
Brian Dobson -
Armada - Red Alert, Sentinel Minor
Cybertron - Red Alert, Clocker
Go-Bots (Playskool) - Silver-Bot, Strong-Bot
Michael Dobson -
Armada - Starscream
Energon - Starscream, Signal Flare
Cybertron - Starscream, Brakedown, Colonel Franklin, Ernesto
Paul Dobson -
Beast Machines - Tankor, Obsidian, Diagnostic Drone
Armada - Sideways, Nemesis Prime
Energon - Rodimus, Superion Maximus
Cybertron - Landmine, Overhaul, Signal Lancer
Go-Bots (Playskool) - Aero-Bot
Colton Dearing (toy commercials - not sure why he was a guest, and I would like to know who thought it was a good idea to have him as I felt bad for him spending the whole day pretty much ignored)
Plus special appearance by senior designers...
Hideaki Yoke & Shogo Hasui (Takara Designers) - - Eric Siebenaler & Aaron Archer (Hasbro Designers)
The location this year at Frisco Texas (the H on the map below) was
not a surprise, due to it being close to the Fun Publications home in Fort
Worth (to the left/west of the airport noted by the A on the map below).
It was a new area of the country for BotCon, as the previous ones were
either on the west coast, on the east coast or a northern middle state,
leaving a big empty space in the middle.
This is a map from the BotCon website showing the locations before this year (not including the two Official Conventions in 2003 & 2004 which were at the same location as 1996 on the map).
This was my flight path for this year - Brisbane to Los Angeles, then
to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in Texas (and shuttle bus to Frisco).
Then back again the exact same way.
Distance traveled this year.
Brisbane to LA - 11533 kilometers, 7166 miles
LA to Fort Worth - 1983 kilometers, 1232 miles
Fort Worth to LA - 1983 kilometers, 1232 miles
LA to Brisbane - 11533 kilometers, 7166 miles
total - 27,032km, 16,796m
That added another US State to my collection, making it 7 so far visited
- California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Texas.
Known Australian Attendance this year
griffin (QLD) - sixth convention
RoadyPrime/Chris (NSW) - fourth convention (even ten years later, he still remains as the Australian with the second-highest Convention attendance)
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 - The five Voice guests were good, and the fan panels were very informative.
2 - Activities and Events - 8 - The new format was an extra day, giving us four days of events and three evenings with convention events.
3 - Dealer Room - 4 - Very small turnout, and some empty tables suggest that some canceled at the last minute.
4 - Host city & convention location - 7 - Great nearby stores but 40-50 minutes drive from the airport, and too far away from Dallas or public transport.
5 - Hotel Value & Features - 9 - Buffet breakfast included in room rate, with a free internet computer (to share though).
6 - Cost/value of Convention - 7 - A more expensive format, but a bigger format with events late into the evenings.
7 - Administration of event - 8 - Events seemed to go fairly smoothly. It was the first one by the current organizers, but they've had 10 years experience with this convention format.
8 - BotCon Merch & Toys - 7 - The new format of 12 toys, from the previous 2-4 toys meant less attachment and more expensive. Only t-shirt and hat for merchandise in this first year.
9 - Interaction with others - 6 - Shared with an Australian for the first time but didn't do much together, and I only met up with one of my regular American friends from previous years. (one couldn't make it this year)
10 - Toys Acquired - 7 - The biggest number ever bought so far (35), but it wouldn't have been a record if there wasn't 12 convention toys this year.
That gives me a total score of 72, making it the third best of my seven so far. (2004 was best at 82, and 2000 sits on 76... while on the other end of the spectrum is 2003 at 61)
A bonus category that is separate to the score above, because it doesn't
relate to the actual convention - My Non-BotCon parts of the Trip score
I didn't really do anything outside of the Convention, other than check out three stores with toys and a movie theatre within walking distance. I didn't spend any extra days or go anywhere else, or even do the pre-Convention tour. I think the only way this rating could have been lower is if I had just stayed inside the hotel room all weekend.
-- Registration was a nightmare. Several attempts at faxing in the form failed (because post office hours here was after-hours for them, so their fax machine was unreliable after-hours), and then when I posted it, my credit card went missing so had to be replaced, making the payment details on the form invalid. When they finally got the form, they emailed me to say that processing failed AFTER I had already spoken to them about it. It took me 7 weeks from trying to fax in the form to finally being registered, meaning I missed the Early Bird cut-off (which would get me into the first package pickup session, and the bonus Deathsaurus Pin)... all of which could have been avoided if their fax machine was working properly after-hours.
-- I didn't do anything "touristy", and it amazes me a decade later (2015), but before 2007 I never thought to do anything while all the way over in another country. For the first seven years it was basically just going over there for a Transformers convention and then back again, with nothing else done that was worth talking about to family and friends who weren't Transformers fans. None of my pre-2007 Convention trips did much other than the Convention and nearby/convenient toy & food shopping. It wasn't until a friend went over in 2007 with me who wanted to explore like a tourist, that it opened my eyes to making the expensive trip to the other side of the world more worth it. In my tunnel-vision planning up until that year, just attending the Convention and saying that I was in America, seemed to be worth it in my mind. Ten years later (2015), I can't imagine NOT doing other things while in America, especially in the years when the Convention itself isn't above average.
-- A very small turnout of attendees this year, and my closest American friend (Tim Finn) told me a few weeks before the convention that he wasn't coming this year.
-- No registration numbers by this new company, so you don't get an idea of how many people there are, and you don't have the incentive to register early to get a low number. This new company would give out Pins to the first 100 people or first-day people, but not many people care about Pins, so they aren't an incentive (people register early to make sure they don't miss out on limited items or events, not for the Pin).
-- A lot of things were late, but it was their first time doing a Transformers, so it was kinda forgiveable, even though this was their 11th year doing a fan convention to this format.
-- I didn't sign up for the Thursday pre-Con tour because this new Convention format and organisors had me just doing the bare minimum, but in hindsight it would have been good to check out the Mint and learn a bit about the history of the Fort Worth area when the West was young.
-- Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the neighbouring southern state of Louisiana, another Hurricane called Rita was projected to hit Texas, and go as far north as Dallas/Frisco (the location of the Convention. As such, there was much worrying by fans (including me) that the convention would be post-poned, which would have sucked after paying a couple thousand dollars to get there. Fortunately the Hurricane changed direction just a couple days before it would have hit, but by then it seemed that a number of people had cancelled their plans, especially those in the southern parts who would still be affected by it.
-- The new administrators seemed rather distant, which I didn't realise until later that they weren't even Transformers fans, so they didn't look to have that same joy or excitement of the recent BotCon organisers (fans who wanted to provide events, guests and experience that they would want as an attendee). I guess that made it less stressful or distracting for them to then focus on the actual running of the event, because they didn't need to be paranoid about all the little details that would bug a Transformers fan running a convention. The downside was having to explain simple Transformers concepts or characters to the Staff, especially when buying toys from their Club Store.
-- Way too many toys for one convention, so I wasn't able to get the same attachment or bond that I would get from previous BotCons that just had two or four toys to focus on for a whole weekend.
-- At the time of this convention I decided to sell off one of the Virulent Clones, because at that time I wasn't collecting ANY duplicate toys (if it can't be distinguished out of packaging from another toy in my database, I didn't want it). This would prove to be a mistake. Four years later when FunPub started selling 3-packs of identical toys each year, I had to change my rules to allow it for BotCon exclusives, as it wasn't a complete set for those later years without the duplicates (some were given different names or bios, but the toys were identical). This meant tracking down a second Virulent Clone to "complete" my BotCon collection of toys, as the 2005 "set" 12 toys, not 11. Due to Virulent Clone being very rare but having low demand (like European Actionmasters) it was very hard to find, and it took me NINE years to buy one that had an acceptable price.
-- Even though this was the first hotel I had noticed having in-room wifi internet access (for $10 per day), I still didn't have a computer to bring with me (I bought one in 2008), so I had to spend a few hours each night in the public "business centre", sharing a single internet computer with other people, to post up news and details for the Australian fansite. That meant very early mornings or very late nights to get sole access to the computer, and being extra quiet sneaking in or out of the room so that I didn't wake up the room-mate.
-- There didn't seem to be many footpaths (sidewalks, as the Americans call them), so it wasn't easy getting to each of the major stores without walking on roads, grass or dirt/mud on the edges of the roads. And there were heavy roadworks on the main road to the south, making it difficult to cross over to Walmart.
-- Outside was a distinct smell of cattleyards, as if we were next to one... but we didn't appear to be anywhere near any.
-- The new organisors were over a month late with their brochure and registration forms from the initial date they had announced, something that fans would later get used to from what they often publicly promise.
-- With a day to kill on Thursday and nothing planned out (this was before I started using these trips to do tourist things while I was over there), I went to the cinema complex thinking that I would be able to see a couple of movies that weren't out in Australia yet (we are usually a few months behind)... but all I ended up seeing was one mediocre movie, and this one called Venom, which was so bad that I had to look it up while writing this and I still don't remember it. The feedback for it was very negative, so it is not surprising that I can't remember it at all, and have never heard of it since.
The movie poster is just as bizarre, so it takes the role of my "ugly" for 2005 (which is usually awarded to something that isn't Transformers related during the course of my adventure).
(quoted from the introductory narration to the Generation Two cartoon... as an easter egg to go with the title of this year's BotCon report)
Driving to save the world from the evil Decepticons, the Heroic Autobots
are led by Optimus Prime.
He's more than meets the eye, he's a robot in disguise. (Transformers)
Going balistic to destroy the Autobots and conquer mankind, the Evil Decepticons are more than meets the eye.
(Transformers - robots in disguise)
Heroic Autobots Verses Evil Decepticons, with the fate of Planet Earth hanging in the balance. (Transformers)
Transformers Generation Two.
And now, through the magic of the Cybernet Space Cube... The computer enhanced stories of the Transformers.
Transformers Generation Two.