By Tony “Thunder” Klepack
I thought I’d get at this report early this year so I didn’t make so many mistakes as I did in last year’s version.
I got up at 4:50 AM on Thursday July 27th to get ready and leave for the
airport and my flight, which departed Edmonton at 8:05 AM. I chose Northwest
Airlines this time because I figured that it would be faster over Air Canada
(a good choice too--before I left, an Air Canada union threatened to have
one of their annual “strike for the hell of it” strikes).
To my utter shock, I had no trouble with security this year and the plane actually took off on-time! In the air we were served breakfast and I declined, having ate earlier (I had breakfast last time I flew and the food was so awful I vowed never to make such a mistake again). The flight to Minneapolis was an exciting two and a half hours of sitting in my chair (whoo hoo!)
I almost felt like I knew the airport this time (as I was there last year during BotCon) and had no trouble finding my second flight to Detroit. A quick stroll around the airport and memory lane and I was off to find my departure gate.
An hour and a half later, I arrived at Detroit and had to figure out the somewhat confusing shuttle bus system they had going in the area where I would take my last plane (you had to take a shuttle to the waiting plane, but the area was not the most well set-up place signage-wise). Then, I found out my plane was canceled and rescheduled to 6:15 PM instead of 5:30 PM (even at 5:30 PM, I had a two and a half hour layover).
In the terminal I saw a familiar looking woman wearing a BotCon hat and another tall blonde guy and knew they were both Trans fans. Another fellow was wearing a BotCon 99 shirt and engrossed in a Star Trek magazine of some sort. The woman and blonde man sat and talked for all the time I was there and I overheard her say how she’d had purple hair for the past four years and wanted to try something different (her hair being black now). As she said it, I instantly knew her to be Scylla. I later overheard the blonde guy talking about himself and caught his codename (the infamous Hydra). I never knew who the third fan was and he didn’t look familiar to me (he was Asian--as if that narrows it down!)
The plane eventually departed at about 6:40 PM (the shuttle bus took us around the little terminal area and about thirty feet over to the waiting plane. Several people commented how we could have just walked). The flight took about forty minutes more (all the while, Hydra talked to Scylla and talked and talked and talked...) The flight was initially delayed while we waited for a flight attendant to arrive (she promptly did nothing on the flight anyway, claiming that since it was such a short flight we didn’t deserve refreshments. This didn’t stop the first class section from getting something though...what annoyed me was that those of us who got our tickets re-booked had them listed as “First Class”--to suck up to the people who were put out of schedule by the first cancellation--but only those who sat in the little front First Class area were treated as such).
I finally arrived at 6:30 PM local time and grabbed a shuttle bus to the Hilton along with Scylla, Hydra, Doug Dlin, the Asian fellow and somebody else (I don’t know who and I didn’t really get a good look). Actually, I think it might have been that fan calling himself Omega Supreme (but I’m not certain).
The trip down was interesting because I went from mountain time, an hour ahead to the next time zone (Central time?) in Minnesota to Detroit and Eastern Time back to Indiana and Central time. It was confusing and annoying...
I checked in and got a note from Matthew Swenson (one of my room mates and who had gotten there about an hour and a half earlier) saying he’d gone off with some friends while he awaited my arrival. Stowing my stuff in the room, I went downstairs and walked around the area surrounding the hotel. There wasn’t much in the way of interesting attractions really (various old and impressive churches which I forgot to get pictures of) and some sort of arboretum attraction (it was right beside the Embassy Theatre but I never went over and investigated). I did find almost every fast food franchise going (McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, Arbys, Taco Bell and Subway).
I settled on McDonalds and brought my dinner back to the room where I started watching the truly awful science fiction movie, Event Horizon, on HBO (I can see why the our local newspaper dumped on it so badly when it came out). Matthew finally called up to the room from the front desk and said he was coming up. Shortly after, I finished dinner and Matthew arrived. We talked a few minutes and then he said he wanted to go grab something to eat himself so we went to McDonalds (again) and he bought something.
Upon returning to the lobby, we ran into Tony Buchanan (and is he built like a brick wall! Ouch!) After apologizing, we noticed there were several other Trans fans like Sharon LaBorde, Darren Broussard and the ever unforgettable Matt Kirkby (I apologize if I’m forgetting someone else there--no actually I don’t! It was an intentional slight--so there! Ha ha!) We went to the front counter and got our two key cards redone and Tony a copy also--this was one of the more amusing moments of the convention--when they gave Matthew his card, they changed the code and made my card useless (You: Yeah, yeah, hilarious...get on with it man!) The funny thing is, that’s exactly what happened in Anaheim to us back in 1998!
Last year’s Hotel in St. Paul was a dump. I’m pleased to say that the Hilton was an excellent hotel and easily met my impossibly high expectations from Anaheim and the Marriott. (Unfortunately, the staff were all idiots but that didn’t affect me too seriously...)
Our trio returned to the room (all with working keycards) and talked shop and various other TF topics of conversation (Tony was saying on Sunday how it’s a shame no one can ever remember what we talk about during these convention sessions--but if we ever remembered, the knowledge would surely make us go mad). Matthew told us he’d taken the hotel shuttle to a local mall and that we could return there the following day.
We also went down and saw Sharon (herein referred to as “Tut” since it’s shorter), Darren and Matt Kirkby’s room and talked shop. She showed us her very nice Galvatron pic and her art contest pic of Tarantulas. Also, some TF pics some kids she taught had drawn in class. Matt told me about his trip from Ottawa down to Louisiana while Tut and Darren showed us their “Voices of Cybertron” media and explained how hard it was to create the cover and do research on it.
Um...I think that’s everything relevant that happened on Thursday. We went to sleep... me on one bed, Tony on another and Matthew, who started out on one bed, slept on the carpet in the bathroom (either the cold or my snoring caused it, I think. He never really said...)
We started the day off by waking up (duh!) and I think that was the day
I turned the alarm off immediately when it went. Tony and I turned on the
TV while we waited for Matthew to wake up and watched about three quarters
of The Iron Giant on HBO (a good movie overall and I can see now
why several Transfans have compared it to TFs). I joked to Tony that the
government agent antagonist (g-man!) in the show looked like Conan O’Brien.
The three of us went to Burger King and ate some less than stellar breakfast food (but it’s still better than McDonalds).
We returned to the hotel and hopped a shuttle to the local mall, Glenbrook Square (I think). We got off there and went to look at the Target across the street (my first time ever in a Target--we don’t have them in Canada--unfortunately, there wasn’t much of interest save for a Trans Metal Airrazor repaint I’d be able to get back home). We went across the street to the mall proper and found several small stores of interest such as Electronics Boutique, Suncoast, Kaybee’s and the like. I found three different discounted video games and grabbed them and bought three TF video tapes at Suncoast (I also had some guy come up to me there and ask if I was in town for BotCon. I said, “yes” and he said he was too. Then he asked where I was from and I said “up in Canada”--because most Americans look lost when you try to tell them the exact place--and he said he was too. So that was neat...)
We also visited a store called Hot Topic with $40 Megatron t-shirts (original toy box art with Japanese writing above him and a blue color). They also had Autobot and Decepticon symbol t-shirts (I remember we saw some at Tut’s the night before). We also saw one with Starscream’s profile and one with Soundwave’s too. (Tony mentioned he’d seen one elsewhere with Optimus Prime’s artwork and I later saw one at the convention that someone was wearing). I found some old Trans Metals in the back of the store and got Bantor (I’d always wanted him when he was available but never got around to getting him before he disappeared off shelves).
Alas, the rest of the mall had very little of interest in the TF toy sense--some places had old toys like Poison Bite (the Fuzor) and some had crap like Optimus Minor. We also left the mall and went over to the nearby Toys “R” Us store where we found little TF stuff of interest (although they did have the Supreme toy of Cheetor--which was my first look at it to date), Optimal Optimus and the toy of the BW Mutant Poison Bite.
We returned to the mall and went to Taco Bell at the food court. We ate and noticed a large group of TF fans nearby occupying several tables. Tiring of the mall scene a little later, we called the Hotel and requested pick-up (twice) but they were unable to accomodate us (I figure the two shuttles were too busy with airport pick-ups of the arriving Trans-Fans). So, we called a cab and waited outside JC Penny for it (my first time in--or through, anyway--one of them and also my first time in an American Toys R Us store).
As we waited for the cab, we talked about the evolution of Transformers toys and how it would soon get down to Trans Humans (we finally agreed upon the name “Trans Organics”). I also came up with the idea of a limo Transformer (I had seen one the previous day and suddenly thought that would be cool--a proposed name is Limous Prime or Super God Limous Prime when he combines with the other part).
We got in the taxi van when it arrived and the cabby was courteous enough not to be helpful by not showing us how to put the seat forward in the back so I had to squeeze past the second row and get into the back seat both times when getting in and out (fortunately, despite being tall and fat, I’ve been squeezing into tight places all my life--insert sexual joke here--so I’m used to such contortions. I just hope I remember to stop trying stuff like that when I’m fifty!)
By this time, it was later in the day and we went up to the room, dropped our possessions off, grabbed our registration forms and went down to register. I was surprised to find the entire convention was in the same physical building/complex as the hotel (I had seen a walkway across the street and had initially concluded that the convention facility was mostly over there while some may have been here). We went out the front of the Hotel and walked around to the main entrance of the convention center. We entered and were bedazzled by the line numbers and ropes that separated them--it would have been very organized and efficient on 3H Enterprises part, having done that, except that we intentionally arrived later and by that time there were only three people ahead of us so it didn’t really mean anything to us.
Matthew and Tony got grey t-shirts while I got a black one (it had been a hard decision on the registration sheet, but I decided black would ultimately look better than grey or white). A pleasant surprise was that we could have some crappy string for free or nice card rope things (I forget the technical name for them) for a mere $3.00 more (I hate going to a convention where I already payed $200+ to register and then get hit up for another $3 because somebody was too disorganized to think of the idea originally and charge for it.)
We returned to the room and hung around, killing time for a couple of hours. We talked and Matthew relayed his previous weekend’s nightmare trip to a friend’s wedding in Montana to Tony Buchanan (I’d previously heard a slightly abbreviated version via e-mail). Matthew and I noticed how Tony was dinner guest number #303 of #300 (he explained how he’d been late to register for the dinner but that the Hartmans had suspected he was coming and asked him if he wanted them to save him a seat). We changed into our semi-formal clothes (Tony bought this loud blue polyester shirt to wear--mostly to be noticed) and went down to the panel room/dinner room (and I grumbled several times that night about how stupid it was to have a semi-formal dinner for a toy convention--mostly because I was annoyed at the Hartmans insistence everyone come “dressed appropriately” and it’s a pain in the rear reactor linkage to cart formal clothes so far from where I live).
We got to the line for the dinner and noticed it was split into two for some reason, so we got into the shorter extension of the line and slipped in faster than many others (but still too late to find many tables with three seats open together). Fortunately, we found a table that was last from the door and joined Sarah Tannenbaum (never met her before but I knew the name), her boyfriend (or was he her fiance?) who was named “???” (true story!), some kid who was about eleven years old, some other fellow--I know he looked familiar--probably from a previous convention, a guy who had the codename “Omega Supreme” (and somebody else??)
The dinner had a crab salad appetizer (no one was sure what it was at first and Matthew and the kid never ate any--feeling intrepid, I did, and I’m happy to say that A) it was pretty good and B) I’ve now established that I am not allergic to seafood (but it would’ve been a hell of a way to find out! :) We also had some salad with a choice of dressings. The main meal was, depending on your choice on the dinner form, either medium rare steak, teriyaki chicken with pineapple or pasta salad and a baked potato. I had the chicken (and no one at the table had the pasta salad) and have to say it was pretty good. The pineapple made it really tangy. Matthew complained the steak was a little too rare for his tastes (he was right too--I saw it as he cut it open and it was really pink). Finally, we had chocolate mousse for dessert and it was delicious--although the waitress lady snatched mine away too fast when I was busy talking to the others (I lost about a quarter of it. SOB! So very much chocolate, taken away far too early in its life to be fully enjoyed... please hold a moment of silence here before you read the rest of the report..... okay, thank you).
We were welcomed in-between dinner and dessert and then we were introduced to the guests after dinner (I didn’t personally have the best view of them though). The Hartmans and Hallitt also told us about the convention exclusives--the recolored Rampage called Shockoract (I’m pleased to say he looks far better than that E-bay picture from Spqqky. Also, I guessed correctly about it being a Rampage recolor long before even Spqqky spoiled it for people. He just seemed the logical choice for an exclusive--he’s an ultra and he’d make a kick-ass bad guy. And, frankly, I couldn’t see Shockoract being anyone else). Also, Apelinq, the recolor of Trans Metal Optimus Primal will be the leader of the Beast Machines Wreckers (future BC exclusives will make up the reborn UK team). There were two Vince Dicola CDs for sale, a Hasbro poster of BM Cheetor (I couldn’t see why anyone would care about it really though), the comic conclusion of The Omega Point story (my fav non-toy exclusive!) Also, a poster of most of the BC characters in a TF: The Movie pose (but the convention programme book had a smaller centerfold of it anyway and I didn’t find the movie homage original personally). Also, BotCon canvas tote bags for shopping the dealer room (and more, presumably. Matthew commented how the G1 symbols didn’t transfer very well on it’s montone graphics).
We had also received little white boxes as we entered the dinner room and opened them to find limited edition Transformers collectors plates (mine is number #35 of #385). We received our convention comics as we left the room (dinner recipients got a special exclusive cover). Outside the dinner room, we received our convention toys in the longest line I stood in for the entire convention (ahead of me was a couple of guys in denim shorts and t-shirts--so much for that whole semi-formal attire rule).
After getting our toys, Tony and I had lost track of Matthew Swenson (he had stayed behind to get his convention toy signed by all the guests--another fan had done so and he’d decided to follow suite). Tony and I returned to the room and put our toys away. I changed into my normal clothes and went down to
Tut and Darren’s room to see where Matt Kirkby was. It seems I interrupted Tut and Darren from “resting” after the stressful dinner and she talked to me briefly at the door before retiring for the night because they were both so “tired.”
I returned to our room and eventually Matthew Swenson returned. He had stopped on the way back at a sale Dennis Barger was holding in a separate room from the rest of BotCon (it seemed that 3H Enterprises was so enthused by his handling of the third BotCon that they barred him from attending this and any future convention.) So, he did his best to put on a big sad face and exploit sympathy for himself, holding a Men in Black Collectibles sale all day Friday instead...Matthew had said they had no good deals on as far as he was concerned but I wanted to have a look anyway and went down.
On my way to find the practically hidden room, I stumbled onto the three video rooms and took a quick glance at the rooms, being especially interested by the Japanese series. After a moment, I continued onward and found the room.
The sale was, as Matthew had said, pathetic. Everything was absurdly overpriced and Dennis was there loudly telling (or should I say, proclaiming) his SOB story how the other guy had registered as a dealer and then when he needed extra help had filed another form for another helper with Dennis' name on it and received a letter from the organizers telling them essentially that he (Dennis Barger specifically) was banned for life (actually, I think Matthew may have relayed this to us in the room and Dennis reiterated some of it while I was there). Anyway, politics aside, I found a big box of BW Ravage toys and asked how much they were--the guy told me there were two ways to get one. One, he’d trade one for a set of the convention exclusives toys or he was selling them for a mere $125 each! (To explain this, I bought mine offline for $40. I wanted another to actually open...but not for three times what I payed!) I didn’t exactly tell the guy to go f**k himself but the thought sure crossed my mind.
I returned to the room to find Tony and Matthew missing. Figuring they’d left to go look at the sale, I returned to the hallway and ran into Matt Kirkby. He’d said everyone had retired early and he didn’t feel like sleeping yet. I’d slept about half an hour that evening before the dinner anyway and didn’t fell tired either and so we went down to walk around the first and second floors (beside the video rooms) and chat. (It seemed to me there was always a TF fan sitting on the furniture in the lobby with their friend transforming either a Fire Convoy or train bot/whatever it’s called set).
Relenting to my urge to go back to the MIB sale and pick up a Onyx Primal toy, we did finally before they closed. I had a pick of the $35 BotCon 1996 toy, TransCon 1997 toy or the $70 dealer toy from BC 1996. I picked the BC 96 toy (even though the TransCon toy had a nicer box). The toy is okay, but the box is unimpressive compared with later attempts (it does get credit for being openable though).
Matt and I returned to the room and met back up with Tony and Matthew whom had gone to look at the sale but somehow we missed them (I think they said they also checked out the video rooms too). Matthew commented how he thought the Onyx Primal toy has been stagnate at $35 for years and that Barger should really lower the price to about $10. I think he’s right actually--MIB will always have those toys sitting around and if they weren’t so greedy, they’d just cut their losses and dump them for what they can.
We all decided to retire for the night and Matt left either to go look for more friends or go back to his room (probably the latter).
(Can you believe we’re only at Day 3?? Man, this report’s been long!)
The first day of the convention proper we went to Burger King and had more breakfast (I hated eating there--I guess I was just spoiled by the better food at the Diner last year and the Denny’s the year prior).
Afterward, we stopped to get a picture of the long line-up outside the convention center and then Matthew and Tony joined it while I went to the video rooms to watch episodes (you see, unlike everyone else, I realize that you don’t have to be the first into the dealer room--I wasn’t and I found literally everything I came for). At nine-thirty, after the final episode of Masterforce and some of The Secret of Omega Supreme (yuck!) I went down to the dealer room (no line-up either!) and found the worst clog of people in the dealer room in my three years of BotCon attendance--it’s always bad on the first day, but not usually so bad you can barely maneuver in the room!
I bought...something (I believe it was Fire Convoy--only $75! The cheapest I can get it online is $90) and took it back to the hotel room and was joined a little later by Tony (there was two hours in-between dealer room opening and the first panel.) After spending a few minutes there, we returned and I checked out the video rooms again and then returned to the dealer room.
The first panel was the John Moschitta panel and, while there’s not really much to say about it all, I can tell you he was both funny and interesting for the fans to talk to. He told us how he did season 3 of the cartoon first and then the movie. His career, some woman who practically stalked him and tried to challenge him to the title of world’s fastest talker. How he lost the title but how the results with the new winner were questionable at best (the results weren’t measured fairly and the other guy won’t do a rematch). He also asked Tut out (as Blurr) at super speed (she asked him about pick-up lines as Blurr).
The next panel was fan panel one (aka the fan media panel). This year, Tony Buchanan, Matthew and myself were standing there at five minutes to the start of it and wondering if we’d even have anyone there to talk about their medias. Fortunately, Matt Kirkby, Tut and Darren all arrived at the last minute and we had a decent panel (Tim Finn didn’t come and Raksha is too important to be there--or she doesn’t want to share a table with Tut--I don’t know). Unlike last year when I chickened out, I got up there and plugged Prime (albeit the plug was brief and I doubt anyone will remember it later anyway). I think the panel went fairly well (at least, better than last year) although I had one person ask when the Hasbro panel was before hand and during the panel we had a question about if there’d be a new movie (how the hell should we know?!)
Afterward, was the Voice Actor panel and I missed a lot of that while I was out shopping in the dealer room. I don’t know, I’m sure they talked about their careers, lives and such (that sort of thing usually happens at those panels).
The next panel was the Hasbro panel (it was moved up a bit because the two Hasbro guys needed to leave earlier to catch their flights.) Atypically, several people asked them stupid questions, some they could answer and some they couldn’t. Some guy dumped on the new BW Mutant toys (which I happen to like and I hope Hasbro doesn’t kill the sub-line off based off one person’s comments). Someone accused them of stealing his idea or something (I don’t know--and neither did they). Of course, it’s Hasbro policy not to talk about future products, so we didn’t learn anything new....except that there will be a Noble toy and it will be out in time for X-mas (also, the BM Rattrap will be out for then too--it has been held up due to design problems). Hopefully, we also successfully communicated our desire to have original style TFs and new toys based off old designs (a new mold of an original character--like Jazz or Starscream).
Later on, was the second fan panel (aka the Tim Finn panel) where Tim showed us a whole bunch of old Transformers public service announcements that never aired (remember that stuff from GIJOE and JEM? These ended off like GIJOE with “And knowing is half the battle.”) We saw both the early blooper ones and the finished product, as well as unused TF:TM movie story boards, a few TF commercials and an early TF:TM poster design. We also saw a Japanese commercial (I think it was a commercial) where the Decepticon seeker jets fired on and killed several Humans on camera! (Cool! Something we always wanted to see on screen). Oh yeah, he also entertained us with some primitive computer animation he did for college (it vaguely resembled the episode, More Than Meets the Eye).
Afterward was the charity auction, which I skipped for more shopping in the dealer room. Also during the day at some point, Matt Kirkby and I checked out the art room and were accosted by Raksha in some kind of black, skin tight costume with a big silver sword to match (but we convinced her not to hurt us by giving her a bribe of a Gigastorm toy). The art room pretty much speaks for itself, but the adjacent Hartman toy collection was impossibly big and impressive--they have everything ever made from the beginning to the present--including rare stuff and generally not yet released stuff (now we know what they spend the BotCon profits on! Yikes!)
Later on, the convention closed and we returned to our hotel room. Nothing really noteworthy (that I can recall anyway) happened between that and the special showing of Transformers: The Movie in the Embassy Theatre at 8 PM that night. The Embassy Theatre was built in 1928 and is, without any doubt, the most incredible Theatre I’ve ever been inside. It’s built in the old style of Theatre and is truly a classic in every sense of the word.
The movie (even those really old trailers for Pretty in Pink and Star Trek IV--and yes, I am just kidding!) aired okay and since we had certain instructions (no talking during the movie or generally making an ass of ourselves), everyone took it upon themselves to applaud--and I mean constantly! Whenever an Autobot or a Decepticon bought it, they applauded (because the `con fans applauded the `bots dying, others compensated, I think). Every stupid little thing garnered applause and it was quite annoying...the showing had one part where they didn’t switch reels fast enough and the movie did, in fact, contain the infamous line, “Oh shit! It isn’t even dented! Now what?” (And yes, that line did get applause).
At the end of the showing, a small group of fans was called up to the stage where the Hartmans and Hallitt were--Tony Buchanan being among them. We had priorly made plans to take his tape of “Transformer Follies” and go hang out with Tony Tuski, Rosemary Faulkerson and Austin Welch’s room (Matthew Griffin, the token Australian TF fan showed up this year and Tony had invited him along with us). Tony B and this small group took off with the Hartmans to a dinner/get together for the fans who had attended all the BotCons from the first to now. They were given plaques to commemorate it (and Raksha’s had the symbols reversed so the Decepticon symbol was on the top).
Meanwhile, Matthew and I rounded up Matthew Griffin from his room (who grumbled under his breath about wanting to play with his new Jetfire toy) and we went to Tony Tuski/Rose/Austin’s room. At some point later, Matt Kirkby also showed up. We watched the Follies tape(s) which had some funny stuff on it and some were lame (basically, some creative editing on existing TF footage). We also watched a little of Car Robots--but it wasn’t the first show and it was hard to follow the story. Matthew Griffin took off back to his room and we all continued to chat until Matt and I left for some reason or the other (to get his camera from his room, I think).
When we went to his room, Tut and Darren were busy doing “stuff” and we couldn’t get back in to get the camera. So we left and went to my room so I could show off all the toys I bought that day and then we started chatting (we weren’t totally surprised about Tut and Darren--they are from the south after all). When we started returning later, we ran into Matthew whom said they had all decided to call it a night so we all returned to the room (I think). Anyway, whatever happened next, we eventually returned to the room and Tony Buchanan came back and told us about his dinner outing.
Matt left to return to his room finally and being only 1 AM, I decided to go down to the video rooms and watch some cartoons while Tony and Matthew called it a night.
I watched a little bit of Beast Wars Neo--but only one person was watching otherwise and all I ever saw when I peaked in the room was some floating computer talking to Big Convoy and other assorted Cybertrons (yawn!) I also watched some of Grimlock’s New Brain and Call of the Primitives. The Beast Machines room was playing season two episodes and when I told these three guys who came along, they practically ran to watch (I guess they were Americans and hadn’t seen it yet). I was also surprised how many fans were still milling about or sitting in the lobby with their friends (not a lot, but still enough to be surprising).
Falling asleep as I walked around, I decided to return to the room and go to bed.
This morning we switched gears and went to McDonald’s for breakfast instead...but
nothing really important happened there (well, Tony almost lost his ID
badge on the way there, but we found it). And, oh yeah, this was this street
gang that harassed us but Matthew and I told them we’d open up a can of
whoop ass on them if they didn’t beat it. Seeing how intimidating we were
(with our TF shirts and ID cards) they fled immediately and trouble was
We returned to the convention room and I vowed not to spend any more money, having already spent too much there. Tony and Matthew stopped to look at the art room while I snapped a couple more pictures and went to the dealer room where I found something I had come to the convention for and promptly bought it.
I skipped the MST3K spoof panel because it always sucks anyway (well, unless you go out for juvenile comedy, and amateur-scripted humour) and went back to the room where I decided to take a shower and then address my packing problem--I had boughten way too many toys to take in my bags (I had boughten a newer, bigger bag and gotten overconfident. I even had my old bag along too and couldn’t fit it all in both bags). So, I packed what I could and then took as many toys as I could carry down to the BotCon and had them shipped off with this third party company the Hartmans had invited for just such occurrences (I spent $135 on sending the two boxes off and would later find I should have went back and brought more toys down).
I cast one last glance at the dealer room (but wisely bought nothing further) and then went to watch the final fan panel of the convention--Ravestrike’s TF video gaming panel. It turns out this fellow and his boss’ company, Genazea, were responsible for bringing the BW Trans-Metals game to North America. He explained how Hasbro Interactive didn’t even want to touch the game, nor did Capcom. Takara followed their suggestions for more characters and spent $20,000 to animate Ravage, Tigatron, Windrazor and somebody else for the US version and they made sure that the voice actors were used for the voices (he also wanted the seeker jets from G1 as surprise characters but that would’ve cost too much--another twenty grand). We watched a demonstration (as he talked) with two or more fans playing the game on big screen. Afterward, he popped in the N64 version and discussed the differences (he liked the PS-X version better overall since it had better sound, graphics, opening. The N64 had better character animation and the additional use of TM Air Razor and TM Waspinator I think. He also said the N64 version had better gameplay). Apparently, the N64 version was available for sale but so few were produced that Blockbuster bought them all for rentals. He also told us of a future dream project for the Playstation 2 and possibly Dreamcast that would use current characters, and old G1 characters. He hoped to get original series voice actors for characters like Optimus Prime and Megatron and Vince Dicola for the music soundtrack (the part about Dicola actually came from the Dicola panel which happened chronologically next at the convention). He didn’t say what form the future project would take though--whether it would be a fighting game or what.
Immediately after that panel, we were all kicked out of the room so Vince Dicola could do a sound check for his panel (check...check...check). We were all let back in a few minutes later, although no one was allowed to sit in the very front row since it was “reserved” (for what, I don’t know--nobody even sat there!) The Vince Dicola panel was a whole hour and involved him playing unused TF:TM songs and music pieces, alternate music, a proposed song for the next Rocky movie (to be submitted) and doing City Under Siege entirely on keyboard! (He said that was a hard piece to do but one of his favorites--mine too, actually). Then, he fielded questions from the audience and we learned how he was an up and comer, but got to a point where he figured he’d finally “made it” and that was his mistake career-wise (his words, not mine). Several people wanted an all piano disc from him, he told us his old label was coming back and he planned to start releasing a lot more material and even having a website (complete with MP3 samples). Vince also explained that he often does music just by playing what he wants and going from there. He also talked about how he got started and how he almost quit the business a few years ago (this is a romantic notion, but I was wondering if BotCon 97 got him to keep going--I remember hearing how he loves to perform for audiences and it was obvious from this--he was bored during the pre-recorded music but really got into it when he played live for us. I wonder if seeing the audience in 97 for such an old, forgotten soundtrack was a shot in the arm for him. After all, there are few businesses as harsh as music in Hollywood--but this is just a supposition, I have no facts to support this).
After the stellar Vince Dicola panel, we immediately went to the convention organizers panel, where Glen Hallitt was the only one to arrive at the beginning and start fielding questions. Jon and Karl arrived afterward (about half way through it). The panel was informative and fun, as always (Matthew and Tony mentioned later how the three looked exhausted--I have to agree). They don’t know next year’s location
yet--they wanted to take a little time off first before worrying about it (fortunately, only three people asked this same question this year). I suggested Matt Kirkby’s idea of doing a jet drone called Starscream next year and they claimed they wouldn’t have access to the molds yet and that the name is or may be copyrighted (but actually, I believe Hasbro owns the name anyway). I also brought up the minor problem with putting the convention schedule in the programme booklet and not also having a separate version to fold up and put in your pocket when you’re running around the convention. They said they’d look into it (but that’s the same thing they said last year too--ah well, it’s still a good suggestion).
So, the dealer room closed as their panel was going and I never got a final look at it (but that’s okay in the long run--I was damn near out of money). Afterward, Matthew, Tony, Matthew Griffin and myself went over to Taco Bell and had dinner and discussed TF matters of importance (it was pouring rain while we were inside!) Matthew Griffin told us it only takes 27 hours to go from Australia to Ft. Wayne and that, in a stroke of irony, he was one of the winners of the survey contest so now he had free basic admission for next year--but it would cost at least $2000 to return then!
We returned to Matthew Griffin’s room and saw his Beast Riders toys (he hates them!), his new Dinobots collection, and various assorted toys like Jetfire and the Pretenders (actually, it would have been interesting to see which of the two of us had spent more money this time. In his usual snide way, Matthew would’ve stated that he did, I suppose...)
After awhile, I went a few doors down to Tony/Rose/Austin’s room and said hello. We were originally supposed to go hang out with them after dinner and I went to tell them the others were a bit delayed but were still coming. Tony and Rose went down to their car after a couple of minutes (to load it up) and that left Austin and myself to shoot the breeze. We talked for about twenty minutes and eventually wondered what was taking everyone so long. I said my goodbyes and went back to Matthew G’s room for a bit then got tired and went back to our room. A little later, Matt Kirkby showed up and we talked for a while and he gave me some disks for one of our projects. We went back to see Matthew G’s room to see him, Matthew S and Tony.
After another hour or so of chatting, we left Matthew G and returned to our room. Then, Matt and I went down to Tut/Darren and his room where some fellow came in with us. Tut was asleep for the most part while Darren and the guy (who was a SW dealer friend of the Digital Toys guy) talked SW and about their collections, etc. Matt and I talked a little more and he gave me his Apelinq toy, stating he didn’t really like Prime anyway (maybe he felt guilty over my having boughten him such an expensive toy on Saturday--I got him a Gigatron toy). Afterward, Matt pre-ordered a removable helmet Darth Vader from the dealer guy who said he had one left.
At some point, I think we returned to our room and said goodbye to Matt for the final time (or so we thought at the time). The three of us called it a night and agreed that this had been one of the best conventions yet (Matthew and I being partial to 98 and 2000. Tony said all of them had their merits but that he liked this year too).
We got up early (after having gone to bed late) and went to McDonald’s
for breakfast. When we returned, we gathered up our stuff and checked out.
I had five big toys too many to pack and asked Tony if he might be able
to send them home for me and fortunately he agreed. We saw Tut, Darren,
Matt, Austin, Tony and Rose one final time in the lobby as we were checking
Tony Buchanan’s friend picked us up in their convertible and took Matthew and myself to the airport where we said our goodbyes. Matthew and I were on the same flights up to Minneapolis and we saw the artist Chi as we checked in for the flight to Detroit.
After quickly browsing the boring flight display in the airport, we waited about twenty minutes and hopped our flight to Detroit. At Detroit, we stopped to inhale some food (we got there with little time to
spare--45 minutes between flights and by the time we got to our flight it was in pre-boarding (when we landed there was also a minor accident on the ground they were finishing cleaning up and that delayed our getting in). Matthew ate his hot dog fast and I ate about three quarters of my cinnamon bun before tossing it in the garbage and boarding. And then...we were delayed for about thirty more minutes while they put the luggage in the plane and resupplied it (I think it was late getting there that it wasn’t already done). We finally took off and arrived at Minneapolis an hour and a half later.
I said my goodbyes to Matthew at Gate #70 and rushed off to the gate I was supposed to go to (#63, I believe.) When I got there, I learned the flight had been moved to--Gate #71! So I retraced my steps and got there a few minutes later. The plane was also a little late getting off but not as bad as the last one. I had two seats to myself and this young lady sat in the third seat by the aisle... I tried to sleep periodically during the flight and we eventually got home to Edmonton.
At customs they asked me if I had anything to declare or if I’d really spent so little as claimed on the customs form. I told them yes, and when the woman gave me a doubtful look, I told her to find out about Calgary two years ago and the unfortunate fate that had befallen the foolish customs officials there. Instantly, she turned pale (knowing exactly what incident I meant) and passed me through, not wishing to evoke my wrath. So I got my bag, met my parents and we drove home.
Comments: It was alluded to in the report and now I can tell
you I spent way too much money on my trip--I bought 27 new Transformers!
Just to brag one final time, they are: two sets of convention toys (Shockoract/Apelinq),
Gigatron, Fireconvoy, Astrotrain, the SUV Car Robots toy, the JRX train
set from Car Robots, Longrack, Japanese edition of Tarantulas, TV recolor
of Silverbolt, Onyx Primal, Arachadis, Mach Kick, Japanese Tigatron, Shadow
Panther, Bantor, Wal Mart Rattrap, Survive (Japanese recolor of Polar Claw),
Apelinq (Matt K. gave me), all the fox kids recolors I wanted (TM Tarantulas,
Cheetor, TM Cheetor, Dinobot, Rhinox, Waspinator). I also got a TM Tarantulas
(incidentally, 27 doesn’t count the train-bots as three, just one).
A friend (who will remain anonymous) relayed that Raksha accosted the voice actors and told Alec Willows that Tarantulas was actually a hero as far as she was concerned to which he replied, “but...he’s evil!” Then, she passed Ian Corlett in a huff and told Venus Terzo that she wished they could’ve reformed the character and helped her rediscover her true Predacon nature (and showed her the cover of ConQuest where BA had Silverbolt’s head impaled). (No offence to Raksha intended for little comments like this in my reports). Speaking of Venus, one male fan said she must’ve found all the guys getting pictures with her and putting their arm around her annoying).
The Lukis brothers made up little BM accessory sets for the toys--two scimitars, a key to Vector Sigma and something else (I think). They were cool toy accessories but at $30 a little too rich for my blood. (But if you want one, try their site at www.unicron.com )
As good as this convention was, there was little to do in Fort Wayne itself and we lacked a car. I was disappointed we couldn’t get to see more of the place before we left (that’s why I like going to new locales for BotCon!) And, as good as it was, I can’t see the Hartmans topping this convention with next year’s (probably not for a couple more years yet...)
I think that’s all for now...until next year, hear the thunder...
Tony “Thunder” Klepack