BotCon 2014: Twenty Years On, The Future Will Party...
WEDNESDAY (Day 1)
I woke up at 4:45 AM to make sure I would be to the Edmonton Airport in time to catch my 8:15 AM flight (you have to get to the airport here three hours early for international flights. Basically, it takes about half an hour to check in, clear security and customs and then you sit for another couple of hours until your flight is ready to board).
Got through the airport and customs fine (one security lady noted my U.S. currency change purses and commented that I “know what they like to look for”). Did self check-in and self baggage tags. There was a guy with a TF backpack sitting across from me in the airport. He also had a Power Rangers theme for his text messages.
I played with my Nintendo 3DS on the plane (got to the final stage of Super Mario 2 and got stuck on the ghost house). Sadly, there were no attractive flight attendants or anything else of interest (not going to mention the group of ninja clown zombies. That was just too intense!)
We arrived at Terminal 2 and I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same place as last time. I found the shuttle pretty easy and had to wait for the second one for some reason (first was too full?) It seemed like kind of a long wait and when the shuttle came he had a different destination placard for some reason. Anyway, he got us to the hotel so I guess that’s all that matters right?
I got to the hotel and realized I didn’t know what Jim looked like or who the other guys were (bad planning on my part). Eventually, he phoned me and we met up in the lobby. We had to wait a ridiculously long time to get a room (the hotel seemed very slow on the uptake for some reason). Jim wanted a first floor room because he’s only got one leg and didn’t want to waste time on the elevators (ironically, our room had some stairs anyway. Doesn’t seem very conducive for someone with mobility issues).
There was about twelve flight attendants dressed in red in the hotel lobby lounge. Some sounded British so we assumed they were from British Airways. There was also a pilot as well. Of course, all the female ones wanted what I was selling but I wouldn’t have any part of it and told them as much. They were disappointed but understanding.
I was told we had five roommates. But apparently there were actually six, due to mis-communication between Jim and Mike. There were four of us on the first night. Guy number six showed up to hang out on Wed/Thursday nights but had a second room and stayed there (but paid his share for our room too!) Frankly, I’m glad he didn’t stay with us–he was a bit on the weird side (even considering he’s a TF fan) and we had a tiny bit more room.
My roommates were Jim Szewczyk and Mike Tinnel (both of Pappy’s Collectable Toys); Aaron Wilts and Ryan Nichols. Aaron was a first-timer to BotCon apparently while Ryan had come to last year’s as well.
I went over to the closest Target and got the Prime/Grimlock two-pack. Just beat a couple of other fans (they scooped up the others). They wanted mine too so we had an interpretive dance-off and I won (was there ever any doubt?) I also stopped at the Pizza Hut in-store and had some to eat.
Jim and Mike wanted to do a room sale (they were dealers too) and had one Wed/Thurs. nights (Wed was slow. Thurs. was a bit better). Mike and I checked out the other room sales (I think he was sizing up the competition. I was just bored and followed along) and I got a Citizen Stack from Captured Prey for $150 (box wasn’t pristine but oh well. The toy ranged from $150-200, depending on the dealer over the course of the show).
I went and saw Edge of Tomorrow that night at the Arclight Theater (it was the Pacific Theater back in 2009) in the Paseo Colorado (mostly to kill time). Pre-assigned seats (blech!), no pre-commercials (blank screen w/music), just trailers. Imperial March after show in bathroom (weird yet appropriate whilst relieving one’s self). $15.50 tickets (!)
THURSDAY (Day 2)
We went to bed around 1:30 the previous night and got up around 7ish (I think). Anyway, I slept on the floor and had a terrible sleep (it was hard and I was cold from the nearby air conditioner).
We got up and later went to the closest Target so Jim could look for a shelf Mike had previously seen. He wanted it for his table to help display the toys. He also shipped off some stuff at FEDEX nearby while Aaron and I tried (but failed) to get my GPS unit running (I think the power cord is damaged). We went next to the far Target (in Aaron’s car, btw). Found Megatron and Starscream Legends but little else.
The guys wanted to go back to the hotel then and I wanted to explore/shop so they dropped me off at the local Hertz. After an hour and a half of pissing around, they finally got me a brand new Sentra to rent (21 miles on it). I found K-Mart and TJMaxx first (it was simple). Neither had anything TF-wise but I did buy some nice new work boots at K-Mart.
Went looking for Target in Duarte but thought I’d gone too far and turned off. Came back right beside it but somehow missed the sign. Drove forever until I hit Asuza and was certain I was lost. Turned on my phone’s data and used Google Maps to locate a Wal-mart in Covina (had nothing but did have a very bizarre layout). Found Target after (had nothing) and Toys R Us in Monrovia (had those five packs of TF minis. I skipped them and also the two-pack of Grimlock). Did buy Tailgate and Shrapnel though. Also found another Wal-mart nearby (Duarte. The original one I’d planned to go to) but found nothing.
I also checked out Big Lots (they had nothing. The store reminded me a bit of Giant Tiger around here–i.e. a small, crappy department store).
I also stopped and ate at Carl’s Jr. Had a double cheeseburger (aka the “Carl’s Original”). Charbroiled hamburgers that are excellent. Also dumped my pop on me (accidentally) and made a big mess (the lady who worked there was all turned on by me and ineptitude. I just assume anyway...)
Later on, it was the second night of room sale. Much more traffic and some sales. We also got reported for making too much noise (and so did every other room sale too curiously). We suspect the scrapbooking goers were to blame (there was a crafts convention of some sort adjacent to our show).
Our last roomie, Ryan, came in that day too. He and I talked to Bernard, this fellow from New York. He was explaining to us how he likes doing action figure photos and posing the toys in crazy positions. He also talked a bit about some former WCW wrestler (not really sure who. I never followed that stuff) and New York in general. He related one story about posing the Black Power Ranger next to a bucket of KFC and belatedly realizing it was racist looking.
I also heard that Optimal Optimus (Gen deluxe Primal toy in red and white for the custom class) sold out early. Jim and Mike each had one but were disgusted by the choice of mold (or something. Anyway, they didn’t like it).
FRIDAY (Day 3)
Went to bed 1am Thurs night and got up at 6 AM (Mike’s cell alarm). I was first out–took my rental car back to Hertz. It only took them about thirty minutes to check me in (why in the hell doesn’t this location have a drop box or something? And I thought our location could be inept!)
I walked a couple of blocks and found a Taco Bell. I tried their Breakfast Burrito (it was surprisingly good. I didn’t expect much really). There was only me in the restaurant and another guy came in as I was leaving. (I guess word hasn’t really caught on about their breakfast menu).
Another aside: I noticed at several places that the bathrooms often don’t have mirrors in L.A. K-Mart, Target and Taco Bell all had this...not sure if people keep breaking them and they got fed up or what the deal there was (maybe too many stars coming in to check on their looks and not buying stuff?)
No idea what the bus schedule there was (too bad. Their fare is pretty cheap) so I phoned a cab (I was some distance from the hotel. Too far to walk without taking like an hour to do so). The cabbie didn’t know where the Pasadena Convention Center was. Got him over by Paseo and got out. (Close enough!)
Got into Late Reg line at 8:15 (Reg was 9:30). Twenty one people ahead of me... rumored 25 sets left (must have been false though. I saw some people buying two sets ahead of me and if that were true, why permit it?) I got to the table and my card was declined..had to call CIBC and get them to unlock it. Them got my set (hooray! Only took like two hours total).
This was also the only time I saw Ben Yee. He came in and got his set in the other line and I never saw him again that weekend (oh well).
Went through the dealer room (it seemed like it was lit a bit darker this year). Already quite busy... found my Voltron toy set I wanted (1997 Trendmasters). Bought my other toys–Gabi’s toy. Two Dinobots (Strafe and Slash. Strafe is theTRU 2-pack and cost $25 while Slash was only $20). Also got the BotCon renderform axe too ($5).
Found some carded Predators. Thought they were $10/piece but went back Saturday and realized they were actually $110/piece. No thanks...
Went to Universal Studios event Friday afternoon. We baked in the sun while waiting for the buses (it felt like 28-30C range). Right before we boarded, we were given a ticket and TF Experience badge w/lanyard.
On the bus, somebody started singing “Oh Canada” (the Canadian national anthem) for some reason (I think they were either Canuck or their friends were). I said they should’ve done it again in French.
I got there and found the Panda Express. It’s moved since last time but the food was worth searching it out for. I sat, ate and watched as the Optimus Prime robot spoke to several people before eventually departing back into the nearby display (this was quite close to the TF ride, btw).
Went on Transformers: The Ride and had fun. The secure bar came down too fast in the ride car and threatened to wreck my badges (I got them free somehow). Megatron’s voice sounded like Welker did his Prime one for it (as opposed to getting Weaving).
The TF studio store was cool. LOTS of merchandise, all over the spectrum (license plate holders, cups, keychains, statues, toys...) They had AoE Galvatron for $42 (he’s not really out yet otherwise). I bought two little statues/PVCs of G1 Optimus Prime and Megatron. They also had an exclusive Optimus Prime toy but I didn’t buy it (wasn’t sure I had enough money). They also had a “fan experience” t-shirt but I also skipped it. They also had this awesome movie Megatron statue (about Leader sized), made of metal and only $2500! If I had the money to blow on something like that, you’d bet I would’ve (and I say this not even liking that version of Megatron. It was just that cool!)
I also went on the Studio Tour (slightly changed from last time. Also, Jimmy Fallon is the prerecorded guest now–I think it might’ve been Conan O’Brien in ‘09 (but I could be wrong).
Very cool and better this second time around.
Universal was getting several renos done while we were there as well. Both large exterior type of things as well as some smaller buildings inside the actual theme park too.
Saw the TF Hasbro/Dinobot panel at the Special Effects Theater there. Kinda pointless, to be honest (basically, they went over some of the changes to the Dinobots they’ve done over the years. But they missed a lot too). Also, they did the Hall of Fame too–it had Stan Bush get inducted as well as Arcee and Rodimus Prime.
I also got a TF Experience poster while walking around just before the Dinobots panel.
I skipped the Stan Bush concert and boarded a bus for the hotel (I was really tired those first three days).
SATURDAY (Day 4)
Had my first 7 hours of sleep this trip . Actually had some energy and initiative today.
I sent most of my bigger toys off today ($142!!!) Later on, I got a Kabaya Fort Max loose for $25. I also bought Kabaya Road Ceaser and his two partners for $10 from Captured Prey. Also, got 3rd party TM Firebolt for $10 too. Bought Dollar General Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes for $5 each from a dealer.
Saw the Hasbro Panel. Didn’t realize someone took pics during it (they really should have signs up like they used to though for those who don’t know). I was far in the back as I got to the panel late and all the good seats were long gone.
Saw the new toys up-close. Arcee looks pretty good but a bit fragile, Chromia looks better, imo. Cliffjumper is a pass. Brainstorm looks awesome. Jetfire also looks awesome. G1 Megatron (only a pic) looked not bad either. I forget who else was shown... :)
I checked UPS to see how much it would cost to send Gabi’s toy off to him from there. They quoted me something like $240. (It was a tiny box and he lives in Israel). Fuck that! Will send it via Canada Post from home (assuming it survives okay).
Saw Fun Pub’s Round Table panel. It was okay. Not really much to add there. :)
Jim and Mike also went to the Golden Ticket Reception (they were GT obviously). It doesn’t like too much exciting happened at it. Jim was telling us he went up to a Hasbro rep and told him flat out he thought the AoE toys were shit. He went on to say he thought they looked cheap and lazy (I agree about some of them actually).
Went to Rubio’s for lunch/supper (Lupper?). Had a bean/cheese burrito and it was pretty good. Also tried Cold Stone for the first (and likely last) time. Rich and yummy but I ordered a large size which was too much (especially after Rubio’s). (We had Cold Stone here for about a year, bundled with Tim Horton’s. I guess it didn’t take off though and they decided to shutter it–I never even got a chance to try it out until now though).
Saw BotCon 20 years panel. Some cool (and dumb) unused BC concepts were shown, like a MLP TF in purple (ignoring the MLP part, I liked the color scheme). Tigerhawk as Predaking. Bulkhead as Stryka in pink. Some Hubcap concepts, etc.
SUNDAY (Day 5)
Had to leave early (shuttle picked me up at 8:20 AM).
Gave Aaron, Ryan and Mike copies of my TLO book (free). Managed to unload them and, hey, maybe they’ll read them and maybe even like them. It could happen! :)
Trip to airport was uneventful and I had to pay $20 extra for my one extra checked luggage bag (which I was expecting. Actually, I’d expected $25). Also, had two Cinnabon small cinnamon rolls and a coke at the terminal BK (not much selection in this terminal area sadly). I picked up two L.A. t-shirts as well, one for mom and one for me.
There was a girl reading a TF comic in the waiting area at the airport and her friend had a TF Decepticon logo bag (I think they were in their late teens or early twenties at a guess). Both came back on my flight but I lost track of them after they got onboard.
When I arrived back home, I got routine questions at the Canada Customs kiosk then stamped and let through. While waiting for luggage, got questioned a second time by some roving customs agent (why?) My second bag failed to materialize so I had to do up a lost baggage form (how exactly does a bag not make it on to one plane? If I had connections or something, fine. But this should be impossible. The only thing I can think is that they scanned my charger cable and what-not and held it on-purpose).
After all that, had another asshole agent search through my phone, laptop and bags, claiming it was a routine thing (really? Did the other hundred or so people get searched too?) After ruining my poster and rifling through my stuff, the agent found nothing. Gee, thanks?
Next time I go through customs I will intentionally bring no baggage and declare nothing...just to see what they do (if anything).
Final Thoughts: This was an okay BotCon experience but I’ve definitely had better. It’s not Fun Publications fault–they did an excellent job as usual. It was a big mistake rooming with five other guys (just too many people and too much chaos). I also didn’t care for Jim’s room sales–you want to be able to rest and relax after a long trip and that was the opposite.
I was also poorly organized this time around. I was going, but then nobody responded to my roommate ad and I cancelled out. But I decided the plane ticket would be a waste so I changed my mind when Jim contacted me about rooming together. I didn’t get enough information from him about what he looked like or anything; I didn’t make sure my U.S. account and credit card would be set up right to work properly while I was down there...just a multitude of bad decisions leading up to the trip. I also didn’t pre-register and spent time worrying whether or not I’d be able to get in on the day of the show. I was hoping to have fun this time around and think I was only partially successful. If I had it all to do over again, I would’ve tried to do it better.
On the bright side, I did get all the toys I went for and then some. :) Also, this was the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the Transformers brand (and the twentieth anniversary of the first BotCon) so I really wanted to go.