Back in the end of April - feels like a long time ago now doesn't it - a little thing called "Botcon 2012" descended on an unsuspecting Dallas, Texas. The run up to the convention was turbulent to say the least, but when we got to the convention itself a lot of the troubles melted away. It was a great weekend for all involved, full of fun, laughs, catching up with old friends and making some new ones. So without further ado, let's get on to the review! I'd also like to say a big thanks to all the good people who contributed content to this review. This would not have been half as awesome as it is without your help and support! Arrival & the venue Sol Fury - My journey, in three words, can be described as "nine hour flight". A direct flight from London to Texas, I at least went prepared with a laptop loaded up with cartoons to watch on the plane. Arriving in Texas I made my way to the hotel – a very nice hotel to stay at, and although I know others had problems with homeless over the weekend I personally never encountered it. The hotel itself was nice, very slick and well worth the money. I’d rate it just below the second hotel block from last year, and above the main hotel block from Pasadena. Boardwise - I found that the Hyatt Regency hotel was fantastic. Nice modern looking hotel, with bright spacious areas. Didn't feel like we had to move along and the staff were helpful when I needed to ask something. The coffee shop and souvenir shop were a welcome bonus, although the prices were a little high, especially for bottles of water. The bar was far better than the one in Pasadena, actually taking up the majority of the upper atrium and having the ability to sit in the bar and order from the restaurant next to it was a welcome addition. Never tried the other restaurant though. They could have done with more bar staff though as the other convention that was on during Botcon, plus us at the bar meant it was very cramped for a couple of nights. Protoman - Nothing beats having the hotel people warn you not to go out at night. It was indeed a little sketchy, but during the day it was no biggy and cheap food was not TOO far away. Had a good mix of TGIF, Subway, Mcdonalds, Deli stuff, Mexican and so on. CookSux - - Boy it's humid in Dallas - Time to put my shades on - Whoa, the Hyatt Regency is pretty choice moist Secretcode - Honestly, going into BotCon, I wasn't exactly pumped and I was more or less filled with regret of my decision to go. And you know what? I really enjoyed my time at BotCon this year, and I was amazed of how many people called this the weakest one to date. If this year's was the worst, I wanna see how spectacular the convention has been before. After a fifteen hour road trip full of Highway-side trailer repairs, near-misses in Nashville, and the legendary Widener, AR exit with the Captured Prey guys, Dallas was a welcome sight. The venue itself was pretty cool, the hotel ammenities were pretty nice, and honestly out of the many resorts/hotels I've been to, this one was easily the nicest... unless you go west of the hotel and saw the thirty bail bonds places and two jails. ORIO - Having Botcon within driving distance was one of the main reasons I could go. Split between two, gas wasn't too expensive and the road trip went quickly even though we stopped at several stores in hopes of hooking up friends with the latest Prime toys (we had no luck). Upon walking up to the hotel I was shocked to see how gorgeous it was. We checked in and entered the elevator. I was shocked to see the 2nd floor of the hotel was an entire bar complete with restaurants and a waterfall. Just classy. The customizing class Sol Fury - On Wednesday I took the customizing class – yes Thursday guys, I worked out the bugs in the program for you! The figure to assemble was Classics Jazz as a purple SG Autobot named Longarm – although Shaun Tessman had cast an alternate head for the figure for a nice Classics Alternators Shockwave homage. The figure assembly was not easy thanks to a problem with the shoulder pins – they were meant to be Philips head screws (which is what the samples sent to Shaun were) and they ended up being pins instead. This made one step of the assembly a bottleneck as it fell to Raven to assist an entire class of sixty in getting these parts drilled and put together. Not fantastic but Shaun and the team handled it as best they could given the hand they had been dealt. The finished product was amazing either as Longarm or as Shockwave, so I consider this time well spent. I do feel that a class of sixty was perhaps overkill on numbers – sixty seems to have been stretching what Shaun and his helpers could effectively manage. My personal thought for 2013 would be to reduce the class sizes slightly, perhaps down to 45, but run a third class if a space could be found in the schedule. I feel a class of 45 would be more manageable especially if (or when) something unexpected happens. Megamus - If you were in the Wednesday class you had the privilege of working out the bugs for us in the Thursday class, I thank you. When I was told about the figure my reaction was "really" I mean what does a classic version of Alternators Shockwave have to do with anything? Well if I was informed correctly, they were not given the OK for the Custom Shockwave head and laser until the last minute. So we would have gotten Longarm. After seeing the figure I loved it. I have done several custom figures from Botcon and this is my favorite. The fact that they went out of the way to include the head and laser just shows what commitment Shawn, Stogie, Raven and the others have. I tip my hat to each and every one of you. optimusfan - The customizing class was easily the highlight of the convention for me. I hadn't tried to get into the class before, and I was certainly thrilled that I made it in to this one. One word: Shockwave! He's easily my favorite con, and the Alternators homage was a brilliant choice. And yes, I'm going to continue to pretend that the "Longarm" option doesn't exist. The class itself is pretty intense. It's a marathon, not a sprint. I was in the Thursday class, so some of the technical difficulties from the first day had been worked out the previous day. That being said, I was still there from 9 until 5:30. The guy I was working with didn't eat, drink, or use the rest room that entire time. Seriously. Like I said, it's a marathon. The process itself is pretty interesting. You start with uncut sprues and bags full of pins and screws. Step by step instructions are provided, and you're left to work at your own pace. Paint supplies and an airbrush are available to put the finishing touches on your figure following assembly. All in all I'm quite pleased with the way my figure turned out. He's certainly not perfect, but I finally have the classics Shockwave I've wanted for the longest time. On top of that, I learned a lot about customizing figures and finally have a truly "rare" figure in my collection. Lastly, Shawn and his team do a wonderful job, and I'd happily recommend the class to anyone. Protoman - Didn't get to attend, but I like the figure due to the Shockwave head and hand. CookSux - - Couldn't get in... - I still want Shockwave! The tours Sol Fury - I did not take the Dallas tour, but as a history buff and a lover of culture I was all over the Fort Worth tour. Seeing the Federal facility where the money was printed was fascinating (as well as scary when you consider—I was stood HOW far from HOW many millions of dollars?). The process of crafting a banknote is note something I’d never given a lot of thought to before, so it was pretty amazing to see how it all happened, and how it takes a surprisingly long time to produce the finished article. From there it was on to the Fort Worth Stockyards. As something of a history guy back home I found it fascinating to see this bit of the local culture, not to mention an actual cattle run. It is one of the things I love taking the time to do at Botcon and I was not disappointed. After lunch and a walking tour of Fort Worth we moved on to the rodeo zone, fully paid for and with free soft drinks, so everyone got to try their hand at riding a mechanical rodeo horse (or indeed, fish). It was a pretty awesome way to end the afternoon, and this part I thoroughly enjoyed (plus a personal goal was achieved - I got to wear a Stetson!) For those curious about the Dallas tour experience, here are some thoughts from my good friend Guskd aka Bulkhead who went on this tour! One of the more unique parts of any Botcon experience is the opportunity to join other Transformers fans on local sightseeing excursions. The 2012 "Dallas" tour consisted of tours of two of the Dallas professional sports stadiums and then a visit to the "Sixth Floor Museum," which explores the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. The tour started with a trip to Arlington Texas, where the Texas Rangers baseball team and Dallas Cowboys football team play their home games. We started with a tour of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (yes, that's it's official name), the local baseball stadium. The group was split into two groups for the tour (which was apparently done in order to ensure each group could fit into elevators in order to go from the upper levels of the stadium to the field level). Each of the tour groups were then brought through the press box, luxury suites, underground batting cages and dugout. The tour ended with a trip through the gift shop. We then departed for Dallas Cowboys Stadium, which shares a parking lot with Rangers Ballpark. The tour of Cowboys Stadium started with a trip through the gift shop (in a welcome change). The group then explored various parts of the stadium starting with a luxury suite (which had a perfect view of both the field and the 72 foot by 162 foot television that hangs above it. The group then visited other areas of the stadium, including the Cowboys' locker room, before being permitted to walk onto the field. The tour included a picture on the star at midfield. After wandering on the field, the group then visited the Cowboys' cheerleaders' locker room (which, for clarity's sake, was empty given that it's the offseason). We then departed Arlington and made our way back to Dallas. After a lunch break at an outdoor mall complex, we then visited the Sixth Floor Museum, which resides on the sixth floor of the former Dallas Book Repository, which is allegedly the building where Lee Harvey Oswald laid in wait to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. The Museum is a multi-media exhibit chronicling the political and social climate in the United States, and in particular Dallas, at the time before the assassination. The museum then walks through the assassination and the various theories that flow therefrom. The highlights of the museum tour are the corners where they recreate the snipers nest and the hiding place for Oswald's weapon. From the windows you can also see a pair of "x"s on the street which signify the places where the bullets hit President Kennedy. The seventh floor of the building also belongs to the museum, and serves as a gallery and place of quiet reflection. This was a somber way to end the tour. The tour was a nice mix of showing off leisure and history. It was interesting to get a chance to see both a baseball stadium and football stadium on the same day. The Sixth Floor Museum further served as the perfect stop for the history buffs of the group. While the tour was good, Dallas also has a very good aquarium and a nationally recognized zoo. It would have been nice to explore one of those attractions with the group. All in all, the tour was worth the value, especially given that we were able to spend the day exploring these areas of Dallas and Arlington with other Transformers fans. Package pickup & the toys Sol Fury - Package pickup for me took place on Wednesday night after I got done with the customizing class. I was in line in plenty of time for the club store opening at six on Thursday, and still at the same spot at gone 7pm. I understand there were technical difficulties behind the scenes – but it would have been nice if we could have been told this. Those of us who were in line early were left standing in line for a long time before something finally happened, with no word from the organizers as to why (or even any sign of anyone beyond the occasional helper). Not the best way to start the main part of the convention. Some quick thoughts on the toys. We were told that this year’s set would feature a set of pieces that could stand alone, and that is very true, as there is no real consistent unifying theme across all the toys this year. We’ve got Classics, Shattered Glass, Diaclone homages and I’m not even quite sure what Straxus was meant to be, all in the one larger set of toys. There are some great pieces in there - Kick Off / Kick-Over is a fantastic piece and the sort of thing I'd love to see more of, while Spinister and Octopunch are also good solid recolors. I do like the fact a lot of the alternate heads got used for these to add extra value to the set. While the add-ons really shone, the box set was far more of a mixed bag. Of the six, Metalhawk is quirky, Gigatron is okay but not really the update the character deserves, Soundwave is a love him or hate him affair, Magnus I've actually warmed to, and the duo of Treadshot and Turbo Tracks are good other than being forced into a particular faction through their faction symbols. Had the set gone entirely with rubsigns repurposing guys like these would have been so much easier. Overall the figures are alright, but far from the best set to come out of Fun Publications. As for the headband - it's poor quality, very rough casting and feels very fragile. I personally prefer the "DIY" approach of getting a bit of fabric and making my own. Boardwise - Again, Fun Pub fail at organising the package pick up. You'd think that after 8 years of running this con, and knowing how many people attend, they'd have a better system for pick up, but nope, it's LineCon. I went down at 6pm (although my pick up was 7pm) and it was a mess. the line snaked around the outside of the ballroom and there was very little organisation. I couldn't tell where it ended. They did do one thing right though, when the lines inside for the pick-ups were getting low they came out and got people who were going to be in that line and moved them in. Though inside it was still and wait to get your stuff as they seem to go slow. Smasher was ahead of me and I caught him up by the time I got to the front of the line. Although I also found out that one of the lines was empty and the staff member there was just sitting doing nothing. They should have taken people from one of the adjacent lines and dealt with them till their line got people. There has been plenty said about the toys before, but I have to say that holding some of them in person they do slightly improve for me. Except SG Soundwave. It's a bad toy and should feel bad. Really like the Junkions and Kick-Off is fantastic. Someone mentioned that Spraxus is a Serpentor homage and makes me wonder if that's FunPubs new trick, shoe-horning GI Joe into the TF exclusives. As for the $5 headband, I never got one (refuse to spend that on one and realistically, it should have been in the box set as it seems central to the character since he's shown with one in the artwork) but I've heard the quality of some of them were bad. Makes me glad I didn't waste money on one. optimusfan - This set has grown on me since it was first announced. It's never going to be "top 3" for me, but it's not awful either. Really great molds, and FunPub knows how to do paint apps. Hopefully this was the last hurrah for Shattered Glass, but I'm not holding my breath. Gigatron - This is probably the highlight of the box for me. The tank mode is fantastic. That being said, the bot mode is a bit off. His arms are too spindly and head is too big. However, if I don't look at him too closely I don't see the issues. Metalhawk - Metalhawk looked better in hand than I expected. The eyes on mine aren't as goofy as they were for others. Nice colors in both modes and I like the fact that he's different than almost everything else in my collection. Treadshot - Nice deco and cool headsculpt on this guy, but he was easily outdone by Kickoff. Soundwave - The faceplate on this guy is just too long. It doesn't look as bad in person as I expected, but it's still not great. That being said, he will be rocking the third party headband as a wacky G2 Soundwave in my collection. Ultra Magnus - The head mold does not do Dan Khanna's cool comic art justice. At all. I really wish they molded the clear portion of the head in a bone color and given it a paint wash. Tracks - I know a lot of people were really excited for this guy, but I couldn't care less. It's red Tracks. Oh boy. Straxus - I'm so not into this guy that he's the only figure from the set that I haven't even opened yet. Kickoff - Absolutely gorgeous, and a great head sculpt. This kind of deco is what Botcon excels at. He just pops, especially in vehicle mode. Prime - Nice deco, and I love the metallic brushstrokes. The "I shall stand...the rest shall fall" was really a nice touch. I like this mold more as time goes on. Spinister - Pros: Pink pants! Cons: It's still a movie mold. Junkions - I'm still not sure what to do about these guys. On one hand I really like them. Good decos and I love having all three head sculpts, but I'm not sure where to put them in my collection. Octopunch - I find this guy uninspired, yet a somehow competent homage. Protoman - This years Primus package pick up was the same wait as usual, but due to a lot of mishaps with the credit card machines, the extra toys, merch and souvenir pick up was a long messy disaster compared to past ones. I got in line about 7, left around 10:30ish. Mind you it's cause I was credit and wanted to get OTHER stuff too. ORIO - Due to several circumstances, I bought a protoform package. It felt kind of lack luster standing in line to get a badge and a hat. Though, for the most part the line moved very quickly. The souvenir line however was another beast entirely. Thankfully I was in good company. Lumpy, Smasher, Boardwise and Dragonclaw helped the time go by quicker. Secretcode - As many now know, I went to BotCon this year as a Volunteer, and the job I was assigned was to work the Pre-Registration line-up (And the Friday panels... I'll get to that in a bit.) and to be quite honest, the organization was a mess for EVERYONE. Between a last minute internet outage which apparently caused a huge issue with credit card machines, and a bizarre decision to count the headband as "Other Stuff" tossing people who just wanted the convention exclusives into the "BUY EVERYTHING" line-up, it seemed everyone was having a bit of a hard time with the line-up, and I couldn't help but apologize to people that were going up into the line-up who just wanted certain stuff... especially once I saw the quality of the headband. I wonder if FunPub would have caught as much crap if the headband was given to attendees/box set holders free of charge. As for convention toys, I didn't buy any! What I've seen of the toys made me like a few of them (specifically SG Tracks, SG Treadshot and Spinister) and the weird homage-upon-homage-upon-homage style that the custom class toy had this year is the kind of thing I wish the club did more often, for toys people can reasonably get ahold of. CookSux - - Yay Shattered Glass - $5 headband made of goobers? - $5 headband made of goobers! The dealer room Sol Fury - As I spent a lot of time in the panel room this year most of my dealer room experience was on the Friday. The dealer room was a whole lot less crowded than in previous years – something which I welcomed although I dare saw the dealers perhaps did not. Still it was nice to be able to walk around freely and there was throughout the weekend nearly always a space at any given table. Prices were reasonable in some cases but some things – such as Transformers Prime toys – were on the ridiculously high side. Toys available at general retail for $40 for example. Vintage again was expensive but at this point, it is to be expected. All things being said and done, the dealer room was nicely laid out and quite spacious, with a smaller Hasbro display area and kids play area than last year. It was definitely a smaller room than previous years, in part due to a few retailers not being able to make the show and also in part to having no massive displays like the movie vehicles in the room. I did manage to find a few good bargains and a few pieces for the collection I’d been after for a while, along with spending an ungodly amount on Generation 1 parts to nearly complete my Generation 1 collection, so the time I spent in the dealer room was well worth it. Boardwise - Last years felt much more open, spacious and brighter than this years. Some of the deals I got were decent, but the overall feel of the dealer room felt a bit flatter than previous years. Was good to see some familiar dealers there, and some of the chat I got with them was good (I'm looking at you ToyArena, tempting me with your fine products!) I did like how Hasbro put some of the figures in a pose, instead of the generic stand, and the Prime diorama was excellent. Looking over and finding all the little details was fun (Cliffjumper in bits below the bridge!) I hope they do more of them. Protoman - The dealer room could be a runner up as the worst dealer room to date, and it's NOT because of the lack of 3rd party. It was small, Disney Botcon 2010 small. Sure there was plenty of wide spaces, but it was the same 12 dealers with more or less the same merchendise from years past. If not for Azusa's table, the dealer room would have been a bust for me. Megamus - Well from a dealers point of view, honestly. I do not want to give an outright opinion that places myself in the lime light but, I felt the prices for the most part were very very high. I was asked several times by other dealers why I had my prices so low. SERIOUSLY, I do not understand the idea of hey let's jack up the price because its a convention. If I wanted Ebay prices I would, well you understand. Don't get me wrong I make a profit but I also sell a lot. Less profit per item more sales you get the idea. Anyway, the room size in general was about normal in my opinion. I think people do not understand that without all the cars and oversize displays by Hasbro there is more room. Also, the kids pit was smaller, the Hasbro display was smaller. I would say the number of dealers was probably less but I would say not by much. I was able to get a few items marked off my wants list but that was it. I did see a lot of the same stuff over and over again. CookSux - - There was a dealer room? - Judy at Bodhar's table - Almost cockblocked by Benson Yee Secretcode - You know what? I enjoyed the dealer room, and for the most part I completely ignored my shopping list. Why's that? Because prices were INSANE on a few things. My favorite pick-ups from the entire weekend were Parts Party hauls, specifically the $10 HFTD Leader Starscream from Megamus' Room of Magnificient Fantastical Wonder. Regardless, I still did manage to pick up a few things I've missed out on lately (such as DOTM Dark Steel, RTS Turbo Tracks, Kre-O Stuff and First Edition Bumblebee) not to mention some stuff I've looked at for quite a while, but never pulled the trigger on (Namely Beast Wars Cohrahda, RiD Sky-Byte, as well as a few S.H. Figuarts. I've been a bit harsh regarding Figuarts completists elsewhere, but I'll admit, seeing the toys in person does wonders for understanding why people impulse buy these things en masse.*) Really interested in seeing what the bigger dealer rooms are like, now. Also there may or may not have been several Third Party Parties in the place. There may or may not have been some MAIDEN JAPAN stuff shown off one night, and I may or may not totally think that maybe some sort of ROTF Bludgeon add-on that may or may not exist was totally maybe awesome. And there may or may not have been a giant purple cyclops boat dude that may or may not have completely sorta turned around my stance on third party toys. ORIO - Again, this was my first Botcon. I can equate this to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Except... Ya know... With giant robots. I wandered around just overwhelmed by the fact that I was actually there before I started buying stuff. Based on previous BotCon pictures, I expected the room to be bigger. Probably because previous years had the movie vehicles on display. Several people mentioned that the room was indeed smaller than previous years. But still, the amount of ridiculous robot awesome contained in that room was off the scale. The panels Sol Fury - The Saturday and Sunday of a Botcon are traditionally chock-full of panels and 2012 was no exception! In fact if you wanted to attend all of the panels you would probably find yourself with precious little extra time for other activities – there was not even a lunch programmed in on Saturday this year. Notable by their absence too were Hasbro Studios, surprising considering there’s two Transformers cartoons on air right now to talk about. While they probably could not have talked much about upcoming storylines, it would have been nice to, for example, get some writer input on the One Shall Rise / Orion Pax story arcs, or on bringing Rescue Bots to the screen. There was also no panel on “Transformers World Building”, which in previous years had been our main tease on the nature of the original 13 Transformers, and Artoni squeeing at said reveals of the original 13 Transformers. That is not to put down the panels that were on offer. IDW’s Transformers comics panel was a great look forward at upcoming issues of all three ongoing series that IDW is publishing, with the reveal of the new box art collection book from Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster being a welcome and much-desired reveal. Simon Furman’s own panel would go on and build on the excitement for his own upcoming Regeneration 1 series, while also giving a great glimpse into the rich history of his work with the franchise including a look at a whole lot of unpublished artwork. Derrick Wyatt’s Transformers Animated panel was another blast to attend – sad in hearing about ideas that would now never come to pass, but also heartwarming when Derrick was giving out toys to the younger members of the audience. On Sunday there was a pair of panels on Transformers video games, one from Activision & High Moon Studios and one from Jagex. Both were great to get hyped on the upcoming games for Transformers Prime, Fall of Cybertron and the Universe MMO respectively, with the first reveals of some new trailers and other material. While there were no massive “whoa!” reveals for Fall of Cybertron, it was nice to see a lot of material exhibited publicly for the first time, and actually played live at the Activision booth on the Dealer Room floor. Of course a major staple of the Botcon panels are the toy reveals! After last year’s frankly disappointing panel for new toy reveals, this year we got to see a fair bit more of the upcoming toy releases including a tease of new Transformers Prime toys (pictures of which have since been released online officially) and Transformers Fall of Cybertron toys, again since released online. There were a few “advance prototype” looks, but less perhaps than previous years, which I feel might be due to the Hasbro panel being reduced from two hours of past years down to one. Still, it was a blast to see all the upcoming toy releases, even if as the Transformers Prime Voyager Wave 4 slide showed Hasbro was holding back reveals of the other two toys in the assortment. Even so the one we saw – Thundertron – was a great reveal right out of the leftfield. The reveal of Masterpiece Optimus Prime coming to the US with his trailer raised a cheer from the audience, as did the reveal of the two San Diego Comic Con Exclusives, Transformers Prime Terrorcon Cliffjumper complete with Dark Energon shard and Fall of Cybertron Bruticus as a giftset in “game accurate” colors. All in all it was a decent panel for new product reveals, though there was not as much as in previous years and there wasn’t a major shocking reveal like when we found out we were getting a new Bludgeon, or a new Armada styled Hot Shot. The Transformers Collector’s Club was not to be ignored either with their own panel kicking off with an apology from Brian Savage for the credit card issues that overshadowed the whole convention, before going into the details of the new subscription service and the assortment of toys to be offered through it. There was an eclectic selection that ensured all tastes could be accounted for – from the Beast Wars Ultra Mammoth, to the Animated Jackpot, the Transformers Prime / Animated crossover Slipstream, Classics Breakdown using the Botcon 2010 head mold on the Universe Sideswipe body, Classics Circuit in a homage to an obscure Action Master from Europe, and Tony_Bacala’s personal dream of a Reveal the Shield Optimus Prime repainted as Scourge from Robots in Disguise – and actually named Scourge to boot! The Collector’s Club renewal figure, a pre-Beast Wats Depth Charge from Hunt for the Decepticons Terradive, rounded out the reveals. All in all for reveals, this was the panel that really provided the excitement, possibly because the toys revealed were far more collector-oriented than the Hasbro mainline which caters to both collectors and kids alike. Lastly I’ll touch on the script reading. Bee in the City 2 was a great reading, on a par with the best script readings I have attended. It is always great to hear Dan Gilvezan reprise his role of Bumblebee, a role he still sounds great in nearly 30 years on, and it is always a pleasure to hear Garry Chalk and David Kaye perform their characters live. The script reading was light-hearted and willing to poke fun at all the tropes and in-jokes of the Transformers lore. There were a few technical difficulties, which the VA guests were able to roll with, with hilarious results. The weakest link perhaps was Buster Jones, who occasionally needed to be prompted on his lines which shook up the reading a little. Overall though it was a worthy sequel to the original Bee in the City script reading and both cast and audience had a lot of fun with it. Hopefully it will be up on Youtube soon for all to enjoy! Boardwise - The panels I attended were handled well, I felt. DJW was a true gent as usual, offering a young kid a free figure after he asked why he couldn't see Animated on TV any more (I'm sorry, if that didn't make you go "Awww" then there is no hope for you.) Though Pete seemed to go on and on for an answer before I could ask my question The Hasbro reveals didn't feel that many, but from what I understand that's higher up choice more than the guys at the panel. They wanted to show us everything but couldn't. Secretcode - *shrugs* I dunno how to feel about how well done the panels were this year, as again this is my first BotCon, but between working security on the Friday panels (More on that in a second) and the few panels I went to on Saturday, I had a blast. MSTF- Let me say this first and foremost: I love MST3K and most MST3K-style things and any time I see something similar for the first time, I usually keep an open mind. And I struggled. I reaaaaaaally struggled. A lot of throwaway and unfunny jokes, and awkward Adult Swim commercial rip-off segments made me really glad I was mainly there as panel security (aka, "Let me see your badge" without walking up to you and turning around the badge with my own hands. Hi Jarodimus.) HOWEVER, I do have to give the MSTF crew some props for this: Anytime people who are deeply involved in the fandom will come out and call people out on outright being hateful/spiteful toward people just because of slightly different fandom views or their allegiences (for lack of a better word) with the different fansites, I will gladly give them credit for it. And honestly, through the entire event, that's the one key thing I kept thinking about and noticing, as on the show floor NO ONE cares about where you're from or what you do for the most part, as in the long run everyone is there for the same purpose: Meticulously collecting products that are mainly aimed at children. Transformers Film-Fest- Another panel I only saw because I was doing Badge Security, and I'm glad I saw it for two reasons: This and This. TFCC Comic Panel- I fully admit, I don't care about the club fiction at all, and this panel was graciously cut short for me by Garry Chalk, who stopped by for a view minutes after patting me on the back out of nowhere going "How're ya doin, bud?" and chatted for a bit before he headed downstairs, and by the time that was done with the panel was more or less halfway over before Dan Gilvezan shown up and the same thing happened again. There's only one way it could have been better... Animated Talk with Derrick J. Wyatt- After arriving a bit late for this panel (and my final shift) due to an elevator mishap, I was glad to see that things were already in full swing, as Derrick J. Wyatt was showing off his DVD of rarely-seen (Unless you've been to other Animated panels, or other conventions) Animated shorts, followed by a Q+A session that was unforgettable thanks to a really adorable/sad question from a little kid ("Why can't I find the show on TV anymore?" followed by DJW grabbing a bunch of toys and letting the kid have his pick at the lot) and a really awkwardly placed question ("WHERE'S THE NEXT BOTCON GOING TO BE AND WHEN IS IT?!" "2013?") and some really quick bits of info that I'm really glad is now out there about Season 4, such as Bumble Prime. Around that point, I'm afraid my experience with that panel was cut short for a really good reason: David Kaye shown up, beginning a bit of a frantic search for someone who'd know where he'd need to be, givings him a few moment to catch up a bit with DJW and take a picture with a preteen fan who was very excited to meet him before needing to make our way downstairs where a TFCC staff member would help him to his autograph line. Very frantic, yet very memorable experience, and honestly, having those moments and discussions with the voice actors is something I'd rather have instead of waiting forty minutes in line to get a minute or two with the voice actors as they sign something. I joked about it with Protoman the night afterward and apparently that more or less is the TFCon experience... making me reaaaaaally consider going to the Great White North next year. TFCC Roundtable- After all the crap that has happened in the last six months regarding the club, this was the one panel I was very curious about in terms of how people would react. And like usual, no matter what goes horribly wrong, the minute something new and shiny appears, people outright go ALL IS FORGIVEN. Regardless, with the reveals and the new plans for the Club toys, I'm actually really excited and curious on how the TFCC manages this. As for the toys themselves, I'm really tempted to just outright do the Club Subscription thing for this, as I reaaaally want Scourge, Breakdown and Slipstream. Hasbro Brand Team- Originally, I was going to outright say and describe the toys that were revealed, but it appears Hasbro has decided "Heeeeeeeey, let's throw the dudes who didn't go a bone this year" and revealed the stuff via Facebook. And that's not a bad thing, as I'm really glad to have a better look at Fireflight and Ultra Magnus. The only thing not revealed that I really want you guys to see is Thundertron, by far. He's a Blue and White Liger Zero-looking beast that turns into an amazing robot mode, and apparently since he's a pirate you can fold up one of his normal legs to show off a peg-leg. Preordering this sucker like a madman and I really can't wait to see this dude again. ORIO - First toy reveal at the club panel made my heart jump. It was even for a figure I don't really want. But being there when new product is announced, shown and hearing the crowd scream was an awesome experience. Best moment hands down? The little kid in Derrick J Wyatt's panel asking why he couldn't watch Transformers Animated on TV anymore. Little kid almost made me cry. Derrick is a stand up individual and him hooking that kid up with a free toy was one of the highlights of my trip. Protoman - Oddly the TFCC panel was the one with the WOW NEW TOYS this year. The Hasbro one felt empty handed and ho hum. Derrick's panel was fun as always and IDW gave us some nice peaks as future books that excite me. CookSux - - What's Photoshop? - Not sure if Transformers panel or business lecture - Might as well do some 3DS Street Pass - Wake me up when we're leaving for lunch Hall of Fame dinner Sol Fury - On Saturday night we had the Transformers Hall of Fame and casino night. Admittedly I did not care much for the casino night so donated my tokens to the Gogdog casino fund, but the Hall of Fame dinner was excellent. It was a formal sit down meal at no additional cost to the basic ticket, with good food and as always some excellent presentations. The Chris Latta tribute was heartfelt and moving, and the Simon Furman induction video was an excellent tribute to one of the most important writers in the Transformers series. The robot induction videos were funny though unlike past years licensed music was not used, so there was none of the fun of trying to guess which song might be used for each character (I’d have personally used Dare for Rodimus even so!). Sky-Byte deserves special mention not only for getting to the final five, but also getting a great video, the surfer music it was set to really made his video uniquely him. Shockwave’s induction video also deserves special mention if only for the clip at the end revealing his inclusion in Transformers Prime, to rapturous applause from the audience. Wheeljack won the fan vote in the end, which is now named The Hartman award in honor of the founders of Botcon Jon and Karl Hartman. All things considered, the Hall of Fame dinner was really about the people that made Transformers and the characters, without forgetting the fans that made it all happen. My one and only real complaint with the Hall of Fame dinner was with the audio setup used, which was not really best suited to a hall full of people who were eating and so had to contend with the clatter of plates and cutlery along with other background noise to hear what was being said. A better PA system would have made the evening perfect. Boardwise - The meal was delicious. That's about the only good thing I can say about it. The table I ended up was at the back and since FunPub are cheap, they never tied into the house PA system and their speaker system couldn't broadcast that far, so all we got was something that equates to Charlie Brown's teacher mumbling. Also from the sounds of it, their PA system was about to blow. The layout was also not that great. With circular tables, if you were sitting with your back to the stage you had to turn around to see. If they had had screens and speakers placed half way up the hall and at the far end, it would have covered everyone. Megamus - Nice, the food was good and the service was even better. If you wanted something they got it fast. I do have one complaint and that was the sound. We were in the middle and could not hear anything the speaker was saying. Very muffled. Protoman - With only 2 to compare to of the past, this Hall of Fame was almost flawless. The only problem I had was they really should have completed the dinner and take away all the CLANKING plates and forks before Aaron Archer started to talk on the mic. Food was the best so far, we had a desert that was not like the "air" of 2010, it was swanky.... my thumbs up....... even if Hot Rod/Rodimus didn't win CookSux - - People are dressed up for this? - How long was this salad and cheesecake out? - I'm sorry, what did you say Chris Latta's daughter? Couldn't hear you. Secretcode - As a Protoform, I decided to slum it up and do a "Hall of Me" Dinner event in the hotel room with a weird spicy sandwich thing from the coffee shop downstairs and hold my own awards show where I struggled trying to avoid Family Guy episodes on the TV, build a Kre-O Bumblebee kit, and eat the sandwich. The Golden Ticket Experience One of the new options available for this year's convention was the opportunity to purchase a "Golden Ticket" which brought with it certain special privileges. This was much discussed online in the run-up to the convention and no review of Botcon 2012 would be complete without covering this controversial new addition to the convention. Here to lend his thoughts on the Golden Ticket experience once again is Bulkhead! This was a first year that Fun Publications offered the "Golden Ticket" add on. The Golden Ticket had four major features (package had some other additions, such as a special pin and additional credits for casino night, but those do not bear the need for discussion), which together provided a good value notwithstanding the somewhat hefty price tag. First, Golden Ticket holders had opportunities to avoid some of the more daunting lines at Botcon. Golden Ticket holders were invited to pick up their registration materials and box sets early on Wednesday, even before tour and custom class participants. This allowed Golden Ticket holders to avoid long waits in line to simply pick up materials. Additionally, the club store opened early for Golden Ticket holders, which meant holders could purchase convention exclusives before the general registrants. In fact, Fun Pub waited until all Golden Ticket holders had completed their purchases before opening the store to general registrants. All told I was in line for less then 20 minutes to pick up my registration materials and less than 30 minutes to buy convention exclusives. Given that I have waited for hours in each of the registration and exclusives lines in the past, the ability to avoid those waits was invaluable. Second, Golden Ticket holders were given the opportunity to buy three times the limit of convention toys. For those of us that went with the hopes of getting convention exclusives for our friends and fellow fans who couldn't attend, this was a useful feature. On the first night exclusives are on sale, the limit is one of each exclusive per person, per trip through line. Golden Ticket holders, however, could buy up to three of each. My wife and I (who were both Golden Ticket holders) were able to pick up for everyone that had asked me for exclusives on the first night. This saves incredible amounts of time as we didn't have to go through the lines a second time. Third, there was special seating in the panel room for Golden Ticket holders. This was useful given that the more interesting panels tend to fill up quickly. Because we were guaranteed seats, we were able to spend more time on the dealer floor before heading up to the panel room. While useful, this alone was not the best value as none of the panel rooms filled to the point that people couldn't see or hear. As such, it was a nice convenience, and a good sweetener for the Golden Ticket package, but not enough on its own to warrant a purchase. Last, but certainly not least, Golden Ticket holders were invited to a special reception with all the special guests (including Peter Cullen). The reception was designed so that the special guests could mingle among the fans, which ultimately provided a more personal experience. Each of the guests mingled the room spending time with the Golden Ticket holders. Indeed, a few of us had the privilege of speaking for nearly an hour with Derrick J. Wyatt. The conversation touched on everything from pop culture to politics, and was a great way to create a different rapport with the talent. We also had the opportunity to take pictures with the guests. At the end of the evening, we were given a print signed by nearly all of the special guests and a Bot Shot signed by Peter Cullen. While Peter Cullen's stint at the party was short compared to some of the other guests, he still made it a point to stop for everyone who wanted to share a word with him. Those of us at the reception shared a truly unique experience to meet and share time with special guests in a friendly and open setting. This alone was worth the additional cost of the Golden Ticket, and if this is a part of the package going forward, Fun Pub can count on my money. The Golden Ticket package was an excellent value for those of us looking to both maximize our time at Botcon and also to create a truly unique Botcon experience. By increasing the limits on exclusive and creating special lines for holders during registration and the first night sales, we were able to quickly navigate some of the more tedious parts of the convention. Moreover, the reception alone was worth the additional charge. With some tweaks (such as extending the Golden Ticket line privileges to the Club Store throughout the weekend and adding special lines to the autograph areas), it is entirely possible that the Golden Ticket will soon be an incredibly popular addition to the convention experience. After show stuff / TFW meetup & other fun stuff Sol Fury - The heart of any Botcon though is not in the dealer room, the panels or the toys – it is in seeing friends and meeting people who you’ve only known as screennames until that point. This is where the memories of Botcon are truly born – memories such as: Seeing Miraibaby’s awesome Breakdown cosplay completed and marching around the hotel. It took joint first place in the cosplay contest with an awesome Animated Blitzwing and Animated Swoop cosplay, an honor that was richly deserved for all the hard work that clearly went into those costumes. Going to the Customizing Class having loaded up on bacon and sausage at the breakfast buffet with Secretcode and declaring “My heart is full of fire… and BACON”, amongst other bacon related exploits. Riding the mechanical rodeo horse at Fort Worth, laughing like a madman the whole time. Finally remembering Gogdog! Witnessing Protoman, Guard Convoy and other trying to finish off 100 chicken MacNuggets. Their hearts were full of fire… and MacDonald’s chicken! Chilling with pizza and brownies with Guskd, TJ Duckett and friends. Making a cameo appearance on the Seth Buzzard Livestream and saying hi to the absent but never forgotten TrickyDisco! Going for steak with the whole TFW crew… and then discovering by coincidence I’d be sat across from Boardwise on the flight home! And so many, many more memories. Meeting old friends and meeting people for the first time, it’s what conventions and Botcon are truly all about. Tony_Bacala - - Lack of Guinness at the bar. - Quintuplet Smothered and Covered Boardwise - The TFW Meet-Up was fantastic as always. Was great seeing some old faces and meeting new ones. It is one of the reasons I travel thousands of miles to attend as I get to hang out with my friends for a few days. I had a lot of fun doing stuff before and after the con (the group visit to In-N-Out burger and the Lego store spring to mind) and just goes to show that there is more than just the show. Also going for a delicious steak with a group of friends on Sunday was excellent. A nice way to end the weekend. Protoman - Having dinner with IDW or spending quality time with long time online friends is always something that keeps me coming back to Botcon. I talked with my buddy Hydra and Monzo from 9pm till almost 8am. Can one really talk almost 11 hours about Robot Masters and Powercore Combiners, even other fellow TFW members felt I was crazy! Secretcode - I'll say this: It was great finally putting faces to many of you and meeting you guys after so long. I'd name people off, but I really don't want to be the dude who somehow forgot someone (Sorry @JaviFuentes!) or didn't get a chance to meet them at the show itself. I'm also sorry for not being as social as I originally wanted to be during the show, as during the very beginning of the Friday Night meet-up, as Tony B. and Super_Megatron sorta saw, apparently I caught some sort of sickness. Hopefully, next year I'll be not-sick and actually BE at the meet-ups. From the brief social experiences I had before the unfortunate timing, it was a blast. Also, Crasis' Monocle Ranger bit is a lot more hilarious in person. CookSux - - So, we're going to the bar tonight? - So, you like Asians? - So, you've never heard of a Prairie Fire? - So, you ladies want to talk with these gentlemen? - So, you're all lesbians? - So, you're part of Health Source? - So, you're going to cock block me? - So, the weekend's already over? Tony_Bacala - - Lack of Guinness at the bar. - Quintuplet Smothered and Covered ORIO - Cigars. Showing people my tramp stamp. Booze. Laughs. shirtless cooksux. More booze. More laughs. Stealing Super_Megatron's whiskey. Seriously. This was by far, the highlight of my trip. I've been on TFW since 02 and to finally hang out with friends that I've known and conversed with for the better part of that decade was amazing. Everyone was extremely cool. Not a jerk in the whole bunch. They all welcomed me with open arms. Loved it. At least, from what I can remember! Final thoughts Lumpy - First Botcon here as well, and I gotta say it was pretty amazing all around. From being one of the 125 to meet Peter Cullen (though I originally didn't care much) to getting to experience the panels live for the first time, instead of via my keyboard, to the best part, meeting everyone from the boards I've had an interaction with other the years. It was truly a great trip, a great birthday, and I got some fantastic new toys and cannot wait for next year. I'm sure I could say more, but I'll just leave it at that. ORIO - First convention experience was a winner. I look forward to next year! Boardwise - After all the crap that went on before, I wasn't expecting much. I felt like there was going to be a black cloud hanging over the weekend. However, meeting up with friends and the amount of laughs we had over the weekend alleviated all those thoughts and made it a great weekend. Was it the best Botcon ever? No. But the hotel has been one of the best I have been to. If they could have that hotel in Pasadena I'd be very happy. I have always believed that the people make the con and this year I am happy that was the case. Secretcode - Ultimately, despite the unfortunate circumstances and bad clouds that were hanging over this convention, and some horrible financial timing on my end, I really enjoyed BotCon, and while many are apt to say this was the worst BotCon in a long while, I still want to go back sometime in the future, HOPEFULLY next year given good timing and a better location. One more thing, I'd like to thank a few people for certain things. - Sidecutter, Highrise, xZAOx and Weirdwolf, for being great road trip buddies and for great memories and a place to crash until my roomies arrived the day after... - Speaking of, big thanks to Protoman, UltraPrimal, and UltraMaverick for being the best roommates I could ask for. Bros all around, and Protoman's bedtime stories about obscure Transformers and stories of BotCon of old were great. I just wish he brought me a glass of milk. - NurseMidnight, who I completely met by accident while sorta running away from a situation that was far from wanted, who then let me take a quick shower in his room (My roommates didn't get their room until hours later due to the customization class) and then through an incredibly kind (and incredibly devious) move, handed me Glyos. Do you have any idea what you've done, Stan? DO YOU?! - Sol Fury. Infinite Bacon. Protoman - While not the BEST Botcon, it's far from the worse (Even with a poor dealer room), that honor goes to Disney who failed on all points outside of a HoF debut. While it was fun, I rather it be elsewhere, it might lead to a better set up. better dealer turn out, ect CookSux - - Botcon 2012 - TFW2005 Tony_Bacala - - Lack of Guinness at the bar. - Lack of Guinness at the bar. - Lack of Guinness at the bar. - Quintuplet Smothered and Covered - Quintuplet Smothered and Covered - Quintuplet Smothered and Covered That about sums it up for me. I didn't really pay attention to the Transformers stuff too much. Megamus - From a dealers side, the best show to date. From a buyers side, not so good. From a fans side, I loved it. Sol Fury - Botcon 2012 was a convention that was under a troubled cloud, with the mixed reaction to the toys, the credit card issues and everything else that had gone on beforehand. It acquitted itself well in the end, while it was not a perfect convention by any means it was an extremely enjoyable weekend and the only true downside I can think of is that it had to end so quickly and leave us all to return to the real world, to meet again another time. Perhaps up in Toronto, Canada in the last week of July for TFcon, or over in England at Auto Assembly, or at one of the many other gatherings, meetups and conventions throughout the year. Whenever – and wherever – that may be, I am sure it will be a blast for everyone there. Don't just take the staff's word on it though - here's some thoughts from the 2005 Supporter's Lounge: Grimlockisking - Came to see what it was all about and meet up with some friends I'd made on the boards. Left realizing I enjoyed the people and conversations far more than anything else I bought, saw, or did there, just hanging out and getting to share my hobby with others who liked it was worth the cost of the whole trip. Smasher - This was my first Botcon: I had a great time. It was a blast to meet so many people I had only known through text. I felt like the show was designed to always have 'something going on'; there was always a panel, or an autograph signing with very little overlap forcing me to choose one thing over another. I thought it was great how accessible everyone was - whether it was voice actors, game developers, Hasbro employees, or Botcon staff everyone was friendly and seemed genuinely enthused to be there. For some 'constructive criticism' I did feel like some of the rules regarding some of the functions were unclear. For instance, I was in line for the 'Souvenir Only' portion of the club store before I even realized there was a 'Souvenir Only' section. And, I imagine everyone who has been to Botcon has known this, but I found it odd that the convention was announced the press release urged everyone to buy the appropriate package before it sold out, but then it took over a month before all the details of what was actually going on at the Con were revealed. It turned out awesome, but it was a lot of money to spend without knowing what I was actually going to get. StayingInTheBox - 4th time going to BotCon and this one was just as good as years prior because of the people. BotCon is an opportunity to turn the message boards into a face-to-face conversation and I've developed lasting friendships through these interactions. My only frustration is the lack of communication the BotCon staff had during the Club Store line. There were three different lines going, which volunteers had one idea of what they were and the Club Store operators had a completely different idea. I felt it was a little unfair that some people in the "souvenir only line" knowingly stepped into the line with intent of buying more than just the souvenirs. Other thoughts: dealer room was excellent, HOF night was FUN, panels were the best I've attended, and the guests were a lot of fun to talk with. sunlink - To quote you Sol: Bacon. _B_A_C_O_N_ Bacon. (Thanks for the tip cuz the bacon WAS really good ) Besides that ... Botcon was fun. FunPub seemed to have figured out line queuing theory as I and many others thought it went pretty smoothly. Hopefully in the future FunPub will expand on the number of panels they offer only because they seem to be the same year to year. There still seems to be a ton of communication issues between staffers and volunteers that needs addressing. But the best part of the convention was hanging out with old and new friends. Cax6ton - 1st botcon. Loved meeting people from TFW and from the DFW area, loved going to all the rooms for 3rd party/club parts parties/etc or just hanging out around the con. I thought the dealer room and panels were so-so - not enough exciting or entertaining info, and other than G1 stuff the dealer rooms didn't have a whole lot that I couldn't get somewhere else. Hated the 4 hour wait to go through package pickup and the club store. Con funk smell was much better compared to some other conventions I have been to. There was the occasional blast of ass in some groups, but at least you could escape. TJ Duckett - First Botcon attendance: Had some worries due to people who'd previously went feeling that this may not be up-to-snuff, however when I went down there, I had a fantastic time. The panels, and Q&A were nice, but what made it for me was the dealer rooms and overall environment. So many names from the message boards given faces, so much positivity... as said, just an outstanding environment. I had some worry about lines, but I never spent more than 10 minutes in any given line, because everything was handled so well by the Botcon staff. A fantastic time that I have 0 regrets on, and hope to increase my experience next year with a Golden ticket and entering the customizing class. Noizemaze - First BotCon The best part about the convention was meeting everyone and hanging out with people I've only known via screen names. Regardless of how you feel about the exclusives or how the convention is run, the stories and experiences I now have are worth the price of admission. FatalT 71 - I will say that it was a great time for my family and I - being in a place with so many other fans was just an awesome experience. Getting to meet the special guests and shake their hands was a blast - I will never forget my daughter and David Kaye having a conversation in their BW Megatron voices I'm not sure who was a bigger kid that day, myself or my daughter. I'm thinking it was me Guard Convoy - I have been a part of the fandom since 2005, a heavy lurker of TFW until finally joining the forum in 2009. I was a fan since beast wars but did not become an actual collector until 2005 when my interest for all things g1 began. Now, since 2005 I've wanted to go to Botcon. I missed the very first Texas Botcon in 2005 because my family got sick that weekend, and me, being a kid in middle school, could not go by myself. Ever since that moment it was a dream of mine to go to Botcon, I waited 7 years for it to come back remotely close to Texas. The day it was announced to be in Texas, I got on TFW like i always do, and I see i got a message from our own Sol fury, telling me to check out the news about Botcon. I metaphorically did CARTWHEELS in the floor when i heard this news, I was the happiest person in the world, finally, after all these years, I would finally get to go to Botcon. Now, to the experience. The actual convention, is dull. There is not much at all to do at Botcon, there are a few panels, a dealer room, and that's it. Its the most barebones convention that i've ever been too. There is so much deadtime it isn't even funny. I have been going to a local anime con for 3 years now (this year being my third time) and Botcon is so much duller than it is, at A-kon (the convention I mentioned), there is so much to do, but at botcon there is only a handful of things to do and the rest you are on your own to find entertainment. But, there is a silver lining to this: The people. I was blessed to be staying in a room with a bunch of the awesomest folks you have ever met. They made this trip for me unforgettable. Insane Galvatron, MiraiBaby, Artoni, Weirdwolf, there are just too many to name. I had a blast thanks to all the awesome people I stayed with, and met. Be it playing blackjack with Aaron and Vangelus, or getting sick off chicken nuggets with protoman and Jon, while Sol fury, Hi Q, and Josh Perez watched, it was an experience I will never forget. I am gonna try my best to go back next year, even if it means fighting my fear of heights and going in an airplane. I want to go back to Botcon, but not for the convention, but to see those awesome folks again. To summarize:While the convention is dull and could use more things to do, the people that go there make up for more of the conventions shortcomings, making it an experience you will never forget. Lastly in closing here is tl;dr version of this article as drawn by Shibamura_Prime!