YBMW special correspondents Joey Snackpants and Tom Croom transformed and rolled out to Botcon 2010 to find out if the fan convention still had “The Spark.” Thankfully for us, they took some pics and did a write up of the show for all the Transformers fans who couldn’t attend.

Botcon (www.botcon.com) is the annual Transformers Collectors Club convention sponsored by Hasbro. This year, it took place at the Dolphin Resort and Convention Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida over four days: June 24th – 27th.

Before you read on, you have to understand one very important thing: we (Tom Croom & Joey Snackpants) are friends who met at a fan convention over ten years ago thanks to The Transformers. It was at a small anime event in Orlando, Florida when we discovered that we both subscribe to the idea that the war between the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons actually took place somewhere in the Midwest circa 1980-something.

We also both agree that Beast Wars sucks and never happened.

That said, the two of us have braved dozens of conventions over the years and have always viewed Botcon as “the holy grail” of conventions to attend. Think about it… a geek event focused on a very specific fandom (Transformers) backed by the multimillion dollar corporation that owns it (Hasbro). The proverbial “fan convention” with a budget! We finally got the chance to attend the event this past weekend and (sadly) we discovered (SPOILER) that there is no Santa Claus.

You know you’re on Disney property when there’s already a line!

On Saturday (June 26, 2010) at 5:45 AM the line had already formed full of geeks (ourselves included) to buy the autograph tickets for Peter Cullen. We found ourselves in line at that ungodly hour as numbers thirty-five and thirty-six respectively. By 6:30 AM, the line had grown to at least sixty people. Since there was a noticeable lack of convention staff keeping dibs on the queue – a group of people devised a way to move up to a spot in line better than ours… they started a new line on the other side of the door.

THUS begins the failure of Botcon: If you know you are going to have people in line for something this early then have staff on hand to advise and mediate. Even mid-size amateur run conventions know better. This point is exacerbated by the fact that the tickets in question (general admission) are NOT available online in advance of the show. You can ONLY buy them on site. In short: planning and staffing FAIL.

We’re used to seeing anime girls dress up with angel wings and the like; Deception jet wings? AWESOME.

Time went by fairly quickly thanks to conversations with other fans in line and (in part) due to our respectively jacked up metabolisms pumped full of donuts and energy drinks. Around 8:00 AM, Botcon staff finally made an appearance and organized the lines for Peter Cullen and General Admission entry. According to the staff, there were approximately 240 autograph tickets available for that morning to meet the legendary voice of Optimus Prime. Two hundred tickets were for the top tier ticket holders (who paid upwards in the amount of $300 to be there) and the other forty for the general admission tickets.

Here’s where BotCon becomes BotFAIL yet again… General Admission tickets are only $18 for a single day adult admission to the event. So if you get there early and get in line (like we did) that should be all you need to pay to get in, right?

WRONG. Here’s how they gouge the attendees:

* Peter Cullen was set to sign autographs for only 2 hours that Saturday morning from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM.
* The convention opens to the public at 10:00 AM which is too late to be in the official line for Peter Cullen, so:
* The convention offers an “Early Bird” general admission ticket… which is increases the admission price 175% to $50. Seriously.
* Once you have your “early general admission” pass – you then get the privilege of spending ANOTHER $25 for an autograph ticket. This final tidbit, by the way, is listed NOWHERE on the convention’s website.

So what should have been $36 for a couple of fans who braved the convention hotel at the butt-ass crack of dawn wound up costing $150. BotFAIL is all about the almighty dollar, folks, and NOT the fans.

The morning adventure did prove fruitful (albeit expensive) when we both met Mr. Cullen. In our line of work, the two of us get the chance to meet a number of celebrities. Early on, we learned that there is a risk associated with meeting these folks since sometimes the person who played/was the voice of a childhood hero can turn out to be less than pleasant. Thankfully: Peter Cullen was not one of those people. Both of our interactions with him were personable and he conveyed himself as a professional and a class act. He even held his composure when Joey Snackpants presented his item to be autographed.

Joey Snackpants meets Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Pr- er… I mean Eeyore

NOTE: For those of you that aren’t aware, Mr. Cullen has provided the voice for Eeyore in almost all of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh productions since 1988.

The rest of the convention consisted of one large vendors room and a panels room upstairs from that. Entertainment for the day was limited to those two areas. Here are some of the highlights:

ARTIST AREA


There were a number of tables in the back corner of the vendors room with custom figures and artwork featuring the Transformers. The tables were only partially full of submissions which (we assume) is due to last minute advertising that Botcon put out. Failure of corporate owned conventions aside, many of the pieces were truly inspired (like the custom Alpha Trion pictured above.)

BUMBLEBEE


In the back of the vendors room was a life-size statue of Bumblebee from Michael Bay’s Transformers. It stood next to the Bumblebee Camaro – which is not to be confused with the Bumblebee Camaro parked out front. In short: if you were a little kid looking for the “real” Bumblebee, you’d get confused really quickly. If (big IF) Tom Croom & Joey Snackpants ever return to a Botcon, it will be with a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

HASBRO


Hasbro had a play area set up to promote the Hunt for Decepticons line of toys that is coming out this year. The area, designed for kids, seemed to be attracting more men in their mid-thirties than young impressionable boys and girls… but hey – who are we to judge? Aside from that, attendees were treated to the 1,000th repaint of all the toys they were putting on the market this year in glass cases. The shoes (pictured above) did catch the eye of Joey Snackpants, though. He has bid on them on eBay many a time… and lost.

STAN BUSH
Stan Bush was the voice that screamed the battle cry for thousands of children of the eighties with his songs The Touch and Dare! on the Transformers: The Movie (1986) soundtrack. As a guest, Stan is very approachable and always excited about meeting fans of his music. He was on hand all weekend promoting the music he contributed to the new hit video game Transformers: War for Cybertron.

MOTORMASTER


Out front of the convention, fans could take pictures with a number of vehicles painted and made to look like popular Transformers. The key piece to the display was a massive truck that was painted to resemble the popular Stunticon Motormaster. The owners had a booth in the convention hall with photos of the construction project from beginning (finding a scrapped truck) to end (the awesomeness on display at Botcon.) You can see some of it for yourself on their website: www.decepticonmotormaster.com

THE VENDORS
The selection of goods for Transformers fans was pretty decent. Collectors could find toys from their childhood, open or still in the box, for fair prices. Mixed in with the Autobots and Deceptions attendees could also stumble upon some anime merchandise, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Voltron and even comic book t-shirts. Tom Croom spent about $300 on some new Optimus Prime figures, while Joey Snackpants only bought comic book t-shirts in order to “stick it to the man.” The only Transformers purchase Joey made during the convention was from someone trying to sell a used Japanese Masterpiece Edition Megatron in the parking lot – which he got for a very good price.

As much as we both were looking forward to seeing Peter Cullen speak at his 2:00 PM panel, we just couldn’t make it. Exhaustion coupled with the fact that the ONLY other thing to do was walk in circles in the vendors room for four hours finally got the best of us – and we left.

Our advice to the promoters of Botcon? Quit calling your event a convention… because it isn’t. Until you have more events to keep your attendees active and interested, Botcon should promote itself for what truly is: an average trade show.

Our advice to the attendees of Botcon? Expect more from your events! A number of people pay over $300 in advance to attend a show that offers little more than a glorified shopping experience. For that much cash, we expect more than just exclusive toys; we expect to be entertained as fans at a convention for a fandom we love.

18 thoughts on “BOTCON 2010: Not Much More Than Meets The Eye!”

  1. Did you ask the number of people who pay over $300 what else they get? I see nothing in your report about the Hall of Fame Dinner Saturday night that has been widely praised throughout the fandom.

    I see nothing about the Friday preview. The Friday afternoon Film Fest. Nothing about the Hasbro Designers panel on Sunday where fans (walk ins as well) see toy previews that the general public won’t see for month. And nothing about the other special guests who were at the show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    A shame there is also no mention of the Activision booth where fans could demo the new “War for Cybertron game”, no mention of the Autobot Alliance Acadamey where kids and fans could run an “obstacle” course.

    Before commenting on what Registered attendees get, you should know everything they DO get. For the fans who did not get exhausted after a few hours, the ones who came out for the full three days, had, from the many MANY posts online, one of the best BotCon experiences yet. Many first time attendees also said that this was more than they could have hoped for. But again, this requires going to the show for more than half a day…

    p.s. Really a shame you missed the Cullen panel, a completely full panel room and a HUGE standing ovation as he left the stage. Was truly magical…

  2. Pete,

    “Did you ask the number of people who pay over $300 what else they get? I see nothing in your report about the Hall of Fame Dinner Saturday night that has been widely praised throughout the fandom.”

    The Hall of Fame Dinner was not made available to attendees with Press passes. As for the people who paid $300 to be at BotCon – for that much money they had better have a great time! Our point of view is from the other 66% of attendees who were there for a General Admission show.

    “I see nothing about the Friday preview. The Friday afternoon Film Fest. Nothing about the Hasbro Designers panel on Sunday where fans (walk ins as well) see toy previews that the general public won’t see for month. And nothing about the other special guests who were at the show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

    Press access was not admitted until Saturday – hence no Friday reviews. After the LAME time that was offered on Saturday, why would we return Sunday for more?

    “A shame there is also no mention of the Activision booth where fans could demo the new “War for Cybertron game”, no mention of the Autobot Alliance Acadamey where kids and fans could run an “obstacle” course.”

    The Activision booth was nothing more than a glorified Gamestop display. Also, we did mention the Autobot Alliance Academy obstacle course; just not by that name. Read the article again. It’s the first line right under the picture of the snazzy shoes.

    “Before commenting on what Registered attendees get, you should know everything they DO get. For the fans who did not get exhausted after a few hours, the ones who came out for the full three days, had, from the many MANY posts online, one of the best BotCon experiences yet. Many first time attendees also said that this was more than they could have hoped for. But again, this requires going to the show for more than half a day…”

    Yeah – you’re still failing at your fact check. General admission was not available on Friday. As for all the many MANY posts online of how great the show was, I’ve read many MANY posts stating otherwise, too. Probably from the 2000 of the 3000 attendees that didn’t cough up $300 to the Alter of Hasbro for the joys of a Toy Collector’s Trade Show.

    “p.s. Really a shame you missed the Cullen panel, a completely full panel room and a HUGE standing ovation as he left the stage. Was truly magical…”

    I would hope that the Cullen panel was a full panel room since the ONLY other thing going on was the Dealers Room. BotCon really didn’t offer anything outside of one panel room and one dealers room all weekends… kind of sad for a show as established as it is and especially for the money shelled out by attendees to go.

  3. No, no “fail” at fact check. I am just using the correct terms. Registered Attendees get the full 3 days. General Admission was available on Saturday and Sunday. They are walk ins.

    Its just funny how you attack everything by Hasbro, by Activision (no attacks on IDW yet, so I am guessing you did not see them) and the con itself. You even make the point of attacking Beast Wars, the franchise that actually is responsible for saving Transformers from fading away.

    But it all really boils down to this. You can’t go see the first 15 minutes of a movie and then say the ending sucked. Doesn’t matter if you “think” it might suck. To do a real review, you have to go to ALL the events, or heck, even half of them. A third of them? Just something more than what you stated…

  4. “No, no ‘fail’ at fact check. I am just using the correct terms. Registered Attendees get the full 3 days. General Admission was available on Saturday and Sunday. They are walk ins.”

    You are correct – I have my terminology backwards. Registered Attendees are the folks who paid too much for a trade show and General Admission were the people who got too little for their ticket to a convention.

    “Its just funny how you attack everything by Hasbro, by Activision (no attacks on IDW yet, so I am guessing you did not see them) and the con itself. You even make the point of attacking Beast Wars, the franchise that actually is responsible for saving Transformers from fading away.”

    What basis do you have for Beast Wars saving Transformers from fading away? Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo never even made it to the States. Also, there are a number of series that ran in Japan that never made it stateside keeping the fandom alive and well in the world. Then there’s the fact that (last time I checked) there are no shiny metal gorillas in the Michael Bay films.

    I and my writing partner pointed out the good and the bad we saw at the show… we can’t help it if BotCon 2010 provided a weak presentation.

    “But it all really boils down to this. You can’t go see the first 15 minutes of a movie and then say the ending sucked. Doesn’t matter if you “think” it might suck. To do a real review, you have to go to ALL the events, or heck, even half of them. A third of them? Just something more than what you stated…”

    This is where you are wrong. I (personally) showed up Thursday night to check out what was going on at the convention – and I saw that (early on) it was a “line-con.” People were picking up early registration (which is perfectly fine; I’m not judging that.)

    Where I thought it was a little over the top, though, is that after you wait in line for your registration and shiny new toy – you are given the “privilege” of waiting in line AGAIN for (gasp!) *buying more stuff*.

    Waiting in LINE to SHOP sounds like a Trade Show for collectors – not a fan convention.

    That said, the FAILURE of BotCon was in the fact that they didn’t provide enough programming to keep that casual fan interested enough to STAY longer than we did. Joey and I are pretty easy to amuse, too, when it come to the Transformers which makes this point all the more worse.

    Yes, you can tell a movie is probably going to suck if:

    – The preview presents it poorly (early info on the Botcon website was poorly presented and incomplete leading up to the show)

    – The opening credits show a lack of a worthy cast (knowing that attendees would be at the show early in the morning since General Admission was at the door only, BotCon should have had staff there in the morning to regulate… and didn’t)

    – The first act is absolutely terrible and lacking for entertainment (we walked around until 2:00 PM looking for something beyond the dealers room of merit and since there was only ONE panel room – we opted to leave.)

    Reading the schedule, there was enough entertainment outside the dealers room to entertain about 1100 people – which (I can only assume) is roughly about the amount of Registered Attendees.

    That said (AND IN CONCLUSION) if BotCon is designing shows to only cater to its top tier ticket holders, then why even open a General Admission? Our review was written from the “General Admission” perspective – and that means (from our point of view) that BotCon needs to either

    A. Drop General Admission altogether since it seems like an afterthought.

    B. Step up their game creating programming for the off the street attendees.

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