Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: BotCon 2002
8/03/02

Holy crap, what a weekend!

THURSDAY

I had no work on Thursday, so I spent the better part of the day either goofing off or packing. I had errands to run before leaving for BotCon, and somehow they delayed me from getting out of Milwaukee till almost 8 pm. Then I got massively lost trying to find Walky's place in the dark, and didn't arrive there till well after 10 after detouring half way around Chicago on some freaking enormous fifty-lane highway. Me, Walky, Finback and Windy hung out for several hours, watching the beautiful Singapore dub of "Life Can Be Sacrificed for Peace On Earth" (Prepare for your death today! You're gonna die!) and the Clerks cartoon (oh my god bear is driving how can this be?!). I also got to read Dreamwave G1 #4, which had more events and plot than the previous three issues put together. Dave had this insane idea that we needed to arrive in Fort Wayne early early EARLY in the morning, so -- instead of going to bed like normal humans -- we jumped in our cars and left for Fort Wayne at 2 a.m. I shit you not. Two in the morning, and we're STARTING our trip to BC.


FRIDAY

The drive was a long dull fight to stay awake (I drove my own car, following Walky, mainly because I hate him and don't want to be anywhere near his repulsive, squishy organic form, though I fed him some nonsense excuse about making a side trip to see some architecture or some crap like that after the convention, and I think he fell for it!! HAR HAR HAR.) The journey was punctuated by a very loud one-man Phish sing-along and occasional shouting of stuff back and forth at Walky's car, which is surprisingly difficult to do at 65 mph. At last we reached Fort Wayne's outskirts in the light of early morning, and I used my l33+ navigational skills to direct us to downtown; the four of us were crashed in the hotel lobby by 6:30 a.m. Wheeeeeeeee.

We hung out there for several hours, gradually accumulating more and more people. At one point we spotted Simon Furman coming in; Dal of course rushes over to get his comic or something autographed, which pretty much RUINS BOTCON. Way to go, Dal. Finally the time came to go to CHICK-FIL-A (booming echo, dramatic cue). For some reason, in my one year of absence, it has become a #wiigii! tradition to go to CHICK-FIL-A (booming echo, dramatic cue). Walky, in particular, was the ringleader of this movement; Walky was quite eager and insistent that we have lunch at CHICK-FIL-A (booming echo, dramatic cue). Me, Waspy, Dal... Lynx? And shit, one other person, forgive me, whoever you are... was it Jackpot?... wound up taking a shuttle for some reason or other to the mall; we had a spirited discussion fleshing out the next Transformers line, which we decided will be Autobot ninjas vs. Decepticon pirates. Once at the mall, my l33+ mapreading skills directed us to our holy destination, CHICK-FIL-A (booming echo, dramatic cue). We were alone at the mall for a good long while thanks to #wiigii! inertia preventing people from just getting their cars and going, but eventually more and more people showed up till we had... must've been 25 or 30 folks. Practically all of #wiigii!, in fact.... with one notable exception. Our ringleader, worshipper and adorer of the mighty CHICK-FIL-A (booming echo, dramatic cue), Walky, was nowhere to be found. Turns out he got lost on the way over and ended up having Burger King for lunch. HAR HAR HAR. The rest of us got an early look at Sipher's latest mugshots poster, and flipped through the original black and white pages that it was created from. I rode back to the hotel with Trix and Sipher and... um.. some other people, grateful that I didn't have to hang around waiting for some damn shuttle to show up. Amazing how lazy you can get once you're plopped down into suburbia.

We zoomed through the pre-registrant pickup line around 1:30; things were nicely organized this year and there was no line at all, so we were quickly back in the lobby chatting. Somewhere around here I met Jackpot, which was just damn cool because he's just a damn cool guy. I set up my Scavenger diorama that afternoon around 3 pm... and immediately was overshadowed by another diorama right next to mine, consisting of about 50 Buzzclaws swarming over several Supreme Cheetors and tearing them apart. Heh heh. I chatted a while with Rik Bakke in the art room, mostly about his various voice actor interviews, and looked over the other entries that were set up, including Hoop's kickass Spychanger repaints and kitbashes.

Much of the late afternoon was spent hanging out in the lobby; people started improvising name tags since our admission badges weren't customized, and a lovely little tradition was born as Walky started drawing charicatures of various #wiigii! people for their badges (he never did one for me, though. Maybe he DOES suspect my utter revulsion and despisal of his wretched organic mass.) Scavenger got passed around among various #wiigii!ers, as we challenged each other to contort him into new modes (a motorcycle! A boom box! A flower pot!) At some point, a crowd of us non-formal dinner folks headed out to get some grub, but I don't recall when or where. That evening, while the dinner folks did the dinner thing, the remainder of us congregated in Wang, Charge, and Ant's suite -- yes, a genuine luxery SUITE with a bathtub the size of my futon -- over in the Holiday Inn, a couple of blocks from the convention center. I tried something called an abortion -- a shot made of peach Schnapp's, a bit of Bailey's, and... crap, a drop of something or other that I forget. Pretty tasty. After a couple of hours, we figured dinner *had* to be over, right? Wrong. The dinner people were still dinnering when we returned to the lobby. Finally the first of them started showing up around 10:30. I stayed long enough to get the scoop on the exclusive and hear the details of the first episode of Armada, which they'd gotten to see. By that point, having been awake since 7 a.m. the previous day, I was falling asleep in my chair; I headed up to the room and sacked around 11p.m.


SATURDAY

I slept well -- turns out Sipher stayed up all night after being stuck at Kinko's till 4 in the morning, so I had the bed to myself. I woke up around 6 or 6:30, which left me enough time to go for a half-hour run around Fort Wayne. The city has a nice riverfront trail and park that winds for quite a ways, across a couple of bridges over the river and a canal, and past some reconstructed frontier buildings which I assume are supposed to represent the actual original fort the city's named for... I could have kept going further, but I wanted to be ready for the dealer room's opening at 8 a.m. And of course there's still that odd little twinge in my knee that says I shouldn't be running much, if at all.

I skipped a bit of the line thanks to Trix, Windy, Walky, and Spy; somehow we ended up walking in at the same time as Phil's group, who were vastly further ahead of us in line. Heh. Prices in the dealer room were great this year! Oh, sure, there was a lot of overpriced stuff -- but $15 for Longrack? $7 for BW Neo Dead End and Bazooka? $1 and $2 Micromasters? Carded Beast Machines Basics for $5 or less? RiD Autobot brothers for $7? I'm there, dude. Things also felt less crowded -- I remember in years past not even being able to get to some of the tables because of the mobs in front of them, but that was almost never a problem this time. I scooped up a bunch of Micromasters and the last G2 car I needed.

Someone in our crowd had the pretty good idear that we should leave for lunch at 10:30; a horde of us ended up trooping over to Arby's. General Scavenger and I ate with John DeLuna. I swear, lunch on Saturday is my favorite part of BotCon -- you're still giddy from the rush of things starting, you and everyone else has fistfulls of new toys you've just bought to play with, and you're taking over some hapless fast food restaurant and turning it into Toy Geek Central. Wherever #wiigii! goes for lunch on Saturday is the happiest place in the world!

Noon was the first panel, with a bunch of cartoon guys: Simon Furman, Bob Forward, and 3 guys from RiD; we learned a lot about RiD's creation in particular, as well as getting more info on how Forward and DiTillo worked together.

A quick core dump of my panel notes:

* Furman, on joining the BW crew: "My first question to Bob was, 'Who can I KILL!?'" (Another panelist: "And Bob said, 'The producer!'")

* Dubbing is officially known these days as Automated Dialogue Replacement. It is done on (in a very official tone of voice, according to Tracks' voice actor at a later panel) Aquired Animation. Sound recording has several different terms: recording of crowd noise is called "walla"; adding background lines was originally called "looping", a term that now means any line of recorded dialogue.

* Bob Forward said there wasn't intended to be a fourth season of BW, especially if they couldn't get the cast off of the planet. He also explained his and Larry's differing takes on the Vok, a good illustration of how, even though they didn't mess with each other's scripts, they "enjoyed pulling the rug out from each other" by taking the other's concept and running in a different direction with it. The name "Vok" comes from the word "folk" (related to the German "volk", incidentally).

* Bob Forward, answering the question "what did you think of Beast Machines?": "Honestly -- uhhhhh -- I -- I -- uhhhh --- Beast Machines -- " This being his first statement, I didn't realize that he talks like that a lot; that didn't make it any less funny, though.

* Hasbro and Mainframe worked together on BM; they had a lot of ideas set before Skir came on board. It apparently was Asaph Fipke's idea to return to a devastated Cybertron. He also gave us the concept of Tigerhawk, since he apparently wasn't fond of Airazor or Tigatron's characters. Grrrrrrr. Furman, on Tigerhawk: "Did I kill him?" Forward commented a bit on all the input that goes into TF shows, since the writer, producer, Hasbro, Mainframe, and BSP people all have their say.

* Furman, as coached by Forward, said the big difference between writing for comics and TV is pacing. TV "never stops"; you have to "do exposition on the run" since you can't just have guys standing around talking.

* The RiD voice actors all got the toy incarnations of their characters. One of the producers remembers looking a bit askew at a particular aspect of Dark Scream's toy, but then figuring kids wouldn't notice the particular quality in question. Not so, apparently; the following Monday, the voice actor came in and reported his child as saying, more or less: "Daddy, this guy's head's up his ass!"

The second panel, by Hasbro reps, was at 2; it was awesomely informative and hopefully killed a bunch of fanboy misinformation and speculation.

* Armada's stated goals include 1) Micro play, something absent from TFs for many years; 2) vehicles vs. vehicles; 3) feature-based toys.

* On continuity: Armada "tries to pay tribute to what makes TFs what it is"

* On name re-use: kids think those names are cool; the names also represent a large corporate investment for Hasbro.

* Toys R Us is frequent host of exclusives because they're good about granting sufficient shelf space for toys, and flexible about the what and when of selling products.

* The infamous blue and orange Megatron has been much-discussed already. Basically in gun mode the entire barrel, as well as the underside around the trigger, was orange; the handle looked black; the upper body (that becomes Megs' chest) was chrome blue.

* Takara lays out all their engineering designs on paper. They send simplified transformation schemes back to Hasbro; the designers there lay the details of the toy over this.

* Transtech, originally concieved as a "slow drift back to vehicles", was scrapped after eight months of development. RiD was brought in as a stop-gap measure, allowing a year to develop Armada. The line became "really popular, really fast", and hence was expanded in the quickest, cheapest way possible at the end by bringing in the various repaints.

* "We are in early stages of the next idea", said one of the reps regarding the post-Armada line. One goal at present for that line is more female characters.

Third panel was voice actors at 3pm; I missed the start of it 'cause I was catching the end of a RiD episode I missed, "Landfill" I think. Dumb -- why watch recorded Sky-Byte when I could see Peter Spellos himself in person? Being late, I sat way in the back with Windy. The panel was a riot, of course, but I don't recall too many specifics offhand.

After the last panel I managed to catch about the second half of "Sky-Byte Does the Right Thing" or whatever it's called over here -- and DAMN it was funny. Sky-Byte and the Stooges struggling and straining to hold up this skyscraper, making caustic remarks all the while. Too bad it never aired in the States. It also has a badass scene of Scourge ramming into the side of truck-mode Prime as he's driving along.

After the dealer room closed, I hauled my box of stuff to try and get rid of down to the lobby; I sold off the Combaticons, Stunticons, Gnaw, Chainclaw, McBeasties, and Air Attack Primal (hey, he was an impulse buy that I really couldn't afford and don't have room for, and I just don't get that much enjoyment out of him. Bluestreak7 will give him a much better home than I could, okay?!) I made enough to pretty much cover gas and hotel costs, which is damn cool. I might have to dig through my stuff again next year... I might be willing to part with some things I wasn't quite ready to get rid of this year, like maybe Magmatron or Optimal Optimus. All the while that my stuff was being passed around and examined, we were terrorized by this creepy old guy who kept looking... and touching... and looking... and making random comments... and acting like he was about to buy something then not doing it... and... ick.

The #wiigii! party that night happened in the same suite as the previous night. Since I hadn't bothered getting in the quarter-mile-long line for picking up preregistrant exclusives, I didn't yet have my copy of the new comic book; I therefore secured one from the room and sat down to read it, come hell, high water, or crowds of #wiigii! people. I wanted to be able to discuss it without being spoiled, dammit! As soon as it was done, I joined the crowd out in the lobby/lounge area, where Mon had just broken out his home-brewed beer and passed it all around (not bad for beer, I have to say). I took a few Scavenger pics among the beer bottles, and we discussed the comic, among many other things. Later, back in the room, we watched Mr. T self-help videos (which were the most screamingly 80s thing I've ever seen in my life), "Life Can Be Sacrificed for Peace on Earth" (the funniest Transformer episode ever), and a disturbingly accurate cartoon about comic book/scifi geeks. I headed home with some others around 1 a.m., exhausted.


SUNDAY

I didn't wake up on Sunday till 7:30 or so, too late for running. Anyway, I was still kinda zonked from the previous day's fun. I made it to the dealer room shortly after the 9 a.m. opening. Lunch again at 10:30. I was finding by the end of the morning that I was nearly out of things to look for; there was no Rotorforce to be found, and I'd dug through virtually every box of Micromasters in the place. About all that was left to hunt for was cheap Scavengers. And speaking of that, because I'm generally dumb and oblivious, it's never really before come to my attention what a freakin' incredibly nice guy Anthony Fitz is. He rocks. He just randomly shows up at my side and informs me that one of the dealers has broken up some of the Vehicon repaint 3-packs, meaning I could get an ugly Scavenger repaint without having to get ugly repaints of Spy Streak and Mirage; then on top of that he directs me to a bizarrely-colored Scavenger test shot that one of the dealers had. At $125 it was way out of my price range, but I'm glad I got to see it.

Dreamwave panel at noon. It was pretty dull compared to those of the previous day. Best quote (well, the only one I found worth writing down), regarding a GI Joe/TF crossover, and how it'd be kind of pointless to have humans with guns facing off against Transformers: "That's what I got with the 4-part mini-series. I mean -- all they could do was kill Bumblebee!"

Somewhere in here I popped into the video room to watch the last two or three episodes of RiD, which I'd missed on account of being in Europe. It at least wasn't as predictable as the end of Beast Machines, but it was definately dumber. The final scene was perfect, and brought cheers and applause from the audience.

3H's panel was at 3:30 or so, running late like all the other panels. It was punctuated by a lot of #wiigii!'s newest catch phrase, pilfered straight from the Armada Red Alert toy: WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO. Afterwards I hit the dealer room one last time, scooping up a few more Scavengers at cheap last-minute prices. I disassembled my Scavenger diorama in the art room (I got third in the diorama division, woo hoo! The guy with the Buzzclaws won, natch) and returned them all to the Vehicon box in my car's trunk. Dinner that afternoon with a fair-sized crowd; I ate with... Steve-o? and LV was right behind me, and... crap. It looked like it was fixing to start pouring rain, so several of us hurried back to the hotel, but... not a drop fell, to my knowledge. Still, it was cloudy and grey and humid most of the weekend, perfect weather for staying indoors all day, which made me quite happy since I'd hate to miss a nice weekend. It was about this time in the weekend when someone was finally able to identify who the hell Forky was, since I hadn't heard him say a word to anyone all weekend, and every time I asked, nobody had a clue who I was talking about.

That night, Swift broke out a bunch of Big Looker story books like "Insecticon Attack!", and we had #wiigii! storytime sitting around a big armchair in the lobby. After reading everyone "The Great Car Rally", featuring Pimp Daddy Megatron, I broke away briefly to call Anne, just to say 'hi'. Later that evening a crowd of us hung out in the bar with Ben Yee and Simon Furman (we introduced him to the magic of Pimp Mac Daddy Megatron.) I had a couple of ammoretto sours and chatted a while with John Hartman, Billy, Rose, Trent, Sipher, and some guy who I swear I should know ("Darth Spic" according to Ant's report, a name I've never heard), and his cleavagey girlfriend. Finally I headed up around 1 am, exhausted. Trent and Sipher were in the room plotting various fanfic/fanart comic plans, but headed out right as I walked in, foiling my attempt to steal their souls and their fanfic. Currrrrrses.

MONDAY

The first thing I realized upon awakening was that I wasn't going running, not if I wanted to get out of town at a decent hour. The second thing I realized, thanks to a groggy reminder from M Sipher after I got out of the shower, was that I'd forgotten to get his bags from Charge's place the night before, as I'd said I would. Whoops. So I dashed over to the Holiday Inn and woke up Charge's entire room, pissing them all off so I wouldn't piss off Siph. *dig dig dig* After packing and all, I ended up hanging out in the lobby another hour or two, just chatting with folks a little more before we finally went our separate ways. I finally headed out around 11 a.m., honking at the New Jersey/New York crew as they loaded their van.

........So, BotCon was a blast -- a bleary, blurry, hazy, all-too-short blast. It was frustrating in a way, though -- you meet most of these people once a year, if that much. And EVERYBODY's there, dozens of people, and you want to talk to all of them -- not just say 'hi, my name's Optimus_Prime999', but actually have a real conversation like two normal people. But you really can't, because there's simply too many people and not enough time. And even when you get the chance, it's hard to break into a discussion sometimes -- what is there to talk about that you haven't already discussed online? "So, uh, how 'bout them Transformers, eh?" You know these people, and yet you don't. It's a very odd situation, socially speaking. Oh well -- that didn't stop me from having a terrific time. In some ways this was the best BotCon I've been to since my first one, in 1998. In particular, there were hardly any of the tensions that have plagued past 'cons. There were also hardly any dumb questions at the panels. And the dealer room seemed to have actually come down in prices for once. Now if only I'd had a flash for my camera...

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