Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delerious Ranting 
re: BotCon '98 INFO


Just, wow.

I honestly can't recall having so much fun in such a short time... well,
hardly ever, really.  I was constantly busy, met wonderful people left and
right, and generally had a terrific two days.  I am going to be
unappologetically enthusiastic in this post, so if you're prone to
jealousy bouts, read no further.

I decided to split this into two parts, since BotCon goers got a lot of
info that might be of interest to people who aren't interested in the
"what I did" aspect of my weekend.  This post contains the information,
including  SPOILERS for BW Season 3 and the future toy line!!!  If you
don't want to see them, skip past the part between the lines of asteriks.
However, there's really very little that should diminish your enjoyment of
the new shows -- if anything, it should only add to the anticipation for

****************BEGIN SPOILERS********************

1) There will be 13 new BW episodes, straight from the mouths of the
writers.  Episode titles are:
#40 The Agenda Part 4, by Bob Forward
#41 Deep Metal, by Larry Ditillio, debut of Depthcharger
#42 Changing of the Guard
#43 Cutting Edge by Ian Weir
#44 Feral Scream Part 1 by "GJ" (I jotted down the initials but forget the
actual name)
#45 Feral Scream Part 2 by Jules Dennis
#46 Proving Grounds 
#47 Dark Glass
#48 Crossing the Rubicon
#49 Master Blaster
#50 Closure
#51 Nemesis Part 1
#52 Nemesis Part 2, by Simon Furman

   As you can see, a set of dark and ominous (as well as "intentionally
vague") titles.  "Rubicon", BTW for those who don't know, means a line or
boundary which once crossed is done so irrevocably.  Is someone going to
change sides, I wonder?

2) As mentioned above, DEPTHCHARGER will be in the show.  We are promised
3 or 4 or so "underwater" episodes and according to the writers they "look
awesome".  Source: Forward and Ditillio.
3) OPTIMAL OPTIMUS will be in the show.  He is NOT a fusion of Prime and
Primal, but a new incarnation of Primal. Source: Forward/Ditillio.
4) It also was mentioned that Rattrap will be in season 3, so people who
are fearing our heroes would be totally erased can rest easy. Source:
5) The TOYS of RAMPAGE and OPTIMAL OPTIMUS are not yet available.  Rampage
is "still being tweaked" by the designers in Singapore.  Both toys should
be available in September. Hasbro reps whose names I don't recall since I
forgot to get a guest guide.
6) Hasbro will have a totally revamped WEB SITE with an appropriately
updated Beast Wars section opening October 1, 1998.  There were vague
possibilities of some sort of internet premiums mentioned.  These will
*not* be Ravage or Transmutate; there are no plans for such toys at
present nor is it likely they will ever be made.  Source: Hasbro reps.
7) The "THIRD LINE" hinted at last year is "still being refined" and
*might* come out in 2000.  My guess is that it's still at a conceptual
level.  Source: Hasbro reps.
8) ANIMORPHS: Yes, they will have the Transformers brand name on them.
*But*, they will not be part of any Transformers universe.  The purpose of
the name use is twofold; first, it "communicates how the toy is to be
played with", and second it "helps in selling the toys to retailers".
They are to be TFs in "play pattern" but NOT in the same universe.  It is
hoped that the similarity of the nature of the toys will also help latch
Animorphs fans onto BW.  Source: Hasbro reps.

That's it for the "new and upcoming" info.

*********************END SPOILERS*************************

Next, more general and non-spoilerish information.

THE TOY EXCLUSIVES are a blue-bodied, grey-limbed Powerpinch, renamed
Vicegrip, and a black Inferno renamed Antagony (female character.)
Vicegrip came in a plain plastic bag with a tech spec; Antagony came in a
*stunning* box with a decorated insert and a fold-up panel with bios of
all the characters that have been released as BW exclusives (Onyx Primal,
Packrat, Fractal, and this year's toys.)  Apparently we're going to get an
on-going story line featuring these characters at each year's BotCon (see
"SCRIPT READING" below for more.)  Vicegrip looks decent, though I think I
favor the original colors.  Antagony looks *awesome* and I do recommend
getting one if you can.  I didn't because I'm happy with my Inferno and
just don't go for repaints unless they are characters I know, but this toy
really looks better than the original IMO.

THE T-SHIRTS are white with a very simple "BotCon 98" logo on the front,
and an AWESOME Wildman-drawn airbrush-colored panel on the back, featuring
a ton of Decepticon leaders glaring across a holograph/table at Optimus
Prime and Arcee, who stand on the edges, backs to us.  The picture
includes Thunderwing, Transmetal Megatron, G1 Megatron, Bludgeon,
Shockwave, Starscream, and Scorponok, with Galvatron in the center.

TOY DESIGN: At the Hasbro panel we got a quick review of the toy design
process.  The toys start with both character types and animal modes, which
are selected during brainstorming sessions with the execs ("brand team
leaders"), the designers, the marketing people, and maybe a few others.
Such meetings occur every few months.  A list of "about a hundred animals"
was mentioned as being available to be chosen from.  They then work with
Takara, who are the ones who design the nuts and bolts of actual
transformation designs.  Things like color and so on are worked out after
that; it's apparently a very back-and-forth process that reportedly takes
about a year from concept to finished product.

TOY DISTRIBUTION: The two reps (neither of whom, apparently, have been
with Hasbro for more than a year, so don't blame them for old problems!)
also mentioned that the toys are made in the Orient, shipped to a central
warehouse in Seattle, then to the distribution centers for the various
chains that sell BW.  From that point on, distribution of the toys is out
of Hasbro's hands.  It is not their fault that TRU in Maine gets no
Scavengers while TRU in NYC gets tons; it is TRU's fault.  Generally the
toys show up in stores 6 to 8 weeks after shipping from Hasbro.

ON DINOBOT'S DEATH:  Talking with Bob Forward in person, I asked how they
managed to get so much air time for Dinobot's death.  The answer was a
surprise: Hasbro had NOT ordered them to get rid of Dinobot; it was the
writers' own choice.  They were, however, working under the assumption
that he probably *would* have to be taken out eventually.  So rather than
repeat the fiasco of Terrorsaur and Scorponok (whose deaths the writers
apparently found just as frustrating as we viewers did), they chose to
kill him off themselves in an appropriately written story.  Scott McNeil,
the voice of Dinobot and several others, didn't even know about the
character's death until the day he went in to the studio for recording --
apparently it was quite a shock!

ON THE SIZES OF CHARACTERS: The size difference shown between BW Megs and
G1 Prime in "The Agenda" Part 3 can be attributed to "poetic liscence",
according to the writers.  In their view, the Ark is "hallowed ground" to
the BW characters, and those within are almost god-like, or at least of
great historical reverence - a bit like George Washington or Abe Lincoln
to us in the USA today.  They wanted to emphasize the awe that even Megs
felt about the place -- and consequentially emphasize and increase the
horror of what he was doing.  So, although Prime is certainly bigger than
Megarex, we can assume he's not quite THAT much bigger.  Scales and
relative sizes of characters are frequently altered to emphasize one
character over another in a scene.  "Look at Dinobot when he's standing on
that cliff in 'Code of Hero'", said one of the writers.  "He's thirty feet
tall!"  Guess size does indeed matter... :]

WHO'S DEAD, WHO'S NOT: "They're DEAD!!" says Larry Ditillio.  Seriously.
Since they have no sure idea who they're going to have to include in the
show next season, the writers have adopted a (semi-serious?) policy of
"kill everyone and reserect the ones we need."  I asked about Quickstrike
getting run over; the answer: "You'll just have to wait and see."  

TIDBITS FROM THE WRITERS:  Apparently, the use of the word "Primus"
spurred more angry e-mail than all the "slags" put together... The aliens
are not the 2001 aliens, much to my disapointment :].... A season 1
episode which never got past the concept stage would have been titled "A
Greater Ape", and would have had Primal getting bonked on the head,
subsequently thinking he's a real gorilla, hanging out with a bunch of
other real gorillas, and hooking up with one of the females of the pack
before being restored to normal [NOTE, this episode was NEVER MADE and in
all probability NEVER WILL BE MADE]...  I got one "yes" and one "no" from
the two writers when I asked if Megatron knew that Tarantulus was a mole;
apparently they've long intended for him to have his own agenda --
originally HE was the one who took over the Metalhunter in "Other

UGLY THINGS: 1) Optimal Optimus 2) Beast Wars II 

BEAUTIFUL THINGS: Tony Preto's boxed collection.  There was also an
exhibit of packaged BW toys in the dealer room.  Rampage looks terrific!
Bantor looked like a very nice Regular.  The rest I don't recall.  But
Optimal Op is friggin' UGLY.

And finally, THE SCRIPT READING: The script was an outright parody,
featuring ALL of the BW BotCon exclusives, as well as all the characters
whose voices were present (Rattrap, Silverbolt, Waspy, Optimus, Megatron,
and Terrosaur.)  It was *very* funny.  Vince DiCola started things off
with a syth-laden intro theme, then all the voice actors sponanteously
broke into a "gratuitous" (Liquid Velcro!'s term) singing of the national
anthem.  They read the first page of a fan-written script featuring Megs
inviting the Maximals over for a game of poker.  Then we got the "real"
script, written by Bob Forward and entitled "Visitations".  Attendees each
got a copy of the script but I leave it to someone else to post a copy of
it.  Here's a summary, with a SPOILER warning in case you want to wait for
someone to trascribe it...

The story: Onyx Primal and Packrat (voiced like Ralph and whatshisname
from the Honeymooners) bicker as they search for a lost Pred artifact,
which they locate among a bunch of wild bean vines ("Wild bean vines?!"
Packrat laments.  "Oh no!  This isn't one of *those* episodes, is it?")
Onyx Primal gets the device ("I'd say it's some sort of... plot device.")
but just then Packrat points out the arrival of "the Predacons Fractyl and
Vicegrip, diving to attack!  They must have detected the artifact too, and
are coming to take it from our possession!"  "Thank you, Mr. Exposition,"
Onyx replies.

Fractyl ordes Vicegrip to attack.  "I already am, Fractyl!  Why are you
wasting time telling me?!"  "Just establishing our names with the
audience, Vicegrip!  Remember, they're Transfans!"  "Oh, that's right.
Hey!  Brawn is DEAD!"  A stunned silence follows... :]

During the fight a shadowy figure appears, grabs the device, and disapears
again.  Rattrap and Silverbolt arrive and, despite RT's reluctance
("Whaddaya, nuts?" he asks.  "Silverbolt, they're *repaints*.  Screw 'em
with a Phillips head.") drive off the Preds, who decide since their part
in the script is done they can "go get a drink of mech fluid" at a bar
somewhere.  The Maximals argue over who lost the artifact, till Antagony
(voiced by Susan Blu) appears out of a cloud of smoke, demanding the
device; since none of them can produce it she trashes them all.  Then Megs
and Waspinator arrive, with Waspy gloating that "Waspinator see many body
parts.  And none of them Waspinator's.  Oh, happy day!" 

"Are you Megatron?" Antagony demands.  "Yesss.  Excellent."   "*By* the
second line!  Pay up," Rattrap demands, getting some bills from Gary
Chalk, while  Antagony addresses Megs.  "I am the Herald of the
Destruction!... I am your doom!  I am your destruction!  I am your worst
enemy!!" she proclaims, to which a startled Megs replies, "Raksha?!"
Antagony states her name and tells how she's fruitlessly searched all over
for him.  "How DID you find me then?"  "I checked Ben Yee's web page."
"What?!  You've betrayed me for the last time, Wonko the Sane!"  Megs
blasts the front-row sitting Ben, who falls and "dies weltering in his own

Megs tricks Antagony into expending her power fighting the newly arrived
Optimus Primal, who knocks her down at the cost of his own ammo.  Megs
finishes Primal.  Antagony grabs Waspinator as a hostage, telling Megs to
stay back or she'll "blow his head right off!"  "Nooo!  Please!
Waspinator's extended warranty expire last week!"  Megs backs off, kicking
up dust, which makes Antagony sneeze, which makes her fire, which blows
Waspy's head off and expends the last of her power.  Megs takes her
prisoner, promising to find out what "destruction" she heralds and what
her mission is.  END PART ONE!

The production was VERY funny; I didn't include all the jokes.  Presumably
we'll get another part next year... at least, one can always hope... :]

That's it for info.  See next post for my babble about what it was like
just being there.
Robert Powers of the Ever-Changing .sig ____________________________________
 | "The word... is 'no'. I am therefore going anyway."         |
 |                                -- James Kirk, Star Trek III |
 |_"Disclose the information!!"__ -- V'ger, ST:tMP_____________|


Manic Ramblings and Delerious Ranting
re: BotCon '98, the Experience

Okay, don't say I didn't warn you.  See my previous "INFO" post if you're
looking for news and info.  This is the "being there" part, though it does
have some snippets from the actors and writers.

Getting to LA took all of my Friday; I left home at 6:30 am Eastern and
arrived at the hotel at 5:30 pm Pacific.  By all rights I should have been
exhausted... but I was charged.  I hurredly dumped my stuff off at the
hotel and walked over to the convention center.  I picked up my
registration and zeroed in on a group of folks who looked weird enough to
be Transfans.  :]  I recognized Trixter and Liquid Velcro from the web,
and in rapid succession met Walky, Retrax, Tengu [he's yet another Rob, as
if this newsgroup didn't already have enough :], Swiper (Andrew Frankel),
Rob Jung, Hooks... finally someone mentioned that "Bob Forward's here!"  I
had someone point him out for me, and zeroed in to get some answers to my
questions.  Bob chatted with a little group of us for half an hour or so,
and was extremely nice.

One I forgot in my info post: Bob was totally surprised by my suggestion
that Scavenger's apparent name change was caused by Inferno's fate in "The
Agenda".  But that doesn't rule out the possibility of that being the
reason for the change.

At the pre-party (no dinner this year!) I briefly met Gary Chalk (Op
Primal), who was very friendly; Scott McNeil, who was hystericly funny; 
and Simon Furman, who was also quite nice -- he seemed very reserved, and
I actually couldn't think of many good questions on the spot.  I did ask
if he'd had any further plans for G2, and apparently he had concentrated
only on the 12 issue story arc. 

Part-way through the party we got our exclusive toys; I sat for a while
with Hooks, LV & co, and a few others playing with them.  Antagony is most

Afterwards I tagged along with Doug Dlin and a few others to Sharon "Tut"
Laborde's room; among the other people there were Sipher, Vulcana,
Charlotte Brogden (yes, Joona, she's cute), Raksha, Hex, and none other
than Doug Parker, the voice of Terrorsaur.  Doug was pretty quiet; he's a
tall, thin sandy blonde guy with glasses who just looks cool in a lean,
gangly sort of way.  Hope we didn't scare him too bad!  Tut read us some
1980s newspaper articles about TFs that she'd dug up from a library
somewhere... they were amusing, in a frightening sort of way... Tut also
distributed Mardi Gras beads; I got some new ones to replace my fading
ones in my car. :]

Saturday a ton of folks lined up in the main hallway to wait outside the
convention room.  I joined the line and had a nice long conversation with
Maria Jose [last name variable], the "Misbehave!" woman.  The prices in
the dealer room were, for the most part, shockingly high.  Is a loose
Grapple really worth $30?  $25 for loose Beast Box and Squawk Talk?  Maybe
I just haven't been following auctions much in the last year or two...
There was a lot of Japanese BW merchandise, at not-unreasonable prices.  I
picked up the recolored Tigatron for $35, and it was well worth it -- the
figure looks *exactly* like the show, with pure white molding and a green
face with red eyes, and is beautiful in its own right.  Additionally the
box is nice (if a bit cluttered with logos -- it reminds me of those
pictures you see of downtown Tokyo or Las Vegas with dozens of overlapping
signs) and comes with a BW Japan catalogue.

I also got a Japanese Electro (I finally have all the Laser Rods; Electro
is *awesome*), a loose Pipes, and Powerdive, whose rotor I had fun
shooting into the air after the script reading.  I picked up 5 UK comics
($5 each - ouch!) and a couple of the G2/GI Joe issues.  Also got Raksha's
"Secrets of the Universe" fanzine, and was mightily impressed.  Raksha,
terrific work.

I spent three or four hours straight at the panels that afternoon (first
the writers, then the Hasbro reps, then the voice actors.) Before the
writers' panel we got a hysterical compilation video from BW eps... first
a segment titled something like "for the kids, right?" with one shot after
another of BW characters getting shot, blasted, etc.  Other segments:
"@#$@#$@%!!", a series of Rattrap's wisecracks; a compilation of Cheetor's
cheesey dialogue; a series of Megatron saying "yess" and "excellent"; and
"Gorillas can't fly", with Optimus getting shot down repeatedly and
falling out of the sky.  More from the writers in the INFO post.  One last
quote: Ditillio described the events of "The Agenda" I as "Silverbolt and
Blackarachnia droppin' their skidplates in the heather."  I dunno, I just
found it funny.

The Hasbro reps started off with a video of compiled commercials from the
entire history of Transformers.  They were cool, but the kid with big late
70s hair saying "robots in disguise!" got a lot of laughs.  The atmosphere
with the Hasbro reps could be described as tense, but I don't blame the
reps for this.  People seem to forget that, ultimately, these guys are in
the business of *selling toys* and that has to be their first priority.
They said they are trying to become more responsive to their fans,
however, and they really seemed to want suggestions from the audience for
what we'd like to see.  Someone mentioned more catalogues; the reason for
the "all the toy lines" catalogues is "cross-interest" or something like
that, basically trying to get new kids to latch onto other lines.  They
described the toy making process (see the INFO post) and mentioned that
the toy molds have to be tooled from steel.  Also that, ballpark, several
hundred thousand figures have to sell for them to make their money back.
Also that Rampage has about 250 parts, but that's old news.  Some people
kept asking "old news" or "can't answer that" questions, which generally
produced unhappy grumbling from many people.  We really should work to
create and distribute a set of question "do's" and "don'ts" for BotCon;
not everyone has newsgroup access, after all. (Doug Dlin had a print-out
of the BW FAQ available for free, but I suspect that not many people
outside of newsgroupers got it.)

The voice actors were pretty funny; Susan Blu strikes me as a bundle of
energy.  Scott McNeil is hysterical.  Gary Chalk seems very down to earth,
but still funny.  The guy who does Megatron (name escapes me) is quieter
than Scott but seems to be similarly goofy.  Yes, we DID get Scott to say
"Dinobot has spoken!  My rigid grill structure..."  Seemingly half the
audience pitched in to remind him of the rest when he asked. :]  We were
also treated to Optimus Primal singing "Feelings!  Nothing but
feelings!... Shut up, Rattrap."   

Spent several hours hanging out with Trix's group in their room, playing
with toys, reading comics, and chatting.  The prevaling mood was goofiness
and we really started cracking up as we read the instructions for some of
the knock-offs they'd bought.  I had never before laughed until I cried,
until I encountered the "sken dosition" and sentences like "Down the
breast by the arrow direction.  Okay!!!"  Gods, my face was hurting I
laughed so hard.  We really must do a "Bad Directions" web page...

Went to the script reading (see INFO post) which was very funny. Milled
about with lots of other fans for a while after, shooting Powerdive's
rotor into the air and across the room.  Doug & I explained to Scott
McNeil just what the hell the "rigid grill structure" was.  Scott
also mentioned that he has really become a *fan* of Beast Wars,
unlike most animated shows he's worked on where he typically only
watches the first few episodes.  He also mentioned that it was
amazing to see how the gestures of the characters matched the ones
that he tends to fall into as he is voicing the characters.  

Later I tagged along with Ben Yee, Sipher, Tengu, and Swiper to the
convention hotel.  We ended up at the hotel bar, where we were joined by
none other than the Hartmans and Mr. McNeil.  Simon Furman was across the
room with Wildman and Dicola; they were still downing drinks when we
headed home around 12:30. 

Sunday went by very quickly.  I checked the dealer room to see if I could
catch any markdowns... no such luck.  I watched the first two BW II eps...
the animation was mediocre at best.  I kind of like Diver, though; that
popping-out head thing is cool.

Then came the MST3King of the Movie.  Thanks to a convention center
failing, our hosts had no mikes, so a fair bit of what they said was lost
amid the blaring soundtrack.  But it was still hilareous.  "Die... Die!"
"Duh, okay!"    "Him Wheelie.  Him friend!"  "Him annoying!"  The closing
credits were prerecorded, interspersed with very funny movie clips and
comments from the Trannies.  Seeing the Movie again reinforced my dislike
of it... watch for a post explaining why it sucks.  :]

I had time for some quick goodbyes... it was amazing how quickly people...
well, bonded, I guess.  There was nothing cliqueish the whole time; I felt
welcome wherever I went and whoever I talked to, be it guests or
attendees.  I hope everyone who went felt the same.  I met a *lot* of
terrific, open, warm, friendly people.  Overall, it was one of the best
weekends I've ever had, worth every penny I spent.  I'll be doing
everything I can do be back next year.

It was a long trip home, but do you really care?  I have just one thing to
add, for NeoTrent's benefit: I had a McDonald's Big Breakfast with an
extra hash brown and a small Dr. Pepper.  Both days. :]


  In true Manic Ramblings fashion, I forgot a few things...

  The Art Contest was *very* impressive.  Perhaps the coolest things were
near-perfect models of Ravage and Transmutate.  Ravage was mostly TM
Cheetor; Transmutate looked to be built from scratch.  There were tons of
pictures, ranging from pretty good to outright stunning.  Ben Yee did a
cool diorama of Megs and Prime aiming for each other amid a bunch of          
wreckage, a la the Movie.

  Unfortunately, I was so busy running around like a headless Chickenator
that I forgot to vote on the Art Contest.  I also completely missed the
trivia contest, and never got around to entering the charity raffle.
Oops!  I kinda wish that there could have been a posted schedule of
events, rather than just the handed-out flyers.

  I was among the lucky group who got to hear Rob Jung exclaim "I can't
believe it's not butter!" on Friday.  Later in Tut's room I did the same
line in Dinobot's voice. :]

  I met Raksha's snake, Avatar.  What a beautiful creature!  She's a light
yellow... umm... I forget the species, but she's albino, I'd guess 6 feet
long, and seems quite friendly.  Poor snake, getting manhandled all day... 

  I know I'm forgetting even more stuff, but it'll have to wait...

Back to Rob's Pile of Ramblings