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Review – BotCon 2011

The Pasadena Convention Center was the place to be on June 2-June5.  The Transformers BotCon was in full swing with Autobots and Decepticons everywhere.  This was one of the most pleasant and family friendly conventions that I have ever attended.  It was a playground for all ages.Before the doors opened, a couple of hundred convention-goers lined up for the event.  There was no pushing or shoving.  Tickets were a modest $10 for children and $20 for adults. When the fans were let in, the line moved quickly and smoothly.  On the outside of the convention center, fans could see full scale fan made replica vehicles of Autobots Bumblebee, Ironhide, and Rachet.  On the inside, near the main entrance, the official movie cars of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Rachet, Sideswipe, and Ironhide were huddled together.  They were shiny and impressive.  With the popularity of the movies fueling the excitement, fans had an opportunity to photograph their favorite iconic film vehicles.

Staples at the event, or any other convention for that matter, are the vendors.  They sold new and vintage Transformers and other robot related toys.  It was a collector’s paradise with fans buying up figures and memorabilia.  The show had a few freebies that were highly sought after by attendees.

Kre-O Transformers was giving away a boxed Optimus Prime toy.  They were showcasing existing toys in their line and allowing people to assemble and play with them in different diorama settings.  Coincidentally, the dioramas tie into the new “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” film.  A desert, a bombed out city, and a moonscape were given a scaled down treatment.  The parents watched, while the kids enjoyed themselves.  Just for your information, Kre-O Transformers are Lego-type toys.  Different parts and accessories are available to enhance the colored assortment of rectangular blocks in order to create characters from the Transformers universe.  The subtle difference between Legos and Kre-O is that one peg on the Kre-O block has a round depression in the middle.  Other than this, they are virtually the same.

Near the entrance, the BotCon Convention Store sold a plethora of items ranging from lithographs to T-shirts to toys.  One special collectible toy of the Stunticons sold out on the first day of the convention and is now fetching a lofty price on-line.  In addition to the goodies that were available, a club membership could be purchased, which included a free toy, for the small sum of $10.

Computer game giant Activision was present.  They represented the video gaming industry and provided three to four consoles for fans to play the new “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” The Game.  It was impressive to watch kids play and enjoy manipulating the characters on-screen.  By the way, Activision did a terrific job on the game.  The graphics are outstanding, and the playability and simplicity of the controls will no doubt please any gamer.

Next to Activision was the Transformers Hall of Fame.  This booth highlighted the toys and people responsible for bringing the Transformers to life in some form or another.  Pictures of the inductees from 2010 were proudly hung next to the inductees for this year.  Prominently displayed were Kohjn Ohno, Yoke Hideaki, Bob Budiansky, and Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus Prime.)  Next to these individuals hung the portraits for 2011 inductees director/producer Steven Spielberg, and director Michael Bay.  Transformers from various eras and series were on display in glass cases within the booth as well.

Down the row from the Transformers Hall of Fame was the headquarters for toy maker Hasbro. They had their official Interaction Center where fans could get sketches from various Transformers toy industry artists.  Also, attendees could register for contests and on-line fan club memberships.  On display were the Transformers Playskool Heroes for “Dark of the Moon,” and an uncut trading card promo sheet of four of the Rescue Bots was free for the taking.  Finally, the new Prime series line of Transformers toys debuted in all of its finery.  Hasbro was quite helpful and friendly with fans.  They were one of the main sponsors of the event, and they were extremely jovial and kind.

The BotCon Photo Studio was a fan favorite.  You could have your picture taken in front of a green screen, and then later find your photo on-line standing with your favorite Autobot.  Another crowd pleaser was The Making of Transformers Prime.  Fans could see the scale of the many different Transformers in comparison to humans.  A poster was given away courtesy of Hasbro Graphics Studio.  Finally, a booth with the title Transformers Unique Picture was letting fans have a chance to use Hasbro’s computer workstations to design and draw their own Transformers character.

Other companies that made their presence known were Charter.com and The Hub.  Charter was promoting their cable company by having a wheel that people could spin to win prizes.  They passed out some ecologically friendly bags with some awesome prizes, including a Twister game.  The Hub followed suit with their own spinning wheel and they were giving away Transformers pens, pins, flashlight key chains, and posters.  The Hub was promoting the Transformers Animated Series.  Both booths had a constant stream of convention goers queued up for a chance to win some terrific swag.

Other convention mainstays such as seminars and panels with artists, actors, and creators attached to the Transformers franchise were scheduled throughout each day of the event.  V.I.P. ticket holders were shuttled to Paramount Studios to watch a sneak preview of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”  Also, a Casino Night Awards dinner was held Friday evening, while the Hall of Fame event occurred on Saturday night.

By no means have I covered every single facet of this event, if you want to go to next year’s convention, score an early ticket on-line at botcon.com.  You may have to wait a while until Hasbro and Co. announce next years Transformers celebration plans.  So keep checking their website.  Remember, you have to be a club member for any special rewards, but the benefits will far outweigh the cost.  In addition, Hasbro sponsors contests, and a film festival.  I know this may sound clichéd, but this convention was definitely “More than Meets the Eye.”

Namtar out!