Botcon 2011 Report by Gilbert Aquino (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

June 13, 2011 by  

Pasadena, California once again hosted the annual “Botcon”, a trade show dedicated to the Transformers franchise. This would mark my second “Botcon” event, since last year, the event has been held in Orlando, Florida.

“Botcon 2011” featured a small cast of voice actors and actresses from the 1980’s, many of whom did work on such classics as “GIJoe, Garfield, the Superfriends, X-Men, Robotech” and of course all various seasons of the Transformers.

The list ranged from Michael McConnhie (Tracks, Cosmos), Arlene Banas (Carly, Spike Witwicky’s girlfriend), and Jack Angel (Ramjet, Astrotrain, and Breakdown) to Morgan Lofting (the Baroness from “GIJoe”, Firestar & Moonstar from the “Transformers”), rock star Stan Bush (the musician on the classic “The Touch”) and surprised guest, Peter Cullen (KARR from the original and 2008 “Knight Rider” series, the narrator from “Lion Force Voltron” and Optimus Prime in the original “Transformers” series, the live movies, and animated movie).

While standing in line, it was surprising to hear the fans who weren’t even around during the 80’s to talk about such classics as the “G.I. Joe” and the “Transformers” animated series, regardless if they were available on-line and/or DVD. Another topic that seemed to be discussed around the event was “Power Rangers”. People were discussing what it would be like to attend a “Power Rangers” only event!

For a small event, they literally charged for everything if you don’t happen to purchase one of their various admission packages, which consist of “exclusive” Transformers figures. As big of a fan as I am of the “Transformers”, I couldn’t justify to purchase repainted figures who resemble “McDonald’s Happy Meal” toys. In fact, while standing in line to purchase tickets, someone was trying to sell one of the boxed set exclusives for $400 when it retails for $150 or so at the event, which was supposedly sold out to the general public before the event happened! Admission cost me $20 for one ticket just for Saturday and if I wanted to attend the Hall of Fame event that same night, it would have cost me an additional $45.

The Hall of Fame event honors both characters from the franchise and those that were involved in any aspect of bringing the franchise to life, such as voice actors/actresses, producers, and even directors. In fact, this year was set to honor Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg.

As for autographs, that also required an additional $25, which allowed anyone to obtain autographs at designated times.

I managed to talk to Greg Bregger, the voice actor for “Grimlock” from the original Transformers animated series and animated movie. He is a great guy who is even greater with his fans! I mentioned to him how I was a big fan of “Tranzor Z”, another animated series from Japan, and he thanked me for bringing it up, since people only know him for “Grimlock” and not for voicing “Tommy” from “Tranzor Z”!

Stan Bush was also very great to his fans, signing at no charge to items provided by the fans. He had his CDs and 8x10s for sale at very reasonable prices.

The CDs were only $10 and his 8x10s were only $5!

Stan had a monitor with his music vide of “The Touch” playing on loop throughout the event. One of the most humble celebrities out there!

The dealer’s room was filled with vendors from local dealers and artists from the comic book industry, to toy manufacturers as Hasbro and KRE-O. Paramount had a few of the screen-used cars from the upcoming third film of the franchise, which included Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Ironhide, Bumblebee, and Sideswipe.

Another sight that amazed me was the fact that many of the dealers were also selling various “Power Rangers” figures, known as “Zords”. I even actually saw an attendee purchase a “Dragonzord”, complete with the original box!

The one thing that seemed to bother me about the event is the number of fake merchandise being sold. One dealer was selling home-made looking t-shirts that featured either the Autobot or Decepticon symbol on the front.

He even had trucker hats with either logo for sale at $6 each! Another dealer had some really bad knock-offs, the ones you would find at the .99 Cents stores!

What was the worse knock-off that I saw? Fake “New Era” hats for $10 each that had really bad embroidery, the Autobot logo looked more like the devil with horns than the iconic symbol!!

Across the street from the venue, fans can take photos of a Generation 1 “Ratchet”, owned by Jason Ybarra; and a replica of Bumblebee from the first live movie, owned by Jon Merker. Many fans and people just passing by were amazed at the replicas, taking photos and observing the details of each car. Jason had a very cool 1:1 size of Ravage, perched on top of Ratchet!

An awesome photo I managed to capture was a fangirl re-enacting Megan Fox’s scene where she was lifting up Bumblebee’s hood when he was still an old Camaro.

Overall, in comparison to my previous attendance of “Botcon”, this year’s attendance was pretty low.

I arrived at the venue by around 7:30am and I must have counted like 30 people in front of me to purchase tickets. From my first time at the event, I arrived around 8am or so, and the line wrapped at least around three or four times, making it look like we were all in line for a theme park ride!

Yet, I still enjoyed the event despite the low attendance but I look forward to the next Botcon.

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