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Botcon 2009: Nurannoniel's Report:

Location: Pasadena, California

Dates: May 28-31

Wednesday, May 27
While I was waiting for the van to leave LAX, realized that all 6 of us in the van were Botconers. Did one of us say "bah weep grana weep nini bong?" Nooooo… 

After getting to the hotel at about 3, I went to look around. Just across the street there was a strip mall with a fountain, an antiques mall, and some really nice looking restaurants. Up the stairs there were some wine lounges, a Mexican lounge, and a Chinese bistro. It was pretty sunny and I was getting crispy by that point, so I headed off to find a Starbucks for a green tea frappaccino to wait for the tour bus to get back with Silver. 
After chilling out for a bit, I headed off towards the convention center around 6:30. The bus must have gotten back a bit early because as I was walking up the block Silver, the tall and obvious figure that he is, could be seen from a block away. After catching up for a bit, he told me that he'd met up with a couple from Chicago and they had plans to go drinking afterwards. So then Jason and Tina showed up and we went to one of the lounges across the street where we drank/talked TF for a couple of hours until it was time for pre-registration. Jason still had some beer and Silver and I had half a bottle of wine left, so we snuck our drinks out and back to the convention center with us. After picking up our packages, Silver split off to go back to his mustang and Jason, Tina and I went back to the Hilton. At that point it was time to crash, because tomorrow we would all meet early for the Hollywood tour! 

Thursday, May 28
We started out the day by standing around chatting while waiting to get on the bus. Tina went to grab some food for her and Jason from the café across the street. It's a good thing the bus was loading slowly, because we got the call to get on while she was still inside. After teasing her to hurry up or she'd be left behind, we climbed on the bus and found some seats in the back. 

Our first stop was the Hollywood Bowl amphitheatre. On the way, we got a long-distance view of an old bridge that was part of Route 66, Paramount studios, Disney Studios, and a giant billboard advertising ROTF. :D At the Hollywood Bowl, we were told that the best view was from the top of the hill where the Hollywood sign could be seen in the distance over the hills. After exploring that for a bit, we got back on the bus and headed towards downtown Hollywood. After driving around for a bit, we were dropped off and were led up to the Chinese theatre. We did a fair amount of photo-taking there, and then we were taken up the street to the Kodak theatre. During one of the quick exploration breaks we were given our small band went to check out Hot Topic. Of course there was some nice TF swag there, but we couldn't stay long; the tour was off and moving again. From the Kodak theatre we headed up the street to the Guiness World Records museum. There were displays on buildings, people, animals, toys, and a video on the biggest and longest running domino set up which would have run for a bout an hour. For some reason, everyone was hypnotised by that one 0.o. There were also some movie records, and a cool electrical holographic display that looked like the holo displays in Star Wars. Next we were supposed to go across the street to the wax museum, but Silver and I decided to go wander up and down the star walk instead while the rest of the group went to the museum. That was when we found the store that had Silver's awesome hat and my movie clip board. Next we wandered back up the street, stopping to take pictures of various star's names on the way. Silver and I stopped at a café for an early snack/lunch, but eventually it was time for the scheduled lunch which would be at the Farmer's market. 

While everyone else went in and got more food, I looked at some of the stores for a bit. It was pretty crowded in the narrow isles between the stalls, but we managed to find a table for all 4 of us. After lunch we spotted a candy stand with the most delicious-looking, gigantic caramel apples EVER. Our insanity got the better of us, and Silver and I bought the oreo apples while Jason got a reeses candy apple. Then we went exploring. Lots of shiny things, like ceramic dragons, gorillas, angel dog figures that looked like Silverbolt, and of course a lot of fresh produce. We wandered up and down the street while we gnawed on our apples before getting back on the bus and heading towards our next brief stop, Rodeo Drive. Parking was limited, so we only had 15 minutes to get off, go up the walkway, and get back to the bus. There were some really high-end jewellery stores that we stopped and stared into. At one point Jason and I stopped to reflect if the numbered tags under the rings were stock numbers or prices. Suddenly, Jason screamed out "holy s***!" Turns out the numbers ranging from 7000 to over 14000 were the prices. 0.o We joked all the way up and down the street that Jason should buy one for Tina as an engagement ring. All it would take is a house loan… We started to rush back to the bus thinking we were the last ones to get back. As soon as we were on, we headed off towards the Tar pits. That was when the tour guide announced that we had left someone behind at Rodeo drive, so we would be stopping at the tar pits for a bit while he caught up in a cab. 

Just up the path in the tar pit park was a spot where the tar had bubbled up from the ground and was now gated off. The tour guide explained that at cooler temperatures, the tar would harden and then soften again when the temperature rose. At this point we all jumped on a squishy patch of ground that was just starting to soften after the cooler morning. A little further up the path was another place where tar had bubbled up; the little pit had filled with water and garbage. We all "eewww"ed as we walked past, then laughed at the other very fresh tar puddle that was roped off with pylons an caution tape. 

By the lake, Silver decided to wander off in search of interesting things such as Rhinox's shell casings. Waspinator pieces seemed a little more likely, but we followed anyways. At one end of the lake there was a display of a mother mammoth stuck in the tar pit with her mate and baby crying out to her. The edges of the lake had asphalt on the surface while all across the lake methane bubbled up from the fissures under the water. We stopped and took even more photos, and Silver took the opportunity to put his hat on a statue and take a picture of that. Soon the guy that the tour had lost caught up, and it was time to do a little more driving and then go back to Pasadena. We drove past a few more cool things like the Beverley Hills community, a fountain that has flames shoot out of it every 15 minutes and the Disney concert hall. Finally we got back to Pasadena, where we found Beastbot waiting in line to pick up his convention package.


We talked for a bit, and then since the rest of us already had our badges we went inside to check out the giant Bumblebee and Prime statues that had been set up some time that day. 
The club store was also opening that night. Jason went off to get a good spot in line, while Silver and I went to find a tattoo place. We got lost for a little bit, but eventually found the place Silver had found a few days earlier. They told us they were booked solid that night, but there was free space on Saturday if we wanted to come back then. We thanked the lady at the desk and then went back to see how the club store line-up was going. We found Beastbot and his dad in line and talked for a bit. One of the kids we'd been hanging out with,Tulsca AKA Armada, found us around then and was introduced to the amazing endless source of TF knowledge that is Beastbot. Silver and I left them talking while we went to sneak a peak at what the club store had to offer. We talked to one of the staff for a bit before Jason grabbed us and told us to join him in line. By that point we'd decided that there was some really cool stuff to buy after all, so Silver got some forms and started filling out shopping lists while Jason and I went to find and rescue Beastbot and Armada from the back of the line. Once we'd gotten everyone to a decent spot in line, everyone actually got their swag and got out at a decent time. After that we headed off to get some Mexican food and then go back to our respective resting places for the night. I'm not so sure about the others, but that would be the last night I would get any real sleep for the rest of the convention!

Friday, May 29

 Friday morning started off at a decent time for our group, and would consist of mostly attending panels with a private viewing of the dealer's room for badge-holding attendees later. Friday was also contest day, so after grabbing some breakfast and meeting up with the guys in the entrance line, I headed off to find out where I was supposed to set up my painting. Silver suggested I go up to the front of the line and try to get in ahead of everyone. They joked that if I did get in, that I should sneak them in as well. After the two people guarding the entrance cleared it with a Botcon staff member to let me in, I was told that I had to go back out and around to the back of the building where the dealers were unloading. I tried to wave our to our group through the windows to follow me to the other doors so they could get in, but I guess my head-waving wasn't clear enough, because they didn't follow me. I found my way out to the dealer entrance, where a very nice surprise was waiting – the Prime truck was back this year! I texted Jason to tell the group the good news while someone went to collect a contest manager to show me to the contest area. He texted me back to say the guys were glad to hear it, and that if I was done soon to meet them in the first panel. I tried to snap an early shot of Prime with my camera phone but by that point the contest manager had come and was directing me through the hectic traffic of the still-unpacked dealer's room. After getting my painting set up and begging them to let me pick it up before I left early Sunday, I was escorted back out of the door I had first come in. I went back inside the main convention hall and found the guys already listening to the comic Q&A panel. After that came the Stan Bush and Vince Dicola panel, the "Animating Animated" panel in which we got to hear about the creation process of TF: Animated, and the TF Movie writer's panel. There was an hour break for lunch, and then the line-up started for the Private Sales room preview and the first round of autographs. We decided to start with the autograph lines first, since there were only a limited number of people allowed in each line. The listed autograph sessions had been reversed from what was on our badges, so instead of Stan Bush first, we got the movie writers' and Gregg Berger's autographs first. They all decided my movie board was cool, and had to briefly stop and play with it. Mr. Berger reflected that the smooth plastic made an ideal cure for writer's cramp. ;) Since we finished with the first autograph lines fairly early, we headed off to check out the sales room next. Silver managed to restrain himself for the most part, while I finished most of my shopping list right away. We headed out briefly for Stan Bush and Vince Dicola's autographs before heading back in for a second wave. At that point I noticed a person with a custom red Autobot flag hanging off their backpack. I started to say that it looked like the flag Omicron was carrying in 2007 – and then she turned around, and it WAS Omicron's flag, with Omie attatched. ;) Much glomping ensued, which confused the heck out of the group of friends she was with because they had no idea who this strange girl was that was randomly glomping their flag-bearing friend. We chatted and explored stalls for a bit before splitting up with the promise to talk more later. 

During Stan Bush's panel earlier in the day, he had revealed that thanks to demand from fans, "The Touch" had been added to the latest version of Guitar Hero: World Tour. In the back left corner of the sales room, Guitar Hero and the new TF mutliplayer bombat games had been set up. It was nearing the end of the day, but Silver and I decided to try out "The Touch." Silver took drums, and I took bass guitar. Two of the staff members joined us, one on vocal and one on regular guitar. Apparently our band rocked so much, the staff were still talking about us the next day ;). The sales room closed soon after, and we headed out to wait for everyone to regroup for supper. We sat and compared purchases for a bit before splitting up until the film contest. After dinner we got back to the convention center early, so we sat down to chat with some other con-goers. We stopped to watch convention center employees set up a mini-bar, and then decided to raid it before going in to the film contest. 

 Most of the film entries weren't exactly enthralling. The first was "The Autobots vs. Mr. Potato Head," which consisted of Mr. Potato Head being run over. The second video was a stop-motion film of an argument between Blaster and Soundwave, which actually managed to win second place and was decently entertaining. The third entry was similar to the first, but with Barbie dolls. It received even less enthusiasm than the Mr. Potato Head version. The fourth, as the announcer put it, required one to time their drugs properly in order to be any good; it was a short, animated abstract statement about the super-powered effects of G1 Megatron drinking ethanol. Silver cheered for it during voting just to make a scene, and was rewarded with the announcer commenting "now there's a man with a watch!" The next entry was a CGI G1-based episode done by the same guys that made the animation for the Botcon website this year. It of course took first place. The last entry was what at first appeared to be a lame slide-show of one guy's experience at various Botcons. At the end of the video slide-show, he had video clip of himself talking about how wonderful his girlfriend was for putting up with his Transformers obsession, and would she be willing to do it permanently? At this point we all looked in the direction of the shriek behind us, where the guy who had done the video was kneeling with a ring in his hand in front of her. We all cheered and congratulated them before voting by applause for the contest winners. 

After the contest was 2 hours of MSTF. In short, I will never be able to watch Code of Hero the same way again… 
The last event of the night was a fan-made documentary, which we all ditched out of in favour of sleep. It was past midnight anyways.


Saturday, May 30

Saturday morning started especially early for me. The day before, I had volunteered to line up early and save our group a spot in the Weird Al autograph line. The autographs started at 9:30AM; I got to the line up at ten to seven. The line already went part way around the building. By 7:30 Botcon staff were starting to count heads, so I tried calling Silver, Baron, and Jason to tell them to hurry up. Everyone managed to get there by 8. I was getting pretty thirsty by then, so Silver went up the road to grab me a tea (my hero! <3). Eventually the Botcon staff decided they wanted the line up to be going the other way around the block, so they made us move en masse to the other side of the building where we sat and waited even longer. It wasn't too boring though – a cosplayer dressed up in a very well-designed Animated Arcee costume came by, and we got to watch people stop for photos of her. Wheelie and Armada's mom, as well as Wheelie, joined us in line at this point. At around 9, Weird Al walked up the street and went into the convention center. No personal photographs were allowed, but photo-taking in itself was okay so we decided that everyone in our group would pass their cameras back to the next person so we could all still get photos in. 45 minutes later, we finally got up to see Weird Al. :D He decided to play with my movie clip board too, and took a moment to examine Silver's awesome autograph hat and Wheelie's autograph-filled skateboard. After that we wandered over to the main building to see if there was still room in line for Peter Cullen's autographs. There wasn't, but David Kaye's line was virtually empty since everyone was still waiting for Peter Cullen, so we went to say hi to him instead. At this point my four hours of sleep started catching up with me, and I was getting pretty shaky. Mr. Kaye was trying very hard to joke around with me, but it was all I could do to not grab Peter Cullen's still-empty chair. Oh, and he too had to test out the movie clipboard board. :D Mr. Kaye recognized Silver from 2007, and stopped to question him about why he wasn't wearing his wicked-cool goth gear this year. After that, the group spent the rest of the morning between panels and shopping. 

Starting at noon was David Kaye and Weird Al's panel. We got inside the room while the Activision panel was still running. The room was pretty full, but I spotted an empty row to the far side and middle of the room. I didn't realize until after everyone started chatting with him that Mr. Kaye and his family were the people taking up the row directly behind it. Eventually Mr. Kaye excused himself so he could set up for his panel. During the panel there were a number of voice requests including the usual fast-food drive thru bit and a running gag of Wreck Gar impersonating the other characters from Animated. With the wide variety of strange things I saw carried into the autograph lines, I decided to ask them what was the strangest thing they had ever signed at a convention? Weird Al replied with "various body parts," and David Kaye pointed to a lady a few rows back and said that he'd signed her baby that morning. 

After the Animated panel came the Hasbro panel. We were given a number of previews of upcoming toys and toy lines, including some of the Animated toys yet to be announced. I left after the previews in order to get some sleep before it was time to gather for the Party at Paramount. 

Around 7 we managed to all find each other and settle into line for the busses that would take us to Paramount Studios. Most of us dressed up a bit for the event, except for poor Baron, whose suitcase had been lost by the airport. The busses came one at a time so it took a while for us to get on one, but eventually we managed to pile onto the fourth bus. It was a short ride, and it was just starting to get dark out by that point. When we got to Paramount studios, the first thing we saw was a large billboard with the Botcon, Hasbro, and Shout logos on it in spot lights. Behind the billboard was the New York set where the party was taking place. Set up on the way from the parking lot to the tables was the Ironhide truck which we stopped to take some photos of. After that, we wandered down one of the "streets" to finds an empty table. On the way we stopped at the bar to pick up drinks and chat with Mr. Kaye some more, who also had stopped for a drink and was talking with more of his fans. Someone had gone off to find a table, so the rest of us split off to check out the buffet tables. Best. Mac & cheese. EVER. Once we were done eating we headed up another one of the streets towards the stage set up. 

We got fairly close to the stage, but by that point some very tall people had already taken up the immediate area around it. The MC got the crowd psyched up a bit, and then introduced Tyrese Gibson, who was just then driving up in the Ratchet hummer a little ways off to the left of the stage. The crowd rushed over to see him get out and take photos before we moved back in a tidal wave towards center stage. As the crowd started chanting "LEFT CHEEK! LEFT CHEEK," Tyrese Gibson ran up onto the stage and gave high fives to everyone who could reach (I was a few inches too short) before taking the mic and talking a bit about how great it was to be at the party again. After a few moments, the MC stopped him and said "there's someone who would like to meet you…" and then Peter Cullen came out. Tyrese freaked out with excitement, jumping up and down and running around before finally glomping Peter Cullen and exclaiming that he was his childhood hero. After some more excited jumping around, the MC came back to the mic and said that they could get to know each other better over dinner, but now it was time for them to get off stage so the band could set up. By this point I was getting frustrated with not being able to see anything from behind the taller members of the crowd. Beside me was Wheelie, who is still young enough to be even shorter than I am. He was jumping up and down trying to get a better view too, but he was also starting to get mad. I saw an opening between the legs of two people, and had enough time to shout at Silver "I'm going on ahead!" before grabbing Wheelie's arm and telling him to follow me. We darted about 6 ft between arms and legs until we got to the very front of the crowd and claimed the stairs right next to one of the smaller speaker set ups. Now there was nothing blocking our view! A short time later, Vince Dicola came out and did some of his rocking synthesizer music. He was still wearing his Maximal/Predacon hat. :D His band joined him after a couple of songs, and they did some of their own music before switching off for Stan Bush's band. Vince Dicola stayed on synthesizer for Dare and The Touch. Silver had managed to get pretty close to the front himself by then, and was rocking out hard to the music. The concert ended about an hour after it first started, and the awards ceremony began.

Half way through the awards presentations, the MC got a call on his cell phone. When he came back to the mic, he told us that everyone with blue wristbands was to go to the Paramount theatre right away – insert insane amounts of screaming here – for a short presentation. Yellow wristbands had to wait for a bit. Luckily, everyone in our group fit into the blue banded category. Earlier in the day there had been rumours flying around about a sneak preview of the new movie, and I'm sure this was in everyone's minds now as we stormed back towards the parking lot. At some point everyone in our group had managed to grab on to everyone else, and we formed a people-chain as we ran towards the theatre. The line-ups in front of the theatre to check in our cell phones and cameras was already getting pretty long. As we grouped together in a big mass, one of the ushers tried to ask us to line-up in a straight line. The guys started talking to him, and the usher mentioned that if we wanted a good photo-op, right behind us was THE Forest Gump bench. The 3 women of our group smiled and nodded in interest as the 6 guys dashed to climb on and pose on the bench. The girls took some photos of the guys on the bench before our cameras were confiscated from us and we headed into the theatre. 

Once we were inside, we dashed around to find good seats. As the theatre started to fill up, we started joking about how it was probably just a trailer for Star Trek, or G. I. Joe, or even a "My Little Pony" skit. While we were talking about how much fun the night had been and laughing about the possible sheer torture they could put us through, someone on the other side of the theatre screamed "It's Michael Bay!!!" We turned to see him coming in from one of the side doors, waving at the crowd as we all cheered his appearance. On stage, he told us that he'd only heard about this party a few nights before, and that he'd decided that they had to throw something together for us since after all, we were the people who the movie was being made for. He said that the scenes they were going to play weren't in final sound (and they were still working around the clock to finish putting everything together), and he talked a little bit about working with some of the actors in the movie. He said Shia was really good to work with, and that even after his accident (which was finally proved to have NOT been his fault) he kept working through the pain. The lights finally went out, and the clips started to play. 

The two scenes they showed us were when Leo and Simmons were in the excavation pit with Devastator transforming around them, and the part with Sam and his parents dodging Decepticons as Bumblebee fought. When the lights came back on, the crowd gave Mr. Bay a very loud and enthusiastic standing ovation before we piled out to collect our cameras and allow the yellow-band attendees to go in. 

When we finally returned to the back lot, a line for studio tours had started up somewhere off to the right of where Ironhide was parked. Some members of the group went to see the tour, while Silver and I went back towards the stage. Stan Bush and his band were up playing again, so after stopping to get a closer look at Ratchet, we returned to our spots near the stairs next to the speakers and resumed rocking out. 

When everyone had finally come back from the theatre, the awards show resumed. I was getting especially antsyby this point, because 2-D art hadn't come up yet. As they were announcing the winners of more art categories, I commented to Silver that the 3rd place medals looked cooler than the glass trophies because they made it look like the person was in the Elite Guard. Finally they got to the 2-D colour art category… and I let out a really loud (rather lame) scream as "Sunset" was given third place. Squee! So I got one of said awesome looking medals and $25 show dollars. The rest of the winners were announced, and then we were treated to another fan proposing to his girlfriend on stage. When the party finally ended, it was well after midnight. I was tired, but giddy as we found an empty bus and piled on for the trip back to the convention center. When we finally got back to Pasadena Silver and Baron came back to the Hilton with me, Jason and Tina so they could call a cab back to their hotel. They offered some very sweet congratulations for taking third, and we made plans to meet early the next morning for one last blast of fun before I left for my flight home.


Sunday, May 31
My airport shuttle was coming at 9:50, so I checked out and met Jason, Silver and Baron at the convention center at 9. I begged my way inside to pick up my painting before heading back out to spend my last few minutes of Botcon with the guys. Since I didn't have anything I wanted to spend my prize money on, I offered the $25 credit to Silver to help him get one of the box sets he'd been trying to bargain for all weekend. The dealer's room opened at 9:30, and we had just enough time for us to get inside and for me to explain to the dealer that I was giving the certificate to Silver before I had to run off to catch my shuttle. I gave everyone one last set of farewell hugs before getting into the van heading to the airport, and then finally to home.

Click here to see photos from the event!


Webmaster's note: Many thanks to Nurann for typing this up and for the photos she sent!

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