July 18, 1999
News for BotCon 1999:
BotCon 99 Convention Reportby Lizzard
This is going out to all of you who may find it remotely interesting. What is it? A review of Botcon 99 -- the weirdest get together in the history of Transformers.
Well, okay, maybe not the weirdest -- this is the only one to which I've been. But it was strange.
I must say at the outset that it could have been organized better -- the line to collect registration material was mismanaged and excessively long, and moreover there was nothing provided for the attendees to do after registering except for a half-hearted pizza party. I confess I did not attend the latter -- primarily because it started a full hour and a half after I registered -- and I was towards the back of the line! I gave up and moved on long before that. Went to the Mall of America. Which is a whole 'nother story.
Saturday was when the convention really began. The doors to the main hall opened at 10am, and oh the sight that awaited within. Wow, get a load of all those dealers trying to suck the fans dry. Want a Japanese model of Arcee? It'll only cost you $300. Want a single issue of TF UK -- and I mean a regular issue, not one from a popular storyline and not one with gifts -- then it'll cost you $10 a pop and your selection sucks.
But wow, did these dealers have some unusual items. And occasionally, they were even priced right. I picked up the first Japanese manga for Beast Wars II for a measly $5, as well as four different Canadian videos (still shrink wrapped) for $60 -- an average of $15 a video. And yes, Japanese bootlegs were available. Some were reasonably priced ($8 for three episodes of Beast Wars Neo) while others were towards the excessive range ($22 for a poor boot of some random episodes of Beast Wars II; $20 for two episodes of Japanese Headmasters).
The most fascinating part of the convention was of course the guests and the original presentations. While I am not a Beast Wars fan (seen only a few episodes), I enjoyed listening to the voice actors who performed Inferno and Rattrap/Silverbolt/Dinobot very much. The MST3K presentation ranged from awful to hilarious -- the real high point of that was getting to see some really terrible old G1 eps that you thought you had banished from your mind ("Carnage in C-Minor", anyone?).
But the treat of the convention, by far, was the surprise presentation of the rough cut of the first episode of the forthcoming Beast Machines series. (This was not advertised beforehand, and in fact we only heard about it ten minutes before it began.) Like Beast Wars, the series is animated by Mainframe, so there are few surprises there. But the storyline appears quite catching and the new character designs, quite bluntly, are awe inspiring. May I also interject that the soundtrack kicks some serious ass. If you'd like details about the plot, characters seen, etc., please e-mail me.
The follow-up interview with a rep from Hasbro was also interesting. He revealed some details about the forthcoming Beast Machines toy line. The most shocking info from this man was that the toys would be available in a wide range of sizes and prices -- from wimpy (my phrase) to "Supreme" (his phrase). This may seem uninteresting at first, but let's use this as an example of the stun factor -- when asked how large and elaborate the "Supreme" toys would be, the rep responded that a Supreme Cheetor would be -- I am not making this up -- the size of a house cat. Another amazing claim was that the toys would be able to express character through such details as narrowing eyes! Now that is one I'd like to see how they'll pull off. It may be bullshit.
On the whole, I'd say Botcon was fascinating, but not something I'm likely to repeat. The reason for my not wanting to repeat it is primarily cost -- flying out and the rest ain't cheap. It's cool, but for that amount of money and trouble I can wait for reviews from suckers like me. :P