With the obvious exception of the Hasbro panel, there’s really not much to say about panels. I’ll share my thoughts on what was revealed in the Hasbro panel in Part 4: The Toys.
Panels at any convention are pretty hit-or-miss, but especially at a convention that is very focused on one subject, like our beloved Transformers. Double that when the guests of honour for these panels have never been involved with this particular fandom and are unfamiliar with our… peculiarities. Case in point: putting voice actors on the spot and asking them to order from the drive-in as whatever character(s) they play. That’s one of the more mild examples of a recurring theme at BotCon panels. Just like every fandom and virtually every convention, when the Q & A portion begins there’s always a slew of questions presented at the microphone that make the more… normalized fans in the room cringe. This year was blissfully lacking in those hyper awkward moments that have almost driven me under my chair in past years.
To kick it off, the first two were not actually “panels”, more exhibitions. For those that don’t know, “MSTF!”, is a Transformers take on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 setting. Given the ample amount of WTF moments and general silliness in the original G1 cartoon, this has always been one of my favourites. In the past they’ve also given a good-natured ribbing to different series like Animated and Go-Bots. This year they added a little Beast Wars and, to tie into their appearance in the BotCon box set, Beast Machines Obsidian and Strika’s premier episode, “Sparkwar Pt. I: The Strike”. Though I understand the difficulty of the copyrighted shows they are parodying, they really should find some way to provide these for non-BotCon attendees at large to watch.
Next up was the Transformers Filmfest, in which my friend won second place. (Yay! Go Ben!) This year had very few entries, one of which was not actually completed when we watched it… twice… in a row. Hopefully the Filmfest entries make their way to Youtube soon, especially Ben’s entry “Transformers Nightmares” and the first place entry “Transformers: The Movie (Abridged)”.
A small rant about the BotCon panels: they are packed back-to-back, which means those of us that eat food to survive are forced to skip at least a panel a day in favour of sustenance. This year that Friday panel was the Transformers Collectors’ Club Comic panel, something I really would have rather attended.
The next panel was the Transformers Publishing, in other words the children’s books and other non-comic book focused published works. In retrospective, I probably should have skipped this one as it didn’t really speak to me, other than two things: the upcoming Deluxe Edition “Covenant of Primus” by Justina Roberts with amazing transforming case.
The second is actually a pop-up book titled “Transformers: The Ultimate Pop-Up Universe” by Matt Rhinheart and Emiliano Santalucia. The one case photo of it I took does absolutely no justice to the wonderful mechanics.
With somewhere between 200 and 300 pieces, the center pop-up actually transforms from alt to robot mode with the pull of a tab. Matt Rhinheart was on hand and we got a demonstration in the panel of Optimus Prime transforming and it was pretty amazing. Not something I expected to find myself saying about a Transformers pop-up book.
That was it for Friday panels, on to Saturday.
The Transformers Prime Voice Panel with David Sobolov (Prime Shockwave and Beast Wars Depthcharge) and James Horan (Prime Wheeljack) was fun, mainly because David is super fun and mostly a big, happy teddy bear with a very, very deep voice. They talked about their motivation for their characters and their general experience in voice acting.
Next, the main event, the best panel of the show, the Hasbro Transformer’s Brand team revealing what we can expect from the franchise for the rest of this year and next. There were some great reveals this year, all stuff I’ll touch on in Part 4.
IDW Comics became the panel I skipped in favour of lunch on Saturday. Just like Friday, I choose poorly. I really should have been at this one instead of the Transformers G1 Retrospective with Wally Burr and Jason Jansen.
I wasn’t expecting much from Jason, he played a small part in “Season 5” of G1, the chances he was going to have too much information to add were slim, but he did talk about the large, wooden Power Master Optimus Prime he got to interact with, which was cool.
Wally was the one I had higher hopes for, and he did improvise a last-minute addition to the panel; a battle between Burr and Jansen over who would get to look cool and wear the cowboy hat. Falling behind the table, with boxes and a hat or two flying through the air, it was actually pretty fun. The rest of the panel was far too dry and repetitive, which I’ve noticed happens a lot when there’s only two people; even when one of them isn’t one year shy of 90. (For almost being 90, Wally is remarkably spry). They really should try to keep these panels to three or more, to allow for more interaction between the guests.
Never was this more evident than in the best guest panel of the show, Q & A with the cast of Rescue Bots.
The voice actors of all the ‘bots and three of the four human companions, as well as Cody and Frankie were in attendance and the jokes were flying. Well, once Maurice LaMarche, voice of Chief Charlie Burns, got done with a very, very long prepared apology to Wally Burr for some comments he made in a 2006 interview disparaging Burr’s directing style. Though it was a nice thing to do and the handshake between the two men at the end was touching, it seemed overwrought for an interview that also included the sentence,
“And I like him personally. Personally, he’s a very nice guy, but it was difficult to work with.”
Once that was over, the cast talked about how they were pretty much a family, going out after recording sessions for burgers. Once Diamond, voice of Frankie, was able to get a word in edgewise with the collection of jokesters surrounding her, she let everyone know that she and Elán, who plays young Cody Burns, just pretend that everyone is talking about gummy bears when they start getting hilariously inappropriate in the recording sessions. You could really see the dynamic between the actors as they answered questions and cracked jokes throughout the panel.
Another short rant: BotCon organizers put the Rescue Bots Cast Autographs immediately after the Q & A panel, which meant that peoplehad to miss the Q & A panel to get one of the limited places in the autograph line. Seriously uncool.
After having actually fallen asleep during the G1 Retrospective panel, I decided there really wasn’t going to be much I would get out of the TF Movie Perspective panel with Glenn Morshower, so the Rescue Bots panel was the last one on Saturday for me.
Sunday is the short, final day at BotCon, but had two good panels to attend. First, the Prime script reading with James Horan as Wheeljack and Thundercracker, David Sobolov as Shockwave, Wally Burr as Kup, Jason Jansen as Hotshot, and Greg Sepelak as Frenzy and Rumble. A short jaunt through the past courtesy of a “reminds me of the time” story Kup is telling to Hotshot, we got a Wreckers story set back on Cybertron full of fourth wall breaking and RiRFiB jokes. Most importantly we learned that Wheeljack is a complicated Autobot, he’s got layers. You can actually find the whole thing if you do a search on Youtube for “a prime script reading”.
The last panel of the day for me was the Rescue Bots Crew, consisting of director and writer Brian Hohlfield, writer and story editors Greg Johnson and Nicole Dubuc.
Though lacking the non-stop jokes of the cast panel — something they humorously apologized for before starting — they showed genuine care and pride for the Rescue Bots show. We watched a preview of the opening of the next season, which looked pretty good, but the best part came at the end when Parvesh Cheena, who plays Blades, quietly got into the Q & A line to ask Nicole to demonstrate the voice she does for Bumblebee (who is then dubbed with beeps and blips on the show) during recording sessions. To top it all off, he asked her to voice Bumblebee ordering from a drive through. Though highly embarrassed, she complied and squeeked out a voice that sounded a lot like Stitch from Lilo & Stitch.
So, that’s that. Probably the most rambling and least useful of the BotCon 2013 posts, the panels are growing more and more perfunctory as a part of my BotCon experience. Not sure what, if anything, that means.