Monday, April 28, 2008

BotCon 2008 Roundup

As I mentioned on Wendesday, the annual Transformers convention, BotCon, was this weekend. Fans got to see plans for new toys, Transformers-related fiction, interviews with voice actors, and more over the course of just a few days. Although I wasn't able to attend this year (I almost never do unless it's local), much of the experience can be shared vicariously through the Internet. Here are some highlights, hopefully translated into forms that non-Transformers fans can appreciate.

For most fans who grew up with the Transformers in the 80's, the big talk has been about what new "Classics" toys will come out. Hasbro led a Q&A session detailing many of their upcoming plans, and were nice enough to put up a link to pictures on their own page pretty much as soon as the session ended. Already, some folks are concerned about the possibility that the "Ironhide" toy will be not be repainted into Ratchet (the link is for his original G1 form, which was a repaint of the G1 Ironhide toy) for mass retail, leaving Fun Publications to do Ratchet as an exclusive for next year's (or a future) BotCon. I'd be perfectly fine with whatever needs to be done to see a decent Ratchet toy released, but many fans are still up in arms about the release of several of last year's exclusives, insisting that those toys could have been sold at retail had Hasbro not given BotCon the rights to them as exclusives. That's a debate that will apparently continue on into perpetuity. In any event, Hasbro has already indicated the probability of a Ratchet repaint of this Ironhide mold, which I expect means that they'd do it for mass retail.

Newer fans are probably more interested in the toys related to the Animated series currently on Cartoon Network. I'm still on the fence about these. They're pretty nice, but with a limited budget for Transformers, I expect that there are enough "Classics" toys to get priority.

There were also several voice actors from the current Animated series there, although the fact that most fans haven't had access to the toys that go with that series yet might have made it difficult to get autographs. Hasbro did their part, though: Cincinnati (where BotCon was held) was a test market for the figures, so if anyone was able to get away from the convention itself (and if the dealers themselves hadn't cleaned out all the stores!), they might have been able to pick up some of the Animated toys for this purpose.

Also in the vein of "Classics" characters, but a bit of a side-step, apparently Hasbro has announced that the "Titanium" figures (made by a separate branch of the company which include die-cast parts) War Within Prowl and Grimlock ("War Within" refers to a comic series of a few years ago. Transformers on their home world of Cybertron before they came to Earth) will come out as Toys R Us exclusives in September. These particular figures were planned well over a year ago, but the Titaniums line really didn't sell all that well. Despite having die-cast parts (which many fans love, but which I think tend to result in inferior--not to mention more expensive--toys), the line didn't do all that well, and was announced as "canceled" at last year's convention. Apparently, these two figures were far enough in the production process that Hasbro was willing to complete the process as a store exclusive.

The Transformers news sites, of course, have far more detailed lists of the toys scheduled to come out in the next few months, but folks who follow Transformers enough to care probably saw those lists before coming here, so these are just highlights. And you can click the BotCon link at the top of the page to see some pictures and highlights that Fun Publications are putting out themselves.

Of course, a major (some would argue the major) draw for any BotCon are the exclusive toys released at the convention. Over the past few years, I've been keeping a data sheet here on the blog, detailing what exclusives there were, and whether or not they sold out before the convention was over. In maintaining the list this year, I found that the tables were getting too wide for the blog to display properly, so I've updated the data sheet on its own web site, where I hope to continue to reference it for quite some time to come.

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