BotCon, briefly known as "The Official Transformers Collectors' Convention" (or OTFCC), is an annual convention for Transformers fans and collectors. The convention has been held, in one form or another, annually since 1994.
Featured BotCon guests are usually involved in the creation of Transformers media in some respect, whether voice actors from the animated series, artists or writers from the comic books, or actual Hasbro employees.
The first BotCon was held in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1994. Organized by brothers Jon and Karl Hartman, the convention had 180 attendees. BotCon 1995 was organized by Raksha, a prominent figure in the fan community, and 1996 by Men In Black Productions, headed up by Dennis Barger. In 1997, the Hartmans brought Glen Hallit, a fellow fan, into the fold, forming 3H Enterprises (based upon the first letter of all three organizers' last names).
At BotCon 2002, Hallit announced that 3H had secured the official Transformers convention license, as well as licenses to produce comic books and start a fan club. Shortly thereafter, the Hartmans were removed from their organizational duties, leaving Glen Hallit as the sole organizer of the new company, 3H Productions, Inc.
In 2003, the convention changed its name to "The Official Transformers Collectors' Convention", OTFCC for short, due to the Hartmans' ownership of the BotCon service mark. The fandom had dueling conventions in 2004, as 3H held OTFCC in Chicago, Illinois, while the Hartman brothers revived the BotCon name for a convention in Pasadena, California. In fall 2004, 3H Productions lost all of its Transformers-related licenses, leaving the convention in a state of limbo. In early 2005, Hasbro announced on its official Web site that Fun Publications, owned by Brian Savage, had been given the convention and fan club licenses. The Hartman brothers and other prominent fans, Pete Sinclair, Benson Yee, and Rik Alvarez, were invited to form an advisory council to help ease the transition of organizing the convention for the new owners. Once the Hartmans' service mark was transferred to Fun Publications, BotCon regained its status of being the official Transformers collectors' convention.
In 2002, 3H sought to expand to Europe, holding its first ever official European convention in Cheshunt, UK. The event, which was held in conjunction with the main BotCon 2002 in the USA, had much less advertising, the registration did not open until only a couple of weeks before the convention, and the official program only consisted of a panel discussion with Simon Furman. After 3H found out that attendance to the European BotCon had been much smaller than to the main BotCon, they decided it was too much work to hold two separate BotCons, and officially announced that they would never hold BotCon outside the USA again.
- 1994: Grand Wayne Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana -- July 16
- 1995: Dayton Convention Center, Dayton, Ohio -- August 5-6
- 1996: Radisson Hotel Rosemont (formerly Clarion Resort Rosemont), Rosemont, Illinois -- July 12-14
- 1997: Rochester Riverside Convention Center, Rochester, New York -- July 18-20
- BotCon Japan 1997: Science and Technology Hall, Tokyo, Japan -- June 8
- 1998: Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California -- June 19-21
- BotCon Japan 1998: Sevencity Hall, Tokyo, Japan -- December 12-13
- 1999: Touchstone Energy Place (formerly RiverCentre), St. Paul, Minnesota -- July 16-18
- BotCon Europe 1999: Barnabas Center, London, United Kingdom -- August 13-14
- 2000: Grand Wayne Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana -- July 28-30
- BotCon Japan 2000: Trade and Industry Center, Tokyo, Japan -- December 17
- 2001: Durham Marriott Civic Center, Durham, North Carolina -- July 13-15
- 2002: Grand Wayne Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana -- July 26-28
- BotCon Europe 2002: Wolsey Hall, Cheshunt, United Kingdom -- November 3
- OTFCC 2003: Hyatt Regency O'Hare, Rosemont, Illinois -- July 25-27
- OTFCC 2004: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Illinois -- July 31 - August 1
- BotCon 2004: Pasadena Conference Center, Pasadena, California -- June 19-20
- 2005: Embassy Suites, Frisco, Texas -- September 22-25
- 2006: Lexington Convention Center, Lexington, Kentucky -- September 27 - October 1
- 2007: Rhode Island Convention Center, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Hasbro's home city, the weekend before the live-action Transformers movie was released -- June 28 - July 1
- 2008: Duke Energy Center, Cincinnati, Ohio -- April 24-27
Over the years, BotCon has featured many individuals who have worked to bring the Transformers multiverse to life, including voice actors, animation staff, and Hasbro design team members. BotCon guests include:
- 1994: Carl Fritz and Tom Bowman, Hasbro.
- 1995: Kenner representatives.
- 1996: George Boznos and Anthony Gaud, Kenner.
- 1997: David Kaye and Venus Terzo, voice actors; Simon Furman, writer; Andrew Wildman, artist; Bob Forward, Beast Wars story editor; Vince DiCola, musician; Stan Bush, musician; Peter Cullen, Dawn Berryman, George Boznos, and Jerry Palmer, Hasbro representatives.
- 1998: Gary Chalk, Doug Parker, David Kaye, Susan Blu and Scott McNeil, voice actors; Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio, Beast Wars story editors; Vince DiCola; Bryce Malek, Transformers Generation 1 cartoon story editor; Rob Tokar, Generation 1 comic story editor; Jennifer Donahoe and Andy Espenshade, Hasbro representatives.
- 1999: Scott McNeil and Jim Byrnes, voice actors; Brian Chapman, Hasbro representative; Asaph Fipke, Mainframe Entertainment.
- 2000: Ian Corlett, John Moschitta, Venus Terzo and Alec Willows, voice actors; Vince DiCola; Joe Mattiko and Jamie Overbey, Hasbro representatives.
- 2001: Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Gary Chalk, Scott McNeil, and John Stephenson, voice actors; Paul Davids, Generation 1 cartoon production coordinator; Simon Furman; Vince DiCola and Gary Falcone, musicians; Joe Mattiko, Hasbro representative.
- 2002: Dick Gautier, Neil Kaplan, Michael McConnohie, Peter Spellos and Wayne "Wankus" Lewis, voice actors; Tom Wyner, Richard Epcar, and Steve Kramer, Transformers: Robots in Disguise writers; Simon Furman; Bob Forward; Adam Fortier, Pat Lee, Derek Choo-Wing, and Chris Sarracini, Dreamwave Productions; Aaron Archer, Michelle Field, Andrew Frankel, and Joe Mattiko, Hasbro representatives.
- BotCon Europe 2002: Neil Kaplan and Wayne "Wankus" Lewis; Simon Furman.
- OTFCC 2003: Gregg Berger, David Kaye, Gary Chalk; Simon Furman; Vince DiCola; Dreamwave Productions representatives; Hasbro representatives.
- BotCon 2004: Dan Gilvezan, Michael McConnohie and Peter Cullen, voice actors; Wally Burr, voice director; Bob Prupis and Alison Segebarth, former Hasbro employees; Paul Davids, Flint Dille, David Wise, Bryce Malek, Generation 1 script writers; Don Figueroa, Brad Mick, Pat Lee, Adam Patyk, and Joe Ng, Dreamwave Productions.
- OTFCC 2004: Scott McNeil, Mike McConnohie, and Dan Gilvezan; Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman, comic writers; Andrew Wildman; Vince DiCola; Hasbro representatives; Dreamwave representatives.
- 2005: Michael Chain, Brian Dobson, Michael Dobson, and Paul Dobson, voice actors; Wally Burr; Aaron Archer, Eric Siebenaler, Greg Lombardo, Hasbro representatives; Hikeaki Yoke, Takara; Aaron Myers, Dan Taylor, IDW Publishing.
- 2007: Peter Cullen; Hasbro representatives.
- 2008: David Kaye, Bumper Robinson, Tara Strong, voice actors; Simon Furman.
One of BotCon's most popular features is an exclusive toy
(sometimes two or more toys) made available to the attendees. The toys are different every year, and will not be sold at retail
anywhere in the world. The identities and designs of the toys were originally kept a close secret until the opening of the convention, but in the later years of the convention the organizers often chose to reveal one or more of the exclusives ahead of time due to repeated problems with stolen prototypes
being sold on eBay
. In 2008, organizer Brian Savage ordered all eBay users selling these prototypes to return them to their rightful owners: failure to comply will result in legal action.
Although the toys are always unique, financial costs prohibit the creation of entirely new molds. As such, the toys are redecos or repaints of previously used toys given new identities, occasionally switching allegiances and even gender. In the last few years, minor remolds have been made to the exclusives, such as the more feminine-looking heads given to 2003 exclusives Roulette and Shadow Striker. After the convention, exclusive toys usually become valuable collector's items in the community, particularly among fans who missed the convention.
BotCon/OTFCC-exclusive toys include:
- Breakdown - Turquoise and lavender Transformers: Generation 2 redeco of the Stunticon Breakdown. This toy was initially intended as a mass-release toy, but was distributed as a convention exclusive instead. A total of 300 Breakdowns were produced at that time (not including earlier production samples), of which 204 were available at BotCon, 48 were available the following January at the FX 95 convention run by Whiz Bang Toys, and the remaining 48 were kept by Hasbro.
- Nightracer - Black repaint of Go-Bot Highbeam / Bumblebee. Nightracer is the first official female Decepticon released in the United States. The toy itself is in the same plastic colors as Go-Bot Bumblebee without the vehicle mode's metallic gold paint deco, but with a silver faceplate in robot mode and engine in vehicle mode. The convention's organizer, Jovanka Kink, hand-applied Decepticon logo and blue racing stripe stickers on the toys. A number of these toys turned up for sale by Whiz Bang Toys without the decals, painted stripes, or packaging, possibly for their 1996 convention. A total of 294 Nightracers were produced.
- Onyx Primal - Black repaint of bat Optimus Primal. A total of 1700 Onyx Primals were produced, of which 1490 were available in regular packaging, 170 were in dealer packaging, and 40 were available in VIP packaging. The unsold remainder of this toy was used as the exclusive for Men in Black's own convention Transcon II in 1997 in a fourth package variation.
- Fractyl and Packrat - Metallic green and metallic blue repaints of Terrorsaur and Rattrap, respectively, packaged together. A total of 570 Fractyls and 600 Packrats were produced.
- 1997 Japan
- Super Hybrid Model Galvatron - A non-transforming vinyl action figure. A total of 800 regular versions were produced. This toy was also available in a translucent orange "Lava Bath" version to the first 100 attendees.
- 1998 Japan
- Barbearian/Grizzly-1 - Brown repaint of Polar Claw. (Barbearian was an unreleased version of the toy later sold as Polar Claw. He was originally shown on Kenner product catalogs with other 1996-97 Beast Wars figures.) A total of 600 Barbearians were produced.
- Double Punch - Translucent red repaint of Beast Wars Scorponok (Based on early artwork contained in the same Kenner product catalog which depicted Barbearian/Grizzly-1). A total of 600 Double Punches were produced.
- Windrazor - White repaint of Beast Wars Silverbolt. A total of 1200 Windrazors were produced.
- Sandstorm - Tan repaint of Beast Wars Scorponok. A total of 1200 Sandstorms were produced.
- 2000 Japan
- Choro-Q Optimus Prime, Generation 2 Megatron, and Mirage. These were non-transforming miniature vehicles repainted from Takara's Choro-Q line. A total of 1000 of each toy were produced.
- Tigatron - Blue and white repaint of the Japanese-exclusive Beast Wars Metals X-9 Ravage figure which was packaged with a variant cover version of the BotCon 2001 comic. A total of 1500 Tigatrons were produced.
- Arcee - White and pink repaint of Transmetal 2 Blackarachnia. Blackarachnia's chestplate was removed for this release; the original chrome piece shows through with the holes filled in. A total of 1500 Arcees were produced, of which 804 (those ordered by pre-registrants) had a light-activated voice chip installed in the package containing dialogue by Susan Blu (the original voice actress for G1 Arcee), and 795 did not have the voice chip. The chip was activated when the flap on the box front was opened, allowing light in through the display window.
- CatSCAN - White and translucent red repaint of Night Slash Cheetor, detailed with glow-in-the-dark paint applications. A total of 1500 CatSCANs were produced.
- Cyclonus - Purple repaint of Beast Machines Ultra Jetstorm. A total of 1500 Cyclonuses were produced.
- Glyph - Blue repaint of Bumblebee keychain. A total of 3000 Glyphs were produced.
- Tap-Out - Green repaint of Cliffjumper keychain. Given away free as part of registration package. A total of 3000 Tap-Outs were produced.
- 2002 Europe
- Rook - Gray repaint of Windcharger keychain, originally a European exclusive, later sold by the OTFCC in the United States as well. A total of 3000 Rooks were produced.
- OTFCC 2003
- Roulette and Shadow Striker - Silver and black, and purple and golden repaints of Robots In Disguise Side Burn, packaged together. These toys had more "feminine" headsculpts than the original toy.
- Sideswipe - Red repaint of Robots in Disguise Prowl.
- Sunstreaker - Yellow repaint of Robots in Disguise Prowl. This toy was only made available to attendees who reserved a room at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare for the convention weekend. Both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were built with Prowl's police light bar left off. The roof on both figures was covered with a large, color-matched sticker to hide the mismatched molded color of the roof as well as the attachment holes for the light bar.
- Heroes of Cybertron Sunstorm PVC - Repaint of Starscream PVC, given away to attendees who pre-paid for registration to the first Official Transformers Collector's Club on the spot at OTFCC 2003.
- Heroes of Cybertron Air Cavalry 6-pack - PVC set of Starscream, Skywarp, Thundercracker, and 3 generic Decepticon seekers. All repaints of the same Starscream PVC mold.
- OTFCC 2004
- Megazarak - Black and red repaint of Armada Megatron. Originally intended as the 2004 hotel incentive, but eventually became the only exclusive available for sale at OTFCC 2004.
- Sentinel Maximus - red and blue repaint of Armada Overload. This character is supposed to be a fusion of Beast Machines Primal Prime and BotCon exclusive Apelinq. This toy was not ready in time for OTFCC 2004, and was eventually shipped to purchasers several months later by Hasbro, packed in a new box design created by Hasbro themselves, abandoning the design created by 3H Productions. Sentinel Maximus actually had two new mold pieces, as both the large "Sentinel Maximus" robot and the smaller "Hyperlinq"/"Apelinq" partner featured remolded heads (Sentinel Maximus's head was a two-piece mold, with the smaller Mini-Con's head nesting in the back of the large robot's head when combined).
- Energon Spears - Attendees who filled out a survey at the Hasbro booth were given a pair of redecos of Energon Skyblast's weapon set. Available in a blue "Alpha" version and a purple "Omega" version.
- BotCon 2004
- G2 Breakdown - While OTFCC was held this year, the Hartman brothers held their own "BotCon" convention, at which this toy was available. An Action Master likeness of the original BotCon exclusive, Generation 2 Breakdown, the figure is a redeco of the previously European-exclusive Action Master Sideswipe (as both Sideswipe and Breakdown transformed into Lamborghinis). This fan-produced toy is not a Hasbro-sanctioned product, and as such is not official. In fact, convention organizers had to very carefully check the packaging of this figure to ensure that no Hasbro trademarks were used. A total of 204 G2 Breakdowns were produced, to match the quantity of the original Breakdown from the first convention.
- "Descent into Evil", a seven-figure box set, including:
- Deathsaurus - Blue redeco of Robots in Disguise Megatron with a new head sculpt.
- Buzzclaw and Dirge - Purple, black and yellow redecos (in different schemes for each figure) of Beast Wars Buzzclaw
- Fallback - Brown, tan, and silver redeco of Energon Strongarm, intended as a renamed version of the G1 character Outback.
- Ironhide - Red and grey redeco of Transformers: Energon Tow-Line with a new head sculpt.
- Ricochet - Black and red redeco of the Generation 2 Cyberjet Jetfire mold, a new character.
- Chromia - White and green redeco of Energon Arcee with a new head sculpt. Chromia was one of the female Autobots from the Generation One series. However, many fans have pointed out that Chromia's color scheme, headsculpt, and personality profile all resemble Moonracer, a different character entirely. According to convention representatives, they could not secure the Moonracer name, so they simply dubbed the character Chromia instead.
- Flareup - Orange redeco of Chromia, and Ratchet - a white redeco of the Energon Tow-Line mold with the new Ironhide headsculpt and a new Energon weapon, sold together in a pack.
- Virulent Clones - A pack of two blue redecos of Beast Wars Buzzclaw.
- Flamewar - Black redeco of Energon Arcee, given free to pre-registered attendees. Flamewar does not have the new headsculpt found on Chromia and Flareup. This figure was also included with each full sales booth reserved by a dealer, and to convention volunteers who worked their scheduled times assisting the paid staff.
- Legends of Cybertron Ramjet - White and blue repaint of Legends of Cybertron Starscream given away at the Hasbro booth.
- "Dawn of Future's Past," a five-figure box set showcasing Beast Wars characters in their "original" pre-beast modes. All figures are from Transformers: Cybertron, and are equipped with a new version of the Planet X Cyber Planet Key, redecoed to resemble the Golden Disk. The set includes:
- Axalon Optimus Primal - Redeco of Crumplezone designed to resemble Primal's original body, with a new headsculpt in his likeness.
- Axalon Rattrap - Redeco of Ransack designed to resemble Rattrap's original body.
- Darksyde Dinobot - Redeco of Longrack designed to resemble Dinobot's original body, with the head of Transformers: Armada Hoist, of whom Longrack was a remold. Hoist's head is highly evocative of Dinobot. Also bears a Predacon sigil.
- Axalon Cheetor - Redeco of Clocker, designed to resemble Cheetor's original body (including cheetah-spotted seat covers), with a new headsculpt in his likeness.
- Axalon Rhinox - Redeco of Landmine, designed to resemble Rhinox's original body.
- Darksyde Megatron - Redeco of Cybertron Defense Red Alert with a new headsculpt in his likeness, and Darksyde Waspinator - A green and yellow redeco of the Machine Wars Skywarp mold, sold together in a pack.
- Buzzsaw and Laserbeak - Redecos of the Energon Divebomb mold done in gold and red color schemes respectively, sold together in a pack.
- Unit-2 (Tigatron) - Redeco of the above mentioned Axalon Cheetor as Tigatron. Given away free to pre-registered attendees, convention volunteer staff, and with each dealer booth as in 2005.
- "Games of Deception!", a five-figure box set in the fictional universe of the Transformers: Classics comic strip published in the club's newsletter. The characters included are as follows.
- Bugbite - Redeco of Classics Bumblebee in white and black, based upon the eHobby exclusive Gobot of the same name, who was in turn a redeco of the 2004 Takara reissue Bumblebee toy.
- Dirge - Redeco of Classics Ramjet to resemble the G1 version.
- Dreadwind - Redeco of Classics Jetfire, with a new head to resemble the G1 version.
- Thrust - Redeco and remold of Classics Ramjet, with new wings to resemble the G1 version.
- Thundercracker - Redeco of Classics Starscream (itself previously redecoed as Skywarp) to resemble the G1 version.
- A clear version of Classics Mirage, representing the character's power of invisibility. Available only to pre-registered attendees as a bonus for coming to the convention, and distributed with dealer booths as in previous years.
- Two two-packs, available for purchase at the convention only:
- "Shattered Glass", a six-figure box set in an alternate universe where the Autobots are evil and the Decepticons are good.
- Optimus Prime - Purple and black redeco of Classics Optimus Prime.
- Grimlock - Dark gray redeco of Classics Grimlock.
- Autobot Jazz - White redeco of Cybertron Crosswise with a remolded head to resemble the G1 version.
- Goldbug - Black and yellow redeco of Cybertron Hot Shot with a remolded head to resemble the G1 version.
- Starscream - White and red redeco of Galaxy Force Voyager class Starscream to resemble G1 Jetfire.
- Razorclaw - Yellow redeco of Classics Mini-Con Overbite from the Predator Attack Team.
- Ricochet - Red and white redeco of Autobot Jazz. Available only to attendees who registered for the convention, as well as with the purchase of a dealer booth.
- Two bagged sets, available for purchase at the convention only:
- Megatron, Rodimus and Divebomb: Megatron is a redeco of Energon Megatron with a new head mold resembling his Generation 1 version, while Rodimus is a redeco of Classics Rodimus, featuring a new headmold with a goatee; Divebomb is a redeco of Classic Mini-Con Dreadwing.
- Blurr, Sideswipe, Whisper and Rampage: Blurr is redeco of Cybertron Blurr, featuring a new head mold with an eye-patch; Sideswipe is a redeco of Armada Wheeljack paired with Whisper, a redeco of Armada Mini-Con Windsheer; and Rampage is a redeco of Classic Mini-Con Snarl.
A number of toys were planned over the years but never produced, for various reasons:
- Cataclysm, a green and purple redeco of Transmetal Cheetor. This character actually appeared in the convention storyline and was thought to be the lower priced exclusive in 2000 until Apelinq was revealed instead. Cataclysm was never intended to be an exclusive and was featured solely as a red herring.
- Optimal Rodimus Primal, mentioned at the BotCon 2000 organizer's panel, this would have been an updated version of Rodimus Prime made from the Optimal Optimus mold. Plans were nixed very early on as Primal Prime was going into its limited production run and Hasbro didn't give licensees the leeway they now enjoy. Optimal Rodimus Primal's events in the Wreckers storyline were revised for Primal Prime and Rodimus instead.
- Hot Spot, a blue redeco of Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime as the Generation One character. The toy would have featured a new headsculpt for the robot's larger "Defensor" mode. This toy was originally solicited for OTFCC 2004, then pushed back for OTFCC 2005. When the license was removed from 3H Productions, all plans for this figure evaporated. A hand painted example was made and pictures can be found at Allspark.com.
- Megatron, a red redeco of Robots in Disguise Megatron as an upgraded (and resurrected) Beast Wars Megatron. This toy would have featured a new headsculpt, and is rumored to also include his legendary rubber duck bath toy from the Beast Wars cartoon. Designs of this toy were part of 3H Productions' OTFCC 2005 proposal, which never happened.
- Devcon, a blue redeco of Energon Slugslinger as the Generation One character. This toy would have featured a new headsculpt. Designs of this toy were part of 3H Productions' OTFCC 2005 proposal, which never happened.
- Brawn, a green redeco of Energon Strongarm as the Generation One character. This toy would have featured a new headsculpt and snap on Energon gauntlets. Designs of this toy were part of 3H Productions' OTFCC 2005 proposal, which never happened.
- Roadbuster, an orange and green redeco of Energon Strongarm as the Generation One character. This toy would have featured a new headsculpt and Energon rifle. Designs of this toy were part of 3H Productions' OTFCC 2005 proposal, which never happened.
- Blue Balls Attack Team, from an anecdote shared by Karl Hartman on the now defunct BotCon Beyond message board: A planning session for BotCon had run much later than anticipated and an exhausted Hartman proposed a pair of blue repaints of Beast Wars Retrax. Obviously not a serious proposal.