Yours truly was on site to attend this convention and much of what it had to offer. Below you will find a complete report of many of its events, which can best be viewed in the forum, rather than on Facebook, for the best reading.
Disclaimer: All accompanying images are used courtesy of the Pete's RoboCon Facebook and Night Shining, Inc's Twitter. Yours truly can be seen any photos that feature a guy wearing a plain orange baseball cap.
The first events began on Saturday, with the first Custom Class of the weekend running from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Attendees in this class were given two options for customization to choose two from: Shattered Glass Swoop from Power of the Primes Deluxe class Dinobot Swoop (with an optional newly-sculpted toy-accurate face) or Pretender shells for Generations Legends class Gears and Swerve, both repainted from the BotCon 2015 Double Pretender Oilmaster shell.
In order to get all three customs, one had to sign up for both the Saturday and the Sunday custom classes, as each class only allotted enough time for the completion of either just SG Swoop or just the two Pretender shells, rather than for all three at once.
By 3:00pm, pre-registration package pick-up opened. In stark contrast to both the previous year and all of the BotCons of at least the 2010s, there was barely any wait time for this line since so many attendees were already in the custom class, allowing those who didn't take the class to go right up to the table and get their lanyard, T-shirt, raffle tickets, and Alter Egos art print that were given free to preregistrants.
Alter Egos is a mash-up of toys from Transformers, G.I. Joe, Visionaries, My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop, and Jem, which was originally revealed online back in April as part of an April Fool's Day joke, but was made into a(n unofficial) reality in the form of an art print (seen above) and a boxed set of fan customs (more on this later).
From 4:00pm to 6:00pm was a meet & greet with appetizers held in the upstairs bar room at a local Irish pub named Molly Malone's, which was two short blocks away from the convention.
From 6:00pm to 6:30pm was an Exhibitor-to-Exhibitor social held in the room that would later that evening serve as a preview night for the main dealer room experience to come the next day. This social allowed vendors to meet and greet with each other and get things set up in that room while the attendees were still at Molly Malone's.
6:30pm to 9:00pm was one of the two main events everyone was looking forward to that evening: The exhibitor and registered attendee preview night. Just like the preview nights that used to be offered to registered attendees on Friday nights at BotCon, so too did this enable registered attendees an early chance to get some purchases in ahead of the next day's main dealer room experience. The room was fairly small, so it was pretty crowded. But thankfully, the next day would see the much larger dealer room open for everyone.
The last event of the night, at 9:00pm, was the other big one, which had fans lining up all the way through the hotel lobby: The final liquidation sale for all leftover BotCon/TCC products from Fun Publications. This sale consisted primarily of preproduction and factory samples, as well as a number of packaged finalized versions, of figures produced from 2005 to 2016, many of which were not cheap. Though, the sale did not run dry by the evening's end, so there was plenty more Fun Pub product to sell the next day at Pete Sinclair's booth in the dealer room.
The night ended at 10:00pm.
The next morning, the convention was in full swing with another custom class that ran from 8:00am to 12:00pm. Again, fans could make either SG Swoop or the Pretender shells for Gears and Swerve.
At 8:30am, late registration package pick up opened to those who couldn't make it to the previous evening.
At 9:00am, the dealer room opened to all registered attendees, while general admission was let in at 9:30am. And, true enough, there were still a ton of old Fun Pub samples for sale at Pete's booth.
The crown jewel of the dealer room was unambiguously the display case featuring Every. Single. BotCon. And. OTFCC. And. TCC. Exclusive. Ever. Produced! Everything from 1994 to 2016 was in that case, including all of the custom class figures and even little ol' Quickslinger, a custom repaint of Cybertron Ransack from 2005 that fans could make by themselves back in the days before the BotCon customization classes were a thing.
Also on display were a number of extremely rare and never-before-seen test shots, prototypes, and production materials of official Hasbro and TakaraTomy products from Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Universe 2.0 (along with every single release ever of the Cyclonus and Nightstick molds), and Masterpiece Beast Wars. The Transmetal 2 Cheetor seen in the case, for instance, is a version that was colored to more accurately resemble the character's initial darker appearance seen in the two-part episode "Feral Scream".
At the very bottom of the display case's prototype shelves was also a complete copy of the official storyboards for the Beast Wars episode "Code of Hero", the ONLY Beast Wars episode that was ever actually storyboarded instead of directed-on-the-fly like all the other episodes were.
The entirety of this storyboard has been uploaded to YouTube by longtime Transformers fan and podcaster Primal Sabbath, who has set the storyboard to the audio, intro, and end credits of the episode to make for a more complete viewing experience:
Throughout the day, many more events were held for both fans and kids.
At 10:00am, a small fan meet up was hosted by Allspark.com members Wheelimus and Gizmoboy. On display at this meet up were some of Gizmoboy's personalized Vehicon customs, some rare items like BotCon 1999 Sandstorm and Windrazor, Beast Wars Metals X-9 Metals Jaguar (Transmetal Ravage), and other customized items like Glyph made from a Legends class Bumblebee, a 3D-printed Allspark.com Cyber Planet Key from Shapeways, and custom painted samples done by fan customizer Rob Roberts (A.K.A. Cheetimus Primal), who himself sadly could not be there in attendance.
A Transformers trivia game was also held at this meet up, consisting of True/False questions. A prize was given to those who came in first, second, third, and fourth place. Fourth place won a French-language copy of the original Marvel Comics The Transformers #4 issue "The Last Stand". Third place was given a copy of the BotCon 2001 convention comic Transformers: The Wreckers #1 "Departure". The remaining two prizes were an art print of Robots in Disguise 2001 Optimus Prime (A.K.A. Car Robots Fire Convoy) and a coffee mug with G1 Kup's face on it (better known as one of the infamous "Kup Cups"). First place was given the choice between these two, so second place received whichever the first place winner didn't choose.
And it just so happens that the first place winner of this trivia game was none other than yours truly. But, since I wanted the BotCon 2001 comic instead of either of the first place options, I chose the Kup Cup so that I could trade it to the third place winner for the comic.
Below are the four winners of the game. From left to right: Third place, Second place, Fourth place, First place (me!).
At 10:30am and 11:00am were two events held for kids. 10:30am was the Recycled Robots event at which kids could build their own robot toys from all kinds of mixed and matched parts, and at 11:00am was a Robot Bingo game. Later at 12:00pm, there was face painting in the hall outside the dealer room, and then at 1:00pm were art caricatures held in the same area.
12:00pm also brought the main Transformers events of the day, the panels. There were three main panels everyone came to see.
The first panel was labeled by the schedule as a "Transformers Generation 1 Panel", but it was more of a Transformers toy collecting panel. It was hosted by longtime Transformers fan Harold Teitjens, who is one of the seven men who have attended every single BotCon and OTFCC, and who also co-authored with Doug Dlin the guidebook Cybertronian: The Unofficial Transformers Recognition Guide.
For the next hour or so, Harold spent his time talking to everyone about various means and methods one may utilize to keep track of their Transformers collection, and showed everyone his own personal system for cataloging his full collection of everything from G1 (and before) to today. He also discussed his thoughts on things like the Generation 1 comics and cartoons and opened up a Q&A with everyone to allow for some actual G1-related discussion, so as to give some relevance to the name that this panel was given by the schedule.
Overall, it was an interesting panel.
The next panel was scheduled to begin at 1:00pm, but didn't get started until about 1:30pm due to the previous panel having run a bit longer than it was intended, since it too started late due to everyone needing to get settled into the room for that first panel. Nevertheless, the second panel covered all that it aimed to cover (and more) within its shorter time span.
This second panel was the most newsworthy of them all. The "Night Shining, Inc. Presents" Panel. Night Shining, Inc. is the name of the new company that Pete Sinclair and Jesse Wittenrich run to make RoboCon be what it is, along with another new event called The Mutant & Monster Mayhem Toy Show, as well as their first official license being the Japanese superhero series Redman.
Two complete video recordings of this panel are available to watch on YouTube from both Primal Sabbath and Allspark TV:
If you want to see everything that this panel covered, I'd recommend watching the above videos, but for the most important things revealed at this panel, here is a rundown of the Transformers news:
Prior to the convention, the Pete's RoboCon Facebook posted the following online teaser of six unrealized figures proposed by Fun Publications.
At this panel, Jesse Wittenrich went into much more detail about these six proposals.
These are the Shattered Glass Knights of Unicron. No, not SG counterparts of the hair metal band. Rather, these three (along with TCC Nova Prime) are the SG counterparts of Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Sweeps from Transformers: The Movie.
Jesse explained that they had the idea to do the Knights of Unicron after they introduced SG Unicron himself in the magazine comic "Another Light: Prologue". They originally had other CHUG molds in mind at first, but when they were working on the customization class for BotCon 2016, they were allowed to use the Ratchet mold (it's the Offroad version of the mold seen in the above pics) and thought that they could get the two unused-at-the-time other heads, Trailbreaker and Hoist (meaning that plans for the 2016 custom class figure were done early enough that CW Trailbreaker hadn't been unveiled for retail release yet). Ultimately, that didn't happen since Hasbro made them use the Ratchet head instead.
Nonetheless, these characters did show up in the comic storyline "Another Light", and that's because they (the two on the left and right, that is) were originally going to be the 2016 custom class figures, but Fun Pub didn't get the heads they wanted. The left one is an SG Autotrooper while the right one is SG Checkpoint. Checkpoint would have used the Trailbreaker head while the Autotrooper would have used the Hoist head.
The third one, in the center, is a retool of Rook with another Hasbro-pretooled head. It's called out as a "Brawl head", suggesting that Hasbro originally wasn't sure if CW Brawl would be able to get his own mold or not. He did, so this head went unused. As seen here, it was going to be SG X-Brawn (possibly as a souvenir figure for BotCon 2016), but that didn't happen either. Like the others, he too appeared in the comics.
When they were doing the Combiner Wars stuff, Hasbro sent Fun Pub early looks at four combiners. The third one they sent over was Bruticus (explaining how they got to use Onslaught mold for TFSS Bludgeon) and the fourth they sent over was Computron. If you read some of the Club stories, Jesse slipped a little information into these stories. The original Computron by Hasbro was going to have the Rook mold with the Brawl head as what was originally believed by fans to be a brand new Technobot character named "Ironclad", BUT Jesse revealed that, while the "Ironclad" name was true, the identity of Ironclad was not as a new character but as a renamed G1 Ironfist!!!
But then Hasbro changed their Computron into having the same Afterburner as Takara's, so while that's still cool, Ironclad/Ironfist did not come to be. But that's where the design for SG X-Brawn's head comes from.
The reason, Jesse explained, why they showed this group at his panel was because they wanted to show off some of the unused Combiner Wars heads since the (still-rumored-at-the-time) listings for Blast Off, Wreck-Gar, Counterpunch, etc. all purportedly sported unused Combiner Wars toy heads. While we know now that Blast Off is just Takara's mold with no new head and that Punch-Counterpunch may instead be something much more than the re-headed CW figure that Fun Pub released, there is still the implication given here that Power of the Primes Wreck-Gar's head might not be a brand new tool but a preexisting pretool leftover from when Takara first made the Deluxe Groove mold in Unite Warriors!
These are Solus Prime (a retool of Generations Thrilling 30 Arcee with a new head and a recolored Forge of Solus Prime taken from Prime Beast Hunters Ultra Magnus), Liege Maximo (a redeco of Generations Skullgrin, himself a retool of Generations Darkmount/Straxus), and Maccadam A.K.A. Alchemist Prime (a redeco of Reveal the Shield Perceptor).
This was going to be a Titans Return story starring the Thirteen. It would have been one of their last subscription services, but Hasbro turned them down since, at the time, Hasbro had already had the Prime Masters in development or Power of the Primes. Solus Prime's new head was conceived with the possibility of reusing it for Override Prime.
The story involving these characters was going to take place after the Classics and Shattered Glass universes had been merged together, and after the Multiversal Singularities concept had been gotten rid of. They were going to introduce that new universe's version of the Thirteen, and then SG Rodimus Prime (who, as revealed last year, was to have been a redeco of Generations Thrilling 30 Springer) was going to try to break into the Thirteen and become the Thirteenth Prime himself instead of Optimus Prime.
After this, the Powerpoint presentation ended, but Pete came up to the stage to join Jesse and the two disclosed even more neat news.
Back before BotCon ended, they would brainstorm a ton of stuff for exclusives and some of them were just "completely oddball screwball stuff". Some made it and some got really really close. What Pete would like to do at some point is put out a book with all the concepts from over the years in it. Worst case scenario, they could still put it all online, and they have put out some things before, having shown a lot of good stuff. But this might be the last time they show us stuff in a format like this, as it's time to move on past that. But since there's no HasCon this year, they get to fill the gap a little bit. It's nice for people to have a place like this in between bigger things like TFCon and such.
"Ironfist as Ironclad" was entirely a Hasbro thing, head and name and all.
Pete revealed that there are alternate, Hasbro-pretooled heads for the Titan class Constructicons and Devastator! But Pete didn't have them with him to show off at the panel. They are based on the Build Team from Robots in Disguise 2001 (Wedge, Heavy Load, Hightower, and Grimlock) with Landfill as the combiner, and the remaining two of the six being the 1988 Autobot Targetmaster characters Scoop and Quickmix!
Pete regrets their having not done the Build Team from Titan class Devastator. He really thought Hasbro was going to do them.
Hasbro had sent concepts and toolings to Fun Pub that Hasbro ultimately didn't end up doing like CW Counterpunch, CW Toxitron (whose head was originally made for a CW Nemesis Prime), and CW Ratchet (until Takara did in Unite Warriors).
Pete regrets their having not done CW Sideswipe since that would have given us all of the 1984 Autobot Cars in combiner form. CW Sideswipe would have been a straight redeco of CW Breakdown with no new head, which is probably why they didn't do him.
There was one year that Hasbro was weird about which characters and molds Fun Pub could or couldn't use. The rules were always changing depending on how often the brand team changed. That particular year (it wasn't said which year it was), Hasbro was in this kick of "You can do that character but pick a different mold," but then Pete and them were like "But then no other mold's gonna work for that character," so they just finally kinda got away from that. And by the last two years, they were working a lot closer with Hasbro to where what Pete and them were doing was supposed to be kinda mirroring what Hasbro was doing at retail, as opposed to earlier on where Hasbro didn't want them being anywhere near retail, which is why we got things like Wings of Honor and Shattered Glass. Like, the 2017 set would have been a Titans Return set (as seen last year) like how the 2016 set was a Combiner Wars set.
As far as things went for which molds and characters they could use each year, it all just depended on the year. They would send Hasbro a proposal and then Hasbro would come back and say "No, we're using that mold," or "No, we're using that character," if the proposal was rejected.
Both the Victorion and Liokaiser sets have no alternate pretooled heads because their heads are already alternate heads.
Hasbro actually wanted Fun Pub to do Liokaiser before Hasbro ended up doing it themselves. Pete and them did not do Liokaiser because, at the time, Hasbro wouldn't tell them if there were new heads for the figures or not. Those animal heads are a necessity for those characters, and Jesse said that they were reluctant to fake it with the normal Aerialbot and Combaticon heads.
Hasbro also actually gave them the options of doing Landfill or G2 Devastator from the Titan class figure. The reason Pete and them didn't do either of those was because they would have been tough to do with the markup that Fun Pub would have charged. Something like that would have probably been like a $400 dollar item.
When Takara pulled out the G1 Fortress Maximus mold for the Encore release, they found the Grand Maximus Pretender shell along with the main toy mold, and e-HOBBY wanted Fun Pub to do a full blown reissue of Grand Maximus! Again, that wouldn't have been realistically marketable (even if it might have ended up being cheaper than what the original G1 release went for at the time on the secondary market). They at least did end up using the Pretender shell.
As for Pete's Robot Convention ever having an exclusive, that's what they tried to do with the custom classes for this year, but of course they had to be unofficial due to Night Shining, Inc. not having any Transformers license with Hasbro. But it's still the same kind of custom class that Shawn Tessman has run and overseen for the past 10+ years, and people really dig his customs and he's worked with a lot of people at BotCon. As for an official exclusive product, there's people they've talked to; licenses and things they're still pursuing. It just takes a long time. They've been going after one of these companies for well over two years now. They just keep working on it. The Redman license, for instance, took them months to get, and there might be more (non-robot) properties coming from that company.
The toy industry itself is becoming more and more consolidated these days, what with Hasbro buying up more properties like Power Rangers and Saban Brands folding as a result. So it's kinda scary with everything being consolidated, and so they have to look for some opportunities with maybe some smaller companies. There's always gonna be upstarts. It's a very cyclical thing, like how in the 90s everyone on the road was making toys and there were 50 other toy companies out there. We might see something like that again, but right now it's not where we're at. It's a very monopoly-type environment right now. So, everything's a little tougher on them, but they'll keep trying. Like with younger people like Boss Fight Studios. But with things like Toys'R'Us being gone right now, and places like Walmart and Target determining what toys get made, and KB Toys possibly coming back in some format, and things like Amazon and Big Bad Toy Store continuing to grow, we're just in a very weird place right now. It's not a place they're used to being in, where you never know what's going on now, LOL.
Pete and Jesse have no inside information on why retail distribution is the way it is with all the issues it has right now. They can only guess and speculate just like the rest of us, and don't understand why the way it currently is keeps happening over and over again.
Pete's favorite convention sets that they did are the Beast Wars one from 2006 and the Shattered Glass one from 2008. The best convention for him was the 2009 one, which had an ad on Cartoon Network and about 7,000 people in attendance. He also likes what he can remember from the very first BotCon back in 1994, and BotCon 1996 was a lot of fun for him; he got to hang out with Glen Hallit, Jon Hartman, and Karl Hartman that year. 1996 was also the first show that Hasbro really got more involved in. They had prototypes on display and an auction for production samples, and it was smaller scaled like this convention.
Jesse's favorite BotCon set is the 2011 Animated set.
After that, the panel concluded.
Next came the last panel of the day at 2:00pm, the 3H Enterprises Panel. This panel marked the legendary reunion of the Big 3 of BotCon's past: Jon Hartman, Karl Hartman, and Glen Hallit, who all ran and organized BotCon together in the pre-Fun Pub years from 1996 to 2002. Seeing them together again for the first time ever and reminiscing about the BotCons of old was a sight to behold.
And like the previous panel, this too was recorded by both Primal Sabbath and Allspark TV:
Check out these videos to hear all of 3H's personal anecdotes from their childhoods to their BotCon years and beyond.
Towards the end of the day, at 3:45pm, there was a raffle held for the Grand Prize of the convention. Like how last year's grand prize was a set of hand painted customs, so too was this year's prize. Said Grand Prize was the complete boxed set of Alter Egos figures made especially to be raffled off to one lucky winner at this convention.
The dealer room closed at 4:00pm, and the whole convention itself ended at 5:00pm.
For myself, I walked away from the con with a nice haul of nine acquisitions from the dealer room:
- Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) Thermidor
- Transformers: Adventure TAV60 Bisk
- Transformers: Adventure TAV54 Scorponok
- Beast Wars Neo VS-36 Mach Kick VS Archadis
- Beast Wars Telemocha Series TM-07 Cohrada
- Beast Wars Telemocha Series TM-08 Archadis (yes, I got two of Archadis)
- Transformers: Car Robots C-002 Wildride (X-Brawn)
- Transformers: Car Robots C-004 Speedbreaker (Side Burn)
- Transformers: Car Robots C-027 BRAVE MAXIMUS!!!!!!!
All in all, this was another year of great fun, and far less stressful than most BotCons ended up being in their later years, always trying to go bigger and bigger. The scale is far more manageable and the lack of exclusives greatly reduces the feeling of "Gotta Have It!" that often reduced the amount of purchases one could make in the dealer room's treasure trove of Transformers.
Pete's Robot Convention is set to return next year in June, but an exact date has yet to be announced. 'Til then, live long and stay frosty, RoboCon!