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All geeks have their meeting places. Otaku go to Anime Expo, aspiring Jedi and Sith head to Star Wars Celebration, RPG gamers trek out to GenCon, and the generically nerdy flock to San Diego Comic-Con. For the Transformer fan, though, there’s only one important destination: BotCon! Returning to Pasadena, California (previously home to BotCon in 2009) was the official Transformers convention featuring exclusives, panels, special guests, programming, and great events. Autobots and Decepticons alike shopped, got autographs, took pictures, and met and traded with other fans and collectors from around the world.

When at BotCon, the first place to go is the exhibit hall. Crowded with fans, collectors, retailers, and vendors alike, the hall has so much to do it’s hard to decide where to start! Of course, one of the main reasons why people attend BotCon is for the exclusive toys, and so the Transformers Club Store is just inside the main entrance. Each year Hasbro and the Transformers Collectors’ Club offer a tremendous array of exclusive items, and 2011 was no different. The jewel of the collection was the Transformers Timelines “STUNTI-CON-JOB” set featuring Transformers Animated toys repainted and with new parts to represent the classic Stunticons Dead End, Breakdown, Drag Strip, Wildrider, and Motormaster.

In addition, any attendee could purchase a three-pack of Autotroopers, a two-pack of Sideswipe and Toxitron, a two-pack of Shattered Glass Thundercracker and Shattered Glass Galvatron, and of course the requisite hat and t-shirt featuring the “Stunticon Race Team” theme.

Additional items like the Transformers Animated Cheetor were reserved for Club members only. Finally, the store offered some past exclusives, limited edition prints, and plenty of brand new toys as well.

Hasbro’s booth appropriately took up a huge chunk of real estate, and here collectors could drool over cases after case of current and upcoming toys in every Transformers line. See our article HERE for more details and a full photo gallery.

Separate from the main Hasbro section was a booth for the new Hasbro construction toys KRE-O! On display were several upcoming sets featuring Transformers you can build in multiple modes. Like other constructible toys out there, KRE-O come with mini figures appropriately called KREONs. The sets and KREONs come from both movie and G1 universes and have a lot of charm. Attendees could even get an exclusive Optimus Prime KREON with Matrix deco in special packaging. To prove just how fun all of the new toys are, Hasbro even provided play areas stocked with Transformers toys and KRE-O parts!

Several other major booths played host to various Transformers properties on different platforms. Activision’s Dark of the Moon game booth let fans check out the fierce action, while Jagex’s console-based Transformers Universe online game booth gave attendees the chance to join a faction and customize their own Transformer. Each participant got a badge for his or her faction and could even print out an image of the Autobot or Decepticon created through the booth’s touch screen computers.

A small but popular booth was dedicated to the Transformers: Prime television series where fans could see examples of character art and the CG process. Optimus Prime was larger than life at the Hub Channel booth with a full size “Prime” statue and a photo op area featuring the movie version’s face and hand. Attendees could take a break and watch Transformers on a sea of bean bags, or spin the wheel for cool prizes. Finally, the Hall of Fame area gave detailed accounts of past winners, both human and Cybertronian!

Tired of looking at toys and games and TV shows? The exhibit hall had plenty of photo ops including a squadron of Autobots. In the central area were Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Ironhide, Bumblebee, and Sideswipe in their movie alternate modes along with a full size robot mode Bumblebee. Hasbro also had a BotCon Photo Studio booth where attendees chose a backdrop and had their photos taken in front of a green screen. Employees processed the photos on touch screen computers and gave out cards with info on how to download the pics later.

Beyond the official stuff, the exhibit hall held the usual things that make conventions great. Fans in cool costumes posed for photos and showed off their achievements. An artist’s alley featured up and coming comic artists, toy customizers, and independent crafters with Transformers-inspired felt hats and pillows.

Of course, most attendees were there to shop! Row after row of booths offered an incredible array of products from current toys in stores to Generation 1 classics from 1985, rare Japanese items, and so much more. There was buying, selling, and trading galore as Transformers collectors from around the world sought the best deals on toys and even parts!

Of course, no one spent the whole time in the exhibit hall, not with all of the programming going on outside. BotCon is the perfect place to get autographs from your favorite voice actors, especially those who performed in the Generation 1 series. On hand over the weekend were David Kaye, Jack Angel, Morgan Lofting, Neil Ross, Gregg Berger, Peter Cullen, Steve Blum, Kevin Richardson, Josh Keaton, Markie Post, and more! The luminaries also attended several script reading panels and Q&A sessions, giving the fans even more of the characters they love.

BotCon panels covered the rest of the standard scheduled programming for the weekend with another wide range of topics. Transformers Comics: Chaos Begins brought out the guys from IDW to talk about the upcoming event series. Parallel storylines will cover CHAOS and the “Last Story on Earth” (with the opposing viewpoints of Prowl and Spike leading to a breakdown in the relationship between Autobots and humans), which then culminate in Transformers #125, otherwise known as “the Death of Optimus Prime!” IDW will also be offering a digital-only series called “Autocracy” that focuses on the fall of the Cybertronian Golden Age. In other panels Activision showed off the new Dark of the Moon video game, members of the Transformers Collector’s Club got to discuss and find out what’s coming up for them, actors and writers discussed working on various series, and fans got together to design their own costumes!

Finally, BotCon offered several special events. Attendees who arrived early on Thursday could flex their artistic muscles in customizing classes, while others headed off to Six Flags Day while on Friday the convention screened a Transformers Filmfest. The evenings held the biggest events, with Friday’s Casino Night Awards Dinner and Auction and Saturday’s exclusive Transformers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This event at the nearby Pasadena Civic Auditorium honored 2011 inductees Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay!

-Scott Rubin