TFormers: Tell us about BotCon. How it started? How it's evolved over the years? The people were behind it?
3H: The Hartman brothers originally began BotCon back in 1994. It was a one-day event designed to celebrate the 10th anniversary. The dealer's room, art contest, and video rooms became the show's signature main stays for years to come.
TFormers:Do you want to address the recent news about the Hartman's relationship to BotCon.
3H: Simply, sure. The Hartmans, since I began my collaboration with them, have gradually evolved their roles to becoming host-like personalities when the weekend of the show arrived. Throughout the year, when planning, both of them had distinct responsibilities to ensure the show's success. As the years passed, their enthusiasm had waned and other activities in their lives became a priority. Since I absolutely love this show and make it my first priority and since my financial stability depended on the show's success and their constant oversights cost me money and time (as I had to fix them immediately before or during the show itself), I though it was to the benefit of the show and myself to free them from their organizational responsibilities and have them fill the role they're most suited for-BotCon hosts. I was fried by the time the weekend arrived and it seemed they had a professional disinterest in what I and some of the other staff went through in the weeks preceding the show to get it to a satisfactory point. In addition, the fans know them and appreciate them and they (the Hartmans) often times take time out from their busy schedules and chat with them about all things TF-related. I essentially gave them what they wanted (as far as roles in the show go). I also felt quite guilty about asking them to relinquish their responsibilities so I gave them a "severance package", ensuring a sizable financial payment and convention perks.
TFormers: When did the involvement of the actors, writers and other celebrities begin?
3H: When I first collaborated with the Hartmans in 1997. I thought it was an important aspect to have these celebrities available throughout the weekend for fans to have the opportunity to do something else at the show when they eventually ran out of money.
TFormers: It wouldn't be BotCon without the dealer room. What are the challenges in lining up all those great sellers for each show?
3H: For the most part, not much work besides advertising. The sellers fluctuate from year to year, based on the show's location, but there are a great number of consistent dealers who attend regardless of where the show is located.
TFormers: I am amazed at the plethora of Transformers items you can buy at the show. Have you ever had to refuse a dealer for anything?
3H: Not really. The only guidelines we (eventually) had in place was that since the show was family-oriented, any questionable material depicting scenes, etc. not suitable for minors should be left home.
TFormers: What kind of time goes into planning a show?
3H: I typically spend (spent) 50-60 hours per week on planning, organizing, networking, creating from about September until the show itself. During that "off" month, I spend about 20 hours per week.
TFormers: After you shut down on the Sunday evening of the show, how many people are directly involved in running the BotCon on-site event itself?
3H: I'm a little confused by this question. If you mean, how many people break down the event? Typically the staff members who assisted us help pack things up, then we all decompress at a restaurant in the host city.
TFormers: How do you go about picking what city the show will be in each year?
3H: Cost, availability, accessibility.
TFormers: Where would you like to do BotCon shows in the future?
3H: I have plans to rotate BotCon throughout the United States, covering each area of the country. This enables new fans to see what the hubbub is all about, while enabling me to gain familiarity with a discrete group of facilities to make it easier to plan.
TFormers: Can you tell us a little about the BotCon Europe show held last November?
3H: It was a nice experiment. I wanted to do a show In Europe and increase BotCon's brand name and Europe was a likely candidate. There were some rough spots in planning an event from across the ocean, but overall I think it went well. This fall's show will be better planned and more exciting to attend.
TFormers: One of the things that sets BotCon apart is the exclusive toys. How and when did the exclusives come into the picture?
3H: Hasbro gave a select number of units (G2 Breakdown) to the Hartmans in 1994.
TFormers: There are so many characters out there now in the Transformers Universe. How do you go about choosing what to make?
3H: My philosophy is to choose a mold that the fans love and then try to map an interesting character (with equally cool name) onto it.
TFormers: Can you briefly describe the steps the figure goes through from concept to package?
3H: Not in this space!
TFormers: With all the new G1 re-issues coming out now. Is there any pressure to reproduce the larger classic figures?
TFormers: Can you tell us what figure series you're looking at for 2003?
3H: That would give away some surprises. Sorry!
TFormers: A lot convention exclusives come in a white box with a sticker on it. The packaging created for the BotCon toys are almost as exciting as the figures themselves. What inspired you guys to focus so much on the this?
3H: That was what I brought to the table in 1997. The BC exclusives are "just" redecos. Some people could care less in purchasing these, so I thought that a nice packaging could complement and enhance their desirability. In fact, Hasbro made this great analogy: BotCon specials are the chase figures in the Transformers:Universe line. I couldn't have said it any better.
TFormers: How do you go about deciding what kind of packaging the figure gets?
3H: Typically, the figure and packaging ideas go hand in hand. I usually think about which mold I want to use, then almost immediately a packaging idea comes to mind. It is symbiotic-I won't do a certain type of package if the figure doesn't lend itself to it. In fact, CatSCAN's packaging from 2002 won a national award for packaging excellence!
TFormers: What inspired you to do the Wreckers comic?
3H: A consistent umbrella theme to run from year to year inspired me to take this approach. Instead of rebooting new characters every year, I thought that by having a core group of characters getting air time would get the fans to appreciate these as more than just redecos.
TFormers: Can you tell us how the new wreckers comic is coming along?
3H: It is being postponed while we focus on the Transformers:Universe line. Eventually, the Wreckers story line will coincide with the TF:U story line.
TFormers: The online comic was a real blast. Did that work out as you expect?
3H: Not really. Constantly updating the story takes a lot of work and it's work I'm not efficient at (yet!). Future projects on the Web need to be planned and practically completed before unleashing it upon the unsuspecting public.
TFormers: Is this a new vehicle for the comic to run in between conventions?
3H: More than you can imagine. Wait until this summer's show...
TFormers: Its really neat how many of the repainted figures like the Beast Machines Optimus Primal Prime release were given life in the Wreckers comics. What came first, the chicken or the egg?
3H: Primal Prime was such a neat toy and had great character potential that it was an obvious choice for the Wreckers leadership spot.
TFormers: With Dreamwave raising the awareness about Transformers comics, has this had any impact on Wrecker's comics?
TFormers: BotCon is the official Transformers convention. What makes an official convention different from a show that is independently produced?
3H: Besides advertising potential, it allows a confidence that Hasbro backs you with the resources they have to make the show that much better to the public.
TFormers: At this years show it was announced that 3H is now 3H Production Studios, Inc. How is this different than before?
3H: I personally can't be sued! ;-) The show was getting so big and so many people felt I was their personal kicking board, that I did what every other business does when they make this similar transition-I incorporated.
TFormers: How involved is Hasbro in the convention itself with the new organization?
3H: They offer much more guidance, suggestions, and support behind the scenes.
TFormers: I am sure you know everyone is dying to know about the Transformers fan club that was announced at the 2002 BotCon. How is that progressing?
3H: Almost there. Hopefully, we can begin the membership drive within the next month.
TFormers: Why a fan club?
3H: Every great toy line needs a great fan club. It's an obvious extension of BotCon.
TFormers: Can you give us an ideal of what it will cost and what will be offered as part of the membership?
3H: I'm trying to keep it as low as possible. Without anything firmly agreed upon between myself and Hasbro, the only thing I can say is it (hopefully!) is comparable to the GIJoe Fan Club.
TFormers: Will it have any association with BotCon?
3H: I'm hoping. There is so much confusion and bad blood surrounding the convention at the moment, that it's hard to tell. I think when people go to Chicago this summer, they'll see exactly what the real situation was and is. Without pounding my own chest, although I have had a particularly long run of bad luck (I admit I screwed up with the Unicron statue debacle, the web site updates, and getting Rook out on time-I was not prepared for such monumental tasks), I eat, sleep, and breathe BotCon-not for the almighty dollar which many ignorant vocal opponents think, but because I want the show to be the best it can be for the fans. The public will see this truth this July, I promise you.
As a side note, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation for all those fans who have given me the benefit of the doubt concerning this unfortunate situation. It was a business decision. Was it the best way to handle it? Probably not, but it was MY business and I feel dirty laundry shouldn't be aired in public. It lacks respect and professionalism and to be quite honest, it's no one's business what happens behind the scenes. The show is what matters and as long as it's integrity is upheld (i.e. kick-butt show), I don't think anyone has the right to judge unless they were in the same position. If Marvel fired Grant Morrison, I doubt he would issue an unprofessional statement about Marvel. He would wish them luck, say they had misunderstandings, and move on. With such international strife in the papers, it's good that there are a grouping of people who still believe in our right of "innocent until proven guilty".
TFormers: Thank you Glen and 3H for a very informative interview.Well there you have it. BotCon is already a complete blast, so expect this year's show to be totally over the top. If you would like to register or read more about this year's BotCon that will be held in Chicago, Illinois or want to get more details on the other projects 3H Productions is working on, visit their web site at BotCon.com.
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