Saturday, 9 July 2016

Roll Out Roll Call - Day 1 & Toy Haul

I was completely thrilled when Roll Out Roll Call announced they bringing their show to a hotel near Heathrow in 2016. Just about every other TransFormers convention in the UK has been either way up north (Birmingham, for AutoAssembley) or way down south (Southampton for previous RORCs), involving lengthy journeys in either direction and, frequently, the necessity to stay overnight.

But Heathrow is basically in my neck of woods - way out West London. Heathrow Airport is best accessed by taking a train toward the City, changing part-way, then heading back out again in a slightly different direction, which tends to take about an hour or so. The Radisson Blu Edwardian, meanwhile, is a mere 45 minutes away by bus. Of course, this being a new route for me, I decided to leave a little over an hour before the show was due to open, to give myself some leeway in case of traffic problems. Getting there turned out to be simplicity itself - easier, in fact, than TfL's Journey Planner made it look. Pretty much bang on 45 minutes, and I was bumming around the hotel's atrium, waiting for registration to start.

Now, the AutoAssemblies I went to, up to and including 2010's at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham's city centre were plagued by delays in opening, slow registration, crowding, poor use of space and (at least for Scott McNeil, in 2010) far too much booze. The venue was larger than the one they were using at the first AutoAssembly I attended (can't even remember what year that was, but I'm sure I still have my badge somewhere!), but attendance always seemed to outstrip venue capacity, turning the event into a sea of elbows and bruises.

Whether it was due to the change in venue, I'm not sure, but attendance seemed pretty slim at this year's RORC... but that is compared to AA2010, as I've never been to a RORC before and no other TF conventions since 2010. Perhaps this was the usual crowd for this show, perhaps having a larger venue, better laid out, meant that it simply never felt as busy as it was. That said, it emptied out considerably toward the end of the day. It's possible this is normal as well - after all, plenty of attendees would have been staying at the hotel, and could breeze in and out as they wished with their badges - but I wouldn't know as I've never really hung around at these events. I tend to swoop in, buy loads of cool stuff, and shoot off before lunchtime.

This weekend, though, my girlfriend was out helping her best mate move into her new digs, having bagged herself a job with a prestigious company in London (just down the road from somewhere I did some temping a few years ago, as it happens), so I felt inclined to stick around at the show and take in some of the panels. I'd been perturbed by the lack of schedule information available online but, cleverly, they had printed the full schedule for both days on the backs of all the badges. Once I'd identified myself and collected my badge, I picked up my BotCon 2016/Combiner Wars Terrorsaur (part of the Energon weekend ticket package), glanced at the other exclusives available (I already have Airazor, and didn't fancy BotCon 2016 Megatron as I already have RID Megatron and Galvatron) and then headed into the Commonwealth Suite, aka the retail hall.

About 20 minutes later, I'd bought everything I wanted, as well as a couple of gifts for my girlfriend (since they had quite a bit of non-TF and non GI Joe stuff available on several stalls), and so continued to mill around the hall till the first panel that interested me, Life as a Collector, with the brothers Mapes. It was quite a revealing talk, and made me realise that my collection (a) isn't that big, and (b) isn't that unusual... at least among the TransFormers fandom. After that, I popped out for a cheeky McDonalds lunch during a conveniently-timed GI Joe-specific panel, returning in time for An Audience with Morgan Lofting (voice of a couple of Femme-Bots and, most significantly, The Baroness from GI Joe). The audience seemed fairly sparse, but it was an entertaining 45-50 minutes. That led into Designing Action Figures with Boss Fight Studio (which led me to pop out and purchase their lovely Medusa figures, as I'm a massive fan of Ray Harryhausen and their Vitruvian HACKS have a wonderful vibe of the stop-motion master). Returning to the Royal Suite, I sat in on An Audience with Neil Ross (and, yes, he said "I've got better things to do tonight than die" in Springer's voice) followed by Have I Got Thew for You, in which YouTubers Thew Adams and SMSNO1 chatted about toys and YouTube.

I almost literally bumped into Thew a couple of times - right at the entrance, then later inadvertently interrupting his recording of a stall display - and saw at least a couple of other YouTubers (most of whom I'm not 100% sure I'd identified correctly, though guttersnipero is fairly unmistakable) but, being typically antisocial, I didn't even say hello... There are few things quite so awkward as being in the vicinity of someone you 'know' from YouTube as, having listened to them ramble on about toys, it's tempting to think you know them to a degree. Granted, I met my girlfriend as a result of a video she'd put up on YouTube, but I still think that's kind of weird, so I don't like to push my luck.

All in all, day one was pretty good... if strangely quiet. I have to say I was a little disappointed in the retail side... Very few Takara Tomy products and only a small selection of third party stuff, very little packaged stuff between Armada/Energon and the current lines, and not a massive selection of movie stuff, or Generations/Classics stuff. Quite a bit of Titans Return... but I'm only really interested in Blurr, and want the TT Legends version rather than the rather bland Hasbro model. Going by the number of attendees I saw, I strongly suspect one stall overstocked on the new Fortress Maximus... Not sure I saw any sold.

Looking forward to going back again tomorrow, as there's a panel with Neil Ross and Morgan Lofting, and two panels with Boss Fight Studio, including some new product reveals... I may end up buying more - I'm certainly aiming to get a little something for my girlfriend's mate - but I'm pretty satisfied with my haul for today:
At the back, the show exclusive crossover comic. Clockwise from top left: Generations Doubledealer,
Windblade, Arms Micron Ironhide, BotCon 2016/CW Terrorsaur, KFC Badbat
and Boss Fight Studios' Medusa

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