Auto Assembly 2014: From The Convention Floor

Auto Assembly 2014 took place over the weekend of 8th – 10th August at the Hilton Hotel near LG Arena/Birmingham Airport. Regrettably, I was unable to attend any of Friday nights’ events (one of which was a Transformers-based pub quiz, which sounded super fun), and so I set off on Saturday morning excited, but also slightly nervous; not only was this my first press convention (meaning I needed to be at least somewhat professional!) it was also the first convention I’ve ever attended alone. I needn’t have worried though; there was plenty going on to keep me entertained!

Saturday kicked off with the opening ceremony, which included a short music video celebrating 30 years of Transformers goodness and a roll call of the convention’s special guests; a fantastic spread of comic artists, writers and colourists, and a few voice actors for good measure. I’ve not attended a con that had an opening ceremony before; I must say I rather liked it as an introduction to the guests and a celebration of our collective Transformers nerdery.

P1210868One thing I can’t quite decide whether I liked is the fact that all events took place in the same room as the dealers and artists tables. This meant that just less than one half of the room was filled with chairs in front of a stage/big screen, with the other half filled with tables full of glorious stuff. On the one hand this is brilliant because a) there’s always a chair available when you fancy a quick sit down and b) you can still see/hear the panels if you’re queuing for art and whatnot close to the stage. On the downside, it does mean that if you’re sitting in the back or sides of the panels (nearest the tables) then you may struggle to hear everything due to ambient convention noise. Of course, if you’re anything like me you won’t be near the back anyway!

Next was the charity auction, featuring guest auctioneer Townsend Coleman. You may remember his voice from such things as The Tick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Inspector Gadget and of course, Transformers. I did bid on a few items but unfortunately didn’t win anything, though I had a cracking time anyway (none of us could quite let go of the fact that the lowest bid-on item was a signed picture of Shia LaBeouf… HA!).

After a quick trip around the dealers tables (which was a dangerous time for my wallet, I tell you, and if anyone wants to buy me the amazing Megazord and Dragonzord I saw there, that would be brilliant, thanks) and a spot of lunch, I hit the Guest of Honour Q&A panel with Peter Spellos. I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Peter Spellos was prior to this event, but I can now tell you that he is a hilariously funny, highly engaging and very interesting voice actor, who seems like a top notch gent. I thoroughly enjoyed the panel and resolved to see all the other Guest of Honour panels as well.

photo 2After being entertained by Mr. Spellos, I decided to stop being such a giant wuss and just go join the queue to meet Townsend Coleman already. Of course the queue was quite long, so of course I entirely psyched myself out whilst waiting in it. He was, as expected, a delightful gentleman, and I was a babbling mess. All the things I’d wanted to say and ask disappeared from my brain as he complimented my TMNT dress and I basically dissolved into schoolgirlish giggles.

I decided to catch the second half of the Regeneration One panel (featuring the lovely John-Paul Bove, who is a star and bloody brilliant colourist) in order to calm down a bit, before doing another trip around the dealers tables. There were literally hundreds of things I wanted to buy and I did a lot of wistful staring that afternoon. Whilst the majority of stuff on sale was Transformers related, there were tons of other items too, so for someone like me who is only really familiar with the original Transformers show, there’s still a lot of stuff to lust after and dribble on.

It was then time for another brilliant Guest of Honour panel, this time with Michael McConnohie. Now guys, this was another name I didn’t recognise, and then the penny dropped that he was the voice of Tracks and Cosmos in the original Transformers show. I figure it must be a pre-requisite for becoming a voice actor that you have to be humorous, fantastically entertaining and basically brilliant, because Michael McConnohie was all of the above. Following his talk the day part of the con started winding down, but as I was there alone, I chose to stay in the hall for a while, watching a few episodes of the original Transformers as well as an episode of Transformers: Robots in Disguise on the big screen. This is where I discovered Peter Spellos’ character, Sky-Byte, and instantly fell in love. For a start, he’s a giant flying shark robot, but he’s also slightly bonkers and highly misunderstood, and I loved him. He’s my new favourite. I popped over to Spellos’ table just before the hall closed just to tell him how great I thought his panel was, and he kindly signed my press pass (which I hadn’t realised until that point had a picture of Sky-Byte in his robot form on it) and I squeed a little.

After spending a surprisingly relaxing 2 hours alone in the hotel bar (can you think of a better way to spend a gap in a con than with pasta carbonara, mixed fruit cider, and a pile of comic books? I bet you can’t), it was onto the evening festivities. This is where the night got a bit weird for me (through no fault of Auto Assembly, I must say), in that I suddenly became very aware of how entirely on my own I was. Being alone, I chose not to sit at a round table with a bunch of strangers (in stereotypical nerd style, I am not great at meeting with and talking to new people), so I opted for one of the side seats, which were lined up by the walls.

P1210862There were some absolutely amazing entries in the cosplay competition, a couple of unfortunate falling-aparts, and even the odd bit of lighting or mechanics, and I had to agree with the judges that it would be almost impossible to choose just one winner (Soundwave and Ravage were definitely in my top two though!) They chose three in the end, but sadly no photography was allowed so I can’t show you!

After an announcement regarding next years’ con (see www.autoassembly.org.uk for more information) and a short break came the voice actors’ script reading. This was mostly what I’d decided to hang around for the evening party for, and I had no idea what to expect. For some reason I thought it would be a script reading of a full episode or something, but then I realised I was being daft because 5 or 6 voice actors does not an entire cast of Transformers make. What followed was what can only be described as a very funny sitcom-style skit in which the Transformers were prepping the room we were all in for the night’s party. Michaelangelo made an appearance crashing the party (I could listen to that voice all day) and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard so many people shout “SPOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON” all at once; it was excellent fun.

I actually arrived at the convention hotel early enough to catch the majority of the Third Party toy panel, which was great. Really interesting to see how the toys are designed, painted and packaged, as well as getting a sneaky peek at some upcoming figures. Then came Townsend Coleman’s Q&A and this, for me, was the highlight of the weekend (next to David Sobolov’s singing sandwich packet, of course). Townsend is a jolly lovely bloke and has some great stories about working in the voice acting industry. One of my favourite things about voice actors doing Q&As is that they seemingly always devolve into crazy voices and, occasionally, songs being sung.

I managed to pluck up the courage to ask a question, and before I could say anything Mr. Coleman started Michaelangelo-ing at me and think I was redder than Raph’s mask after that (seriously, the voice of Mikey telling you you’re bodacious is not something that happens every day; I was in danger of plotzing right then and there). Luckily I kept it together long enough to ask my question and Townsend was kind enough to actually address his very long but wonderfully interesting reply right to me. Cor, he’s brilliant, he really is. I managed to nab the mic for a second question later in the panel (getting a bit braver, innit) and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Unfortunately, I pretty much crashed as soon as his panel ended, and so I left the convention to head home for some rest and relaxation.

Overall, I would highly recommend Auto Assembly to anyone interested in Transformers, or indeed, voice acting. There was a fantastic selection of guests, some great toys and figures on offer (don’t take your kids; your wallet won’t survive!) and a brilliant assortment of panels to boot. The con itself was very well organised, well laid out, friendly and inviting, and a whole lot of fun to attend. I’d like to say thanks so much to Simon and the team for putting on a cracking show, allowing me and my little podcast a place to roam in there, and I hope to see you all again next year!

Blogger: Stacey Taylor

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5 comments

  1. Love from your favorite shark!

    • Stacey Taylor /

      Aw, shucks! Thank you dear 🙂 There’s now a Sky-Byte on my wishlist; been dropping a lot of pre-birthday hints… 😛

  2. James Kennedy /

    Interesting read. I was Soundwave at the cosplay competition by the way. Many thanks for your comment regarding my costume. I shall be back next year in a new costume.

    • Stacey Taylor /

      Ooh, I look forward to seeing the next costume. Seriously, your Soundwave was TOPS.

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