June 26, 2014 – On Friday, Universal – in partnership with Botcon and Hasbro – hosted the first annual Transformers Fan Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Marketed as a separate event for annual pass holders, Botcon attendees and the general public, the Transformers Fan Experience featured a slew of special features – including prop appearances, a special discussion panel on the 30th Anniversary of Dinobots, collectable props, musical performances and more.
Hosted on a bustling Friday night, the Transformers Fan Experience ran from 8PM – 11PM after normal park operating hours. Guests who had purchased the fan experience ticket received a special badge granting special exclusive access to much of the Lower Lot – including Jurassic Park: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, and of course Transformers: The Ride – 3D. Indeed, as the night progressed, daytime guests petered out as Fan Experience attendees slowly took over the Lower Lot. Attendance was moderate to light, and each attraction maintained a wait time of ten minutes or less – a real treat for those looking to ride Transformers throughout the night.
For fans of the newest film, Transformers: The Ride was adorned with a special appearance from Optimus Prime – direct from Transformers: Age of Extinction. While not an exclusive showing for Transformers Fan Experience attendees (Optimus had been ushered in before the day started), badge holders maintained exclusive access after normal park hours.
Following exclusive Lower Lot hours, fans had the choice of two special events – a 9PM panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Dinobots and a 10PM performance of Stan Bush. Since both events naturally flowed in a progressive fashion, we decided to start with the Dinobots panel in the Special Effects Stage.
As posters for Age of Extinction flanked the stage, a panel – composed of Ben Montano (Director of Brand Marketing at Hasbro Interactive), Mark Weber (Manager of Global Brand Development at Hasbro), Lenny Panzica (Product Designer for Hasbro), Bill Paukert (Product Design Manager for Hasbro), John Warden (Design Manager for Hasbro), and John Barber (Senior Editor at IDW Publishing) – gathered in the center. Questions were taken from a prepared list and shown on screens as the panel briefly went over the 30 year history of Dinobots – ranging from their humble beginnings in the Transformers animated series to their sophisticated incarnation in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Clips were shown throughout the discussion as the panel discussed their work with Hasbro and the Dinobot characters as the showing lasted for approximately one hour – coinciding with the start of the Stan Bush performance on the Blues Brothers stage.
With the panel effectively over, Stan Bush – known for “The Touch” from the 1986 film The Transformers: The Movie – performed a mix of modern and classic songs from his set. As expected, Transformers fans naturally gravitated when they heard Bush’s hit song from the original Transformers film.
Finally, with the event reaching its end, fans collected a special collectable poster and remains of the discontinued Energon souvenir cup in a goodie bag.
Overall, despite being slightly overpriced ($40 with an annual pass discount!), the event seemed to provide a memorable extension of the Botcon convention, allowing fans to access Transformers and Universal Studios Hollywood in one memorable day. With the Transformers franchise picking continual steam, one hopes that Universal will continue to offer special experiences throughout the year.
Jon Fu is the editor-in-chief of Inside Universal.
Jon originally founded InsideUniversal.net in 2006 as a summer hobby aimed at providing families and fans a resource for all things “Universal Studios Hollywood.” Since then, the website has taken him throughout the United States and around the world – including to places like Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.
Jon currently resides in Santa Cruz, California. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.