Here come the Men In Black: the galaxy defenders … no, no, not those guys. We’re talking about a different MIB for this entry in TFsource’s Countdown to BotCon! BotCon 1996 featured new organizers, Men In Black productions, new toy exclusives from a different Transformers era, and a whole lot of mishaps that lead to the 1996 show being the only run convention under MIB Productions.
Heading into the 3rd annual Transformers Convention, we know BotCon 1994 and 1995 were both generally well run and successful conventions for Transformers fans. The 1996 BotCon is an entirely different story and can be summed up as “biting off more than you can chew.” The 1996 convention was organized by Men In Black Productions and held in Rosemont, Illinois. This BotCon featured some noteworthy “firsts,” some really great achievements, but for the most part bad missteps. BotCon 1996 did feature the first exclusive toy to be cast in all new colors, not just a repaint. Unfortunately, MIB Productions had to order A LOT of BotCon Exclusive Onyx Primals to make the toy feasible for Hasbro to produce, 1,700 figures to be exact!
Needless to say, there was more than a handful of Onyx Primals left over after the convention closed its doors. BotCon 1996 featured over 400 guests, another increase from previous years, but with 1,700 toy exclusives produced they were practically giving the figures away … no, seriously they did! Not only did MIB offer up the exclusive again for their unofficial convention, TransCon ’97, but it’s also rumored that many of these left over figures were given away in hotel rooms at later BotCons. I wonder if I can still find one?
Onyx Primal was also offered in some variant forms as well, another first for BotCon, most notably the first and last “dealers’ exclusive” version. This variant of Onyx Primal was the same as the regular version with the exception of a “BOTCON ’96 DEALER EXCLUSIVE” tampograph on the back of each figure. The other variant was a V.I.P. (Very Important Predacon) version that featured different packaging than the normal attendee. There were approximately 1,490 regular versions produced, 170 dealers’ exclusives, and 40 V.I.P.’s produced. There has not been a BotCon dealers’ exclusive figure since.
Even with some of the questionable decisions for the 1996 exclusive, let’s not short its greatness as a BotCon exclusive. Onyx Primal is the first Beast Wars convention exclusive (Beast Wars premiered in 1996), the first figure to be cast in new colors (a feat attempted the year prior), and let’s be honest, it is a slick looking figure! BotCon 1996 is remembered for many other things though, one notable occurrence was the strange “Pulp Fiction” theme present in the show’s merchandise materials, even the tech spec of Onyx Primal.
The convention also featured a birthday cake celebrating the 10th anniversary of the animated Transformers Movie (without forks to eat it of course), and an actual showing of the film, although one of the VHS tapes MIB Productions had did not even work. It was probably pure luck they were able to find another tape from one of the dealers.
Dealers and attendees were given “Hi, my name is ___” stickers to show their registration and admittance into the convention, no badges were given out this year. Of course, they ran out of these stickers which allowed walk ins to simply walk in to the show.
There was even an “early bird” pass offered to pre-registrants to get into the dealer room a little early. Of course, this caused a lot of chaos as the “early bird” pass had registrants entering the dealer room before the dealers had even set up for the day. Did I mention the BotCon exclusive is pretty slick looking?
Needless to say, the mishaps of the 1996 BotCon were too much to overcome and Men In Black Productions did not come back for the 1997 show. Although their efforts to the Transformers Fandom and BotCon history are admirable, it does seem in retrospect they tried doing too much.
Despite the less than stellar BotCon experience, MIB did leave Transformers fans with one last gift: Onyx Primal is very attainable on the secondary market as he doesn’t cost much more than any recent Takara or E-Hobby Exclusive. If you need this figure for your collection, it won’t take much of a hunt or long term savings.
Thank you for reading this entry in TFsource’s Countdown to BotCon. BotCon is right around the corner; anybody else hoping they’ll find an Onyx Primal at this year’s show in San Diego?
Til all are One,