Auto Assembly 2004 - 29th February 2004
The following interview was conducted via email with Simon Plumbe one of the organisers of the Auto Assembly conventions here in the UK. We first interviewed both Simon Plumbe and Sven Harvey back in November, you can see that interview here. Remember to keep checking the Auto Assembly website for more announcements regarding AA2004.
TF At The Moon: First of all thank you for agreeing to this interview, we know there is probably still lots to organise with the event approaching fast. So without further-a-do lets get down to some questions.
TF At The Moon: You've made a lot of announcements over the last few months, something that many people have, in the past, complained about other conventions for not doing. Have you received much feedback from the announcements from would-be attendees?
Simon: Generally people have been quite glad that we've made announcements as it's given them time to prepare for example with the charity auction. We've had quite a few comments and suggestions come back from this as well so it's helped us adapt and learn from our mistakes last time. TF @ The Moon Can we expect more announcements in the future, there is now under 2 months to go, so people would not blame you if anything else was to be kept under wraps.
Simon: Absolutely! We've got quite a few more surprises up our sleeves and we're still working on goodies to give away in the attendance pack and some other ideas that we'll announce closer to the date.
One that we are announcing is the identity of our voice actor and we are planning on doing this on 1st March!
TF At The Moon: That would be tomorrow then, excellent news. There is a healthy charity side to Auto Assembly 2004, with money going to both the NSPCC and Cancer research. If individuals have any items they would like to offer to be put into the charity draw, how should they go about making these donations?
Simon: I'd say there are two ways. Either send it to us at the convention mailing address at the foot of this interview or email us with details of what you want to donate, ideally with a photo, and bring it with you to the convention and we'll add it to the list!
TF At The Moon: Speaking of Charitable donations, have you been approached by any other Voice Actors, artist, writers, producers who are interested in donating something towards these as some have in the past?
Simon: We have had other items offered already including autographs from actors from BW, G1, RiD and more which we are just waiting for. I'm also still contacting other actors or people involved in Transformers in one way or another to get more items. In fact, if anyone has any contact details for any of the Transformers actors or anyone else involved please let me know so I can send a few more requests out!
We are also hoping to do something with our guests in one way or another to raise even more money!
TF At The Moon: . For those people who are interested in the Auto Assembly exclusives but whom can not attend the event as they are overseas or just can not make it. You are offering a Non-Attendee package. Have you had much of a response for this and if so from mainly overseas or within the UK?
Simon: We've had some interest already, and the majority of it is from the UK at the moment, although we have had a few people order the pack from the US as well. I think it appeals to people because it can be used to gain admission if circumstances change so it offers a fair degree of flexibility. We did actually give this a test run last year when someone asked us if they could get the pack.
TF At The Moon: Speaking of nationalities, can we expect Auto Assembly to have attendees from places other than the United Kingdom? If so, what other nationalities have already pre-registered? Any one from surprising places?
Simon: We've had a couple of people book from Ireland and even one registration from America but none from mainland Europe yet, although there's still time for that to change. The American one is a bit weird for us though - to an extent it puts more pressure on us to perform with the convention. If someone is traveling thousands of miles, we have to make sure it was worth it!
I hope we do get a good mix of fans from across Europe though. If nothing else it would be pretty cool to meet fans who live outside the UK!
TF At The Moon: That takes us on nicely to our next question. On the 30th September you announced the first 5 bookings were already in, by the 23rd November this figure had risen to 10% of the total number of people hat attended AA2003 (the only UK Transformers convention in 2003) and finally on the 23rd Jan it was announced that you were ahead of where Auto Assembly 2003 was at this stage. How are the figure looking now? Are they on course to match the expected number of pre-registrants?
Simon: Figures are pretty good so far and it looks certain to beat 2003's pre-booking figure, especially with the increased publicity we have done this year. What is of note is that last year, we had 50% of the total figure book in the last 12 days or on the day. We know we're going to be bigger than 2003 - it's just to what degree!
TF At The Moon: With the confirmation of the Voice Actor, we think that will certainly swing some people who are unsure at the moment. For those people yet to pre-register or pondering over whether to attend or not, what would you like to say?
Simon: Book up! Seriously, people enjoyed AA2003 and most were asking us about this year's convention back in August and 2004 is going to be bigger and better in every way. More guests, more dealers, more activities and a much longer event running until about 11:00 pm on the Saturday night (for weekend attendees).
We know that there are other events this year, but I know we'll be offering things that the other conventions won't be and if you're looking for a fun weekend, no matter where you live in the UK, it's going to be well worth traveling for as are the other conventions. It's the 20th anniversary year, so I'd urge everyone to try to attend ALL THREE if possible - it's going to be a great year if we can all do that!
TF At The Moon: As we all know, one of the key factors to any Transformer convention is the buying and selling of toys. With this in mind, how is the dealer situation looking? Back in Jan you said that "......we're well on course to have more dealer tables than AA2003", are things still looking this way? Have they already passed number?
Simon: We've already allocated more tables than we had in 2003, most of the dealers from 2003 have re-booked and the others are preparing to and we have new dealers as well. We are expecting Titan Books to be appearing (we're just waiting for their booking to come in) and Metrodome will be selling DVDs this time (with Part 2 of Season 2 being released a few days before AA)!
I've had more enquiries recently about tables from dealers who want to attend their first AA event, and we could have as many as 30 tables provisionally booked so far!
TF At The Moon: If dealers are reading this and would like to attend, what would be the best way for them to proceed?
Simon: Either go to the AA website and download the booking form and send it off to us, or send us an email and we can sort things out that way. We have got space and we've got a fairly flexible set-up for the hotel this year in terms of capacity so there should be room for everyone, although as with the tickets, I'd strongly recommend early booking.
TF At The Moon: How is the comic coming along?
Simon: Mixed at the moment. Stories are doing well with G1, BW, Armada and Alternators scripts being done. The cover art is probably going to be done by Lee Sullivan with the back cover by Pete Billingham (Draven, the guy responsible for Transformers: Redemption). However, we are DESPERATE for artists to illustrate the stories, so if anyone wants to get involved, please contact us.
TF At The Moon: . You recently announced that one of the newer exclusives would be some Transformer Art Cards. Where did this idea come from and how did you go about getting them made?
Simon: Okay, the idea for this came out of our ticket plans. Last year, we had four different ticket designs and this year we have 12 with art from Pete Billingham. We were thinking of a way for people to get "blank" versions so they could get all the artwork and it kinda grew from there.
The cards are all being produced by ourselves and are basically the same as the tickets. They're all printed of good quality card stock on one side, which is then laminated for durability. The art from the tickets has been modified to reduce the AA logo, removing the bulk of the text and having a card number on it. The basic set is GBP5 for 12 cards, with free random chase cards all weekend during the convention and we think they'll make a nice collectible.
TF At The Moon: The latest announcement was of the Auto Assembly CD, who's idea was this and how did it come about?
Simon: I'm to blame for this one! If you're a regular visitor to the AA website, you'll know that we have a few jigsaws available for downloading. I spoke to Pete and we decided to produce one or two for the website with his artwork with MIDI music from leading console game musician Bjorn Lynne.
We then upgraded our jigsaw creating software which allows us to use MP3s as background music (embedded into the files) and we thought it might make for a good collection. We're going to have all the jigsaws that are on all our different websites, loads of new puzzles (with great music that we've just licensed), video clips from past AA events and game demos for the PC, most of which will be exclusive to the CD.
TF At The Moon: . With OTFCC Europe still waiting for further information (of which it will probably be a few months after OTFCC 2004) and Transforce 2004 recently having the date and location confirmed, do you feel that Auto Assembly has been given enough support through out the Fan Community, not only here in the UK but around the world, to help spread the word regarding the event actually taking place?
Simon: I think there are still pockets of fandom that don't tend to hold AA in much regard or those who only think of Transforce and OTFCC when they think about UK events. We have got coverage overseas on some websites and forums, but we can always do with more publicity! The more people who attend, no matter where they live in the world, the better it will be for everyone. If anyone can do anything to help, or who want to cover AA on their own websites, we'd be only too happy to help out or send out supplies of booking forms!
TF At The Moon: How are the donations coming along for the voice actor? The counter was showing a long way to go on your site. If people wish to donate some money, be it GBP1 or GBP100, what would be the easiest way for them to go about it?
Simon: A lot better than you might think! I'm actually one of the sponsors myself (because of my retro game trading) and we're already up to around GBP100 and this will be a lot higher. It's the sort of thing that we can make use of as much money that comes in though. Our guest costs are quite extensive - travel, accommodation etc. and there's always room in the programme for more guests! In terms of donations, there's a link on the AA website, we can take cheques etc. or alternatively PayPal payments directly to our PayPal account which is AutoAssembly@aol.com - I can't stress enough that every donation helps. Even if you only donated GBP1, these all add up!
I'm actually in the process of closing a sponsorship deal that should be tied-up in the next 24 hours or so that will allow us to make a guest announcement. We do still need support for guests though, as we are looking at guest costs in excess of GBP1,000 this year so the more money that comes in the better!
One other thing where people can help (at no cost to themselves!), is that on the Auto Assembly website we have quite a few advertisers, many of whom are offering free services to people who sign up. We get small payments for each sign-up to these, and this can range from 25p up to GBP2 per person! The best at the moment are Net Free Stuff and Morgan Auctions, although they all help. For just a short amount of time, most people reading this interview could raise about GBP5 each for AA with very little effort at all!
TF At The Moon: One of the things people often discuss at Transformer events is the location of the event itself to other surrounding convenience such as food outlets, shops, public transport and the like. Is there much around the hotel to satisfy people that would like to 'have a wander'?
Simon: Well, it's right in the city centre so pretty much everything you could think of is within a few minutes walk. McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC, Subway, superb public transport and the new Bullring centre which has to be seen to be believed and is well worth a visit!
TF At The Moon: Is there anything else you'd like to tell people about?
Simon: We're going to be making some more amazing announcements very soon and we will be bringing a voice actor to the UK so you will want to be at AA this year. It's going to be hot so please come along and spread the word!
TF At The Moon: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to speaking to you in person in April.
If you would like to contact Simon Plumbe or anyone else from Auto Assembly you can by writing to..
Auto Assembly 2004
PO Box 8966