TransForce - Paul Cannon Interview, 29th May 2003
Paul Cannon, the organiser / owner of Transforce, kindly agreed to do an interview for our site about Transforce, Transformers in general and some other bits. Paul answered all of the questions that we put to him along with many others that he has been asked in the past.
For those of you who are not aware, Transforce was the UKs first Transformers Convention and ran annually from 1999 to 2002. We have been fortunate to attend all of these events and like many were saddened to hear that there was not to be a Transforce 2003. We have thoroughly enjoyed all of the Transforce events, and have spent an awful lot of money at them, and we sure that if you attendeed any of these events you were not disappointed by the efforts put in by Paul and everyone else who organised them who you may not have been aware of.
Introductions out of the way, here's the interview in full and do not forget to check out the Transforce website sometime soon.
TF At The Moon: Where did the idea for Transforce come from, and how long did it it take to think of a name?
Paul Cannon: Transforce is an amalgamation of the titles 'Transformers' and Action Force'. My original website had many sections including Death's Head, (the official) Combat Colin Website. Matt and the Cat and Dragon's Claws. The sense of the word 'force' meant that I could keep it even though the conventions had nothing to do with Action Force/GI Joe. I've never really been happy with the name, so expect it to change should I ever do anything radically different.
TF At The Moon: When did you first have the idea of trying to do a convention?
Paul Cannon: Back in 1998 when I heavily getting back into collecting I could see there was a massive fanbase, but it was untapped. Of course there was TMUK [Transmasters UK] However, there were lots of small pockets of people dotted around the country, not really getting together. Each comic fair or Memorabilia show I would go to I would meet new groups of fans. I had been told of plans for a BotCon Europe, but the people I spoke to didn't seem to have much confidence there would ever be one. Therefore I decided to step in and do a one off meeting just to test the water. I expected maybe 50 people to attend. I was in for a shock. 101 bodies crammed into those two shops. Lots of sweat and BO! What a lot of fun it was!
TF At The Moon: .What do you think of the general reaction / feedback you have had over the years for Transforce?
Paul Cannon: It has always been very positive. I think most people have appreciated what I have tried to do and support me in any way they can. Everyone wanted Transforce to be a success. We felt we were missing out in the UK and we all clubbed together to do something about it.
TF At The Moon: Which was your favourite Transforce convention?
Paul Cannon: Transforce 2002 was my personal favourite as that was completely done on my own and turned out exactly as I'd planned (more or less). The exclusives were just fantastic. If you'd told me two years ago I'd be reprinting Target 2006 as a graphic novel I'd never have believed you. I really liked 2000. That was perhaps the most professionally organised convention, however it did seem to lack something - oh yes, it was attendees. We only had half the number turn up we planned for. Two days was one day too many.
TF At The Moon: How long does it take to organise an event like Transforce, both in months to plan and how much of your time do you have to devote to it?
Paul Cannon: Easily eight months. This works in stages. I generally work on Transforce when I get home from work (I'm a teacher). I might start at 5pm and finish at 10pm. Perhaps I'll need to go to the printers straight from work. I picked up the posters this year at 3am from the printers (two days before the show)! Some days it's less. I seem to have got used to it.
TF At The Moon: At the end of the day do you think it's been worth all the effort you've been putting in?
Paul Cannon: Yes. I've done exactly what I set out to do. I wanted Transformers fandom to reach it's pinnacle, and it has in terms of my ideas. The conventions showed people that this thing is BIG. I expect it will continue to grow and grow.
TF At The Moon: What is the thing that you have done for Transformers fandom you are most proud of?
Paul Cannon: Provided them with beer and a place to talk.
TF At The Moon: Has everything run smoothly for you in the time you've been doing this?
Paul Cannon: Erm, no. Let's see-
The Engine preview wouldn't open on the printers computer in 2000 and nearly got left out (Andrew Wildman would have strung me up the amount of time that was spent on it)! Graham [Thomson] was still receiving artwork for the Transforce 2001 comic until the day before, that nearly didn't get printed. The printer doing the posters for me in 2002 died and no-one told me, so someone else had to fill in at the last moment, hence picking them up at 3am. Lee Sullivan couldn't do the Alignment part 2 cover right at the last minute because he had to finish the Dr Who cartoon for the BBC website, (which are fantasic if you haven't seen them. Thankfully Sean Bastick stepped in (again) and did the CGI cover. I'll never forgive the person who said the Liege Maximo looked like a Butt Ugly Martian ;) It was WAY too hot at Transforce 2001. There is more, but I wouldn't want to depress you.
TF At The Moon: You told us at Transforce 2002 that a lot of the books were stolen, did you ever get them back?
Paul Cannon: Actually it was a stack of Alignment part 1 that were going to be given away as prizes. These books (there were about 20) are worth a mint.
TF At The Moon: Was this the lowest point of any convention for you, if not what was and what would you like to say to the person(s) who did it?
Paul Cannon: I was pretty fed up, but with the excitement of the day I soon cooled down. "Little did anyone know I planted a tracer bug in them and I'm coming to knock on your door right now Mr Tea Leaf!"
TF At The Moon: What have been the high points for you over the four years?
Paul Cannon: Getting to know all of the fans, and knowing that most of them know who I am. I'm dead chuffed about that. Also the quiz in 2002. The animated Megatron that was supposed to ask the questions didn't work. I was such a crap quiz master. But it was so much fun.
TF At The Moon: Who have you most enjoyed working with?
Paul Cannon: Paul Wright (my Transforce partner for 2000/1). I had a real ball working with Simon [Furman] and the artists. They were all really nice guys and you could tell that each one of them had fond memories of their time on Transformers. I'm really grateful to them. Basically Simon is the silent third partner in Transforce because he just did so much for it. I think getting drunk with Geoff Senior in the pub after 2002 was the best bit. He really can't draw Death's Head after a few drinks.
TF At The Moon: What plans did you have that never worked out?
Paul Cannon: The second day of Transforce 2000 was supposed to be at a cinema showing Transformers: The Movie. We looked into it, but it just didn't happen. I revived the idea in 2002, but the manager of the cinema in Beckenham just hadn't pulled his socks up and we never got the film in time.
TF At The Moon: What has been the most difficult thing about running the shows?
Paul Cannon: Pleasing everyone. It's so hard to know what everyone wants, you have to guess and you don't always get it right. Also it was really hard after 2000 because we lost so much money that it seemed foolish to do it again, but we did anyway. We lost less, but it was worth it. We only lost a couple of hundred in 2002. Perhaps next time we'll break even, but I doubt it.
TF At The Moon: What would you have done differently?
Paul Cannon: We wouldn't have done the Transforce 2001 comic. That was just too expensive and although it gave fans a chance to show off their talents, it really should never have happened. It was probably the most expensive fanzine produced in the world. Having said that, it included some of the best fan work I've ever seen. Jack Lawrence and Nick Roche should be drawing comics for a living! They are true professionals.
TF At The Moon: What are your plans for Transforce in the future? 2004?
Paul Cannon: None at the present. If I decide to 'drop rugrats' next year, (with the help of my soon to be wife of course) I'll pass the mantle onto someone else. I have a few really grand ideas, but I'm not sure I'll have the freedom I used to have. This could well be the end (violins).
TF At The Moon: What other (non-Transformers) projects are you working on at the moment?
Paul Cannon: I'm still working on my CD which was close to mastering before I had to rebuild my computer and lost a lot of the files (doh!) People may not realise this, but I can sing!
TF At The Moon: Beer seems to be a reoccurring theme at Transforce conventions doesn't it?
Paul Cannon: It defines what Transforce is. The experience is not complete without it. This is why you see lots of ten years olds tripping up and being sick all over the place at my shows.
TF At The Moon: With so much merchandise available now, do you think there is a need for the Transforce conventions any more, as many people use them to just buy toys?
(on a personal note, we feel there is ALWAYS a need for conventions. It brings together fans and has proved itself as the premier European convention).
Paul Cannon: It depends on why you go to conventions. Some people do go for exclusives. That doesn't do it for me anymore because there is so much variety. If Transforce did exclusives again, they would be completely original. Something no-one else has done or is doing. If I couldn't fullfill that, I wouldn't bother. It would just be a show. I think there will always be a need for Transformers conventions, whatever they're called.
TF At The Moon: How long have you liked Transformers?
Paul Cannon: Since I was ten years old. At thirteen I got into girls (not literally), and when girls became 'routine' I got back into Transformers. I'm getting married now, so I suppose you could say I'm back into girls? What am I talking about?
TF At The Moon: What is your favourite thing about Transformers?
Paul Cannon: The UK comic. There is nothing better. Beast Wars is the best TV show and all the other stuff doesn't even begin to come close. Beast Wars is the reason for the Transformers revival.
TF At The Moon: What don't you like about Transformers?
Paul Cannon: Cartoons. Armada, RiD, and anything with a Japanese feel to it. How people can love this stuff, I'll just never understand it.
TF At The Moon: Whats your view on the number of recolours produced now?
Paul Cannon: I think they are a waste of time and I don't buy them. A new toy isn't another toy coloured in. Why not buy two of the same and a packet of felts?
TF At The Moon: Did you ever approach Hasbro about getting a Transforce toy exclusive, or having them involved in Transforce in any way?
Paul Cannon: I've had contact with Hasbro several times. Early on they were never very interested in my shows. I don't think Hasbro UK were very interested in Transformers until perhaps recently. I never asked about toy exclusives because I'm not interested in doing them. I like the key chains however, if no-one else had done them, that's something I might have done. Hasbro had to approve some stuff for us in the past, but they've never had a lot of involvement in Transforce. They know we exist and that's about it.
TF At The Moon: People have said that they noticed the Optimus Prime and Soundwave on the region 1 DVDs look very similar to the Transforce ones on the cover of the Transforce 2000 magazine. Are they the same ones?
Paul Cannon: Yes they are. Sean Bastick (Zenith) was commissioned to do those two characters for the Transforce 2000 magazine cover (the one that looked like an updated Marvel UK issue 1). He took the Transforce models and adapted them slightly. It seems strange seeing them on the small screen. They do look good don't they? Sean is a genius.
TF At The Moon: How were you approached to be on the I Love 1984 BBC Television show, and did they cut much out that you said?
Paul Cannon: Sven Harvey was initially approached and he told them I might be worth talking to. I then put them in touch with Simon Furman. I was interviewed for about 40 minutes. The projector behind me was really noisy and I was worried I wouldn't be heard. You can't hear it in the final cut though. They cut a stack out. We talked loads about fans and I told them stories about smelly obsessive fans I'd met (won't mention any names). I wish I hadn't. They thought this was really funny and hence their questions to Simon about fans being 'sad'. I looked pretty terrible that day didn't I?
TF At The Moon: Do you regret the Pokemon reference now ;-)?
Paul Cannon: No, I knew exactly what I meant. Everyone else took it the wrong way. I can't believe that 'catchphrase is attached to me now. We were going to do T-Shirts that said it your know.
TF At The Moon: How does it feel to be on the Transformers: The Movie DVD?
Paul Cannon: Woo hoo!!!
TF At The Moon: How did you get to do the special features for the Beast Wars DVD?
Paul Cannon: A lovely lady called Emily (not my Emily) was researching Beast Wars for Universal and had heard my name a few times. They contacted me and I wrote the history of the Transformers. I was supposed to do the Megatron and Optimus fact files too, but I asked Graham to do those as he's much better at that sort of thing. I chose the episodes that went on the DVD too. People always asked why didn't we start at the beginning? It's because we didn't know how many volumes would sell [only one was produced in the end]. I was very pleased with it.
TF At The Moon: What would you really like to do next?
Paul Cannon: Have a bath.
TF At The Moon: Is there anything that has made you feel like giving it all up?
Paul Cannon: Yes. When people demanded their right to read Alignment on the web for free. It cost thousands to produce and they wanted it, but couldn't be bothered to support the convention. It's the same with MP3s. People don't buy CDs anymore, they download them for free. I had ever intention of putting Alignment into the public domain, but certain events have delayed that from happening. Some nice person did post it somewhere. I was not happy.
TF At The Moon: What has been the most rewarding part of your Transformers career?
Paul Cannon: Getting my copy of Alignment (which I produced) signed by my childhood idols.
TF At The Moon: Where there any guests who you've tried to get who either turned you down, or couldn't make it?
Paul Cannon: Jeff Anderson has managed to be on holiday every year I've asked him. He really wants to come to one too. I am a BIG fan of Jeff's work.
TF At The Moon: Many people say that Lee Sullivan has been the best guest at the Transforce Conventions as he came over very relaxed and fun, what are your comments on this?
Paul Cannon: I though he was great too. I had breakfast with Lee and Lew Stringer at Transforce 2000 (day 2). That was surreal. People were eating their cornflakes and whispering "Oh my god, were eating breakfast in the same room as THEM".
TF At The Moon: At Transforce 2000, when you had the first guest spot, you said that you would "keep things brief" as you didn't like public speaking. By Transforce 2002 you seemed much more relaxed, with the jokes about the projector, the "voices" and the running round the attendees during the Q and A with the mic. Do you feel that you've become much more adapt at public speaking now?
Paul Cannon: No, I'm still a bag of nerves. I suppose being in my forth year of teaching helps. I'm used to talking to large groups of people. Fortunatley at Transforce they don't tend to wet themselves (as often).
TF At The Moon: Looking back over the 4 Transforces and how things have grown since "that day" in Croydon in 1999, do you think things have suppassed your expectations?
Paul Cannon: Yes. 'Transforce '99. 1 to get in', 2 'Transforce 2002, Fairfield Halls, Titan books exclusives, fans versus guests.' WOW!
TF At The Moon: Transforce 2001 is remember for being held on the hottest day of the year, do you wish they had more windows :D?
Paul Cannon: Everyone lost a lot of weight on that day, they should be grateful ;)
TF At The Moon: Do you have any official attendee figures for each of the Transforces, as i'm sure people would be interested to look at them?
Paul Cannon: Off the top of my head, it went something like this:
1999 - 101
2000 - 160
2001 - 250
2002 - 400
TF At The Moon: You attendeed Botcon Europe 2002 in November, what were your opinions on this event? Many people felt it was lacking the atmosphere of the Transforces, did you feel this?
Paul Cannon: I really liked it, however I think I spent too much time talking to everyone though and missed most of the show. I know I missed the guest panel. There didn't seem to be a lot going on. I might help out at the next one. I actually preferred BotCon Europe '99, even though it really whiffed around the top of the stairs for some reason. A church is the best ever venue for a Transformers convention. I wish I'd done it there. Who knows, Transforce 2004 - St Paul's Cathedral.
TF At The Moon: Transforce is run as a non-profit event, is that right? Do you feel this has played a big part in the high opinion many fans hold the event?
Paul Cannon: To be honest, I think most people don't care. We all go to these shows to get stuff we want. I do think however people are more forgiving if things go wrong. I know I get annoyed if I pay lots of money when someone is obviously making a stack, and the service is bad. People know I'm not, so they are happier.
TF At The Moon: Did you see the Trannies? Transforce 2002 was rated the 4th favourite convention, above all the other European events and many of the past BotCons.
Paul Cannon: I don't really pay too much attention to them, but it is nice that people have voted for me.
TF At The Moon: You were looking to sell Transforce so someone this year, where you aware that many fans felt that Transforce would not be the same if it was not run by yourself and that you should at least have a part at any event?
Paul Cannon: Yes. That's why I pulled out of the deal. I'd rather Transforce existed no longer than was taken over by someone who wouldn't do what I thought was the 'best' for the show. This will almost certainly be the case next year.
TF At The Moon: Do you have any final comments and people you'd like to thank for helping you over the years?
Paul Cannon: Yes. Of course the person I need to thank the most is Emily (soon to be Mrs Cannon), she has been so supportive, and a very good secretary. Also Paul Wright, Jason McKenzie, Graham Thomson, and all those people behind the scenes. Matt Dallas for his Beast Wars Neo strips. Sean Bastick for saving my bacon. Also Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman, Geoff (hiccup) Senior, Lew (Combat Colin) Stringer, Steve White, Lee Sullivan, Mike Kazybrid, Kev Hopgood, Mike Collins and Jeff Anderson for helping me bring a dream to life. And finally than you guys at the Moon for giving me the chance to share some wonderful memories. Shouldn't you be called minicons@themoon now?
TF At The Moon: We'd like to thank Paul for taking the time to answer all of our questions, we've enjoyed it ands hope you have reading it too.