By Seibertron.com Staff Member Raymond T.
Amsterdam is a city with a lot of attractions and a lot of history. On June 11th 2005 the Capitol of the Netherlands had one extra attraction visiting the city. A city I am proud to call home. The voice of the Optimus Prime from Transformers: Robots In Disguise came to town. Neil Kaplan was in the house.
It all started a few months prior. My dear friend Hans (who is known by that same name over at the Energon Pub) by sheer stroke of chance had gotten in contact with the actor. The two of them started to corrospond through E-mails with each other. Amoungst some of the things they talked about, Neil mentioned that one of his goals was to meet more fans of the Transformers community from different parts in the world. He also said that that was one of the main reasons why he wanted to attend the Auto Assembly in the UK. He asked if Hans or any of his friends would be attending that.
A long story short, without enough cash in the pocket the answer was a quick no. Not just for Hans, but for me too. The logical follow-up question to Neil was, "Why don't you come to us?". Neil told Hans that he had been to Amsterdam once before, and since it isn't too far out of the way from the UK. He agreed to do it!
Nothing official, nothing to fancy. Just meeting a fan in the Netherlands. Wel, we dutch fans stick together. So we asked him if he would mind to make it a meet and greet. He didn't want anything too big, just hangout with a few guys talking Transformers. NO PROBLEM!!!
As soon as Hans got the word that Neil wanted to come here, to my town, we started to put something fun together. We spread the word that Neil Kaplan was going to hit Amsterdam. The date was set. June 11th 2005. Neil called it One Prime Night in Amsterdam.
This was so cool. Almost one year earlier I had met the Other Optimus Prime, the one known as Peter Cullen at BotCon 2004. This meeting would not be any less exciting. In fact, in some ways this was even better as I would have the chance to spend the entire day with the guy. (I still value my time in the US with Cullen of course and the sweet message he wrote in my BotCon program book). After meeting Cullen last year and the actor who played G1 Optimus Prime in the dutch dub of the series a few years back. This would be the third Optimus Prime I would meet.
Our parts were easilly devided. Hans would deal with Neil Kaplan and getting him here savely, I would handle the people who wanted to join us and find a nice location for us to meet. By the time Auto Assembly came around, we knew our date was approaching fast. Hans did a great job of keeping in contact with Neil. June 11th 2005 would be a night to remember.
The days passed and before we knew it, June 11th knocked on the doors. We met in one of the more...interesting streets of Amsterdam. A internet-cafe/coffee-shop just around every corner, if you didn't see a junky (and I'm not talking Wreck-Gar) at least far in the distance, people dressed in tight leather would pass your eye-sight. With the chinese-street just a block away, you were met by a cat or to from the restaurants there. Just when you saw proof walking by that punk is not quite dead yet, you hear near you a loud full laughter with speech filled with every foul word in the books (and a few not even mentioned in there). Just when you start to believe you are in some twisted knock-off of Bladerunner, you are greeted by a polite, chinese stranger, only to just say 'good day' to you. On your other side a teenager walks with his MP3-player and gives you his own personal rendition of whatever song he is listening to. Yet, all these elements just seem to blend together perfectly.
Just as we are walking passed this blend of miracle, a young woman by the name of Kylie, comes and greet us. She was at the Auto Assembly a week earlier, and was invited by Neil Kaplan to join him in his tour through Europe. She had come all the way from Australia, and ended up befriending Neil during the convention in the UK. Of course, I had my giant Autobot logo shirt on, so the chances that we were the guys that Neil was going to meet up with were quite big.
Not much later, our guest of honor showed his face. He was definately impressed with the city of Amsterdam. Amazed at all the things that looks so weird to him, but to me is just... 'Home'! We still had a few hours to kill, so we just ended up showing them some of the places Hans and I come to collect our Transformers stuff, and showed a little bit of the history Amsterdam has to offer. (And basically showing Amsterdam is more than just the Red Lights!) Showing the canals and how they were part of the city's fortifications so many hunderds of years ago. And the houses that don't match with each other but in such a way that they just belong.
During our dinner, Neil gave talked with us about some of the things he is busy with. And why he is still so much involved with the Transformers fanbase and stuff like that. Just a nice conversation with the four of us, talking Transformers and a whole lot of other stuff. As time moved on, it was about time to meet the other guys that requested to be part of this special one-on-one get together. Most were people we already knew. Like I said, we dutch fans stick together!
For the location for this little get together, I had chosen a near by Tavern, that I had visited once or twice before when I was part of a filming crew for a low-budget movie I worked on. I had reserved a dinning-room for our little group, and I think everyone was pleased with the location for this. As I was starting to set up my digital camera, Neil was already talking up a storm with the guys.
Before filming, I agreed with Neil that some things related to his future work would not be filmed for use on the internet. (That's the way the business works, and I totally respect that). But other than that, Neil was very open and candid on camera. As you can see on the clips, he gave some very personal opinions on a variety of topics he was willing to discuss with us. He was a real joy to have to listen to and a pleasure to be with the whole day!
Neil Kaplan certainly made us dutch fans feel real special. When confronted with that, the only thing he could say was "Well, you guys make me feel special!". When the day started, some of us may have felt the feeling of us meeting the voice of Optimus Prime! But at the end of the day, we were at the table with Neil Kaplan, just one of the guys!
I hope you will enjoy the conversation we had with Kaplan as much as we had living it. I can tell you that I had a blast. I want to thank everyone that could come that day, Tavern "De Kluis" for putting up with our Transformers talk all day, my pal Hans for helping me pull this off, and Seibertron to give me the forum to share my experience with the rest of the Transformers fandom.
Last but certainly not least, Neil Kaplan for adding one more special memory to my experience. You are a class act! I'm proud to have been able to meet you and hope we can remain friends. We'll always have Amsterdam!
Be sure to check out Neil Kaplan's site at http://www.nekap.net.