Last week at Hascon 2017, TFW2005 had the chance to interview two of the leading forces in the Transformers brand right now – Product Design Manager John Warden and Marketing Director Ben Montano. Both were eager to talk about the brand, where it is and where it is going. We touched on the future of Masterpiece, Transformers Cyberverse, possibilities for Apeface and other yet to be released Headmasters, state of the fandom, Transformers The Last Knight toys, and more. Read on to see what they had to say, and then sound off on the 2005 Boards!
Amidst all the chaos this last week at San Diego Comic Con 2017, TFW2005 met up with Hasbro Designers John Warden and Lenny Panzica for a short interview about what was just revealed, the future of the Generations line, the current movie line, and Robots in Disguise as a whole, and a few specific queries regarding design choices! We’ve transcribed the interview from start to finish, and it can be read in full after the jump. Enjoy!
TFW2005 member GirlBot brings us news of a wide-ranging Hollywood Reporter interview with Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, wherein he discusses movies, toys and of course the bottom line: revenue. Among several Transformers-related highlights:
In 2002, Brian Goldner, a then-rising executive at Hasbro, was pitching studios the robot-morphing Transformers toys as the next Spider-Man, which had just ushered in the new tentpole movie era. One day, while having lunch in L.A., he ran into Spider-Man producer Avi Arad. “He told me that I shouldn’t embarrass myself because it was going to be impossible to execute,” recalls Goldner, who has been CEO since 2008. He kept pushing, though, and two years later, DreamWorks and Paramount bought film rights to the megafranchise, whose four films have grossed $3.8 billion worldwide. A fifth chapter, and the final one directed by Michael Bay, opens June 21.
You’ve got an Oscar-nominated director, Travis Knight, tackling the Bumblebee spinoff. Does that mean a greater emphasis on story?
We’ve always loved Bumblebee. He is one of the favorite characters in our research globally. We have a great story. We have a lead [human] character who’s a girl [Hailee Steinfeld]. It’s set back several decades ago, a really fun era.
Check out “Optimus Brian” in the full article here then share your thoughts on the 2005 boards!
Ever wonder about what goes into making a Transformers convention? What goes on behind the scenes and the unsung heroes whose work is always unconsciously appreciated? We recently had the chance to speak with Simon Plumbe aka Simes of our 2005 Boards, the organizer of Europe’s largest Transformers Convention, Auto Assembly. Read on for an insightful look into the world that lies behind the scenes of what you normally see at the event on the day.TFW – First of all, thank you for taking your time to talk to us today.
Auto Assembly – Always a pleasure!TFW – By way of a little background, how did you get started on running conventions?
AA – I’d better give you the abridged version…! lol Back in 1989 I visited a comic fair with a few friends and a Doctor Who club was there on a stall recruiting new members. I went along to their next meeting, came away from that having launched my OWN spin-off club which started to hold monthly meetings!
That quickly evolved into a general sci-fi / fantasy club and became independent from the Doctor Who club a few months down the line. Interest in the club meetings slowed down a bit though so I adapted (as I have over the years) and we moved into digital fan publishing producing an electronic Star Trek fanzine that ran for 6 years.
The following that developed encouraged us to run a full-scale 3-day Star Trek convention in 1996 in Birmingham (the same venue we used for Auto Assembly 2003 and 2004), which then spawned our own Star Trek club with monthly meetings that ran for about 5 years or so. Times changed and fans weren’t interested in attending meetings but by that point, Auto Assembly had already taken shape a year earlier…TFW – How did that happen?
AA – In 2000 former team member Sven Harvey, who was a big Transformers fan (and please understand, back then I wasn’t interested in Transformers at all until I was “converted”) suggested the idea of a one-off Transformers meeting akin to our Star Trek meetings so Auto Assembly was born.
The first one in 2000 had about 15 people pre-book and had a total of 31 attendees. Realising that it did better than we hoped and that people enjoyed the day, we did it all again six months later and for Auto Assembly 2001 we had 61 attendees and it exploded from there until now, 21 years after I started everything off and the organisation has changed and evolved, Auto Assembly is now the main focus of what we do.TFW – Auto Assembly 2009 was the first Transformers convention in Europe to break the 500 attendee barrier with 501. Do you think you might beat your record with 2010?
AA – Well, we are literally a couple of bookings away from doing this! It’s been an astonishing year for us with bookings coming in faster than ever and at the rate people are booking, we are on target for the convention to be a total sell-out from pre-registrations! Obviously this will be great from our point of view but it does mean that people wanting to pay on the door will be disappointed and really do need to book their tickets now rather than leaving it until the last minute.
Hitting this sort of figure is something we are very proud of though, especially the 500 mark last year. It’s something that TF conventions in Europe have been aiming for for as long as I can remember. Not just Auto Assembly but the other major UK event Transforce that used to take place, although the closest that they managed was 400 attendees so 500 was the “holy grail” that we all strived for.TFW – With Transformers becoming a much more global brand, have you noticed more international attendees visiting Auto Assembly? I know some of our friends over in the US and Canada have been planning to attend…
AA – Oh absolutely! We had our first overseas attendee book way back in 2004 and then it was a steady trickle… a few here, a few there but now we have people travelling from all over the world to attend and it’s become a truly international event. Not wanting to list every country, but we have people travelling from America, Canada, Singapore, Iceland, Israel, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and loads more countries as well… all over the place!TFW – Couple of questions on exclusives now. Auto Assembly 2009 and this year’s 2010 convention are offering some very cool alternate comic covers. What was the reasoning behind choosing to offer an exclusive variant cover?
AA – I’d seen other conventions do the same before who hadn’t managed to secure exclusive toys and a few years ago we imported a supply of an exclusive comic that TFCon had produced by Dreamwave. Last year I took the plunge and approached Chris Ryall over at IDW and opened talks about doing the same for us. Chris explained the process to me and the fact that we would need to work with a partner to make it happen, we approached Apocalypse Comics and brought them on board and we had the exclusive edition of All Hail Megatron 13.
This year, we’ve partnered with Toyz and Gamez to bring the exclusive edition of Transformers Issue 9 which I think works really well for us as an exclusive. Once again Nick Roche and Liam Shalloo have handled the cover, Guido Guidi has done the interior art for IDW so it links in well with him being one of our guests, and I thought that the cameos on the cover from Garry Chalk, Scott McNeil and Derrick Wyatt are a really great touch and it just makes it a great convention souvenir.TFW – Have you ever considered offering an exclusive Auto Assembly Transformer toy, perhaps in partnership with one of the other European conventions?
AA – We’ve approached Hasbro a few times over the years about the possibility of an exclusive toy but never got very far. At one point a few years ago, Hasbro US seemed willing to get involved and help us make something happen, but then referred us back to Hasbro UK so things died a quick death.
Since then we have been approached by several companies who make unofficial toy add-ons or unlicensed toys offering to produce exclusives for us but it’s not an option I’d consider. While I do appreciate that there is a market for the add-ons and unofficial toys out there, I’d rather make sure that everything we offer is official and that’s why we chose to start off with comics and made the approach to IDW.TFW – Lastly, regarding this year’s cover, was there any discussion about giving Swindle a speech bubble saying something like “What am I bid? … No takers?” in homage to the classic Marvel UK cover?
AA – Well, the image that we have released is of the finished artwork and colours that we received BUT it isn’t the final cover as it has had a little “extra” touch that has been added at IDW’s end… but you’ll have to wait and see about that one!TFW – Over the last few years the Transformers Collector’s Club have had a booth at Auto Assembly. Will they be returning this year?
AA – Yeah, they’re back again sharing space with Big D’s Toy Chest which makes it affordable for them to have a presence over here with us and still have club toys on sale.TFW – In the past couple of years, Hasbro UK has also had a presence at Auto Assembly. Will they be returning this year? Also do you think it might be possible for them to bring a case or three of the latest toys on the shelves?
AA – Hasbro won’t have a physical presence this year because they appreciate that fans are now aware of all the new toy lines that are going to be available during 2010 and there was little point in showcasing what people have either seen or have possibly bought.
They are going to be involved in a number of ways though including donating a number of competition and raffle prizes and they have asked us to compile some questions for us to put to them that they will answer for our attendees so if there’s anything you want to put to Hasbro, email them in to us ASAP!
(Please visit Auto Assembly’s homepage and use the “contact us” link to send in questions – TFW)
AA – From the committee side of things, it would have to be my wife, Trish. She has stood beside me 100% with Auto Assembly even when things have been tough and this year she has been doing an incredible amount of work. In the last couple of months she has produced almost 1,000 keyrings, about 500 passes AND has packaged all the passes up and sorted them all out for mailing to everyone – no easy task and yet she’s done it without complaining and with a smile on her face.
I can’t praise the rest of my committee enough either. None of them are getting paid for their work and they are helping me to pull off what is going to be a massive weekend and we have all literally spent months of time getting everything ready and won’t have much time to enjoy the convention when it actually happens.TFW – I know at one point you ran a Star Trek convention which was reported cancelled by the fansites mere weeks before it was due to happen.
AA – With our Star Trek convention in 1996 (Delta Quadrant), we don’t know why but we were hit with what can only be described as quite an aggressive hate campaign against us. Rumours spread that the convention had been cancelled, dealers didn’t turn up because they thought that it wasn’t going ahead, and even members of a large local Star Trek club boycotted the convention in their droves. It decimated our attendance figures and we lost thousands of pounds in the process. Star Trek fandom back then seemed to be very enclosed and as a newcomer on the block to conventions I think some wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to be around for long.TFW – I’m sorry to hear that! That can’t have been very encouraging. I hope those of us in the Transformers fandom have been kinder to you!
AA – I’ve found it to be completely different. A lot friendlier, and with fans always willing to help each other out and a lot more welcoming. Just before AA2000 I wasn’t really a fan but people there were still warm and friendly towards me, and it was that attitude that drew me into TF fandom pretty quickly.
Then – as most people who know me already know – Beast Wars as a TV series sucked me into Transformers generally and converted me into being a fan and the rest, as they say, is history!TFW – Last year you were announcing guests right up to the last minute. Can we expect the same with Auto Assembly 2010?
AA – Yes! We’ve just confirmed our two latest guests literally within the last couple of hours of me doing this interview with you so this news is hot off the presses! We are pleased to announce that we are being joined by Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster, authors of the Allspark Almanac, making their UK convention debut with us! They’ll both be signing autographs during the weekend and taking to the stage on the Sunday for a presentation and Q&A panel so if you’re a Transformers: Animated fan, Sunday is going to have a fantastic panel lineup already playing host to Derrick J Wyatt’s talk earlier in the day!
I do want to extend a very special thanks to Steve and David Mapes from Transformers At The Moon for making this possible and for sponsoring Jim and Bill’s appearance.
We are still in talks with more so don’t think that this is the last of our guest line-up…TFW – Lastly, do you have any advice to anyone who is thinking about starting up a convention of their own?
AA – Don’t! Seriously, it’s a lot of hard work and I wouldn’t even consider it unless you have the full backing and support of your family as running conventions can be a real marriage-wrecker. I don’t want to sound negative, but Auto Assembly has almost cost me my marriage on a few occasions when it has become really stressful, but I know that I have got the support of my wife and daughter 100% but if I didn’t then I’d stop straight away.
Once you know you have that, make sure you have a good solid team around you but don’t rely on one person to do a specific task – make sure your committee can multitask so you’re prepared for the worst incase any of your team have to drop out.
The big thing obviously is budget though – be realistic from the start and don’t aim to large. Think small, keep your costs down and let your event grow at a pace you can handle!
Currently working on the upcoming third Transformers movie, Mark Ryan recently took some time to answer questions for TFW2005. Mark Ryan is best known as the voices of Bumblebee and Jetfire in the 2007 and 2009 Transformers movies, but was also active as an on-set voice for many of the CGI characters during filming. In our interview, Mr. Ryan talks about his work on the Transformers franchise, his comic series with IDW, and more!
TFW: What led to you being brought on as the on-set voice for the first TF movie? Was there a special attraction to the characters you voiced or to the Transformers property in general?Mark Ryan: I was originally hired to be the presence and the voice of all of the Transformers on the set. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m now on my third one! In the beginning I was there to help the actors visualize the robots so they can get the best out of their dialogue by bouncing it off another live actor. This also means reacting to script changes and improvisations that are made during a take. You have to try and tune into the rhythm and pace of the delivery and place the robot lines accordingly, while trying not to screw up their performance! The camera’s on them and they’re the focus. But this process also serves to try out new voices that might be used later in the production.
TFW: Can you tell us about what you did as the on-set voice? How did you fit in with the rehearsals and filming? Were lines for Jetfire recorded at the same time as the “live” cast members, or added in post-production, as with the other CGI characters? Were the recording sessions done one actor at a time, or all together, simultaneously?Ryan: Because of the confidentiality surrounding Transformers productions I usually don’t get the lines until I arrive on the set, but with Jetfire there was so much dialogue that I recorded quite a chunk of it very early on during production, so that Scott Farrar and the ILM/CGI team could get to work early and start rendering the scenes. During filming, one of the places we filmed was Edwards AFB. I did spend some time on the set there being Optimus, and various other characters during filming, but Jetfire’s final character and vocal style was developed later, mainly in post production with Michael Bay in Los Angeles. These post V/O sessions are individual sessions with Mike directing and it’s actually the most fun, I think. The pressure is off and you have a little more time to experiment and play with the character. I was also lucky enough to work with Alex Kurtzman who asked me to improvise the odd slang British phrases I’d thrown in, so they stayed in the final cut. I’m very proud of that!
TFW: Did your voicing of the characters on set at any times differ dramatically from how the lines were delivered in the final cut? If so, can you think of any reasons why this occurred? Were there any lines you rehearsed that were not used, or any scenes you recall that were cut from the final release of the films?Ryan: There were many lines for Jetfire that were rewritten or tested before the final edit was made, but the only lines I recall that I really liked that we recorded that didn’t make the final cut were the Bumblebee lines in the ROTF teaser trailer: “What is your purpose Sam?” I thought they showed a growing and deeper comprehension of the nature of humanity by the alien Autobots and the growing personal relationship between Sam and Bumblebee.
TFW: Jetfire was a big opportunity for you to show off your vocal talents, so how did you choose to approach the character? What led to you getting the role? How do you feel about the character and how he turned out?Ryan: The vocal approach I used for Jetfire (in that early stage) must have stuck in Michael’s head. We went back in several times after principal shooting had wrapped and tried out a lot of dialogue and vocal tones and deliveries. Michael wanted him crotchety, noble and funny! Like an aging yet chivalrous Knight of the Round Table! When I found out he was going to be an SR71 Blackbird I was really very pleased! I had driven past a Blackbird every night in Balboa Park while working at The Globe Theater in San Diego some years ago. I used to drive up to it and just marvel at the design and the elegance of her lines. This piece of aviation history is still legendary and an awesome bit of kit. I guess that did play into my conscious approach to the character. Eventually Jetfire evolved into the voice you hear now. I actually borrowed the voice from my old mate Ray Winstone and told Michael during the V/O session that’s who it was. He seemed genuinely pleased!
TFW: There’s obviously some tech involved later, but how much instruction do you get on how to deliver the lines for Bumblebee and Jetfire? How much of Jetfire’s dialog was scripted, and how much did they let you ad lib?Ryan: Michael knows what he wants but usually allows quite a bit of improvisation and he’s really good with actors offering up ideas. He does like to capture the physicality of the character in the voice and often will describe in detail how he visualizes the character moving and fighting. You can actually see him doing this with me during the V/O session in the Special Features DVD of ROTF.
TFW: Have you found that people see you or your career differently due to your work on the Transformers franchise? As Bumblebee is a very popular character (especially with female transformers fans), do you find you’re getting more/different attention in this regard?Ryan: I’m met Transformers fans from all over the world; from Hong Kong to Tennessee to Milton Keynes and it’s very humbling to be a part of such a massive, worldwide family. Bumblebee is such a huge fan favorite with the kids that you can’t help but feel connected to the character and the effect he’s had on the international appeal of the franchise. I enjoy talking with the fans and often get told off at conventions for talking too long to folks who are asking for autographs. I just think it’s part of the job and the least I can do. Jetfire is also pretty huge and I’ve actually had a lady stop me in a store and say: “You sound exactly like that black jet in Transformers!” It’s still pretty weird but I’ve been very lucky in my career to be associated with several great characters in other projects that have gained their own following. So I’m very grateful for the opportunity to talk to Transformers fans and get their feedback.
TFW: Can you tell us anything about what’s happening with TF3? What do you see yourself doing in Transformers 3? Will you be continuing as the on-set voice? What would you like to be doing?Ryan: I am back onset and doing the voices again. There are several new robots, which I’ve played during filming but I can’t give details for obvious reasons. I do feel the storyline for TF3 is the most intriguing one in the series, so far. It’s an area I’m personally very interested in and find the history fascinating. Anyone who’s read The Pilgrim will know about these associated subjects. Having spent a part of my life in the military and in the more esoteric areas of intelligence work myself, I find the back-story for this one to be really cool. Also, the cast is just amazing! I’ve already worked with Frances McDormand and I was blown away with her good humor and down-to-earth approach to the size and scope of the project. Obviously working with both Shia and Josh is always a real honor and joy and I must give a shout-out to Harry Humphries and his SEAL team boys, who really bring the heat.
TFW: Do you have any memorable stories from the set that you can share with us? Did you feel that in being an on-set voice, your experience differed from the rest of the cast?Ryan: I’ve worked behind the camera a lot, because of the fight coordination, directing and writing I’ve done, so all of that experience comes in when you’re dealing with Special Effects, complex camera moves, editing and the 3D visual process. I feel this also affords a different perspective from that that of the actor standing in front of the lens, as I get to experience and hear a lot more of that than you would otherwise. Because of the nature of the onset mechanics with Michael Bay, I get a pretty unusual glimpse into the visual process going on in his mind. His own site is called: “Shoot For The Edit”, and that is exactly what he’s doing. The actors may not always get to see that complex edited image he’s imagining and building until the final release of the film but there’s no doubt what he’s working toward is highly polished, very technical and precise, and is always visually stunning.
TFW: Aside from acting in Transformers, you’ve done work in many different areas, from direction, editing, and writing, to musical theatre. What draws you to work in so many different areas? How are you able to juggle so many different jobs? Do you have a preferred medium to work in (stage, screen, voiceover work, etc.)? What are some of your favorite aspects of doing such varied work? Are there any disadvantages, or things you wish you could change about the different mediums?Ryan: It’s all part of the creative process to me. I’ve been as excited and satisfied to see Mads Mikkelson and Stellan Skarsgard performing a grueling fight I’ve choreographed as standing on the stage myself during the premier of Evita, or performing Monty Python at Carnegie Hall with Eric Idle. It’s all derived from the same source. I also get just as excited seeing Mike Grell’s artwork for The Pilgrim or Will Worthington’s for The Wildwood Tarot! The real magic is in making the intangible idea, the creative impulse manifest and live in our reality. I’ve been very lucky with that apect of the business, especially with Nasir and Robin of Sherwood. There’s this great Einstein quote: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” This business is all about imagination.
TFW: Recently, you worked on the comic series “The Pilgrim”. What drew you to try your hand at writing comics, and in particular, a story about paranormal activity during WW2?Ryan: I’m really very happy IDW are supporting and publishing the project this summer. It looks really great and Chris Ryall and his team are really good guys! Mike Grell and I are old friends and worked together on the 50th Anniversary Issue of Green Arrow for DC but we’ve developed a few other concepts together in the past. In fact we’ve consulted quite a bit over the years and if you look carefully, Mike often places his pals in his artwork. I think I’ve made it into a couple of his graphic novels, including “Ryan James” in Maggie The Cat! We became friends when I was a guest at a Fan Convention in Seattle many years ago with Ray Winstone and Mike Pread. Over the years we’ve ridden horses and snow camped in the Cascade Mountains, loosed arrows and drained damp glasses together and sat around tables with an odd and eclectic cast of shady characters from all walks of life, telling tall tales.
The Pilgrim however is something I’ve been working on for a long time and I’m really happy Mike and I can work together again on this project. It’s a dark psychic thriller based on historical events and characters. But imagine an entity created of pure mental energy. It can materialize anywhere and perform functions of espionage or assassination, leaving no trace. It knows no boundaries or limits. It feels neither guilt nor pain. It has no memory, no mercy and no fingerprints. It’s the perfect clandestine operator. Deniable, discreet and without a mind of it’s own. Until one day it remembers. It’s based on a legendary occult and scientific theory about The Zero Point Field and contact with extra-dimensional intelligences, not all of whom have humanity’s best interests at heart. We also delve into the occult history of the Nazi “Bell” and anti-gravity propulsion systems and mind control.
TFW: What do you hope that you’ll be most remembered for?Ryan: Gosh! I guess, as a brick-layers son from Yorkshire, who left school at 15, I hope to be remembered for simply trying. Even if the chances of success seemed impossible and the odds, insurmountable. I’m also fiercely proud of all the work I’ve done and loyal to the people I’ve worked with. I’ve never looked back with regret and said: “That wasn’t so good, or that could have been better.” I’ve usually felt I gave everything the best I could give at the time, with what was available and the time allowed. If I wasn’t going to approach every project that way, then I shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place! You can’t please everyone but I’ve always felt you cannot ultimately lose if you give everything you try 110%. You’ll always learn something useful, even from a failure that can be applied to the next challenge or project. Life is a learning process and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done and the people I’ve worked with. That hasn’t changed with Transformers 1&2 and neither will change with TF3…Which is going to be massive!
We recently had the unique opportunity for you, the fans, to address your questions or concerns about the Transformers comics to IDW Publishing’s Andy Schmidt, editor for the Transformers comic books. Andy has very kindly answered all of your questions, and you can check out his responses below. Of particular note is that we can confirm that the Transformers Spotlight series of one shots will be making a come back in April 2010 with Transformers Spotlight Prowl!Continuity
I’m sure you have been asked this many times in person(although in much harsher words than what I will use) but could you please explain why there are so many blatant errors in “The Transformers Continuum: The Definitive Chronology”? Also, Thank you for giving up your time to answer these questions posed to you by the fans, as it is appreciated greatly.
So, trying to cram 75-plus issues of continuity into 28 pages of recap is not an easy thing to do. And not all the information is really necessary to get into the ongoing. So, I chose to essentially ignore a few things—The Machination being the most debated, I think. I combined it with Skywatch for the purposes of the recap. I know that we’re not bringing them up again for a good while. And it seemed like just one more element to throw at a new reader in an already complex portion of the CONTINUUM.
That said, as fans, you should realize two things—CONTIUUM does not trump the individual issues. It rewrites nothing. The books are the books. They are what count. And when/if The Machination returns in the ongoing series or in a mini-series, they will be revealed in such a way as to introduce them properly to any new readers.
I was a little surprised to see so many core fans reading CONTINUUM when we were open that it wasn’t intended for the core fans, but it was intended for the fringe fan looking to get back into TRANSFORMERS. And while the core fans seem to have hated CONTINUUM (which does not surprise me) it is the fringe fans that seem to have enjoyed it. The feedback we’ve gotten from retailers was that it was a really useful sales tool and that people not already reading TRANSFORMERS were glad to have it, enjoyed it, and it got them excited for TRANSFORMERS #1. And honestly, that was really the goal.
What happen with Continuum ?
Are stuff like machination and skywatch being the same are regarded as canon or mistakes on IDW end ?AS: Consider the third option, Cyclonus86! We did it on purpose and it still doesn’t make it canon! See above again for the full explanation.
Will IDW release a more accurate, detailed and definitive continuum in the future?AS: Maybe. I wouldn’t rule it out. The funny thing about the label “The Definitive Collection” is that it was thrown on the day the book went to the printer. There was dead space at the bottom of the cover where we had intended to put several different cover elements, but they didn’t really work there, so we moved them all to the back cover. Then Chris Mowry suggested throwing in the label on the cover, and Denton and I had to admit it looked better…
Why has IDW made the decision to re-write the G1 story in such a backwards way, having no regard or respect to the mythology and background that has already been laid?
Dreamwave presented the G1 story as it originally was, and expanded on the original story with positive backstories (such as War Within) that enriched the mythology. They expanded, yet did so in a way that the original Marvel comic and cartoon still had relevence, even going so far as to connect arcs and hints laid in the original work. Please forgive me for seeming completely negative, but I believe all of the “mini-series”, such as Devestation, leading up to this “ongoing #1” to be a extremely divergent mess. Taking G1 characters and writing backgrounds and stories for them that are completely 180 degrees from their original origins is a horrible idea imo.
You don’t fix what isn’t broken.
Why not expand on themes and stories already set in motion by Dreamwaves’ G1-verse? BTW, I do want to say that, besides the way the new art style draws the faces, the design of the bodies is pretty cool.AS: Optomitron, without any clear examples, I’m not sure what you mean by rewriting G1 continuity in a backwards way. I honestly don’t know how to address that since it seems to make sense to me as is.
I don’t think the characters have been mis-handled. Optimus seems like Optimus to me. Megatron seems like Megatron to me. I don’t think making alterations to back-story really destroys a character. I think it’s necessary in fiction quite often. All the big guys seem like all the big guys to me.
About Dreamwave, there were many poor decisions made on the business side of things at the end of Dreamwave’s run on the book making it virtually impossible for us to legally pick up any of their storylines. Sad but true. I have looked into it personally.
If you did a Transformers / GI Joe crossover, would it be in continuity with the main series or outside the main continuity?
Does LAST STAND OF THE WRECKERS have something to do with Revelation?AS: Not a whole lot, no.
Do want to make connections with Beast Wars and Beast Machines, or have you got a project in mind for them?
AS: We’re just limited in terms of staffing resources and the number of titles we can produce. For the time being, we’re focusing most of our attention on the G1 characters in the current universe. We’re also doing about one movie-universe book a month.
I don’t rule out revisiting other incarnations or even bringing them into the fold in the current universe, but we don’t currently have any plans for it either.
Will this new series delve into the ancient mythology of this universe’s Transformers. Are there any plans to deal with the first 13?AS: Not right away, but Cybertronian back-story will become increasingly important as we move forward.
No plans for a 13 comic at this time.Characters
hurm okies this goes to any of you willing to answer this. i guess only one thing i was wondering… for the coveres of the next #2 issue i see Prowl, Redalert, Hotrod, & Mirage considered for the next leader… but why is Jazz not considered… the only reason i ask is because wasnt he in charge back on Cybertron with Ironhide? Prowl seemed to be under his comand sorry if im reading that wrong i realy am curious whats happened to him!
will we see bumblebee or goldbug as the vw beatle?
Is Megatron going to return and will Optimus eventually be leader again.
BTW First issue was great
I’d just say, don’t expect either of those things right away, Bumblebot. And thanks for the compliment on the first issue. Mike and Don did amazing work on it.
Is there any plans to bring back any characters thast have and will be killed off?
Will the humans be the main threat, or will there be other threats that play a big part?AS: Maybe and no, humans are not the main threat.
Will we see more original IDW characters being introduced? Will we see characters from other transformers continuities being introduced into this one?
Seeing as we have Overlord in the new Wreckers comic, can we expect to see other Japanese-only TF (Star Saber, LeoZak etc) in future comic issues?
-Will Skywatch get a character like Circuit Breaker (if not her per say but a homage to her Marvel self)?
-Are any humans on the Autobot side? Are have the Autobots lost a traditonal ally once and for all?AS: That remains to be seen. But a definite maybe.
-Will Thundercracker return from Skywarp’s attack? Will any Decepticons appaer to be a main threat?AS: Thundercracker returns in TRANSFORMERS #4! Boo-yah! All Decepticons are threats! But yes, you’ll see more and more of them.
-Will the Dinobots/ Arielbots,/ Protectobots/ Predacons appear?AS: That would be nice. My nephews love the Dinobots and I have to keep them happy!
-Any plans to have Simon Furman finish any loose ends from his -ation series
AS: Rattrap Primal, I think he wrapped it all up pretty nicely. If you’re asking about the Magnificence in particular, then no, not at this time.
Why was Ironhide killed?
Where are the special teams like the Aerial Bots, Dinobots etc…
Will the characters be portrayed in the correct manner?
Good question. I haven’t seen them lately. Maybe they’re right in front of you, only in disguise…
Yes…? I’m not really sure what you’re asking without having some reference point for what you think is “correct manner.” If you’re asking if they’ll never change and always be exactly as they are and predictable, then the answer is no. If you’re asking if they’re going to grow and evolve, then the answer is yes.
I’m a big fan of All Hail Megatron and the Spotlights-ation series. Like the new direction, not sure about the character designs, but I’ll get used to it.
Where is Omega Supreme? Did he split Earth and leave the others to fend for themselves?AS: Read TRANSFORMERS: BUMBLEBEE.
Can we please not have Starscream get killed ever? Pretty sick of that happening!AS: Considering he’s Mike Costa’s favourite character, that request seems doable.
Will you use Japanese characters in the universe? Will the stories or characters of the Japanese shows Transformers Victory and Transfomers Zone be connected or incorporated?
Will we see any more from subgroups such as HEADMASTERS, MICROMASTERS..?AS: No plans, rauprime, for any of that at this time. Again, I wouldn’t rule it out down the line, but we’re focusing on a smaller cast for the time being. But we’ll probably get there. Artwork
First, thank you for taking the time to interact and respond to the fans…
Why did you change everyones faces to look more like the movie verse? Part of enjoying the G1-Verse is relating to those characters. People enjoy the movie-verse because it is new and different. Once you start to meld the two together you loose part of the fan base (my opinion). I do not mind the vehicle upgrades but I honestly cannot stand the new faces. Will you pleace change them back to those they we know and hold dear?
ThanksAS: mrduce1018, no problem, happy to take questions. Don decided to try something different with the characters. You’ll notice that they do not look the same in all the different books. We’ve decided to use the launch of the ongoing series as a place to actually stop forcing artists to draw in certain ways. It’s our feeling that the artists should be allowed to create and to interpret the characters in different ways. This is how Don chose to draw them for the opening arc.
I don’t think they look at all like the movie characters since I’ve seen the movies and I still can’t tell most of them apart and in the TRANSFORMERS book, they all retain their original G1 iconic color schemes and characteristics—Bumblebee’s horns, Ratchet’s chevron on his head, Ironhide’s windshield chest and bright red color scheme, etc.
Most of the other artists are doing interpretations much closer to the original American cartoon.
Why was the decision made to not only radiclly alter the character designs, but to also Retro-activly redesign the characters as they previously appeared in flashback?
AS: See the answer above, Kaijumaster. Artistic interpretation. That’s all. No big dark secret, no conspiracy, just letting artists do what they do.
Sorry if this is waaaay repetitive. Why is it that the artwork is changing so much mid-continuity? I would understand if this were you guy’s first TF book or if everyone hated the art before (it was awesome, by the way). I’m not in the “IDW has once and forever ruined everything holy and good” camp of bitchy fan overreaction, but I’m not a big fan of how the new faces look.
Thanks for what you guys do, and new faces or not, I’ll be waiting for the new issues.
Can we expect to see Nightbeat’s story continue in this series? His death was very out-of-the-blue and awkward, and Simon Furman had said on his blog last year that that part of the story had had to be shortened and that more on it would be forthcoming.
Simple question I’m sure the answer is probably known to, but will the Movie style continue throughout the series? I really happen to like it.
And while I somewhat agree with the complaints about the faces, I just want to ask if the faces will be more defined yet still movie style in next issues? The one panel where Rodimus was all “=O!!” it took me a second look to figure out his mouth was open.AS: That’s up to Don. He likes what he’s doing, so I’d expect it to continue as long as he’s the artist. That said, other artists are doing their own interpretations. I’m not forcing Don’s style on them any more than I’m forcing their style onto Don. But yeah, I talked with Don about the faces a couple of weeks ago and he’s still refining them.
Why did you give the Transformers a movieverse look instead of using the Classics and G1 style from All Hail Megatron? As I read through these questions it seems that the change in the look of the Transformers is an unpopular one and if it proves to be unpopular enough will you change back to a more familar look?
Are there any plans to use the Don Figueroa concept art from before the launch (Jetfire Optimus and Bumblebee)?
AS: They’re on sketch covers! Those designs (if they’re the ones I think you’re referring to) were development interpretations. They were adjusted after talking with Don, so no, not in those forms exactly.
Can you give us an estimate on if/when we can expect the Spotlight series to resume? Can you give us any detail to why it was put on hiatus?
Spotlights – More of them? Please?
Thanks for the large amount of communication with “us the fans.” Even when we’re complaining about stuff, we’re always appreciative when our personal dedication/addiction gets taken seriously. (As are most people, really.)AS: See above for SPOTLIGHTS. Happy to take the questions. You guys have been great through the launch of the ongoing series and your feedback is always appreciated.
Beast Wars, Beast Machines, TransTech, Animated comics? Any plans?
Will we see more Beast Wars at all, even if it was a few spotlights?
Any plans to tell more Pre-Earth/Cybertron stories, like the origin of Optimus Prime and the Great War?
Oh and bring back Minerva!AS: There are plans—May is our first pre-Earth story in a while, I think. No plans on Minerva, KAGE.
Since you have republished Dreamwave’s Armada/Energon series, will you be letting Furman finish what he started with Energon and move into Cybertron?
Will Furman write anymore stories for the main transformers continuity?
Will there be any new sotlights (besides the Bumblebee mini-seies)? There are so many cool possiblities for Ratchet, Skywarp, Starscream, and Sandstorm (where’s he been)?
Will you launch the TF comics in countries like Brazil Spain and in other languages?
Will any elements of the planned Expansion story be used to explain events before All Hail Megatron or for future stories?AS: Probably not. That feels like looking backwards to me. And on top of that, I don’t think all that much needs much explaining at this point.
Are there any ideas for a Transformers “Crisis on Infinite Earths”?AS: Actually, yes. But I don’t think it’ll happen. Just seems really convoluted and unnecessary. As much of a “Crisis” fan as I am, looking back on it with hindsight, it seems like it wasn’t a great idea to do in the first place. But, yeah, we have kind of talked about something like that… kinda…
Are there any plans for Simon Furman to return to the series or a side project?AS: Yep. Simon’s always in the mix. His TRANSFORMERS: NEFARIOUS book launches in March, I believe!
Where does IDW stand with G1, Energon and other Dreamwave comics?AS: We don’t. As stated above, it’s just not in our hands. Other Topics
1) Does Hasbro uses IDW as their marketing wagon, like they did during the marvel era?
2) If they haven’t, is ther any plan to make the IDW version of the characters in toy form?AS: Not that I know of but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility.
Thanks for answering our questions Andy. Here are a few of my own.
Where do you see the comic line a year from now, if all goes according to plan? What’s the backup plan?AS: I see it in comic shops everywhere! If all goes according to plan and in an ideal world you’ll be getting between two and three IDW continuity books a month and one movie-universe book a month. I’d also like to do more specials and stand alones. SPOTLIGHT: PROWL is the first of these and it’s tied to the ongoing series quite closely.
I don’t have a backup plan. The plan we have in place has enough wiggle room in it that we’ll do any course correcting as we go. As creators, Mike, Don, Guido, and everyone else are always tweaking things on an ongoing basis, looking for ways to improve their storytelling and connect with the fans.
What are some of the larger themes you want to tackle with the Transformers brand over the next year and beyond?AS: I’m a huge science fiction fan, personally. And I’m interested in some pretty cerebral topics. While some of them might filter in a bit, the focus is going to be on what it means to be a TRANSFORMERS being. We’re going to deal with what death is to TRANSFORMERS—it may surprise you—or it may not. But our central theme is “transformation” and that theme is in every story to one degree or another.
As an editor, it’s not for me to push my interests onto the creators. I’m interested in what their themes and stories are. If I were the writer, I’d want the same respect from my editor and we’d go in a different direction. But I’m not the writer and I’m comfortable with that.
I know that doesn’t really answer your question, but I hope there’s enough meat in there for you.
What have you learned from All Hail Megatron? What would you have done differently?
AS: That’s a bit loaded. As a rule, I don’t like to speak negatively of other people’s work, so I won’t go into what I would have done differently. That’s simply not fair to the creators and editors who generated that story as I have a huge advantage of hindsight. I will say that I think ALL HAIL MEGATRON was extremely successful at a number of things—the most important of which was kicking TRANSFORMERS comics in the pants and forcing folks to take notice!
What have you learned from Furman’s run with the -ation series? What would you have done differently?
Thanks!AS: Simon managed to build an intergalactic mystery in a really interesting way. He’s extremely talented at building questions upon questions upon riddles. As a fan (as I was just reading as the books came out), I just always wanted my answers! Ha ha. But it’s clear after that storyline that we can build larger stories in the TRANSFORMERS universe.
As many have stated, thanks for answering these questions Andy.
There was once a Marvel crossover with IDW TFs. While I didn’t enjoy the concept (the Marvel characters were unconvincing), I think there would be fertile ground for another crossover using Death’s Head since he has time / dimension jumped before. This could allow for a reunion of sorts involving Circuitbreaker, the Neo Knights, and possibly G.B. Blackrock also.
So, my question is, could another deal be struck with Marvel for another IDW / Marvel TF Crossover using the above legacy characters? These characters make perfect sense plot-wise, and would be interesting to re-imagine them with the new TFs.AS: I’m personally not all that interested in doing another crossover like that one. And honestly, I’m not sure that crossover would expose TRANSFORMERS characters and stories to a wider audience – which when crossovers do happen, that is a key goal. It’s unlikely that another crossover would happen again in the foreseeable future.
What plans has IDW made to widen the reading audience with comic books besides sales in comic book specialty shops? (such as retail stores like Target and Walmart)
What are some future plans regarding collections such as the current Marvel run on Transformers?
Thanks for all you do!AS: We’ve gotten a lot of major media coverage lately. We’ve been in USA Today and on late night talk shows; the publicity has been great. Target,K-Mart and the like are selling the books so we’re already doing those things, I think.
About collections, we’re going to finish the Marvel run, I think and then there’s not a whole lot more of older stories to collect. We are looking into reprinting the Marvel UK books in a new format that I think is pretty exciting, but that’s still early stages yet.
What was the reasoning behind revealing a big spoiler from Ongoing #1 in the press release? I hadn’t managed to find the issue anywhere and then got confronted by the spoiler without any warning. It’s put me a little off going to find the issue knowing that was going to happen plot wise.
Is the Wreckers series going to be drawn in the older IDW style or in the style as seen in the ongoing series. I hope it’s the former as I am far from convinced that the Ongoing style can convincingly portray emotion as well as the liquid metal look.AS: I guess the answer to your first question, Storm, is that that is what press releases do—they have to say something in order to have an effect. The press release went out after the book was on sale and after the news had broken in mainstream media. The press releases are really geared for retailers—but I can’t stop the news from spreading. And honestly, even if I could, I probably wouldn’t—that news got a lot—a LOT—of big attention and drove people to stores to find out what was up with Optimus Prime.
On your second question, Nick is drawing in Nick’s regular style. There is no IDW style to speak of—we’re letting the artists do their thing!
I think that’s a wrap! Thank you all very much for your questions and suggestions (some implied) and really, thanks for reading and caring as much as I do. We’re doing everything we can to get the word out about TRANSFORMERS and present a diverse line of TRANSFORMERS comics. Thanks for sticking with us. I think you’ll be rewarded for your time and trouble!
And thanks to Sol Fury at TFW2005 for setting this all up! We should do it again in a couple of months and see how you guys are feeling then!
Disclaimer: The original of this interview was published in Generations 2009 Vol.3.
This translation is provided solely to help non-Japanese fans who are unable to read this insightful interview in the book they purchased. Hope you ‘ll enjoy 🙂
Revisions by Sol Fury, who is always there to help and never says a harsh word on my Engrish 😀 Thank you!!
Hasui: We were informed that there would be sequels during the development of the first movie merchandise. Also, the fans’ reaction to the first movie line gave us confidence that we were more than capable. At the presentation, we suggested the ideal future merchandise and discussed how we could expect a new wave of customers, and the products would likely be supported by wider range of age groups. Transformers as a character brand is changing now, and we put our ideas together as to how the toys should be and how they could be marketed.– What was the very early stage of the product development like?
Hasui: We didn’t know anything about the characters or when the movie was to be released. We tentatively started with the data from the first movie, and more or less guessed how the next ones would be like.
Yuki: The robot designs in the first movie surprised us, but it wasn’t very difficult to imagine the new designs since we had already been through (the first movie designs). Having said that, it was expected to be a while until we would receive information about the movie, so we started with a new gimmick to replace “Automorph”.
Yuki: They didn’t surprise me that much. I just thought, “So, that’s how you want it this time?” (*laugh)
Hasui: I did think they would be a pain to make toys of. I also feared their robot mode might be seen as staying in a half-transformed state. I tried to emphasize their body frame as a life form even though some of them were not close to humans in shape.
Yuki: With the first movie products, one of our regrets was that the characters could be indistinguishable. Apparently the creators of the movie felt the same way themselves, and this time the characters are quite varied with more car robots on both sides, the Constructicons and such.
Hasui: Firstly, every member of the staff was to understand the concept of “Mech-Alive”, after that it is up to each designer to work on his project. One designer generally is responsible of one product from the start to the completion. This time we also had to come up with the (“Mech-Alive”) gimmick on top of the usual vehicle to robot transformation, which is already enough of a challenge. Each member struggles with his project on his own until it takes up the form of a product.
Yuki: The final check (of a product) is conducted by the all staff members. We discuss each product to see if there are any flaws. The purpose of these discussions is to even out the quality level of the products, but we still can’t eliminate our individual style. (*laugh)
Hasui: Some products focus on “Mech-Alive” gimmicks while the others have the strength in their weapons. Each product has a different balance.
Yuki: At the beginning of development, the designer adds as many gimmicks as he can think of, then less important ones get omitted one by one to reduce the cost. All products start off quite extravagant. As for the movie products, the character designs always come first, and it is important to think of the way to reflect those images to the toys. The result differs depending on the character and the staff member in charge. It is an interesting part of the job.
Hasui: At first, we suggested the gimmicks which would be relevant to the story, and next we tried to contrive something that could be unique to the movie merchandise like “Automorph” was to the first movie. Eventually we decided on “Mech-Alive”. I came up with the concept while watching the first movie on DVD and noticed how one part of the robot moves in conjunction with the other. But the gimmick is hard to appeal visually by package photos and such, and finding a better way to show off is our future task. True to “More Than Meets The Eye” catch phrase, some aspects of Transformers products are always impossible to convey to the customers until they are actually handled.
Yuki: I do hear comments such as, “I never fully appreciated it until I had it in my hand”. I think that is the appeal of Transformers, but I can see how it can be a problem when it comes to marketing. (*laugh) It is often not easy to show the appeals of these products, and that is why I’m very appreciative of the on-screen images of the characters in action, because I know the toys will not fail to impress when actually handled (with those on-screen actions in mind). Also, many fans can read news from internet, hobby magazines and such as soon as it is out nowadays, but (Transformers products) can be very surprising, more so to those who collects early information. There is certain appeal to Transformers that you can’t recognize until you actually play with them.
Hasui: As a new recruit to the company (Takara), I couldn’t figure out why so much time and effort were put into Transformers toys when the results weren’t even apparent. (*laugh) But having observed how everyone at the development team was always eager to introduce new type of fun (to the products) and I gradually understood that strong sense of enjoyment was essential to Transformers. I now know without it Transformers would be mere form-shifting toys, and always remind myself never to disregard it.
– Some gimmicks are similar to the first movie’s “Automorph” mechanism, such as how Sideways’ front wheels are stored inside.
Mechanism test models to show the concept of the feature.
Yuki: I wanted to leave some sort of “Automorphing” as the movie toys have complicated transformations. I also thought casual fans would be impressed with the gimmick.
Hasui: Our theme for this line is the expression of the characteristics by “Mech-Alive” and the weapons. For example, to emphasize Sideswipe’s ability as a fast runner, his “Mech-Alive” gimmick was decided to go in his knees. “Mech-Alive” came first for some of the “Revenge” products, while for some others transformation structure was developed first.
“Meager information, strict restriction”– How did you come up with the Transformers that are not in the movie?
Hasui: We discussed and decided on those toy-only Transformers with Hasbro. Some of the scout class characters such as Ransack who have no appearance in the movie in fact had their roles considered at the early stage of developing a plot, and Depthcharge even had his character design drawn up. We were told Jolt wouldn’t be in the movie initially and discontinued his toy development.
Yuki: Then we saw his vehicle in a still image taken during the production, and hurriedly went back to working on him!
Yuki: Generally it took quite a long time until details of the movie became available to us, but Hasbro also provided us with some information. For example, we knew “the Twins” would be just that as it was their code name since the beginning. I was considering the possibility of symmetrical combination, but was told they would combine not as a robot but as a vehicle, which was Ice Cream Truck.
Hasui: In addition to the verbally relayed information from Hasbro, we were shown several concept sketches. One of them was of Sideswipe running on the wheels on his feet like an ice skater, and it helped us to visualize his actions in the movie. Wheelie was yelping with his foot caught in a rat trap in another drawing. (*laugh) We also heard at an early stage that Sideways was to be sliced in half by Sideswipe, but didn’t know that he would remain in vehicle mode! I somehow assumed those two would have a history and expected to hear some dialogues about grudges held over years or about avenging family members…
Yuki: He went out rather uneventfully. (*laugh) The Fallen was also different from our expectations. I thought he would be the one to emerge from the pyramid, but surprisingly he was somewhere completely different. Also, I never imagined him to be such an old fellow! All we knew about the Fallen was that his vehicle mode would not appear, and we weren’t even clear about what sort of role he was meant to play. Hearing of the title “Revenge of the Fallen” did not help much because we couldn’t guess who the Fallen had a grudge against and how he would show it. It was also due to our uncertainty as to how much of G1 influence would be there.
Hasui: Some important factors of the original have been introduced this time, such as Matrix and Space Bridge.
Yuki: The original Jetfire was also found dormant in the ice; I was impressed with the way they implied the movie Jetfire was not the same character as G1 Jetfire, but at the same time not completely a different one.
Hasui: Starscream was acting like Starscream. He didn’t become a traitor, though!
– It must have been challenging to contrive the Optimus and Jetfire combination as their design style is different from previous series?
”Devastator” concept model by Mr.Hasui. It was presented to the movie staff through Hasbro.
Hasui: I remember the staff member in charge of those, Kunihiro (Takashi,) was just looking paralyzed. (*laugh)
Yuki: When I saw Jetfire’s design, I was surprised, too (*laugh) A illustration of his combined mode with Optimus was sent to us later, and the products were updated accordingly. Kunihiro said the most difficult part was to reserve the space for the electronics. He said, “I can manage the realization of the CGI design, but creating the physical space for the batteries or the speaker is not manageable.” It would make our job easier if the batteries could transform to a smaller size! There are other restrictions, for example, the switch has to be placed on the front side because of “TRY ME!” packaging.
Hasui: “TRY ME!” switch needs to be pressed easily with one finger, and for the sound to be heard clearly, the speaker cannot be on the back. Also, we can’t include a transformation which involves twisting the parts which contain the wires inside as it might sever them. With such elimination, a transformation process for a leader class is more or less decided.
Yuki: Speaking of Jetfire, I think he is rather unusual as SR-71 merchandise. There has never been one in such a large scale except for expensive model kits.
Hasui: In old days, Transformers made such (unfamiliar) vehicles recognizable to many people. I expect something similar this time around. (*laugh) Because of the high cost of oil, economic cars are more popular than big automobiles these days, and I hope people can feel more excited about the cars through Transformers.
Yuki: It would be fun if Camaro sold more thanks to Bumblebee!
In the first movie, only these images (above) are given to design Starscream toy, while in the second more images were supplied (below) to help improving the appearance of the figure.
Drawing used to develop Sideswipe toy by Mr. Hasui.
Supreme Devastator drawing also by Mr.Hasui. Initially he was in charge of this figure, but due to the conflictiong schedule the project was handed over to Mr.Takio Ejima.
“The Birth of a New Product Content”– Tell us about how you came to create Human Alliance series.
Hasui: We went through a great deal of pain for the series. Hasbro initially requested a set consisting of “a vehicle and its driver”, and when I asked if anyone wanted to take this project on among the members of the staff, no one volunteered. (*laugh)
Yuki: Well, we were all busy with the tasks we had already been working on!
Hasui: So I had no choice but to present it myself and I built a sample with Ratchet in a rush. The main idea was that the driver figure sitting in the seat of the vehicle would appear on the shoulder of the robot. The aim was the element of surprise that the vehicle was transformable without taking out the driver figure. I was a big fan of pre-Transformers Diaclone, and I always wanted to make a Transformer with a driver. But I wish it wasn’t for the movie figures (*laugh) Because they are troublesome enough just to contrive vehicle to robot transformations, and now I had to figure out the way to add the figure on top of that. Initially we planned on Bumblebee as the first, then the larger vehicles, Ironhide and Ratchet. Bumblebee is smaller compared to the other two, so it was more difficult to come up with the transformation, but I was encouraged to try my best because he was one of the main mecha. I went as far as adding the console.
Yuki: I took charge of the later products after Bumblebee. I have worked on Binaltechs and I thought I would manage with the know-how I built up. But coming up with a transformation with the driver inside was much more trying than I expected. I had to include a working steering wheel in a Binaltech, but this series was more challenging than that.
Hasui: Complicated transformation like Binaltechs was not allowed either as the series was aimed for a younger generation than for the main line. Also, the common theme of this series was to reflect the bond between the robot and the human. That is why Bumblebee has a visor on/off feature; it is to distinguish the battle situations from the life not at a battle. Then, when we were just about to start with Ratchet and Ironhide…
Yuki: Due to the product size, the lineup was switched to Sideswipe and Skids. Somehow we ended up with smaller cars than Bumblebee, and it was going to be even harder to add gimmicks! I included Arcee in Skids set to adjust the product size. Human Alliance figures are larger than their main line counterparts and I entertained the possibility of realizing more movie accurate transformation, but there also had to be a consideration to how they were meant to be played with and I abandoned the idea.
Hasui: As merchandise, the focus of the series was to be on the vehicle mode and the robot mode only required a passable resemblance. Though I accidentally created a well-made Bumblebee and that must have intimidated Yuki. (*laugh)
Yuki: You never thought of the others that had to follow Bumblebee! Really, it was cruel. (*laugh) Sideswipe has gull wing doors, and I had enough trouble just to make the driver figure sit inside. Though I also had great fun with this series because I could add extras that weren’t possible with a deluxe thanks to their bigger size. Though the deluxe versions have more movie accurate transformation process, as I had to take the driver figure’s position into consideration with this series. Human Alliance is more focused on a play value as a vehicle toy.
Hasui: As of now we are working on several HA figures due out in 2010, and I hope this type of products will become a regular lineup.
– Tell us about Gravity Bots.
HA mechanism prototype built to present the concept of the series. The grey parts are the new parts added to Ratchet figure. There is also a mini bike which is in scale with the driver figure (stored in the vehicle; not shown in the image). The bike becomes the upper arm of the robot.
Hasui: As I mentioned earlier, we are seeking to expand our customer base and have considered various new possibilities. Once the subject was on how we would make Transformers that could be enjoyed by anyone, and I casually said, “What can be easier to do than to stand the vehicle upright?”. We generated several ideas from there and eventually settled with an auto-transformation activated by standing up the vehicle.
Yuki: To be honest, I play with them quite often and find them most enjoyable. There is always one of those on my desk so that I can fiddle with it any time. It is hard to describe the fun with written words though, so I hope the readers of this book will pick one up and actually try it themselves.
Hasui: They are the products most true to “More Than Meets the Eye”.
Yuki: There are also EZ Collection figures that transform neatly despite their small size. This series also features Devastator that manages individual transformation as well as combining. Along with the main line, all products are full of Transformers charm.
“The Future of Transformers”– Which figures left you strong impressions throughout the development of the first and the second movie products?
Yuki: Sideways for me. I had to add the tires on his arms in a big hurry thanks to the sudden design alternation. I went through such a hassle only to see him chopped in half just like that in the movie. (*laugh) Such movie appearance and all that considered, he is the memorable one (#).
Hasui: The ones (#) that didn’t turn out like we wanted to and gave us trouble are more memorable indeed. For me, Barricade from the first movie was just that. The first prototype I made was so awful, and as I amended him again and again, I got more attached to him. (*laugh) This time I put in lots of time and effort on starting up Human Alliance series, so HA Bumblebee is the product that stayed on my mind. Though it was a long time ago now and my memory is getting rather vague. (*laugh)
Yuki: There are so many products in the movie line, and we work on an extremely fast pace. Because of that, we forget about most of them within a year.
Yuki: I was not sure about the first movie because I knew nothing about which characters would be in or what they would be like. The second one had more reference to the original, which gave me a high expectations for the third one. I wonder if there will be more new characters, or if there will be an unexpected turn in the story.
Hasui: I always worry if the characters I created the toys of would play important parts or not. At the same time I look forward to seeing the new characters for the next movie. In “Revenge” I was really hoping to see Starscream doing something important during the absence of Megatron. But Megatron returned much sooner than I expected!
Yuki: I fear there may not be much left to improve Optimus Prime figure for the third movie because the “Revenge” version is such a huge step up from the first movie one. It is not that you can always make a better figure by including more intricate transforming mechanism. We can also try a new approach like we did with Gravity Bots.
Hasui: I would like to try something different again. We came up with “Automorph” for the first movie line, and “Mech-Alive” and combiners for the second, and I should think we are expected to do something even better for the next movie. I will do my best not to dissappoint the customers who will see the movie.
Yuki: Thanks to the movies, the word “Transformers” has become more recognizable. I want to provide good product contents that will attract those new fans. In America, Transformers garner more interest, but there were also many Japanese people who remembered Transformers when the movies came out. The franchise has finally become a brand which bridges 2 generations like we have been hoping. It used to be like, “Convoy’s real name is Optimus Prime”, but now I guess it is more like, “Optimus used to be called Convoy”. I would be really happy if parents and their children could have a conversation like that.
Yuki: In Japan, there are many Transformers lines besides the movie series, such as Device Label. I think Japanese fans are very fortunate. Please try these other series, too. Also, when you will watch “Revenge” on DVD, please take the toys you are collecting now and have fun with them again.
Hasui: Sometimes you don’t notice certain details of a movie until you watch it a few times. Toys can have such details, too. As you play with your toys more, you get to see them better. There are more to them than your first impressions. We always think in the long term of 10 ~ 20 years when we develop a product, and will never cease to do so. I will do my best to relay our enthusiasm to the customers.
Andy Schmidt, IDW Publishing’s senior editor overseeing the Transformers series, recently sat down with us to talk about the upcoming Transformers ongoing series, his history with the franchise and his work in the comics industry as a whole. He also takes some time out to address some of the concerns fans have raised about the artistic direction of the series, assuring us that other artists and styles being used on the Transformers books, and the potential benefits that the shift to an ongoing format will bring with it.
Check out the full interview below, and don’t forget to pick up the first issue of the new ongoing series when it hits comic stores this Wednesday, 18 November.
TFW: First of all, thank you for agreeing to talk to us.
Andy Schmidt: My pleasure, Simon, thanks for giving me the opportunity. You guys run a very cool site.
TFW: How does working on a property like Transformers compare to working on something like Star Trek, GI Joe or Marvel’s Annihilation event? How do you feel your work as an editor has prepared you for this gig?
AS: TRANSFORMERS is hands down the most difficult property I’ve worked on. There’s a combination of factors for this. G.I. JOE recently had the advantage that we were rebooting it when I came on board so I didn’t have 75 plus issues to read and make sense of. Oddly, it’s not as big a deal on the Marvel characters that you read everything because there’s so much of it going back for decades. But for TRANSFORMERS, it was a lot to take in and try to make sense of.
On top of that, TRANSFORMERS fans are extremely precise and passionate, which is great on the one hand, but they are also very critical. And there are two ways to react to that criticism—the first and easiest reaction is to get a huge pit in your stomach as you read how the work you’re putting into something just isn’t any good. It can be paralyzing. But the second, and the one all editors and creators have to remind themselves to do, is to take it in, analyze each criticism and determine how we can use that to make our comics better. And that’s what we’ve been doing.
Comics are an ongoing medium and so they are an ongoing process. Books can always be better, and so we’re always making adjustments and we’re always trying new things.
TFW: Is there a particular buzz involved when you see a comic you worked on out on store shelves and you think to yourself “I made this happen”?
AS: There used to be a huge buzz about that. Now, with the economy the way it is, I’m just hoping that people are reading them and liking them. For the most part, I’ve been very fortunate to work with extremely talented creators who make me look good. Ha ha.
TFW: In terms of the Transformers toy line and series, do you have a particular favourite incarnation or series?
AS: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the original American cartoon. I still have whole episodes memorized. So, that’s kind of a default starting point for me. I also read the entire Marvel run of the comics, but I didn’t love them the way I did the cartoon itself.. I recently got the re-released original OPTIMUS PRIME and he’s a bit clunkier than I remember him—but still just so darn cool! I keep it in my office at work and whenever my two-year-old son comes to the office, that’s what he wants. He just yells, “Truck!” until I give it to him. Then he tries to change it, gets frustrated, and says, “Robot!” and I change him to robot mode. It cracks me up. I see those wheels turning in his head. He knows how cool they are. He’ll be a TRANSFORMERS fan soon, I’m sure.
TFW: Do you have a favourite Transformers character? Will you be pushing for this character to make an appearance in the ongoing if they are not there already?
AS: For no good reason—BLUESTREAK. Actually, it’s because he’s the first one I ever owned, but I can’t point to a great BLUESTREAK story and say this is why YOU should love him, too. But I do also love MEGATRON and OPTIMUS. They’re just awesome. Many others rotate in and out as favorites—at different times I’ve really enjoyed SIDESWIPE, and SUNSTREAKER, GALVATRON, SKYWARP, OMEAGA SUPREME and others…
TFW: Are there any characters you’re looking forward to working with? Any you’re dreading? Why?
AS: I like working with the characters who are under-defined because I enjoy figuring out what makes them unique and showing why they’re cool. I kind of dread working on the ones with large fan-bases for the same reason—they are so well defined in some people’s minds that nothing ever feels like its right to everyone. It often feels like a no-win scenario.
TFW: Does an ongoing series allow for more freedom with storylines and character developments? Are there any particular drawbacks with an ongoing format compared to a miniseries format?
AS: It does allow for more options. For longer character development if that’s needed and shorter stories too. It allows for more variety of storytelling than mini after mini does. We’re not as constrained by the format. So we’ve got some more-or-less stand alone issues coming up after the first arc and before we dive into the next multi-part arc. The only real downside is… well, there’s not much of a downside now that I think about it.
TFW: What can we expect from the new ongoing series that will justify the “jump” to the average comic buyer? How will it appeal to the new reader?
AS: That’s a great question. TRANSFORMERS, and this is true of almost all major comic properties, has a tendency to get wrapped up in itself and so it will at times lose relatability to what I call the casual fan. Our take on the characters is, hopefully, very relatable. We’re dealing with emotions and concerns that are more universal. As much as I enjoyed the “Dark Universe” saga, it isn’t easy to jump into for a new reader. As an editor, I have to split between my own inner fan and my professional best to reach a wider audience in addition to the core fans. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
TFW: What do you feel are the strengths of the franchise, and how do you and IDW intend to capitalize on them?
AS: It’s so widely recognizable and such a simple concept that I think it’s attractive to a lot of people. Cars that turn into robots are cool. A war between two factions—I get it. They’re in disguise and can be anywhere? Awesome. We’re getting back to some of the simpler concepts with the franchise, but have no fear, we’re not ignoring what’s come before nor are we rewriting it. In issue #1 of the ongoing, there are references to both Simon and Shane’s work. If you know of the work, you can pick up on them.
But yeah, I want to make comics about the most popular characters like OPTIMUS PRIME and BUBMLEBEE and STARSCREAM and such. But I also, as I said above, enjoy the characters who aren’t as developed. I think that wide cast of characters can be a bonus but if we’re not careful, it can also quickly devolve into a bunch of action figures on the page—none of whom have any personality. I really want to avoid that and I think the ongoing is off to a great start.
TFW: What do you want to bring to the Transformers franchise that hasn’t been done before?
AS: In the first issue of the ongoing, we’re doing something that changes the status quo in a way that opens up many possibilities to explore these characters. I think that’s exciting. We’ve also found what, to us, makes Earth so darn important. It’s not a McGuffin, it’s something real that only Earth has. And I think that’s something new that also has limitless possibilities. Really, I just want to tell fresh stories and get fans excited again.
TFW: With the new series, how would you respond to some of the concerns that fans have raised?
AS: Give it a shot. I really hope you like it—we all do. We’ve worked hard to make it work and to give it a real launch that’s true to the core of the characters and to what’s come before, but also to bring something new. If it’s not perfect—heck, even if you flat out don’t like it—we’re all trying to make the books better and better. Again, I hope you like it as is, but if not, we’ll fix it.
I’ll say something about continuity too because I see that a lot. The first story I had any real impact on as an editor was the four issues of CODA at the end of ALL HAIL MEGATRON. Some of those stories I wanted to build to patch up some continuity issues. They’re not all fixed (and in one case I made a mistake that made things worse—ugh!) but we’re working on it. It’s important to us that the continuity works. I can’t change what’s come before, but moving forward, we’re really trying to keep it all together and be respectful of all the series and creators who have built the foundation.
TFW: How are the artists for each of the multiple Transformers series IDW publishes determined? Will we be seeing more of the fan favourite artists such as Alex Milne, Don Figueroa, and Guido Guidi?
AS: It’s pretty simple, based on the story in each of the books, we try to figure out who would be the best fit for that story or which artists like certain characters or writers. There are a lot of factors—scheduling being one of them.
Alex is currently working on the movie universe books, Don is working on the ongoing series, and Guido is currently supplying covers for the BUMBLEBEE series and working on something else down the line that he’s the interior artist for. Casey Coller will be back soon too. And I’ve been talking with a few others who are busy on other projects but would like to come back at some point. And we’ll see some new faces occasionally, as well.
I love seeing different artists work on the same characters. Right now, I’ve got three different artists working on three different stories that are all running in the ongoing. So, the art in the ongoing is sort of like the weather in St. Louis—if you don’t like it, just wait five minutes…
It’s great to see the differences each artist brings to the characters. And with Transformers, they get to interpret the body frames differently, which the artists really like doing. They’re glad they don’t have to follow one particular design. It gives them the freedom to create, and that’s what they are—creators. So I think it makes for better stories all around.
I loved those arguments with my two older brothers when we were kids (and truthfully still have) about which artist drew the best Spider-Man or Batman or whomever. (my money is on both of the Romitas for Spider-Man and on Neal Adams for Batman—they’re go to answers, but hey, there’s a reason for that!). But I think those different interpretations all add something to the characters in the long run.
TFW: Once the initial story arc wraps up, what direction would you like to take the series in?
AS: The initial story arc sets multiple events into motion. The main thing I’m concerned about from a story standpoint is that the stories come from character—that they are about unique characters and their personal decisions. I think that makes for more emotionally charged stories and more entertaining ones.
At the same time, I’m a bit of a geek myself, so I’m interested in things like what death means to a TRANSFORMER, or what effect living for thousands of years has on them, and all of that kind of stuff. There’s the really strange notion of the female TRANSFORMERS that were created—like Frankenstein monsters or something. It’s not clear, but I think there’s a cool story to tell there someplace.
TFW: How far in advance (in terms of numbers of issues) do you plan the storylines for an ongoing series?
AS: That’s a tricky one to answer. In broad strokes, we’re planned usually about a year and a half to three years out. But those can be very broad strokes. The danger of planning that far in advance is that things change, so if they’re planned too tightly, that makes working on the books more difficult. There’s a plan, I should say, for quite a ways out, but part of that plan is being flexible enough to turn the ship quickly if need be.
To give a quick example, I was working on a book that had very specific art assignments—things like one artist did scenes in one time period and another artist in a different time period. One of the artists had a personal tragedy and couldn’t work for several weeks. So instead of just handing off his pages to someone else, breaking the illusion we had created, the writer worked out an issue with a third time period with a third artist. It wound up adding a very cool and important layer to the story, and allowed the artist time to get back on his feet. It wound up making the story better.
There are other things that come up that we need to build the flexibility in to adjust to, so are plans are well thought out, but also flexible. Sorry if I’m babbling. I find this stuff interesting because it’s my job, but I might be boring the pants off you guys.
TFW: Is there a desire to maintain long-going story arcs or will things be more episodic?
AS: There are long-term character arcs, but most story arcs will be relatively self-contained. There will be connective tissue from a plotting standpoint of course, but we’re not building one long and endless saga if that’s what you mean. The danger of doing that is that the individual issues can start to lose impact and I’m hoping that we can get something cool in every issue of the ongoing book.
TFW: Are there any juicy tidbits you can let us know about, to look forward to in upcoming issues?
AS: Mike Costa is determined to give ROLLER a time to shine. It’s been 25 years. He’s due. Ha ha. Sorry, besides that my lips are sealed for now…
TFW: Are there any plot threads / series mythology elements from past Transformers series you do not want to work on (for example, Unicron and Primus the Transformers “gods”)?
AS: I’ll admit I have a little bit of trouble with the gods thing. Doesn’t mean it’s not there, and I won’t ever tell a writer absolutely not without at least hearing him or her out first. If someone makes a great case for how that works, I can go with it. So, no, there’s nothing off limits, but there are story elements that are tougher sells than others. Do you realize you’re asking this question to part of the editorial team who approved Bucky coming back to life in Captain America? Ha ha. Nothing is absolute!
TFW: On the subject of the mythology of the series, will the proposed miniseries dealing with the first 13 Transformers ever see the light of day, given that it was reportedly on the back burner, but Hasbro has since mentioned in Q&A sessions they are planning to tell the story of the forefathers of the Transformers. Is this something IDW is involved in?
AS: That was a project that was sort of shelved before I got involved on the series (sorry, being honest) so I don’t have all the facts on that one. It’s not currently on our publishing schedule but I wouldn’t write it off completely. It could still happened. I figure that if Simon or someone really had their heart into it, they’d contact me and try to resurrect it, but no one has ever brought it up with me.
TFW: Would you like to revisit the “what-if” style concept of the Evolutions series?
AS: I would, yes. But I also don’t want to flood the market with too much TRANSFORMERS product and I think we’re getting close to that already—ha ha ha. If there’s enough time in the day, I’d love too. It’s more a matter of logistics and focusing out energy on the main line right now.
TFW: If you could edit any comic series or character out there, who would you want to work on and why?
AS: Jack Kirby’s New Gods! Because they’re the coolest! Those books were just sheer creative energy—hardly able to be contained on the comic book page. I’d love to work on them. And they have such classic characters that remind me of the Illiad, which is my favorite work of literature that I’ve ever read. Love those guys!
I would also say the big toys at DC Comics, but technically I got to work with most of them on the JLA/AVENGERS books from a few years back. Technically.
TFW: Will IDW be attempting to relaunch any other 80s properties besides TF/GI Joe?
AS: I’m focused on TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, friend. Was there anything else from the 80s worth resurrecting? I think not.
TFW: With Transformers and GI Joe both under one roof, can we expect any crossovers in the near future?
AS: Near future? No. But hey, like I said, nothing is off limits forever…
TFW: What part of the process of creating a comic do you feel is least understood by the fans, and what should they know about it?
AS: I’m an editor, so don’t think people understand what I do. But I don’t know. As an editor, my job is not to dictate content. My job is to help writers and artists tell their story in the best possible way. That’s really what I do. That, and you know, be a traffic cop for things like scheduling and getting the work in on time. But that part kind of stinks. Editors have to wear many different hats and that’s what makes it both fun and challenging. But I do love it.
TFW: Lastly, please say a few words for the fans who visit the Transformers fan sites.
AS: Wow, what a great request. Okay. So here’s what I’ve been seeing on your forums lately. You guys are really into this. You know more details than my brain is capable of holding—but we (the creative and editorial teams and Hasbro) are all doing our best to improve the comics with each issue. We are listening.
I’ve been reading your reactions to the IRONHIDE announcement last week and I’m curious to see the response once you all can take in the whole picture. TRANSFORMERS is a big huge thing and it takes time to get things right, but that is our goal. Great and consistent characters. Continuity. Big events. Big themes. All of it.
There’s a huge world to explore here. If we’re not getting to your favorite corner of it right away, let us know and give it some time. We’ll get there. All of your feedback and criticism is appreciated. It really is. It can sting like the dickens sometimes, but there’s always something in it to learn from that can help make the comics better.
So, at the end of the day, thank you for being fans. Your passion for TRANSFORMERS gives me the opportunity to work on the best characters in the world. Thanks for the opportunity and I hope I’m able to repay you guys the favor by helping make better and better TRANSFORMERS comics.
Thanks again to Andy for taking the time to answer our questions!
Paul Eiding, best known among TF fans for his work as the voice of Perceptor in the original animated series, recently graced us here at TFW with an interview. Answering questions posed by some of the users on the site, Mr. Eiding mused about the original series, his work in the video industry, and his love of the stage. Read below to check it out!
First off, how did you get the role of Perceptor? As he was a character that appeared in the second season, had you heard any buzz for the Transformers series at that time?
Nothing too exciting here. I auditioned along with many others. I was doing a stage play at the time playing 3 characters with different accents, one a Brit. Someone recommended me to the casting director and I got called to audition. I had several friends doing characters so I knew of the show, but honestly, didn’t know too much about the show.
What was the audition process like, as a character being added to an already large cast? Do you think the process would have been any different if you had been auditioning at the beginning of the show?
The process, as I remember, wasn’t any different from usual. I was shown a picture of the character and told they were going for an effete proper English accent. Something along the lines of C3PO…”but not really.”
Do you have any stories about the recording sessions of Transformers? Any favorite memories or anecdotes about the other cast members?
Early on the sessions took HOURS. Wally Burr, the vo [voiceover] director had very specific sounds he was after, and made many an actor irate by pushing and pushing, and giving “line readings” (actors hate line readings), and having us do innumerable takes grunting, screaming, shouting, etc. We all felt like we were bleeding from the throat when we left the studio. I remember one session we were all voicing Insecticons who were eating buildings, etc. We were all making munching, crunching, slobbering mouth sounds, as if we were devouring metal, etc. At one point, I looked up to see Greg Berger, Chris Latta, Michael Bell, and others, faces contorted, bodies hunched over, arms and hands gesticulating wildly…just as I was doing. The absurdity of what we were doing just hit me as incredibly funny. Simultaneously, others felt the same way, and of course, uncontrollable laughter ensued ruining the take. Were we really getting paid for this?!
Was it strange to voice an “intellectual” character in a cast of primarily action-oriented roles? Do you feel you were treated differently because of it, by the other cast members or the director? Has anyone ever given you any ribbing about being “the nerd Transformer”?
I wasn’t treated differently, except for the fact that Wally Burr seemed to enjoy what I was doing and almost NEVER gave me line readings. It’s been kind of a bummer that, as in life, the thinking person hasn’t always been thought of as cool. The bad guys and the ones with “fire-power” are the sexy ones. Perceptor is often considered boring by the uneducated. 🙂
Perceptor was one of few characters from season 2 of Transformers who survived his appearance in the animated movie and was featured in season 3. Why do you think he was brought back?
Oh, this one’s easy. It’s because of my incredible talent and charm. I became Perceptor and he became me.
Okay, that was all bulls**t.
The real answer is, I have no idea. I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I ain’t got one.
What did you base the voice for Perceptor off of? If you were given an opportunity to reprise the role, would you voice it the same way? Similarly, have you been approached for any other Transformers projects? Are you interested in being a part of the franchise again?
As I said, they wanted a C3PO sort of voice. I also thought he could be an absent-minded professor kind of guy. Never had an audition for ANY of the new Transformers projects. Kind of irritating, but what can you do. I’d love to be involved with the franchise again. The Transformers occurred early in my Los Angeles voiceover career, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Many of the intellectual characters you’ve voiced have had extremely specialized vocabularies, but Perceptor stands out as the one with most “techno-babble”. Do you do any background research to learn these kinds of terms? Is there any improvisation in these kinds of lines?
No improv with Perceptor. Some of the sessions were hairy, because we didn’t get the scripts ahead of time. As I recall, we’d get to the studio, get the script, do a read thru, then record. Some of the stuff was tough to wrap my mouth around. The only research I had was my experience doing industrial films (training films) for companies like 3M, Control Data, and Honeywell, when I was living in Minneapolis, Mn. where I worked at The Brave New Workshop, and improv theatre.
The Transformers brand has lasted for 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Why do you think the brand has lasted this long?
Because they’re COOL! C’mon giant robots, who TRANSFORM into other things?! And they have big guns! Well, most of ‘em. Plus, they have a lot of personality. They don’t sound like robots. The fact that some are good and some are bad is also cool. It’s the never-ending tale of good vs evil. Human beings, I believe, are also naturally drawn to mythology, and the Transformers’ is great fun.
The character of Perceptor has had some longevity as well, with appearances in the current Transformers comics by IDW, an upcoming re-release of the original toy, and a new version of the character (although heavily influenced by the original) on the Transformers: Animated series. Do you follow characters you’ve voiced, and if so, had you heard about his Animated appearance? What do you think of the Hawking-esque computer voice used for Perceptor in Transformers: Animated?
I haven’t watched TF: Animated. I was too pissed off. I am getting a new Perceptor (the re-released original).
Have you heard about Michael Bell’s “animated” comic campaign for IDW? If so, are you at all interested in participating?
I’ve heard Mike’s stuff. Very cool. He’s one of my buddies and someone I’ve always looked up to. When I grow up, I want to be Michael Bell! I’ve told him I’d love to be involved any way I can.
How does working in live action differ to voice work, aside from the idea of working on a set vs. in a recording studio? What about working on stage? Do you have a favorite medium?
I love what I do, whether on-camera, vo, or stage. On-camera work is wonderful, but I find it a bit limiting. Unless you have a director who wants to work “outside the box”, your roles can be limited by your age, height, weight, and other physical characteristics. Voiceover work is limited only by your talent. I can be a dwarf, a demon, a 90 year old invalid, a 6’4” Marine Colonel, an absent-minded professor, a dimwitted ogre, an number of aliens, and I could go on and on. However, stage work is still my favorite medium. I love the rehearsal/discovery part of the process, the bonding with fellow actors, the immediate reaction one gets from an audience, and the ownership the actor has over the process. Once a show opens, it belongs to the actors and the audience. No one else. I love it.
You’ve played a lot of learned characters over your career, do you think there’s a reason for this? How do you approach a role to make it seem “smart”?
I’ve played my share of dummies, as well. I attempt to play every character at the top of their intelligence, whatever that may be. Even the big dumb brutes. My sense is no one thinks of themself as dumb…no matter how thick they may seem to others.
Have you ever done a voice that really hurt your throat? Have you ever been forced to change a character’s voice because of that reason?
I haven’t had to change a character’s voice…yet. There have been instances that I’ve passed on an audition because I knew it would be a throat ripper. I did a game about a year ago which came close. Don’t remember the name of the game, but it was a monster, named “Baby”. It was always having tantrums…growling, attacking and screaming at the top of it’s lungs. Luckily, most everything was done in one or two takes. Had it been Wally Burr directing, he or I would be dead now. 🙂
Do you ever ad-lib while doing voice work, and has it ever caused a good / bad result?
Used to get to ad-lib a lot doing animation, back in the day, but not as much doing games. Every once in a while the opportunity comes and I love it. The results are almost always positive because if you’re into your character, “he” speaks through you, so the character can become more fully developed.
Is this where you saw yourself when you were young and asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” What would your dream role be? Out of the projects that you’ve worked on over the years, what would your favourite have been and why?
When I was young I wanted to be a musician. String Bass. I’ve always said that my dream would be to do a film role that is appreciated by my peers, in a movie that truly affects society in a positive way, that changes people’s actions for the good, that is both a financial and critical success…and that makes me FILTHY RICH! What do ya think? Too much to ask for? Seriously, my favorite role has been Tevye, in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. I did the show for 11 months, many years ago. For a character man, it’s a show that has everything. You sing, you dance a little, you make people laugh, and you make people cry. Loved doing the show and would love to do it again, before I’m too old. There are many projects I’ve had great fun doing. I’m a very lucky man!
Is a voice actor working on multiple projects for the same studio, either simultaneously or in succession, common? Does it depend on the director, the studio, or something else?
Yep, it’s common. I’ve worked on several projects in succession at Sound Deluxe, and others. It can depend on the casting director who brings you in to audition for different projects, the director OR the studio. Some of it is just happenstance. Tomorrow, I work on Starcraft, and just finished working on Warcraft. Next week I’m doing BioShock.
Lately, you’ve been doing a lot of work in video games. Is there a reason for this? What are some of the differences you’ve found between voice work done for a show or movie, and for a video game? Is there a particular genre of games you prefer to work in (RPGs, action games, etc.)?
I’m an actor. The games I prefer are the ones that involve story. The more cinematic, the better I like it. I enjoy working with another actor in the studio. It’s always more fun to work off one another. The difference between games and films is becoming harder and harder to define. And that’s a good thing. Games to me are becoming more and more like movies.
What was it like working on the Metal Gear Solid series? Were recordings done individually, or in group sessions? Were you able to work again with any of the numerous other Transformers cast members who worked on the games?
I’ve loved MGS. Making friends with folks like David Hayter was a special treat. The first game was done ala radio drama, actually recording with the actors. I’ve gotten to work with David on all the sessions, but not the other characters. Mainly for scheduling reasons, I think. Over the years, I’ve worked with most of the Transformers cast on other projects. I’ve done lots of Pixar stuff with Jack Angel, cartoons with Charlie Adler, Sue Blu, Corey Burton (another hero), Scatman, Jim Cummings, my dear friend Walker Edmiston, Laurie Faso, Linda Gary, Dick Gautier, Ed Gilbert, Danny Gilvezan, Jerry Hauser, Casey Kasem, Mo LaMarche, Alan Oppenheimer, Rob Paulsen (most recently on Ben-10), the wonderful Tony Pope, Frankie Welker, and others. Many of the games are recorded one actor at a time. I always laugh when I find out, after the fact, that I’ve worked with Greg Berger, or Clive Revill, or whoever, on the same project.
What is it like working on many of Blizzard’s extremely popular games franchises, such as Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft? Have you been approached for any of their upcoming projects?
oops…I’ve answered this one. It’s been great being involved with Blizzard. Diablo and Starcraft were a couple of my first games. Chris Metzen is still a great guy.
Some of your credits are for “additional voices”, what exactly does this mean? How are these roles usually filled, and is this any different from other roles?
Some of the “additional voices” listing on IMDB are incorrect, they were actually, guest stars. The Pixar work, however, is “additional voice” work. It’s basically ADR [additional dialogue recording], but usually there are characters that have actual lines written for them…or lines we get to improv…that either move the story along or add comic relief to the movie. This is different from adding crowd noise or fight sounds or background walla to scenes. Additional voice stuff is intended to be heard as stand alone. For instance, in Monsters, Inc. I was one of 3 trainees who were afraid of little kids. I was also a huge eye, a little business man monster who flies off to work and says something to his wife. Each has their own little moment. Whew…hope that makes sense. The parts are usually filled by members of special ADR groups. I work with one called Lipschtick. We’re all animation vo actors.
Thanks again to Mr. Eiding for taking the time to answer our questions!
Only the Transformers movie comes with this many robot toys – Hisashi Yuki
– “Revenge of the Fallen” is finally in the cinemas!
Yuki: We, as the members of the staff, were able to watch the movie at the Japanese Premiere in early June, which was a bit earlier than the public. Though, to be honest, I was surprised that we could not get to watch it until then.
There were many aspects of the story we didn’t understand even though we were supposedly more informed than general public; such as the connection between the combiner “Devastator” and its individual Transformers, or why there are many similar looking Transformers. We didn’t get the answers until we saw the movie ourselves. It was a story which defied our expectations and went way beyond our imaginations.
So many TFs has appeared (in the movie) that it is impossible to spot everyone in a single viewing. I am sure we find something new every time we watch it!
– Tell us your candid opinion of the first movie.
Yuki: I wasn’t a part of the toy development team then, so I had a less involved point of view. I was very impressed nonetheless, the graphics such as CG were very advanced. Not that the anime shows we have had were low quality, but I did acknowledge the realistic presence unique to live action movies. I do not think everything would look better as a live action movie, but since Transformers feature vehicles motif, the style fits so perfectly. I have never spoken to the graphics creators in the US, but I am sure they belong to the generation where kids grow up with TF toys and cartoons. I believe that they had been very happy to be able to work on Transformers, and that brought everyone’s determination together to create the best.I wanted to follow the designs by the movie staff as closely as possible
– I would like to ask about the toys you were responsible of developing.
What was your first impressions on “the Fallen”, who is the key character in the story?
Yuki: When we first heard that the Fallen would appear in the movie, we thought of the American comic character with the same name right away and wondered if he would be in the story, but the robot design we were given was different from what we imagined. His design looked like something from an ancient civilization.
I understand while he is a homage only hardcore fans would appreciate, his design is completely original for the movie.
– With the Fallen design, which part did you have trouble with, or put the most thoughts into?
Yuki: For the most of the TFs who appeared first in the second movie, we were only given the images of the front and the back views of robot and vehicle modes. We had to develop (the toys) without any knowledge of what roles those characters would play.
As for his robot mode, I tried to re-create the images as closely as possible. When we started (with ROTF toy development), the rise of the crude oil price was at its worst. Also to make the re-creation of the robot mode easier, I was not able to allocate many parts to the vehicle mode. Those were the difficulties I had.
As for the characterization ideas, we hardly had any information as to how he would be featured in the story, which made it very difficult for me to come up with a character-based gimmicks. Among the small amount of information we had was a tidbit that there would be a scene in which the Fallen crushed a primitive man under his foot. That’s how I came up with his toe gimmick, and it made me grin when I actually saw the scene in the movie.
When developing his “Mech Alive” mechanism, I thought his could be different from other characters’ since his body is made with more exoskeleton. We reached an agreement among the members of the staff, and I designed the protruding clear red parts, which is a homage to the flames the Fallen wears in American comics.
– Tell us about Sideways.
Yuki: He was the first I designed from this line. He does resemble Barricade (from the first movie), but in the earlier stage his character sketch had a completely different look from Barricade. I was going along with it and had no regards (to Barricade design), and a prototype had already been built. Then we received a new robot design with some major changes. He had tires on his arms where he had none in the earlier design. I had to rush to alter the design to hide the arms inside the body while in vehicle mode.
– Tell us about Scalpel.
Yuki: Perhaps the most intelligent of all (ROTF Transformers). (*laughs) Most of the scout class characters do not appear in the movie, but he has a role as “Doctor”. I wasn’t informed how his microscope mode looked like at all, so the toy’s microscope mode is quite different from the one in the movie….
Well, he has a little hidden fun feature. His face looks as if he is wearing the glasses to begin with, and I made the glasses part detachable.
– So he can do “Where are my glasses” gag?
Yuki: I had a little fun as a designer without an extra cost with this typical Japanese joke, “The glasses are meant to be dropped and desperately looked for”. (*laughs)
– Tell us about the development of Mixmaster.
Yuki: It took me a while to come up with the best way to store the arms inside the mixer drum. You can see it once you have the toy in hand that his level of complicity is rather high. In the movie robot mode design, the caterpillars separate, but unfortunately that couldn’t be done with the toy because of the cost, the probability of even more intricate transformation and such. I could include the “Artillery” mode we were given the design sketch of, and I was glad to see it in the movie. It does make me happy to see the same features as the toys’ gimmicks in the movie.The people who are not “the fans” are smoothly introduced to the franchise thanks to the live action movie
–How do you allocate the tasks of designing each product among the members of the staff?
Yuki: We don’t decide beforehand who takes care of which character, but simply allocate the job according to the release schedule, the number of the products and their size, and each designers’ skill. The only exception is that Hasui (Shogo Hasui) always wants to design Starscream and we let him. (*laughs)
Because bigger, more intricate figures like Optimus take longer to complete, the designers who take care of those have less number of the figures to design, while some others design lots of smaller products and help with the items whose deadlines are closer.
– Which do you think is more difficult to develop, a Transformer with a futuristic car mode or one with a licensed actual car mode?
Yuki: There isn’t much difference in futuristic and realistic designs when I think up the transformation. It is easy if I am just given a robot mode image to come up with a cool looking vehicle mode for it. As for the movie toys such as Sideways, both of their robot and vehicle modes had already been decided, and to make the figures true to both modes was a big struggle. I can see the movie designs do have some regards as to which part of the vehicle goes to which part of the robot, and I try to re-create them as closely as possible.
Also, we always have to keep the product cost in mind. If it is a 1000 yen figure, it must have the 1000 yen class measurements and parts number. It is very difficult. Especially a car TF requires at least 4 parts just for the tires, and the challenge is to think of the best way to allocate other parts.
– What is different “now” in the development section compared to “then”?
Yuki: I began working at the toy development just before G2 series, if I may use TF chronology. (G1) Transformers anime had finished in Japan, and there were not many domestic products. I started working on TFs in “Beast Wars II”, and I was practically the only one who was working on domestic TFs, though after a while there was another member.
We do have more people now, but the number is still quite small considering the amount of products. The team still only consists of selected few.
– What did you think of the (movie toy release) Countdown event?
Yuki: More people attended to that event than the first movie’s Countdown, and I thought there were more younger attendees and more female customers. I wonder if the generation who enjoyed Beast Wars when they were little has come back to the franchise. Because of the live action movie, people who are not the fans of the (TF) anime or toys also casually walked in to buy some “movie merchandise”. I did feel the impact of the movie’s huge success.
– Who are your favourite movie characters?
Yuki: It has to be Optimus Prime. In the first movie, he did not have enough scenes to himself and he left less impression than Bumblebee, who had plenty of actions. Some long-time fans might feel that’s quite like Convoy. (*laughs) In ROTF, Optimus was so cool, no need to say more!
Of course I also like the Twins (Skids and Mudflap), whose toys I was responsible for.
– What gave you the most headache during the development stage?
Yuki: Actually, I don’t recall much hardship about product developments. In a way I just forgot, because the speedy work is a must and I can’t remember each one specifically. I think it is harder to think of the way to promote (the products).
– What are your favourite among the products you developed?
Yuki: Fire Convoy (Car Robot /Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime). I was consecutively responsible for the main characters of the anime series; Lio Convoy (Beast Wars II), Big Convoy (Beast Wars Neo) and Fire Convoy, but Fire Convoy has a special place in my heart. I really wanted to realize his “Shake Hands Combination” with God Maguns (Ultra Magnus), and even went to the anime staff meeting to personally ask the director to include such combining scenes. I also consider myself fortunate that I was involved in the production of Car Robot items, which, as “Robots in Disguise”, contributed to the renewed popularity of Transformers overseas.
My another favourite is Binaltech Skids, because I bought the actual car! I had always wanted to own a car I created a toy of, but most of the Binaltech lineup were several million yen class sports cars…. Then finally the lineup included a model with an affordable price tag and at the same time my old car had to have an expensive compulsory automobile inspection. That prompted me to go ahead and buy bB (Toyota bB/Scion xB) and I was very happy.
–What do you wish to transform, even though there is no product of it?
Yuki: I would say “Unicron”, which I created during “Beast Wars Neo”. “Micron Legend” (Armada) version which was released later was done by another designer (Hironori Kobayashi). “Neo” Unicron was mine. The prototype was built and made public at an event, and the character had an appearance in anime…then the release was cancelled due to various reasons. I am still rueful when I think how close it was (to the release).
– I have seen that prototype, and I was very impressed with the number of the parts used and the attention to the detail.
Yuki: I did put everything into it back then! When I look at it now, I see some areas that are unsatisfactory and wish I could change them, though. So that is why I want to do “Revenge of Unicron”. (*laughs)
–Lastly, please send a message to the fans who visit Transformers site.
Yuki: “Head to a toy shop after watching the movie, while the excitement is still vivid…!” Because the unique thing about “Transformers” is that there are so many robot toys released from just one line. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please do so. I guarantee it will solve all the mysteries, and make you want to own all the toys!