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!
TFW2005 Interview with Product Design Manager John Warden and Marketing Director Ben Montano
Ben: OK, you can fire it up.
TFW2005: OK cool. This is something that has been asked before, I’ve asked it before. Masterpiece. Anything on the horizon besides the movie stuff?
John: Nothing to talk about new at the moment. But, the response has been awesome (points towards movie MPs).
TFW2005: For the movie stuff…
Ben: Yeah. Have you gotten your hands on the movie stuff?
TFW2005: Bumblebee, I still don’t have Prime.
John: The response has been spectacular around the world and we’re really happy.
TFW2005: Anything for G1, beyond Prime?
John: That angle is controlled more by Takara Tomy.
Ben: If you’ve seen recently they’ve announced a re-release / refresh of Hot Rod, so expect that they’ll continue (on that path).
TFW2005: So Takara Tomy has lead on G1 stuff then?
Ben: You’ll see that there is a collaboration between Hasbro and Takara Tomy for Masterpiece in general. Movie Masterpiece was the first step in that. There is opportunity to continue to expand in the G1/Beast Wars universe.
TFW2005: So anything that has been done (over there) could be here, and anything could happen?
Ben: Masterpiece is something the fans are responding to from all story universes so there is no reason we shouldn’t look at ways to expand that.
TFW2005: Cool. Ok, so a while back there was a presentation about Cyberverse and some other stuff at the investor meeting. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Ben: Not at this time (quick!)
Ben: Something we’ve been working on for a while that will be appealing to everybody.
John: We have a logo. (laughter)
Ben: That placeholder logo looked great. (laughter)
TFW2005: In a line with triple changing voyager headmasters, Apeface and Skullgrin were skipped. Any plans on touching on them in the future?
John: The fans of the Combiner Wars saga know we’ve followed through in the promise to bring back combiners, at least the mechanics, there are some really cool things on the horizon yet to be announced. So under that same pretense I think it’s important to note we’re always listening. When fans are vocal about it and talk about Apeface and it’s clear he’s one of those characters people really want, it’s one of those things we always have on the back burner and that we are thinking about, I think it comes down to when it makes sense. Ben and I work really hard to try and figure out what is the best way to release them, what chapter is it a part of, is there an anniversary it can line up with.
TFW2005: So just because a line ends doesn’t mean that toys with the same gimmick or features can’t appear later? (paraphrased, audio cut out)
Ben/John: No, no, doesn’t rule it out at all, absolutely not.
Ben: Even to date, not necessarily blurred, but there is a lot of cross over. The Machinima story line took the shackles off, of being so G1 true, we’re still true to that lineage and story canon, but there are stories they (fans) want told, so character A/B can be in this new story world.
TFW2005: On the toy side, fans are down with the idea of Combiners or Titan Masters tech continuing in the toys beyond their lines (paraphrased again)…
Ben: And that was so easy for us to architect…
TFW2005: Now that you have the tech you can toss them in there, so that’s cool.
Ben/John: Yes, yes.
TFW2005: So those were my primary questions, we kinda just did this. Everything in the case looks awesome (pre dinner reveal)
John: It’s interesting to be part of the fandom right now. There’s so much positivity happening. I remember 5 years ago, you’d get some really tough questions from fans. Nowadays people are really excited, they just want to understand what’s next. It’s a great place to be in.
TFW2005: I think that’s the vibe everyone has. Ok great, give me more, when’s it coming, I need it now.
Ben: There seems to be a good appreciation not just for our core Generations line but even Movie. What John and his team did with Nitro and Cogman, there are some tricks that we brought into that line, different aesthetics and design and detail that may not have been brought to the Movie series before. Even this week I’ve heard fans say that this is their favorite Movie line yet. Especially here at Hascon, they may like the Generations stuff but they may not have grown up with that, but they did grow up with the Movie line. But toy wise, they feel in the same universe.
TFW2005: Yeah, the toys for this (TLK) I think got a warmer reaction from hardcore fans than maybe the movie did. Not specifically commenting on any of that (movie situation), just saying 30-40 year old fans may have a different vibe than the general movie going public. They may be a bit harsher critics (of the movie) but the toys they were like “I’m good”. They had a good feel to them, the voyagers especially, all the way across.
John: That’s good to hear. I think what’s really good about those toys is that the essence of them is really cool. To think about a guy like Cogman, to do him as a properly done Headmaster that’s cross compatible with Titans Return it becomes a fun new toy. I think that’s what made Transformers cool even in the 80s, they started with really solid toy concepts and we’ve tried to bring that into The Last Knight toys as much as we can. There was a lot of really cool stuff to work with from a toy standpoint. Playing that up as much as we can, and we’ve learned a lot from Age of Extinction to the toys we have now, a lot of the toy technology with transformations are a lot more smooth. We’ve learned a lot about molding technology so we can do different things, and I think it was satisfying to be able to use a lot of that learning from Titans Return and apply it to a movie line.
TFW2005 would like to thank Ben and John for their time, and Hasbro for the opportunity to pick their brains a bit!