Thanks to a super team work of our very own 2005 Boards members: Deruji, Sam and Timesynch, we have a proper translation of the Takara-Tomy Transformers Design Team Interview From Figure King No. 241.
This issue of Figure King Magazine will have a 26 page special dedicated to Transformers, as it was reported in our forums. Part of this special is a 2 page roundtable interview with designers Shogo Hasui, Hironori Kobayashi and Takashi Kunihiro.
This is a very interesting and great interview, where Takara-Tomy’s designers told us about their experience with Transformers, the design and ideas for several Convoy/Optimus Prime figures from different eras (Star Convoy, Armada and Energon Convoy, Revenge Of The Fallen, etc), and which figures they designed. No mention of the rumored 35th anniversary Convoy, so we should wait for extra information.
We are sure you will enjoy the reading and the comments of these great designers. You can now click on the bar to read the full interview after the jump and then sound off your impressions at the 2005 Boards!
Transformers Team Development Staff
Convoy Round-Table Talk
Greeting next years 35th anniversary by taking a look at the various Convoys from Transformers’ history.
For the planned conclusion at the end of the special, we will hear from the founder, Takara Tomy, according to volunteers from the Transformers Team Development Staff.
Kunihiro Takashi: Joined the company in 1984. He is the only senior member that was involved in the product development since the series’ early days.
Hasui Shōgo: Joined the company in 1999. He is mainly responsible for projects with Hasbro. During the start of the movies he proposed concepts.
Kobayashi Hironori: Joined the company in 1999. He joined the series from “Car Robots” onwards. He has been involved in Masterpiece and Binaltech.
Memories of Convoy.
–First everyone, let’s hear about your impression from the time you came in contact with the first Convoy.
Kunihiro: I was a student at that time. He wasn’t a “Transformer” yet, just Battle Convoy from “Diaclone”. I looked at him feeling: “This looks like such a good product~”. But then he went to America and the name changed to “Transformers”. Then afterwards he returned to Japan. In Japan he was also sold as a “Transformer”, which was surprising.
Hasui: That was also my first impression of “Diaclone”. Because Battle Convoy appeared in that way as a “Transformer”, it was at first something that was a little hard to accept. Although he was a favourite character from “Diaclone”…(laugh). Actually, my attention turned towards “Transformers” when there were new products that weren’t from the “Diaclone”-era… Such as Scramble [City] combiners from that point on with those kind of new products. I think what I understood about Convoy at that time was, “Didn’t he used to be Battle Convoy?”
Kobayashi: I was also a child that grew up with “Diaclone” and “Microman”. Because of that, when I also suddenly saw Convoy, who had returned as a “Transformer”, my first impression was, “Heh, don’t I know this guy?” (laugh).
Kunihiro: Around what time was that?
Kobayashi: Around the upper grades of elementary school. It was the time when I was slowly growing too old for toys… but, “Transformers” had a story and setting that were totally cool. Therefore, because of that reunion, my feelings turned back to the world of toys. I remember getting the impression that “Diaclone” and “Microman” had returned customised for us.
Hasui: That’s right. Convoy, for being the main character or chosen as the key character, had amazing conviction. He felt sufficiently able to stand up to being the presence that gathers the car robots together. The product’s gimmick and design matched this as well.
–Can each of you mention Convoys that you have been in charge of developing?
Hasui: Does that include Rodimus Convoy (*Kunihiro was in charge of development)?
–Sorry, but not this time…
Kunihiro: I think I’ve made perhaps more than 10, but which was the first one? Perhaps that would be Star Convoy. I made a binder with reprints of the “Transformers Collection”.
Kobayashi: The “Micron Legends” Convoy was mine. I had just started at the company, I was entrusted with an important task. After that perhaps “Masterpiece” MP-01 Convoy.
Hasui: “Alternity” as well, right?
Kobayashi: Really? Yes.
Hasui: Wasn’t Grand Convoy done by Kunihiro?
Kunihiro: Yes, we called him “Dosconvoy” (laugh) [Sumo/Fat-Convoy. ‘dosukoi’ is a Sumo exclamation]. I also did Galaxy Convoy. And I also did “Prime”s voyager class. Didn’t I also do a live-action version?
Hasui: Kunihiro did the one leader class Optimus from “Revenge (of the Fallen)”. Several Optimus’ were made.
Kunihiro: I also did the Ultimate that combines with the trailer.
Kobayashi: When it comes to the movies, I did “Darkside (of the) Moon” voyager Optimus. In Japan it was the one that became the Mechtech trailer. Speaking of which, I was pretty much in charge of the items that were localised for domestic use. Like Buster Optimus and Striker Optimus.
Hasui: I didn’t make that many. “Animated” Optimus was my first. Afterwards it was “Masterpiece” MP-10 Convoy. I wouldn’t call it making Convoy.
Kunihiro: Recently for Japan, the Generations version Power Master Optimus named “Super Ginrai”. … That all I can remember for now.
Hasui: Afterwards Kobayashi did Hybrid Style and Masterpiece Convoy (Beast Wars) as well.
Kobayashi: You remember better than I do! Amazing (laugh).
New Convoys For New Titles.
–How did you start the development for the, domestically lead, first remake of Star Convoy?
Kunihiro: Because previously it was Õno Kõjin that had made a derived form of Convoy that was Super Ginrai. He betrayed the Convoy-Style transformation scheme, saying “The backside has the chest!”. That’s the reason for the differently styled transformation. After all, if you’re going to make something new, it is said that it is meaningless if you don’t add a new element to it. That’s why, at the time of Star Convoy, it was attempted to feature “Base Play” as a new element. There was a little of it with Ginrai, we tried earnestly to be able to use “Base Play”. It was decided to also include things such as an electric powered gimmick. But, why did such a task have to come around to me?… I don’t remember much of anything before that (laugh).
–A Convoy in trailer form was also a long awaited remake in “Micron Legends”.
Kobayashi: It was strongly emphasised that “there is a need to put a gimmick in the leader class that will surprise everyone!” (laugh). That’s how the story of “Let’s have them auto-transform!” came to be, and from there on it was felt that designs could be gathered together. I had also just joined the company at that time, and suddenly I felt as if I had been entrusted with a very important task, it was really difficult (laugh). The concept that was aimed for was too high… If the plan had been a little more easy going, I would like to have built into it a better finished external appearance from an action figure-like point of view.
–The face of Super Mode strays far from the impression of Convoy up to then.
Kobayashi: That is based on the drawn sketch of the person in charge from Hasbro at the time. From the beginning they discussed a “Micron Legends” Convoy, the concept was a monster truck. That’s why he wears the cab and big tires. Because even in the powered up super mode, I wanted to leave some monster-like powerful elements, the ears have the shape of exhaust pipes and there are multiple masks.
–It was impressive that Convoy from the Micron Trilogy changed dramatically with every concept.
Hasui: About that, there was always the discussion “We want to do this feature in this series” with Hasbro. It wasn’t started from something such as “Do Convoy like this”, it felt like it came to be from within a complete concept.
Kunihiro: About Grand Convoy, we tested various things that seemed heroic like “Control the Ultimate Combination!”. The result was a five part combination, where we settled on a shape that allowed to freely replace them.
–Do you think that the leader class of the first movie wasn’t optimal as a toy?
Kunihiro: Because it was the first, when you looked at the back and front designs of the robot mode from an angle, it was only kibble. It was the same for the kibble of the vehicle mode. Despite that it was thought that the collections of Transformers toys up to now would go that way. I’d be happy if you came to like it.
–On the other hand, do you think that the leader class from “Revenge (of the Fallen)”, in a certain meaning, was the final form as a movie toy?
Kunihiro: I was asked to make it the same leader class, and I thought, “Do one the same size as two years ago!?”. Because of that I tried to completely reproduce the movie image, by watching the first movie frame-by-frame while continuing the production. Therefore, even though it’s the same Optimus, they have both become toys with quite different impressions.
Let’s Make The Ultimate Convoy.
–When the first Masterpiece was released, it made an impact.
Kobayashi: Because it’s “Commander Convoy”, the symbol of the Transformers, the idea that we wanted to make a monumental item was born. It was a challenge to attempt to make something that completely fixated on a transformation mechanism, because the Masterpiece was an independent project without restrictions, and a chance to use a design that followed the anime more closely.
Hasui: Wanting to release another Convoy with MP-10 was a plan that started through chance, made by the release of Rodimus Convoy. A story came up that when Rodimus Convoy was lined up with MP-1 that there was an uneasy feeling due to the size.
Kobayashi: From the start, the Masterpiece itself was a planned project that was to end after one figure. Afterwards, when I realised that it wouldn’t be continued, MP-1 was a little on the large side. It had the image of a 12 inch figure.
Hasui: If we were to make it new anyway, not just Rodimus, but also the following car robots needed to be thought about while being developed. That is why after that item all are unified to a sense of scale. The appeal of Transformers, I think, is that when you line up Convoy and his subordinates together, they look better.
Kunihiro: Anyway, it was the trend to try and give them the responsibility, because the two that joined the company said they liked Transformers.
–In that regard, does the newest “Power of the Primes” version Optimus have the impression of following MP-10’s design?
Kunihiro: In the preceding year we had Power Master, and because this was to be another leader class Convoy it was necessary to use a completely different approach. That’s why, although we did not have the concept of Orion Pax combining back then, we thought about the challenge of “Can an ‘Ultimate Convoy’ be made?” Therefore, after thinking whether MP-10 was the most Convoy-like Convoy, we realised he was. With the successful appropriation of the digital data, the head with MP-10 serving as the base, was refined. Because the transformation is different we were able to balance the windows of the chest more skilfully than the MP. We had the strong realisation that… it didn’t seem very Power Master-y; on the contrary, didn’t it seem to settle into a shape that looked more like a stoic Convoy?
–Isn’t the point of all the wheels being hidden also stoic?
Kobayashi: Certainly. The first Masterpiece that hid the side tires is already 15 years old. A Convoy that can finally properly hide the leg wheels, don’t you want that? (laugh)
Convoy is… !?
––Now lastly, I’d like to collect your thoughts about Convoy from each of you.
Kobayashi: When making a new figure, do the intention of “Let’s leave Convoy’s design!” and the intention of “No, I want to change it!” always complicate things? We fluctuate between such such emotional thresholds. For example: letting G1 Convoy’s complete outward appearance be brought forth is simple. But, if you do that, then there is no meaning in making something new. I think, isn’t it an old fan’s ego? Now, so long as I create a new character here, I make it worrying and thinking about if it should be a design that follows the current trend. In doing so every time, there is the sense that something a little different is produced.
Hasui: Isn’t it so that Convoy, in whatever series, is the backbone of the lineup? Because he has become an item that is representative of a product group, he is made to be an item that condenses the entire series’ worldview, goals and such, into one. Don’t remove him at all, his presence is an essential pillar. When I was in charge of “Animated” I attached an importance to there being a “Leader-like impression”. It’s meaningless if it doesn’t have a presence or an aura. I think it is important that when lined up, “the products can be brought together to focus on the leader, Convoy”.
Kobayashi: I have an explanation about my single favourite Convoy, “Due to their circumstances he brought the war to earth. He feels ashamed about that.” Even though he feels ashamed of that situation, he stands in the line of fire to fight for humans and all lifeforms. Convoy is a character that fundamentally possesses a compassionate heart. Either way he has a special kind of appeal.
Kunihiro: Who is Convoy, who is Optimus Prime… Looking at it from the Transformers’ history, within the successive line of commanders there shouldn’t only be one, but the commander that fans imagine is Convoy after all, right? He is the symbol of the Transformers. I believe that, as expected, for those people he is such a reliable presence. Which reminds me, at the time that I joined the development, I didn’t know his foreign name was Optimus. Actually, when did I learn that? (laugh)