Via Kakakumag website we have a very interesting and revealing interview with longtime Transformers designer Takashi Kunihiro.
While the interview is in Japanese, fear not because our very own Super Mod Shin Densetsu was very kind to translate it for us. On this interview, Takashi-san shares his thoughts and trivia about Optimus Prime movie figures from Transformers 2007 to Dark Of The Moon. We are sure you will enjoy the background story of Revenge Of The Fallen Leader Class Optimus Prime, one of the most popular toys of the entire line.
This interview is part 2 of 3. Part 2 of the interview will be published on August 10th maybe about most of the designing process of Transformers toys and the Studio Series line, and Part 3 will be published on August 18 and cover Kunihiro’s top 5 favorite Transformers toys.
Update: You can read part 2 here
You can read the full translation and the mirrored images after the jump, and then you can share your impressions on the ongoing discussion on the 2005 Boards.
Part 1: “The 1st Transformers Movie Toy Struggles & Revenge Of The Fallen Optimus Prime(leader class)”
- For every movie, Takara only has very limited information; 1 drawing from the oblique front of the robot/vehicle modes, 1 drawing diagonally(isometric view?) from the back. This is because sometimes the onscreen models/designs are being worked on up until the last minute, long after the toy design has already been completed. For reoccurring characters with the same design from previous movies, it’s easier but when looking at them frame by frame, their movement is so fast so it’s still a challenge.
- Kunihiro makes a comparison to old movies with actors in suits like Godzilla where the suit design is finalized before filming. However with Transformers, the CG model for each Transfomer does not need to be complete during filming, it can be finished during filming/post-editing and the CG director might make changes up until the last minute. So to reiterate, when initially designing toys for a Transformers movie line, the design Takara is working off of isn’t necessarily final, they work with limited information. They only see the final design when they get to watch the movie in theaters
Kunihiro talks about DA-15 DOTM Jetwing Optimus:
- The design was very similar to concept art* Kunihiro was referencing during the production stage. However he laughingly says it looked different in the finished movie.
*Massive Black released their concept art(2012 maybe?) for DOTM which did show the jetwing design Kunihiro mentioned
In relation to concept art differences compared to final designs, Kunihiro mentioned Brawl.
- He designed deluxe and leader Brawls for the 2007 line
- He thought Brawl was going to be a big success in the movie since he was going to be made in leader class.
- He laughs and said in retrospect, he should’ve made Bonecrusher in leader class instead
- His point was that you never know how things turn out in the movie until the movie is finished
When given concept art to reference, Takara was only given a few drawings and from those drawings, could not tell how the designs would transform. After watching a movie preview, the designers were able to boil down designs to a frame(implied that this is a base/core design) to move parts around. After the 2nd movie, they were able to visualize a more solid structure to design parts around.
Intriguing tidbits about ROTF leader Optimus:
- Since ROTF came out only 2 years after the 2007 movie, Kunihiro points out that usually a company could get by, by just rereleasing a previous figure(in this case the 2007 leader Optimus).
- However it became clear prior to the movie that Jetfire would combine with Optimus(this wasn’t evident from the beginning)
- Takara then decided to make a new leader Optimus figure
- Kunihiro sought out to make ROTF leader Optimus more accurate to stand apart from the 2007 leader figure. His reasoning being that a fan wouldn’t want to buy a figure that looks so similar to an existing figure and he himself wouldn’t want to see that.
- By pursing more movie accuracy, Kunihiro wanted fans to see a figure that looked much different from the 2007 figure.
- The interviewer mentions that the ROTF leader Optimus is said to transform similar to how Optimus transforms onscreen
- Kunihiro acknowledges that he has heard that before, but that the transformation similarity just happened by chance
- He had watched Prime transform onscreen many times but when watching the details, he laughingly says he realized it will be impossible(to design the toy to transform the way Optimus does onscreen).
- He thought about adding more inbetween to steps the transformation or reproducing the inner mechanical parts(Mech Alive?)
There’s mention about character movement on the big screen and how Kunihiro wanted to replicate it via pressing a button to activate lights and having the figures play back phrases….I think they are referring to seeing the Transformers looking realistic onscreen and talking? Kunihuro mentions that batteries were needed and I think it said it could’ve made the torso look stupid but he cheated with the balance and design of the limbs as to not draw too much attention to the torsos.
Just designing Prime and Jetfire to combine was a big deal and some parts turned out the way they did just by chance when design of the toys progressed(as in some aspects of the toy were a result of designing as they went along, not necessarily having finished designs to work off of, from the start).
Kunihiro mentions using good articulation for a figure that must move well. Mentioned that a joint must move well but also be stable, hence adding detents to ROTF leader Optimus’ ball jointed ankles. Mentions that it was a little effective. Also made note of how the combined Optimus and Jetfire toys looked different from the movie but he does not get to see what the final movie designs look like until he watches the movie.
Kunihiro then talks about MPM-04 Optimus Prime
- Seen as a chance to make a movie Optimus Prime with an accurate transformation
- Feels that the transformation of MPM04 is based on ROTF leader Optimus(feels at this point, many figures have a similar transformation to to ROTF Optimus too) without the constraint of having to be able to combine with Jetfire.