Via Kakakumag website we have the second part of the interview with longtime Transformers designer Takashi Kunihiro.
Once again, thanks to our very own super mod Shin Densetsu for translating the interview for all of us. This second part is titled: “God of the Transformers speaks! The Secret story of robot transformation development”. This should give you an idea a<bout the respect and importance of Takashi-san in Takara Tomy’s development team. He shares great comments about the creative process of Transformers figures that you may find quite interesting. To top it all, we have great comments and information about the popular Studio Series line.
This interview is part 2 of 3. You can read part 1 here, while Part 3 will be published on August 18 and cover Kunihiro’s top 5 favorite Transformers toys.
You can read the full translation and the mirrored images after the jump, and then you can sound off your impressions on the 2005 Boards.
This is part 2: “How to make a transformable robot”
Kunihiro says that there are about 14 members total working on Transformers(14 is the combined number of Hasbro and Takara Transformers team members). Transformers began for Kunihiro the year he joined Takara(1984). However since then, some fans have joined and have become part of the team.
Kunihiro was asked if information is shared with the team and/or if they present their opinions:
- The team gathers and they all share their ideas and opinions
- They try to air out any misconceptions before starting design work
- The idea is to present whatever you are thinking immediately
- It’s as if you are arguing everyday but nothing goes forward if no one says anything
- There are some situations where he thinks some decisions are made for the best. For example, taking influence from the cartoon for a character that was popular in the cartoon…..especially if this is presented by a team member who knows a lot about the character. However he laughs and says sometimes “There is nothing you can do about it. Please forgive me!”.
Kunihiro was asked about making consultations for designs.
- When he sees that a design will not work properly, he will consult the designer(implied the Hasbro designers have some creative freedom with the designs but he will step in if he can tell something won’t work)
- Mentioned how some of the Hasbro team has left over the years
Kunihiro was asked if Hasbro mainly develops the movie toys:
- Kunihiro says that whatever is co-developed by Hasbro is usually led by Hasbro.
Kunihiro is asked how Transformers design proceeds:
With regards to movie figures, 1st Hasbro brings up what they want to make.
- Takara then brainstorms how to make the figure
- After a couple of days, the Takara team makes a simple drawing, mapping out transformation so that you can see the parts when they are transformed.
- Takara then makes a parts diagram of how the toy looks when disassembled. This also shows how it transforms in order
- All work completed by this stage is then compiled and presented to Hasbro as a plan for creating the toy.
- If the alt mode is based on a real vehicle, a copyright must be obtained. This starts at the drawing stage but takes time.
- There are so many things to cover when getting copyright approval. Some manufacturers will say things such as “the shape of this light is different”. However there are times when approval can be granted easily. For example, Sikorsky was surprised at how Blackout turned out and pleased with it.
More design info:
- Kunihiro usually works on 4-5 designs simultaneously but tries hard not to keep count. The idea is to work on the next design while making drawing samples of a current design.
- He thinks it’s okay if 2 designs are designed similarly. Though that may be the case, sometimes the products end up completely different despite the transformations being the same. He thinks this is kind of fun.
- Ultimately he thinks toys are basically children’s things
Kunihiro was asked if design has changed with the times, due to being able to use a computer and access CG designs:
- He says of course there are parts that have evolved even when such things are available but the progress of the know-how aspect is greater. In the old days, most Transformers toys could stand and their arms moved whereas now their whole bodies move. He laughed and said “if the waist does not move you will get angry”.
- The method of screwing pieces of plastic together hasn’t changed but he sees this advancing in the future with new hardware.
- He mentions that parts are designed to pop off when pressure is applied for example, when transforming the toy wrong. They are designed to be this way at the drawing stage.
It was a proposal by Hasbro to make the robot figures in scale with each other. At that point, it was decided that the deluxe, voyager and leader size classes would be used. Kunihiro said they were able to recreate the battle scenes(going by the translations I think he’s referring to the background displays that come with each figure). Also he was able to get 3D data from Paramount, so Studio Series turned out much better than previous series in terms of detail; he thinks that’s the feature of the line.
He designed Ratchet, Blackout and Megatron. He is also the designer of the 2009 ROTF voyager Megatron, didn’t get to see the final toe design until he saw the movie. Unlike before, when he was only given a mere drawing to work off of, for Studio Series he was given the CG files for robot and vehicle mode(presumably for everything but the upcoming Bumblebee movie). With the CG files he can see the designs with a 360 degree view unlike having to pause the movie between frames.
They can’t recreate every detail they see on the CG(since it’s so fine), but are able to focus on which parts to make realistic and which parts to skip.
Studio Series Blackout
- Blackout has sold well worldwide and will be rereleased in Japan this month.
- This figure was made since CG data was on hand
- Kunihiro said Blackout has a terribly complicated shape that you can’t make out completely even though you’re watching the movie.
- He wanted to design the toy to resemble the design in the movie as close as he could while having access to the CG
- He wanted to make the Pave Low helicopter mode realistic
- He liked the transformation from Pave Low to robot mode in the 1st movie
- Biggest voyager in the line so far
- Foot design is completely different from the voyager he designed 10 years ago in the ROTF line(due to having access to CG this time)
- Seems like Kunihiro was apologizing about being able to see through the gap in Megatron’s torso from the side.
Closing thoughts on the Studio Series line:
- It’s a challenge for smaller figures since their smaller size makes it difficult to reproduce the finer details
- There’s also the issue of a physically smaller figure coming off as boring when there are other figures in the same size class/pricepoint which are substantially bigger
- Jazz was difficult to design due to sizing/dimensions of the hinges. This could’ve been easier had the entire figure been designed to be physically bigger. However it would’ve ended up too big like the size of Blackout(not sure if he was implying the voyager Blackout from 2007).
- Mentioned that he is reducing the transformation process considerably overall.
- Even if someone transforms Blackout a lot, he feels sorry for them(it was a joke but something may have been lost in translation here).
- It’s pointed out that SS Blackout’s transformation has been suppressed(simplified?) considerably
- Kunihiro mentions that it’s hard to make a figure resemble either a robot or vehicle when the transformation process is short. It’s possible to get the figure to resemble the robot or vehicle modes more by increasing the number of transformation steps
- For ROTF, Kunihiro says he put too much emphasis on making the robot and vehicle designs look accurate which resulted in transformations that were too complicated for quite a few of the products.
- However he doesn’t like making toys hard to play with.