Hey folks, Captain Collector reporting from in San Diego, California, on the convention floor at Comic-Con International! I’m very fortunate to be given the opportunity today to spend a few minutes talking with John Warden, Design Manager for Hasbro’s Transformers brand. Let’s get right to the burning questions!
CC: Hello John! So I’ve always wanted to ask, how long does it take to go front concept to on shelf for the average Transformer? What’s the normal lifespan for a figure like the new Titans Return Blaster on display here?
JW: You know, it really depends on the individual toy. Your typical toy takes about a year, from the planning stage all the way to engineering and tooling at the end. For Blaster here, what we typically had to do is what we always for the year; we figure out the entire full year of product at the start. We look at ways that we can take the character, how many new tools we’re going to have, how many decos. We kind of figure out the “shape” of the line, work with the marketing team, and engineering to figure out what if the best product line to do. Once we kick those characters off, we discuss the plans with our partners, the original creators of the Transformers, Takara-Tomy. They’re really the masters of transformation! They bring a level of sophistication to these things; they’re really the only people in the world who could do it. So I’ll do some sketches of characters in alt mode, in robot mode. We discuss the sketches with Takara-Tomy, and they take those sketches and start to bring the toy to life with CAD development. Eventually they become gray models we can test out, test the transformation, and as time goes by, we see the products start to come in. We have meetings literally once a week where we all sit around and try to transform the toys, and look for ways to improve the overall product. After any changes and corrections are made, they final toys get released to the public!
CC: Amazing! Speaking of engineering and testing samples, I’ve noticed several samples of Scourge has a bit of a “bobble-head” issue, is this something that normally comes up during these sessions?
JW: Yeah, you know, it’s tricky. Whenever you have a universally swappable system like Titans Return, it opens up a whole bevy of engineering challenges, because you’ve got fitment, tolerances that have to be checked, so you’re bound to have a couple of guys that may have minor fitment issues. You’re certainly looking at everything, but when the fans notice something, definitely let us know about it so that we can take care of it to the best of our ability.
CC: I’m always somewhat relieved to hear that, it makes me feel better that it’s not just me!
CC: Speaking of Takara-Tomy, I’ve noticed sometimes their versions overseas have some significant changes to them. Power master Optimus, for example comes to mind, where he has a different truck cab, chest, and tilting feet. Does Hasbro co-develop toys like this, or does the product take a “fork in the road” at some point in the development process?
JW: A lot of times, they strategically focus on different elements for their market. Specifically in their Legends line this year, you’re looking at more figures that are closely match the original Headmasters cartoon, in terms of colors, some of the design elements that match up with the design elements from that show. Some of the color and designs choices are made to be exclusive versions for their marketplace, and they feature additional tooled parts, like Ginrai, who is really a different character to Power master Optimus Prime in Japan. So they wanted to try to bring that character to life in a unique way. And sometimes, we’ll bring their exclusive toys to market here, like we did with the Deluxe Groove from the Protectobots. That was a Takara developed item. We brought him over because we knew fans wanted to upgrade their Defensor. Some fans loved Rook!
CC: I loved that Groove was in scale this time, not some gigantic, out-of-scale motorcycle!
JW: Exactly! Having that Groove toy available, it just speaks to all different types of fans: There’s fans who like the upgrades, fans who like the IDW characters, fans who like the animated series. In our Titans Returns line, we’re trying to touch on as many of these things as possible. I think fans should stay tuned for lots of surprises in the future!
CC: I have to say, I’m really surprised and impressed to see a US released Liokaiser!
JW: Yeah,Yeah! To let you know, Liokaiser is actually a really interesting one, because he comes from Transformers Victory. As you know, he’s one of the more valuable original combiners to build. For this version, because he’s combiner Wars compatible, he has the ability to swap out limbs. His torso is actually a voyager class version of the character “Deathzaurus”, and if you look closely, they all have uniquely tooled heads!
CC: I DID notice that!
JW: They have little articulation points to make their horns come out! So this is part of our “Platinum Edition” series, and he’s an Entertainment Earth exclusive. He comes out in November.
CC: So does Liokaiser open the doors for characters like Overlord and Star Saber to our market?
JW: I think fans will just have to stay tuned!
CC: Fair enough!
JW: I can’t give away all my secrets (laughing)!
CC: I don’t blame you! Speaking of rare G1 toys that weren’t released in the US, I often get asked about the possibility of a Metro Titan repainted from the Titan Class Metroplex…
JW: Oh man, Metro Titan is great! He’s one of my favorites.
CC: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about a few potential releases. I love the new Legends, and I get asked almost weekly, “Where’s Kickback!”
JW: Well, Kickback as everyone knows, is the last remaining Insecticon. I guess fans will just have to stay tuned! I think there’s exciting news on the way. I think there are fans who never expected a new version of Gnaw the Sharkticon! (Editor’s note: Hasbro unveiled Kickback about one week after SDCC at another convention) I don’t know about you, but I want to start filling my office with Gnaws!
CC: That’s the problem, I need at least ten of him!
JW: That’s the thing, I can see fans creating funny photos with armies of Gnaw surrounding the family cat (laughter)!
CC: He’s one I never thought we’d get, so that was a great surprise. I also really love this new voyager class mold for Megatron…
JW: Yeah, he’s really cool. He’s actually a very complex transformation…
CC: I see he is a triple changer who becomes a fighter jet as well as a tank. Might we see a Blitzwing retool/repaint down the road?
JW: He definitely has elements of Blitzwing, doesn’t he? Yeah, he’s cool because all three modes are really solid. He’s got great articulation, and the turret on the tank cannon rotates, it’s really cool. And the way we fit the titan Master inside the cockpit, it actually double-hinges upward so that he can fit inside.
CC: Can you tell us about the upcoming Computron box set, are there changes to Scattorshot’s deco, to differentiate him from the previous single release? Is he changed from the “Betatron” version?
JW: Well, Betratron is a different combiner, but yes, Scattorshot’s deco is completely unique form the previous release. In the Machinima series, you’ll see Computron, and it’s a very exciting moment where they are battling it out, and the version you see in the Machinima show is the version that Hasbro is releasing. It’s really exciting. One of the exciting parts of the set is the little Scrounge character. He’s got a special arm, he makes Computron special.
CC: So for fans who bought the first version, it’s definitely unique then?
JW: Oh yes, you’ll see it right away.
CC: One last question, any chance that we’ll see toys based off of “Transformers: Earth Wars”?
JW: Well, we partnered with Earth Wars, and supplied them with our toy CADs, so they’ll bear a strong resemblance to our toy line. Some of the characters you’ll have to wait and see. For the most part, we’ll be focusing on Titans Return through 2017. We’ve got incredible stuff coming, like Power master Optimus Prime, Fortress Maximus and others. And next year, we’ve got Trypticon! We’ve already started seeing gray models, and he’s amazing. He’s got an incredible G1 look, with upgraded detail. He’s massive, and his city mode is awesome.
CC: John, this was fun, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time!
JW: You bet man, enjoy the show!
I’d like to personally thank John Warden and the great folks at Hasbro who went above and beyond to make this great opportunity possible. There’s some incredible Transformers coming your way, and I personally can’t wait to see what the future holds!
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