I’m not sure when the last time you tried to transform a Transformer toy was, and while the franchise isn’t my absolute favorite, I simply had to buy the Arcee toy when it came out after Transformers 2. It is now a pink not-robot/not-motorcycle. Even with the illustrated instruction sheet, I took her from motorcycle to… a useless stack of plastic. (Mine doesn’t look like either of these images.)
If you think that these robots in disguise have become much more complex over the years… it turns out you’re correct. When Michael Bay and Industrial Light and Magic went to work on the first Transformers movie, Hasbro got a whole new set of instructions. According to an article on Gizmodo, Transformers Senior Design Director Josh Lamb says, “The reference style is so phenomenal in the movie tie-ins, we got more complicated than we had to… Bay and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) work it pretty well. But they also do some magic.”
Per the article, in the movie, “a car’s parts could fold into infinitely small sections. Tiny pieces of interlocking plastic? Not so much.”
The article also points out that the classic Volkswagen version of Bumblebee was changed in the movie to a 1977 Chevrolet Camaro, thanks to a licensing deal. This meant that the toy makers were then burdened with making sure the car mode matched the original car’s specifics and yet could still morph into a robot that resembled the one in the movie… a problem the film makers didn’t have to worry about since they were not dealing with hard plastic but digital images.
Despite the added hurdles, Lamb states “We were definitely proud of them when it was all said and done. The movie models were the most accurate and realistic we’d ever produced.” Commenting on the complexity of the newer Transformer toys, he said “You get back to G1 Optimus Prime, and you can transform it with your eyes closed once you figured it out.”
He also mentions that with the advent of the movies, the franchise was no longer about a slew of characters and that Optimus Prime and Bumblebee became the focus. (Sounds like every other action figure line, nowadays.)
With the movies over, Lamb stated that he and his team are looking forward to simplifying their designs and going back to basics. So maybe now, I will have an Arcee that doesn’t look like scrap metal!
Do you still collect Transformers? Did you experience any issues with the movie-era toys? Leave a comment below!