There are few toylines in history with a legacy and history as rich as the ‘Transformers’ brand. The line has had it’s ups and downs, but for the most part has stayed steadily on the market for over three decades of entertainment and collecting! But what goes into making a toyline like this? How is it still going strong after all of these years? Well this past week at New York Comic Con 2016, we were able to sit down with several members of the creative team behind the ‘Transformers’ brand and toylines to talk about just that! We sat down with the ‘Transformers’ deign team to talk about just where they get their ideas for new ‘Transformers’ and get a peek at what we can expect to see hitting stores in the next few months! We were able to chat with John Warden (Design Manager ‘Transformers Generations’), Sean Carmine Isabella (Senior Designer ‘Transformers Robots In Disguise’), Luis De Armis (Marketing ‘Transformers Generations’), and Ben Montano (Marketing Director for “Transformers’) right after all of the big new announcements at the con! Check out our exclusive interview below!
Science Fiction: Okay, so we’re at New York Comic Con 2016 and the big question on everyone’s mind… what is the coolest new thing you guys are bringing to the table this year?
John Warden: Well for ‘Generations’ this year I really think that ‘Six Shot’ and ‘Sky Shadow’, these Leader Class Phase-Sixers are one of the coolest things that we’re doing! It’s exciting to me to be able to take a Decepticon, which is just a great toy feature, and to be able to blow it out on a big scale! Especially this guy (referring to ‘Six Shot’)! Its kind of the ability to bring back what was already an awesome play pattern to start with, the Transformer that changes into six different things. In that great detail, plus the awesome colors from the ’80s, its brought together in a brand new light. It’s just an exciting place to be on ‘Transformers’!
SF: So these are both Six-Changers?
JW: Actually no, they’re called Phase-Sixers though. ‘Six Shot’ changes into six different modes, and ‘Sky Shadow’ is a Duo-Con Triple-Changer, so he is able to split into two vehicles for his vehicle form, but then those two vehicles can become a base that is connectable to the other Leader Class Transformers in the ‘Titans Return’ line.
SF: That’s really cool!
Sean Carmine Isabella: For the ‘Robots In Disguise’ line it’s all about the ‘Combiner Force’! My favorite item here is ‘Skyhammer’. We’ve created a new system here that is sort of a quick-combination to create a combiner. So it’s all about quick-combinations! This is a really fun project to sort of reinvent combining for our target audience. We want to make combining fun, new, and modern! There’s a nice swappability feature so each combiner you can mix and match tops and bottoms to create your own characters!
SF: So you can actually just mix-and-match each one? That’s a really awesome feature! We know that ‘Combiner Force’ and ‘Robots In Disguise’ line is geared a bit more towards the younger audience while the ‘Generations’ line is geared a bit more towards collectors, but it’s really great to see the ‘Combiner Force’ looks like it’s going to be a nice line for everybody! You can just mix and match any characters as long as you have a top and bottom!
Luis De Armis: We actually like to think that ‘Generations’ as well is really attracting a broad spectrum of fans now. So you’ve got like eleven year old kids and teenagers who were never exposed to our brands and characters from the 1980’s that are just picking these up because they’re really fun toys! ‘s the advantage of working on a brand like ‘Transformers’, you’ve got this really broad spectrum between ‘Robots In Disguise’ and even ‘Rescue Bots’ where you have all of these different generations of fans coming together and it’s really cool!
SF: How do you decide which characters are due for an update? I know the brand has been going for over thirty years at this point, so it has a lot of history and has been tackled across various mediums like comics, video games, and obviously animated series and even live action movies! So how do you sort through all of that to decide who to make next?
LDA: Just to speak for ‘Generations’, we’ve got a really broad library of characters to choose from! But when I work with the marketing department, we will work together to try and figure out what is the shape of the line. We’ll have different types of alt-forms, different types of colors, Autobots and Decepticons, and a good idea really just transcends time! So you’ve got a great character like ‘Skyshadow’ or ‘Blackshadow’ who comes from the Japanese continuity who is just a great toy! Then you’ve got ‘Six-Shot’ who is a character from the late ’80s, and I think that it all comes down to what kind of toys do we want to produce, and that spectrum. Not just for older fans, but for new fans too! But for the cartoon line I think it’s a bit different…
SCI: Yes! So the really awesome thing about ‘Robots In Disguise’ is that we have got a great mixture of classic characters and new characters! So when we are kind of thinking about what characters we want to put in the line, it’s like we can look at personal favorites or we can say “okay well, we want to make a spaceship” and then create characters around the holes we haven’t filled yet. Like for example, ‘Stormshadow’! I’m a big fan of Arielbots and love Autobot jets, and we hadn’t done one in ‘Robots In Disguise’, so it was like “we need one!”! Instead of just going back and pulling one of the Arielbots, lets a new character!
SF: So is ‘Stormshadow’ on the ‘Robots In Disguise’ animated series now then? Or is he coming later?
SCI: Well right now we are just announcing him as a toy. But he’s cool! His weapon can combine together to become a super-blaster! That is the fun thing about creating a new character, you can sort of build them from the ground up and build in any features that you want him to have.
SF: Which is really cool to see happening in this line! Even with it’s history there is always room for something new.
Ben Montano: I think also, just to add, but you talked about story telling and history bring up ‘Robots In Disguise’, and I think that is where our team has had a lot of fun! It’s not just about going back thirty years or saying “well what haven’t we done in twenty-five years?”, but as we are writing for ‘Robots In Disguise and our ‘Combiner Wars’ animated series, there are a lot of cool new characters as well as the ones we love that are just like “well that makes sense as a toy”! So as we are kind of offering those, those shows and those series, that is also a place where we dip and say “well we need a character on the show that is going to do this”, and that is kind of for us and inspiration to bring that to toy form.
SF: So I know we have got some new ‘Titan Masters’ on display this year, what can you tell us about the new ‘Titan Masters’?
BM: Well the ‘Titan Masters’ really are exciting because I think that it gives fans the chance to collect a character that is great, but also a chance to populate their cities with more of these small Transformers! But it gives us a chance to bring a few obscure characters to light, so you’ve got ‘Shuffler’, who is really a very rare Japaneses ‘Headmaster’ figure that came out, but we reimagined this guy and changed him into a little purple mastodon type character that I feel has a certain universal appeal! Then a character like ‘Repugnus’… very unusual, kind of a monster bot from the ’80s, bringing him to this scale kind of makes him cute! So I think this gives fans the chance for $5 to broaden and expand their populations to their cities!
SF: Well yeah when you’ve got a bunch of Titan Class characters like “Fortress Maximus’ out there, it makes it really fun to have a ton of little guys to populate those city sized Transformers! This actually brings me to our next question! With the ‘Titan Masters’ series ‘Fortress Maximus’ out recently, what can we expect next from the Titan Class line?
JW: Well as you may already know, ‘Trypticon’ won the fan vote, which is super exciting! And ‘Trypticon’ was voted in, and as fans know we have been developing this guy but it’s a big undertaking! We’ve got some exciting news on the horizon for ‘Trypticon’, and we just ended up working on the colors for this guy! Really his design is something that really is the best of what we think fans love about the ‘Titans Return’ line. It’s got the G1 style details infused with really over the top intricate sculpted detail and the articulation that fans want these days. Just that massive scale, and fans that already have ‘Fortress Maximus’ know, to see that delivered on this great big Transformer… I think ‘Trypticon’ is really going to deliver on that!
SF: This year marked the thirtieth anniversary of ‘Transformers: The Movie’, and we know you guys just announced new versions of Hot Rod and Perceptor! Can fans of the classic film anticipate any more of the films lead characters joining the upcoming waves?
JW: Well, sprinkled throughout the ‘Titans Return’ line, we have lots of nods to the ’86 movie! It’s a big year for fans, it really is! We just introduced the new ‘Unicron’, which is kind of a ‘best of” version of all the great ‘Unicron’ figures we have done over the years. We’ve got the great colors, the right head, and then within the ‘Titans Return’ line you’ll have to stay tuned because we have some great surprises on the way!
Be sure to stay tuned to ScienceFiction.com for all of the latest updates on ‘Transformers’ figures from Hasbro! Check out our full preview image gallery for a look at some of the great new items shown off by Hasbro at New York Comic Con 2016!