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TakaraTomy Staff Interview - Animated

Posted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 6:35 pm
by andersonh1
Frontpaged. Another translated interview, which are always of great interest to me. ... mated.html

We wanted Transformers with strong individuality - Shogo Hasui

"Creating Distinctive Characters"

- Firstly, please tell us the development process of "Animated" project.

Hasui: The project itself launched long time ago, earlier than the Hollywood movie. It was 2005, and the series was meant to be a successor of "Galaxy Force (Cybertron)" cartoon series. At that time there was already a talk of a live action movie, but we did not know when it would actually go on production. Though soon after it was decided that the movie was to be released in 2007 and we suspended "Animated" project and concentrated on the development of the movie products.
We went back to "Animated" project in October 2006 and that was when we actually started working on the products.

- How did you decide on the American comic styled design, which is very different from the movie?

Hasui: The concept sketch we received from Hasbro showed Transformers that were not quite like the ones we were accustomed to up until "Galaxy Force". They looked more like suited-up American heroes than robots comprised of straight lines. I soon realized that the focus was on their characters as American action figures, not as transforming robot toys. When my superior asked me if I could pull it off, I answered, "I doubt if I could, I can't really find any vehicle parts that could turn into the robot body." But at the same time I felt enthusiastic about the challenge of creating a new design concept and transformation that would be different from "Galaxy Force".
Eventually I reached a conclusion that we needed to create robots whose proportions would imply what type of characters they were. What I did differently from "Galaxy Force" was to change the distribution of vehicle parts (in robot mode); I attempted to treat those parts as if they were muscles. For example, I designed a powerful looking character to have many of those parts on his arms to convey the impression of big muscular arms. I received applause like never before when I went with this idea and presented test models to Hasbro. It gave me confidence to continue on.

- What is the main focus of this series?

Hasui: As was evident in Hasbro's initial concept sketch, our aim in this series was to create Transformers with lots of unique individuality.
To achieve it, we put emphasis on the "silhouette"; the character's personality was to be clear just by a glance at their outline. For example, Ironhide (Bulkhead)'s massive arms indicate that he is powerful, while his round shouldered and chubby shape tells you he also has a gentle soul. We tried to show something about the characters with their body proportions.
At an early stage of development, Ratchet had a flatter stomach, until I noticed he was bigger in the concept sketch. I thought that might be his middle-aged bulge and added more bulk there. (*laugh) It also helped making his outline more distinctive.
There was also "stance", the way the character would stand. Optimus was designed with a certain "stance" in mind; he stands tall as if he is saying, "I am the leader!", which is typical of American heroes. Also, please take a look at their backs. All figures have very "expressive" backs. It is a common method when designing transforming robots to place excess parts on their backs, but we avoided it with this series. On the contrary, you can actually get an impression that they have backbones. The "stance" I have just talked about needs to emphasize a backbone, and a good balance can be achieved when the backbone looks slightly arched when viewed from the side, and with that they look great from any angle.
Also, we eliminated excessive details and used the surface of the vehicle mode parts to express the bulk of the robot. It made each character easily recognizable. Until "Animated", we always tried to have some standards for the vehicle and robot size, but this time we allowed more variety according to their characters. It was also the first time we attempted to add the characters' background to the toys, such as Ratchet's broken crest or joint to attach Lockdown's weapon. With this series the storyline was recongized at the development stage.

"Characteristic Transformation"

- What was the reason for the G1 homages?

Hasui: That was the cartoon company's choice. We normally prefer to create new characters with new styles. When I first heard their requests, I was impressed how much they loved (G1). Actually, Hot Rod was to be the main character initially. Bumblebee having speed as his attribute is a remainder of him.

The very first prototypes; "Hot Rod" and "Rhinox"

- What was the process of designing characters?

Hasui: Mr. Eric Siebenaler, a designer from Hasbro, and I worked together; I made some suggestions, and he always replied with encouragement and his own ideas. Hasbro and we had not communicated like this during a development of Transformers before. It was more of a one-way correspondence from each end to pick better ideas. But with "Animated", Hasbro and we exchanged our ideas, and I believe our discussion resulted in higher-quality products.
The character designs in Season 1 were decided after numerous changes during the discussions among the 3 companies (cartoon company, Hasbro and TakaraTomy). Actually, the first concept model was Hot Rod, and there were many alterations until he eventually became Bumblebee.
As for the Season 2 characters, because of the Movie product development preceding the cartoon, we received the designs which cartoon company and Hasbro decided on. Though I hear Eric-san negotiated the design adjustment with the cartoon company when the designs were impossible to contrive transformation.

- Are there any common gimmicks like the Movie lines' "Auto-Morph" or "Mech-Alive"?

Hasui: At a glance, they all seem to have different kind of gimmicks, but the common theme is to emphasize each character's personality.
For the early line-up, we introduced "Signature Transform". For example, Optimus' upper body rotates during transformation and Ratchet is posed as if he is ready to begin a repair operation when he is transformed. Also, the first figure I took on, Cybertron Mode Optimus, completes his transformation with a swing of the axe from the back. The concept was to give them personalized transformation which was not a mere "process" but a "play".
For later line-ups, we introduced "Signature Weapon" concept, such as Grimlock's flame sword and Soundwave's guitar. We actively proposed our ideas to be added to the character set up sent from Hasbro. Soundwave didn't have a weapon at first, but I felt he needed a musical themed weapon to make himself more appealing. I suggested a familiar spirit that transforms into a guitar for him, and the suggestion was accepted!

- There must have been a time you that you were working on "Classics", "Animated" and "The Movie" in parallel?

Hasui: "Revenge (of The Fallen)" certainly overlapped (with "Animated") and I was drawing Sideswipe and Samurai Prowl at the same time. It was very hard to change the way of thinking to alternate between the two as there was a big difference in the numbers of the lines required for each designs. Though the basic order was "Animated" - "The Movie" and it helped me work with some consistency. I would have been more confused if the order was other way round. There was also technical synergy effect between the two series. We wouldn't have been able to create characters with such unique appearance for "Revenge" if not for the know-how we gained from "Animated". It has of course been reflected on the improvement of the products as merchandise.
By the way, I used to use a ruler when drawing straight lines up until "Galaxy Force", but now I draw without one. I add slight curves to straight lines and try to avoid using parallel lines in order to create the impression of musculature.

"Transformers as a Family Entertainment"

- Tell us about your first impression of "Animated" visuals.

Hasui: The first image I saw was a line drawing of Optimus transforming. His movement was like a tornado and I adopted it to his transformation gimmick. The animation was very expressive and even though I didn't fully understand the language it was still very enjoyable. The show is definitely a pure entertainment that can be enjoyed by everyone. We had been hoping for a while to make Transformers series more family oriented, and "Animated" is certainly heading that way. Also, you don't see the characters holding firearms in the cartoon, it is because the show is intended for the whole family. The decision has been reflected on the toys as well, and even when the character is armed, the weapon is designed not to be realistic or he does not hold it like a gun.

- Tell us about the latest tendency on the development side?

Hasui: When I joined the company (in 1999), we might use the traditional Transformers names, but the characteristics for them were not the same. But recently I have noticed the design and personality are more set according to the character such as Optimus or Bumblebee.
Back in the days of "Micron Legend (Armada)", it was merely my personal preference to give Starscream a "traditional Starscream" appearance, but the whole franchise tends to pay homage to the old characters lately. I am happy with it.
This new trend is very evident in "Animated" and "The Movie", Optimus is definitely the one who takes the lead while Bumblebee seems innocent and somewhat childlike.

- Lastly, please send your message to the fans.

Hasui: Transformers have always been adopting something new, and "Animated" has become a series with a new perspective like we have never had before thanks to its theme, "making individuality stand out". Everything about "Robot", "Vehicle" and Transformation" is fresh and unique. While retaining the respect for the series up to now, we also added the new perspective and fun to the toys. This is evident once you actually handle them. Please try them, you will see how "Transformers" toy series are carrying on as they expand.

Re: TakaraTomy Staff Interview - Animated

Posted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 4:47 pm
by Onslaught Six
Another great interview from the land of the Rising Sun. It's inneresting how he's talking about these toys that were developed, in some cases, almost two years ago, and now he's trying to convince the main audience (Japan, of course) "Hey! Try Animated, it rules!"

Unfortunately, the toys are kinda iffy but the show's pretty good. And it's interesting to see 'somebody' who was involved with it saying something. Hasbro is always suspiciously quiet on their end--they pick a direction, throw it out there, and then...we never find out anything about it from there end. Nobody from Hasbro ever said, "Hey, Animated rules, you just need to give it a chance." And it's the same with the movie, or ROTF, or, hell, the Power Core Combiners and War For Cybertron.

I mean, I sort of understand why they do it--because they don't want to say something and then be held accountable for it later. Hell, any time Hasbro even 'utters' a minor idea ("We're probably gonna make a Drift toy!") they hear almost *nothing* but constant hounding about it until it happens or they say "No, we're not going to do that."

Re: TakaraTomy Staff Interview - Animated

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:12 am
by BWprowl
I find it extremely interesting that one reason the ROTF designs became so unusual and distinctive is because of the time the designers spent working on Animated. That explains a lot, if you ask me.

Re: TakaraTomy Staff Interview - Animated

Posted: Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:55 am
by Onslaught Six
I don't think it's just that--remember, ROTF's designs were primarily done by ILM, and HasTak just adapts them.

Re: TakaraTomy Staff Interview - Animated

Posted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:47 pm
by onslaught86
It does explain why both lines have some very odd engineering choices, though.