TFv’s SDCC Hasbro Transformers Team Interview

hasbro-brand-tfAt this year’s San Diego Comic Con, TFviews was invited to conduct a ten-minute interview with Hasbro Transformers team members Jerry Jivoin (Transformers senior brand director of marketing and toy develoment) and John Warden (Transformers design manager), the only restriction being that we had to publish it verbatim… which is our policy anyway, so of course we agreed. Friend of the site Maradona conducted this interview earlier today at the Hasbro booth in the SDCC exhibit hall. Despite someone screaming in the background, because it wouldn’t be Comic-Con without someone being inappropriately in your space one way or another, presents our interview with the Hasbro Transformers. On the current “Transformers: Robots in Disguise” line and the “Transformers: Generations: Combiner Wars” line, there seems like a significant difference in design and aesthetic, with “Robots in Disguise” having simpler product aiming more for a kid style. Will this trend continue into the future, splitting how the brands are developed?

Hasbro: Yeah, I think when you look at… we’ve got out, essentially we have our, I’ll thrown in Rescue Bots, we think about our 3 consumer groups and storytelling that we’re doing, when you look at the overall franchise, you have our youngest consumers with Rescue Bots generally start around 3 years old, and we have episode on Discovery Family network that we have running there, and we have a toyline targeted for that preschooler; and then we have our core line for our consumers of the kids from 5 years old, maybe 8 years old, 9 years old, and that is with our Robots in Disguise line with the show on Cartoon Network, and that’s obviously a more age-appropriate show, style, look, play, etc., for that particular consumer; then you have your Generations consumer, your older boys, your tweens, your teens, your older fans – not to say even “older boy” but older fan, older kids in general because we have both boy and girl consumers – so when you look at that age bracket, now that has that older, a little edgier style, the type of the transformations are going to be a little more complex, for that older consumer, that older child consumer even, and we have that storytelling that we just announced with Machinima that’s going to have its own cartoon animated series for Machinima for the Combiner Wars. So you can see that that’s definitely going to continue, to answer your question, it’s making sure that the story and the product and the marketing is geared towards that consumer group depending on which one you’re looking at, so especially with Transformers’ puzzle play, we think about a 4-year-old and what they can actually do from the transformation steps, you want to make sure they have an enjoyable experience and that the story is appropriate for them in that age group. And also the same thing for someone who’s 8, 9, 35, depending on what age you are, that they’re experiencing the story and the product that’s appropriate for their age. Will future collector-focused lines like Generations have unified themes the way we’ve had with the “Combiner Wars” theme this year?

Hasbro: Yes. That’s an easy one! Yes, I mean you can see the trend there, with the Combiner Wars and what we’re doing telling them one unified theme throughout that whole line – just like Robots in Disguise, you have a unified theme that we can align with. With the 20th anniversary of Beast Wars coming up next year and Takara suggesting they will do a Beast Wars Masterpiece figure from Optimus Primal, will Hasbro be tackling the anniversary in any way as well?

Hasbro: We definitely recognize the anniversary from the 20th anniversary of Beast Wars, we’re looking at different ways to we’ll do that. We’ll have some products that celebrate the anniversary for Beast Wars as well. We look at all our anniversaries as “what ways can we bring some new things the fans will appreciate.” We’ll definitely do a little bit to celebrate it. Similarly, will we see more homage and celebrations of other series beyond Generation 1 in the future? For example, when Transformers Armada is 15 years old in 2017, might we see something like Masterpiece Hot Shot?

Hasbro: There is no plan as of now, but I think it kinda goes back to he last question about anniversaries. There’s all kinds of anniversaries that are coming up that it’s almost like “ok, where do we want to invest in creating a product that celebrates the appropriate anniversary.” If there’s something that’s out there I think what you see there with Optimus Primal at Takaratomy will leap in there in our Masterpiece line-up with a great way to celebrate Beast Wars 20th anniversary. So we’ll look for that kind of stuff in the future, there’s nothing planned for 2017 when it comes to Armada, the Aramda line, nothing in the plans as of right now, but not to say that we wouldn’t.

One thing we know for sure is that there is… you know, Transformers fan-base is general is great because of the wide spectrum of the audience that we have. We have people that love G1, we have that people that love… everything, we have some people that just like Beast Wars, so embracing all of the aspects and being as knowledgeable as we can be about what all those characters are, what is really the emotional connection for all of our fans, we try our best to look around of those things. Might Hasbro develop Combiner Wars beyond just modern-day vehicles? The Technobots forming Computron from futuristic vehicles or the Terrorcons (the monster-bots forming Abominus) who could perhaps be remolded into the Predacons (forming Predaking) would be prime examples.

Hasbro: A little leading there (ha ha!). Well, obviously we hear the fans loud and clear, and we know how beloved the beast combiners are. The challenge of the question is how would we do it strategically in order to make it worthwhile value for our consumer and make it balance out so that you can live around those characters in a good and meaningful way. I guess you can just say “stay tuned.” On the Combiner Wars Deluxe figures, the IDW comic book pack-in issues are taken from the IDW Transformers book before the Combiner Wars crossover, so they don’t correspond to the characters they come with, some don’t even have combiners in them at all. So how are the comic books chosen for the pack-ins?

Hasbro: In general, we would have those… they would be linked up, I know some of the first ones that were released due to some scheduling conflicts, we were only able to put in rereleases with new covers even though they don’t have combiners in them and they might not be part of the Combiner Wars story. Going forward, you’ll see that more synced up, where they’ll have actual Combiner Wars comics in there. Unfortunately, the development timeline didn’t line up properly, but you’ll see that more going forward. Ideally, they would be completely synced up, which is where we’ll be getting to. Considering the relatively small size of the comic book reading audience (around 10,000 a month) compared to a television series (a couple million an episode) or certainly the live action movies (hundreds of millions of people), has packing in comics with the deluxe figures produced higher sales for either or both figures and comics?

Hasbro: I think when you look at what’s great about our partnering, IDW is a fantastic partner, and what’s great is like, when you look at comics, there’s the print comics but there’s also digital, and ultimately it’s just great storytelling, so what we wanted to do with the pack-in of the comic is that when somebody, when a child, older kid, whoever gets the product, mom takes it home, they can read about a character, they can read a story for Transformers, and it just continues to add to the storytelling that we’re doing. So it’s always one of those things, it just kinda enhances the story, completes kind of that circle, and we like having this packed into the product lines that will deliver that. Does Hasbro view the IDW comics as an idea-generator for the toy brand, an entity that produces new designs and updated takes on existing characters that can then be used to produce a new version of a toy — such as Ultra Magnus coming with the Minimus Ambus mini-figure, or creating demand for Swerve?

Hasbro: Well, I spoke to this in another interview, but I think it’s pertinent to this question as well: I think the partnership with IDW is fantastic. We’re inspired by them as much as they’re inspired by us, so moving forward we’ve got this great partnership where we do meet them, we communicate what the big line plan is. They would find out we have a character coming and they might weave it into their stories in a meaningful way. But I think it’s just like how we do it with our characters with like “what is the best fit for a character, what’s the best way to have a meaningful part of their story” and it all comes down to that great partnership we have which now is stronger than ever before. And I think you make a good point, Magnus is really inspired by the great depiction in the IDW series, but definitely we look at a character like Victorion, that was created by the fans and the IDW storyline is going to weave that into it, so I think it’s just a testament to how strong our partnership is with IDW. Recently, Hasbro’s GI Joe and Transformers divisions worked together to produce cross-brand packs through the official fan club for Marissa Faireborn and Old Snake as GI Joe figures, characters that have direct connections in one form or another to both the Transformers cartoon and the GI Joe cartoon. Have you considered also tackling Hector Ramirez, the cartoon’s version of Geraldo Rivera, for this line? He crossed over on Hasbro cartoons for GI Joe, Transformers, Jem, and Inhumanoids, and would make a great addition… and I think there’s already the camera accessory with GI Joe.

Hasbro: I know that accessory, I designed it, I worked on GI Joe for a long time! I know well about Hector Ramirez, but unfortunately there’s no plans for him at this time. We definitely looked at Hector for a while when we were on GI Joe working on that. Old Snake is kind of a similar deal. Good call though, no plans as of yet.


And that’s it for our interview. Thank you so much to Maradona for picking up the slack, to everybody on the Hasbro Transformers team, and to Hunter for setting it up.

Discuss this interview in its forums thread!