Our readers came up with these 5 great questions to send in on December 3rd, and today Hasbro was generous enough to supply us all 5 answers.
TFviews.com: What criteria guides the team to determine the size/class of figure that a particular character is assigned? Some examples of this where the size might not be immediately an obvious fit are Universe Powerglide being an Ultra, Movie Bonecrusher a Deluxe, the upcoming Universe Jazz and Red Alert being just Legends. So what goes into that process for specific characters?
Hasbro: Ah the scale questionâ€¦ These decisions, especially for the movie, are the result of a combination of factors including character prominence, relative scale to other vehicles and number of assortments in which a character appears. Given our development cycle, we usually have to make these decisions well in advance of seeing completed content be it movie, animated episodes, etc. After seeing the finished first film, I think we would have considered creating a Voyager scale Bonecrusher for the movie line rather than Deluxe.
TFviews.com: Does the TF team at Hasbro ever read fans’ online toy reviews, and if so, what do they think about them? Are there times when a review will praise a toy that the designer wasn’t expecting? What about criticisms, how are those taken? What could be better in reviews out there?
Hasbro: Yes, members of the team read the boards and listen to online video reviews often and fan feedback is extremely helpful and appreciated. For example, in the case of items with sticky paint, none of our samples in house had sticky paint, but we still make note and pass along to the manufacturing partners.
TFviews.com: Light-piping has been part of the Transformers line for quite a while now, but some figures appear to be designed for light-piping and then have these light-pipe designs circumvented through opaque materials or even paint. Why has the extensive use of light-piping been abandoned as a line-wide gimmick? Why are some uses designed, even cast in translucent plastic, and then painted over?
Hasbro: In cases where parts look to be designed for light pipe but are molded in opaque, those parts may have been moved in the tooling stage to help address certain production issues. When it comes to translucent parts that are painted over, it is usually a matter of accuracy or eye contrast. For the most part all of the transparent parts on a toy are in the same mold which means they will all be the same color. Since the transparent mold contains the windows as well as potential light piping parts, we often use a color in the blue-ish range to make the windows look more natural in vehicle mode. If this color doesn’t stand out enough on the eyes, or is inaccurate, we’ll sometimes paint over the eyes to look more appropriate. However we still like to include the light pipe feature even if it has to be painted over because we may be able to make use of it in a repaint down the road.
TFviews.com: First off, let us make clear that we do understand that repaints are part of Hasbro’s business model, and that aspect is often factored into a new mold’s budgeting, they are somewhat necessary to make the line happen. That said, why does Hasbro keep making many repaints as the same character, such as Animated Ultra Magnus and Megatron, rather than giving those repaints a new identity? While it might make sense for major characters like Optimus Prime and Bulkhead, something like Movie Jungle Bonecrusher could just as easily have been someone else, right?
Hasbro: Repaints will continue to be a combination of themed versions of original characters and new character identities. That being said, our designers are now taking a more long term view of repaints, planning new heads and accessories at the time of the initial character development in order to offer more “new character” identities down the road.
TFviews.com: With the tech-specs, who generally writes these? What is the process for writing tech-specs? Where does consistency within the theme of that line fall into the level of importance? Where does holding onto old copyrights fall there? Or are those and other issues largely up to the discretion of the writer?
Hasbro: Tech Specs and bios are written by our very talented copywriter with the input of the product designer and marketing. Generally speaking, when writing a bio, the copywriter tries to be true to the original character – especially in Classics/Universe, where we always follow the original bio – as well as research into comic and cartoon continuity. For G1 characters, we typically use the comics as a primary source, since the characters are more nuanced there than in the cartoon. Consistency is a joint responsibility of the team, but the bulk of it falls on my shoulders. We try to be consistent with how characters are portrayed, whenever possible. Most often, when there appears to be a continuity error , it is due to a character name suddenly becoming unavailable at a stage too late to change the packaging art – so you end up with a figure whose bio and specs seem to indicate a different character.
Maintenance of old trademarks is up to the team in general. Our legal department tries to let us know when a mark is at risk of abandonment, and we make an effort to include it somewhere in the product line. Unfortunately, many of our older marks lapsed many years ago and are no longer available (which is why, for instance, we have to call Ratchet “Autobot Ratchet.”)
– Well, that’s it for this round, this is a bi-monthly Q&A series so we’ll have more great questions ready to go late February (after Toy Fair). Thanks to all the readers who participated by coming up with these questions, and a huge thanks to Hasbro for making this Q&A possible!