This morning I was greeted with some Transformers Answers from Hasbro and HunterPR! These questions are from my twitter friends exVeeBrawn and rac2750. If you’ve got questions for the Hasbro Transformers team; leave a comment, tweet me or email me! Now lets get to those questions and answers.
1). “In recent years, several toys have featured third modes, and sometimes indications of third modes that were dropped prior to release. While the toys that involve special parts for their additional transformation modes clearly have these features planned from an early stage, some toys seem to achieve their extra forms using only the parts required for their regular vehicle and robot forms. In this latter case, are the extra modes typically included in plans for a toy from the very beginning, or are they sometimes “figured out” at later stages in the design? Is there any special criteria that leads to the decision to give a toy an extra mode?”
Third modes are a tricky thing because it is nearly impossible to get a good robot mode and two good vehicle modes out of one toy; one or more of the modes always makes some sort of compromise. For this reason, unless it is specifically a “classic” triple-changer like Astrotrain or Springer, any 3rd mode is designed to add some additional play value without compromising the other modes. This usually means the 3rd mode will not be as aesthetically strong as the other modes. For instance, Straxus we wanted his to have a cannon emplacement mode in addition to his robot and vehicle modes, but felt it was a lower priority. For this reason, his cannon platform mode is more functional than aesthetic.
These decisions are usually made in the early stages of the design process, but in some circumstances an additional mode was “discovered” well into the design process. This is a situation that arises in various ways, so the simple answer is that sometimes it is planned and sometimes it is just a happy accident.
2). “It seems as though a lot of emphasis is currently being put on improving the hands on Transformers figures. Darkmount is the best of these, with hands that look quite natural and can hold a great variety of weapons, including traditional 5mm pegs. Are you looking for a new standard to replace the blocky fists typical of Transformers, or is it more a matter of what’s appropriate for each figure?”
We are always making an effort to enhance the looks of certain parts of figures, like hands, without sacrificing functionality. More often this can be seen in “open hand” designs like War for Cybertron Bumblebee that have more natural hand poses but still providing a port for gear. We also try to make sure that a figure’s hands are appropriate to their accessories, such as the hands (and arms) of Drift being designed so he can hold his sword with both hands. In the case of Darkmount, the hand design was necessary to allow him to hold his signature axe. Because of the additional complexity of opening hands like his, they are more often the exception than the rule.
Additionally, this expression is functional (needs to hold a certain kind of weapon) and it is also derivative of the characters’ personalities (clenched fists are very appropriate for characters who have surly demeanor). Designing Transformer hands is a bit different than a G.I. JOE or STAR WARS figure, because our hands often need to be hidden inside of other parts. So we try to work with what the conversion system allows us to.