Designing The New Bumblebee Transformer Toy Wasn't Easy
"I think it brought a lot of challenges, when we think about the smooth rounded legs of Bee."
This December, the Transformer known as Bumblebee returns to theaters; however, he'll be flying solo as the star of his own movie. One thing fans of the Transformers series can look forward to--aside from gigantic set pieces blowing up and robots punching each other--are the Transformers toys. At Comic-Con, GameSpot visited the Hasbro booth to discuss the upcoming Bumblebee toys with John Warden, Senior Design Manager for the company's Transformers line.
The upcoming Bumblebee movie takes place in 1987, decades before the Michael Bay franchise, which means that Bumblebee will have a completely different look. "This is a softer approach to Bee, both physically and emotionally," explained Warden. "He's made up of parts of a Volkswagen Beetle, the classic car. This was done deliberately to kind of allow the characters to emote in a more tender way with Bumblebee. Some of the versions of Bumblebee over the years have been very angular, complicated, lots of jagged edges.
"When we worked with [Bumblebee director Travis Knight] on this, Travis really had a vision. The director of the Paramount film had a vision that the human character needs to be able to be embraced by Bee and not get messed up. So, when we look at the toys, we wanted to make sure that the iconic parts of the [Volkswagen Beetle]. It's a licensed car, so you have to make sure the VW is spot-on, but all those pieces find their way into the parts of his body. I think it brought a lot of challenges, when we think about the smooth rounded legs of Bee. He's got a lot of bulk and mass, even though he's sort of a small bot... [The Studio Series toy] was a trick because there's so many bulbous forms on his legs that there's a couple of tricky transformations built into it."
While the Generation One version of Bumblebee also transformed into a yellow VW Bug, the look in robotic form is quite different and the transformation is a bit more complicated than flipping Bumblebee's head and pulling out his arms. "The toy is more complicated, but I think the spirit of the original Bee, and the innocence of that beetle that we remember from G1 is there," explained Warden. "It's definitely complicated. I wouldn't say horribly complicated. It's enjoyably complicated. It really depends on who the consumer is. We think about, for the Bumblebee movie product line, it spans a full range of ages. So, the more the easy transformations, or conversions, from robot to vehicle."
For this new line, Hasbro continues its relationship with Takara Tomy, which is important to the franchise. "We work with the partners at Takara Tomy in Japan, it's a long standing partnership, that goes back to honestly the 1970s and '80s, and we work together by, you know, Hasbro will present a vision of a robot or a character and Takara will help us kind of break down that puzzle. A lot of times it's very analog, honestly. We do like graph paper, and the Takara guys will kind of color in with the different colored pencils what the different parts are, and where they go in the robot mode, and what those joints are. A lot of the joints and the hinges that are used in the more complicated Transformers--like Studio Series or the new War for Cyber tron stuff--on my tenure with Hasbro, I found out that there's a handful of transformation steps that are repeated. If you're along for the ride as a Transformers fan, you start to [go], 'Oh yeah, I know that transformation. That's very similar to this other toy I might have.'"
Warden explained that to tie into the upcoming movie, Hasbro will offer an assortment of different types of Bumblebee toys. "We have the Energon Knights. We have Power Charged Bumblebee. We have DJ Bumblebee who doesn't convert but you can like do different mods of your voice and have it sing back in the tune with 'Busta Move,' so you could have him say anything, and he sings it back with 'Walk This Way' or 'Busta Move' or the Transformers' theme song. We've also got role-play items like the Division helmet or the Studio Series Bluetooth Bumblebee helmet [that] can actually hook your phone up to and play streaming music out of it if you wanted to. It's a full range of products. It's going to be in retail this fall."
These Bumblebee toys will be on sale later this year, in line with when the movie hits theaters on December 21. At Comic-Con, we learned a little bit more about the movie at the panel, including a guest appearance by the voice of Optimus Prime.
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