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Titans Return: A Conversation with Hasbro's Marketing & Design Teams

By Anthony Brucale

New York Comic Con 2015 was a flurry of Transformers news and information. As has become a yearly event, Hasbro hosted their 'Twas the Night Before party on the Wednesday preceding NYCC and they did so with titanic information and reveals about the Prime Wars Trilogy, Titans Return, and Robots in Disguise season 2. If you kept up with our Twitter account that night, you saw how the night unfolded. The next day, Hasbro revealed more details about Titans Return, as well as their collaboration with Machinima on a Combiner Wars TV series, as well as a first hand glimpse at Titans Return Sentinel Prime.

In between those two events, I had the privledge of sitting down with the Hasbro team to discuss all-things Transformers. The interview took place in midtown Manhattan, in a hotel conference room where the team had laid out a number of the new Titan Wars figures for review and explanation as they sat down and took questions.

On hand were:

 

 

And here's what happened:

TFU.INFO: Coming off of last night, going into yesterday there was a couple of articles that came out that we’re hoping to hear more about… The Hollywood Reporter article that came out yesterday mentioned a trilogy starting with Combiner Wars and going into Titans Return; can you expand on that?

Sarah Carroll:  The trilogy, the Prime Wars Trilogy, is something we decided to do once we launched Combiner Wars, so, with Combiner Wars the whole idea was we’ve done different things across Generations and we wanted to bring everything together, from not just a toy standpoint, but an entertainment, licensing, publishing standpoint so it was more impactful for our fans of all ages. And as we got into Combiner Wars and we saw the fan response we felt like it could be even bigger and we thought about storytelling for Transformers and our fans, who always want a deeper experience, and we thought, “why not create a trilogy?” [A] Multi-chapter story that not only drives our toys but all of our great partners across multi-years. So then, it was something fans could really get into and engage and know that it was going to be continuous for a number of years.

 

TFU: Now, will this be continuous during the Movie years? Will this take a break when there is a movie year? Or is this going to tie into the future movie stuff?

SC: So that’s a great question… we’re looking as driving our Generations business, so it is separate from the movies. [A] multi-year strategy… so over the next 4 years. So if we have a movie that comes in at that time it would continue, if we don’t it will continue. So we are looking at it as its own entity.

 

TFU: And the timing of Titans Return? When is the release planned?

SC: So, the Titans Return release plan is Fall 2016.

 

TFU: And I know we’ve seen Galvatron, is there going to be an Autobot leader counterpart to this…

Ed Masiello: Actually, he’s a voyager class…

TFU: I mean leader character, not necessarily size class… we have the big bad guy, is there a big good guy as well? There’s been a Walmart listing for Powermaster Prime, there’s been a mention of Sentinel Prime in the Hollywood Reporter article… can you expand on that?

John Warden: Well, for every great villain there’s also a great hero, and Titans Return wouldn’t be an exciting, epic story if we didn’t have a cast of awesome heroes. So I think the answer to that question in a deft way would be stay tuned, we have lots of great news planned.

EM: And I think on that too, the idea of, “hero,” we are looking to shift and really build on that, you’ll hear a lot tonight in the panel. More on the story of Titans Return and some unsuspecting heroes that will step up and really play an integral role in our future storytelling, so as John said, expect that to be the case but hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of our angles and how we’re going to evolve that story.

 

TFU: The inspiration for Galvatron… is it G1? Is it IDW? Where do the inspirations come from?

EM: It’s a combination actually, we really dive deep into the G1 lore and pull those characters and modernize the styling. Definitely with our partners at IDW and Activision, we try to bring a modern approach to the look just with a new take that our partners can actually run with.

JW: I think you saw a lot of this with the design theory within Combiner Wars that we want to make sure that the loyal fans that have been with us from the start, from the 80’s or the guys who are collecting it from back then,  we maintain those iconic touchpoints but modernize aspects of it that welcome new fans and new collectors of any age into the franchise. When you look across all of Titans Return you actually see a sort of different attention to detail from Combiner Wars and I think that this is definitely… you’re going to see this continue. When you look across at Hardhead, Skullcruncher here, and definitely Galvatron, aesthetically they’ve got a kind of an advanced Cybertronian look and you definitely can see that continue throughout Titans Return.

EM: We actually pushed the hard-edge, awesome scrablines (?) and details onto the figures this round [for] the differentiation from Combiner Wars to Titans Return.   But we also added a lot of Easter Eggs this round, so you’ll see a lot of areas to hide or put your figures in, as far as your Titan Masters can go into a cockpit or hidden into a weapon or in the belly of an alligator, so, there’s a lot of stuff that’s actually a unique surprise.

 

TFU: Prior Transformers design teams have stayed away from the Headmaster concept because they didn’t want people to lose the head and then you have a toy with no head. And you guys seem to have done a workaround with the Titan Masters figures where you lose the head you can pick up a $5 figure in the store. So I’m wondering what lead to that change and where did you guys get to the point where you said, “let’s do an updated Headmasters..."

 

JW: When Ed and I were working on this I think one of the big when you look across the entire Prime Wars trilogy starting with Combiner Wars… when we did Combiner Wars we wanted it to be a full system . We wanted everything [to] be an all-inclusive thing. So when you look at Titans Return, the gimmick of the Titan Masters spreads across the entire line. So, the point you made about, if a kid loses the head you can get another one, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think that we want to reach out to fans of all ages as well as our customizer community to be able to kind of build their bot their way.  And I think that there is something magical about being able to take any Titan Master, any head from the Deluxe, Voyager, Leader, and beyond, and they will have them be fully integrated across the line.

 

TFU: Now, are the heads separate toolings? Can they be mixed and matched through releases? So say if you take a recolor of Hardhead, is that going to be the same head or can you, in the retail version not as two separate purchases, take the head of Skullsmasher and include it in [that release]?

JW: That’s a very technical question [laughs]. We always build redeco heads, and in the case of Titans Return the Titan Masters actually have a level of Extra Character Quality. So this is sort of a “stay tuned.”

EM: Plus the system and how we designed it, the figures themselves… as when I was a kid I would hate when I would extra accessories and I can’t store them anywhere… so we made sure that every accessory and figure has a place or a home with the actual main figure. So we hide them, store themand hold all the accessories in one figure so there’s no loose parts when you have a character intact together. I think that’s an important part as far as just consumer insights as well.

 

TFU: Speaking of Extra Character [Quality]… I’m going to throw one word out there: Demolishor?

JW: Oh, Demolishor. I have mentioned this at other conventions and at other times when I spoke to you guys… not you specifically [laughs]. But when we work with Takara on these things we always design a redeco head into it. With the case of Onslaught, Demolishor was built into the mold with the thinking that if we were ever to reuse or repurpose that tool, we could put out a Demolishor in the future. Currently there are no plans for Demolishor in the line but we appreciate all of the Demolishor and Armada love online.

 

TFU: Let’s move over to RID real quick while we still have some time; so last night on the official photo postings, there [were] a couple of weapons Mini-Cons we didn’t see at the party. I was wondering if you could just elaborate on those, Ben?

Ben Montano: Yeah, we definitely choose selectively to really capture the Warrior and the Legends scales yesterday but we’re going to continue to build out the Mini-Con universe. You’ll see as we get into season 2, the introduction of Drift and Fracture kind of introduced us to this new world in Transformers to the Mini-Cons, this faction and race. You’ll see season 2 that we really meet a lot more of them as they find their way to Earth. And there’s a lot of fun story elements you’ll see there that kind of call back to a lot of kind of the history; old stories that we’ve told of “how did they get to Earth” and “why are they here.” You’ll see some new powers in what they can do in partnership with the Autobots and others. So, yeah, you’ll definitely expect more in the story, so what you’ll see a lot more of that in-episode.  But Mini-Cons add a nice layer of fun. You’ll see more of those in the coming months and in-hand so you guys can take pics. Coming Soon.

 

TFU: I know we spoke about it yesterday, but if you could reiterate the episode numbers being cut and Hasbro’s stance on that.

BM: Yeah, I think our position is we’re really excited and confident in the show. It’s performing very well.  As you saw in the fliers out, we’ve committed to an upcoming season and we continue to have confidence in the show. Going forward it’s a long-term story universe for us, so we’ll continue to expand on. I think I wouldn’t put a lot of weight into an episode count that may have been published out there. I can give you guys confidence that’s no indication of a desire or plan on our side to the expansion of Robots In Disguise. I think you guys see what we’re doing with the expansion of the Prime Wars Trilogy and Generations and our intention is to build long-term story universes. So, more to come definitely in the very near future on RID. But you guys should definitely have confidence that any episode count is not an indication of any desire to limit the expansion of that universe.

And that wrapped things up. Want to hear the entire interview? Swing on over to Radio Free Cybertron to hear this interview in its entirety as well as an exclusive portion where I got a chance to actually hold and move Titans Return Galvatron's Titan Master!

If you would like more photos from New York Comic Con 2015, just swing on by our Twitter feed and scroll through our coverage!

Until next time!

--Ant

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