Transformers Collectors’ Club Subscription Service – Lanny Latham Q&A


The Allspark recently had a chance to sit down with Fun Publications Lanny Latham, the man behind most of the color decos you see on BotCon and Club Exclusive figures and Fun Publications' Director of Creative Services.  In the Q&A Lanny talks about his inspiration for the Transformers Subscription Service decos and the challenges he faced when coming up with the decos for these figures.

Don't forget that today is the last day to sign up for the Transformers Subscription Service, so head on over to the Club's website before 11:59 EST!

Click here to discuss the interview.  Was there a sense of deja vu working on Breakdown?

Lanny Latham:  There was a bit. The color call outs for the Animated Breakdown we did for the BotCon 2011 set were pretty tight interpretations of deco sheets that Derrick Wyatt did for us. And while Animated takes cues from G1 in terms of color palette, it is a more subdued look than actual G1. On the FSS Breakdown, I used some of the colors from the Animated Breakdown, but leaned more toward the G1 look with a lighter off white and a brighter red on the hood. The work on the Animated Breakdown was a great jumping off point and I did feel a little like I had "been there before".

AS:  What sort of instruction and reference are you given when you were creating the decoes for the TFSS figures? What research did you have to do to make sure you had the colors right?

LL:  The FSS figures were pretty tightly conceptualized before they were handed off to me, but even so, there was some freedom to make changes. I got a reference document showing the vintage version of the characters with rough mock ups, but I also took time to look at more photos online to see the toy from different angles and in different lighting conditions. That really helps to make a more educated guess about color selection when a hard reference sample is unavailable. Color matching to a vintage Transformers toy is the best way to go, and I do that whenever possible. For Ultra Mammoth, I borrowed my son's G1 Ultra Magnus for color matching. Sometimes the "ideal" deco configuration can't happen to due mold layouts and the fact that some types of plastics cannot be painted. Part of the challenge is working around that type of limitation to still bring a recognizable and iconic look to the piece.

AS:  How difficult is it to keep the deco cohesive in two unique forms? Was there any application in this set that was especially problematic? We're thinking of Scourge in particular, due to how his new transformation gives him windows for his chest opposed to the original toy's stickers.

LL:  Sometimes I work on the Alt mode first if there are elements that really define the character in that mode. For Scourge he needed to have a clear red windshield to really make his Alt mode analogous to the reference toy. When see this, I know it's going to present a problem in the robot mode. Using a particular modern toy to re-imagine a character defines some things in advance and I have to roll with it seeking to balance the look of the robot despite having an element that doesn't relate one-to-one (like the red chest). In the case of scourge this had already been thought out before I got the project and the patterns on the chest were moved to the shoulders, which I thought was an elegant solution.

AS:  With the TFSS figures we have been getting a peek at some of the test samples you receive from the factory via your Twitter account. Most of these have come with the attached disclaimer that some of the decoes will be tweaked for the finals. How often do you receive samples that aren't quite what you expecting and need to send revisions?"

LL:  I would say around 75% of the samples we get need some revision. It's usually very minor, though, as they do a great job at the factories in China. Sometimes, I make a mistake and mis-label something on the deco sheet. Other times the factory leaves a detail off or uses an incorrect paint color. Once in a while, when we see a hard sample, the plastic itself isn't close enough to the desired color. The converse of this is that occasionally someone on the other side of the world makes a little judgement call on something minor that really looks nice even though it varies slightly from what we asked for. Those are happy accidents and we sometimes go with it. 🙂

AS:  What considerations went into Slipstream's deco so that she would look feminine, even though she's based off of a "male" character?

LL:  Even though the base toy was a male character, the feet come off as high heels a bit. The head is a new sculpt with a more feminine look and the lower legs look like knee high boots. The color scheme came from the Animated version of Slipstream and was give to me in a early photoshop mock up. I added silver to the details on the top of the torso which were black in the early mock up. Since her face is silver, I felt this gave her a bit of a neckline like in a woman's shirt. The aesthetic for this comes from Derrick's approach to the character which gives the impression of a creature with silver "skin" wearing purple and teal armor. More revealed skin, sort of works like a female superhero costume which tend to show more exposed skin than their male counterparts.

AS:  What deco from this set are you most proud of?

LL:  I really like all six and I have to thank the guys who picked the toys for the set and gave me deco suggestions. They really got me half way to the final look on these. This happens sometimes on BotCon sets, but other times, I work from a toy reference with no strong direction other than "make it cool!".  Having said that, I'm very pleased with Ultra Mammoth. I played with his look a bit more than the other five, switching a few things around and adding some additional painted details. I really chased the look of the G1 figure quite a bit in terms of color placement balance and color selection.

A very special thanks to Lanny for taking the time to answer's questions.