Allspark Interviews Hasbro Brand Team at Botcon
Below is the transcription of my interview with John, Jerry, and Ben from the Hasbro Design and Marketing team. Read on for the full interview!
Galen: First, a little bit about the Platinum series and how they’re using that to bring some of the vintage toys back. We’re curious about the inspiration for Astrotrain and Blitzwing since their decos were so very different from the originals.
John: When we do the Platinum series, it’s about trying to cater to a unique type of fan, so that deco, I don’t remember the exact story, but for our Platinum consumer, it’s more acceptable for us to do the more rare or special editions.
Jerry: You see that a lot in the Platinum line where you have extra decoration or unique decoration. That line, we work with our Hasbro Asia team to develop those, and we can have those variants.
Galen: For example, Perceptor and Blaster each had new tooling accessories that came with them. Are there plans to do that in the future.
Jerry: The Platinum edition line has been successful for us, and we’re going to continue the line. We look at which products we want to sell, and which ones the consumer wants, reissues we can bring out, a theme that makes sense for the year but then also find toys that fit within that theme.
Galen: Thinking about toys that have been successful, was the sell-in and sell-through of Metroplex enough that you guys are happy with the performance that we can expect to see other things like that in the future, beyond Devastator?
Jerry: What we did with Metroplex was the first of the Titan scale products to come out. Devastator obviously is a follow-up to that as you can see, so it’s one of those things that having one of the big statement pieces in the line and fans have reacted well to it and sales have been strong with it. So we’ll see how Devastator does, once it hits retail this Fall, and we’ll go from there.
Ben: We also want the fans to believe in what we’re doing. If the fans accept that and buy them for their collections, we’ll be able to do more in the Titan class, and Voyager, and Deluxe. We have great ideas like that, we have piles of them, John has lots of sketches on his desk and prototypes that may or may not make it.
Galen: In that vein, what other gimmicks in addition to Combiner Wars might you guys like to see come back in the line.
Ben: We like to call them features, not gimmicks! Jerry and I always laugh about that!
Jerry: It’s a tough one to answer.
John: I think there’s been a lot of really great toys that beg to be redone, Sky Lynx is a great example of that, he hasn’t really gotten any love for a long time, and going back and redoing it. In terms of what other types of things as a kid that I loved, I always loved the Jumpstarters, even before they were Wreckers I just always liked them. I don’t know why, they were just cool to me. There’s so many things in Transformers. I remember thinking how cool Armada was and I was working at Hasbro. Every generation has Transformers, as we grow, we have to keep pushing forward and looking to the past to figure out what the next big thing is.
Jerry: I like those new features and gimmicks to put into the toys. Like what’s new, what’s the next thing. Combiners for me are probably one of my favorites when you think about that type of play and bringing those toys together, like I think about Devastator as a kid and Bruticus and a lot of those that were the first ones. So to be able to bring that to life has been a huge deal. It’s been awesome.
Galen: Thinking about new features like that, a lot of toylines now have NFC and some sort of computer interface to their toys like Amiibos or Skylanders or that sort of thing, is that something you guys have looked at? I know you do the scanning for the apps and partnership there, but is there anything about building it more into the toy that you’re looking at?
Ben: We’re always looking at the forefront of technology and how do you interface toy with other gaming and the whole toys to life model so we definitely believe in it, as you said in Robots in Disguise we have a version of it and the way we did it we thought made the most sense in that execution, so I think definitely we have to see how we can be a step ahead and how can we bring our stories and characters to life, and we’ll only do it if it brings our stories to life and enhances the play and not just do technology for technology’s sake, so it’s always on our radar.
Galen: One last question for you guys personally, you’ve been on the brand team somewhat recently (3 years for John, 5 for Jerry, and 3 for Ben), so what about your unique personal experiences and backgrounds have you been able to bring with you to Hasbro and the Transformers brand team? What are you really taking advantage of that’s really serving you guys well in this role?
John: My hobbies include building models and customizing, so I love doing that. Previous to doing Transformers I worked on GI Joe, GI Joe has a high level of detail, characters are super important, story and lore are super important. Just being part of Hasbro for as long as I have, you get a chance to look at all the different brands in the company and realize how vast their universes are and how beautiful it is, so I guess a lot of it is driven by my own personal hobby, but at the end of the day you go to your job and you get a chance to work with some of the coolest characters, it’s awesome.
Jerry: I have a big passion for the toy industry and the brand and entertainment industry, I’ve worked in it my whole career. For Transformers specifically, it’s a brand I personally played with as a kid, so to be able to work on the brand, to be able to bring these products to life for new consumers, for me that’s – when I was a kid, there was somebody, a marketer or an engineer or a designer who was making great products for us as a kid, and now we get to do that for the next generation of kids. And fans of all ages, but when you think about it it’s almost our responsibility now we’re making this, helping to create children’s childhoods and it’s fun to be a part of that.
Ben: My background had really nothing to do with this at all. My first job was with sporting goods, which is where I always thought I’d be, I’m a bit of a jock. But I’m still a 10 year old at heart, I love toys, I have tons of them still at home, I love playing and getting toys for my kids, bringing them home, so it’s easy for me. My wife still tells me I act like a 10 year old all the time, sometimes that’s not a good thing. But I think it just made a lot of sense to do something that, for all of us, there’s very few 10 year olds here, but we all still act like children, kids, and it seems lame, but I want to be forever young, but a big way to do that is to be part of an industry and space where I get to watch cartoons and movies all days, I get to work on cartoons and movies, I get to work on toys, there really is no more fun an industry than this one. It really was just how do I get to be a kid forever?
Galen: Thank you very much, I appreciate your time!