Allspark Interview with Hasbro Brand Team on Power of the Primes

Our reporters sat down with the Hasbro brand team during HASCON 2017 to talk about the direction for the Power of the Primes line. Highlights include a definitive answer on the final color of Swoop’s chest, a definitive answer to FIRRIB vs. RIRFIB, the definitive creation of Slash, and a less definitive answer on the future of Star Saber!
We started our interview with Marketing Director Ben Montano, with some input on design details later on from Design Director John Warden.
One of the questions was surrounding Swoop so the render shows red chest but the display shows blue so guys wanted to know…
Sure, the production toy will be blue, the package rendering red. As most fans know, packages say that colors may vary.  So the toy version is based on the G1 animated version, which from speaking to fans at conventions like this and BotCon, we know that the animated version is the most desirable.
So as a followup on that, so … does that mean that Rumble is purple and Frenzy is red?
[Laughter] No no no, wow, we’re just saying that the cartoon is the most important thing…. [more laughter] [cross-talk]
Speaking of partners, we’ve been getting some of the former cassette modes in Titans Return with Crashbash and Ramhorn, but we’re still missing Rumble, or Frenzy, and Eject. Are there any plans?
I wish I could speak more about that. Yeah, I know we share a love for the cassettes as well, so look out in ’18 for some cassettes, um, who they are is a good question and we can’t say, but I think you guys will be super excited.
Dealing with combiners, Combiner Wars gave us a plethora of combiners. While we’re still missing that G2 Defensor (hint hint) we have most of the rest. We’re thrilled that we’ll have even more coming up, but Titans Return gave us boxsets, exclusives like the Siege set and the Velocitron one. Are there any more boxes planned for Power fo the Primes?
Not at this time, but I think it’s a little too early to say. But I think that hopefully that we’ll be revisiting a lot of the things from [Combiner] Wars or Titans Return for Power of the Primes. So as we look forward, that doesn’t mean we’re going to stay true to a certain era, or you know, cinematic or animated universe – we can revisit. So regardless of what happens after Power of the Primes, that doesn’t mean we can’t go back and do something we haven’t done before. And a lot of it is where online polls, they really help inform where we’re going, so we have no problem like bringing Optimus Primal into Power of the Primes, that’s fun right? A story twist. Keep telling us what you want. We just have to figure out when is it the right time, because it may not make sense necessarily with what we’re doing. I don’t want to be deliberately vague but that’s like the best way to answer that.
So it seems like you can revisit even Combiner Wars a couple years ago, we can revisit it again.
I think we can safely say that where we looked at the combiners with Power of the Primes, we’re doing something a little different, so like the Dinobots cop the combiner feature from Combiner Wars, but it was the deep sculpted details (that are new). So you could be assured that like in the future, if we were to revisit those characters like Snapdragon.
So with Dinobot Slash some fans are wondering is she female, is it a male, some people are saying they’ve heard both answers?
It’s a female.  Yep, yep. When we decided to expand the Dinobots, this is one of those things that the entire marketing team is trying to do, it’s not just G1, it’s looking at G1 in a lens like, what if there was another Dinobot? What would it look like? How would we do it? So when we started to design that character we looked at the aesthetics of the silver lines, the molding, the amber classics, the cool reds, we tried to pull them out in a way that looked like a genuine G1 format and that’s what our designers put together.
We have a lot of respect for G1 and Beast Wars and the original stories told with the beasts, as we grew up in that world, and we have the opportunity now to put in that new twist, to add some new character not just in the toyline, but with our orders through our apps and Space Ape Games that lets us kind of push and pull characters and frame gender. IDW’s really pushing the limits on that too, that’s the fun of this, we can dive into those in different ways. For us, yes, there’s a respect for the original where a lot of your fans want to uphold that, so the brand can continue to grow and to be here to appreciate. We want to bring people who have moved on to other phases of their life and bring them back into the brand, and a lot of that would be through new ideas, and they bring their kids in, and that’s the fun for us. We also have kids, and now my daughters appreciate Transformers. I share with them them the ’80s characters and [they] say that was like 30 years ago, but I’m like yeah but look at this new character and there’s a new appreciation. So that’s what John and I are charged to forward this brand, we want to honor you guys and what you want, too. How do we kind of get a little bit of everything to bring the next generation of fans in.
Or even deliver on things that fans always wanted, and try to do it a different way. So it’s like the Dinobot combiner, or Orion Pax turns into Optimus Prime, or Hot Rod changing into Rodimus Prime. Like when you were a kid and you had Rodimus Prime, you had to use your imagination to make that happen.
And I think what I see is like the guys after they left last night, not sleeping but reading a lot, and I think the magic of that Leader class figure is still unknown until you put it in your hand and you can break it down. I know there’s a curiosity of the trailer and why it looks like it does and how it really works, but as John and the design team have created that one, there’s just so much fulfillment and John you can talk a little bit just about the level of how you get to – even the chest, how many chests there are – things you won’t see in the pictures that I think that will blow peoples minds when they get in their hands. So the appreciation, in a static picture, you just can’t get it. John maybe you can elaborate on that a little bit.
The transformation on that guy is pretty neat, because you’ve got the Orion Pax chest, which has one window, you’ve got the window on the actual truck vehicle, and you’ve got the window on the large scale Optimus Prime, 3 different windows. And we were lucky to work with a guy at TakaraTomy (Takashi Kunihiro) who actually designed the original G1 Star Saber, so that dude is a master, so he was able to actually figure out a way to have all those pieces connect together and all the doors open up perfectly.
Is Japanese Generation 1 an influence in Power of the Primes?
You know, there were times, I can’t speak for what their plans were, but that was an interesting time. The Japanese animated series was really cool, you had the death and rebirth of Optimus Prime, a lot of awesome storytelling, it was a little different than what we got here in the United States. The character Star Saber really delivered on a promise that I think honestly inspired us on Power of the Primes in the idea of these layered transformations, and not just the imagination you can have while you’re playing, but also the satisfaction of transforming one character, transforming the other part of the character and the resounding snap when you snap those pieces together is a different kind of experience, and I think being able to bring that to life in Power of the Primes is pretty cool.
And I think it’s cool to be able to bring out these little pieces that are from, like, the nether regions of Transformers like something from the Japaneses series, and bring it to a mass audience, because all of these are great story gimmicks, and working through Generations gives us an opportunity to bring some of these toy gimmicks to the main stage.
That’s how it is with Generations so it’s like, each bot’s a Dinobot, yeah, they’re like G1 style, but they’re easy enough to play with for a kid, and they’re accessible, go to a store and buy it. You don’t have to drop a bunch of money on a Masterpiece, like, you could buy a couple DInobots and play with your kid.
I’m not much of a Masterpiece collector, I get some here and there, but it’s Generations. It’s fun!
A brand team member, she mentioned that Hasbro and Takara are starting to collaborate again on new Masterpiece stuff.
Yeah, I think it’s been great to turn around and have the privilege of working with them for at least five or seven years, and over that time begin a lot of what isn’t in Masterpiece collections, 30 years in on the brand and we’ve got a great respect for one another. The Movie Masterpiece line was totally co-created, John and the team we built those, designed them, architected them together as partners. And you guys know as Masterpiece collectors, in the past, they kind of told me they had their own thing, their collections, and we’re evolving that and we’re part of the fore-planning of the TakaraTomy Masterpiece line. And I think while we rely on their expertise and they’re the masters, they figure out the transformations, there’s definitely a renewed partnership in that line as well, and I think with respect to what we’re doing with Generations that has trickled over into Masterpiece. I mean you see the shared holder marks on our Movie Masterpiece line, that’s just a sign of this new partnership that we’ve forged and we fully expect that to continue.
Is that partnership a force in the fiction as well?
Yeah, I think we definitely bring them into the conversation as we develop new storylines, our Japanese fans they’re always part of our team in the conversation as we create stories together.
I got the 5 minute warning so, um,
[Laughter from all]
So … I’ll get killed if I don’t ask this question. You kind of hinted on it with the Star Saber, but I also want to jump back to the Dinobots
You got it, man.
The Dinobots the fanboys are buzzing about Volcanicus and the rest of the Dinobot reveals, I’ll skip the Slash question since that got answered … now since we heard about the Generations Dinobots, how do you plan to take advantage of the molds going forward? G2 recolors? Dinoking? Possible remold of Sludge into Paddles?
Oh I love Paddles. I think these are all awesome ideas, it’s still too early to say. But knowing that we’re always built in gamers, enthusiasts in our hearts, and it’s…we’ll just have to wait and see if there’s opportunity to do these guys but it’s still far too early to say right now.
In fact Star Saber himself is basically a larger suit smaller robot plugged into. Given the love for Autobot jets expressed by certain members…
[Laughter by all] Culture shock!
Is it possible there might be another Star Saber figure in Takashi Kunihiro’s future?
Oh boy, you know, the designer told me that he’s expressed interest in doing another Star Saber figure. I know that Star Saber was part of the fan vote poll, and he did get pretty far, however, did not win. So part of us doing that was to have a vote to give the consumer and the fan-aged voice the same, and they chose Optimus Primal. My vote truthfully was on Ultra Magnus, I’m a big Ultra Magnus fan, I think it would have been cool to see white Optimus Ultra Magnus turn into that, but I think fans are going to be very pleasantly surprised by Ultra Primal and how that’s turning out. It’s very cool.
Speaking of Ultra Magnus, with the box set that has Magnus Prime, is that intended to be a Prime version of Ultra Magnus or a totally new character – the retooled Optimus Prime from the box set? Was he supposed to be Ultra Magnus since his name is Magnus or Optimus Prime?
No he’s not Ultra Magnus. That was when we were going to naming the characters and we couldn’t call him Ginrai, so I wanted to make sure that when we worked with the copyright team, that we chose a name that was accessible to maybe a casual fan? So using a name like Magnus Prime it kind of feels like it’s a step up from Optimus Prime? Our intention was that is essentially Ginrai but without saying it.
Cool, yeah, just a lot of disinformation, especially when it comes to the Wiki because it’s like, they tend to “it’s Magnus Prime put him with Ultra Magnus, put it on his page.”
No it’s not Ultra Magnus. No I would say put him with Optimus Prime, or the Combiner Wars Optimus, like it’s in that zone, or the 2000’s Armada.
So as a followup there definitely was a retool of that earlier base for Optimus Prime, so like he was retooled to combine with the Japanese God Ginrai. Would you recommend that people just order the Japanese God Ginrai, or just hang on? In that set that in Japan had the God Bomber, the one that combines with it. Order the Japanese one or just hold tight?
We’re hoping for later. We’ll get back you.