Wondercon 2019 panel report: Transformers Cyberverse!
The Allspark’s own Exastiken was at the WonderCon 2019 Cyberverse “Going Cyber” panel, moderated by Jack Convey and attended by the creative forces on the show. The panel gave us some interesting looks at the writers’ and higher-ups’ creative influences and Transformers bona fides, and some teases for what’s to come in the second season of the new cartoon.
On hand were Mike Hauser, development at Hasbro Studios; Randolph Heard, story editor; Jeremy Levy, the voice of Bumblebee; Gavin Hignight, writer; Mae Catt, one of the new writers for “Chapter 2” of the show, and Dan Salgarolo, production master of the show.
Hit the jump for some things revealed and discussed at the panel!
On making a new show:
- Every new series has to be respectful to previous series’ history, and Cyberverse is no exception: “What we wanted to do was come up with something different, to re-imagine the brand, but also keep in mind the 35 years of lore.”
- One new idea was the approach to Grimlock: his being Jekyll and Hyde was a novel idea tried for this series.
- The 11-minute shows were described as needing a balance of “comedy and tragedy”; one particularly notable moment of the latter involved cutting the show into snippets.
- Zac remembers wanting to show how Transformers “hang out when they’re not fighting”, noting that it’s a kids show — and so Maccadam’s was introduced. “Where else on Cybertron can they not fight?”
- Randolph adds that Hasbro didn’t ask him to include more female characters, and that this was a need he recognized on his own. Mike adds that Randolph wanted to make the characters more relatable, to humanize them further to some extent.
- Male and female characters being able to take heroic as well as villainous roles is a good feature of the show. It’s not all black and white, and they’re “not just saying stock superhero lines.”
- The show has the closest sharing of ideas between the media and toys so far. Nothing is forced down the throats of the people working on the show but one end influences the other. The designers do sometimes want to get their favorite toys in, though.
- The show is seen as “multiversal”, so it looks like the widest net possible is cast for nods, cameos, and appearances.
- Randolph didn’t have a series bible.
- In working to put together 11-minute shows, the most frequent question they ask themselves is “do we need this?”; they learn to edit “to an extreme”, making economical choices like cutting a walking scene for time.
- “Megatron Is My Hero” was the first time they thought “this makes sense”.
- They recognize that Bumblebee is a very complex character among several timelines. Even within Cyberverse he’s got a clear character arc: he starts out as “a child” at the beginning, growing and changing across the series.
- Bee is sort of like the “Bayverse” version due to the damaged voicebox. Jeremy records all the “radio clip” voice snippets, using various themes/styles like an 80s action show, PBS documentary, and so on.
- The term used for his internal mindscape as seen in season 1 is the “Hivemind”.
On Rack and Ruin:
- Randolph Heard looked up list of top 10 weirdest transformers and loved them all, but Rack and Ruin seemed like the most absurd idea of a transformer ever and so seemed like a must to do.
- Jeremy was tasked with coming up with the voice of the character, and wanted a voice quite distinct from Bee’s. So he initially picked a New York-accented construction worker voice with a bit of a Sylvester Stallone vibe.
- We might see more Rack and Ruin in the future!
On the second season:
- The goal for the first season was to get the audience caught up with the show’s continuity so far, so season 2 gets to move the story forward.
- S2 “gets intense”, and is described by Jeremy as “so freakin’ good.” He reads scripts like a fan, like Bastion in The Never-ending Story, but notes that “you can’t peg the show’s direction”.
- Mae: “Beast Wars is coming, baby.” Randolph loves Cheetor (and was ecstatic when MP Cheetor was announced)
- Very interestingly, the expression “circling the drain” was used to describe the last 30 years, to highlight the need to “push new stories now” — real surprises might well be coming up. “The show can always transform.”
- There may be a drastic change in characterization for Grimlock.
- Two characters get Spark Armor and fight each other and apparently it’s, ah, “pleasurable”.
- Possibly more fanservice, or as Mae calls it, “our service”.
- Gavin wanted a character on the show (someone dear to him in Transformers lore) and fought for the character, pestering Randolph to the point where Randolph eventually went, “I get him now.” (Randolph makes everyone earn what they put in the show, in terms of passion.)
- Spoilers: The trailer for season 2 shows Bumblebee speaking in his own voice outside the Hivemind.
- Teasingly: some fun things, some tragic things!
On themselves and Transformers:
- Zac was on all four seasons of Rescue Bots, and “informed the non-fighting component of the bots”. Also wrote for Prime and RID 2015.
- Jeremy is a “fan of all Transformers.”
- Randolph loves the idea of playing with robots, toys, and action as a job.
- Mae counts IDW as a favorite series, with Lost Light and James Roberts as particular influences. She was invited on because of a feature she worked on, and her brother loves the show.
- Dan favors RID and Prime, and “has a very ossified view of the Aligned continuity Approaches about the humanity of the characters.”
- Gavin loves G1, and was “traumatized in the theater” by the animated movie.
On the characters:
- Windblade has been a blank canvas, comparatively, because of the character not being well-known outside the comics and Machinima shows. This has given them the freedom to make her “a real person [the others] have known for millions of years. Gavin didn’t want a Lara Croft “tough as nails” character, citing that she needed depth — to be able to laugh and have a good time, to be open to others, be able to care “without it being love”, which is certainly notable.
- Dan’s favorite characters are Wheeljack (“infectious enthusiasm and sweet, sweet mustache”) and Shockwave.
- Mae’s is Starscream — she came into Transformers via GI Joe. Zac’s favorite to write is the “weird and different Teletraan X, a computer who’s been around for a very long time (“What does that do to someone?”).
- Gavin’s favorite is Optimus Prime — he likes him as a hero, and notes that “we all have so much love for a character that doesn’t express himself very well,” which made bouncing dialogue between Bee and Optimus a lot of fun. He does add that Megatron is complex, and can slip into a villainous role “without being a villain” — and, when asked, says he “may be” a little British!
- Jeremy’s is Grimlock, as VA Ryan Andes is “hilarious”. Ryan doesn’t go for the laugh but plays it straight, which is devastating — a favorite line is his straight-faced “You’re welcome!” to Shadow Striker.
- Randolph apparently had a very specific inspiration for Grimlock: not the similarly Jekyll/Hyde Bruce Banner, but “more like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride“, able to be charming and say funny things. Randolph’s favorite is Grimlock as well, but also “another character from season 2”, an obscure creature?
- Finally, Mike’s is Grimlock or Bumblebee, thanks to the great performances by Ryan and Jeremy.
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