Studio Series 86 has been a goldmine of a toyline, shifting the focus of Studio Series to a landmark moment in most older fans’ lives: the 1986 animated movie. Designer Evan Brooks recently took to Instagram (@naveskoorb) to let us in on the background of some of the coolest releases in the line, namely Jazz, Kup, Grimlock, and Wreck-Gar.
Evan worked on the Studio Series 86 designs with Ittoku Kuwazu, and had a lot to say about the process that went into designing each toy.
Hello there! I’m the person who primarily works on Studio Series 86 transformers. The Transformer’s design team is trying to be more open and transparent about the process of how we go about designing these figures with our partners over at Takara Tomy and I figured I’d start with Studio Series 86-01 that I worked on with Ittoku Kuwazu!
It was super exciting to do an animation accurate Jazz since he’s a classic character (one of the coolest bots around) and his past figures have usually followed his toy design expression.
Before I had joined the TF team, John Warden had a concept for a generic version of his vehicle mode already drawn up by( I believe) Michael DiTullo. That design was used as a base and then tweaked as the robot form became solidified.
Ittoku and I then worked on the details. The goal of these figures was to be accurate to the animation designs but to also have it so they’d look like they fit in with your other Generations figures and stand with them on your shelf. I tried to bring in some of the details from the original stickers of the g1 toy and sprinkle them about in areas that needed just a bit more “pizzazz”. The abdomen area at our original detail stage also brought in some a-symmetry from the g1 toy sculpt but we later removed it to be more in line with the animation model.
Deco wise, when I work on a car robot, one of my main priorities is to make sure the tire rims get painted. It’s a small detail that can knock a vehicle form up to the next level. The goal is always balance between both robot and vehicle modes and sometimes that means you can’t get every detail you wish you could for one of the forms.
Other than that, The only other challenge was I was asked to change the number on the side of his car form. I picked the number “14” as a nod to his 1984 toy catalog number and also just in case any fan wanted to remove the “1” so they can make it the classic number.
Overall, I was very pleased with how this figure turned out with our updated standards of articulation but do you all prefer the classic toy design over animation? Are you enjoying the SS86 line? Are their movie characters you’ve been waiting for?
Let us know!
Next up is Kup, designed in tandem with Ejima Takio:
Alrighty, so continuing the Studio Series 86 deep dive, here we SS86 Kup! Our mentor character that totally reminded me of my grandfather who had a story for anything and everything.
I worked on designing Kup with Ejima Takio who is another exceptionally skilled draftsman who I can tell you designed every one of your favorite original Beast Wars figures. He has a fun story about when he designed the Transmetal Optimus Primal, he thought it was so clever how the show made his backpack with the mace weapons turn into a mounted blasters. He had never intended that but it worked so well. It’s amazing how another set of eyes can open new possibilities on these projects.
Ejima also drafts out his transformation plans with marker and I always find the drawings so easy to understand and charming. The goal was always for him to have his limbs be removable but I remember our engineering team not remembering that till we got in samples and they thought they broke him!
From there, I actually reached out to Emiliano Santalucia to design the details. He’s an artist super star who we’ve regularly used for concept kick offs and detail drawings. You should really check out his amazing work!
While working on that first wave of SS86 characters, I was stretched between 3 different brands, working very long hours and was slightly overwhelmed so I desperately needed help, haha. Because of this though, I was always slightly ashamed of how the original deco came out. The sculpt was good and the colors I picked just didn’t read as the Kup from the movie. I just missed so many good details. I would later be moved to just focus on Transformers and when the opportunity for the Buzzworthy Bumblebee capsule came around, I took the opportunity to try and make up for my mistakes. I also used this as an opportunity to test some things. “No clear parts, solid ABS, would fans like that? It would be slightly more animation accurate that way, I suppose.”
There is a bit of a stigma with collectors on the clear plastics we use in these figures. We hear you and are always working to figure out solutions.
Let me know if there are other SS86 figures you want the dirt on! Next up, Grimlock!
As promised, Evan has a lot to say about Grimlock! And Wheelie, of course. These two he worked on with the iconic Hasui Shogo.
Next up: The leader of the Dinobots, Grimlock along with his friend, Wheelie!
I had the privilege to work on this figure with the ever talented, Hasui Shogo who some of you may be familiar with. He’s one of the lead Transformer designers over at TT and has had some of his interviews translated and posted on a few fan sites.
Hasui is just amazing. We’ve worked together on each of the Dinobots so far.
The original plan with Grimlock was to have Wheelie be a fully functional Core class sized figure(before that was a thing in SS) but as we started development, we realized we just couldn’t afford that. This is why Wheelie was reduced to just having 5 points of articulation but making sure he could still ride Grimlock.
The Grimlock figure itself brought in a lot of details from the the G1 toy and practically turned into a smaller MP figure.
I’m sure many of you are more curious about the initial deco that made it’s way out when we used early samples for photography so allow me to explain.
When I first worked on the deco, I went too literal using the animation model as reference. (Yellow!? what was I thinking!?) This normally would have been an easy fix as I could have reacted to seeing the first sample in person and then updated it but then there was a shift in the company. Many of us were moved to different brands and shuffled around and Transformers were no longer my projects.
And then Covid happened.
Both Teams had to adapt to working from home and had to deal with delays in getting samples while trying to keep schedules. If I was in the office then, maybe I would of seen the sample and reacted but that didn’t happen.
The team that took over began to drown in work so Sam and I were brought back in and I took over all my old items. Working with TT, we then updated the colors right before release. We had started development on Slug and realized none of the future Dinobots would have clear pieces so we decided to paint Grimlock’s neck to be animation accurate. The chest piece being tinted was a literal last minute request from TT before the final product began mass production.
It was a wild ride.
I certainly love this figure but what do you all think?
And finally we have Wreck-Gar, the Floro Dery design that Evan worked on with Kunihiro Takahashi.
Hello again! I’m going to try to maybe post a few of these a week depending on when I have time but I thought I’d jump ahead and drop a bit of the design process for my favorite T.V. talking bot, SS86 Wreck-gar!
To be able to represent this Floro Dery design as close as we can in toy was a dream come true.I had the absolute pleasure to work on this item with the renowned Kunihiro Takashi, who is more than likely the man responsible for MANY of your favorite Transformer toys over the years. He is so skilled that he lays out transformation design plans in MARKER. I can’t even imagine trying to draw anymore without Ctrl+Z.
When we first laid out the design for Wreck-gar’s alt mode, we gave him the front fender that is seen in the Motorcycle animation model but as we got to the Block model, we realized that the naked tire being on his arm as a shield was more iconic so we removed it.
Our goal from the beginning was to make sure that himself (and other bots of similar or smaller sizes) could ride on his alt mode. We also had already planned to put in Junkheap/Junkyard’s head and, thankfully, got some more tooling for that character later to make him look more like himself.
When it came time to paint the character, he brought an issue to light. I had been using my DVD 20th anniversary copy of the 86 movie for the first wave of SS86 characters and had just gotten the 30th anniversary BluRay in which I noticed the colors were different. In fact, depending on which transfer of the movie you’re watching, all the colors shift ever so slightly. Over the years, I feel like certain characters have gained a sort of collective unconscious color assignment because of how other toys have featured them. “Wreck-gar is Orange” was something I thought I remembered so vividly but then it’s like “Actually no, he’s like, rust colored…”
Since this line is supposed to be as close a translation of the film to Toy, the Hasbro and Takara teams talked and we decided that we would use the BluRay transfer of the movie going forward to select colors for these figures.
But what do you all think? Let me know if there are SS86 figures you’re dying to know the behind the scenes dirt on!
Gotta say it’s downright awesome to get this much of a behind-the-scenes look at the design that went into these great figures.
And it’s even cooler that there could be more — which SS86 figures DO you want the behind-the-scenes dirt on? Drop Evan a line on Instagram— and tell us too, on the Allspark Facebook page, on our partnered Discord at discord.gg/allspark, and on the Allspark Forums !