Events: Toy Fair 2015 Hasbro Interview (Part One)

in 2015, Combiner Wars, Generations, Interviews

Interviews
Hasbro Interview from Toy Fair 2015 (Part One)

Combiner Wars

During the insanity that is Toy Fair 2015, I took a few minutes to sit down with Senior Director on the "Transformers" brand Jerry Jivoin to discuss the brand. Special thanks to Hunter PR and Hasbro for arranging this sit down. Time is precious at Toy Fair so I appreciate being allowed to take some of it for Ben's World of Transformers!

Please tell us what inspired you to make Combiners the focus of "Generations" in 2015
A couple things. One, we had the success of Bruticus who launched in the "Fall of Cybertron" game. When launched that...Bruticus launch in Fall of 2012 it came out as five Deluxe characters and we saw the reaction from fans to that. That was kind of a first ever, taking five Deluxe characters, making it into a Combiner. We saw one, the great feedback there and people said "We want more! We want more Combiners! What about Superion? What about Menasor and all these other characters, Defensor and Devastator? Give us more Combiners!" and that helped inspire us.

Also we were working with IDW and based on that, both Hasbro and IDW came up with the idea of these Combiners. What if there was this whole war that broke out and it was about these Autobot Combiners and these Decepticon Combiners and they were working with Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime, on the Decepticon side they were working with Megatron and Starscream and all of them and had this all out battle. So we actually you know, I'm not sure who coined the phrase, but between IDW and Hasbro we actually came up with this phrase "Combiner Wars". That idea came out...in 2013, early 2013. We saw the success of the Combaticons with Bruticus, then the story started...we wanted to celebrate the 30th anniversary in '14. We talked about putting Combiners in there, then this idea came out of the Combiner Wars. So I said let's save that for after the 30th anniversary, we start with Combiner Wars. We worked on the storyline with IDW and obviously the toys that we have and that's where it came from.

So one it was Bruticus and the Combaticons and it was listening to fans. Fans wanted more and the other part too was, how it was designed...the one thing about Bruticus is that he was a little too spindly because of the torso. The torso was also a Deluxe...if you remember there was no Voyager Scale in Fall of 2012 at retail so we had to put them all in Deluxe. What we found is that he became a little spindly for a full sized Combiner. That's what led us by listening to the fans saying "You know what? The torso should be a Voyager so we can get the scale and mass in there." That way we can get the limbs on and those would be the Deluxe characters. That's where it came from.

What was the thought process behind having "odd" waves. Instead of all Aerialbots or all Stunticons such as Dragstrip in the first wave?
Yeah, some of that just came down to development timing. A lot of these are new tools. So some of it had to do with the new tooling that in the actual product that was being created. Looking at it now I would prefer we had all the Aerialbots at once, that's essentially wave one. Then wave two would be all the Stunticons and then today we released Defensor with the Protectobots. But what we did was, wave one and two will be the only time that happens. Once we get to wave three with Defensor as you saw today, all the Protectobots are in that wave three. Whether it's the wave three of the Legends assortment, the wave three of Deluxe, the wave three of Voyager everything in there is making Defensor. We kind of learned from that. Sometimes with development things get delayed and also tooling as well. It just kind of worked out that way. Not completely ideal but by the time we get through wave two all those characters will be out there and you can make both. And the great thing is that since they're interchangeable you can still buy Dragstrip and he can be the temporary leg of Superion until the Menasor product comes out in wave two!

What was the thought process behind introducing new Combiner characters such as Offroad and Alpha Bravo instead of just sticking with new interpretations of classic characters?
We wanted to introduce some new characters. There is also names and which we have, which is trademarked and what we're allowed to release. You've seen that in the past where we've had to change the names of some characters. Also we wanted to make sure the scales of everything were what needed to be. Sometimes scales were a bit funky in the original releases, you have a motorcycle that's the same size as a helicopter. Some of those decisions came into play. We wanted to create the essence of what the original characters were originally with the colors and type of characters you can make in the big Combiner character.

Why make Devastator a Titan Class Combiner instead of just another Voyager/Deluxe/Legends combination?
This was a heated debate within the building and what to do. One, we knew we wanted to do Devastator. We did contemplate having him as just four Deluxes, a Voyager, same model as we have the other characters. But we also felt that Devastator...he's made of six characters so he's a little bit different than the other ones that only have five characters for the Deluxe and Voyager (I know we have the Legends character that makes a weapon or a chest plate) but it required six characters with the Constructicon's original team to make Devastator because you have two torso pieces. So that kind of made it a little...we would have had to put two Voyagers out and four Deluxes to make it work.

We thought about that however we also looked at Devastator and based on how the character is represented in cartoons and how he is represented in comics that he is the one of the biggest if not the biggest Combiner that has ever been created and his scale is bigger than the other Combiners as well. So we said "You know what, what if we did it all Voyager scale?" so they're bigger construction vehicles. They're construction vehicles so they're going to be bigger anyway and if we did them all in Voyager Scale we could make that so they could be in a more correct scale than what we were...we actually looked at six Leader scale construction vehicles and it was absolutely crazy! We actually looked at that as a model because we were trying to figure out what to do. Do we do two Voyagers and Deluxes, do we do six voyagers, do we do six Leaders? The scale and the price point started to get so out of whack and the scale of that was almost too big so we actually felt the six Voyagers made a nice scale difference from Superion and Menasor and Defensor that we liked the scale differences. He is bigger but still in the scale that is relatable to the other Combiners and obviously other Transformers.

The first wave of Deluxes did not come with comic books but instead came with trading cards, but there have been solicitations with versions of the first wave with comic books. Is that sort of a "Wave 1B" and do the comic books replace the trading cards?
The comic books replace the trading cards and honestly what happened was the production timeline of the comics and the production timeline of wave one weren't lining up. So we had the collector cards ready to because the collector cards are packed in for the non-English speaking markets. The Asia region takes the comic book. U.S., Australia, English speaking markets take it but in other parts of the world we do the collector card pack in. The collector card was ready to go, the comic books were not so in order to hit the wave one dates that we needed to hit for retail and those other regions we shifted over and put the product with the collector card to bring in. We do plan to release the product line with the comic books in. The comic book goes in, the collector cards come out for those once we get to the re-releases.

Have there been any "lessons learned" in "Combiner Wars" that you would like to carry over in the future?
I think the first question we had or one of the earlier questions about making sure the waves...to make sure you're going to buy all the Aerialbots in one wave so that's key so it doesn't add confusion. Making sure that the story, the comic books and everything are lined up timing wise. Those are some of the things we deal with in terms of manufacturing timelines. As far as other learnings, I don't know, I really like the product line. It turned out really fantastic and I think from what I want to keep pushing the brand is that Generations isn't just about looking in the past. It's also about creating new stories, new characters as we go forward. I tell this story to the design and marketing team, when we were kids, when I first came out and was playing with this brand, somebody was in our seat, in our job and they were creating new stories and new toys for us. That's our job, you know? And that's what makes this fun. There's a 5, 6, 7...10 year old kid out there, whatever age they are who's getting into this and they're experiencing Transformers for the first time. So it's our responsibility and what we get to give back now is that we are creating the next generation of fans with this new product line whether it's Generations product line, whether it's Robots in Disguise whether it's Rescue Bots. We're creating this new fun way to play.

The Combiner Wars gives us you know, a great way not only to look back with the characters that everyone loves but also say "What's new?". We have our fan app right now and you can go vote, we're letting the fans create the next Combiner from the Autobot or Decepticon allegiance, the colors, the limbs, everything even down to...we're going to let them choose the gender. For the first time ever, there could be a female Combiner, which would be amazing! You know, we've never seen that before! I love seeing what's new. I love the past. I grew up on G1, but I want to keep adding new. The stories we tell with IDW, the new characters they're creating. Let's keep pushing it and pushing the story forward.

This is the end of Part One of this interview. The next part will focus on the newest "Transformers" toy line: "Robots in Disguise"!

Notes:

  • Devastator is a mass release, not a Toys R Us exclusive as previously rumored.
  • There was no mention of Wildrider and Slingshot at Toy Fair one way or another.