Only the Transformers movie comes with this many robot toys - Hisashi Yuki
- "Revenge of the Fallen" is finally in the cinemas!
Yuki: We, as the members of the staff, were able to watch the movie at the Japanese Premiere in early June, which was a bit earlier than the public. Though, to be honest, I was surprised that we could not get to watch it until then.
There were many aspects of the story we didn't understand even though we were supposedly more informed than general public; such as the connection between the combiner "Devastator" and its individual Transformers, or why there are many similar looking Transformers. We didn't get the answers until we saw the movie ourselves. It was a story which defied our expectations and went way beyond our imaginations.
So many TFs has appeared (in the movie) that it is impossible to spot everyone in a single viewing. I am sure we find something new every time we watch it!
- Tell us your candid opinion of the first movie.
Yuki: I wasn't a part of the toy development team then, so I had a less involved point of view. I was very impressed nonetheless, the graphics such as CG were very advanced. Not that the anime shows we have had were low quality, but I did acknowledge the realistic presence unique to live action movies. I do not think everything would look better as a live action movie, but since Transformers feature vehicles motif, the style fits so perfectly. I have never spoken to the graphics creators in the US, but I am sure they belong to the generation where kids grow up with TF toys and cartoons. I believe that they had been very happy to be able to work on Transformers, and that brought everyone's determination together to create the best.
I wanted to follow the designs by the movie staff as closely as possible
- I would like to ask about the toys you were responsible of developing.
What was your first impressions on "the Fallen", who is the key character in the story?
Yuki: When we first heard that the Fallen would appear in the movie, we thought of the American comic character with the same name right away and wondered if he
would be in the story, but the robot design we were given was different from what we imagined. His design looked like something from an ancient civilization.
I understand while he is a homage only hardcore fans would appreciate, his design is completely original for the movie.
- With the Fallen design, which part did you have trouble with, or put the most thoughts into?
Yuki: For the most of the TFs who appeared first in the second movie, we were only given the images of the front and the back views of robot and vehicle modes. We had to develop (the toys) without any knowledge of what roles those characters would play.
As for his robot mode, I tried to re-create the images as closely as possible. When we started (with ROTF toy development), the rise of the crude oil price was at its worst. Also to make the re-creation of the robot mode easier, I was not able to allocate many parts to the vehicle mode. Those were the difficulties I had.
As for the characterization ideas, we hardly had any information as to how he would be featured in the story, which made it very difficult for me to come up with a character-based gimmicks. Among the small amount of information we had was a tidbit that there would be a scene in which the Fallen crushed a primitive man under his foot. That's how I came up with his toe gimmick, and it made me grin when I actually saw the scene in the movie.
When developing his "Mech Alive" mechanism, I thought his could be different from other characters' since his body is made with more exoskeleton. We reached an agreement among the members of the staff, and I designed the protruding clear red parts, which is a homage to the flames the Fallen wears in American comics.
- Tell us about Sideways.
Yuki: He was the first I designed from this line. He does resemble Barricade (from the first movie), but in the earlier stage his character sketch had a completely different look from Barricade. I was going along with it and had no regards (to Barricade design), and a prototype had already been built. Then we received a new robot design with some major changes. He had tires on his arms where he had none in the earlier design. I had to rush to alter the design to hide the arms inside the body while in vehicle mode.
- Tell us about Scalpel.
Yuki: Perhaps the most intelligent of all (ROTF Transformers). (*laughs) Most of the scout class characters do not appear in the movie, but he has a role as "Doctor". I wasn't informed how his microscope mode looked like at all, so the toy's microscope mode is quite different from the one in the movie....
Well, he has a little hidden fun feature. His face looks as if he is wearing the glasses to begin with, and I made the glasses part detachable.
- So he can do "Where are my glasses" gag?
Yuki: I had a little fun as a designer without an extra cost with this typical Japanese joke, "The glasses are meant to be dropped and desperately looked for". (*laughs)
- Tell us about the development of Mixmaster.
Yuki: It took me a while to come up with the best way to store the arms inside the mixer drum. You can see it once you have the toy in hand that his level of complicity is rather high. In the movie robot mode design, the caterpillars separate, but unfortunately that couldn't be done with the toy because of the cost, the probability of even more intricate transformation and such. I could include the "Artillery" mode we were given the design sketch of, and I was glad to see it in the movie. It does make me happy to see the same features as the toys' gimmicks in the movie.
The people who are not "the fans" are smoothly introduced to the franchise thanks to the live action movie
-How do you allocate the tasks of designing each product among the members of the staff?
Yuki: We don't decide beforehand who takes care of which character, but simply allocate the job according to the release schedule, the number of the products and their size, and each designers' skill. The only exception is that Hasui (Shogo Hasui
) always wants to design Starscream and we let him. (*laughs)
Because bigger, more intricate figures like Optimus take longer to complete, the designers who take care of those have less number of the figures to design, while some others design lots of smaller products and help with the items whose deadlines are closer.
- Which do you think is more difficult to develop, a Transformer with a futuristic car mode or one with a licensed actual car mode?
Yuki: There isn't much difference in futuristic and realistic designs when I think up the transformation. It is easy if I am just given a robot mode image to come up with a cool looking vehicle mode for it. As for the movie toys such as Sideways, both of their robot and vehicle modes had already been decided, and to make the figures true to both modes was a big struggle. I can see the movie designs do have some regards as to which part of the vehicle goes to which part of the robot, and I try to re-create them as closely as possible.
Also, we always have to keep the product cost in mind. If it is a 1000 yen figure, it must have the 1000 yen class measurements and parts number. It is very difficult. Especially a car TF requires at least 4 parts just for the tires, and the challenge is to think of the best way to allocate other parts.
- What is different "now" in the development section compared to "then"?
Yuki: I began working at the toy development just before G2 series, if I may use TF chronology. (G1) Transformers anime had finished in Japan, and there were not many domestic products. I started working on TFs in "Beast Wars II", and I was practically the only one who was working on domestic TFs, though after a while there was another member.
We do have more people now, but the number is still quite small considering the amount of products. The team still only consists of selected few.
- What did you think of the (movie toy release) Countdown event?
Yuki: More people attended to that event than the first movie's Countdown, and I thought there were more younger attendees and more female customers. I wonder if the generation who enjoyed Beast Wars when they were little has come back to the franchise. Because of the live action movie, people who are not the fans of the (TF) anime or toys also casually walked in to buy some "movie merchandise". I did feel the impact of the movie's huge success.
- Who are your favourite movie characters?
Yuki: It has to be Optimus Prime. In the first movie, he did not have enough scenes to himself and he left less impression than Bumblebee, who had plenty of actions. Some long-time fans might feel that's quite like Convoy. (*laughs) In ROTF, Optimus was so cool, no need to say more!
Of course I also like the Twins (Skids and Mudflap), whose toys I was responsible for.
- What gave you the most headache during the development stage?
Yuki: Actually, I don't recall much hardship about product developments. In a way I just forgot, because the speedy work is a must and I can't remember each one specifically. I think it is harder to think of the way to promote (the products).
- What are your favourite among the products you developed?
Yuki: Fire Convoy (Car Robot /Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime). I was consecutively responsible for the main characters of the anime series; Lio Convoy (Beast Wars II), Big Convoy (Beast Wars Neo) and Fire Convoy, but Fire Convoy has a special place in my heart. I really wanted to realize his "Shake Hands Combination" with God Maguns (Ultra Magnus), and even went to the anime staff meeting to personally ask the director to include such combining scenes. I also consider myself fortunate that I was involved in the production of Car Robot items, which, as "Robots in Disguise", contributed to the renewed popularity of Transformers overseas.
My another favourite is Binaltech Skids, because I bought the actual car! I had always wanted to own a car I created a toy of, but most of the Binaltech lineup were several million yen class sports cars.... Then finally the lineup included a model with an affordable price tag and at the same time my old car had to have an expensive compulsory automobile inspection. That prompted me to go ahead and buy bB (Toyota bB/Scion xB) and I was very happy.
-What do you wish to transform, even though there is no product of it?
Yuki: I would say "Unicron", which I created during "Beast Wars Neo". "Micron Legend" (Armada) version which was released later was done by another designer (Hironori Kobayashi
). "Neo" Unicron was mine. The prototype was built and made public at an event, and the character had an appearance in anime...then the release was cancelled due to various reasons. I am still rueful when I think how close it was (to the release).
- I have seen that prototype, and I was very impressed with the number of the parts used and the attention to the detail.
Yuki: I did put everything into it back then! When I look at it now, I see some areas that are unsatisfactory and wish I could change them, though. So that is why I want to do "Revenge of Unicron". (*laughs)
-Lastly, please send a message to the fans who visit Transformers site.
Yuki: "Head to a toy shop after watching the movie, while the excitement is still vivid...!" Because the unique thing about "Transformers" is that there are so many robot toys released from just one line. If you haven't seen the movie yet, please do so. I guarantee it will solve all the mysteries, and make you want to own all the toys!