of fellow Transformers fansite TFW2005
has posted a translated interview with legendary Takara designers Hideaki Yoke
and Koujin Oono
from Million Publishing's Transformers Generations 2011 Vol.1
. We've posted a couple of excerpts below, the full translated interview can be found by clicking here
-Please tell us how "Transformers" began.
Yoke: As Diaclone Car Robot series was quite successful, we presented the products at New York Toy Fair through our American subsidiary. Our booth was small, but we received enough positive responses. However, in order to to market our product we needed a popular media tie in to introduce the background (of the characters), also we did not have the means to compete in the large American market nor the budget to spend on advertising which was much more expensive than in Japan. We weren't confident enough to take that much risk, and concluded that finding a partner would be a smarter move. We began our partnership with Hasbro by chance, and they wanted other products as well as Diaclones! (*laughs) Our strategy then was the same as now; make a comic 1st, and if it's successful, produce a cartoon, then a movie. However, when we were working on the story setting for a Transformers comic, we decided it would be best to be made into a TV cartoon right away. According to the time line, the storylines for the comic and cartoon were combined to create a story for the comic, and the cartoon was made next, though the process was almost simultaneous.
Oono: To be honest, I was shocked when I was told Diaclones and Microman series were to be merged. We had been working on those two lines with distinct ideas of how each should be and differentiated the two. Even the scales were different in 1/1 (Microman) and 1/60 (Diaclones). Every member of the team was complaining. (*laughs) But once we saw the new series, it was quite interesting. I thought, "This is awesome!".
Yoke: Mr. Bob Budiansky put together Transformers' early character setting and fundamental worldview. I had a chance to meet him for the first time in Botcon last year. We talked about our contributions to Transformers in the waiting room of 2010 Hall of Fame ceremony. He has been active as a writer mainly in Los Angeles, which is the center of the movie industry, but according to him, he majored in architecture. The magnificent story of Transformers he constructed - beginning from where they come from and why they are here, to each character's distinct personality and role - was written skillfully and consistently because of his architectural way of construction. Considering his age at that time, the amount of work he accomplished is marvelous. He said he was only given 1 week to work on Transformers, and he finished it off without stopping - he told me all this without stopping, too!
Oono: What I was especially impressed was how the enemies were depicted. We designed enemies for Diaclones and Microman, but I admired that the enemies were described in a much cooler way. It was different from Japanese point of view - both sides were equal and even the bad guys were made into products that would be in demand. I really thought it was the most wonderful aspect of the series.
Tell us about how The "Headmasters" series was born.
Oono: The combination of transformation with another gimmick was a new concept. In fact, Hasbro wanted us to provide them with something new at every meeting, but it was difficult to add more multiple modes than a triple changer, and there was a limit as to how many different combiner variations we could come up with on a regular basis.
Yoke: The idea for Headmasters happened when we had a meeting regarding product development with Hasbro in Tokyo - we had spent many days preparing, and we presented an enormous number of projects. However, it happened that after we had already used up all these ideas, none of the projects we presented was good enough be considered a breakthrough. We eventually ran out of material that day, and some of our superiors told us to gather more ideas by the next day before leaving for dinner. Many of us toughed it out all night, and one of the result was Oono's Headmasters.
Oono: I was inspired by "Koutetsu Jeeg" ("Steel Jeeg"). The head was always the most noticeable part, and I thought of using that fact. I feared the detachable head might not be a popular characteristic, and suggested a gimmick that a head could turn into an independent figure. Then....
Yoke: The reaction was, "This is amazing!" - he got an instant approval. That was the moment Koujin Oono became legendary. (laughs) I was impressed with his ability as well. Thanks to him, the whole team was spared.
Oono: The indicator gimmick on the chest also worked well. I went as far as making a test mould using our own factory, and when I saw the prototype, I was convinced it was going to be good. Since then, we always name a project that we really want to push "~master", and that was the case for 10 years or so. (laughs) Targetmasters followed, and a "key" was the motif in its successor, Godmasters (Powermasters) - the problem of the concept was that you couldn't transform the toy without the Godmaster figure, but I made it unlockable with the release button. The "key" feature was more a part of the background story.