You've worked with filmmaker Michael Bay and his production company, Platinum Dunes, on a number of projects. How involved is he in working with you?
He's very involved. He said to me one time that for him, the sound of his movies is 50% of what he puts out there. He considers it that important. That includes music and sound effects. He wants to hear every cue, he likes to live with it for a little while-which I get, when someone hears a piece of music for the first time and I say, do you like it or not? If I were in his position, I would go "I think I like it. I need to hear it a few more times. Can I hear it again tomorrow?"
He's very involved, not just in sound and music, but he's very involved in every aspect of his films; which I think is why his life is just so crazy because he'll come to me to hear some music and he's always racing off to go to look at the color timing of the picture or to go listen to sound effects. Whatever it is, there are a million things ... he might be more involved than people think. The music to him, he either feels it or he doesn't. He feels the music and he knows it's something working for him. That's how he judges it, and like I said, he wants to hear everything. It's good for me because he pushes me to make it right. There's so much music in these movies, I kind of get lost in these scenes, writing for days and days. He's a good judge of what works, what doesn't and what's boring. It's a good collaboration, I think, that we have at this point.
How much creative freedom do you have?
He gives me all the freedom in the world, which is great. When we started Age of Extinction, the only thing he said to me is that it was a brand new cast; let's treat this as something new. We have three movies worth of music, but let's set it aside and start working on these new ideas. That was it; I just started writing and would send him theme pieces that I was writing. I wasn't even writing to picture yet, I was just writing music inspired by some of the visuals that I had seen in his cutting room. I would just send pieces to him to see what he was responding to. He seemed to be responding to the simpler things. This little piano melody I did and things like this, which is just something I thought would be cool in the movie. It's not something he asked me to do, so he definitely does give me an open canvas to try new things that I think might work. Of course, if he doesn't like it he's gonna say so. If there's something that's not quite right, he will definitely give me general notes. "I like this, you lose me here..." We have a good shorthand now where I can just send him music and he will listen to it when he's in the music mood. He will call me up and tell me if it's good or not. He let's me do what I think is right and we take it from there.
WHITTAKER: Knowing you go through that kind of stringent screening of dialogue lends, at least from this reader’s perspective, the characters a certain charming honesty. They seem like real entities rather than just mouthpieces for certain ideas and opinions or to appear simply as catalysts for narrative.
ROBERTS: Thanks! A lot of MTMTE stories are quite high-concept, or if not high-concept then high-density in terms of the plot and the number of things happening at any one time. And because you’re limited to 22 pages and a certain number of panels per page, you only have so much space to convey ideas and information. I try, sometimes successfully, to smuggle exposition into natural-sounding dialog.
I’ve become more confident in how to impart information, and in how good readers are at filling in gaps when you hold stuff back. You can structure a conversation between two characters in such a way that the reader comes in halfway through and discerns the thrust of what’s been said; and then you can dance around a bit and use ‘hard info’ sparingly, but the tone and pace of the conversation, and the order in which certain details are revealed, can lend everything a realistic bounce and ensure that what needs to be established has been established.
The metamorphosis into a major independent player was complete when IDW won comics command of an army of robots in disguise.
“It sounds very trite to say it this way, but the one that really feels transformative to the company is when we started doing the Transformers,” said Chris Ryall, IDW Publishing’s chief creative officer and editor in chief, who joined in 2004 and helped land the license the next year.
“People were going, ‘Wait a second, who is this little company in San Diego that was suddenly awarded this giant licensed property?’” Ryall said, noting that IDW won franchise creator Hasbro’s bidding process over larger and older publishers. This summer’s blockbuster movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction” included a character, Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe), created in the company’s comics.
The editor, who has seen IDW’s monthly slate grow from about 10 titles a month to 60-70 titles a month in his decade at the company, and Adams both noted that, whether it’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or “Godzilla” or “Star Trek,” the company doesn’t pursue licenses unless it has people on staff who are already fans of the franchises.
Digital ventures are bringing people who rediscover comics on iPads and smartphones back into comic book stores, Adams said, citing anecdotal evidence and financial statements from IDW and other publishers that show print and digital revenues growing together over the last couple years. The company also is reaching out to kids in such stores as Target and Toys R Us with Micro Comic Fun Packs for its “My Little Pony” and “Transformers” titles that include sticker sheets and the like – an effort Adams said has been a hit, with more titles, including “Skylanders,” lined up.
With several more brands set to get the movie treatment in the next few years, we spoke with Hasbro Chief Marketing Officer John Frascotti to find out exactly how the company selects which of its toy lines get adapted to the big screen and how you can possibly turn a board game into a movie.
"We look for those brands that have story and character at their foundation because inevitably for any type of storytelling format, whether it's a movie, a television show, a digital comic ... it has to have great story and great characters at its foundation," says Frascotti.
"When you look at brands like Transformers and G.I. Joe they actually have a lot of lore and storytelling behind them already. So, in the case of Transformers, it's a 30-year-old brand and it had a long history of storytelling," said Frascotti. "Very similar, G.I. Joe who was founded in the '60s. Since then there's been a lot of storytelling and development in terms of comic books and television shows and movies and all types of rich storytelling. In those cases, where there's already a lot of storytelling in place, I think the roadmap is a little more evident."
After the success of "Transformers" in 2007, Frascotti says Hasbro continued to pitch other brands while studios began approaching them as well.
DAVID WHITTAKER: Ok, so starting at the beginning how did the concept of More Than Meets The Eye come about? Had you had any plans for what became More Than Meets The Eye as you were working on cooperative projects such as Last Stand of The Wreckers or Chaos Theory? I ask this because you have seemingly innocuous characters, such as Rung or Whirl appearing in those tales, who go on to become major players. So to speak.
JAMES ROBERTS: Well, the series’ core concept – Rodimus heads off in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron – was decided back in 2010 by either Andy Schmidt (John Barber’s predecessor as editor of IDW’s Transformers titles) or Mike Costa (who wrote IDW’s first ongoing Transformers title from 2009 to 2011) – maybe both of them. I think Mike came up with the idea of the Knights, although I was never given more than the name when I was asked to write More Than Meets The Eye. Anyway, back in 2010 IDW decided that from January 2012 Mike’s ongoing series would split into two titles, More Than Meets The Eye and Robots In Disguise. One title would follow Rodimus and Drift on their quest, the other would focus on Bumblebee trying to make a go of things on a devastated Cybertron. The Autobots would have fallen out – there would have been some kind of schism – and some characters would side with Rodimus, some with Bumblebee. At the time this game-plan was decided, no one knew what it was that would precipitate the schism, or which characters (beyond Drift) would side with the two Autobot figureheads. It was all really up in the air.
Vulture.com wrote:Listening to it, one might think, With lyrics like "it's in the mighty hands of steel," this must be a song written about Optimus Prime. But no. Bush says he had never even heard of the Transformers until after the song was already finished. Bush had written it with visions in his head of other iron bodies: Sylvester Stallone and Lou Gossett Jr.
Vulture.com wrote:"We wrote the song with the Stallone movie Cobra in mind," Bush said in his amiable southern drawl, picked up during his childhood in northern Florida. "We wanted to get it on the soundtrack. But the record label, they got it in the Transformers movie instead. We thought, What in the hell is that? An animated movie about robots? Really?"
"I am not a native speaker, but I had to perform as if I am fluent in the language," said Li. "I had to really memorise my dialogue well."
However, the tendency for the production to change the script made the experience more difficult and challenging for the actress.
In addition, Li also revealed that she had to make several changes in terms of her character's name and overall appearance.
"I portray a CEO in the film and they gave the character's name, Liao Xiumei. It's not that the name is not good. It's just that it sounded weird. So I changed it to Su Yueming instead," said the actress.
The veteran executive oversaw the 2010 launch of the kids cable network, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro, and has run it ever since.
“After five years at the Hub Network as its founding President & CEO, I am announcing that I will be leaving at the end of the year when my contract expires,” Loesch said in a statement to Deadline. “I am very proud of the work we have done and the accomplishments we have achieved at the Hub. The network is now in excellent financial shape, its ratings are up year-to-year, our programming has won more than 30 awards, including 12 Daytime Emmys, and the Hub Network has become a TV home for quality programming that kids and their families come together to enjoy. I will be working closely with our parent companies, Discovery and Hasbro, to assist in the leadership transition. I want to thank both companies for the opportunity they extended me and thank my wonderful team at the Hub. I have loved my job and am proud of the achievements we’ve made. While my career has spanned over four decades, I look forward to evaluating future opportunities and writing the next chapter.”
C/D: You’ve worked a lot with GM. Do they swing open the doors to their studios and let you pick and choose what you want?
MB: I walked into a special secret facility they have where they develop prototypes, and they said, “Let us show you what we’ve got.” I saw the new Camaro, and I think they were on the fence about making it, and I said, “That’s the car.” So they made a prototype for us. We took that car to Jordan, to just a little, poor town, and these kids were gathered around it and they were all saying, “Bumblebee!” Bob Lutz said that this was the best car-movie tie-in in history. I don’t know if that’s true, but they certainly treat me like that. When I go to GM, Ed Welburn, their global design vice president, literally takes me through all their design rooms and says, “What do you like?”
C/D: Did you wreck anything big-time on this new Transformers movie?
MB: Yeah, we had some crashes. But this movie feels very different from the other ones—in a lot of ways. We had everything from souped-up government Cadillac Escalades to a Bugatti Veyron and the [Local Motors] Rally Fighter.
C/D: Is there anything you wanted but couldn’t get?
MB: There always is. Now that we’ve done four [Transformers movies], car companies have found out about it, and a car will be at an auto show in Europe and then they literally fly it to my office. That’s what they did with the Bugatti and that’s what they did with the Pagani.
The new ongoing series will be told in stand-alone issues, with each featuring "life, death, love, hate, mechanical aliens from space." Scioli and Barber spoke with CBR News about "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" #1, explaining how Megatron functions as the series' Darkseid, how Scioli is playing with readers, why Doctor Venom should get his own series and much more about their nontraditional approach to both franchises.
CBR News: First off -- did Bumblebee make it out alive from "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" #0, the FCBD issue?
Barber: Well, he didn't look very good on that last page, did he? I think we might have to wait and see.
Scioli: Life and death have a different, not-quite-analogous definition for Cybertronians.
You said in our last interview that these stories will be single-issue stories. What are the benefits and challenges to writing one-issue stories?
Barber: Every issue stands on its own, but they definitely flow into each other. I think the rhythms of the series will start to be clearer as the series progresses, but really -- if all you did in life was read any single issue of "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe." I think you'd have had a pretty satisfying life. It's all there in every issue -- life, death, love, hate, mechanical aliens from space.
It's really a matter of taking an approach where every single issue is a whole unit. Not every issue is going to feel the same. I think the best comics are like that, sometimes. Every issue of this comic will have a personality. If you like one, you'll probably like the rest, I hope, but every one will have it's own idiosyncrasies.
The Free Comic Book Day #0 issue was very G.I. Joe-heavy; issue #1 is also very much from the point of view of the G.I. Joe team (but, believe me, is not lacking in Transformers), and then issue #2 switches it up completely.
Scioli: The major benefit is long-term goodwill. The readers will know that when they purchase their issue, they'll get a complete entertainment experience that they will want to repeat. The challenge is fitting all the story beats, and have them unfold in a natural manner, in a set number of pages. With my webcomics, I had the flexibility of having any give chapter being however many pages it took: 20, 14, 100. I do like the creative problem solving that's required for a rigid format. Jack [Kirby] and Stan [Lee] did all of those early epic "Fantastic Four" sagas in 20 pages. I'm not just talking about the to-be-continued soap operas from the middle issues, I'm talking about the self-contained stories in the first 20 or so issues.
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