As the minutes tick by getting us closer to the release of Bumblebee: The Movie early next year, we see more and more news regarding it break. Such is the case today, when ComicBookMovie.com published a brand new interview with the film's director Travis Knight, including a new official promotional image, to boot! You can find the interview below:
I wanted to approach this massive, expansive franchise and really focus in on a tiny corner of the canvas. Everything I've tried to do at Laika, searching for an artful blend of darkness and light, intensity and warmth, humour and heart, I wanted to bring to the Transformers franchise
At its core it's just a beautiful love story between two broken souls who find each other and heal each other," he adds. "I grew up loving those classic Spielbergian Amblin films. And we're trying to evoke that kind of emotion in this movie, fusing a rich coming-of-age story with some sci-fi insanity.
You can also find that new image below, featuring the film's lead actress Hailee Steinfeld and the film's lead and titular robot below! This is one of the first official images we've received showing off Bumblebee's new old alt mode, returning to the Volkswagen Beetle for the first time since the G1 cartoon. Check it out below!
In another interview with actor interpreting the main character of the upcoming live-action Transformers spin-off Bumblebee: The Movie, Hailee Steinfeld talked to Collider about Charlie Watson, her relationship with Bumblebee and to other Transformers movies - in terms of relationships, production, and other aspects of the craft. Check out the relevant sections of the interview copied below, and the piece in its entirety right here!
What is that like going to this huge, big budget…
Steinfeld: It’s not even that. Going from a movie being one of ten females, one of a million cast members to like me and a tennis ball on a stick was quite a shock, but one of the challenges I was willing to accept. It was really incredible. I worked with Travis Knight, who directed [Bumblebee]. It was interesting – with his background in animation, he had a clear end result visually what this film could be. It was nice to have someone who had that because I could use my imagination until the end of the day but it could be something completely different than what they’re thinking. He created these pre-viz for every action sequence that involves the Transformers. I could see it out. He was amazing and the whole experience was really cool. I can’t wait to see it.
How does it compare to other Transformers movies?
Steinfeld: It takes place in the 80s, of course. And it’s very character and storyline driven, which is a bit different, but it still has the elements that Transformers fans love and will see in the movie.
Who do you play?
Steinfeld: I play a character named Charlie Watson, who is a mechanic. She’s in high school… [She’s] incredibly unique and strong and has – something I love about her is that a lot of people tend to underestimate her knowledge and she continuously proves herself and what she knows and creates this incredible relationship with this Transformer.
Is it similar to the relationship Shia LaBeouf had with Bumblebee in Transformers?
Steinfeld: It is in that Bumblebee is the same. He is who he is – that lovable, gentle giant who truly cares. I’m somebody who makes this discovery and is looking for someone to listen to me and to love me and to hear me and that happens to be where he fills the gap.
We now have some more behind-the-scenes content regarding Machinima's Titans Return series, thanks to a new video posted over on the Transformers official Facebook page, sent to us by Scottimus Prime and his Toy Hunter Productions! The video features former Power Rangers Star Jason David Frank, who talks about his role as Emissary in the new show. The Green Power Ranger talks about what aspects of Emissary's character he likes the most, how he has a lot of personality for such a small bot, and more! Emissary joins the returning cast of Windblade, Optimus Prime, and Megatron with fellow new characters to the Machinima-verse, Overlord, Preceptor, and Trypticon!
Find the full video down below, and continue the discussion in the Energon Pub forums! Remember to keep your optics and audio sensors tuned to Seibertron.com for all the latest Transformers news!
The Full Force podcast, a GI Joe podcast, interviewed the previous Manager of Global Brand Development at Hasbro, Mark Weber.
While a great portion of the podcast focuses on GI Joe, we do get an insight on his time in the Transformers brand. His very first project that was all his was Bot Shots. He did also participate in the conception of the Prime Wars Trilogy and how they got an idea to bring yearly themes to the Generations line. We learn how Hasbro did indeed choose to extend the Combiner Wars line an additional six months because of how much of a hit it was.
We also learn that Titans Wars was the original name of the second part of the trilogy but that it was changed for legal issues.
There is also a short but awesome discussion on what Mark Weber wanted after the Prime Wars trilogy, which was to simply have a line made of mostly new characters, telling a new story, which would be akin to a G3 (his words). Hasbro often states that the toys are part of a narrative they are telling and the idea is carried forth here with totally new characters. He wanted new styles and new vehicles, like a snowplow and a black and grey hearse Decepticon called Tombstone.
What he really wants to stress out is how the brand (both Transformers and GI Joe) are in desperate need for new characters and fresh ideas. This is interesting since it is also a growing sentiment among fans. Afterall, G1 and Beast Wars have such a long lasting impact among fans and in the brand for the simple reason that it is there that so many characters were introduced while later shows and continuities simply used these existing characters in different ways.
While there is a lot of focus on GI Joe, the discussion of managing the brand is applicable to Transformers and we learn how Hasbro's waves and yearly output is decided. This helps us understand how the lines that come out look the way they do.
The Transformers Specific portion is found at the 6hr 19 mark and you can listen to it here.
By way of online media and entertainment magazine IGN, we have an interview with the lead character and actor for the upcoming Bumblebee: The Movie - the prequel to the live-action series from Paramount featuring the Transformers, set in the 1980s and the first directed and written by an entirely different creative team (Travis Knight and Christina Hodson, respectively) - and her experience with the production and shooting, the latter of which has concluded.
While perhaps the most notable snippet from the piece, which you can read in full here, is a hint at this being a whole new franchise (read: series of movies, probably trilogy), there are some interesting nuggets throughout about both Steinfeld and director Travis Knight, some of which are copied below!
“It's very character-driven and storyline-driven, which is good. I think will be interesting to see it play out because you still get the action and the Transformers themselves. There's a whole lot in it for the Transformers fans that I think they'll love, but it's definitely about storyline and characters.”
“It was definitely a process. With his background in animation, he was able to see, visually, a final product. It was nice to have somebody that could verbally translate what that was. But it was difficult. It was hard, I think, for both of us to sort of maneuver,” she explained. “Not only was this something completely new to me but it was something completely new to him and a different, you know, a different way. It was definitely a work in progress but I think we got a good thing going and hopefully, we'll see what happens.”
Not too long after the last interview with Peter Cullen about his role as Optimus Prime in Machinima's Titans Return animated series, we have another one with the great man, coming from the LA Times! The questions cover how he first landed the role back in the days of Generation One; the changes to the voice-acting process over time since he started his career; his bond with frequent (though not present in Machinima's series) voice of Megatron, Frank Welker; and even more!
The article doesn't touch too much on Machinima's series specifically, but it nonetheless contains a fair few interesting tidbits about Cullen's role, and his feelings on the current acting environment in animation. Check out a couple excerpts below, and of course read the full interview here! And as always, stick around Seibertron.com for more news and coverage of Machinima's series (like our review of the recently-released third episode) as it happens!
Did you ever think you'd see the Transformers characters as characters in a live-action/CGI movie?
No. Not really — especially after the 1986 [animated] movie because I was killed off. Frankly I didn't pay much attention to the show after that. I may have checked out a few [episodes] while I was doing it, but I had a family of my own. And my kids — my son — was not interested in cartoons and animation. He was a motocross and jet ski guy. He was not a sit-at-home-and-watch-TV kid. So I didn't get any feedback for years!
Your animation nemesis — voice actor Frank Welker — isn't in this latest Transformers iteration, but playing against his Megatron for so many years must have created a special bond.
A great bond. There's something about voiceover actors ... they're really underestimated and taken for granted. When I'm in a room with these talented guys ... they're really talented people and humble people. They're just marvelous people. Judd Nelson, who did Rodimus Prime or Hotrod in the newest series, what a great guy. Sensational human being and great talent. A great intellectual approach to a lot of his characters. And Frank — that's a bond that has lasted decades. It's such a privilege to be in a room with those people.
A lot of voiceover now is done, as you said, on a microphone in someone's home nowadays. Most would imagine that performing in-studio with other actors adds a different tone as opposed to being strictly digital.
The way I would express it would be like if you played on a football team and you weren't in the main locker room getting ready for a game around all the other players. You were just put in a room with your uniform and told to meet up on the field. You're missing 98% of the whole thing. You're missing the team, the camaraderie , the energy, the spirits, the willingness to combine efforts together and produce something good. When you're with a full group, you're inspired. And not only that, but the amount of laughter that ensued was just — you can't describe it. If it was school, we'd all be staying in detention.
Because it is so recognizable, have you ever thought of your voice as a liability in terms of getting other roles?
No. I never use Optimus Prime's voice for anything else. I studied voice, so I know I can get down and [lowers his voice] add the timber. It's just something I was capable of doing and I've never looked back.The voice is an instrument like any other. It's just about how you play it.
You should be aware by now that the second animated series from Hasbro and Machinima featuring the Transformers, Titans Return, is being released in the US on the go90 app platform - and surely soon to follow for non-US viewers by other means, like its predecessor Combiner Wars. Our review of the first episode can be read here, and a review of the second will be making its way to the front page later today, too.
With that covered, you may want some more behind the scenes material, and Collider is here to provide the content - namely, an interview conducted and coordinated via Twitter with the voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, returning to the franchise once more after the live-action movies and the animated shows Robots in Disguise and Rescue Bots. Check out some selected parts below, and read the whole piece here - which touches on a lot more than Titans Return, but always in a Peter Cullen and Optimus Prime shape!
It’s impossible to separate you from Optimus Prime, having voiced the character for over 30 years, but looking into the far-off future, what would make you step away from voicing Optimus?
Cullen: Yeah, well that’s been done before. I’ve already rehearsed that scene. [laughs] I’ve only done five movies since then, so it’s not like we’re talking, in terms of expansive years, since 1986, I’ve done a few games, Machinima, the second series now with them. Other than that, it’s been a very frugal way of making a living as Optimus Prime. What’s in store for him, I don’t know. But I’m not willing to give it up as long as it’s popular and people care for it. I would respect that part and continue on without much debate. But whether or he’s going to? I don’t know. I can’t speak for the multitude of people who are behind the steering wheel of this huge machine. If it all goes well, I’ll be doing it for years to come!
What was his reaction to being approached to play Optimus prime
Cullen: Elation, because I had waited a couple of weeks, which is not uncommon when you’re auditioning for a series and when they inform you that you have that role or that part. But more to the point, I had no idea who Optimus Prime was outside of the small audition that I did. In those days, back in the 80s, we were constantly doing cartoons, Frank Welker and I. We would meet at auditions sometimes or end up on a show and say, “Hey! You got a gig? So did I! That’s great!” That’s how we met by the way. Over the years, you try to add up all those feelings and say, “What actually happened?”
I remember the audition, I remember doing an impersonation of my brother who was a Marine, and heeding his advice, not to be an a-hole. Be real, don’t be Hollywood, that kind of thing. An audition that lasted perhaps a few minutes ended up changing my world, my life. That character has affected many different people’s lives in many different ways; I’m always overwhelmed by that, humbled by it, to tell you the truth.
What’s his favorite moment or scene as Optimus
Cullen: I would probably have least-favorite scenes. [laughs] I would include, the most important one, when I did the death scene. The other ones are doing all the screaming, yelling, blood-throat scenes; those are my least favorite. My most favorite scenes, which they don’t do enough, are when he’s written to express compassion and understanding. They never really want to express that level of Prime, which I thought was his most important, valuable trait.
Warning - The entirety of this story contains spoilers for First Strike.
This month saw the end of the Hasbro and IDW Publishing controlled crossover event First Strike, which pitted against each other every franchise part of the current Hasbro Universe - GI Joe, Transformers, Rom, Micronauts, MASK - and revealed in-story two new directions for the IDWverse hereafter: Unicron and Visionaries. We knew they were both coming, of course, given previous material about them both (see here and here), but now IGN also brings us an interview with editor David Hedgecock on the new status quo and the series springing from First Strike's aftermath: Transformers vs Visionaries, Scarlett's Strike Force, Rom & The Micronauts.
Noteworthy: some of the material covered in the interview, which you can read in full here, was already hinted at and talked around with the Twincast podcast episode 170, which you can find here. Go back and listen, then find some relevant snippets below!
IGN: Unicron is a character who’s been off the table for a pretty long time now, much to the chagrin of his fans. What made now the right time to finally put Unicron back into play? Did Unicron’s “appearance” in Transformers: The Last Knight play a role in that decision?
Hedgecock: We’ve talked about Unicron for a few years now. Its taken that long to get all the players and storylines onto the table in a way that made sense to use him. We’re (almost) there now, and I’m freaking out!
Unicron’s appearance in the movie is entirely unrelated. We knew he was coming in the comics long before we knew anything about the movie. However, there is always synergy with Hasbro’s strategic vision for the Transformers brand.
IGN: Unicron’s arrival obviously wasn't the only big development in First Strike #6. How will the fallout of this crossover impact the line going forward? What can readers expect from the new wave of Hasbro shared universe comic books?
Hedgecock: FIRST STRIKE was our chance to really explore what it meant for all these different properties to inhabit the same universe. Coming out of the event, the titles are all going to focus on their own stories for a while. The TRANSFORMERS titles in particular are going to focus on just TRANSFORMERS characters for a good, long time.
While we’ve created some interesting mash-ups for the new season of stories, those mash-ups in and of themselves are enough. In 2018, each book will be separate and distinct, and we won’t see much crossover.
Seibertron.com had the pleasure of conducting an exclusive interview with The Sequence Group, a design and animation firm in Vancouver, who recently animated our favorite franchise, Transformers. Teaming up with Kabam, Sequence helped create cinematic trailers for the TRANSFORMERS: Forged to Fight mobile game. Through speaking to Sequence, we were able to gain better insight into the design of these digital 3D characters, not unlike the live action Transformers films. Due to the interview being conducted in a conversational manner, what you will find below is a description of was discussed, followed by two videos showing the step by step process of creating the cinematics for game studio Kabam.
A Love for Transformers
I was glad to hear how overjoyed the entire team was at the opportunity to dabble in the Transformers franchise. These are all people that grew up with the G1 cartoon and the toys, much like the Forged to Fight team, and they poured their heart and souls into the few minutes we have in the trailers.
Speaking of time, this was their main constraint. Sequence and Kabam initially had longer scenes in mind, especially of the characters emerging from the crash landing, but that had to be cut to make the trailer fit within the tight run time. For those curious about other "deleted scenes", Sequence was eager to show a view from inside the Ark as it crashes, rather than seeing it plummet through the atmosphere.
Level of Creativity in Cinematics Based on a Video Game
I was very curious as to what Sequence’s leeway was in terms of creativity, especially since we are talking about an animated trailer sequence based on a game, based on pre-existing characters and designs.
Ultimately, Kabam had already developed a thorough script and a character roster line up (with design cues for the characters to match up with their looks in Forged to Fight), along with prerecorded voice clips of Peter Cullen. There wasn't any leeway in how Optimus Prime appeared, but the rest was up to Sequence, with a little guidance from Kabam’s talented art department.
Working closely with the Art Direction team at Kabam, a huge range of visual elements had to be strategized for maximum impact; including camera angles, lighting effects, particle effects, basically everything in the way a shot is composed and presented.
The example given to me was Megatron's reveal. The script says when Megatron is revealed and his design was provided by Kabam (using his Revenge of the Fallen body), but it was up to Sequence to make this moment stand out as much as possible. Sequence added extra smoke effects, worked with lighting and established the environment to add a sense of foreboding to his reveal, and that of his Decepticon army. By combining creative concepts between Sequence and Kabam, the two companies found a quick but efficient way to establish who Decepticons are (the bad guys), even to someone who may not know these characters.
While the trailer is very quick, a lot of thought went into making each character feel unique, which is important in a fighting game with different classes and different characters that suit different play styles. Sequence aimed to have each main character walk and move in a particular way, for instance, with supervision from Kabam’s game developers.
Lighting and Challenges with Scale
I wondered if Sequence was given any specific directions. It turns out Kabam wanted to use lighting like in a car commercial, highlighting bot shapes to make the models look as good as possible, since many of these models reflect toys we already have. And that is what Sequence was going for, because as I learnt, having 3D models be simpler and smoother makes them lose a sense of scale. Light needs to bounce off of the material in order to make it look realistic to the human eye, so you have to add as many light sources as possible.
This lighting approach ends up working fine if your goal is an awesome toy commercial, which was the goal in this case, but then I realized the big challenges Michael Bay and company may have had with bringing these characters to life. The importance of lighting and its connection to realism was very revealing to me. I will admit, I do prefer a smoother, simpler look to my Transformers over the extremely busy designs in the Michael Bay films, but this helped me understand the choice behind it.
In animation of any kind, it is the studio artists who can control infinite light sources in fictional 3D space but once you mix in live action, the light sources have to be consistent with whatever else is seen on screen in order to keep the realism that both the CG and live action components of a shot are sharing in the same space. So since the light source is limited by the practical environment (for example, take the shot in the 4th movie where Lockdown hunts down Ratchet), the realism of the scale within the shot has to be compensated by the light bouncing off of as many bot faces and facets as possible, hence the very busy character designs. And in a less technical way of seeing it, it is harder to get a sense of scale with a smooth surface so adding a lot of detail, rivets and plating to any design of a robot helps you see and understand how big it is, even in closeups where there is nothing to compare its size to.
Challenges with Posing and Positioning
Lighting and complexity of design isn't the only challenge when it comes to animating Transformers. The thing is, as explained by The Sequence Group, Transformers don't usually have the same proportions as humans. When keeping the more blocky character designs, which they do in this case, the action can be obscured by a bot's chunky features so it's all about positioning and layout. Since the characters are blocky, certain poses will result in the viewer having a hard time understanding the intended action.
Sequence pointed toward a shot of Bludgeon entering the scene. They wanted to capture the most dynamic angle possible as his sword dropped down. After much discussion, Kabam and Sequence decided on having the camera fall under him and off center, so the audience could see as much of his pose as possible. This is very different than having two humans fighting with swords, I was told, where several clean and readable angles are possible.
This also gives me another tip regarding recent choices in the Michael Bay films where the robots have gotten much closer to human proportions starting in Age of Extinction with Optimus Prime, Lockdown, Crosshairs and Drift (followed by all those knights in The Last Knight). Perhaps their solution to having clearer action scenes was to make the bot character models more humanoid than ever before in the franchise, instead of limiting possible camera angles.
Difference between Trailer and Game Graphics and Trailer Breakdowns
From a technical aspect, I was curious as to how these trailers differed from cinematics in the game itself. For instance, why couldn't the game's engine be used for trailer cinematics? As it turns out, the difference lies in the amount of light-sources available and the overall quality. If graphics were all in engine (rather than pre-rendered), you wouldn't be able to run the game.
Now here are two videos showing the breakdown of two trailers. You will see how it starts with an illustrated 2D storyboard, then transforms into rough 3D models, and then rendered models, followed by all the environmental effects.
Special thanks to founder and Creative Director Ian Kirby and Executive producer Dan Sioui for the interview as well as Georgia at Grammatik PR for helping this interview happen and connecting us with The Sequence Group.
We have some more news concerning both the wider cinematic universe after The Last Knight, not much more on Transformers Universe: Bumblebee, and the company's approach to licensing, courtesy of a very business-y interview with Katherine Buckland, Senior Director Of Consumer Products at Hasbro, found in the Licensing Today Worldwide issue accompanying the Brand Licensing Expo 2017. Do not expect too much, but the emerging details have been transcribed below.
One of the bigger news stories coming out of the Hasbro stable is the big screen movie release of My Little Pony in October 2017 and the Bumblebee movie in 2018. Tell us more.
KB: [...] Next December, Bumblebee will hit theaters from Academy Award nominated director Travis Knight and will star Academy Award-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena to offer fans a rich storyline surrounding fan favorite Autobot Bumblebee.
Let's move on to Transformers - Hasbro has really created a Transformers Cinematic Universe here. With each new film, what approach does the team make to its licensing programme?
KB: Hasbro takes a pragmatic approach when developing product ranges for upcoming films. From the start, we pay specific attention to detail to ensure the characters and storylines fans see on the screen translate into products people see on the shelves. The product needs to deliver a level of innovation that’s more than meets the eye [geddit?]. Consumers and fans expect that from us. The robust Transformers entertainment offering - which spans television, gaming, and full length features - lends itself to products, and we’ve enjoyed finding like-minded partners to grow the brand and its consumer product portfolio.
Talk us through the next steps in the movie franchise for Transformers.
KB: We still have several action-packed years coming up for the Transformers brand. Beginning this year, there will be a movie every year for the next three years, helping fans connect with the brand and its characters like never before. With Michael Bay at the helm, Transformers: The Last Knight – the fifth installment of the Transformers franchise – hit theaters in June 2017, and featured leading actors like Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner and Josh Duhamel. For December 2018, Hasbro is working on a film centered on the never-before-heard story of Bumblebee, and in June 2019 Hasbro will unveil an entirely new exciting storyline for the beloved brand.
Do Hasbro ever find themselves at a crossroads with brands such as Transformers? How do you ensure you are catering for all aspects of your fan base that spans such a wide range?
KB: Hasbro is always innovating for the new generation of kids while ensuring that it maintains the brand promise to fans. We like to say that Hasbro is always at a point of departure with the key franchise brands, so it's constantly evolving to reach new fans in unique ways across multiple entertainment and product categories. [...] Legendary fashion house Moschino featured Transformers in a collection available globally now. Inspired by the original Transformers look from the 1980s, the line is kept up to date with a vibrant gender neutral palette, action packed graphics and stylish silhouettes across men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel and accessories.
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