BotCon 2011 - Hasbro Panel Report
Reveals and hints of things to come...
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One of the best things about BotCon is that it’s run by Hasbro so the full team is on hand to present new products, talk with the fans, and connect with the overall Transformers community. Besides the main booth in the exhibit hall, Hasbro offered a couple of panels that really shone a spotlight on what’s coming up in the near (and distant) future of the brand. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in these panels, but that didn’t stop me from taking copious notes!
Panel – 2011 Hasbro Toys with the Hasbro Brand Team
Greg Lombardo (Marketing), Billy Ward (VP of Marketing), Josh Lamb (Design), Bill Rawly (Design)
2011 is and will be the most expansive year for Transformers products ever, with new lines like Dark of the Moon (now), Transformers: Prime (12/1/11), KRE-O (summer), and Rescue Bots! KRE-O, Hasbro’s constructible toy line, is the biggest “new” push for the company and they’re really going all out. With a wide range of vehicle/robot sets come mini figure KREONs – no fewer than 28 in the first set of releases! Of those, 12 will be humans and 16 miniature Transformers. At the same time, Rescue Bots brings the Transformers brand to youngsters aged 3-6 or so. With a cast of new characters making up an elite rescue force under Optimus Prime’s command, Rescue Bots are partnered with humans and will be appearing in their own animated television show. The initial toy releases will see Blades (helicopter), Chase (police car), Heatwave (fire truck), Boulder (construction vehicle), as well as Bumblebee and Optimus Prime.
The Reveal the Shield and Generations lineups continue with the last waves hitting shelves now. Hasbro recognizes that these aren’t being distributed widely enough for a lot of fans, and they’re trying to rectify that. The team is trying to anticipate demand better, but when a brand switches lines (like moving to Dark of the Moon), retailers dump old ones. Generations will continue for the rest of the year, while Reveal “will get out, maybe through other channels.”
Dark of the Moon will be all over stores imminently to coincide with the new film’s release later this month. The main line for the film is “MechTech,” which sees Transformers equipped with large weapons that be used in either mode. The idea here was to have an action feature for the kids, but keep it external to the toy, keeping the integrity of the designs. The weapons can be held or attached via posts, and are getting bigger and better. The panel then showed off some images:
Deluxe Wave 5 (Wave 6 to come just after the film release)
-Air Raid: reconnaissance jet with radar disc. In robot mode the disc can be used as a shield or transformed into a blaster.
-Armor Topspin. The NASCAR Autobot returns covered by tons of armor and weaponry.
-Dark Iron. Re-deco of Sideswipe Corvette mold with new cobra-inspired head. Car mode mounts gun and blade weapons.
Voyager Wave 4
-Cannon Force Ironhide. Re-paint of movie Ironhide with a Generation 1-inspired deco in red and black.
Leader Wave 2
-Ironhide. The designers took the character’s title of “weapon master” to an insane degree. The robot’s chest opens up via two different mechanisms to deploy a gatling gun with lights and spinning action. Arm panels open to reveal more guns. One leg incorporates a projectile-firing missile launcher while the other holds a knife!
Ultimate Optimus Prime
Coming in the fall, this is the biggest Prime toy yet with fully deployed wings. The panel addressed some concerns fans have had over the basic Optimus toy in this set; he’s somewhat less detailed to keep the parts count down to a manageable level and still make the product cool. For the SDCC exclusive, Hasbro is packaging Ultimate Optimus Prime in trailer mode inside a foil sleeve package that works as a display case. It will also come with G1 trailer decals!
This line continues with smaller sets and the large boxed sets. In Wave 2 is Roadbuster with Sergeant Recon, and another in Wave 3 will come after the film.
A new lineup for the movie is the Cyberverse line featuring smaller scale toys that are easy to transform. These include single-carded figures in a couple different sizes as well as Action Sets (figure + transforming vehicle/playset), and the Ark vehicle playset.
Action Sets Wave 3
-Shockwave and Fusion Tank, Autobot Ratchet and Lunar Crawler – both of these were put on display in the Hasbro booth by Day 2.
-Autobot Ark with Roller. Due out in the fall. Could possibly see a re-deco later?
2011 Store Exclusives will cover all of the major retailers and have a few surprises.
-Toys"R"Us “Mission Earth” Deluxe Scan Series Ironhide, Sideswipe, Bumblebee, and Ironhide. These toys capture the Autobots in mid-scan with great new re-decos and translucent materials.
-Toys"R"Us Cyberverse Battle Pack referencing Bumblebee in D.C.
-Target will have four Deluxe movie exclusives with new decos: Elita-1, Bumblebee, Space Case, and Jazz
-The Target Human Alliance exclusive is Leadfoot, a #42 NASCAR Target-sponsored racecar. It comes with a generic human driver and Steeljaw (a robot dog that turns into a missile launcher).
-Target Deluxe Two-Pack with Twin Twist and Leadfoot
-Walmart gets a Deluxe Optimus Prime and repaints of Deluxe Bumblebee and Sideswipe.
-Kmart’s Human Alliance pack has a dark colored Bumblebee and Backfire.
-One of the biggest announcements is that Amazon will have an exclusive re-deco of Unicron with a new head and animated film coloring!
-Hasbro’s starting a “20 for 20 Toy Promotion” in July. Buy $20 worth of toys to get a limited edition Optimus Prime t-shirt. There’s also a QR scan for a music download.
Transformers: Prime (in stores 12/1/11)
-Deluxe Wave 2 Cliffjumper. Recreates the red muscle car from the first episode (NOT a Bumblebee repaint in this universe!), complete with the bull horns.
-Deluxe Wave 3: Vehicon (generic Decepticon troopers) and Terrorcon Cliffjumper, essentially a zombie version of the character.
-Voyager: Bulkhead and Optimus Prime (with large gun and sword)
-Deluxe Entertainment Pack: Optimus Prime, Megatron, the three kids, and a bonus DVD with Prime episode
-SDCC Optimus Prime in Matrix packaging. Inside the outer box is a wearable Matrix that contains the figure in the center bubble. This is going to be huge at San Diego!
The panel concluded with some early prototype and concept art for 2012 Transformers: Prime toys. These are all in early development.
-Cyberverse Ratchet and Wheeljack (complete with twin swords that can attach to his back)
-Legion Bumblebee (comes with multiple weapons that attach via posts) and Arcee
-Commander Iron Hide, the first appearance of this new character. Alt mode is a beefy pickup truck.
-Deluxe Soundwave comes with removable Laserbeak toy that transforms and can be attached to the larger Transformer’s chest.
-Deluxe Ratchet and Wheeljack, both with large bladed weapons
-Voyager Starscream with prototype light up weapon and translucent material
Panel – Hasbro Intellectual Property
Aaron Archer (Vice President) and Rik Alvarez (Creative Manager)
These two gurus sat down to talk about how they manage the Transformers brand and what exciting new developments are happening. Again, no photos were allowed.
Archer described their position as “Haslab,” the department that handles the brand, continuity, working across multiple platforms, working with partners, and archiving. As an example of the partner relationships Alvarez showed the concept images that led to the retail exclusives including the “dark” Bumblebee Human Alliance set and Toys"R"Us’ "Mission Earth" series. As overseers of the brand they work closely with all of the different internal departments as well, connecting the toys via the right looks and names to the market. As archivists they maintain the Transformers bible (currently at 354 pages), also known as the “Binder of Revelation.” They also worked heavily on the recent Vault book. Attendees got to see some images that didn’t make it into the book including Action Masters Mirage, Smokescreen, Cliffjumper, Rumble, and Blurr. Designs for more Decepticon Targetmaster jets came next, as well as multiple unreleased items and packages. One of the coolest things was a brown and green Omega Supreme that would have been part of a joint Transformers/G.I. Joe line!
The current combined “Modern Continuity” starts with the novel Exodus and includes the War for Cybertron game, films, Transformers: Prime, and the new Exiles novel. While Archer admitted that all will have slight differences that work for their own audiences, they pass the “squint test” to share one continuity. Exiles focuses on the Autobots searching for the Allspark after it was ejected from the Well in Exodus. Optimus Prime leads the team, but there are plenty of cameos and secondary characters. The book will also feature lost Transformers colonies and a brand new faction that represents a threat that will impact the entire Transformers universe! Some concept art of new characters was shown, with Cybertronian Brimstone as a Starseeker, Cannonball, and Axer.
Exiles will also bring new insight into the 13, from which the Fallen featured heavily in the second film. The 13 were the 1st army of Primus, prototypes from whom the entire race of Transformers was created. Among them were Megatronus (who became the Fallen), Alpha Trion, Liege Maximo, Nexus Prime, Vector Prime (first seen in the Cybertron series), and Solus Prime, the forger of the 13’s artifacts and weapons. Solus is the only “female” among the 13, which answers the question why there are so few female Transformers: since they’re all based on the original group there could be at the most only 1/13 of the population.
Two online Transformers video games are coming! Netdragon is a China-only game with a new story and art called “Prime with a Generation 1 influence.” There will be differences between its continuity and the mainline version, with a lot of focus on G1 characters and styling. We got to see some concept imagery of updated Hoist, Rumble/Frenzy, Brawn, and Ravage in addition to player character options. For the rest of the world, Jagex is creating Transformers Universe, a massively multiplayer online gaming experience. Browser-based, this game fits into the modern continuity and allows players to create and customize their own characters after choosing a faction. Art for this game included Barricade as a government SUV and Prowl as a sleek police car.
Finally, one of the newest and biggest projects is the Universal Studios Transformers 3D ride! We got to see a brief trailer, and Archer described working on the project and seeing a recent test. Michael Bay directed what you will see on screen, and the 3D is so advanced it’s four times the resolution of the films! The ride is scheduled to open in Spring 2012.