With Michael Bay no longer directing the live-action Transformers movies, and new spin-off/prequel Bumblebee aiming for kid-friendliness and cartoon nostalgia, you might expect the toys to be following suit.
But although Bumblebee will get a very kid-friendly movie tie-in line, the rest of Hasbro's toys will be taking a decidedly darker tone, as the new storyline the main toys will follow is one of war and survival. It's called War for Cybertron: Siege, and kicks off a planned three-year play pattern that, Hasbro's John Warden tells us, "really from a toy standpoint documents their desperate last day on Cybertron."
Indeed, it is the epitome of a grim/dark reboot, as "this is a whole new ecosystem and toy collection for Transformers fans," Warden says. "It's Optimus Prime, the original Ark crew, but also lots of characters that we know have fam appeal but are reimagined in this gritty, warlike environment." New features include increased battle grime and scarring deco in place of stickers, and "fireblast" effects so you can pose your figures in battle discharging their weapons or swinging their laser swords dynamically.
Deco, articulation, and a reasonably consistent scale will be prioritized over larger gimmicks across the main line, as well as in the Studios Series, figures based on the Bay movies that are made using Paramount's original visual effects files. They can't be quite as complicated in their transformations as their onscreen models, but they'll come as close as is possible. Again, while Bay may be done with the film series, Hasbro isn't--the company is counting on kids who saw the first film at age ten wanting to collect more intricate robots now that they're hitting their twenties.
The Studio Series come in boxes which turn into movie-inspired backdrops--these are designed with Instagrammers and toy photographers in mind, to give them the chance to imagine how they'd shoot a Transformers film. (Speaking as a toy photographer and a collector, I love that they're acknowledging this is a segment of the fanbase.)
Some years ago at Comic-Con, I asked Hasbro if the Mountain Dew vending machine robot from the first film, Dispensor, was on the table, and was told no, because a soda machine isn't very dynamic for child's play pattern. But now that we're aiming at collectors? "Scale is a tricky thing," says Warden, but "I wouldn't completely rule him out." What about Dark of the Moon "Desert Nomad" Megatron, who wasn't done justice in toy form the first time around? "I'm a big fan of that guy," replies Warden. With Bumblebee taking center stage, what about a World War II Bumblebee as seen in The Last Knight, but ruled out for that movie's main line last year? "I cannot confirm or deny, but I personally really do enjoy World War II Bumblebee."
As for whether a giant-sized Transformer like Warden's personal obscure favorite, Star Saber, could be funded via something like Haslabs, the new initiative through which fans backed a Star Wars Jabba sail Barge, Warden hemmed and hawed briefly before finally saying, "I think that could be really cool."
Which Transformers toys are more than meet your eye? Buzz down to comments and "bee" sure to let us know.
Images: Luke Y. Thompson