BOTCON AT DISNEY
(griffin's 2010 BotCon report)
(PHOTO FROM BOTCON WEBSITE)
Hideaki Yoke (TakaraTomy), Aaron Archer (Hasbro)
Yoke-san began with Microman/Micronauts and Diacron/Diaclone, then Transformers, throughout its entire 26 year history. Something no one else can claim, at either Hasbro or Takara.
The concept of convertable robot toys came out of heavy competition at the time in Japan with robot toys. At Takara, they looked at creating robot toys that were smaller and could convert or combine.
Microman and Diaclone were separate lines, but shared offices.
There was actually a bit of healthy competition/rivaly between the two,
until the two divisions were merged.
Sunstreaker was apparently the first toy designed after their departments started working together.
Combiners and Cityformers were their next ideas after the merger, as the next gimmick after convertability in robot toys.
At this time (1982 I think), Hasbro then took notice and had an interest in bringing them to the western markets.
Yoke-san was the one who worked closest with Hasbro in those early days, with periods of time in US at the Rhode Island offices, including a 9-month stint in (1987?).
Communications during those early years, before internet and emails, relied on Faxes (black & white)... lots of Faxes.
Last figures Yoke-san worked on as a designer was during the 1987 movie, as he was promoted to Management at Takara. He still likes to have a hands-on role with the Transformers brand, even now as the Executive General Manager (the top job in Transformers at TakaraTomy).
His favourite Transformer he designed was Perceptor.
He also talked about the Origin of the Optimus Prime/Convoy toy. It was intended as the leader of the Diaclone series, so had to be something special, but the first designer appointed to the task, didn't finish it due to his obsession with Sports Cars. A team was then put together to finish the design, which means the classic, iconic toy can't be creditted to just one person.
Why does Tracks have a 3rd mode (flying car)? - it was to add value to the toy, because at the time it was designed and first released in Japan, there was no TV show support for Microman and Diaclone (unlike Transformers). So the toys had to sell themselves to consumers in the stores.
The idea behind Devastator? - a natural merging of the original 2 main
concepts of Microman and Diaclone - converting robots and combining robots.
He then laughed and said that the green colour was Hasbro's idea, not Takara's.
Microman and Diaclone toys he wanted to see in Transformers, but didn't happen? - more of the gun-formers like Megatron and Browning.
He refused to comment on Bandai's Gobots. (probably no honour in talking down a defeated rival)
The new Movie toys? - needed a breakthrough new look (which they indeed have), and TakaraTomy liked the challange of creating toys replicating Michael Bay's concepts.
Hasbro's separation of teams for the first year of Transformers? - They put all the cars into one group (Autobots), and everything else was was in the other team (Decepticons).
Commented on Triplechangers - The Jet/horse triplechanger was easily
rejected. But he recalled presenting the triplechanger concept to Hasbro,
using Astrotrain as the example. Since it first turned into a train,
Hasbro rejected the toy (because trains are only of interest in Japan),
but as he was (leaving/putting the toy away), he transformed it to shuttle
mode and the Hasbro people noticed what he was doing and suddenly saw the
value of a 3-in-1 toy. It was then included into the franchise.
No Triplechanger toys are currently in the works (after Darkmount/Skullgrin I guess).
There was a tease/hint at maybe a new Gen1 Shockwave toy.
Kobayashi Hironori was pointed out in the audience, who designs most of the Masterpiece Transformers. It seems that a number of the TakaraTomy designers come to BotCon each year, which goes to show how much of a fan they are of the toyline (it isn't just a job to them).
The panel wrapped up with a standing ovation to one of the fathers of Transformers, earning his place in the Hall of Fame (on Saturday).
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