Monday, January 20, 2014

Toy Fair 2014: Transformers Transformations Transforming

As we head into Toy Fair season, all the major companies are gearing up to present their best plastics for the year to come. Today, Hasbro gave the hot new geek blog "The New York Times" a sneak peek at their upcoming Transformers: Age of Extinction toy line, but more specifically, words on some some massive changes in the design of our favorite robot buddies.

"We can't transform these darned things!" screamed no one... And Hasbro answered!!

"Enthralled by the special effects in three big-budget “Transformers” movies that enabled the robots to convert in a matter of seconds, Brian D. Goldner, Hasbro’s chief executive, decided the toys needed to return to their roots. So he challenged his design team to reconceive them." “Our retail partners, they are getting very excited,” said Joshua Lamb, the senior design director for the toy line. “This rethinking of the brand is setting the stage long-term.” "Mr. Lamb conceded that the brand had gotten a little off track over the years. “As new designers and engineers continued to work on this brand, it got more complicated,” he said. Hasbro will continue to make complex Transformers for adult fans who have collected the toys since their inception 30 years ago. But the new design is intended to re-engage parents and children, who found the transformations too challenging."

Ah...the continuation of the dumbing down of America. God forbid you couldn't make something happen without pressing a button these days. I'd like to point out that, with every Transformers movie toy line, there have always been instant transform Transformers. Sadly, I believe this complete redesign is another bad move in in a long line of bad moves Hasbro has been making, coming out of a fairly dismal 2013. Up until the appearance of the "Black Series" for their mega popular Star Wars toy lines, a person could hit a store and find endless pegs clogged with characters (mostly from Episode 1) no one would buy. The stall of the G.I.Joe movie kept those figures off the shelves for several months and after the film's release, we would only see endless shipments of the first wave, assuring happy children they could get that Roadblock figure they'd been dreaming of. Hasbro went to great lengths to talk us into a 3 and 3 quarter inch Marvel Universe line (converting from the 6 inch Marvel Legends) and when it seemed success was achieved, they turned the scale into a children's movie themed line and sent Marvel Legends back out to the collectors. This would have been, at least, somewhat acceptable, if we could find anything beyond series 1 in any store.

The announcement above does go out of its way to state there will still be plenty for collectors to buy containing the super complicated transformations you demand (we heard you demanding), but I'm not expecting much. I can see Hasbro continuing to release their Master Piece selections at a premium price alongside other retro favorites, but I'd be shocked to see any smaller scaled, highly detailed "Legends" scale robots on the pegs in the future. I'm wondering if this model will extend to the animated series line as well. My gut says yes. When Hasbro shifted their 3 and 3 quarter inch lines into waves of figures with far fewer paint applications, less articulation and softer sculpts, it seems the lower cost of production was too great of an enticement for them to not extend the model to all their lines. Fewer movements to a transformation certainly seems like it would cost a lot less to engineer, doesn't it? Fewer joints..fewer parts..and from long time Transformers fans, Hasbro can now expect fewer sales. I suppose the import business will be booming.

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