Behind-the-Design: Transformers R.E.D. (Robot Enhanced Design)

We sat down with Transformers Product Designer Manager, Lenny, for an exclusive behind-the-scenes interview about the new line of non-converting Transformers figures, called R.E.D.


Q: Why did you decide to do a line of non-converting Transformers figures?

A: When designing Transformers, one of the first things that has to be considered is the balance between robot and alt mode. Sometimes that means the final design won't perfectly match their appearance in various entertainment. So, we wanted to create a line that celebrated the robot form without having to make any compromises for conversion functionality. In doing so, we are able to create more character-accurate robot modes because we didn't have alt mode parts and pieces placed in areas they didn't appear in entertainment. For R.E.D., it's one of our goals to match robot silhouette as close as possible to the entertainment they're from, without the conversion "kibble" as our fans call it.


Q: How does it differ from working on converting Transformers figures?

A: For starters they don’t convert, which is kind-a-great because we can fully focus on the robot details, articulation, and accessories. However, it presents other challenges because of robot anatomy being varied from character to character. You have to reinvent the wheel a lot. Also, traditional converting Transformers toys are mostly constructed out of ABS plastic, but for these we primarily used PVC, with some parts in ABS. This is because PVC is better for pulling out of a mold, it's softer which allows for more details.


Q: What are the challenges you faced?

A: Our first challenge was deciding if fans would want non-converting figures from a brand called Transformers. To be honest, it is kind of the opposite of what Transformers figures are. So, we were pleasantly surprised to find the research indicating that there was demand for these types of figures. That being said, if we were going to do this, we knew we had to deliver on accuracy and articulation.

Transformers robots are polymorphing beings so that means almost all characters have subtle to major difference in their articulation systems. To achieve greater range of motion, we have to cut away at material so we maintain accuracy and aesthetic detail.


Q: So, if they don't convert, what are these Transformers figures for?

A: Traditional Transformers figures are designed to convert so in some cases the articulation and deco has to accommodate that need. But with R.E.D figures, our main focus is poseabilty and robot detail. Also accessories, those can be the first to get cut for a typical Transformers figure, but without the conversion element, we can have more, and more detailed accessories. So, short answer, they're for display. For those fans who want the most accurate looking robot modes on their shelves with awesome character-inspired accessories. Being a veteran on the brand now it is amazing for me to see our robot modes executed with such accuracy and detail like we have never seen before.


Q: How do you choose accessories?

A: We choose accessories based on iconic scenes each character is most known for. As well as elements from the entertainment that character is inspired by. An example of this is Prime Arcee with her swappable hand pistols and the cube of dark Energon ore, which Megatron was mining on the show. Our goal is to bring these scenes to life with elements from the stories people know and love.


Q: How do you plan out the articulation for these figures?

A: We have basic articulation points that have become standard and for the most part and we try to replicate them, but as I had mentioned earlier these bots are polymorphic and what may work for one may not for another. So we set out to achieve our basic double jointed, double elbowed figure but know we will need to make adjustments for details and silhouette.


Q: Does which character you're working on affect the articulation and other details?

A: Almost on all figures. We reference signature poses the characters may be famous for and try to ensure that the articulation system can achieve them. Without the additional parts needed for the functionality of conversion, we are able to design for poseability and with display in mind. R.E.D. figures are able to achieve poses some converting figures cannot.


Q: How do you plan deco for RED figures?

A: The Goal is to match what we see on screen. However, sometimes on screen, especially in the case of the old shows, there is a lot of variance or lack of detail. In those cases, we have to update finishes to gloss or matte, and make the ultimate decision on a color. Like in the Generations line, the character Cyclonus is like 3 colors throughout the seasons of the G1 Transformers series. In cases like that, we don’t want to make a boring figure so we sometimes make changes to the tone of the color to add more visual interest or shade for more contrast.


Q: How do you curate the collection for the year?

A: We want to represent all the wonderful entertainment the Transformers brand has created throughout the years. So to do that we could just go in chronological order, however that would leave some fans waiting a very long time. That's why we decided to pull from the various universes. Since we are pulling from the various universes or entertainment we want to start with characters that left a significant mark on the brand, whether through key scenes or epic acts of heroics or villainy.


Q: What is unique about R.E.D. compared to other premium action figure lines?

A: Well, first of all, our characters are robots. And yes, the other brands have robot characters or metal humanoids, but we are through and through robots. Cybertronians have a thick boxy feel, considering that we want them to feel built rather than sculpted, they are robots after all. So to do that we are utilizing a lot of secondary parts to achieve a layered effect. In addition, those secondary parts are great for recreating wings, arm blades, as well as animal parts like Cheetor’s legs on his back.


Q: Why did the team name it R.E.D?

A: We wanted to focus on the idea that this is a celebration of the robot mode so we are enhancing the robot design and making sure it is the first priority. Red is also an iconic Transformers color, our logo is in red, our Autobots are red, we're all about the red.

Q: What is your favorite part about these figures?

A: We get to make robots in all of their glory. I love Transformers, especially great puzzle conversions, but there is something refreshing about being able to create our characters' robot modes in this way, it's so clean and unencumbered by the conversion considerations. They just really look so awesome.