Pre-Toy Fair: Hasbro Announces New Transformers Toy Style

Geek Fun, Toys & Collectibles


Getting the jump on this week’s London Toy Fair, Hasbro has tapped the New York Times to exclusively publish news announcing their new “Smash and Change” style figures.

Releasing to coincide with both the 30th anniversary of the brand as well as this summer’s Transformers: Age of Extinction film, the figures take a drastic departure in how the figures have always transformed from robot to vehicle/animal/gun (wtf, Megatron?) and are taking a more simplistic route.

Check out below what the article had to say and be sure to leave a comment letting us know how you feel about the change.

When Hasbro conceived its Transformers toy line 30 years ago, the concept was simple: robots that turned into vehicles faster than you could say “more than meets the eye.”

But as the brand evolved over the years, the toys became more complex, some involving dozens of steps to complete a single transformation. In the eyes of Brian D. Goldner, Hasbro’s chief executive, they had lost their magic.

“We’ve made incredibly sophisticated robots,” he said, “but it can be like a 1,000-piece puzzle.”

Enthralled by the special effects in three big-budget “Transformers” movies that enabled the robots to convert in a matter of seconds, Mr. Goldner decided the toys needed to return to their roots. So he challenged his design team to reconceive them. Now, on the 30th anniversary of the brand, Hasbro is revealing a new look for the toys, including simple maneuvers that will complete a transformation with the push of a button or flick of the wrist.

The remake of the line, which includes new branding and packaging, is meant to coincide with Paramount Pictures’ release of the fourth movie in the franchise, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Retailers will get their first look at the line in London this week at Toy Fair, an annual industry trade show.

“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.”

The toys are expected to land on retail shelves in May, a few weeks before the release of the movie. Hasbro says it will build on the promotion for the movie with a marketing campaign of its own that will include ads on television and in theaters as well as on digital platforms, like mobile and social media.

Mr. Goldner has long been a champion of the Transformers. Certain their story could be made into a movie, he started knocking on Hollywood’s door in 2003, drawing the attention of several producers, including Steven Spielberg. The first movie, released in 2007, made more than $700 million worldwide and was credited for moving Hasbro from a traditional toy-maker to a multimedia company.

It is a crucial time for the property, which has evolved into a top seller for Hasbro. In 2006, the year before the first movie was released, the Transformers brand generated $100 million in revenue, nearly all of it from toys. By 2012, sales from the property had nearly doubled, but merchandise accounted for only 79 percent of revenue; the rest came from new areas like digital media, movies and television and licensing.

The movies, which together made $3 billion at the box office, lift merchandise sales; Hasbro’s revenue for sales and licensing totaled more than $1.6 billion in the three years in which movies were released. But sales are lower in nonmovie years. In 2011, the last year a Transformers movie came out, revenue in the boys’ category at Hasbro was $1.82 billion, an increase of 35 percent over the year before. But the following year, revenue in the same category fell 13 percent, to $1.58 billion.

The new look should help bolster retail sales, said Jaime M. Katz, an analyst at Morningstar, adding that redesigns are expected these days. “Toys were much simpler 30 years ago,” she said. “Everything has to keep evolving.”

The toys’ streamlined transformations also address the need for instant gratification sought by children today, she said. “A toy like this gets them where they are going faster.”

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.

The move to reduce the complexity of the toys extends to the branding, too. The property often has multiple toy lines on sale, reflecting various TV, movie and classic versions of the characters, leading to confusion in the toy aisle. Now, all Transformers toys will come under a single, bold logo.

The design of the packaging has been reduced to emphasize the toy and its action feature, leaving “as much space as possible to celebrate the characters,” said Jonathan Newkirk, the creative brand manager for Transformers.

“These are not necessarily the cheap tricks of marketing,” Mr. Newkirk said. “This is something that goes deeper than just the branding. We are trying to give the identity a voice in a very uncluttered way.”

Leave a Reply