At MCM London Comic Con recently, I was invited to meet with John Frazier, Global Senior Brand Manager for the Transformers franchise at Hasbro. I was five when Transformers first hit the screens, and grew up with Generation One. I may never have owned an Optimus Prime but I leapt at the chance to find out about the new lines of toys, and how to get a job working at Hasbro.
After a panel on the Central Stage revealing what’s next for Transformers, I headed to the Hasbro stand for an interview…
Robin: I’m sitting with John Frazier, Senior Brand Manager for Transformers.
John Frazier: Yes!
Robin Bates: It’s pretty awesome that you’re here here at MCM London Comic Con. You’ve just revealed a few new lines that are going to the Transformers. Would you like to tell us about those?
John Frazier: Yeah. We have a lot of exciting reveals here at London Comic Con for fans of all ages, something that we want to focus on with Transformers franchise, starting with our Cyberverse line. At New York Comic Con, we revealed the new scale, the Deluxe Scale, which has more articulation, deco, detail, authentic versions of the characters, and that’s a spring 2020 line.
At London Comic Con, we had new spring 2020 items to reveal, and our new innovation for our ultra and ultimate class; they have the Energon Igniter. It’s all about quick, more than meets the eye, surprise at in light moment, Energon Armor activated. For the ultra scale, Energon Armor is activated when you pull out the weapons out of their back or in their alt-modes, it’ll automatically activate the new Energon Armor. Then at the ultimate scale, which is the larger scale, the weapon activation actually activates the conversion. If you’re in robot mode, say you pull out an ax, that will actually activate automatic conversion into its robot mode.
Robin Bates: Awesome! That must present some interesting engineering challenges for the team.
John Frazier: Like all things at Transformers, engineering and design is right at the forefront of everything that we do. I’m still amazed by everything that we do. In partnership with Takara Tomy and our partners there, we worked very closely with them to really make sure that everything is the right detail. We call it the wow factor. It has that right ‘wow’ that in an instant, you just said, how do they do that? I think the ultra and ultimate innovation will definitely do that.
Then on the other side we have BotBots. Our other big reveal-
Robin Bates: This was new to me, BotBots. I went out to the Coaching for Geeks community saying, “Give me the briefing. What’s happened in Transformers in the last 30 year, since I got into as a kid.” They went, “BotBots is so cool.”
John Frazier: That’s awesome to hear. We love BotBots. It’s one of these things that we wanted to look at where the toy space was going, and we knew that collectibles were popular, but the thing we really liked from Transformers perspective of collectibles, was lots of characters to collect. How do we get in there? We want lots of characters to collect and do it at a really fun scale. BotBots was revealed last year, launched this year, 190 characters to collect for the year, another engineering marvel.
Robin Bates: That’s a crazy number of molds that had to be made.
John Frazier: Exactly. All the characters are super fun. They’re all everyday objects that are in the mall. Energon hits the mall, and they transform into these small everyday BotBots. For example, one of the objects is a grilled cheese, and the grilled cheese transforms into a BotBot called Angry Cheese, and he’s called Angry Cheese because he’s lactose intolerant. It’s like quick, little, fun briefs of 190 different characters.
Here at London Comic Con, we heard a lot of speculation about, “Well, where’s BotBot’s line going? Is it going to be a one and done? Is it going to keep going?” We’re excited to let everybody here know for the first time that we’re going to be releasing BotBots, the new theme for 2020 is Gold Rush Games, an all new tribe to collect, rare gold BotBot tribe, and a new fun surprise unboxing set that we actually have, and we’re going to be putting over on our space here.
John Frazier: It’s real fun.
Robin Bates: The claw arm, you pull the strip and all the balls coming rolling down, the bubblegum machine.
John Frazier: It’s fun.
Robin Bates: That’s a lot of fun.
John Frazier: We want to make sure that that surprise and delight is in every experience, but every experience is different. The claw machine is a different experience than the gumball machine. Then the characters that are in the gumball machine are different because a randomized, varied experience bodes well for a line that has 190 characters to pull out.
Robin Bates: I think one of the standout elements of the first Transformers movie was the Nokia phone. That seems to translate well over to the BotBot line. It’s that fun quirky little, “I’m an angry little thing whose going to cause some mischief.”
John Frazier: Exactly. It fits the personality of who they are and what they’re all about. What I love about these characters is Transformers can take on any form. The thing about BotBots is there everyday objects around you. It kind of embodies being more than meets the eye. #morethanmeetstheeye Literally, anything that’s sitting around you and I right now, could be a BotBot, and it could scurry away cause mischief around the London Comic Con. That’s why the line just has fun, and it just pushes the fun. I think that’s what we get so excited about. It’s been interesting and fun to see kids really react to it, but also fans react to it and say, “Well yeah, you’re telling me there’s 190 characters. I’m going to get these. I want them all.” It’s been a fun line.
Robin Bates: It must be hard appealing to a global international audience who range from young kids who are just getting into Transformers now, to people my age who were five when the line originally launched, giving my age away there. How do you manage those expectations? It’s such a wide range of people.
John Frazier: We look at that as a gift. I said it at the beginning of the panel, it is a gift to be able to celebrate 35 years with a fan base that’s intergenerational, across genders, different backgrounds, but the commonality are these really awesome, cool robots. What it does is, it starts with you, the fans, and that is fans of all ages, and understanding what is it that they want. What makes them tick about Transformers, and then finding the right opportunity to do that. We do that with different segments that we have.
As you can imagine, the core target for our BotBots or Cyberverse is really that kid audience because the line is built for that kid. Now we have characters that are really secondary characters that a fan would pick up on that are on Cyberverse and say, “Wait, I like Cheetor. I like that character.” That’s a fun way that we have. For our older kid in our fan, we have the Generations line, and that allows us to get more sophisticated transformation, more sophisticated deco, authentic versions of certain characters. Those are insights that fans and older kids are looking for.
It’s really compartmentalizing the franchise, making sure you can plant your flag and say, this is the line for you. If you’re an older kid or a fan, you want generations, and we’re going to give you these characters done this way that you’re going to love. If you’re a younger kid, here’s Cyberverse. This is the property for you. You’re going to like it for X, Y, and Z reason.
In order to do that, because that’s easier said than done, in order to do that, it’s constantly leaning into insights from consumers around the world. You could be the same age of consumer in the UK and say China, and you may have different wants and needs, different cultural backgrounds, those type of things that may influence what you’re looking for. We always want to keep an eye on all of that stuff. In short, it all starts with you guys. We listen to you constantly, and then we try to give you guys what you want, to be quite simple.
Robin Bates: Then there’s a couple of the hashtags that you’re using to engage with the audience during this specific year. What are those, so the whole audience can get more-
John Frazier: It’s hashtag #morethanmeetstheeye and hashtag #Transformers35.
Robin Bates: Those are long hashtags!
John Frazier: Those are long hashtags, but I promise you, if you add those hashtags to some of this stuff, you’re going to see some really cool things. It kind of embodies everything that Transformers is in 35 years, and it’s fun to see the conversation continuing, people that want to celebrate things that happened 35 years ago, people that want to celebrate things that are happening now or as you saw in the panel, people want to ask a bunch of questions about things we can’t answer, but we love it. We love it, nonetheless. We love that passion.
Robin Bates: I love that the Generation line is in existence. I never got an Optimus Prime as a kid. My mom waited in line for an hour, got to the front of the line, and they jacked the price up by 10 pounds.
John Frazier: It’s a sad story.
Robin Bates: Little Robin went without an Optimus Prime, and as a six year old kid, devastated. Now, I know I can go out-
John Frazier: Relive it.
Robin Bates: And relive it.
John Frazier: And that’s what we hear. I think someone might’ve made a comment about that in a panel presentation, too, but that’s the beauty of it is you get to relive… it makes you feel like a kid again. I’m the same way. I share the same thing, I said, I came in through Beast Wars. When I hear people talking about their love for Beast Wars, I can only help but smile, as well, and just be like, “Yeah.”
Robin Bates: There was so much Beast Wars love in the panel. That’s one of the things that my community have said, “Ask about Beast Wars.” Sorry gang, there’s nothing to tell about Beast Wars.
John Frazier: I can be the broken record I was at a panel, and there is unfortunately nothing to talk about today, but I can reiterate that we listen to you, we hear you and we love the passion. You know what I loved, I loved hearing all the questions that started from, “Hey, can you give me this tertiary character from G1? Can you give me this tertiary character from the Studio Series and the Theatrical? Can you do Beast Wars? Can you do animated?” Those are all four very different things. Again, it all celebrates the 35 years of what makes Transformers so special.
Robin Bates: Even Gobots got a mention.
John Frazier: Gobots got a mention, yeah. There truly is something for everybody. What I love about anniversaries is that you get to celebrate the heritage of where you came from, but we’re about trying to understand about where we’re going to push it forward, as well. We know that what got us here is not going to necessarily get us to the next place. We definitely know how much it means to celebrate the past and the heritage of Transformers. Hopefully, you feel like lines like generations allow you to relive some of those feelings.
Robin Bates: And I’m really excited for the new series Cyberverse: Season 2, as well, that’s going to Pop in the States. Will it be coming, do we know, to Netflix?
John Frazier: It’s available now on Netflix for Season one, and then is going to begin airing Season one on November 4th, and then on November 15th, they’re going to be premiering season two. Catch Cyberverse season two, Power the Spark, Pop network. Can’t miss it. It’s really cool.
Robin Bates: Let’s talk about a large toy that’s coming, the one that has one or two points of articulation….
John Frazier: Yeah. Just a couple, just a couple.
Robin Bates: We’ve got a big boy.
John Frazier: It goes without saying how important Unicron is to the franchise, and what he means. You just say the name and it just brings him back, and that feeling of like, “Oh my God. He was there.” One of the conversations was what’s the biggest toy that we can make? It made sense that, what’s one of the biggest characters that we’ve had? It became a no brainer because of the love that people have for a Unicron. We’re thrilled to be able to make this a reality, bring Unicron to life. I think it’s over 50 points of articulation. I could be wrong, but I think it’s over 50, maybe over 15 in the hand alone. Literally, think about every detail is been meticulously engineered and designed in partnership with Takara Tomy to make this guy a reality.
Robin Bates: It’s crazy. Where can our readers find out more about these lines?
John Frazier: I would say tune into, I believe it’s been brought in through Kapow here in UK. I would be checking with Kapow to understand availability and those types of things, but he exists. He’s real. I think the beauty of doing a project like this is not only the fact that he’s going to be a reality, but now that he’s going to be a reality, we want to bring you guys on the journey and give you updates on how he’s coming to life because he’s so larger than life that those type of development of those items, you want to see what the next step is. How do they create it? Same question you asked about, how did we engineer that? How do we design it? Fans want to know that stuff. We want to make sure that we give them some of those details, as well.
Robin Bates: What about you? What was your route in to this industry? A lot of people in my community who were like, “Yeah, I want to work for Transformers.”
John Frazier: I have a business background. I’m on Transformers Global Brand team, their marketing team. Let me start with my passion. My passion is I love pop culture, love entertainment properties, I love toys. Toys, as an extension of an entertainment property, is like a dream come to life. I was going to grad school at the time, and I was looking for companies around, I lived in the Northeast, and I was looking for companies that had entertainment properties and learned more about Hasbro. Obviously knew that they were in the area, learn more about what they were doing and how they embody, everything, toy, entertainment, storytelling, all that stuff. I was like, “How do I get in there?” I actually found the grad school that I went to had a great relationship with Hasbro. I actually picked the grad school that I went to in hopes that I could maybe get my foot in the door. Passion embodies everything that everybody does at Hasbro. Hopefully, you feel that around everybody here today.
Robin Bates: Yeah, sure. It’s a great stand. I was trying to find you earlier, but instead of, “Hey, I’m supposed to have a meeting.” They were, “I will help you. I will find this.”
John Frazier: Exactly. That’s the the culture.
Robin Bates: You wouldn’t normally expect that.
John Frazier: That’s the culture. Everything we do is a creative collaboration because you’re at the cross section of people that love what they do for a profession, but love what they do and are passionate about what they do from a brand perspective, understand the history. Everybody that works on Transformers understands how important 35 years of Transformers is. That’s really cool because anywhere you turn, you’re going to see somebody that’s engaged, that’s tuned into what’s happening in the fan community, that wants to make sure that they deliver something that they would like, but also that the fans would like, those type of things.
John Frazier: Passion and determination, if you want to see something you want, go after it and it can be a reality. I’m here representing other designers that they grew up scribbling Transformers on a notebook, that hopes of one day they could be a Transformers’ designer and there they are doing it right now. Literally, it’s kind of a dream come true. To be able to come here to London MCM Comic Con and talk to fans, and hear about their passions, and hear how like, “How do I do that?” We love having those conversations. They’re very cool.
And with that our time was up. But the Transformers info doesn’t end there; here’s the official info:
Energon hit a shopping mall and the ordinary objects inside came to life as little converting Transformers robots, called BOTBOTS! Collectable BOTBOTS figures are around one inch tall and convert between two fun modes— a robot and a random object—in three to five easy steps! Now, BOTBOTS tribes are competing in the Goldrush Games, a competition to see which tribes are the most mischievous! Winners earn one of the shiny gold trophy bots, including the Gold Blender for nutritiously all-natural mischief and the Gold Popcorn for cinematic and epic 5-star mischief, from the Winner’s Circle tribe! The mad dash to grab the gold is on!
TRANSFORMERS BOTBOTS – Series 4 Gumball Machine Surprise Unboxing
(Ages 5 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
This Gumball Machine surprise unboxing pack includes five BOTBOTS figures, one gold figure, and four stickers. Pull the tab to vend the ten surprises inside one at a time! Look for other BOTBOTS assortments (Also available in blind bags, 5-packs, and 8-packs. Each sold separately. Subject to availability) to build a collection of BOTBOTS toys to discover, play with, trade, and share. There are 190 BOTBOTS to collect in 2020. Convert and see what bot you got!
TRANSFORMERS BOTBOTS – Series 4 Claw Game Surprise Unboxing
(Ages 5 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
This Claw Machine surprise unboxing pack includes five BOTBOTS figures, one gold figure, and four stickers. Pull the tab to release the surprises inside and collect the BOTBOTS before they all come rolling out! Look for other BOTBOTS assortments (Also available in blind bags, 5-packs, and 8-packs. Each sold separately. Subject to availability) to build a collection of BOTBOTS toys to discover, play with, trade, and share. There are 190 BOTBOTS to collect in 2020. Convert and see what bot you got!
Imagine recreating awesome Cyberverse battles with ULTIMATE and ULTRA CLASS figures that power-up with the Energon Armor featured on the animated series! (Each sold separately, subject to availability) In the G1-inspired CYBERVERSE series – giant Transformers robots from the planet Cybertron engage in epic battles, harnessing the power of pure energy with their Energon Armor!
TRANSFORMERS CYBERVERSE ULTIMATE CLASS OPTIMUS PRIME
(Ages 6 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
Inspired by the CYBERVERSE animated series, this ULTIMATE CLASS OPTIMUS PRIME figure stands at 9 inches tall in robot mode and converts to truck mode in six steps. Combine OPTIMUS PRIME with cool, colored Energon Armor automatically to convert him into his powered-up mode, and pull out his weapon accessory in the last conversion step to activate OPTIMUS PRIME’s Energon Axe Action Attack feature!
TRANSFORMERS CYBERVERSE ULTIMATE CLASS SHOCKWAVE
(Ages 6 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
Inspired by the CYBERVERSE animated series, this ULTIMATE CLASS SHOCKWAVE figure stands at 9 inches tall in robot mode and converts to vehicle mode in ten steps. Combine SHOCKWAVE with cool, colored Energon Armor automatically to convert him into his powered-up mode, and pull out his weapon accessory in the last conversion step to activate SHOCKWAVE’S Wave Cannon Action Attack feature!
TRANSFORMERS CYBERVERSE ULTRA CLASS CLOBBER
(Ages 6 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
Inspired by the CYBERVERSE animated series, this ULTRA CLASS CLOBBER figure stands at 6.5 inches tall in robot mode and converts to tank mode in nine steps. Combine CLOBBER with cool, colored Energon Armor automatically to convert him into his powered-up mode, and pull out his Turret Blaster weapon in the last conversion step to activate his Energon Armor-Up feature.
TRANSFORMERS CYBERVERSE ULTRA CLASS HOT ROD
(Ages 6 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
Inspired by the CYBERVERSE animated series, this ULTRA CLASS HOT ROD figure stands at 6.5 inches tall in robot mode and converts to race car mode in seven steps. Combine HOT ROD with cool, colored Energon Armor automatically to convert him into his powered-up mode, and pull out his Ion X-Bow weapon in the last conversion step to activate his Energon Armor-Up feature.
TRANSFORMERS CYBERVERSE ULTRA CLASS BUMBLEBEE
(Ages 6 and Up/Available: 01/01/2020)
Inspired by the CYBERVERSE animated series, this ULTRA CLASS BUMBLEBEE figure stands at 6.5 inches tall in robot mode and converts to car mode in eight steps. Combine BUMBLEBEE with cool, colored Energon Armor automatically to convert him into his powered-up mode, and pull out his Cybertronian Sabers weapons in the last conversion step to activate his Energon Armor-Up feature.