[BOTCON] G1 Hasbro marketing executives panel

88 views
Skip to first unread message

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 23, 2004, 4:56:44 PM6/23/04
to
Here's part one of my transcript of the G1 Hasbro marketing executives
panel at Botcon this past weekend. Bob Prupis and Allison Segebarth
were the two guest speakers. This portion of the transcript includes
their introductory comments up until they began taking questions. I
hit the record button a little late so I missed the first few words
Bob began speaking, but he only had said about one sentence worth of
stuff so you're not missing much. I chose to edit out irrelevant stuff
like verbal pauses ('ums' and 'uhs') or redundancies that occur in
normal oral communication. One thing I also edited out was Bob's
initial mention of Allison's maiden name as I feel private personal
information like that isn't relevant to the topic anyways. Words in
brackets [] are my own comments, and words in parenthesis () are what
I came up with so that sentence fragments would make sense. Any
corrections to the text or questions about what I've typed are
welcome. Here it goes!

Bob Prupis:
[Bob started off with something like "We're all here today to..."]
...pay homage to a product line, although it's more than a product
line it's a fantasy concept that was designed for a nine year old. But
this is the kind of enthusiasm that keeps all of us young and vital
and enthusiastic.
I think that the main reason that the Transformers was an immediate
and a long term success was the passion that Allison brought to the
brand. It was a passion that affected everybody who was involved in
the continuing development of the line. And that's the passion that
kept this thing alive all these years.
As vice president of Boy's Toys at Hasbro, I managed the original
introduction in 1983 and with my marketing team and others, developed
the positional the and rationale for the brand.
There was a product out of Japan called Diaclone, which was a
moderate success in Japan and a failure in the US. A product developer
by the name of Henry Normanstein brought the concept from the Japanese
company called Takara to Hasbro's head of R and D, George Dunsay.
I personally was V.P. of Boy's Toys at the time and I fell in love
with the magic of the physical transformations, but I felt that the
concept which was needed was an emotional connection with our target
market. I believed that the fantasy needed a logical reason for
being-something that the kids could understand and completely relate
to.
At the time we already had a relationship with Marvel Comics based
on our G.I. Joe. I called a meeting with our marketing team and
Marvel's creative group. And after much discussion and rejecting many
concepts, we decided to throw out the little men that were in the
DIaclone line that were supposed to be the operators of the robots and
make the robots themselves heroes of the line.
Working with comic book writer Bob Budiansky from Marvel, we came
up with a rationale that the kids could relate to so the concept that
you all know so well of the Autobots and Decepticons and how they came
to Earth was born. It was an overwhelming success.
In fact, in the first year I had forecast a potential sales volume
of 30 million dollars. Management fought me on this and they decided
that as a new line it was too aggressive and they cut the forecast
down to 15 million dollars. We actually sold over a hundred million
dollars that first year and the backlog that we could not manufacture
of another 70 to 100 million dollars. In the stores there was a
feeding frenzy that Christmas.
Although there were other similar concepts in the marketplace, the
Robots In Disguise campaign was so successful that it lead to a
leadership position in boy's toys, creating a high level of awareness
by developing uniqe and appealing personalities for the individual
Transformers themselves.
As far as the second birth of the Transformers, in 1989 I was
transferred to England as senior vice president of international
marketing, responsible for all of Hasbro's brands in Europe.
Transformers was an incredible success in our European markets. The
United States marketing and R and D group had decided in 1990 to
discontinue the Transformer line and develop no prodyct for 1991.
However, as the important segment of the international sales
marketing, and (for) the continuing success of the line, I had to do
something.
I flew to Tokyo and was able to convince the Japanese, who had been
creating the new product under US direction, that Europe and Asia can
do enough volume to make it worthwhile for them. So in 1990 we
structured a new marketing and R and D team in Europe to take over the
development of the brand. And because of the increasing success of the
Transformers in the world marketplace, the US market group
re-introduced the Transformers in 1993. It's actually a born again
product that is still successful today.
Thank you.

[Audience clapped loudly for a while. After the applause Allison
began speaking.]

Allison:
All I can tell you first of all is thank you for having me. (It's
been) the entire day that we've walked around and looked at the booths
uttering, "Gee, I remember that". Did we believe that what we did 20
years ago would hatch this? That there'd still be people interested in
that? That it would grow with you-that it was important enough to
grasp this long and probably keep in you for hopefully a number of
years to come? It's amazing.
You can think about what you do everyday in your everyday lives and
that it was fun having that passion about the product and that's what
made the things come to life, but there were the day to day
distractions and aggravations and problems that you have with all the
stuff you do. You don't remember those things. You remember the good
things. And that it's still alive is fantastic, so I'm glad you're all
still enjoying it.
I came onto the plan at the end of '84 after its first year in the
market and it was a feeding frenzy. It was an awesome place to be at
Hasbro right then because it was exploding. They just bought a company
called Milton Bradley which owned Playschool. I was in Boy's Toy's at
Playschool that year on something called Bigfoot:Super Monster Truck.
I was a girl in boy's marketing and they absorbed me into their team
and put me on a little brand called Transformers which was exploding.
It was a different development pattern than a lot of the types were
at Hasbro at that time because Takara and the Japanese designers and
product developers were responsible for all of the toy development of
it and worked with us. It was a very much international collaboration.
This was before the internet, though. We sent out faxes everyday. It
was before digital photography. It's amazing to me now what we can do.
(It was) a dynamic team. George Dunsay turned Japanese during that
time and went over there frequently. He even got married in Japan.
(He) went a little nuts, frankly.
We-the people that were on the brand, the people that worked with
me, the product managers, the packaging people that were in the
states, some of the engineers and some of the safety people-were part
of the key people because we had to satisfy US toy safety standards.
So it was a small team but we were dedicated because the product was
so cool.
We worked very closely with the Marvel people-Bob Budiansky-forcing
him against his will sometimes to add more characters to the teams. We
were interested in expanding the toyline. We watched the voice of
Bumblebee this morning. I thought, "Oh, that's great. I'm sorry that
we put you in the background, but we needed to add more characters to
the line to make it what it became back in the third year-a 300
million dollar product line."
It was the beginning of the birth of the super toy brands and it
spawned licensing. We tried to make the licensed products have a
higher standard than products had in the past. They had to have an
element of transformation in them. It wasn't just enough to do a
T-shirt, we wanted T-shirts with heat sensitive inks so you could see
a transformation. We wanted lunchboxes that had some element that was
more than what had been there before.
When we worked with the agencies we'd be challenging them. Griffin
Bacal-a name that you may have heard in the past if you're into
this-came up with the original position of Robots in Disguise / More
Than Meets the Eye, which was the tagline that had set the tone for
everything. So when we challenged them to do more with the
advertising, they'd come up with more and better ideas-turning a boy
into a robot-turning kids into what they were doing.
It was a great place to work. It was a fantastic line to work on.
I'm looking forward to hearing what your comments (and) your questions
are, and I'm asking you to remember right now that this was 20 years
ago. [Audience laughs] While I've been studying a little bit, there
may be some flaws in my memory. But anyway, why don't we open it up to
questions? I'm hoping that each and every one of you played with these
toys-that you didn't start out as little adult collectors in 5 year
old bodies-that you do remember the fun things about them.

Bob:
That's right. In fact, I have to thank all of you. My retirement has
been very very comfortable.

[Audience laughs and applauds.]

--
crazysteve with rubber tires
http://www.scrambledcity.com

Douglas Dlin

unread,
Jun 23, 2004, 6:33:07 PM6/23/04
to
On June 23, 2004, crazysteve wrote:

> Here's part one of my transcript of the G1 Hasbro marketing executives
> panel at Botcon this past weekend.

[snip]

You get a big "thank you" from me for this, Steve, as I was busy
elsewhere and missed that panel entirely--one of only two I missed
during the weekend. (The other was the organizers' panel at the very
end.) I was grateful that I at least got to greet and thank Bob and
Alison on their way out of the panel as everyone was filing in to see
Peter Cullen.

Looking forward to the rest of the transcript!

Doug Dlin
apcog at hotmail.com

XGrimlock2002

unread,
Jun 23, 2004, 11:45:56 PM6/23/04
to
Thanks for that bit of info. every bit helps.
especially for those who were home like myself.

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 24, 2004, 12:38:28 PM6/24/04
to
. Here's the second part to my transcription of the G1 Hasbro
marketing executives panel from last weekend's Botcon. I don't know
how many posts I'll have to do to cover the entire panel, but at my
current amount of words per post it looks like it'll be at least five
posts long.
I'm picking up with the first question asked after Allison and Bob
did their intros. The very first person to ask a question did not
speak into a microphone, but Allison had enough consideration to
repeat the question before she answered it and I was greatful for
that.
Here goes part two (of many):

[Unintelligible audience member question]

Allison:
What she's asking is how do we as marketers know what kids want. If
I had that answer perfectly down I wouldn't be here, I would be
retired, too!
I'm finding that when you research with kids, especially kids in a
five to nine year old age group for instance, (it goes like this):
"You like this?"
"Yeah."
"Why?"
"Because."
You don't get a lot usually as you're talking directly to kids. You
get a lot out of watching them; how they play with something, what
they're doing, how they didn't do something. You're working a year and
a half ahead of time a lot of times so that a lot of the other factors
that come into play...

Bob:
We had study groups all around the country, and we'd go to all
different parts of the country, put kids in the room with product, and
just see how they reacted to the product.

Allison:
One of the things that we noticed right away about the Transformers
and that you'd hear a lot was there were a lot of different levels
that this appealed to and the first set that appealed to almost
everybody was that it was a puzzle. That it was more than just you can
play with it as a car. They'd say is it an action figure or is it a
vehicle? What is it? It was the intricacy of the puzzle. And the fact
that as a kid you could do it, but your parents couldn't and never
could. Nobody could do it. [Audience laughs]
When you'd have an exec come in, something they do a lot, you'd
give them a Soundblaster or a Blaster. I'd take the boom box because
that was the easiest one in the line. (I'd say) "Here, you can do this
one," and they'd feel accomplished and walk away and leave you alone.
[Audience laughs] They didn't know what they were doing. If you really
wanted to pee 'em off that day, you'd give 'em a triple changer and
say, "Here, try it!" [Audience laughs]
The original transformer line which was developed by Takara-[at
this point she looks to Bob] was it Diakron? Diaclone?-were the best
puzzles ever I think. I don't know what the current line is, but they
were almost like Rubik's cubes. If you think about it, at that time
that was something that was in the psyche of the country at that time.
So we got kids. You look at 'em. You watch how they play. You try
and get other little signals and sometimes it all comes together.

[Audience member question: For somebody like myself that has a
marketing degree and wants to get into Hasbro or another toy
company-I've applied to several places and haven't got my foot in the
door. How do you get your foot in the door?]

Bob:
There's a long story how Allison got her foot into Hasbro. [Allison
laughs] Actually, during Toyfare she was with Playschool.

Allison: Correct.

Bob:
And I was very impressed with the presentations she had made. At
that time we were just starting the Transformers. I already sensed
that it was going to be too big for me to be able to handle by myself
and the team that I had put together for G.I. Joe. And it was just two
months to brand that I was facing and I needed somebody strong to
handle it and Allison impressed me.
I tried to recruit her so I went after her and asked her to come
and work for Hasbro. (She said) "Well, I've got to think about it.
People don't work imported, so..." I said, "Well let's just think
about it." After Toyfare I called her again. I said, "We'll come out
to Chicago and we'll talk, right?" So she put me through the ringer
after she took me to her favorite bar. (She) made me do upside down
shooters. [Audience laughs] Then she finally said...

Allison: ..and that wasn't twisting his arm, really. [Audience laughs]

Bob: She finally said, "Ah, I guess these people must be okay. I'll go
to work for them."

Allison:
It was kind of like that. The way I got to Hasbro actually was they
bought me, literally. I was working for Playschool, which was owned by
Milton Bradley. So they took 'em instead of a hostile takeover. They
quote "merged" which was probably the best thing that ever happened to
that company. So they did more dynamic marketing and more creative
things.
Bob did try and recruit me and I was shaky. I didn't know these
people. I didn't know if I wanted to move from the Chicago area all
the way to Rhode Island. Is that a state, really? [Audience laughs]
But it was. It was a phenomenal area and I did love it and I learned
so much.
But your question was how do I break into marketing or product
development at a toy company, and I...now? Persistence helps. Going in
through other avenues-through sales, through whatever way you can get
into a company. I mean it's a tough market right now for any toy
company. The market is about changing.
There's a story in the book and it's true. This guy named Vinnie
D'Alleva who should be here today by all rights but unfortunately his
daughter had a tonsilectomy. I was like, okay, fine, but...[Allison
laughs] He had tried to get in repeatedly. He's from the area, you
know. (It's) luck and timing sometimes. There's an opportunity (and)
you know somebody, you don't know somebody, you don't need to know
somebody sometimes. He couldn't do it. (He) took another job in the
toy company but he always had his eye out for where he ultimately
wanted to be.
He came in with me on an interview. (I) didn't even want to see
him. I think my car battery died that day so by the time I got in I
was not really happy. And this guy pulls out his master's thesis on
robots and I'm like, "Okay, I got a crazy! I don't know!" [Audience
laughs]
But his drive and enthusiasm and what he portrayed in an interview
is what you want to do. Frankly, the worst thing you can say to some
people who ask, "Why do you want to be in this company? Why do you
want this position?" is, "Because I love kids." [Audience laughs] It's
like, "Great! But we're in business, see? We wanna sell things to
kids. I mean, not in a nasty way. [Audience laughs] Oh, okay. Maybe a
little, but...[Audience laughs]
Keep trying. Find out what they want. Have a backup plan. Go to
other companies, too. Marketing experience is good. Even if you can't
get into toys right away, get something that'll translate (like) kid's
candy, (or) advertising. Maybe that's the most direct way, and make
the most out of what you get when you get there.
My first job was on bacon and hot dogs, which...I don't know. Then
I walked into something else. I was experienced.

Bob:
You actually have to understand for the corporations in the
countries themselves, the whole direction, the whole point is the
bottom line. They're looking a profit so that they can be a successful
company where it's not going to be temporary.
The difference at Hasbro at the time was I talked before about the
passion that Allison brought and it's true. It became not just a
product but it proved we had a passion. We got intimately involved
with every product, and in turn every little detail. Not only the
engineering, (but) packaging. The packaging was critical as well. So
there was that kind of spirit and passion behind everything we did at
the time. That's what made this brand a long lasting brand.

Allison:
It should be there with toys, really, but if you can do it with
whatever you work on...the guys that can make me go nuts about a
Thermos, you know, (I'm) like, wow! This is where it begins. It's a
win-win. You're doing it for everybody.

-end of part two-

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 24, 2004, 6:38:49 PM6/24/04
to
. Alright, here's part three of the panel, continuing with the Q and
A portion. The only thing I'd like to point out about this segment is
that the audience member who is 'obviously from England' is an
aquaintance of mine. He's Paul Hitchens aka the dealer known as
Spacebridge. I met him at Auto Assembly last month and I was happy to
see him again at Botcon.

[begin part three]

[Audience member question: The decision to seperate Battle Beasts from
Transformers as a line-do you remember those?]

Allison: Umm-Hmm. Go ahead...fire, wood, water, yeah.

[Audience member: Why did you seperate the two lines? Did you make the
decision?]

Allison:
It wasn't presented to us as part of the (line). We would go to
Takara frequently and look at all of their products-girl's toys,
anything they were developing. We were their first major collaboration
that worked successfully, so we were looking to see if they were any
good.
I don't know how fully formed the idea of Battle Beasts was within
the Transformers line. We thought it was not related. Bob came up with
the concept of rock paper scissors and adding that to the Battle
Beasts. They have a heat sensitive sticker like the Autobots and
Decepticons but it would reveal one of three symbols-fire, wood, or
water.

Bob:
Actually we were a little bit ahead of our time because (of) what
you have today. Today the big thing of course is the card games that
the kids play. In a sense it was trying to do a card game with a three
dimensional object that was interesting to look at. And it was
moderately successful at that time, but it really wasn't part of the
Transformer line.

Allison:
It was a great concept. They were collectible. Remember the decoys
that we used? I think it was in the second or third year? That led to
collectibles because those were. That was kind of due to a concept
called M.U.S.C.L.E. from Mattel. That's how we knew here's the
collectible figures we'd do the Transformers way.
The Battle Beasts were what we did and we thought it was more like
that-more novelty, more collectible. As far as a commercial there was
an animation where water beats fire. Water puts out fire and they
showed a big torrential downpour. We got a call from a consumer that
her kid was playing with all these Battle Beasts in the water and all
the labels washed off and ended up on the kid. She wanted to know if
there were any toxics in them and if we hurt her child. We said no,
just get more soap and water to get the glue off of him. [Audience
laughs]
Sometimes we saw things from an American perspective. There's a
difference between the Japanese perspective and the American
perspective. So we just didn't see it as part of the Transfomers line,
but we thought it'd be an idea and apply something else to make it
different.

[Audience member question: I've got two questions. You mentioned the
changes from Diaclone to Transformers and removing the drivers. What
else was involved in making the line more appealing or conforming to
safety regulations?]

Bob:
We had to re-engineer it to a certain extent, but the magic of the
transformation itself was there. We also used different products
interacting with the Diaclone line because when we develop a line, we
look at price points and they really were just putting out a line of
product-period-without any real thought to it. And what we wanted to
do was have stuff at a very low price point so we had those little
casettes and we had Bumblebee...

Allison: The mini Autobots.

Bob:
..and then a medium sized price, and then a higher priced item. We
came up with Optimus Prime at the top of the line as a matter of price
point. So we look at it in terms of price point as well.

Allison: Kind of an easy way to enter into a collection.

Bob:
We adjusted it, but the point is we saw the engineering and the
development that Takara had done in trying to do transformations and
they were sensational.

Allison:
But there was a certain amount of what with US safety regulations
and because it was Hasbro-Hasbro wold often have higher safety
regulations because they were a bigger target and they were becoming a
bigger target. So they went the extra level to make sure in support
and tension and small parts issues and things like that. I was
reminded there were some spring loaded weapons at the time and that
was removed because of a Hasbro policy as much as anything as well as
safety issues. That was the primary reason. And then you know, color
selection making the characters come out more.

[Audience member: My second question. I'm obviously from England. The
'90-'93 line-I'm very familiar with it. It's brought up a lot of
questions from the fans, especially around some of the Action Master
figures. When you chose to continue the line in Europe, were the
products previously designed by Takara or were they all new designs?]

Bob:
They were all new designs. We did that because we had a year's grace
up front. We were able to do it in '90 to come out with it for '91
because we knew the US was not developing products in '90 and '91. So
we're working a year and a half in advance all the time. So actually
it was my group from England that flew out to Tokyo and we sat down
with the Takara people and we designed a line based on price point and
content at first. Then we had them develop a product that had the
transformations we were looking for. It was a collaborative operation
that went back and forth where we got the product and felt we read the
marketplace.

[Audience member: There was such a bold transition between the movie
and the actual line and series. Could you reflect on that? What were
you thinking? What was going on in the marketplace?]

Allison: It wasn't us! That, uhhh....

[Audience member: No, I liked it! I commend you for that.]

Bob:
The individual weekly shows were really designed to sell product.
They were trying to create the excitement, trying to get the kids
really involved. So if they looked at it as more than just a toy they
really fell in love with the product by themselves.
The movie was a concept that we figured-let's see if we can make
some money in the movies. It was such an exciting thing that the line
was so big. The agency ran with it. They got a lot of outside writers.
They did not work with all of the Marvel people. They had a couple of
Marvel people involved but I'm not sure everybody was there. And they
developed an entire group that came to us on how they can write, or
for advice on certain things (asking) "Could we do this? Can we do
that?"

Allison: They didn't take the advice. [Audience laughs]

Allison:
It was a big..The movie became embarrasing to us like the My Little
Pony movie. I'm not sure why Transformers the Movie was first because
G.I. Joe was down the line and G.I. Joe got aborted. That was their
plan, so...
Part of the crux of it was that the agency people from
Griffin-Bacal and Sunbow were in the movie business. They were
seperate from Marvel-Bob Budiansky and the team that developed the
storyline. So they went off in a different direction.
They did an initial sketch of a character and we worked with Takara
to try and make something that supported that, but because it was
backwards from how they usually worked sometimes the transformations
weren't as good. It wasn't as satisfying as the core product.
There were some issues within the company. The people that worked
on the product line didn't appreciate the fact that they killed
Optimus Prime. They thought it was wrong. It could have been a bold
move. It could have been dramatic but it didn't have the same effect
as what we thought at that point. [Audience laughs] It wasn't as
satisfying for us.
And that year we had basically double the work because we had the
regular line and then we had movie product, too. I mean, the movie was
neat. There were neat elements about it...the visuals. It was more
than we'd ever done but it wasn't as satisfying a product.

Bob:
For the agency-for the corporation it was a profit making operation.
They felt that regardless of how the movie would do at the theaters,
and if it didn't do well, they still had all this film that they could
break up into smaller segments. Then what they would do is give these
segments to the various stations in an exchange (for) advertising
time. So even though you couldn't actually see the profits, it was
very profitable in the long run for the corporation.

[end of part three]

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 24, 2004, 6:44:55 PM6/24/04
to
---Doug Dlin:

> You get a big "thank you" from me for this, Steve, as I was busy
> elsewhere and missed that panel entirely--

I am very happy that after all this time you've helped me I can
finally return the favor somewhat.

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 24, 2004, 6:49:16 PM6/24/04
to
---XGrimlock2002:

> Thanks for that bit of info. every bit helps.
> especially for those who were home like myself.

Hey, I've been there. I know exactly how you feel. I'm glad anyone
finds this stuff as interesting as I do.
Heck, if I have the time during my vacation I'll see about writing
out some of the other panels I recorded. And of course I'll do one of
those "and then we went to Pizza Hut" type convention reports!

Downtown Torpedo

unread,
Jun 24, 2004, 11:49:03 PM6/24/04
to
You sir, totally rock. I've been eagerly waiting for Botcon reports,
but either things are slower this time around, or I'm just more
impatient. You've supplied my fix. Thank you.

Downtown.


jakobs...@scrambledcity.com (crazysteve) wrote in message news:<ce93ad5c.04062...@posting.google.com>...

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 25, 2004, 3:37:43 PM6/25/04
to
. I'd like to explain a couple things at this point. I'm editing the
audience member questions. The audience members were extrememly
verbose so I'm just getting straight to the point and typing what they
meant.
It's my estimate that there will be at least three more parts. I
may be making some mistakes here and there because of the poor quality
of my recording, so if there are any big errors and someone has a
better copy of the panel to quality check my transcript by, I'd
appreciate that. Otherwise this is my best attempt at making out what
they said.
We left off talking about the movie. Here's part the fourth:

Allison: ..and if it would have worked it would have been phenomenal.

[Audience question: I want to hear more about your collaborations with
Takara in Japan. Tell us about some ideas they had that you didn't
like.]

Bob:
They generally were directed making clay forms. They had some
incredible engineers, some young men, a very young group and they were
developing just exciting transformations. But some of their
transformations did not turn into a satisfying final product. The
transformations were okay, but the robots didn't look right or the
vehicles didn't look quite right although the actual transformations
were really magic.
Those were the things we rejected because we felt that we had to
truly relate these to different product. We wanted to make sure that
there was a real personality for the product. If we couldn't see a way
to develop a personality with a product, we'd have to let it go.
Sometimes also the cost of it became the stipulator if we couldn't do
it. You'd have to find a way to get a better price point.

Allison:
And working with them-Takara-was phenomenal. They were so
responsive. On their own they'd develop things. You'd make a comment.
We're there for a week at a time and in the morning you'd say
something and in the afternoon there was some guy coming back into
your room with 16 drawings of, "Well if you don't like this, how about
this, this, and this?" So it was great to work with them. Some things
drew you in and some things you wanted. They were dynamic.
They had a man named Yoko-san. He actually came and worked with us
in the states for about six months one year. As a Takara (employee) he
didn't work for Hasbro on other things. He worked there as almost like
an exchange program (studying) the work style difference.

Bob: He wanted the American viewpoint-the American attitude toward
Japan.

Allison:
He was trying to understand us and why (or) what made us tick. I
don't know if they could ever figure it out or if they did, but they
were much more interested in standing beside us.

[Audience question: Why did the cartoon stop 3 years before the
toyline and why were the '87-'90 Japanese lines were so different from
the US?]

Allison:
So the first question would be why did the television show stop in
'87?

[Audience member: That's right.]

Allison:
The money, the funds to put new shows in the next season and make
it still viable for the syndication market weren't allocated to it,
basically.

Bob:
The corporation's attention went elsewhere, basically. Also,
attention started to wane anyway at the time. As I said, in 1990 they
said they were not going to go on into 1991 with Transformers and they
dropped the line.
I left the company around '88. I went over in '89 to Europe so I
wasn't involved at that point in what their thinking was. I was only
concerned there and then when I heard they were dropping the line.

Allison:
So it was frustrating to be on the brand and not have (that)
lifeblood. We were taking advantage of what had gone on and helped it
keep coming out and (kept) everything going, but without some fresh
programming that would help it, it made it harder to finish it.
They were looking for new things-the shift in what the culture was
looking for. Right around then is when the turtles came out. With
those things you want a humorous, much more wacky bent, and
Transformers and G.I. Joe were more serious. So then we tried to
evolve a little bit, but we couldn't.
I think the second question was why did the Japanese line vary so
differently? Takara was just your (average) Japanese company-they won.
It was frankly their choice-they took what they needed, what they
believed they could apply to their market and they took our marketing
and used it in Japan. They'd turn around and was just the way they did
it. They saw what was successful for their market and they used it
there and then they continued on. They had the right to do that there.
We fed each other. It was a symbiotic relationship. The way you would
be able to say, "We don't think that's going to work for the U.S.
market, at least not on a mass scale," they said, "It's going to work
in Japan. It will."

Bob:
And they could do certain things in Japan we couldn't do. First of
all, they could create fantasy on their commercials that was
absolutely illegal in the United States. [Audience laughs] When you
do a US commercial, it had to be real to in turn attain and create a
fantasy attitude, but you have to understand that when you get down to
it what you're seeing on TV is real and you can then go in the store
and you can buy it and that's how it's going to function.
They (Takara) took stuff and what they did with their product line
was impossible. They had their stuff actually flying without a kid
holding it. They'd get away with it.

Allison:
It was a different culture, too. Kids played with toys longer to an
older age in Japan. The books they had to support the fantasy went
beyond what our market would accept. They did it right. You cater to
your audience and they were able to.

[Audience question: Where did the Autobot and Decepticon sigils come
from, where did the concept of the -masters lines from after '86 come
from, and why wasn't there an Arcee toy?]

Allison:
I think I got them all. So first question was where did the Autobot
and Decepticon logos come from. [Looks to Bob] You got a take on it?

Bob:
Yes, well actually there was a collaboration between Marvel Comics,
between Griffin-Bacal, and between my marketing group in the very
first year, which was a very small group because it was introducing
the original product. We worked in terms of packaging, we worked in
terms of the look that would appeal to the kids. We did a lot of
research on that. We were always trying to find out what would work.
These were simply a decision that me and my marketing group took and
thought it worked. Then Allison came on board and then it all goes
dynamite. She really did good.

Allison:
Yeah, he was really convinced. [Audience laughter]
One of the other questions was where did the -masters series come
from? Headmasters, Targetmasters? We were kind of wondering what's the
next step. Brainstorming. Can we bring back those little people that
we tossed out from the first year? I had said that's probably too
risky. There were safety issues with them, but it was the idea of how
do we (advance the line)? What's the next step? And I just wanted to
bring something back that had some merit. But if we could figure it
out, then they (Takara) could figure it out.
How do we put it (the pilot concept) into the product? The idea of
being able to plug them in and having their tech specs show up in the
chest of the robot-there was some interaction between kids to meet the
characters, they're brought to life. It seemed like a good thing
coming from the packages that we did periodically. That was one of the
hot buttons. We had this at work, how you are playing figured into all
of the price points.

Bob:
All of the product didn't come from Takara by the way. I was going
to Hong Kong, and you'd go to a Hong Kong Toyfair and you have every
knockoff guy in the world, every tiny little manufacturer trying to
knockoff the Transformers. Occasionally there'd be a product that some
little guy would come out with that was terrific. There was a gun, a
weapon was functional as a water pistol and whatnot. There was one
that just functioned as a great looking gun that looked terrific and
turned into a great robot. Well we took these little guys and said,
"Hey, wait a second. Don't try and distribute, don't try and move it,
we'll move it into the Transformer line," and we'd make deals with
them and move it that way. Any product that really looked good that
was exciting we didn't care where it came from. We did some work with
Bandai, who had been working with other people, and took a few
products that looked right for our line.

Allison:
Here's what the idea was when you're working with Japanese
culture-it's to keep your enemies close. Bandai was doing the Go-Bots
line, so we had an in with them. They didn't know what we were doing,
but we had some way to get into them. George Dunsay was a part of them
and he was in Japan a lot working, finding himself where he could get
on many product levels, not just Transformers, with a lot of things.
What was the third question? You had a third..

[Audience member: Why wasn't Arcee made?]

Allison:
Despite all of my efforts I could not sell the idea that girls
would sell in our line.

Bob:
It's terrific that I look over this crowd and about 30 to 40
percent are female here, but...

Allison:
Yeah, I told them I was just the tip of the iceberg, girls. There
were a couple of female figures in G.I. Joe that just didn't pull
their weight and you sweated that. Sometimes management gets a bug up
their butt and they say, "Nope, not gonna go."

Bob: And it hooks on if anybody would buy it, so..

Allison:
They just didn't think the audience was big enough, and frankly the
collector's audience hadn't grown or gotten as much appreciation at
that point. So we probably could have gotten them on that angle but it
wouldn't have the big revolutionary size at the time.

Bermuda Mohawk

unread,
Jun 27, 2004, 3:38:15 PM6/27/04
to
Hey Crazysteve thanks for taking time to post these!

I didn't make it to the show even after pre-registering and getting billed
for the hotel, but am glad to get to read these reports.

Seems I missed the very best Hasbro panel to date, wish the new teams we've
had the past few years had even half the personality and info these folks
did.

--Dave

Not new, just repackaged.

Contact me at: bermudamohawk(a)yahoo.com

"I strongly suspect that Japanese people did this translation job, because
the grammar is awful. I mean, I'm not fluent in Italian or anything, but I
took enough years of Spanish to know when things are messed up"

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 29, 2004, 3:51:32 AM6/29/04
to
Here's part five. The quality of my tape is really really bad so I
might be making some mistakes here and there. My recording sucks so
bad that in some parts it sounds like Bob and Allison have grocery
bags over their heads and they're underwater. But I'm going to plug
away at it until I have it done. Worst case scenario is I misquote
somebody and I'm corrected on it, which would be a good thing. I'm
reading over it a lot and much of what I've written doesn't seem to
make sense to me or read smoothly in context. I mean, who in their
right mind would consider Tiger Force a great thing? Kidding aside, if
anybody has a better copy of the panel and would like to proof what
I've written against what was said I'd appreciate it. In the meantime,
it'd be best if we don't quote any of this verbatim anywhere.

[begin part five]

[Audience question: What was your biggest dissapointment after working
on the line?]

Bob:
My greatest dissapointment was when I got promoted to senior vice
president in charge of international marketing. I was no longer
involved with the line per se. When all this dung was going on in the
US I'd just walked away from it. It just so happened because of that,
when the US dropped it, of course I got very excited and paid 'em a
bunch of mind.

Allison:
My biggest dissapointment was not being able to come up with the
spark that would without programming-without the product plug-that
would let us continue it. We had the responsibility to G.I. Joe and
other things in the line at that point in the end, and the company had
shifted priorities with us, too, so it was frustrating. I poured a
good part of my career and passion into the brand. (I was) excited
about working on new products and new opportunities that were related
to it but I couldn't come up with it and the team I left working on it
couldn't. And it was working against what was wanted, so you got as
much as you could. But the fact that the concept itself-the core
concept-was so strong and you're all here proving that it could come
back again. It may be even more succesful than the first time around.

[Audience question: What college courses do you recommend an aspiring
toy designer should take? I know you're in marketing, but...]

Allison: Oh, no, we're very flexible.

Bob: I'll tell you. I think first of all you have to take care of
your engineering.

Allison:
You know what, honestly? I'll tell you back in the dark ages when I
was there-industrial design was an excellent start into it, but I
wouldn't be surprised if a lot of computer aided design would be a
great in for toy designers now. Sculpture-(there's) so many avenues
they get into and they pull from a wide variety of resources. You know
there's sculptors in there, people with good ideas, people with
brainstorming (ability).

Bob:
I don't think you can learn from college-we promote college
graduates and college students, but how to be a product
developer-that's something that comes from within you. You have to
just be a tinkerer and you have to be somebody who wants to create new
things, doesn't matter what it is.

Allison: But as with anything, you can learn elements that can help
you.

Bob:
You need to know design elements, you have to know art elements,
you have to know engineering elements, and put these things all
together to help you do it.

Allison: Then do whatever you want to do.

Bob: Tell 'em you're a friend of me!

[Audience question: How did you decide which toys would be good or
evil? And why'd you stop with realistic vehicles in '86 and beyond?]

Bob:
You gotta understand, the auto industry itself just wasn't coming
up with new cars. [Audience laughs] We'd end up getting little
adaptations of the Altima! And the idea of how it originally
started-the biggest problem I had relative to Diaclone itself is why
would a robot be an automobile? That's what the discussions with
Budiansky and the agency-that dilemna-were about. That's where we
decided we were gonna have good ties with Bandai, that's where we
decided there's gotta be a reason for it.
So we developed a storyline. A storyline of how they got to earth,
and how when they finally woke up they sent out the spies and they
looked and they saw-these robots saw-metallic creatures. They figured
they were the characters-they were the people of this particular
planet. So they came back and their scientists had them-so they could
be in disguise-disguised as the individual characters of earth, which
they thought were the automobiles and the trucks and stuff like that.
So we tied in good with something that kids could actually understand.
(They'd think) "Oh yeah, that's a good reason you've got a product
that was a robot, why you've got a vehicle that's a robot."
Eventually though, you run out of local designs from US automakers
because they just weren't bulding (new makes and models) the majority
of the time.

Allison:
And you wanted to have variety. When you're transforming, there's
only so many ways you can turn into a car, so the idea of pushing it
beyond was something Takara and we felt gave the line variety. When
you expand to over 300 products you're going to get a little bit
repetitious in some areas and you're going to try different things to
see if they work. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.
Expanding the line into animals, into dinosaurs, into...what else can
we transform to make sense with the characters, the storyline, to make
sense with what the kids would like?
I think one of your questions was how was it decided that cars were
Autobots and planes were Decepticons?

Bob:
Well actually that was simple. It was simply a matter of balancing
the line. You had good guys and you had bad guys and you wanted to
choose so kids would want to have everything. [Audience laughs] So
what you did is you simply tried to bring balance to the line in a
weekly purchasing formula. So you couldn't have everything overly
weighted on one side or the other side. We tried to do a mix that made
sense in terms of storyline as well as in terms of product.

[Audience question: Are you still involved with the toyline?]

Bob:
No, unfortunately-or fortunately-I've been retired now for two
years. I spend my time swimming, travelling, and I sculpt. So I'm not
involved in the line except I like to know the product and I still
have stock in the company and I've had concerns. [Audience laughs]

Allison:
I'm no longer with it. I left in 1992 and even though I still have
some people that are still there, we've got the 'Hasbeens' as we call
ourselves-people that have left Hasbro. I'm not involved in toys
anymore. I left the toy division about a year ago and went into-I now
work for a company called Lava World. I'm vice president of marketing
for lava lamps. I think it's got a nice parity with what I was doing
before. [audience laughs]

[Audience member: I'm 29 now and I know that's scary..]

Allison: Oh, believe me..what's scary is I sold toys to you! [audience
laughs]

[Audience member: Thanks for everything.]

Allison: Oh, well thank you! [audience applauds]

Bob:
For a number of years right now, if you walk into my office at home,
(on) half of the wall there are Transformers pictures and half are
G.I. Joe. I have a split personality because I was also responsible
for G.I. Joe. (They were) two major successes.

Allison:
Thank you-it's nice to hear that. It should be totally understood
that when you go into many situations that it was more than one
person. It was more than Vincent D'Alleva or myself, Takara, you
know...it was Camelot. It was the emergence of all those things coming
together.
Things came together. When somebody was stuck somebody else would
continue it. It was a dynamic working out (where) everybody else made
everybody else's ideas better.

Bob:
They would even cross over. Originally we had a G.I. Joe team and a
Transformers team. When somebody from Transformers got stuck the guy
from G.I. Joe would help. It would go back and forth. It was a
brilliant total department. It was really very gratifying.

[Audience question: What happens to the molds when you're done making
the toys?]

Bob: I really don't know.

Allison:
We wore some of them out. In the first two years we had to go back
in and make new molds because after a million pieces, it's rare
sometimes, but you can actually wear a mold out.

Bob:
They told me about how it was a monster plant. We're talking about
hundreds of millions of dollars of product that was sold in a very
short period of time.

Allison:
Theoretically, though, because it was a corporate happening, those
tools are catalogued in a warehouse someplace in China or Japan or
whatever and they're assets of the company. Their value may be written
off, but they still have them.
One of the things you've noticed is sometimes with this market you
get to bring things back in their original form. So they may be
retired, but then brought back in a special edition. One of the
greatest things we ever did on G.I. Joe was come back with a line
called Tiger Force which started as using existing tooling that wasn't
lost. The 'lost molds' theory-I've never heard that one. They'd call
us and they'd come back out.

crazysteve

unread,
Jun 30, 2004, 6:31:27 PM6/30/04
to
Here's the final part. The quality of my recording was terrible and so
I may have only got 95 percent of the words correct, but you get the
idea. Unlike the Simon Furman panel I did from Auto Assembly last
month, this panel was really a chore to transcribe due to the audio
difficulties, but I had a great time and I hope people reading this
got a sense of what was discussed.

[begin part six]

[Audience question: Hasbro/Takara has to retool some of the molds so
they can be released again legally like shortening the stacks on
Optimus Prime. Is it possible to release something that's not for kids
instead it's a collector's thing, it's an adult only thing?]

Bob:
Yes, it's possible. (It) depends. Every once in a while they'd do a
special sort of prize for one of the retailers, but we're not involved
with that-it's all handled through the company. So I'm not quite sure
what the policy is at the company (now). In the past it was taken out
of individual product and redone, say for a time it was a special, and
they would handle it as a collector's item only. It was done that way
for G.I. Joe and the Transformers as their (the retailer's) usual
item. We'd make minor changes to a paint job, change the name, change
the attitude.

Allison:
It just wasn't safe for a style if it didn't meet the safety
standards, though. Even if you said it was for an adult collector but
still marketed it through child's marketing? You couldn't do that. If
you could do that, you'd get in trouble for doing that. [Audience
laughs] So they wouldn't do it, they're not that kind of a business,
they're looking for it to sell things.

[Audience question: Could you offer us specifics on the thought
process behind bringing the Macross Valkyrie into the Transformer line
as Jetfire. Were you involved with that?]

Bob and Allison: Uhm..no.

[Audience question: Did you have exclusive merchendise that came out
for employees only?]

Bob:
No, although there was merchendise done just for particular
conventions at that time. Like I said there were individual specials
that were done for individual retailers-Toys R Us, Target, and stuff
like that. But there was nothing-nobody could take a tool and develop
something generating an item.

Karl Hartman:
Let's take just two more questions. We need to end the panel at
about 4:30 so they have time to sign some things and make sure we stay
relatively on time.

[Audience question: Where'd you get the combiners idea?]

Allison: I don't remember the combiners-when were they?

[Audience member: They were the Constructiocons, the...]

Allison:
Oh yeah!, Oh, okay! [Audience laughs]
Huh? [Allison laughs]
Aerialbots and all the big team concept? The first one was the
Constructicons, they made Devastator. That started out as a Takara
idea. They were taking puzzles to new levels. It was also influenced
by-there was a product on the market at that time called Voltron that
combined into a giant super (robot). So there were many elements that
kind of led into...

Bob:
It was bringing a price point. It was something could be advertised
well and played in at a great price point. It had some good value
there.

Allison
It stimulated collectibility. You wanted to collect all six to get
the right one. So that was successful, and doing one thing was so
successful that you repeat it in other areas and give them more.

[Audience member: I thought it was interesting you said the movie was
somewhat dissapointing to you.]

Alison: Ah-ah! That was me personally. [

[Audience member: What was your reaction when you heard Spike say
'shit' for the first time?]

Allison: Oh, god. [audience laughs]

Bob: I was....for it.

Allison: He wants reality!

Bob:
Yeah, in fact, I'll tell you. We also at the same time had been
doing the G.I. Joe movie and we were gonna have Zarana come out nude
in one of the scenes.

Allison: In his fantasy. [Audience laughs]

Bob:
Actually, I was with the agency. The agency wanted to do it, and I
was with them on it, because we really wanted to get away from the G
rating and have a PG rating instead. Basically that was it. We'd sell
more movies and have a better time slot if we had a PG rather than a G
rating and that's what that's all about.

Allison: It was marketing for the widest..

Bob: Selling movies, that's all.

Allison: It appealed to a teen audience. [rolls eyes] [Audience
laughs]

Karl:
I think with that we're going to have to wrap it up. Ladies and
gentlemen, please thank Bob and Allison. [Audience applauds]

--
crazysteve with rubber tires
http://www.scrambledcity.com

the 2005 store ripped me off

Steve-o Stonebraker

unread,
Jun 30, 2004, 10:31:07 PM6/30/04
to
On 30 Jun 2004 15:31:27 -0700, crazysteve wrote:
> difficulties, but I had a great time and I hope people reading this
> got a sense of what was discussed.

You rock, Steve. Thank you so much for posting these.

--Steve-o
--
Steve Stonebraker | http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~sstoneb/
sst...@yahoo.com | Transformers, astrophysics, comics, games, cartoons.

Steelskin

unread,
Jul 1, 2004, 2:24:18 AM7/1/04
to
<Huge Snip>

I now know I should have ditched life for a weekend and gone to Botcon
with you. This goes great with your G1 ad collection! Thanks so much
for posting this whole deal, I laughed with the audience and feel like
I was almost there.

This is why I stay tuned to ATT.

-Steelskin
----------------------------
It's a good time to be a fan

crazysteve

unread,
Jul 1, 2004, 10:44:48 AM7/1/04
to
---Steelskin:

> I now know I should have ditched life for a weekend and gone to Botcon
> with you.

I told you ya! I told ya! (Do I sound like that guy from Wheelie and
the Chopper Bunch?) Well I got you a program anyways. They made the
pre-reg programs different from the regular ones this year. The
pre-reg ones come with a couple extra pages comprising a list of every
person who ever pre-reg'd at Botcon through all 9 US conventions,
broken down by how many times they registered. You're in there-heck,
darn near all of ATT's in there! Unfortunatley the programs for the
non-preregs don't have the list of attendees.

> This goes great with your G1 ad collection! Thanks so much
> for posting this whole deal, I laughed with the audience and feel like
> I was almost there.

Great! I wish you would have gone, but that's how it goes. Say hi to
everybody in Chicago for me!

--
crazysteve with rubber tires
http://www.scrambledcity.com

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages