2003 OTFCC Hasbro Panel Report

One of the BIG highlights of the Official TransFormers Collectors Convention is the presence of Hasbro. Ever since 3H and Hasbro joined forces, the offerings have gotten bigger and better. With more toys and news about what's up and coming for Transformers fans everywhere, each year seems to get a little bit bigger and a lot better. 2003 will be a year to remember. Not just for the fantastic displays giving us our first good look at the Energon line, Alternators, 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime and the latest and greatest from Aramda and Transformers Universe. Its was the Hasbro panel that blew everyone's socks off. If anyone in that room was not impressed, they should consider giving up on toy collecting altogether because it don't get any better than this.

This year's Hasbro panel included the top representatives from Hasbro's Transformers group. We're not talking about sales people here folks. Behind the table were the people who push the buttons at Hasbro when it comes to determining what the fans will get. Manning the guns at the Power Point and video presentation was Michelle Field, the director of marketing for Transformers at Hasbro. Aaron Archer, the lead designer for the Transformers group was on hand with other Transformers team members Jerry Jivoin and Eric Siebenaler from Hasbro.

Unicron Battles

It was explained that due to the extremely good sales of the Armada line, Hasbro needed to come up with more products to sell. To remedy the situation, Beast Wars toy molds with the addition of the Mini-con links were re-purposed for the line. Though they have no role in the cartoon series, they are loosely based on a favorite fan fiction story that features the Beast characters in the role of Unicron's the "Four Horsemen."

G1 Commemorative Series Reissues

Good news! If you've been struggling to find the Commemorative Series Generation 1 reissues, Hasbro is doing something about it. Michelle Field was happy to announce that they are aware of how hard they have been to find. They will be continuing to provide them as Toys R Us exclusives but with MUCH larger quantities available.

The other really good news about the Commemorative Series is there is more re-issues in the pipeline. In addition to Inferno, Hoist and Tracks coming out in August/September 2003. Fans can start saving now for Smokescreen and Grapple to be released in the October/November 2003 time frame.

Now for a little icing. Hasbro hinted about weather they would be doing other G1 type lines including the Headmasters, Powermasters and Pretenders. The answer was, they will continue to follow Takara's lead. I don't know if this is any indication that we will be seeing these items any time soon, but one cannot help but wonder. Oh and before you get all excited about a G1 Megatron re-issue coming out in the future, forget it. There won't be one ever. Not in pink, orange or any other variant. However, Hasbro was very supportive of and recommended we pick up one from Takara when you can find them. The other news that was somewhat of a bummer, is we won't be getting Soundwave in the USA either. At least not yet. No indication was giving there would a future release out there either.

Energon

Okay, its now out there. OFFICIAL and all that. Energon is here and we know what the story is. Plain and simple its Transformers Armada 10 years in the future. Take a seat, because when you read the next bit of news you'll want to be sitting down. "Energon will have no kids." Let me say that again in case you think you are dreaming. Repeat after me, "Energon will have no kids." The entire room burst into cheers when Michelle gave us the news. It was a Transformers moment I will remember for a long long time. Now don't get too excited, there will be this "older kid" in the show that we are supposedly "sure to like." Note that according to Hasbro, they dont want to give the wrong impression that there will be NO kids at all. There will be be humans in the Energon series, but the Transformers robots are the first priority.

Now for the good stuff. This story explodes with different factions and sub-factions all vying for what else? ENERGON of course! In addition to the Autobots, Decpticons and Mini-cons, we'll be introduced two new factions called the Omnicons and the Terrorcons. Aligned with the Autobots, the Omnicons are basic-sized robots who possess special abilities that allow them to handle extreme loads of Energon that is used to create new weapons. On the side of the Decepticons are the Terrorcons, basic-sized figures that will have beast alternate modes.

Energon is packed with play features. While there are fewer Autobots in the show, they do possess extensive combination abilities that allow them to merge in all sorts of ways to increase their strength. There's a new dimension to their combination features. The toys are not predisposed to combine with a specific figure(s) to work together. Hasbro tells us they can all cross-combine. As you aquire new Energon figures, you'll be able to mix and match your bots into your own bot-blend. The names even change with the bot-combinations. The Autobot's name forming the upper portion of the combo becomes the Powerlinx "name." An example was made where if Hot Shot was combined with Inferno on the bottom, the name of the combined bots would be "Powerlinx Hot Shot."

The Decepticons in Energon have a new angle too. Using an all-new "Hyper Power," these devilish bots aim to defeat the Autobots with their ability to make clones of themselves.

Minicons are still in the middle of all the action, but they will not be integrated with the toys like they were in Armada. There will be power pegs for them to connect to, but they won't unlock any special features on the new toys as we saw previously. We were shown one of the Mini-con teams, referred to as the Energon Saber, that is a re-tooled and redecoed version of the Starsaber team with yellow (Energon) colored translucent plastic.

There will be color coding for Energon factions that are defined as follows: Red for the Autobots. Green for the Decepticons. Yellow will represent Energon in its pure form. Much like Armada, a new Dreamwave comic book will be created to accompany the Energon toy line.

Those of you growing a little tired of the scenery on Earth will be glad to know the show it set to take place in a variety of locations including: Earth, Cybertron and some new locations we've never seen before. The first season will include 52 episodes and begin airing in February 2004 on the Cartoon Network. Which is kinda if odd, since we usually see a new series start in September. I imagine the two sharing a chronological relationship has something to do with it.

The cartoon will be computer graphics (CG) based, but with an interesting cell shaded 3-Dimensional style to it. We were shown a brief clip demonstrating the animation style in a series of what was referred to as "test animations" of the various characters combining. It was pretty impressive. The animation has a distinct look that could easily be mistaken for an industrial manufacturing demo with parade the of disparate robot parts joining together in a synchronous fashion. Like a ballet Autobot mechanique, I found it somewhat mesmerizing to watch.

Hasbro introduced a good number of the show characters to us beyond what we got to see in the display cases earlier in the day. There were quite a few new caharcters named including the following:

Hot Shot is a Yellow Sports car. Inferno was shown as Red Fire Truck. Another Yellow Jeep was shown with no name. Skyblast is a fighter jet modeled after the classic Jetfire figure. Hasbro said they had hoped to us the name Skyfire but could not for legal reasons.

Optimus Prime - He's a combiner this time. Built around a main robot body section that combines with four other robotic components, labeled Op-1 to Op-4. The separate bots vary in appreance from something that looks a drill to a helicopter, submarine and a robot into a super mode form.

Other characters shown in the presentation included Strongarm, Battle Ravage and the ever popular Starscream. Stars is back this time as an "Energon Ghost." Whatever that means, it sure sounds cool. Hasbro also pointed out the Starscream design was based on elements of Don Figuroa's fantastic The War Within designs. How's that for the comics crossing over into the the toy lines? I was impressed.

Hasbro also mentioned Megatron and Scorponok will appear in the series as well and to keep an eye open for future Magazine cover exclusives that will be giving us a first look soon. Can you say T-O-Y-F-A-R-E?

The surprise that we should have expected, but didn't see coming was Energon will mark the return of a female robot in a Trasnformers cartoon series. Get ready, Arcee will be gracing our screens as a pink and white motorcycle. I think I am in love!

20th Anniversary Prime

Everyone who has been online in recent weeks saw the prototype picture that were posted from the toy show in Japan. Hasbro said they would give us the low down on this figure and we were not to be disappointed. People gasped when then pulled him out to show everyone. This was no proto version, but a fully painted figure in all its glory. The color theme and look is all G1 Optimus Prime. The figure comes with an array of features including die-cast parts, rubber tires, a light up matrix that can be removed, a real spring loaded suspension, "AMAZING-articulation" and a battery of all this most cherished weapons including the Energon Axe, Megatron in gun mode and his Fusion Cannon. He has a cool communicator screen that flips up from out of his fore-arm. It appears to include some sort of mechanism that will show a variety of different pictures on it. The toy will not have a Trailer. It was explained by Aaron Archer that the figure is so rich in features that we won't need one.

The 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime will debut as a Toys R Us exclusive. it will be introduced to all other stores and chains at a later date. The figure will retail for approximately $75.00, but is subject to change. We can expect to see this toy in stores around late January / early Feb 2004.

Alternators

The new toys in this line took everyone by surprise. Frankly, I have to admit I didn't think Takara had it in them to make something like this. Not that I could have imagined something on par with the Alternators. To say the fans are blown away by the line hardly describes the response to them. Even the most ardent fans and collects are impressed with these toys. It is truly something else. The super detailed 1/24 scale model vehicles are fully transformable. The figures are articulated with enhanced robot modes while they still retain intricate details of a real-world sport vehicles like the Smokescreen figure that is modeled on a Subaru WRC and the Sideswipe figure based on a red Dodge Viper. Hasbro said there is no story line in the works at this time, but they will be following some kind of G1 theme throughout the line. Smokescreen is said to retail for $20.00 and will be available at all stores sometimes in December 2003.


Transformers Licensing

Information about the Transformers Armada game for the Sony Play Station 2 was given. The game will be called "The Battle for Energon." The game is being developed and released by Atari games, formerly known as Infogrammes, in the second quarter of 2004.

Much to our disappointment, we were informed that the Generation 1 game for the Sony Play Station 2 will NOT be released in the US. Hasbro explained that they really liked the game, but that it was Sony's decision not to put it out in America. Bummer dude!

Hasbro is pushing more than toys these days! Along with booming success of Armada, there is a tidal wave of new licensed products in a variety of forms and functions. New Armada videos will released in a new mini-DVD format called "Video Now". The format is made for young kids to use in a child friendly player and will contain 2 episodes on each disc.

Hasbro confirmed there will be a Transformers movie in the future, but its a long way off. Its still in the early planning stages and no specifics can be named yet about who will be directing it or what it will be about. The work is we should not anticipate a release any time before 2005.

There will be no War Within toys. However, Dreamwave will be creating some all new comics that will be published within the next year.

"...there WAS a reason for those little seats" Have you ever looked at your Beast Wars Optimal Optimus or Transmetal 2 Dragon Megatron and wondered why they had a small cockpit or chair? Out of blue, Aaron revealed what they were all about. There were plans to have a micro robot element in the Beast Wars series they call a Spark Figure. Its a white-grey mini-robot figure that doesn't appear to have any articulation. While out of context of the rest of the news, I found it to be a very interesting little tid-bit.

There you have it. If this sounds like A LOT. It is. All I can say is we must have been really good little boys and girls buying our Transformers, because Hasbro is rewarding everyone one of us with more and better Transformers than we ever dreamed of. I cannot imagine what they will do to top all this.

Check out the complete 2003 OTFCC Hasbro Panel image gallery for images of Energon, 20th Anniversary Optimus, Alternators and more HERE.





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