John Warden is a lead designer with Hasbro’s Transformers. Surrounded by the lights and bright displays of the expansive Hasbro booth on the San Diego Comic Con floor, we talked toys and what makes Transformers so special.
How did you get started at Hasbro? What drew you to the company?
Well I’d always wanted to be a toy designer since I was a kid, but when I graduated school there really wasn’t a direct route to become [one]. I graduated with a bachelor of science of industrial design and got my first job in the automotive industry – but kind of wanted to follow my passion, so I was moonlighting. My first baby was born and I was trying to moonlight to get my portfolio out there. A little after a bit of a struggle to even get my foot in the door, I finally got a call from Kenner at the time that I had been accepted to be a part of the Star Wars team. So I ran outside and did like Rocky – it was snowing! And I was so happy and my career at Hasbro has been fantastic. I have had an opportunity to work on so many great brands that run through the company – between Star Wars and G.I. Joe and now Transformers that it’s really a dream come true. It’s just been a fantastic run, and coming to events like [San Diego Comic-Con] is really the icing on the cake because you get to be surrounded by like minded people who share the same kind of passions as you.
Have you been surprised by the Transformers fan-base – how wide the audience is?
It surprises me all the time, it’s incredible that when we first kicked off generations years ago, really it was about commemorative figures and bringing back those characters. But what we’re finding out through Combiner Wars and now Titan’s Return is there are all different generations of people. and it spans all different ages and men and women and all different types of people – it’s all over the world. And it’s amazing how universal and and incredible, and sort of inspiring something like Transformers can be to so many people. I think that we live in a really exciting time where geek culture – it embraces all of us and there’s really no room for saying you know, you can’t have a female transformer or you can’t have a female transformer combiner. There’s just all those old rules – like you were saying you felt like a little embarrassed as a little girl to be playing with those transformers, like we’re finding so many young female fans. I’ve had little girls walk up and look at the case and it’s really exciting to have something as universal as Transformers. I feel like we’re all drawn to the magic of transformation. I think that there’s something really inherently cool about a little crocodile that turns into a robot and the puzzle that it takes to get it there. [Now] with the inclusion of the incredible story universes that are starting to play out across the comic books – our partnership with Machinima and Combiner Wars and Paramount and [the] awesome films that are coming, we have so many ways to tell that story and connect with people.
There is an incredible amount of engineering that goes into these toys. Has there ever been a feature that you have wanted to include that was not possible? And if not, what do you hope to create in the future?
I think that we have a great partnership with Takara Tomi. When Hasbro kicks off a Transformer, we have this longstanding relationship with Takara Tomi – who were the original creators of the Transformers in Japan. So when we kick off a toy we’ll have a big meeting with them and we’ll kind of try to inspire them to do something that we’ve never seen before, and they always surprise us. So like, to say there is something I wasn’t able to do – I really haven’t encountered that yet. We introduced Megatron here at the convention, and I said, ‘Well I want him to turn into a really nice tank, a jet and a robot’ and they’re like ‘oh, it’s gonna be difficult… Ok, ok’. And they did it! (Laughs) It was incredible! But, I think one of the things I’ve always wanted to see and to see in my lifetime is to have a Transformer quite literally brought to life and have artificial intelligence and companionship. I think in our lifetimes we are going to be able to see something like that.
That’s really exciting!
At some point, maybe, right? (Laughs)
But you’d still have to transform it yourself of course, right?
I think that yeah, I think that that’s part of the fun – that or work with it so that it learns to transform or something like that.
That’s a really cool – that’s really exciting. I hope we see that.
I hope so too.
Do you have anything else you would like to tell me about what’s to come for Transformers?
Well I guess stay tuned – we’ve got a great series coming out on Machinima – it’s called Combiner Wars. It tells a really awesome story – it really revolves around the character Windblade – which is a fan created character. And it’s going to be a great storytelling universe – with a sophisticated level of storytelling. It’s going to air in August and we’re super excited about it.
Is Windblade the new female character I’ve heard about?
That’s right, she was created by the fans and what’s great about her is that she’s developed this cult following through the comic book series. To see her come to life in the Machinima series and have her own internal struggle and interesting motivations it’s going to be neat to see.
I’m excited, I’m going to check that out!
Thank you so much!
Yeah, you bet, enjoy the show!
If you would like to know more about the upcoming Combiner Wars series you can check out the official trailer here! Transformers: Combiner Wars debuts on Machinima August 2nd, 2016.
Thank you again to the design and marketing teams at Hasbro – I can’t wait to see what’s next.