The Transformers webcast went ahead as promised on Friday, with writers Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci announcing the names of the robots in disguise who will rumble for the prize of precious Energon and Earth’s future. And they also took time to answer fans’ questions, gassing about everything from the decision to change Bumblebee’s car form from a VW Beetle to a Camaro to who would win in a fight – Optimus Prime or Megatron. Here are the full details…
Were you fans before you got the job?
Alex Kurtzman: Hands down, yes. We grew up with the first, G1 generation of the cartoons. So it’s daunting taking on the movie. We wanted to represent the cartoons, which is a big responsibility, so it meant doing it right or not at all. Everything is important - the sound of transforming, Optimus Prime, Megatron as gun. We built the story around that.
Bob Orci: And yes, sometimes we do pick up the toys and have them say the lines.
What’s the Transformer to human ratio in screen time?
BO: There was a script leaked early on and people complained. That was the wrong script. Trust me when I say that there are plenty of Transformers in the movie.
AK: We wanted to find the balance between Autobots, Decepticons and humans. We think it’s equal.
Why is Bumblebee now a Camaro?
BO: Design, pure and simple. It’s been a big controversy, and we say clothes don’t make the man. The characters are based on the cartoon characters. Bumble will still be connected to humans and his relationship to Spike/Sam is the same. Also, Transformers have to change realistically. We decided based on the coolest version of seeing the transformation process in live-action, CG form.
AK: We needed to find a way to get people to understand it’s not just a cartoon. Humans will be interacting with robots. When Steven Spielberg made Jurassic Park, no one could imagine people interacting with the dinosaurs. We have a big opportunity here.
BO: We really wanted him to be cool. This story is told through him and Sam/Spike Witwicky. We wanted it to be a car that this kid would want.
AK: It was purely a design decision based on these aliens seeing the cool vehicles of 2006.
How will you win new fans who don’t know the back-story?
BO: The story is designed so you don’t need to know anything. But if you do, you’ll get the references. The movie will introduce you to the world of Transformers. Don’t forget, the ‘80s cartoon movie had years of the TV show to help with history. We’re starting over in a new medium so we wanted people to get into it without talking down to the fans.
AK: It’s so massive. We wanted to play to the wonder of this, through humanity’s eyes at the Transformers. Once we’re through, we can spend time with them. In designing the story we felt like we have separate storylines that comes together. We wanted to represent anyone who could want to see the movie. And that includes women.
BO: So we have hot guys in the movie. Tyrese and Josh Duhamel. Flexing and sweating. Oh, and cool women.
AK: We’ve written kick ass women (on TV show Alias) and we wanted to bring that to this movie.
Will Megatron insult Starscream?
AK: Yes. We can’t reinvent that. It’ll be alive and well. They will be as you remember.
Why are there so few Autobots?
AK: We wanted to put the Autobots at a real disadvantage. So fighting for them is going to be harder, and it makes the action sequences tense because the Decepticons have more firepower.
BO: And you’re going to find out where the history is at right now. The war’s been going on for a long time and the Autobots are depleted.
How closely has Hasbro been involved?
AK: From the start.
BO: They hired a nice minder who would stand behind us and shock us if we went off… No, I’m kidding.
AK: We sat down with the design team and talked at length about the world they had created. We saw toys everywhere! We couldn’t believe it. They wanted to find new ways to portray characters.
BO: Hasbro knows – we were sceptical too – but they know what makes this brand good is the rich characters. So they gave us back-story, not toy demands. We get nothing if you buy a toy! We want to make the best movie. If we get a sequel, we will get a piece of the merchandise action!
AK: We monitor the talk boards. We ask the fans what they want.
Optimus Prime Versus Megatron. Who’d win?
AK: You’ll find out!
Why is there no Shockwave?
AK: That’s a question you could ask about a million characters. There are so many we wanted but we felt like we were choosing our characters and not wasting them. We won’t use them just because they were cool.
BO: And we wanted to save old and new characters for the sequels.
AK: We’re setting up a lot of threads in the hopes of sequels.
Are Transformers' weapons lasers, or bullets and missiles?
BO: In Earth form, they’ll have our stuff but once Transformed, they’ll use Cybertron weaponry – pulse blasts and things that we know.
How is it working with Michael Bay?
AK: He shoots the movie in his head before a frame is on celluloid. He locked in so fast in what he wanted it to be, and he’s been respectful of us as fans of the Transformers.
BO: Michael Bay knows vehicles. He knows how to shoot them. If that’s not a half qualification for making this film, I don’t know what is…
Can you tell us who will do the voices?
AK: That’s a work in progress and lots of people have been considered. And yes, everyone you’d want is on the list.
Finally, the pair announced that there will be a “Write A Line For Optimus Prime” contest opening in two weeks. Stay tuned for more details – and, according to Orci, “You’ll feel like a real writer… Because the studio will probably want to change it!”