Transformers have been loved by generations. They are a toy line that sparks the imagination, and offers countless ways to play and experience the universe. From TV to movies, this is a franchise that has been going strong for decades now, and shows no signs of slowing. Hasbro keeps bringing out toys and fans of all ages find something new and exciting with each new offering.
Breaking from the mould, Transformers BotBots takes on the franchise in a new way. The new range of toys brings forward the idea of “robots in disguise” in a whole new way, with toys that are small, but filled with excitement for collectors of all ages. It is no wonder it was only a matter of time before a series took the concept and ran with it.
The latest series, Transformers BotBots, has the titular robots alive in a mall, getting into trouble and expanding on what it means to be a Transformer. Separated from the rest of the Transformers universe, Botbots is a clean slate to usher a new generation of transformers fans to the concept of changing robots. With the new show now launching on Netflix, CGMagazine took some time to talk to series creators Kevin Burke and Doc Wyatt about Transformers BotBots, and why fans of all ages should be excited about jumping in.
CGMagazine: Let’s get started by talking about how BotBots as a show came to be.
Kevin Burke: We have been working with Hasbro and Amazon, Netflix and some other shows like Stretch Armstrong, and we had written for Transformers Cyberverse, and then we were executive producing Transformers Rescue Bots Academy. While we were doing that, though, we’re at the Hasbro studios, we saw the art for the upcoming toys for the BotBots. We were immediately looking at each other, and we were like, “why is this not a show? This needs to be a show. We need to make this into a show.”
From there, we went to our executive and said “Hey, these are hilarious. This is an opportunity for Transformers to go some places that it hasn’t had a chance to go to in over 30 years, can we make this into a show?“ Their response was, absolutely, if you can come up with a take and find someone to do this we would love a show like this. That’s what we did. We put together a take and came up with a hook to get Netflix. Netflix loved it and here we are now, having made 10-half hours of Transformers BotBots.
CGMagazine: Transformers have a massive amount of lore up to this point. Did you have to be beholden to anything that happened before? Or did you have free rein to do anything you wanted with Transformers BotBots?
Doc Wyatt: Well, listen, first of all, we’re huge Transformer’s fans, and we love the lore. But that said no, none of that really impacts Transformers BotBots. We want to have a show that is a new entry into Transformers, that you can hit the ground running and just jump in and watch this show. You don’t need to know about Cybertron, the Matrix of Leadership or the AllSpark or anything else.
It doesn’t matter. The deal is that some energon hit the mall, some of the products in the mall came to life. By day they hide on the shelves at the back, so they don’t get purchased and by night they come out they explore the mall; they have this childlike curiosity they go, and they have fun and that’s the show.
CGMagazine: Did you ever have the urge or inkling to bring in any of the Transformers’ lore to make this something past fans recognize?
Kevin Burke: There are some Easter eggs in there for long-term fans, we are long-term fans. But we definitely want to have a situation that captures the original sort of hook of transformers. When I was a kid before I started reading the comics or watching the show and I knew about Cybertron or Autobots, Decepticons and the whole lore, I was just enamoured with the idea that there are robots in disguise.
That a car could be a robot, that any object could be a robot and so that very much is at the core of Botbots, this idea that anything you’re looking at whether it’s your coffee cup, or a piece of pizza, that could be a robot, there are secret robots everywhere.
We wanted to keep that idea. We also wanted to do something that did not negate anything that you may love about the Transformers. It’s his own small little corner of the Transformers world. Outside this mall, everything that’s happened in the Transformers Universe has happened and is happening, but, in this corner, here they are Transformers Robots, they are definitely part of this world.
“We’ve designed Transformers BotBots for families to be able to sit down with their kids and enjoy the show.”
But since they just came to life not too long ago, and they don’t know anything that’s out there they just know like we all do in their immediate surroundings. Their entire universe as far as they’re concerned is this mall. Any product leaves the mall and never comes back. They have no idea what’s out there. So, their entire culture, their entire environment is inside this mall.
CGMagazine: The look of Transformers BotBots is much more kid-friendly than some other Transformers series’. Did you aim for the show to be just for kids, or did you want to make it a more universally accessible entry into the universe?
Doc Wyatt: We definitely geared the show towards kids. But that said, we designed it to be a co-viewing experience. We’ve designed Transformers BotBots for families to be able to sit down with their kids and enjoy the show. Look, we’re both dads, and we’re children’s television professionals. But we’ve also watched a lot of children’s TV as audience members with our kids and there are shows that you watch with the kids, you want to kind of pull your hair out.
Then there are shows you watch with the kids, and you’re enjoying it as much as the kids. That’s very much what the Pixar experience is meant to be; this family co viewing experience and that’s what we wanted to target.
This isn’t like our previous show, Transformers Rescue Bots Academy, which was a preschool show and was designed for the children audience. This is designed for the co-viewing audience. It layers a little bit more like a sitcom because they are in the mall, they’re sort of divided into these squads based on which store the BotBots came to life in.
It’s got kind of an almost cliquey social atmosphere. So, we were very much inspired by 80s high school, teen movies and by other kinds of sitcoms that just kind of layer in that social experience. Yeah, we are Transformers fans, and we enjoy watching the show. So, we hope that fans our age will enjoy watching with their kids.
CGMagazine: Touching on the co-viewer experience, how do you find that balance, so all can find something to love in the series?
Kevin Burke: I think that’s the thing we have to follow the whole time, like from design, from scripting, from performance, from message. When you’re doing preschool, it tends to be simpler stories, stories with a very clear moral to that and the sitcom space, it’s a little more complex than that. It’s not the kids won’t understand the morals, the morals are there, it’s just that it’s not quite so simply message based, where it outlines the lesson you need to learn from this episode.
We’ve definitely had scenes where we felt this comedy is playing to preschool, or this design is playing to preschool, let’s play this more like the office, let’s play it more straight up comedy meets Transformers. In that space, it’s a bit of a challenge at times. So, you definitely want to make sure that kids understand it, but the parents would also get it as well. I think a lot of shows often underestimate kids and their ability to comprehend the story and their ability to comprehend the message, and sometimes they do feel very forced fed.
I think kids are more clever than they are given credit for. I think there are a lot of things in the show that almost remind us of adulthood. We definitely feel like there’s a lot of these universal social experiences. Sometimes, most of the time in these stories, the dilemmas are their own fault, you make a mistake, you do something that you don’t think is going to go wrong, and it goes wrong for you. That’s the core of this.
CGMagazine: Streaming has given viewers a new way to experience media, and it’s given creators a new way to get the content out. Is there any downside to streaming, and how do you view it changing the way shows are made and shows are distributed going forward?
Doc Wyatt: Well, again, I don’t foresee any downside specifically, it is changing how we think about shows. Like when we were making shows for broadcast windows, or for cable networks, they definitely wanted the episodes to be more encapsulated, to be more episodic, in the sense that any viewer at any time on a Tuesday might catch an episode, understand everything that was happening immediately.
Whereas what streaming affords us and what it gives us as storytellers, is the ability for all the audience to always start at the first episode, and watch them then in sequence, which means that we can be more serialized. We can have more ongoing story arcs and those arcs can be more subtle, because they can be slowly changing over the course of episodes.
So, we are able to tell stories in a way that we really like, which is the slow transformation of a character. That sort of experience is pushed by the streaming. Streamers like the idea that viewers who are binging or viewers who are watching multiple episodes are getting payoffs and seeing progress, and it’s a great way to tell a story. So, we’ve enjoyed that experience.
CGMagazine: You mentioned binging and how people now consume media has changed. Does that change how you construct stories?
Doc Wyatt: The format should be dictated by the kind of story you want to tell. There are some stories that are better told episodically, that are a little bit more anthology life. So, streaming wouldn’t necessarily dictate creative changes in that way. But it does mean that for storytellers who enjoy telling serialized stories, this is a great way that your distribution window leans into the kind of stories that creatively you’re interested in. So, it’s sort of a happy marriage between distribution and creative.
“I guarantee you everyone in the family is going to enjoy this series. It’s hilarious. It is very wacky, it’s unpredictable. It’s just a lot of fun. We’re really proud of it, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
CGMagazine: Is there anything you want to leave us on for people reading this that are looking to jump into BotBots for the first time?
Kevin Burke: Absolutely! BotBots is the first Transformers comedy show. So, whatever your experience is with Transformers, if it’s your favourite thing that’s ever existed, or if you’ve never once seen it, if you are in your 50s, or if you are six, this is a show that you can very just pop on. I guarantee you everyone in the family is going to enjoy this series. It’s hilarious. It is very wacky, it’s unpredictable. It’s just a lot of fun. We’re really proud of it, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it.
CGMagazine: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time. I’m excited to dive in and watch Transformers BotBots.
Doc Wyatt: Awesome. Enjoy it. Thank you so much.