Win a Winner!
Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
by Michael Berick
Last month, the Hub TV network introduced a new set of Transformers on the world. Transformers Rescue Bots features the team of Heatwave, Boulder, Blades and Chase, who partner up with a human family to keep the peace on an island off the coast of Optimus Prime. The show’s executive producer, Jeff Kline, is well-versed in the Transformer universe, having served as executive producer on Transformers Prime, too. His TV background, however, also includes such diverse and popular shows as G.I. Joe, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Winnie the Pooh and Dragon Tales.
What will fans of the earlier Transformer shows recognize in Transformers Rescue Bots?
Transformers Rescue Bots is a softer, gentler take on the Transformers saga which is appropriate for a younger viewer – a boy or girl who’s outgrown preschool series, but is still not quite ready for Transformers Prime or Transformers feature films. Rather than war between the Autobots and Decepticons, we feature rescue. Rather than battle, we offer adventure …with a heavy dose of humor, of course. What we’re hoping fans of the previous Transformers incarnations will recognize – especially those who are familiar with Transformers Prime – is the same emotionally driven storytelling, the same key themes of family (whether biological or created) and responsibility and the same overall sense of wonderment. Some of the key talent from the first season of Transformers Prime are working on Transformers Rescue Bots, and an even higher percentage of the team grew up with one of the previous Transformers incarnations. So there’s definitely a bloodline.
What are you able to do with the Transformer TV series that can’t be done in the film versions?
The nice thing about television is that in success you have the ability to spend quality time with all the characters, dig into their personalities, get to know their quirks and foibles and tell stories that arc over multiple episodes – a whole season or even an entire series.
Can you talk about some of the vocal talent that has been assembled for Rescue Bots?
We’ve been fortunate on Transformers Rescue Bots to attract a pretty fantastic group of experienced voiceover artists, on-camera talent and a handful of highly regarded “newbies.” That, to me, is the perfect mix. We record one episode each week. And we do so “radio play-style,” meaning that all the actors are in the recording studio simultaneously, bouncing-off one another and reacting real-time. I’ve always thought that made for better, more natural-sounding performances. And I believe it creates a deeper bond between the cast members as well.
And I should mention – one of my favorite things about working in animation is the fact that you can get just about anyone to come in as a guest star. If you’re an actor or actress carrying your own sitcom or starring in a feature, I suspect there’s something pretty appealing about coming into a room that’s all about the ensemble. For just a few hours. In your sweat pants. And we have an exciting guest star for Transformers Rescue Bots who will voice an important character in the first season.
Besides the Transformers series, you have been involved with a G.I. Joe show and Winnie the Pooh projects. What are the challenges to turning popular characters into shows?
The challenges are many. You don’t want to dishonor the legacy, stray too far from what has made the characters popular over the years, or anger a loyal (and often vocal) fan base. But you do want to find your own “take” on the material – not simply rehash the past – and create a world that is welcoming to all, not simply those who’ve embraced the property previously. Often, there are quite a few very nervous “protectors” looking over my shoulder; my job is to let them sleep at night.
Transformers have been hugely popular for years. What do you think makes kids respond so much to them for so long?
Over the years, Tranformers has developed a very rich, rather dense mythology, but its key themes of friendship, valor and wonder have resonated no matter the incarnation. At the end of the day, what’s cooler than a car or a truck or even a “beast” that can turn into a living, breathing, sentient alien robot?
When you were growing up, what was your favorite show?
I’m pretty much a child of Sid and Marty Krofft, Monkees reruns, and Creatures Double Feature on Channel 56 (in Boston). So blame all of them.
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