So far, 2023 has been filled with blockbusters: The Flash, Elemental, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and of course, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. However, the only aforementioned film that has fit the description of a true summer blockbuster, without a bevy of backlash, upset fans, and poor returns, has been the latest installment of the iconic Robots in Disguise.
With new blood, life, and air being pumped and breathed into the franchise, it’s easy to see the incredible jump the giant robots have taken from the hit-or-miss randomness of the Michael Bay films to the two recent Transformers hits in a row. Starting with Travis Knight’s 2018 outing, Bumblebee, and now, Steven Caple Jr.’s latest and incredibly successful entry into that world, Rise of the Beasts, have changed the game for these robots.
The newest outing for the robots from Cybertron returns Peter Cullen as the legendary voice of Optimus Prime. Bumblebee also returns for this outing. The film adds, Pete Davidson as Mirage, Ron Perlman as Optimus Primal, and a slew of other Tranformers. Anthony Ramos stars as human protagonist Noah Diaz, and Dominique Fishback joins the adventure as archeologist Elena Wallace.
MovieWeb got an inside look at some of the brains behind this massive rebuilding operation when we sat down with Production VFX Supervisor Gary Brozenich and MPC’s VFX Supervisor, Richard Little, the team who took concept art designed by another team helmed by the acclaimed MPC Art Director Leandre Lagrange. As you can expect, there were a lot of moving parts and a lot of communication between those parts, but in the end, everyone agrees that the final product just worked. It looked spectacular, and audiences everywhere are being blown away by the spectacle that is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Once we got into it, there was a treasure trove of information that we were able to glean.
We started off with the specifics for the design work for Arcee. In the film, Arcee resembles the fan-favorite female Autobot of the original G1 television show, but her coloration is highly inspired by the show Transformers: Energon, one of the many series in Transformers history. When asked about this, Gary Brozenich touted:
From the beginning, Steven [Caple Jr.] was really hot on the G1 designs, and Sean Haworth, who was involved with the Michael Bay films — and also a mega nerd like the rest of us, and was so deep in the weeds with it.
It was here that Brozenich revealed a very cool tidbit.
“Her coloration, we started off with a complete pink Arcee. I don’t want to speak for Steven or anybody, but she looked so ultra feminine is so many ways, the hot pink from head to toe was almost too much for today’s audience. We kinda ended up tempering it a little with red, and we went back and forth, tempering it with more pink and more red. That was something we did with Richard and his team a lot […] once we saw the mechanical design of it, once we saw their functionality. Arcee’s coloration went through a major overhaul, literally I don’t know how many versions we ended up doing in the end.”
“It was definitely double digits for sure,” added Little. “The G1 coloration was leaned into pretty hard, and we ended up going with what would work best on screen.” Both noted as well that the visor Arcee is first seen with is a fun little bit of fan service. Fans of the franchise have been pretty receptive of most of the character designs in the film, Arcee especially.
Next subject: the charming Mirage, voiced by Pete Davidson. Let’s face it, there will always be changes from source material when it comes to these films, and they can have a number of reasons behind said changes. With Mirage, his Indy car vehicle mode was swapped out in the film to a vehicle mode that is more familiar to fans as belonging to the original Generation 1 Jazz. It was funny to see the team with this bit of recognition when they were asked about this, Brozenich in particular let out a humorous, “Yeah, we know.” So of course, a fun story was going to follow that.
“Porsche got involved with the film. Mirage was ours, or really Steven’s, to build from the ground up and there were more marketing decisions than we are probably qualified to talk about. Believe me, we were very aware, and know now more than ever before how rabid the fan base is for this franchise. We heard, and it was immediate. I think there were some pictures taken of the cars in Montreal when they first arrived. It was day one, when they first arrived, and they ended up on the internet, and it was like an avalanche of ‘You can’t have Mirage be a Porsche.’ So believe me we knew. The whole callback to his transformation scene with the IndyCar was us trying to be very specific to try and let everyone know that we know. The truth is, the Porsche worked really great for us because some of the characters just are not easy to work with due to their boxy design and are really hard to light.”
The next question was for Richard Little regarding the challenges in creating Unicron, the planet sized menace who is being set up as the major threat of this set of films. MovieWeb noted that there had been past issues setting up characters of his scale and magnitude, most notably from Fantastic Four: Rise of the SIlver Surfer, where Galactus was set up as a cloud, as opposed to a giant humanoid deity.
“We had many days, weeks, of discussion around how we are going to create him and what gives him the scale. We leaned on 1986 and the movie for that color balance, and a lot of it revolved around the history of the franchise. We looked at the last six and seven films and learned the visual language of Transformers to give us an understanding of the structures […] We had to give ourselves background and knowledge about the history of the franchise so when we were making aesthetic judgment calls that we weren’t going out on a tangent. Unicron hadn’t really been visualized in this way before […] Our environment supervisor had a great deal of input, because he is a character, but he has his own environment.”
Brozenich chimed in:
” We know Unicron is a capable, transforming robot, and I am prompting you with this one Richard, one of the things with us was the inner chamber, or the brain chamber; how we use the eyes and how we reveal the eyes, and we let you know you can find Unicron’s face in there, and everything inside was a moving clock. You can’t really see it but every single feature in that interior, blink and you’ll miss it, but it was all moving, the floors and everything, to keep it kinetic, like the interior of a watch.”
This is something that really did call back to the Chaos Bringer’s origin in the 1986 film. Right off the bat, the audience is introduced to Unicron, and right off the bat you see that everything inside of him is moving. He has booby traps, trap doors, acid vats, and even interior pathways and streets, several of which are shown to have moving parts.
Finally, the VFX masters discussed Nightbird. She was a character that really wasn’t explored much in Generation 1 and was actually more of a one-off, so naturally, this gave them team a bit more freedom in which to operate and work with her. Her sole appearance in the first generation was Enter the Nightbird, and she was quite literally a handful for the Autobots, and the Decepticons as well. In response, the team nailed a perfect design for her.
“She was so much fun,” explained Brozenich. “Unlike Arcee, who is that feminine character and is a badass for the good, it’s really fun to have that feminine character who is a badass for the bad. Sean in our art department did the majority of the heavy lifting with her.” He continued:
“We wanted to specifically give her multiple layers, so she has a visor, and the visor goes up, and she has this insectoid mouth. That wasn’t something that was originally there. It was something we kind of riffed on, and once she sort of opened her mouth and she needed to be able to talk, it was kind of like, wow, how do you keep her beautiful, but also creepy and scary? […] It was a balancing act between the way she looked and the way she behaved. She also had so much cool stuff that she could do, essentially being a ninja. We gave her throwing stars, we gave her swords, we gave her as much as we could, but because of her limited time on screen, she almost had too much cool sh*t to be able to fit into the shots that we had.”
“I wish we just had more time with her,” concluded Brozenich? Why, you ask? Well, find out when you see the film and explore the world this amazing team created and supervised. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is in theaters now, and comes to Digital on July 11th, and 4K Ultra HD SteelBook™, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, and DVD on October 10th.