Interview with Jane Lawson at Metrodome (December 9th 2003)
The following interview was conducted by email between Metrodome's Jane Lawson and ourselves. We hoped that Jane could answer a few questions we had regarding Metrodome, their Transformers: Series 2 DVD boxset release as well as possibly hinting what the future may hold for them. We are glad to say that Jane certainly did not disapoint. We think you will find this interview very interesting and hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did conduct it, and Jane did answering the questions.
TF At The Moon: Metrodome are well known now among the Transformers fan community for their release of the Original Series 2 pt1 DVD, and hopefully many future releases, but not all fans have heard of Metrodome. We understand the company was formed in 1991 but could you give us a little information on the history of Metrodome, as well as what they do and what your role is within the company?
Jane Lawson: Metrodome was formed in 1991 by four property entrepreneur’s who produced and co-produced a number of films. Metrodome was floated on the UK stock market (listed on AIM) in 1995 and are now not in production but are a UK theatrical and DVD distributor. Our catalogue is extremely varied and ranges from feature films, world cinema, animation and special interest. My role is marketing manager but being a small company I get involved in all sorts!
TF At The Moon: Metrodome's Transformers Website can be found at www.transformersdvd.com
TF At The Moon: Have Metrodome releases any other animated series prior to the Transformers and if so which series were they?
Jane Lawson: Metrodome have released other animation as we have the UK distribution rights for all of TVL’s properties plus some others. Outside of TF Gen1,Takara and the Movie we also have rights to GI Joe, My Little Pony, Conan, Super Duper Sumos, Cramp Twins, Metalheads, Visionaires, Inhumanoids plus many more!
TF At The Moon: Visionaires, cool - we've wanted a DVD of that for a few years. It's was a class little series. Could you tell us which series Metrodome has the rights to (when it comes to the Transformers cartoons), you mentioned Takara?
Jane Lawson: We have Generation 1, Generation 2 and the Takara series Headmasters, Masterforce, Victory and of course Transformers The Movie.
TF At The Moon: Cool. We don't suppose there is any chance you would be able to re-dub the Japanese series? We know this would be a very expensive venture, but it is something which fans have been crying out for for a few years. Hasbro (US) stated at OTFCC 03 that they had no plans in "going backwards" and re-dubbing the series.
Jane Lawson: Well I would like to have it done but like you say the cost would probably be too prohibitive for a small company like ours. However I am looking into to just to check the viability as I have been asked a few times about this.
TF At The Moon: Two questions this time.
1) When did Metrodome first become interested in gaining the licence for the Transformers series, and did they have any insight to the potential which the licence carries?
2) Roughly how long did it take for Metrodome to secure the licence and was it a deal between yourselves and Hasbro, or were Rhino involved (the company who have the rights to release the Transformers DVD’s in America)?
Jane Lawson: Metrodome acquired the Gen 1 license via our parent company TV Loonland. TVL bought into Metrodome to enable themselves to have UK distribution arm, thereby giving us distribution rights for this series and many others. Rhino and Metrodome are entirely separate companies and therefore they were not involved in any way with our acquisition of TF. Rhino hold TVL’s US distribution licence for Transformers and some other TVL properties.
With regard to Transformers I was aware that this would be a very important and valuable property to us. I then realised pretty quickly that this was not going be an ordinary release. However I was surprised and pleased to discover the enthusiasm that the fans have for the Transformers and their eagerness for us release the rest of the series in the UK. It has been a wonderful project to work on and has opened up a whole new world for Metrodome and myself in particular.
TF At The Moon: Had you, or anyone at Metrodome, seen the Rhino (Region 1) Transformers DVD releases?
Jane Lawson: Yes I had seen Rhino’s versions. I thought they had done a great job but I wanted to differentiate ours in some way for the UK and move on from the way Maverick handled the releases. My first task was to speak to the fans, find out what they want from their Transformers DVD’s. I was very aware how important TF are to the fans and did not want to create something that was inappropriate or not what they wanted.
The fans have been marvellous with feedback and ideas and it’s a shame that we are not able to do everything. We will shortly be adding a message box to our www.transformersdvd.com site where fans can post their thoughts about our releases and any other ideas. We welcome fans input and will endeavour to accommodate their wishes as much as we can although it is not always possible.
TF At The Moon: The cartoons on the Series 2 pt1 DVD are digitally re-mastered, and in 5.1 surround sound. Was the footage supplied in this format, or did they have to do any editing to get to the quality on the DVD?
Jane Lawson: Our technical expert Joanna Moher says - the material was supplied remasterd and with 5.1 sound. We did however do some further editing to create each disc format.
TF At The Moon: Another two questions this time Jane - both relating to fellow UK website TheTransformers.Net's Darren Jamieson.
1) Darren was involved in the creation of the DVD, but are there any “transfans” within Metrodome, who worked on this projected?
2) How did Darren get involved with the DVD, did he contact yourselves, you contacted him?
Jane Lawson: Darren has been an invaluable to Metrodome. He has advised us and been a constant source of information and help – there is nothing he doesn’t know! Darren’s name was first mentioned to me by Maverick when I spoke to them during the hand over but from memory I think he contacted me directly also! I cannot thank Darren enough for his advice and help that he has given Metrodome.
Within Metrodome there are no official “transfans” although I must confess I have become admirer myself since working on it and have the honour of being Metrodome’s and TVL’s resident authority on all things autobot - although I do not deserve the accolade!
TF At The Moon: Legendary UK Transformer comic artists Lee Sullivan provided various pictures which were used throughout the DVD. How did he get involved and were you pleased with his work?
Jane Lawson: When we began work on TF we discovered we had very little decent artwork. Darren Jamieson put me in touch with Lee as we were looking to package the DVD programming in radically different way to anyone before us. At this time we took the decision to commission Lee to draw some new artwork which is exclusive to our DVD’s. I think we made the right decision and I was delighted with the artwork Lee produced – it looks great and I hope the fans like it. Lee was really great to work with.
I am also in contact with another TF legendary artist Andrew Wildman so watch this space…..
TF At The Moon: Yeah, we spoke to Andy at the Birmingham Memorabila fair early this month. Were there any other images which Lee Sullivan produced for the DVD which were not used? If so are you able to give any details of these?
Jane Lawson: Yes, there are some other images that Lee produced – a particularly nice one of Devastator at the Space Bridge and some others too, which we will be using in the future.
TF At The Moon: The DVD is very nicely packaged, in a simplistic silver box with the Autobot insignia, then with individual DVD packs – which look just like the old UK Transformer Annuals. The packaging works really well, but what other ideas were thrown around for this?
Jane Lawson: We did have some other ideas for packaging – a limited edition tin was something I was particularly keen on but lead times were astronomical. However this idea is not entirely shelved…… We also considered doing the whole of season 2 in one set but felt this would be cost prohibitive for the fans, something I did not want to do. However we are planning to release season 3 in one set as there are not so many episodes.
TF At The Moon: All of series 3 on one DVD, cool. Somthing Rhino should have done rather than split it into two in our opinion. Here's another question for you Jane, the mistakes reel is very long, around 16 mins I believe. Was this sent to you already made up, or did someone have to watch the episodes to find them?
Jane Lawson: The mistake reel was already made up and was one of part of the original elements stored at the lab in the US. We had some reservations about the mistake reel as it is long and not always clear. We were up against time pressures and after discussions with our TF advisors it was felt that the fans would prefer see it as it is rather than not see it at all so we put it on unedited.
TF At The Moon: Some of the extras on the DVDs are brand new ideas, the comic scans and the toysheet scans especially. How was the idea thought up, and who provided the toy sheets.
Jane Lawson: The comic scans were kindly supplied to us by Kate Jones at Titan books as we thought it would be a nice extra. However I accept that it is actually hard to read and we are looking into rectifying this if we do this again.
The toy sheets were arranged supplied and cleared by Sven Harvey who we met at Auto Assembly. Metrodome are also very grateful to him for his help making these available to us for the DVD – they are a great extra.
The Auto Assembly footage comes with a pre-warning regarding the quality of filming – due to it being film on a home camcorder. Who was responsible for the editing of this footage and how did Metrodome come about obtaining it? Do you have plans on filming any of the three UK Transformer conventions next year? If so would Metrodome send a professional film crew, or again rely on “amateur footage” to appear on the DVD?
The story of how the footage came to be was an interesting one. Simon Plumbe organiser of the Auto Assembly contacted me about attending. We had a great day and it was there that we got a lot of useful feedback on our plans and sleeve design’s which were in progress at the time. As it was our first convention we were not sure what to expect therefore did not plan to take any footage, hence no film crew. The footage was taken by attendee Colin Warhust and we decided as a bit of fun to include it on the DVD. We know it was not great quality but felt that it would be a fun little extra to have on. Now we know what a great extra footage like this makes we will be attending the conventions and plan to have a proper film crew to record the event and (hopefully) get some interviews too.
TF @ TM: Ah yes Sven mentioned that in the interview we did with him regarding Auto Assembly. We also thought that some fan / guest interviews would be cool (see our review of your boxset)
TF At The Moon: Target 2006 is the comic which is featured on the DVD. Was it Metrodome’s decision as to which story would be on the DVD, or was that down to Titan or somebody else?
Jane Lawson: Kate Jones at Titan chose the actual strip for us.
TF At The Moon: The Quiz is a nice little feature on the DVD. Was this Darren’s idea, and do you have any plans to expand on this for the next DVD (we think it would be very popular)?
Jane Lawson: The quiz has proved to be very popular and Darren did indeed supply the questions. We will definitely expand this in the forthcoming sets as we have found that it is a popular addition.
TF At The Moon: Had you realised that “Series 2 Part 1” only appears on the back of the Boxset packaging? We noticed that and thought it must have been planned. Was it?
Jane Lawson: Yes we were aware of this beforehand. We thought it would be better to keep it slick and clean but this has been mentioned a few times – it appears the fans would have preferred it put on and this has been noted!
TF At The Moon: Do you know how well the boxset has sold so far (or is it to early to tell)?
Jane Lawson: Bit early to tell at this stage!
TF At The Moon: You've already mentioned some of the other licences which Metrodome have. We were wondering if Metrodome were nterested in expanding on the 80’s revival, and releasing other series on DVD? If so which series are they looking into?
Jane Lawson: We already have distribution rights via TVL to other 80’s series such as GI Joe, My Little Pony, Conan the Adventurer/Conan and the Young Warriors, Bucky O Hare, Fat Dog Mendoza, Visionaires, Reboot II and III so we have a few!
TF At The Moon: Technical question now. This is probably a very hard question to answer accurately, but roughly how long does it take to put a DVD set like your Transformers: Series 2 pt1 together?
Jane Lawson: It varies from project to project. With our first Transformers release it has taken longer than normal as we had to have the new artwork created (Lee Sullivan’s was very quick though!) and masters shipped in from the US. It takes around three months for ideas, content finalisation, mastering, planning and our technical expert Joanna Moher tells me that a further four weeks approx is needed for authoring and quality control before we are ready to replicate the discs and pack it.
TF At The Moon: Now the work on this is over, would Metrodome do it all over again?
Jane Lawson: Most definitely! This is really only just the beginning for us. We have Season 2 Part 2 in April 2004, then Season 3 and 4 and of course we will reissue Season 1 to complete the set. There is also the Movie which we are hoping to release in widescreen with no footage missing – can’t say too much as its top secret.
TF At The Moon: What other projects are you currently working on?
Jane Lawson: We have various projects currently in progress. We have a label called Ovation which specialises in stage to screen performances and following our success with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Nicholas Nickleby we will be releasing a version of Hamlet and a play called Home with John Geilgud and Ralph Richardson. On the kids side we have some compilations one of which Boys Stuff contains a TF episode. In addition we are working on “Metalheads” which is currently airing on BBC1, plus season 2 of the Cramp Twins. We have a movie of “Visionaries” which could also be quite interesting. Also we are planning a very special edition of Donnie Darko..
TF At The Moon: Is there anything else that you would like to say, whether it be regarding this DVD or anything in general?
Jane Lawson: Just really to reiterate really how much I have enjoyed working on Transformers and that at Metrodome we are dedicated to doing the best we can with this project. And also to say one last big thank you to everyone that has helped and advised us with our Transformers.
TF At The Moon: Well Jane congratulations on getting through them (2 pages of questions was kind of over-doing it a bit) :-) We want to say thank you once again for your time and effort on this.
Jane Lawson: Thanks. I'm looking forward to seeing what it turns out like and to see what you have planned with it / what the feedback is like.
If you would like to contact Metrodome regarding the Transformers DVD's there is an email link on their website Series 2 part 2 is due out in April 2004, so we look forward to seeing that. We hope you all enjoyed the interview and help support Transformers in the UK by purchasing Metrodome's dvd.
We are very greatful with Jane and everyone at Metrodome for agreeing to take part in this interview. We look forward to seeing them at Auto Assembly 2004 and wish them the very best with the current and future projects.