Tim Bradley is a freelance designer, illustrator and author who worked full time for Hasbro in 1998 as well as freelancing for them in 2004. Tim has worked on various Hasbro properties, and on several Transformers lines including Beast Wars, Beast Machines and Transformers Cybertron. In February 2008, Tim kindly agreed to be interviewed Transformers At The Moon which you can read below.
TFATM:. What first interested you in becoming a Product Designer?
Tim: I have always liked the idea of taking my 2-dimensional drawings and seeing them realized in 3 dimensions. A concept can go from existing on a flat piece of paper to something you can hold in your hand. I always get a kick out of seeing a product I designed hanging in a store-that's really fun.
TFATM: You work as a designer, an illustrator and an author, which of these roles do you find to be the most challenging and the most rewarding?
Tim: I actually don't see those roles as different from each other-designing toys or writing and illustrating books are all just different facets of creating. It all feels very fluid and connected to me, even though the individual tasks involved in product design are different from writing, or illustrating. I typically work from mental images, but I have always enjoyed putting my thoughts in writing as well, so I may write a few paragraphs about a particular design to convey what I consider to be the important points about it-kind of a little "backstory". It helps me keep things consistent, and also helps the client viewing the images to understand what I am shooting for.
TFATM: If you could only work in one of these fields (design/illustration/author) which would it be?
Tim: Since I don't really consider the fields unconnected, it would be tough to choose only one to work in. If I had to, I guess I would keep on illustrating-I really enjoy putting ideas on paper through the use of drawing. Even while I am working on other tasks, I continually fill the margins of notepads with little thumbnails and geometric doodles. I can't help it.
TFATM: In 1998 you worked as a Product Designer for Hasbro Inc., working on various toy lines including Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Star Wars (Classics and Episode 1), Jurassic Park and Animorphs. What interested you in working for Hasbro Inc and how did you land this role?
Tim: I had always thought that designing toys would be really fun-I had been collecting toys for a couple of years, and I felt that it would be a blast to actually work on them. I pursued a position with Hasbro due to the fact that they were heavily into boys' action products, and had what I considered the best product lines. After a few years of sending in art samples, I got a call to do some freelance work-Hasbro wanted to produce an animated Jurassic Park cartoon, and needed an aesthetic. They had some samples of my dinosaur illustrations, and let me work up a bunch of illustrations that became the basis of the Jurassic Park Chaos Effect Line. After that, I had some connections there, and just kept pushing until a spot on the design staff opened up.
TFATM: Were you a fan of the Star Wars series, and if so how did it feel to work on the "classic" toys and Episode 1 figures.
Tim: I am a big fan of the Star Wars series-it was wild to be a part of that team. A fun part of being on the Star Wars team was that we got to see a lot of stuff from upcoming movies (character designs, vehicles, etc.) before anyone else. Usually, we would have to stick pretty closely to vehicles and characters from the films, but sometimes, to round out the line, the designers were allowed to chip in concepts for vehicles that looked consistent with the Star Wars universe. That was a blast.
TFATM: How does working on a line such as Transformers differ from the other action figure lines that you have worked on?
Tim: Transformers is a little different in that the actual production of the toys is done by Takara. Hasbro chiefly takes charge of story, characters, and the other intellectual property-oriented stuff. The design of the toys is really a joint task between designers at Takara and designers and Hasbro. Depending on the current story and crop of designers, there's some give-and-take regarding which team handles which aspect of the design for each character.
With most other lines at Hasbro, the design, color schemes, marketing, and accounting tasks are pretty much handled by in-house staff, and the manufacturing overseas is directed by Hasbro. There's no real cooperation with any outside group.
TFATM: Can you take us quickly through the product design process, from initial concept through final production?
Tim: Sure-it's a pretty straightforward process. This is pretty much how things went while I was at Hasbro:
•Hasbro and Takara decide what the basic approach will be for the line (vacuum metal, metallic paint, clear plastic sections, any details like that), and how many figures for each price point will be made
•Hasbro designers will choose alt modes for the various price points, and sketch up one mode (in the case of Beast Machines, I would sketch out the beast mode, and another Hasbro designer would come up with a robot mode-that was the first time that process was used for Transformers, as far as I am aware)
•Takara will send drawings showing the alt mode and robot mode they can make from the alt mode starting point
•Once the drawings are approved, the Hasbro designer will decide on paint scheme. The Takara designers will make a working prototype model and send it to Hasbro. The working prototype gets painted with the approved color scheme, and goes back to Takara.
•If everybody is happy with the figure, it goes into production
TFATM: When working on Transformers, how do you start the design process? Are you given an alt mode (type of car, jet or animal) and start from there?
Tim: It was up to the designer to choose the alt mode, and get it approved by upper management. I would consult the list of projected toys for the line, and I would just start choosing what I thought would be cool, aggressive animals (in the case of Beast Machines) that I could apply my aesthetic to. Sometimes, I would have to defend my animal choices-I chose a hyena for the Transmetals 2 line, but the marketing folks weren't sure how vicious hyenas can be. I had to generate a quick sketch of a hyena-based Transformer to show that it could look very dangerous. That sketch became the basis for TM2 Jawbreaker.
TFATM: Which characters did you design for Transformers?
Tim: Here's the figures I designed-there are a bunch more where I applied color, but the following were based on my concept drawings:
•Animorphs Visser 3
•BM Optimus (original toy version)
•BM Blackarachnia (original toy version)
•BM cobra (I think his name was Quickstrike)
•BM Megatron (the robot mode-the beast mode was carried over from the TM2 line)
•Mutant Beast Wars bear/owl (This segment was originally meant to be part of the Animorphs line)
•concept for 1-2-3 Transformers (fire truck, police car, rescue chopper)
• Megatron T-rex (I think this was considered part of the Cybertron line)
•Optimus gorilla (I think this was considered part of the Cybertron line)
•Cybertron "planet keys"
•Concept sketches for some of the consumer-product-related Transformers to go with the movie toy line.
There's probably more that I'm forgetting at the moment.
TFATM: Of all the figures you have designed, from different lines, which are you:- a) most proud of, b) found working on to be the hardest, c) would, with hindsight, change.
Tim: a) Beast Machines Cheetor-I was really happy with how the beast mode looked, and how it translated into 3-D in the case of the huge Cheetor figure. The beast mode is extremely close to my drawings. I also really like BM Snarl for the same reasons. The robot mode of Snarl really came out well-that was Takara's design, based on my beast mode sketch.
b) Pretty much any figure from the Star Wars line was difficult from the standpoint that there were so many levels of approval that had to be obtained in a relatively short time before the toy could go into production. That could be kind of stressful at times.
c) I think one time that I pretty much blew it was with the Beast Wars Mutants raptor/wolverine. The transformation worked out fine, but I applied the color from the raptor standpoint, not really thinking that the green molded color for the raptor wouldn't work with a wolverine. I don't know what the heck I was thinking, in that instance. Oops.
TFATM: For the Beast Wars and Beast Machines the style of the series, both in terms of the figures and the show, changed. What were you thoughts on the different designs, did it make things easier or harder ink and which did you prefer?
Tim: I really had a great time working on the aesthetic for the Beast Machines line-it was very different from what had been done before. As an artist, going for a new look is always a blast. I know that because of the history of the line, there are fans that have a hard time accepting that kind of change, but it's sure fun to work on.
TFATM: Are there any characters that you designed for the different Transformers series which did not make it past the concept stage or into final release?
Tim: I believe that all the designs I came up with were released as finished product.
TFATM: Where any characters that you designed significantly changed during final production due to toy safety regulations?
Tim: I'm not aware of any of the figures I worked on being changed due to safety issues.
TFATM: You once again worked for Hasbro Inc on Transformers, Jurassic Park and Star Wars in 2004. Can you tell us a little more about the lines / figures which you were involved with at this time.
Tim: For Star Wars, I sketched up ideas for the Destroyer Droid launcher, and some figures like General Riekien, and some of the Geonosian figures. For Transformers, I think it would have been sketches and turnarounds for the Cybertron Beast Planet figures, along with the planet keys. I chipped in a bunch or concepts for ideas for Jurassic Park 4-at that time, they were looking for some concept sketches based on where the movie might go. I think those were what I worked on at that time.
TFATM: Were there any differences in the design process when you compare you work for Hasbro in 2004 to 1998?
Tim: It's simpler as a freelancer, since I usually just generate a bunch of concept sketches, and do final turnarounds, or color presentation art, and it stops there-the in-house designers then walk the toy through the production process.
TFATM: You still freelance of Hasbro, have you worked on any projects for them recently (the last 12 months) and are there any in the pipe-line?
Tim: I actually did some freelance work for Hasbro in December '07, so just a couple of months ago. I always look forward to working on a Hasbro project, so I hope to do more for them soon.
TFATM: Are there any toylines, not just Hasbro brands, that you would love to work on?
Tim: Well, I certainly hope to continue to work on Transformers. Jurassic Park is always fun to work on, too. If Mattel ever brings back Major Matt Mason, I would be all over that. That was my favorite toy line when I was a kid.
TFATM: Did you see the live action Transformers Movie? What were your thoughts of the designs as well as the movie overall?
Tim: I did, several times. I really thought they did an amazing job on the characters and the action scenes, and there was also a great storyline. I was totally blown away by the transformation sequences. Wow. The visual complexity was very cool.
TFATM: Transformers has taken another turn in 2008 with Transformers Animated. Have you seen the designs for these characters and if so, what are your thoughts?
Tim: I have seen a few images of the characters-I think it's a great way to keep expanding the line, and get a new crop of kids interested in the whole Transformers universe. That's one of the great things about Transformers.
TFATM: Were you aware of Takara's work in Japan on the Transformers Beast Wars Neo line, in 1998/1999, which heavily featured prehistoric animals. Having an interest in history and particular the pre-historic era, this line has always been a favourite of ours.
Tim: Yes, that's a great line. I think dinosaurs make great Transformers.
TFATM: With that in mind, if Hasbro asked you to work on a new Transformers series called "Paleo Wars", featuring 12 characters, 6 on each side would you be interested and which creatures would you choose?
Tim: I think that would be a great line-when Beast Machines was just getting underway, I had a lot of discussions with another designer working on the robot faces about what Transformers "natural history" would be like. What kind of creatures did the Transformers "evolve" from? What would a Transformers "stone age" look like? What about past Transformers civilizations? That concept actually got written into the first episode-as Optimus, Cheetor, Rattrap, and Blackarachnia are descending toward the Oracle, they pass buried cities from past Transformer cultures.
I would be totally interested in working on something like that-you could really explore a different facet of what Transformers are, which is the kind of thing that keeps the property alive and interesting.
If I had to pick some likely prehistoric creatures, I would probably have the bad guys be the more primitive reptiles and creatures that existed before dinosaurs, and maybe have the good guys be the dinosaurs/pterosaurs. So, I think my list would look like this:
•primitive crocodile relative like Saurosuchus
•a large gorgonopsid (reptilian predator that eventually led to mammals)
•Helicoprion (an ancient shark with a coiled-up sawblade-like lower jaw)
•giant sea scorpion (like Pterygotus)
•Meganeura, a huge dragonfly
•a large, predatory amphibian (some of those got very big)
•Ophthalmosaurus (a big-eyed icthyosaur)
•Ultrasaurus (a huge brachiosaur)
•some weirdo pterosaur like Tapejara (one of my suggestions for the Jurassic Park line a few years back)
•Ankylosaurus (the armoured herbivore with a huge tail club)
I think that might be the beginnings of a fun line!
TFATM: We'd buy that line for sure. You're probably not aware, but Steve White the editor of Titan Magazines, who produce the UK Transformers Comic, is another prehistoric illustrator. Back in the 80's Steve originally worked as a colourist for Marvel UK on the original Transformers comic., so there's already a comic artist awaiting the series.
Tim:.I checked out Steve's site-very nice work!
TFATM: At what age did you first become interested in prehistoric animals and what are your favourites?
Tim: I don't actually remember when I found out about dinosaurs-I think I must have been about 4 years old. I remember already being obsessed with them at 5. I really like them all-each one has something special about it that makes it fun to draw. I think my overall favorite might be Allosaurus. I really love the shape of its head. Deadly, and fun to draw, which is all you can ask for.
TFATM: In 2000 you published your first book, "The Care and Feeding of Dinosaurs", how did this make you feel?
Tim: Having my first book published was a great experience. I really enjoyed all the different tasks involved in producing a book. It's a huge job, and takes about 7 or 8 months, although "Care and Feeding" took almost 2 years from start to finish.
TFATM: In the last two years you have worked on the books Paleo Sharks and Paleo Bugs (released in April 2008), what's next on your list?
Tim: I have several more book projects I am pitching at the moment. Hopefully, one of those will take off, and I will keep cranking out books. I had some exciting news about my book "Paleo Sharks" this past week-it was recommended by kids' book author Jon Scieszka, who has been appointed by the U.S. Library of Congress as the national ambassador for young people's literature. That was nice to hear.
TFATM: How did you get involved with Universal Studios Jurassic Park Institute and can you tell us more about what you did?
Tim: I was referred to Universal by an acquaintance I made while working for a museum exhibitry company (that built animatronic dinosaurs). He heard Universal needed someone to draw a large number of dino illustrations, and suggested me. I met with the team developing the web site, and they liked my samples, and that was that. I ultimately produced over 400 dinosaur illustrations-you can see them on Yahoo in the kids section. You can see them at: http://kids.yahoo.com/dinosaurs
TFATM: With Jurassic Park 4 in pre-production, and Hasbro having produced tie-in figures for the three previous movies, would you like to work on this line?
Tim: Sure-I would love to continue working with the Jurassic Park property in some way.
TFATM: Are there any Dinosaurs that you would love to see appearing in JP4? As you know, we'd love to see the Baryonyx turn up but that's unlikely since its "cousin" was in the 3rd film.
Tim: I'd actually like to see some of the more primitive dinosaurs and reptiles from the Triassic era that people might not recognize, but are just as cool. Herrerasaurus would be cool, I think. Yeah, I think you may be out of luck getting Baryonyx in the next JP film, although it is a very cool dinosaur.
TFATM: When working on the illustrations from your books, were there any creatures that you found particular hard to research?
Tim: Pretty much everything in Paleo Sharks and Paleo Bugs. Sharks don't fossilize well at all, and neither do insects, so I had to deal with paleontologists to make sure my art and text reflected what is known about those creatures. I actually visited with a paleontologist at the London Natural History Museum for Paleo Bugs, and got to look at their collection of ancient arthropod fossils they keep in the "back rooms" of the museum. That was a blast. I did the same at the Smithsonian Institute, while I was appearing there for a book signing. Really amazing stuff.
TFATM: It must be quite a challenge to draw an image of something that has been dead for millions of years. How do you go about the process?
Tim: In the case of a dinosaur, I look for skeletal reference, since that really gives a good indication of what the creature would have looked like overall. I make a loose sketch of the skeleton in the pose I want, and then go over that to "flesh it out". Once I have a clean pencil drawing, I scan it into my computer, and add color with a graphics tablet and pen in Photoshop.
TFATM: Dinosaurs, feathers or no feathers?
Tim: Feathers-absolutely. There have been some really amazing finds in China of feather impressions on dinosaur skeletons. They weren't the kind of feathers you see on birds. The kind of feathers dinos had were more like hair, and may have been used for insulation (especially in the case of small dinos, or juveniles). Feathers seem to be a feature of theropod dinosaurs, like the "raptors", or little carnivores. As far as I am aware, there have been no feathers found on herbivores.
We'd like to thank Tim for answering all of our questions, its been a true pleasure.