Having written the first two Transformers movies, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were ready to take a break from the robots-in-disguise franchise. "We'd spent more time on Transformers than we even spent going to college, so we figured maybe it was time to take a break," Orci tells TV Guide Magazine. "But then (Hasbro chief executive) Brian Goldner came to us and asked if we wanted to do an animated series."
That new program, Transformers Prime, bowed last fall as a five-part miniseries, but now returns as a full-fledged series this Friday, Feb. 11, at 6:30/5:30c on The Hub, the new kids channel formed by Hasbro and Discovery Communications. The Hub ordered 26 episodes for season one, and has already given Transformers Prime an early Season 2 order as well.
Kurtzman and Orci have plenty on their plate in both features and TV through their K/O Paper Products production company (including the upcoming Fox pilots Locke and Key and Exit Strategy). But for the duo saw more than meets the eye in tackling animation.
"It felt like we left things undone [with the movies]," Orci says.
Orci and Kurtzman (who weren't involved in the upcoming third Transformers movie) were most excited about the ability to focus more on the autobots and decepticon characters — the heavy metal that most fans want to see. In a live-action theatrical like Orci's and Kurtzman's two movies, the cost of creating those characters is "exorbitant," Kurtzman says. But in animation, once you've created the CG character, you're set. "You want to hang out with the characters from Cybertron (the fictional planet from which the Transformers hail) as much as possible," Orci says.
But unlike the movies, which were geared toward a broad, popcorn-eating audience, Transformers Prime (by nature of its home on The Hub) is targeting a younger crowd. That's where fellow executive producer Jeff Kline comes in. Kline, whose credits include animated series such as Jackie Chan Adventures and Harold and the Purple Crayon, helped guide Orci and Kurtzman in making sure Transformers Prime didn't scare off kids.
But Kline stresses that targeting young audiences doesn't necessarily mean dumbing the show down. "We don't need to write down to kids," Kline says. "We don't need to simplify. They'll follow you in stories. There were very few times in the room where we thought something was too mature."
Nonetheless, Kline said the producers were cognizant of how far they should go with depictions of violence, and stayed away from any type of romance story line. Says Orci: "Partnering with Jeff was key. He has so much experience in that world, and I didn't know a hell of a lot."
Orci says he believes Transformers Prime offers the "most sophisticated" take yet on the franchise — including a score by Brian Tyler (who also recently arranged the new take on Hawaii Five-0's theme song) and the deliberate decision to light every scene like it's a live-action film. "We're making sure the stories aren't just commercials," Orci says.
Adds Kline: "Every shot was from a filmic standpoint. This is like a movie, but hopefully a movie that lasts 65 or more episodes."