Toyfare Interviews Hasbro CEO

09/12/2008 0 By Administratus Prime

 Brian Goldner has a bunch of really awesome titles. Not only is he the Chief Executive Officer of Hasbro, he also serves as the Executive Producer of 2007’s “Transformers” feature film, this June’s sequel, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and the producer of August’s “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.”

In this exclusive interview, ToyFare speaks with Goldner about what Hasbro learned from “Transformers,” what fans can look forward to from 2009’s two big films, and whether we’ll see other Hasbro properties take the trip to the big screen.

TOYFARE: Can you describe your role in bringing Hasbro properties to the movies?
GOLDNER: Well at Hasbro, we are very focused on reimagining and reinventing Hasbro brands. For some of our properties, getting our brands onto the big screen was an early objective of ours as we began to work to turn the company around back in the early 2000s. The brand that we had first in mind for this was G.I. Joe, then Transformers. It just turns out that Transformers got to the big screen before G.I. Joe.


What are some of your duties as a producer?
GOLDNER: My first job, in effect, was to help put together the team and the studios that would turn Transformers into a major motion picture. The second was, of course, to create the enterprise. The idea at Hasbro is that we’re able to create these big immersive brand experiences, these multi-layer opportunities for consumers to experience our brands, any time and anywhere they want, in any form or format that they would want. So of course that means not only Hasbro working on its toys and games, but our licensing partners, video game partners, promotional partners, studio partners, all working together in concert to create the experience that we were able to create in 2007 with the first Transformers movie.

G.I. Joe has had several iterations through the years. How early in the process was the decision made to focus on Joe Vs. Cobra?
GOLDNER: From the very beginning, our feeling was that the comic book movie direction, based on the comic books, animation and the ’80s G.I. Joe Vs. Cobra story, was a great big mythology that had so many opportunities to tell a new story in a contemporary way. And I think over time, many of the folks we were working with saw it that way as well. And then we were able to get momentum into that project as a result. And then Steve Sommers came on board, and Stuart Beatty, our writer, wrote a great script, and then we were off to the races.

Once the basic decision was made, does Hasbro get involved with saying, “We’d really like to see Character X and Character Y,” or do you really just leave it in the hands of your creative partners?
GOLDNER: We worked hand in glove with the studios throughout on “Transformers,” working from a design standpoint, from a character standpoint, as well as from the story standpoint, from the kind of core mythology and helping the filmmakers to understand the beats of the core mythology that we think they can play off of for the first movie. And then the second movie, “Revenge of the Fallen,” is all really rooted in fundamental mythology of Transformers. In G.I. Joe, very similarly, there are some key characters that we thought were very important.

How much do you consider the opinions of hardcore fans of the franchise when making decisions for the films?
GOLDNER: The hardcore fans are an integral part of the thought process. From the very beginning as we thought about “Transformers,” we thought about a lot of the characters fans would want to see and the story that we should tell. The second movie is something I think the fans will really enjoy because, again, I think it’s a core story that they’ll appreciate. But of course it’s got to be told in a broad enough way, in a contemporary way, in an action-oriented way, to allow for all audiences to enjoy it as a big summer movie. And I think the fans appreciate that as well, because if you’re a fan of something and you’ve grown up on something, there’s nothing better than having a great movie that other people enjoy. It’s a sharing process for them, and yet we want to be true to the things that we know they’ve loved since the very beginning. That’s very much what we thought about in “G.I. Joe.” We wanted to make sure that we had that element of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow; we wouldn’t be able to tell the entire origin story and go in through the entire Arashikage Clan story, but yet we would have beats of that that would certainly be reminiscent for the fans of those stories that were told back in the ’80s, but yet tell it in a broad enough way that someone who doesn’t understand the specifics could still understand the idea of these two ninjas who are diametrically opposed and are sworn enemies.

Was there any particular fan feedback on the first “Transformers” that you took into account for the sequel?
GOLDNER: Well, you know, I still remember a week or two after the first “Transformers” came to theaters and it was showing itself to be a big success, when USA Today ran this poll about what characters you want to see in the next movie, and how many people had come in and voted on that. There were fans who said, “We want the Dinobots,” and there were fans of course who wanted to focus on the Constructicons. So all the different species and genres of Transformers are certainly such a deep-seated part of the mythology, but you can only tell so much story in each of the next movies, otherwise you lose people. So what we did is, we focused in on some of those things that the fans told us from a very early stage that they wanted to see in the next movie—of course I won’t tell you which ones they 
are. [Laughs]

But you guys are paying attention.
GOLDNER: Constantly. And I think what’s great about our creative teams, our filmmaking teams is, they get it. They absolutely understand how to strike that balance, and they want to strike that balance and understand the core fan feedback. Because at the very heart, that’s the thread that will hold the franchise together forever, if you’ll honor that. And then of course, they also are great filmmakers and in their own right they also have the ability to reinvent the brand in a completely unexpected way.

How has Hasbro’s relationship with Hollywood changed since the success of “Transformers?”
GOLDNER: I think creative stewards are beginning to think about all the properties and brands of ours that they enjoyed as young people or with their families, and how they might turn those into great new stories to tell for future generations. So it’s been that process of engagement, and then Hasbro’s investment in making sure that we have the team on the ground to make that a reality. Our new relationship with Universal Pictures is part of that, in making four more films over the next six years on other new properties, and hiring great talent to help us to lead that [Editor’s Note: Films announced as being in development with Universal include Monopoly, Clue, Battleship and Magic: The Gathering]. Working with great video game partners like Electronic Arts is part of that entertainment process. So for every brand in Hasbro’s portfolio, we need to think of the right recipe to create that whole and immersive brand experience.

Is it possible that films could be used to resurrect defunct brands from the classic Hasbro catalogue?
GOLDNER: I think that’s a great idea. I’ll give you one, actually, that’s something that we’re working on that hasn’t taken shape. If you remember Stretch Armstrong, there’s an opportunity to tell this great backstory of who Stretch Armstrong is, and why he’s so incredible and yet funny. Similarly, we have other properties in our boys’ portfolio that we’ve looked at; there are properties out there that are not Hasbro properties that we’re looking at as potential opportunities for us. I think the other thing we’ve seen with our motion picture
business is just how global these brands can be. If you think about just how successful Transformers was in so many territories… the fact that it was the second-biggest movie of all time in China, and the kind of fan following it has built around the world… It just speaks to the opportunity for the company to tell these big stories and to create these immersive experiences. So not every brand needs a major motion picture. But every brand will be regularly reimagined in whatever form or format the consumers of that brand would expect or would enjoy.

Source: Wizard Universe