COUNTDOWN: Transformers 2007 – how the 13 robots evolved from concept art (part 1)

This month is the anniversary of the first live-action Transformers film, which was released on the 3rd July 2007 in the United States (although not until the 27th in the UK – boooo!). Anyway, as it’s somehow rather unbelievable that fourteen years have passed since then, it seemed like a great opportunity to mark the occasion by looking back at some of the concept art produced as part of getting the film made.

Many of the characters involved went through significant redesign (some much more than others!), which is perhaps not too surprising when you consider how different the aesthetic was to anything seen in Transformers prior to that. So, here’s a Countdown of how the 13 robots seen in the film evolved from those original designs.

For part 1 today, it’s all about Autobots…

 

#13: Jazz

Image credit: The Spacebridge

As one of the more iconic Autobots from the original Transformers series, a lot of fans were excited to see him crop up in the 2007 film too. Of course, he went through a sizeable overhaul on his journey to the big screen, although arguably he’s still one of the more faithful compared to his original G1 presentation. As you can see from the sketches above, the designers clearly started with something much closer to what fans of the classic cartoon may have first expected, before taking it on a bit of an evolution!

It seems as though Jazz was intended to have two distinct eyes, along with a battle mask of sorts being considered (instead of the final visor seen in the film). Much of the rest of his design has started to take its final form, however, although it’s interesting to note that he had slightly more traditional hands at this stage (albeit with only two fingers on each claw).

Image credit: The Spacebridge

Image credit: The Spacebridge

Here we get a look at some of the weapons concepts that were considered, much of which was seen in the actual film, before it was all finalised in the design seen below. Again, it’s definitely amongst the more faithful designs versus the G1 Transformers series.

 

 

#12: Ratchet

Image credit: The Spacebridge

One thing most people will first think of in regards Autobot medic, Ratchet is no doubt the colour. Whereas he’s traditionally known for being white with red highlights, in the 2007 film he was a very weird shade of greeny-yellow, which felt like quite a departure at the time. Well, interestingly, he was originally conceived as being a bit closer to his classic colour scheme, as shown above!

Image credit: The Spacebridge

A later revision saw much more red injected into his appearance, with the alternate form boasting slightly more recognisable fire department colours too. The above also shows how the robot design was still being revised at this stage, with various bits of vehicle mode kibble being streamlined or removed to allow for “fluid, graceful movement”.

Image credit: Ben Procter

Here’s a clearer look at the more streamlined robot mode at this stage, which still feels like something that would have worked well in the world depicted in the film. This was evidently the working design for the character for some time.

Image credit: The Spacebridge

That all changed, of course, because at some point Ratchet went through a major overhaul, coming much closer to the design we saw in the final film. The basic shape of the body and transformation scheme seem to be largely the same, although a lot of the details and aesthetics have changed, and rather obviously we now have the greenish colour seen on the big screen. The face looks to still have a mouth plate at this stage, however.

It seems as though that design then went through some more tweaks, most notably in the head, as you can start to see the strange face shape creeping through before it ended up looking like the final thing, below. Ratchet is definitely one of the Autobots that went through the most revisions!

 

#11: Ironhide

Image credit: Ben Procter

By comparison to Ratchet, it seems like Ironhide’s evolution was relatively straightforward. The concept artwork above shows most of the familiar elements already in place, with only a few detailed tweaks needed to bring us to the final result, below. This is likely due to the fact that Ironhide was actually confirmed for the Autobot roster much later into the film’s production process than any of the other characters, having not been considered initially. Whilst characters such as Ratchet & Jazz were likely tweaked at the same time as the film’s overall aesthetic was being designed, perhaps Ironhide’s later addition meant that he didn’t need such a big span of development.

 

#10: Arcee

Image credit: Ben Procter

So, instead of Ironhide, there was originally another Autobot intended for the main cast – Arcee! In common with subsequent other depictions of the character, she would have transformed into a motorcycle and clearly went through a large number of redesigns before ultimately being cut from the story altogether. The first image, above, shows a very simplified “Bikebot” concept, taken from a time when the aesthetic for the film was still evolving into what we eventually saw.

Image credit: Ben Procter

That developed into what you see above, now officially known as Arcee. It’s still a very strange design in many ways, but certainly would have been interesting to see in motion!

Image credit: Ben Procter

Further revisions brought the character a little closer to the look of some of the other robots featured in the film, most notably the Decepticon, Frenzy, in many ways! The alternate form was settled on by this point, as well.

Image credit: Ben Procter

Then finally, the above image appears to be as close to a final design as the character came (as far as we know, anyway). Ultimately, she was dropped relatively far along into production in favour of Ironhide, with the explanation being that it avoided the script having to explain the presence of a female Autobot (even though it’s something the original Transformers cartoon managed just fine). Still, the character would be picked up again for the sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, though she went through another extensive redesign by that point, and was now presented with a much less humanoid robot form.

It’s fascinating to imagine how different the film might have been with the original line-up of Autobots still in play, not to mention with the earlier designs for characters like Ratchet being used. Evidently, scale was a big consideration in some of these changes too, and one can sort of imagine why when looking at the original roster below!

Image credit: The Spacebridge

 

Anyway, that’s part 1 of our list. Join us next time when we’ll be looking at some of the bad guys…

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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