Transformers 3's Optimus, Bumblebee getting makeovers

As the third Transformers movie gears up preproduction this month, we've learned that Optumus Prime and Bumblebee will get a makeover. The Industrial Light & Magic team is hard at work updating the robots in disguise for their third big screen adventure.

"Our two lead characters, Optimus and Bumblebee, needed to be updated for the next chapter in the Transformers series," said animation supervisor Scott Benza in an exclusive interview Sunday at the Visual Effects Society Awards in Century City, Calif., where he and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar were nominees. "Bumblebee's matured a little bit, so I would just say look for subtle changes to his physique that have him look more mature."

Subtlety might not be what you expect from a Michael Bay movie, but Farrar suggested the changes to Prime would be of the easter-egg variety that only true fans would notice. "[Prime will have] little tiny things that maybe the average viewer isn't going to notice but probably the fanboys will," Farrar said. "You actually will run into pieces that are maybe always in the way, and wouldn't it be nice if that part wasn't there? Maybe you make a shift in the shoulder, in the chest or what have you. So it might be proportioning, but it also might be for usability, so [the animators]' task could be easier, too."

Benza added that Prime's updates would be badass. "We always want the robots to look cooler than they did the last time, so he's going to look a little more heroic, I would say," Benza said.


The script for the third film is not yet finished, but the ILM artists have been privy to important details. "There's an outline and most of the script is done," Farrar said. "It hasn't been released to us completely because they want to keep that under wraps, but we certainly know enough. Michael [Bay] turns over sections of the script, and then the art department is full steam ahead right now, the L.A. art department. We also have an ILM art department working on this at the same time. So we take their 2-D work and start turning it into 3-D models, because we like to get a jump-start on this. Any model that looks like it could start, we want to get going, because it'll take us 30 weeks to build it."

Of course, the artists do need to know what the robots will be called upon to do so they can prepare their computer models. "Yeah, that plays a part in how detailed they're built out," Benza said. "If we've got robots that are going to have a lot of screen time, a lot of close-ups, they're definitely going to get more attention in the model and rigging."

They will also be developing more new robot characters, hopefully cooler than Mudflap and Skids. "Yes, we are," Farrar said. "We can't say anything, but these are great big difficult movies, and it's a long haul for everybody. It's not easy stuff, so we're pretty pooped when we get done with a movie. We have a little rest time, and I know it's dumb, but some of these new ideas come along and you start to get excited again. Yes, some really great ideas for characters."

Which new Autobots or Decepticons would you like to see in a third Transformers?

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