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July 31, 2010

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Calling all fans of 'Transformers'

ON his first trip to Shanghai, Michelino Paolino, design director of Transformers at the toy maker Hasbro, just had to stop to take a picture as strolling down the street.

What caught his eye was a scooter parked on a narrow street: on its rear bumper was a sticker bearing the famous Decepticons logo.

"We love seeing them (vehicles with Transformers logos)," Paolino says."We see a lot of them driving around, both back in my hometown and here in Shanghai. It opens up your imagination, as if the scenes from the 'Transformers' movie were actually taking place in the real world."

Paolino is in town for the 2010 Transformers Cybertron Conference, a large-scale exhibition of Transformers featuring toys, movies, books and related products. It is the first of its kind to be held in Asia, and is certainly one of the largest Transformers conventions ever held in the world.

"I heard there is a huge fan following for Transformers in China," Paolino says, adding that the convention is a great chance to learn about Transformers' past and future.

More than 3,000 figures on exhibit represent different generations of the "Robots in Disguise" since it was first introduced in 1984, including a 7-meter-high Bumblebee statue made specially for the event.

"All the exhibits, especially those characters and weapons from the past, have inspired me greatly," Paolino says.

Before he designs a toy, he goes through movie scripts carefully to capture key moments that can be developed into toys.

"I hope the toys will let Transformers fans relive movie moments when playing with them in real life," he says.

The design director is also expanding Transformers for not only the collectors but also for children, the new generation of Transformers fans, and aiming for new experiences.

"Transformers is an interesting brand because it caters to different groups, including casual collectors, deep collectors and new fans who are mostly kids," he says.

Some products are geared for older collectors and older kids, while new fans may only want to play with characters they have seen in movies, not getting into elaborate transformations and their history.

Hasbro, one of the world's largest toy makers, has come up with more basic figures with simpler ways of transformation designed for the new generation of fans.

"We hope one day they will grow to become collectors, or even become Transformers designers just like me," Paolino adds.

Not too many people are able to transform their childhood fantasies into a career.

"I enjoy playing Transformers with my eight-year-old nephew," says the 35-year-old designer. "I watched those characters on TV when I was little; and now, my nephew is learning about them from the movies.

"It feels so special watching a new generation growing up with the Transformers differently than the way we grew up with them," he continues. "But the enjoyment and fantasy about those vehicles turning into massive robots remain the same."

In Shanghai, Paolino and his colleagues from the US will give lectures on the history and evolution of the Transformers, and seminars on how to draw them. "We're so excited and we're prepared to see large crowds," he says.


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