Floro Dery is a professional artist and production designer who worked on The Transformers property for Hasbro/Sunbow/Marvel. He is known to have worked on model sheets, backgrounds and original character designs for Transformers The Movie (1986) not based on existing toys. Dery is credited in the final version of the movie for “Original Concept Design”.
Other notable works include the Spider-Man newspaper strip, animated shows Visionaries (1987), The Transformers (1984), Spider-Man (1994) and The Pirates of Dark Water (1991). Dery is a competent artist and all rounder with skills in traditional comic book art, animation models, storyboards, design and traditional fantasy art in pencil, ink or paint.
Dery created the visual design of the new movie characters. These characters were not based on any existing toys. Instead the characters were designed first, and the toys afterward – the reverse of the usual process when looking at the cartoon series that preceded the movie.
The Dery designed movie main characters are: Hot Rod, Arcee, Blur, Kup, Wheelie, Springer, Cyclonus, Scourge, Unicron, Wreck-Gar, Sharkticons, Quintessons and of course the new leader of the decepticons Galvatron.
These movie characters share a few common themes and aesthetics.
These Floroformers are more humanoid in appearance, looking more like typical mecha and humans in suits than big boxy square robots. They also use more pastel type colors, rather than the primary flat colors of the usual Generation One crew. The exception was Ultra Magnus – the final movie version based on an existing Diaclone toy, and not on Dery’s designs.
You can read the full article on Floroformers at The TF Theoretician blog. A great read, follow the link just below. Incidentally, this fellow blogger is the Transformers fan who inspired me to start my own Transformers Blog.
NEW WAVE PROBOTS AND ROBOPHOBES
This image (below) from a piece of promotional art has the contrast of the old school square boxy Megatron and Insecticons to the left in the flat dark colors juxtaposed with Springer and the curvy new wave Floroformers in a skittles rainbow of soft pastel colors. These two features make the characters stand out dramatically from the older Season 1 main characters showing the organic often feminine influence of Dery’s stylized movie robots.
SUPER SPACE ROBOT WARS
It’s no secret that Transformers: The Movie draws several parallels with Star Wars (1977). Apart from the most generic sense being a space fantasy opera – it has in particular:
*A planet (or moon) sized weapon of ultimate mass destruction
*A young naive character who refuses the call to be a hero, and later wields an object of power to become a hero and a leader
*A wise mentor figure
*An experienced hero/rogue who guides our young naive Autobot
*A female Autobot who literally has Princess Leia’s sidebun hairdo incorporated into her design, and is also an action heroine in her own right
*An evil shadowy figure who dies and is literally reborn and serves a dark manipulative master
*Comical sidekick characters you either love or hate
“Arcee is the naked mechanical equivalent of Princess Leia of Star Wars” – Floro Dery
For more examples, check out this Japanese movie poster art which looks like a fun homage to a certain other famous movie poster. Also, some versions of the Transformers Movie did away with the opening narration and instead added in a scrolling story pre-amble text in a familiar slow crawl.
ATOMIC POWERED AUTOMATONS
Compare Dery’s concept design for Ultra Magnus with the actual screen used character based on the Diaclone Powered Convoy toy. We can clearly see the extremes of the organic influenced Floroformer vs the traditional Big Square Boxy Japanese design of the 1970’s and 1980’s typical of super robots and mecha.
Dery’s Ultra Magnus concept is radically different to the version we got in the finished film. Take a closer look and you’ll see it’s a familiar design that was recycled and used as Orion Pax – the Autobot who would one day become Optimus Prime, ironic considering the original Optimus Prime toy was the base robot for the souped up Powered Convoy that later became the base model for Ultra Magnus.
In the early retailer preview of the movie, we catch a brief glimpse of Magnus in his original Powered Convoy toy colors. His final form is the more familiar colors we all know and love. Although, the original toy color scheme is one of the best designs ever made in any Transformers toy line in my opinion.
In Dery’s early designs, the characters were even more rounded and cylindrical. More human like figures. The final designs were modified somewhat for the finished film giving some of the characters more squared off angles, and less.. well.. *Flow*. Making them more recognizable as not just robots, but Transformers style robots.
It’s a fair concession that no concept art would appear “as is” in the final film, concepts are for teasing out ideas and possible versions that lead to the final character model, which was ultimately up to Hasbro/Marvel and the core movie production staff who could use, reject or modify any of Dery’s concepts as they saw fit.
In addition to designing the new characters for the Transformer movie, Floro Dery also came up with most of the visual settings and locations for the movie. Dery was tasked with concept designs such as backgrounds, buildings, settings and worlds such as Lithone, Quintessa, The Decepticon Hall of Heroes and the kaleidoscopic maze of terror that is Unicron’s Interior. Many of Dery’s designs were used in the final film and others were rejected or recycled elsewhere into the post movie Season 3 of The Transformers.
Other contributions to the film from Dery included designs such as the Sharkticons and Quintessons along with their world, the robot fish and giant robo-octopus that battle and nearly kill Kup and Hot Rod. Dery’s contributions to the production can really not be understated. On the one hand, he did a contract job and was paid for very specific things based on what the staff asked for, on the other hand he went above and beyond creating worlds and the visuals for new characters that have since become iconic and memorable to fans in their own right.
THE WAR IS OVER
The surviving characters (and some who never appeared at all) in the movie from the G1 TV show were integrated into a new line up for Season 3 along with the new Dery designed movie characters bringing us back to a sense of the more familiar.
Not only did Season 3 showcase many of our old pre-movie favorites, but several characters who supposedly died in the movie turn up in random episodes of Season 3, either as themselves (animation/ continuity errors) or as reused character background models in different colors.
This post movie mixed crew would also go on to feature briefly in Japanese series The Headmasters before that show branched off into its own sidestory about the battles between Headmasters Fortress Maximus and Scorponok/Zarak.
Headmasters ran with its own continuity and took characters from the movie, Season 3 and toylines of the time such as Chromedome and Hardhead into a melange of exciting new possibilities.
STOP, THIEF! NO WELCOME-WAGON “HELLO STRANGER WITH THAT NEW COFFEE FLAVOR FOR YOU!”
Other notable Floro Dery contributions to Transformers Generation One include the Fembots and Alpha Trion in The Search for Alpha Trion and Autobot bounty hunter Devcon in The Gambler. The basic design and alt mode of Devcon would be reworked into Scourge/Sweeps (mentioned by Dery in one of his few interviews) and also of note is the pointy antenna on his head that would be featured on Blurr.
After being forgotten about for many years (the fembots appeared in only a single episode out of 98 episodes, sometimes left out of syndication) the Cybertronian Fembots have finally had some mainline toys made including Chromia, Novastar, Elita-1 and more. These toys, unlike the old movie toys are full of the Dery Curves, or Floroformer look.
Scourge is perhaps the ultimate Floroformer. He has smooth curves to him in both robot and alt mode. He has feminine curves and pointy witch-like toes/boots and his animal claws/nails would later strangely have the look of nail polish added in to his final model.
Despite his intentionally alien nature Scourge still bears Dery’s distinctive organic influenced design or “Flow”. Compare Blur’s square old school mecha arms and legs with hard squared off edges to Scourge’s human like arms and legs with animal like claws/talons as fingertips.
Scourge’s final model would be beefed up to more macho proportions from his earlier waif like feminine appearance – but still retain the basic feminine Floroformer look. His boot toes now looking less like Euro-fashion ladies boots and more like a menacing bladed weapon to go with his claws.
The pink nail polish highlight draws attention to these areas while giving a nice subtle color contrast to the wall of soft blues and greys.
Scourge wings now spread wide like Dracula and he stands defiantly, a strong and masculine pose in contrast to Dery’s picture on the left where is hunched over, gaunt, looking downward with his wings closer in like a meek bird about to feed on seeds. Scourge’s alt mode remains basically unchanged as it fit with the motif the writers asked for, that of futuristic cars and spacecraft, most of which comes across with the look of nineteen fifties American concept sports cars or typical European sci-fi fantasy art.
ROUND AND ROUNDER
While a large scale endeavor such as an animated film is a Herculean group effort – the impression given from various production staff and Floro Dery himself in interviews is that he worked on his concepts and designs solo, doing whatever he pleased – some of it wildly different to the end results in the film, and very different than what the production specifically asked for.
Dery has openly admitted to having big ideas of things he wanted to include. Many of those ideas didn’t match the writers intent, but other ideas did so with enough material produced – the producers could pick through which Deryism’s matched their vision and reject what didn’t follow the intention of the overall production.
It’s the artist job to dream big, and the editor/producers job to cut away the unessential.
As stunning and intricate as the giant hand like Autobot City with fingers stretching upward and it’s Attack Mode is, the design was rejected and instead the stock standard Fortress Outpost with kibble bits design that was approved. This basic New York city looking design was then recycled endlessly in Season 3 as well as The Headmasters (where you can sometimes see Metroplex cheekily parked out the back, or nearby).
THE END OF EVERYTHING
The biggest spectacle in Transformers The Movie (other than the death of most of our beloved characters) was Unicron. Inspired by Marvel’s Galactus and the Death Star, with a little bit of the devil thrown in, and you get Unicron – the giant planet (or moon) sized Chaos Bringer, destroyer of worlds.
While his visual design is original – that of a giant robot devil – his role and function is almost identical to Galactus. Unicron travels the galaxy devouring worlds with his cosmically powered Herald. The final Unicron design retains the claws and horns of Dery’s organic influences, but is definitely a more male strong looking character without some of the sexier feminine design motifs of Galvatron or Scourge.
Whether Unicron destroys everything out of boredom or purely to feed his enormous energy needs we never find out. Unicron’s motivations in the movie are almost non-existent. He simply exists, he is implicitly evil (or a force of robo-nature) and our heroes must find a way to end his imminent threat to all life.
Also borrowed right out of the old Marvel/Fantastic Four playbook is that Unicron – like Galactus – has the power to make heralds. Beings who are mind-controlled to do his bidding and receive a portion of his own power, and take on a new form in the process after making a choice of their own free will to become a herald. Thus Galvatron and the Silver Surfer share this tangential relationship of being transformed into powered up forms courtesy of their master.
If it seems like anybody is getting ripped off here, relax – don’t forget it was the old east coast LA based Marvel Productions that worked on the original Transformers TV show.
Many of the writers and people associated with the show were old ham’s – Marvel comic book and animation writers, and people that knew classic stories like Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four quite well and worked on other shows too like G.I. Joe, Robocop, X-Men, Biker Mice, Muppet Babies etc.
Marvel US and UK (the publishing arms or Marvel) also did the ongoing Transformers comic books of the 1980’s while their LA studio handled animation contracts and the licensing of movie and TV properties into comic books for the New York and London based operations.
ALL EXPLOSIONS ALL THE TIME
For reasons unexplained Unicrons only weakness is The Matrix, not unlike Superman and Kryptonite. In earlier revisions of the movie plot Cybertron was also going to transform into a giant-ass planet former as Unicron’s equal and opposite.
Yes, friends, and now destroy Unicron, kill the grand poohbah, eliminate even the toughest stains
In the older redacted story, Optimus Prime was to travel to the heart of Cybertron and use the Matrix as a key to transform Cybertron into its robot mode to fight unicron.
This plot element was dropped, leaving Hot Rod to simply open the matrix inside Unicron causing him to spontaneously explode for no good reason in a rather anti-climactic ending after the build up of the first two thirds of the film.
A sidenote here is that Dery envisioned the design of The Matrix as like a thermonuclear bomb, thus explaining it’s atom-like core. However that’s not really part of the script or story, also in theory it should have blown up everybody inside Unicron too with its plasma energy explosion – but for whatever reason conveniently only affects Unicron.
To be fair in the classic Fantastic Four Galactus storyline the heroes faced a similar world ending threat and the Silver Surfer tells the F4 leader Reed Richards of the “Ultimate Nullifier” – an overpowered plot MacGuffin weapon that Galactus *conveniently* keeps laying around where it can be easily stolen and used to beat him.
A nonsense technological device or mystical artifact that can conveniently dispatch a stories unbeatable villain was nothing new then or now in popular fiction.
Still at least if the writers, producers and artists of Transformers The Movie (1986) borrowed liberally from other sources they were genuinely good sources to borrow from such as Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four (1966) and George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977).
With Unicron going ‘KER-SPLODE at the end of the film, we are left reeling in the aftermath with our new cast of heroes, the Floroformers who would go on to star in toy aisles across the nation sales and be featured in Season 3, leaving kids who loved the Season One and Two cast with endless nightmares wondering “What did I just see?”.
In the final moments, our heroes rejoice having beaten Unicron and have smiles upon their faces typical of the end credits freeze frame of eighties television – a moment that is at odds with the grim and serious tone of everything that happened before that moment in the film so far. Our new cast, the Floroformers are here to stay and the tone is set for them to be integrated into Season 3 of the ongoing Transformers TV show.
Coming up in this TRANSFORMERS 1986 MOVIE blog series I’ll be taking a look at some of the key sequences of the film, delve further into Dery’s unique world and background design and dispel (or add to) some rumors and misinformation about the films production that persist to this day.
Such as the tangled connections between Autobot City, Metroplex and Fortress Maximus. For the record, Metroplex never appeared in Transformers The Movie, despite being a staple of Season 3 and often also literally referred to as “Autobot City”.
*Diaclone colored Ultra Magnus from Transformer The Movie Retailer Preview / video uploaded to youtube by “The Spacebridge”
*Galvatron TFUK comic cover recreation by Kevin Gorman
*Unicron attacking / eating Death Star by Matthew Corderman
*Screen caps by myself from Transformers The Movie Blu-Ray Anniversary Edition.
*Floro Dery original concept art in watercolor by Floro Dery
*Dery/Kohara model simplification image from Transformers Wiki / TFWIKI.NET https://tfwiki.net/wiki/Floro_Dery
*Spider-Man newspaper strip art from 13th Dimension https://13thdimension.com/the-spider-man-art-unseen-in-more-than-30-years/
*Season 3 cast Transformers art by Dan Khanna https://www.deviantart.com/dan-the-artguy
*Headmasters DVD cover art by Guido Guidi https://www.deviantart.com/guidoguidi