‘Transformers One’ Was Influenced by the World of ‘Dune’


The Big Picture

  • Transformers One turns to unique animation inspired by original G1 designs for the origin story.
  • Cybertron serves as the setting for the film, focusing on the relationship between Optimus Prime and Megatron.
  • Director Cooley teases tantalizing details like a potential trilogy, Jon Hamm and Steve Buscemi’s characters, and the film’s stunning 3D visuals.

For a tale too massive to be live-action, Academy Award-winning director Josh Cooley‘s (Toy Story 4) origin story, Transformers One, turns to a unique style of animation, inspired by the original G1 designs. The highly-anticipated blockbuster is set to release later this fall, and Cooley promises not only will its visuals be striking, but it’s going to be jam-packed with nostalgia and Easter eggs for “hardcore fans,” while telling the story of how the franchise’s titans, Optimus Prime and Megatron, first met. Ahead of the first official trailer’s launch, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Cooley to find out what details the director was able to share.

In Transformers One, there are no humans and no Earth. Instead, Cybertron is the vast planet our four heroes converge on. This is the place where a young Orion Pax (Optimus Prime), voiced by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and D-16 (Megatron), voiced by Brian Tyree Henry (Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire) become brothers-in-arms, and unite with Bumblebee (Keegan-Michael Key) and Elita (Scarlett Johansson). These young Autobots have only just been granted the power to transform and are beginning to explore their world around them, but they’ll need to harness this power quickly in order to unite and help save their home when Cyberton falls under attack.

Check out the full interview with Cooley in the transcript below, where the director discusses his main goal for Transformers One, why the first 3D footage he saw pissed him off, and the potential for a trilogy. Cooley also teases Jon Hamm‘s (Mad Men) character, Sentinel Prime, and who Steve Buscemi, who voiced Daytrader in Michael Bay‘s Transformers: The Last Knight, plays, the antagonist of the film, and tons more.

Transformers One

Release Date
September 20, 2024

Josh Cooley

Andrew Barrer , Steve Desmond , Gabriel Ferrari , Michael Sherman

Is ‘Transformers One’ the First of Trilogy?

COLLIDER: Lorenzo [di Bonaventura], when I spoke to him last year, told me that his hope was that this could lead to a natural trilogy of films. When you’re making something like this where you know that they’re hoping for sequels, how much are you planting seeds for what’s to come, and how much are you like, “I’ve just got to make the best film I can and we’ll worry about sequels later?”

JOSH COOLEY: For me, as a filmmaker, it’s about the film that we’re making now. But knowing that this story does lead to future stories, I think that’s just part of where we are in the lore, and so the big thing for me was like, “Okay, we all know Optimus and Megatron are enemies, what they’ll become, but in this story we’re seeing before, Orion Pax and D-16. So that relationship was everything for me. It was just going, “How can we see this relationship that we love fall apart?” If that works, then future stories are kind of inevitable. But for this film, it was just about that relationship.


‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’ Producer on How It Differs From Michael Bay’s Movies [Exclusive]

We also asked Lorenzo di Bonaventura who he thinks is stronger: Optimus Prime or Optimus Primal?

Optimus Prime and Megatron Meet in ‘Transformers One’

Orion Pax and D-16 on the poster for Transformers One
Image via Paramount

Do you show the first time that they meet in the film, or are they sort of already friendly?

COOLEY: We do show the first time.

I think it’s in the trailer. Is it when they’re in that office together?


Okay, so it’s something else. Talk about putting that scene together, because I’m sure fans are going to be interested in that.

COOLEY: That was one of the most important scenes in the film, and it was important to hold on to that. It’s presented in a way I don’t think the audience will expect. I’ll put it that way.

‘Transformers One’ Is Even Better in 3D

I was at CinemaCon and saw the footage in 3D, and it looked great. I’m a big fan of animated movies in 3D because I think that they can be done very well. Is this one of those films where you’re gonna recommend to people to see it in 3D?

COOLEY: I gotta say, absolutely. I’m not the first one to want to go out and see a movie in 3D. I do think animated films look fantastic in 3D, but when they first showed me the first footage of this film, the test they had done in 3D, my mind’s still blown. It looks so good, and actually makes the storytelling even better, which kind of pissed me off. [Laughs] I was like, “God, it even looks better. Most people aren’t gonna see it this way.” But I strongly recommend seeing it in 3D because our world is so detailed. It just makes everything so much more alive as an extra dimension, obviously, but also the scale was so important for this film. Without having humans, you don’t have anything to kind of relate the scale of this world to, and so we went the other direction, which is like, “The world is massive.” Dune was a big influence on that. So it was like, “Let’s go the opposite direction.” The 3D just enhances all of that.

What did you learn from early screenings that impacted the finished film? Did you make any big changes in unexpected ways because an early screening was like, “Oh, this is just not working?”

COOLEY: We were very fortunate in that even early screens when we weren’t even finished with the animation were scoring very well. I will say that it was clear the audience wanted more of the relationship between Orion and D-16, so we went back and added more scenes just to see the two of them, and see how they grew apart from one another.

I am always curious about runtime, so how long is the movie? Is it under two hours or do you think it’ll be like around about two hours?

COOLEY: It’s under two hours.

Animation is incredibly expensive. What is something in the movie that maybe audiences will think didn’t cost that much, but actually cost a fortune?

COOLEY: I’ll just say this, we have a scene that’s basically a flashback but is told in a way where our characters live within the flashback, are experiencing the flashback in real time, almost like AR in a way, and that was a very complicated scene. But it looks absolutely stunning. ILM knocked out of the park.

This ILM company seems to be doing okay with animation.

COOLEY: It’s a nice little start-up, yeah.

What Is ‘Transformers One’s Target Audience?

The Transformers of Transformers One stand in a row in space
Image via Paramount Pictures

One of the things I’m curious about is the trailer footage and the footage I saw at CinemaCon. It definitely makes it seem like it’s aimed, not just solely at kids but it definitely seems like it’s aiming a little younger, which I think is very important because you need to get fresh blood into franchises. Were you aiming at kids? What’s the age range that you guys were thinking about when you’re coming up with the story and the look?

COOLEY: Honestly, it wasn’t like, “We’re gonna aim for a specific age.” It was like, “I want to make a film that is for everyone in the sense that people that grew up watching the original cartoon can take their family to and see it and experience it all together.” So, I agree. The trailer does err on the more fun side of the film, but there are real stakes I think we’ll probably see in future trailers and in the actual film. There’s some serious stakes to this world, and so it has the same kind of action and filmic adventure that Transformers films have. We just haven’t highlighted that quite yet.

But it is for everybody. That was the goal was to set out to make a film that even if you know nothing about Transformers — there’s very few of those people out there — but if you know nothing about it, you can go into this film completely cold and be caught up, and know everything about the world.

Looking at the footage makes me think that perhaps Cybertron is being invaded, and I’m just curious if that’s actually what I put together from the footage?

COOLEY: Which footage?

I think it’s the trailer. It does make it seem like there’s things on the surface messing with everything.

COOLEY: Well, the fun thing about doing this film is this is a sci-fi film. Earth doesn’t exist. We’re on another planet. We’re in space. There could be different types of villains out there — not just robots. So that was a huge plus for me. It was like, “Let’s make a film that’s not just about robots, but about anything else that’s out there.” So, there are other threats.

Who is the Antagonist in ‘Transformers One’?

A formidable looking Transformer employs small, fiery machines towards the camera in Transformers One
Image via Paramount

One of the key things of any film is the antagonist. How much did you guys debate what the antagonist would be? I know you’re hinting at it, but how much did you guys debate it, and ultimately, was it almost something else?

COOLEY: It’s an interesting question because there’s the antagonist for the plot, which is just what’s going on, but then the real antagonist in my mind is what’s happening to this relationship between Orion and D-16. That relationship is what I was always like, “That is the most important thing.” You know what’s funny? Now, I think about it, I don’t think our antagonist for the storyline for the plot ever changed. It was always the same thing, and it was because it was great. I loved it from day one. But the relationship was the thing I was like, “I wanna make sure that this feels like that’s what’s really at stake, no matter who else shows up,” and all that stuff. It’s really about Orion and D-16.

‘Transformers One’ Director Teases Steve Buscemi and Jon Hamm’s Characters

Leonard Nimoy_Sentinel Prime_Dark of the Moon

Who does Steve Buscemi voice?

COOLEY: [Laughs] A great character that you’re gonna love.

A Transformer or something else?

COOLEY: I don’t know what I’m allowed to say. All I know is that he was fantastic to work with, and he’s one of my favorite characters in the film.

What can you say about Sentinel Prime and Jon Hamm’s character?

COOLEY: First of all, Jon Hamm is incredible, and so much fun to work with. He’s such a great voice actor. He’s obviously done car commercials and stuff, so he knows exactly what he’s doing with his voice. There was some great subtlety in it, but he’s also really, really fun. He’s a really fun character in this film.

Is Sentinel Prime a big part of the film?

COOLEY: He’s not one of our main four, but yeah, it’s a big role.

What do you think would surprise Transformers fans to learn about the making of Transformers One?

COOLEY: Well, I will say that there wasn’t a day when we weren’t thinking about fans, that’s for sure. It was always thinking about [how] this is a film for everybody, but also this is a film [where] I wanna reignite that fire inside of them and make them go, like, “Oh, this is what I loved about Transformers from the first day, even as a kid.” So there’s a lot of nostalgia, there’s a lot of Easter eggs in it for the hardcore fans. I wanna hit ‘em with nostalgia.

One of the things about Transformers is that merch and toys are a big part. I’m sure that Hasbro is very, very excited about this movie. Have you seen any of the toys, any of the merch? What are you most excited about?

COOLEY: It’s funny, I’ve seen just a little bit, but I actually have a meeting after this where they’re gonna show me everything. So, I am very, very excited. Part of the reason is that my parents owned a toy store for 15 years. I have all my toys from when I was a kid. I love toys, and so I cannot wait to see what they’ve got in store. I know that they’ve got some big surprises.

‘Transformers One’ Design Is Based on G1 Original Designs

Optimus Prime points to something off camera in 'The Transformers' animated series
Image via Hasbro

How did you and ILM come up with the look of the characters and the look of the movie? There’s so many choices, so how did you guys come up with it?

COOLEY: I didn’t want it to go photorealistic, but I did want it to feel believable. That was my keyword for everything, was like, “I want to feel like you could actually reach out and touch it.” So we were inspired by the original designs, the G1 original designs. Because it’s animation, we can actually achieve that living metal look, which is what their faces are made of and everything. We didn’t have to do every single bolt and screw in a realistic way. So, we went with that look for it. Then also, as my production designer will say, it has a painterly design where it still has a little bit of a hand feel to it. Some of our highlights look almost like you took white paint and just kind of put blobs on it. Not that it looks like a moving painting, but there is still a quality of a handmade feel to it, if that makes sense.

Transformers One hits theaters on September 13.


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