As Transformers spinoff-slash-prequel Bumblebee revs past $400 million at the worldwide box office Saturday, franchise producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura has one command for the series’ future: Autobots, roll out.
“We had many objectives [including] to bring a new set of families into the series, and that succeeded; in the after markets that will continue to succeed in a big way,” Bonaventura told Deadline.
“Part of our obligation was to bring people back who had left the franchise or never experienced it which worked well... We are finding our way. Our intention was we wanted to please the core fans but also bring a new audience.”
Ignoring the five-movie modern blockbuster series steered by director Michael Bay by setting Bumblebee in the 1980s, the smaller-focused spinoff found success under director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings), who turned to the works of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin for inspiration.
Standing at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes — not only is that the best critical score for any Transformers movie, but it makes Bumblebee the sole franchise installment to boast a reception that isn’t “rotten” — Bumblebee is expected to launch a sequel, possibly teaming the battered VW bug with Autobots leader Optimus Prime.
Though Paramount in May pulled a sixth Transformers from its schedule — the June 28, 2019 date was a reported placeholder — the studio is developing an animated Transformers, planned to be the first of many.
Bonaventura said in June he would “certainly like to do” a separate Optimus Prime offshoot movie, which the producer said “would be a very different kind of movie than a Bumblebee movie, but equally interesting and different.”
It made sense to make ‘Bee the first of the Autobots to receive his own solo movie “because he’s such a loved figure, and he’s also more emotional than Optimus.”
Optimus is “a stoic leader, and you can count on him,” he added, but Bumblebee is “the one who is more emotionally volatile. He has a lot of ups and downs. So it seemed like the best character to try for the first time zeroing in on one Autobot.”
The producer also admitted Bumblebee was, in part, a response to audience fatigue with the main series that was seeing diminishing — although still large — returns at the worldwide box office with each release.
“We were headed down the Bumblebee path well before the release of the last Transformers,” he said of 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight. “We had felt that with the fifth movie, we had sort of run out of room with where to take it.”