Transformers: Rise of the Intern
Industrial Design student Andrew Baxter landed a dream role helping Hasbro produce the action figures for its upcoming blockbuster movie.
When “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” opened in multiplexes June 9, one person was looking up at the screen with a knowing smile.
While the rest of the audience marveled at the animalesque Maximal and Predacon robots for the first time, Andrew Baxter knew every nut, bolt and detail of each figure. That’s because he’s spent the past five months helping create the action figures that accompanied the movie’s release.
Baxter, an Industrial Design student at Metropolitan State University of Denver, is working as a project engineer co-op at Hasbro’s headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, as part of a six-month full-time internship.
“It’s such an honor to work on these iconic toys that are sold to thousands of children, and everyone here has been really kind and supportive,” Baxter said. “I’ve learned so much already, just through being here and soaking it all in.”
Iconic toy company
As an ambitious designer and toy enthusiast, Baxter is keenly aware that he really landed on his feet with this gig. Hasbro is among the world’s largest toy-and-game companies, and its headquarters is a mecca for toy aficionados.
Baxter knows the rich history of Hasbro toys — they have touched three generations of his family. “My grandparents introduced me to the Transformers when I was a kid, as they still had two models stored away from when my mom and uncle were kids,” he recalled.
In his current role, Baxter contributes to the design, development and production of a range of action figures that will be sold all over the world. He can’t say much about them, though — a lot of his work is protected under intellectual-property rights, he said, so he’s prohibited from disclosing the details.
What he can say is that his work focuses on product feasibility and manufacturing debugging. “We make lots of changes throughout the development process to ensure the final toys will be the highest possible quality,” he said. “And I help with that process.”
The first thing Baxter discovered at Hasbro: You have to pick up things fast. “Learning how to juggle multiple projects and coordinate between different teams has been a big adjustment,” he said.
At MSU Denver, Baxter mostly focuses on individual projects with small teams. But working on a global range of toys has meant becoming part of a giant, interconnected machine filled with constantly moving parts.
“At Hasbro, each decision you make might also affect the other teams you work alongside, such as design, engineering, packaging, graphics, finance and marketing,” he said.
Complicating matters, the line between all these teams is often blurry. Most people, Baxter included, wear several hats.
“A single change I make could impact the work of four or five other team members,” he said, “so you have to be very careful.”
Still, Baxter isn’t daunted by multitasking. Three years ago, despite holding down a full-time job and pursuing a college degree, he launched a successful online business. Low Budget Hobbies repaired and sold radio-controlled toys such as cars, model trains and rockets.
“I enjoyed working with all these expensive models and was also curious about the business side of the toy-and-hobby industry,” he said.
The long hours paid off. He has been able to apply a lot of the knowledge he learned while running the online store to his work at Hasbro, he said.
The Hasbro work is by no means Baxter’s first design success story. Last year, he gained significant recognition in Denver as part of the tiny creative team behind a prototype electric scooter.
In a crowded e-bike market, the Design students came up with a brand-new concept: a battery-powered delivery scooter, inspired by the contours of a Japanese lunch box, that could comfortably carry large volumes of food and drink.
“People just looked at it and said, ‘Wow,’” Baxter said. “We showed that you don’t have to make motorcycles and scooters the way we always have.”
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On his LinkedIn page, Baxter perfectly sums up his work ethos: “I’m trying to develop a white-collar mind with blue-collar hands.”
“I really do believe skilled hands produce an agile mind,” he said, “and my mind works best when I can take things apart and put them back together again.”
Studying Industrial Design has proved an ideal choice since it provides numerous opportunities to put his strengths — a keen imagination, attention to detail, an analytical mind — to their greatest advantage. And he’s certain that he’s chosen the right path.
“Ultimately, I’m working toward a career where I can design and create things that will make the world a better place,” he said. “That’s the dream.”
He’ll live another kind of dream this month when he sees the figures he labored over for months unveiled on the big screen as the new Transformers.
“Being a part of the Transformers team during the movie’s release is a huge honor,” Baxter said. “Understanding how much work goes into making these toys has given me a whole new respect for the brand.”
Looking back, Baxter realizes he had no idea how expansive the Transformers universe was until he joined Hasbro. He says he has been touched by the “priceless experience” of working on the action figures.
“As a Design student, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see kids out in public playing with toys that you actually helped develop,” he said. “Really, that’s just the best.”