‘Bumblebee’ Director Travis Knight Wants to Make a Character-Driven ‘Transformers’ Film

CinemaCon 2018: “Kubo and the Two Strings” director played with Transformers as a kid and now wants to give this spinoff some heart

Travis Knight Bumblebee Six Billion Dollar Man
Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for Focus Features

Under new CEO Jim Gianopulos, Paramount is trying to refresh their long-running “Transformers” franchise, and they have turned to Oscar-nominated animation director Travis Knight for the job with “Bumblebee.”

Knight’s stop-motion animated films at stop-motion animation studio Laika — including “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” and “Kubo and the Two Strings” — have earned critical acclaim, and now Knight is making his live action directorial debut with this “Transformers” spinoff.

At Paramount’s CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Knight talked about how he grew up watching the “Transformers” animated series and playing with the toys, and that he wants to take what he learned about storytelling over the past decade and use it to show the world what the Autobots mean to him.

“In my films at Laika, I always start with character, and with ‘Transformers,’ I wanted to emphasize what makes the series so famous to start with: character. And heart. And explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.”

The new film takes place decades before the “Transformers” franchise, as a young, metal-loving teen named Charly (Hailee Steinfeld), discovers a beaten up yellow VW Beetle in her garage. When she goes to inspect it, the car reveals itself to be a frightened Autobot, who cowers in the corner of the garage. He hasn’t gained the ability to talk, but Charly notes that the sounds he makes sound like a bumblebee, giving the future scout of Optimus Prime his famous name.

“Bumblebee” also stars John Cena and Jorge Lendeborg and will hit theaters Dec. 21.