Optimus Prime time in P.E.I.

Chris Ruprecht’s full-scale Transformer replica makes its super hero debut today at Charlottetown’s Art in the Open

Mary MacKay comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 23, 2014

Chris Ruprecht’s life-size Optimus Prime Transformer is taking up prime real estate space in his front hallway right now but fortunately he had the foresight to make sure his massive replica fits through the front door.


Big boys do like their toys.

Chris Ruprecht of Charlottetown is no exception, except his throwback to childhood stands in at almost 3.7 metres (12 feet) and weighs 90 kilos (200 pounds).

To add intrigue to this curiosity, his talking, tall Optimus Prime transformer actually transforms into a two-metre (seven-foot) long Freightliner tractor-trailer.

“People were (asking) ‘Why are you building this thing.’ I was like ‘I have to build it.’ It’s like that Field of Dreams movie. He felt that he had to build this (baseball) field and something was going to come of it. I had to do it,” says Ruprecht, whose Optimus Prime piece will be showcased on Victoria Row as part of this year’s Art in the Open event on Saturday, Aug. 23, from 4 p.m. to midnight in Charlottetown’s downtown core.

His transformation of a child’s toy into a full-fledged operable action figure began as an idea for a fun Halloween costume almost four years ago.

The 33-year-old had grown up with the Transformer cartoon series, so it was entrenched in his psyche.

“I always liked puzzles and how things worked,” says Ruprecht, whose interest led to a technology diploma.

His son, Brayden, five, was about a year old when he began to make his original Optimus Prime costume.

“I started off with a cardboard box and a bunch of other things, and then for some reason I kept adding to it. It got to a point where I totally threw out everything that I did and started off in this direction. And then I knew it wasn’t going to be a costume that you could actually get inside . . . . Most of the time I was thinking I needed to make this, it needs to be this (full size model) way,” he says.

So Ruprecht began building his Transformer from semi-truck belly on up, haunting the aisles at Home Depot, searching for parts that would meld into his Transformer design.

In addition to metal, which forms the bulk of his super hero sculpture, other every day items are transformed for Transformer use. For example, the hood ornament is a belt buckle, the detailing includes repurposed deer horns and child bike horns, the gas tanks are used coffee urns, gas caps are the tops from Nos energy drinks and the hubcaps are stainless steel mixing bowls.

“I walk around and I see normal objects and always think what could they possibly be (on my Optimus Prime piece),” he says.

Ruprecht based his design on an original 1980s Optimus Prime action figure.

“I like the ‘80s versions more than today’s versions. They’re all modernized now with bells and whistles and fancy stuff. I figure that anyone who grew up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s that’s what they would remember . . . ,” he says.

Ruprecht was working as a chef at Mavor’s in the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown when word of his Transformer build reached the art gallery’s curator Pan Wendt who thought it would a perfect addition to the annual Art in the Open offerings.

“The best thing about Art in the Open is you get loads of people, especially kids, so there is going to be a huge audience. (He) will be on Victoria Row and that’s the biggest crowd right there,” Wendt says.

“And Art in the Open this year just happened to be called Transforming Tomorrow. It was a total coincidence so it seemed this was clearly the year for it . . . . There will be a lot of selfies with Optimus Prime I’m sure.”

Ruprecht now shares his love of Transformers with his son, Brayden, who has practically grown up with his dad’s Optimus Prime build project.

“It’s normal for him,” he smiles.

“There are times when he leaves, he asks for me to pick him up just so he can hug his head.”


Fast facts

Art in the Open is Saturday, Aug. 23, 4 p.m. to midnight

Art in the open is a free annual summer event that highlights Charlottetown’s vibrant art scene, its downtown heritage spaces, its exhibition venues and its diverse cultural traditions.

It takes place in historic downtown Charlottetown with focal points at Victoria Park, the Confederation Centre Art, Victoria Row, Rochford Square and Connaught Square.

Urban green spaces are celebrated and play a central role in the event. Ephemeral works of visual art are the focus of the event, primarily including installations, screenings/projections, performance art, street performance and theatre, dance, portable sculpture and other temporary art forms.

Art in the Open transforms the historic downtown into an open-air gallery for one day, inviting the community to engage in the creation and appreciation of art in its various forms. Everyone is encouraged to explore, ask questions, and take part in the art.

For more information visit artintheopenpei.com.