Los Angeles: For the powers at the Creative Artists Agency, Hollywood's pre-eminent talent representative, "Transformers" has brought a lesson in the cold-hearted ways of corporate entertainment.
The robot adventure movie was born when the talent agency connected Hasbro, a client, and owner of the Transformers toy line with DreamWorks, Paramount and another long time associate, Steven Spielberg, among others.
But a scant month before the picture's release on 4 July, Hasbro decided to jettison Creative Artists and jump to the rival William Morris, which represents the director of "Transformers," Michael Bay.
"William Morris, from an entertainment point of view, is best able to deliver something for us now," said Wayne Charness, Hasbro's senior vice president for corporate communications.
For Creative Artists, the embarrassment comes just as it is trying to prove that it can match up with the intricacy and reach of the media conglomerates and consumer and technology companies that have come to define the entertainment world.
The agency has doubled in size in the last five years to about 300 agents and executives, and roughly 700 employees over all. It raided competitors for agents and talent, began representing athletes and added dozens of marketers and licensing operatives who are supposed to keep pace with the likes of Coca-Cola, Delta, eBay and, until lately, Hasbro.
The agency's success or failure is likely to tell whether talents as varied as Will Ferrell, Tom Cruise, Jerry Bruckheimer, Derek Jeter or Norah Jones -- Creative Artists clients all -- will maintain their leverage against media giants like News Corp. and Viacom or make new fortunes from the non-entertainment companies that are looking to Hollywood.
Creative Artist's new strategy pushed the notion that corporations, talent and new technology would combine to create growth even as the recording industry faltered and television networks fractured.
The agency helped assemble "American Idol" for the producer and client Simon Fuller by lining up Coca-Cola, another client, as a backer even before the Fox network became involved.
Charness said that Hasbro initially came to Creative Artists for help in connecting its games and toys with a wide range of promotions. But it did not always need the agency's guidance.
When striking a deal for a mobile phone game based on the "Transformers" film, for instance, Glu Mobile dealt directly with Hasbro without relying on Creative Artists' gaming expertise.
Bay's agents at William Morris, meanwhile, detected Hasbro's hunger for more movies. So they began shaking down clients -- the agency term of art is "packaging within" -- for ideas that are likely to surface as half a dozen projects for the toy company.
In short, Hasbro wanted to go Hollywood and Creative Artists, apparently, had become too busy, or too fancy, to make that happen.