New faces are already the order of the day for Transformers 3, with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replacing outgoing eye-candy Megan Fox as the film’s female lead- and it seems the updates just keep coming. Thanks to pictures coming out of Transformers specialists Seibertron we now definitely know that Ratchet has been given a make-over for the third in Michael Bay’s robot franchise.

The same source captured Ironhide- looking the same as his earlier appearances- alongside a slumbering Optimus Prime, as well as two mystery aircraft set to be used on the film.

Images removed at request of Paramount…

The pictures leaked thanks to a sneaky US Army Sky Warriors member who snapped Ratchet, along with fellow Autobots Ironhide and Optimus Prime (peeping out from under the blanket), while waiting to go on screen at the former 717 Production Production Plant in Long Beach, California. They seem to be legitimate, though with Bay and his famed Misinformation Campaign you never can tell whether the images have been leaked as part of an attempt to put fans and bloggers off the scent. It wouldnt be the first time, even on Transformers 3: Bay’s comments that the Twins wouldnt be appearing seems to have been a lie, thanks to the on-set appearance of two Chevy Sparks wearing very coincidental colours who would more than fit the bill.

TransformersThe leaked images are close on the tail of another revealing the “new” look for Optimus Prime which Seibertron ran with last month- though there was not much different to my eyes apart from the lack of extended exhausts), perhaps confirming  animation supevisor Scott Benza’s announcement at Geek Tyrant that the design change would only be obvious to hardcore fans. In the same interview Benza also talks up the new look for Bumblebee, so it’s well worth a read.

Most intriguingly of all are the images of the mystery aircraft (they are in fact US Army Sky Warriors)- could they be new Decepticons? The smart money would be on No, considering the use of an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane for Jetfire in Revenge of the Fallen, but there is definitely something ominous about that weaponry. Who’s to say Bay hasnt gone for another make-over and reintroduced a fallen character from one of the first two films in a new guise? That’s probably just the fan-boy in me wanting more than reality is offering (and my wish to know what  the Michael Avery-voiced Silverbolt will look like).

Also widely reported is the production update that the Washington Post reported yesterday that the film was facing a struggle to be allowed to film scenes in Washington DC:

Plans are underway for portions of the third segment in the blockbuster Transformers series to be filmed in D.C. this September, a chance for the city and its businesses to reap spending on hotel rooms, meals, equipment rentals, taxi rides and temporary jobs from a production budget some have estimated to total more than $200 million.

A dispute with the Park Service, however, over where and what the film crew will be allowed to shoot has producers from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks scaling back their plans for the city. The companies had planned a colossal number of filming days — about 14 — in addition to an expected month or more of time in D.C. for other production needs. Now the period of “principal photography” might be whittled down to less than a week, despite the project having director Michael Bay and producer Steven Spielberg at the helm.

Paramount spokeswoman Gabriela Gutentag said with negotiations ongoing, she did not know how many days the company would end up filming in D.C. “We’ve gone from two weeks to 10 days to three days to seven days; I don’t really know,” she said.

Bill Line, Park Service spokesman, said the producers “have asked to do some things that simply are not done on the National Mall,” among them staging a “car race” along the Mall’s gravel paths and flooding it with artificial light in order to shoot at night.

Kathy Hollinger, director of the D.C. Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, acknowledged that the plans amounted to “a lot more than D.C. has ever been accustomed to in terms of scale and impact,” including, for instance, simulated explosions and pyrotechnics at locations along Pennsylvania and Independence avenues.

So, not exactly plain-sailing for Transformers 3, but will fans find enough promise in the pre-production news and leaked info to make it as finacially successful as its predecessors? Hopefully, the critical reception of Revenge of the Fallen will have been enough to convince Bay and co to change direction at least slightly, and give fans what their loyalty deserves. It seems that only time will tell.