The modern toy masters speak out...
There is no doubt that 2010 will be an exciting year for Masters of the Universe, DC Universe Classics and Ghostbusters collectors. In celebration of the new year, we bring you our exclusive interview with the modern toy masters behind these great toy lines, The Four Horsemen. We would like to thank Chris, Jim, Eric and Cornboy for taking the time out of their incredibly busy work schedule to participate in this interview.
When it comes down to producing an action figure prototype, how are the duties split between you guys? Who is responsible for creating the concept art, sculpting, tooling and painting the 2-ups?
Eric (Treadaway): The way things are normally split up is that Chris and I do the sculpting, while Jim and Cornboy handle the fabrication. When the need arises, Chris and I can do some of the necessary fabrication and Jim and Cornboy can do some of the sculpting, but it's not all that often that things pan out that way.
Chris (Dahlberg): Eric and CB usually handle any concept art that needs to be done. Jim lays down the base colors for the paint-masters and Eric does the finishing work on those. The tooling pattern and paint-master castings are handled by our infamous fifth Horseman Shane (Dittsworth) and a mysterious, ethereal being only known to the general public as O-Dawg.
What is the average time it takes for an action figure to go from concept art to finalized distributed product?
Jim (Preziosi): That really depends on the project and Mattel's marketing and distribution timeline, but it's usually about 9 months to a year from initial concept to seeing the finished, packaged product on store shelves.
Being primarily responsible for the design of the DC Universe Classics, Masters of the Universe Classics and Ghostbusters toy lines, you guys have quite the workload so how do you manage the time to work on the Fantastic Exclusive product?
Cornboy (H. Eric Mayse): Well, lately Mattel's been keeping us so busy that the FANtastic Exclusive project has had to take a bit of a back burner. We can't really say that that's a bad thing, because we've always said that our duty to Mattel comes first and foremost right now and we love all of that work that we're doing for them, but we know that there are lots of Fan-Ex FANatics that would like to see us get things out there a little more often, so it's still a little disappointing.
Chris: Just keep your eyes peeled at FANtastic Exclusive.com, because we're making a few moves to try to get some of those items and the Seventh Kingdom stuff out more often and hopefully on a regular schedule.
If given the opportunity to work on a Thundercats 6" toy line, would you guys do it and how would you go about creating the look for the figures? Would it be slightly stylized like the 200X Masters or would you stick to the more classic look of the LJN toys?
Eric: That's something we've discussed at length, believe me! We've decided that we’d just throw out everything that was originally done in both the cartoon and the toy line and create something completey new and different that the fans won't even recognize!... Obviously I'm kidding. We'd most likely approach the Thundercats in very much the same way that we did with Masters of the Universe Classics. Taking the original look and feel of the line and updating it to today's standard of articulation, paint and where necessary, detail.
Cornboy: The only thing that we haven’t completely settled on is exactly what the final scale would be. Should the Thundercats figures fit more into the scale of the DC Universe Classics, or should we make them closer in feel and scale to the Masters of the Universe Classics scale? There are good arguments for both, and we’ve heard from fans that are on both sides of that fence, but I guess that's just a bridge we’ll cross when we (hopefully) get to it.
Considering that the vast majority of figures in the MOTUC line are made up of the same body parts like in the eighties, how many 100% sculpts do you personally aim to produce on a yearly basis?
Eric: That's really hard to say. There have been very few MotU Classics figures – some the general public doesn't know of yet – that are 100% new sculptures. There are going to be a few each year that will have a lot of newly tooled parts, but will still be re-using some existing tooling, but as far as 100% newly tooled figures, maybe only 2 or 3 per year.
Jim: I think you’ll see what we mean when Toy Fair rolls around. I think Mattel may be revealing some very interesting MotU Classics items that true MotU fans are just going to devour.
With Battle Cat's release just around the corner and Panthor very likely to follow in its footsteps, is there any chance that King Grayskull will also have an oversized feline to ride on in the near future?
Chris: As with the tooling for the regular figures, we planned the tooling for Battle cat in the same manner. We have plans to keep the beasts coming, and the best way to do that is to utilize the tooling to its fullest potential, so even though King Grayskull's mighty beast isn't on the schedule just yet, if the line continues to be as popular as it is, I think you can expect to see him and more.
Is there any possibility that the Kobra Khan and Faker Stactions may see release sometime in the future? Perhaps as Store Horsemen exclusives?
Cornboy: From what we know, at least at this point, no. That was part of NECA's license which has expired, so we'd have to try to get the lisence for that stuff to be able to ever produce those ourselves. If I remember correctly, some of the tooling for those figures was in with the tooling for our (Seventh Kingdom) Ramathorr figures, which were nearly lost a few years ago when the overseas factory we were using tried to screw us and NECA over. I think they got those molds back, but by that time enough time had been lost that they never got around to finishing production on that stuff. It was bad news all around. We were really looking forward to those figures. The guys at NECA were just as bummed out about it as we were.
In the original Masters of the Universe toy line there were certain figures which were less articulated as a result of the play features such as King Hiss and Ram Man. How would you guys go about in re-designing these characters to make them blend in better with the highly articulated MOTUC toy line?
Eric: King Hiss is a biggie. We've had lots of discussions about that one and we're still not set on exactly how to handle him. In most cases, we haven't been including the play features on the MotU Classics figures, but these are two that had play features that were so integral to the character itself, that it would almost be wrong not to include them.
Cornboy: Even if we did decide to include the action feature in Ram Man, he's such a big bulky character that we'd probably be able to include most, if not all, of the current MotU Classics articulation on him, and still be able to get that cool spring-loaded action. Again, we'll see.
You guys have stepped outside the box in regards to articulation with certain characters like the DCUC Green Arrow. Would you consider tooling a new He-Man with additional wrist articulation allowing the figure to hold the Power Sword in an upright position?
Jim: It's always possible. We've discussed at length including more articulation in both the MotU Classics and the DC Universe Classics lines. The timing and reasons would have to be right though. As we've said many times in the past, we don't want to throw in tons of articulation just for the sake of having more articulation. It should fit the character, and look good as well.
Chris: Maybe something more along the lines of a pre-posed, interchangeable hand on a future re-release instead? Who knows? The possibilities of this line are absolutely endless as long as fans continue to support it the way they have been so far.