The modern toy masters speak out...
There is no doubt that 2010 will be an exciting year for Masters of theUniverse, DC Universe Classics and Ghostbusters collectors. Incelebration of the new year, we bring you our exclusive interview withthe modern toy masters behind these great toy lines, The Four Horsemen.We would like to thank Chris, Jim, Eric and Cornboy for taking the timeout of their incredibly busy work schedule to participate in thisinterview.
When it comes down to producing an action figure prototype, how arethe duties split between you guys? Who is responsible for creating theconcept art, sculpting, tooling and painting the 2-ups?
Eric (Treadaway): The way things are normally split up is that Chrisand I do the sculpting, while Jim and Cornboy handle the fabrication.When the need arises, Chris and I can do some of the necessaryfabrication and Jim and Cornboy can do some of the sculpting, but it'snot all that often that things pan out that way.
Chris (Dahlberg): Eric and CB usually handle any concept art that needsto be done. Jim lays down the base colors for the paint-masters andEric does the finishing work on those. The tooling pattern andpaint-master castings are handled by our infamous fifth Horseman Shane(Dittsworth) and a mysterious, ethereal being only known to the generalpublic 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'smarketing and distribution timeline, but it's usually about 9 months toa year from initial concept to seeing the finished, packaged product onstore shelves.
Being primarily responsible for the design of the DC UniverseClassics, Masters of the Universe Classics and Ghostbusters toy lines,you guys have quite the workload so how do you manage the time to workon the Fantastic Exclusive product?
Cornboy (H. Eric Mayse): Well, lately Mattel's been keeping us so busythat the FANtastic Exclusive project has had to take a bit of a backburner. We can't really say that that's a bad thing, because we'vealways said that our duty to Mattel comes first and foremost right nowand we love all of that work that we're doing for them, but we knowthat there are lots of Fan-Ex FANatics that would like to see us getthings out there a little more often, so it's still a littledisappointing.
Chris: Just keep your eyes peeled at FANtastic Exclusive.com, becausewe're making a few moves to try to get some of those items and theSeventh Kingdom stuff out more often and hopefully on a regularschedule.
If given the opportunity to work on a Thundercats 6" toy line, wouldyou guys do it and how would you go about creating the look for thefigures? Would it be slightly stylized like the 200X Masters or wouldyou stick to the more classic look of the LJN toys?
Eric: That's something we've discussed at length, believe me! We'vedecided that we’d just throw out everything that was originally done inboth the cartoon and the toy line and create something completey newand different that the fans won't even recognize!... Obviously I'mkidding. We'd most likely approach the Thundercats in very much thesame way that we did with Masters of the Universe Classics. Taking theoriginal look and feel of the line and updating it to today's standardof articulation, paint and where necessary, detail.
Cornboy: The only thing that we haven’t completely settled on isexactly what the final scale would be. Should the Thundercats figuresfit more into the scale of the DC Universe Classics, or should we makethem closer in feel and scale to the Masters of the Universe Classicsscale? There are good arguments for both, and we’ve heard from fansthat are on both sides of that fence, but I guess that's just a bridgewe’ll cross when we (hopefully) get to it.
Considering that the vast majority of figures in the MOTUC line aremade 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 Classicsfigures – 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 alot of newly tooled parts, but will still be re-using some existingtooling, but as far as 100% newly tooled figures, maybe only 2 or 3 peryear.
Jim: I think you’ll see what we mean when Toy Fair rolls around. Ithink Mattel may be revealing some very interesting MotU Classics itemsthat true MotU fans are just going to devour.
With Battle Cat's release just around the corner and Panthor verylikely to follow in its footsteps, is there any chance that KingGrayskull will also have an oversized feline to ride on in the nearfuture?
Chris: As with the tooling for the regular figures, we planned thetooling for Battle cat in the same manner. We have plans to keep thebeasts coming, and the best way to do that is to utilize the tooling toits fullest potential, so even though King Grayskull's mighty beastisn't on the schedule just yet, if the line continues to be as popularas it is, I think you can expect to see him and more.
Is there any possibility that the Kobra Khan and Faker Stactions maysee release sometime in the future? Perhaps as Store Horsemenexclusives?
Cornboy: From what we know, at least at this point, no. That was partof NECA's license which has expired, so we'd have to try to get thelisence for that stuff to be able to ever produce those ourselves. If Iremember correctly, some of the tooling for those figures was in withthe tooling for our (Seventh Kingdom) Ramathorr figures, which werenearly lost a few years ago when the overseas factory we were usingtried to screw us and NECA over. I think they got those molds back, butby that time enough time had been lost that they never got around tofinishing production on that stuff. It was bad news all around. We werereally looking forward to those figures. The guys at NECA were just asbummed out about it as we were.
In the original Masters of the Universe toy line there were certainfigures which were less articulated as a result of the play featuressuch as King Hiss and Ram Man. How would you guys go about inre-designing these characters to make them blend in better with thehighly articulated MOTUC toy line?
Eric: King Hiss is a biggie. We've had lots of discussions about thatone and we're still not set on exactly how to handle him. In mostcases, we haven't been including the play features on the MotU Classicsfigures, but these are two that had play features that were so integralto the character itself, that it would almost be wrong not to includethem.
Cornboy: Even if we did decide to include the action feature in RamMan, he's such a big bulky character that we'd probably be able toinclude most, if not all, of the current MotU Classics articulation onhim, 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 articulationwith certain characters like the DCUC Green Arrow. Would you considertooling a new He-Man with additional wrist articulation allowing thefigure to hold the Power Sword in an upright position?
Jim: It's always possible. We've discussed at length including morearticulation in both the MotU Classics and the DC Universe Classicslines. The timing and reasons would have to be right though. As we'vesaid many times in the past, we don't want to throw in tons ofarticulation just for the sake of having more articulation. It shouldfit 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? Thepossibilities of this line are absolutely endless as long as fanscontinue to support it the way they have been so far.