Adultcollector.org asked the Four Horsemen Studios team to share their thoughts about Super7's new Snake Mountain playset pre-order and other topics. This is the third discussion in a four-part series of interviews. The final interview will feature Brian Flynn, owner of Super7. The previous two interviews can be found here:
Q: Could you please summarize 4H's part in designing and producing the new Snake Mountain playset being offered by Super7?
Jim Preziosi: I guess that you could say that we've overseen the entire project from design to final prototype. Much like Castle Grayskull, this was a project that was too big for us to handle entirely in house, so our role at times fell into the realm of art director or project manager. It takes a lot of collaboration to make a piece like this come together!
Q: What led you or what motivated your team and others working with you to attempt such a huge and challenging project? How did the project come about?
Eric "Cornboy" Mayse: This was, as many of you may know, a project that was originally part of Classics when the line was still at Mattel. Snake Mountain was a natural follow up to Grayskull, and the directive was to go bigger in every way. Grayskull was already a massive undertaking, so we knew that this was going to be a colossal task.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that your team faces in designing and producing this playset? What was it like tackling this project?
Eric Treadaway: A playset is more complex than creating an action figure in just about every way imaginable. Creating a fully detailed exterior that is dramatic yet moldable was one of the bigger challenges. The design is so dynamic, but creating that design in a moldable way on a shell with a paper-thin wall thickness is a tough job. Of course, the size was also the biggest challenge at every step of the way. The 3D printing was like nothing we've ever encountered before. The amount of paint used just to cover the surface could have covered an entire line of figures, and even shipping the prototypes back and forth was costly and complex.
Q: Could you describe how the playset's design is finalized between Four Horsemen Studios, Super7, and the factory? What are your thoughts on the playset's design?
Eric "Cornboy" Mayse: The entire process is very collaborative because it not only has to look good but it has to function. We worked with Nate Baertsch on the 2D design elements until we had a design that everyone was happy with. I was fascinated with the design of the original playset, so it was important not only to pay homage to that, but also to bring the iconic elements of the Filmation Snake Mountain into the mix as well. We were pretty sure that this was the only Snake Mountain set that would be seen for a long time, so we thought it was important to include something for everyone.
Once we were all settled on the design, it was time to move onto sculpting. We knew that our best chance at efficiency with this project was to sculpt digitally. We weren't doing any digital sculpting at the time, so we enlisted Joe Amaro to help us out on that end. Once Joe completed the set and prints were delivered, we went in and embellished the set with hand sculpted features.
This project was unique in that it sat for years once we had completed the project and it was shown at SDCC. There was a lot of excitement about it, but ultimately it was scrapped by Mattel and thought to be a dead project. In the time that passed from the Mattel version to Super 7's revival of the project, we had a lot of time to think about what could have been. We also switched over to digital sculpting. When Super 7 told us that they were bringing Snake Mountain back, not only were we excited that the project was back on, but we were also motivated to improve upon the first version.
Rather than hand sculpting the embellishments, this time around we went right into the digital files and cranked up the detail and added features like the shackles and the ooze pit full of creatures. It's always nice to get a second shot and some additional time on a project that is so important to people's collections.
Q: The net from the vintage Snake Mountain playset is not present in the new design. Are there attempts being made to incorporate this, or any other design changes, in the final product being offered?
Jim Preziosi: This would probably be a better question for Super 7 at this point. (At least whether or not it could still be included.) There was discussion about including it many times along the way, but it never made it into the final prototype. I don't really remember where it happened in the process. There was so much going on with this project that it may have just been lost in the shuffle.
Q: What would you tell MOTU collectors who are still on the fence about whether to buy the new Snake Mountain playset?
Eric Treadaway: We understand that Snake Mountain is a serious investment of both money and space to anybody who is considering a purchase. It's a commitment! There are a lot of valid reasons for both buying and not buying such a huge piece. What we can say is that if you do decide to jump in, this playset will be the centerpiece of any MOTU collection. If you haven't seen it in person, it's hard to imagine the true size and presence that it has. Snake Mountain will not disappoint!
Q: The main 200X/MYP MOTU roster has gone largely untapped by Mattel and Super7. Why is this?
Eric Treadaway: This is largely a question for Super 7, especially since they are the ones taking the financial risk with the character selection. We would be completely on board with revisiting some of the 200X designs. It's been 20 years since we started work on those designs!
Q: What do you see in the future for Classics? And for vintage-scale MOTU figures?
Eric "Cornboy" Mayse: From our end we would just like to see these lines keep going. There are so many great things that could still be done with both of these lines.
Q: Do you or any of your 4H teammates have any favorite projects that you've worked on now or in the past?
Eric "Cornboy" Mayse: One of my favorites has always been the Trap Jaw from 200X. That arm was a big project, but one of the coolest redesigns in the line.
Jim Preziosi: Castle Grayskull was one of the toughest projects that we've ever worked on, but it still stands as one of the most iconic pieces in MOTUC.
Eric Treadaway: Any chance that I've had to work on my childhood favorites stand out, so any time that I get to work on a version of Trap Jaw, Merman, Clawful, Webstor, etc. ends up resulting in an instant favorite.
Q: The Mythic Legions: Wasteland pre-order is ending soon. As owner/editor of the Facebook.com/MythicLegions page, I'm very interested to know, what's next for Mythic Legions? Any plans to offer figures year-round on your online store, or will you continue to focus on pre-orders? Will we see a Mythic Legions playset in the future?
Eric Treadaway: We have some really exciting items coming up in the near future. We haven't made any official announcements yet, but we are having our second annual G-Con online event at the end of July. We will be debuting our next wave at the event, and it's going to have some things that people have been asking about for a long time now. It should be an exciting event!
Although we still aren't to the point that we can keep figures in stock year-round, we are trying to set our releases up on a roughly quarterly basis. Rather than doing a giant Kickstarter where we do 40+ figures in on shot, we are concentrating on doing smaller more consistent waves.
And as for a playset - We can always dream, can't we?
Q: What other projects are Four Horsemen Studios working on right now and is planning for the future? Is 4H working with Mattel on any upcoming MOTU projects?
Eric "Cornboy" Mayse: Aside from Mythic Legions we really can't say too much now. There should be some great reveals at SDCC that will give you some insight into what we've been up to for the past few months. We've been lucky enough to be involved with some real dream projects.
Q: Can you provide any update or new details about the new Classics-scaled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline you're producing for Super7? Three months ago, CB told me that Four Horsemen Studios was nearly finished sculpting the first wave of these figures.
Eric Treadaway: We can't really say much about this right now except for what we said above - dream project!
Q: What are your thoughts on the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, and the potential impact it may have on the toy industry?
Jim Preziosi: We don't want to get too political here, but we will say that it's a scary situation for toymakers. Margins are already so tight that any additional burden won't be good for business.