Art Asylum has posted a detailed behind the scenes look at some of their upcoming Star Trek and Universal Monsters Retro Figures. The post also gives us a look at “work in progress” versions some of the figures coming in the line.
We’ve posted the photos and info after the jump. Click the headline of the story to check it out.
While we’re best-known for our highly detailed ‘Select’ figures and our hyper-stylized Minimates, Diamond Select Toys is one of several modern-day companies who continue to embrace the 8-inch ‘retro’ figure. Popularized by the Mego and Remco figures of the 1970s, DST has two ‘retro’ lines currently in production “” the era-accurate Star Trek: The Original Series line and the more modernized Universal Monsters line. We talked to Chris Schaff, one of the guiding forces behind both lines, about how he balances nostalgia with making the best toys possible.
Size Does Matter
‘The appeal of the line isn’t just about the nostalgia, but that is the best place to start. As children, many of us bought Mego figures, and our parents have memories of lost boots, torn gloves, and dirty outfits; but our childhood memories are simply of some awesome toys that got a TON of play. Over the years, several companies have attempted to recreate the 8-inch cloth outfit figure, but with varying levels of success, and now we find ourselves in an era where 3.75-inch figures dominate the market. This makes an 8-inch release stand out on the store pegs.’
Meet the New Toys, Same as the Old Toys
‘There was never a question as to how Star Trek would work. We wanted the characters to be identical to the original Mego releases. This was a case where the factories were instructed to replicate”¦ period. It’s funny, because we had MANY conversations with the factory regarding resizing proportions, restyling outfits, substituting materials, etc. that drove them bonkers. They are so used to how toys are made today that it seemed wrong to make them in a style 30 years out-of-date. Naturally, quality control is always a major issue with us, so we never skimped on quality, but many emails were sent saying ‘Yes, I want soft plastic heads on hard plastic bodies,’ or ‘Yes, I want the seams on the pants to be that wide and obvious.’
The Continuing Mission
‘After we had released all of the old core characters, it was just a matter of rounding out the bridge crew with newly sculpted heads. Khan was a new head and a new outfit, but it’s Khan, so we were morally obligated to do him. The decision to make the Gorn more screen-accurate was one that was surprisingly easy to make. Internally, we agreed that the Gorn needed to be green and have a new outfit. Come to find out, fans felt the exact same way. We’ve received a lot of complements on the accuracy of our recreations, but we never got a single complaint about the changes to the Gorn. Moving forward, we will be starting at Square One for new characters, but we’ve got an established line; so as long as we keep comparing what we’re doing to what has come before, we’ll be fine.’
Rebuilding the Monsters
‘Universal Monsters was a lot more complex. Everyone involved with the line is a huge Monsters fan, so we all brought our fan-love to the table. We wanted to keep in mind what had been done by other companies, and we wanted to keep the nostalgic look of the product, but we wanted to be as close to all-new as possible. Since the underlying goal of all cloth retro items is for you to be able to put them on a shelf of Megos and have them look like they belong, ‘all-new’ required some careful planning. The guys at EMCE Toys (Joe Sena and Paul Clarke) did a phenomenal job of mapping things out on paper. I was still flipping coins trying to come to grips with a release order, but the first four characters were never in question. The EMCE guys put together a packet of info with images of what had been done in the past, as well as suggestions for the future. We all sat down with that and went over the details, with me adding my two cents as we went along. When it was all said and done, we went to prototyping. Universal loved what we were doing and we had very few problems getting our ideas through the approval process.’
Adventures in Costume Design
‘For most characters, designing a vintage-looking costume is surprisingly easy. Don’t forget, Mego had a couple dozen lines of 8″ and 12″ cloth outfit figures back in the day. That means we had a lot of past concepts to pull from when trying to put together looks for new items. Those, and the ones from later companies, also meant we knew what to avoid. Then, we’ve got licensor input and project budget restrictions. In truth, since the prototype outfits are hand-made, the biggest obstacle is sourcing matching materials at the factories so that we maintain color and fabric consistency. There have been a few times where we’ve had to go to the licensor and say ‘This is the closest we can get,’ but they’ve always been understanding.’
The Best-Laid Plans
‘Once the basic idea is on paper, the details work themselves out. Now, looking to the future, there are a couple of new characters that will need to be on the drawing board for a while before I let them go to the licensor. Their problem will be a mixture of plastic and fabric on the outside and/or a need for a non-standard body sculpt. However, based on all of our past successes, I am confident that we will all agree on a way to make these work and get a product on shelf that folks will be proud to display with their Megos.’
To Preserve and Protect
‘In all of the ways that matter, we do it just like they did back then; that’s what helps preserve the look and keep the line popular. However, time has moved forward, and with it came progress in quality toy-making. The grade of plastics used are higher, so you have less chance of cracks, breaks or discolorations. The quality of fabric processing has improved, so there is a bit more resistance to stains and tears. The tooling capabilities are much more refined, so the figures’ joints are more durable, causing less occasions of limbs popping off during play, and allowing the figures to last longer before becoming worn out. We also tweaked the packaging a bit so that you don’t tear a blister off of a card, you just cut the top and sides of a clamshell and the figure and card come out; the clamshell is even somewhat resealable.’
At Play in the Fields of the Gorn
‘Whether or not you know of Mego, you are picking up an awesome toy that will get a ton of play. The dads of the world remember the fun they had, so they are getting a chance to share that with their children, without breaking out the vintage collectibles. The look of the figure is also important. With so many people putting emphasis on likenesses (DST included), it’s refreshing to see a stylized toy that is clearly made to be played with, not just displayed in-package like a little plastic statue. The cloth-retro releases scream ‘Play with us!”’