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Today’s toys have risen in quality in leaps and bounds over the toys of my youth. The sculpting is better, the molding is better, the packaging…can be better at times, and the articulation is in a whole other league. And for the most part, the painting is better. Well, sometimes, that is. For companies like McFarlane Toys and NECA, the paint applications is just wonderful most of the time. But for most of the mainstream majors, like Hasbro, Playmates, and Mattel (now that Toy Biz is out of the game) it seems like an afterthought.

In the late 90s Toy Biz was really one of the first major players to step up to the plate and deliver very detailed paint applications on their figures and more sophisticated paint washes to bring out the heightened sculpting details. Sure, the smaller guys were also experimenting with paint, but nothing like the leap Toy Biz made (even with their smaller figures), thanks to guys like Eddie Wires doing the paint masters (and also doing them for Palisades and Diamond, among others). For companies like McFarlane and DC Direct you had the Four Horsemen and Tim Bruckner really raising the bar with their painting prowess.

But for some reason, we hadn’t seen this trickle down to Hasbro, Playmates, Bandai or Mattel in their superhero lines. Sure, Mattel is now using some paint washes on the DCUC line, but as the Red Tornado can tell you, this is all still very much a work in progress (and one they are laboring hard to fix, I might add). Actually, the reason is quite clear: money. The time it takes to oversee every aspect of production costs money. The added paint operations cost money. The extra rounds of approvals to hash out a detailed process cost money. And for the big companies, this is not a cost that they want to bear. Which is sad.

Because they work and skill that go into making the toys is being sabotaged at the final step. Most folks think that painting is just slapping on some solid colors that matches the comics. Well, that match a style guide, at least. For some reason, most style guides don’t match the comics or animation very well, so the toys suffer right off the bat. But it’s not just filling in the lines with color. A good paint job can transform a sculpt like you wouldn’t believe, and a bad paint job can really mask the artistry of the sculptor. How many times do we see figures of famous actors and think the sculptor got the details wrong? More times than not, I wager. But it many cases, the sculpt is actually perfect. You just can’t tell because it’s covered in shoddy work.

Here are some really good examples of what paint can do: I found these across the web and I hope you go follow the links back to these artists’ work. It really is amazing. First up is Noel Cruz, who goes by Noeling. He repaints existing dolls as celebrities and original works. He treats each one as a 3D canvas, and what he does with the run of the mill dolls and paint is very good, but what he does with a specifically sculpted doll, like the Tonner ones, is nothing short of phenomenal. The pic to the right is a before and after of the same doll- a Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. No sculpting is involved. Can you imagine if this was a production piece, even a high end one? Go check out his galleries to be even more amazed. The guy is seriously talented.

But sure, you’re saying. Those are expensive dolls, not production figures at 6 inches. True, true. But smaller figures can always use help, like Hasbro’s IronMonger figure from the new Iron Man movie line.  MeguiarsEM on the Spawn Forums took this basically unpainted figure and gave it a quick dry brushed metal look that raises the bar considerably. It went from looking like a toy to a high end collectible. With only an easy paint job!


And there are examples like this all across the web (and I think it would be cool for everyone to submit links to other great repaints in the comments section) like Jin Saotome’s killer Dr. Doom repaint, or his custom Transformers Wreckage repaint. And speaking of customs, there are tons of amazing customizers out there whose works blow most production houses out of the water, like Doubledealer or CollectibleKid or Glorbes. Why no company has snatched these guys up to work in-house like Art Asylum did with Iron-Cow is beyond me.

In the meantime, these mini masterpieces have inspired me to try a few repaints of my own. Starting with the “great sculpts, bad paint” fiasco that is the upcoming Indiana Jones line. Check back here in a couple of months to see my progress.

Posted by Jason Geyer [3] Comments
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Wow. It’s been three whole years since I agreed to help out my friend Daniel Pickett set up a new site. And all I originally intended to do was just help design some stuff and then return to not updating ToyOtter.com. Ever since leaving RTM, I had decided to never run a big toy site again, since that experience (while rewarding) was incredibly tough to maintain such a high standard that we had set for ourselves.

But I ended up right back in the thick of things again in spite of myself. And I have to say that I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out. I think it has been universally noticed that while we may not update every day (to save our sanity!) we do try and deliver solid content, without being a transparent grab for more ad hits. To be honest, we actually need to get better at the ad thing, as the site is starting to cost serious money! But I hope that goies to show that we do this for the love of toys, and our community, and not to try and scoop everyone all the time just to raise our traffic.

Speaking of raising traffic, though, boy howdy was I not expecting the incredible attention paid to my post about the never-produced Star Wars concepts! After a slow start, this thing just exploded across the web, eventually garnering mentions on Wired, Gizmodo, Geekologie, G4, The Official Star Wars Blog, Neatorama, Boing Boing, CNet, Fark, and many, many other blogs. Even crazier is that I ended up being interviewed about it on NPR by Alison Stewart. Click on the link above to listen to the segment. It was NPR’s second most emailed story for nearly a week (beaten out only by a story on Roasted Fish!)


I have to say that I never expected so many people to be so interested in this. I mean, I’ve been sitting on these for ten years, mainly because this has been my job every day since then. To me, it’s nothing special to have so many unproduced concepts, because my job was specifically to think of as many crazy ideas as I could, knowing that only one (at best) is going to be chosen. But reading comments from around the web, it’s obvious that these have struck a chord with not only Star Wars fans, but the general readership.

Why? Why do these real world items make a connection to the people who’ve seen them? Well, I think it’s for the same reason that AFI has built the following it has, and the same reasons that Apple stands out so much from the crowd along with Google and YouTube. It’s because when we were thinking of the concepts we tried less to think of "hey, that would be cool" and more along the lines of "what will people actually USE?"

It comes down to the end user, not the creator. Here is a really good link that breaks down what that really means. In all my work, I strive to think of the target audience first, not my personal tastes. I think that’s one reason that we have such nostalgia for the 70s & 80s toylines and even comics. It’s because the creators and designers were not trying to make art, or things that they were jazzed about seeing, but were trying to make what KIDS wanted. It’s why GI Joe Extreme tanked, but Power Rangers still is going strong.

 And I think there are a lot of companies out there today that have this AMAZING resource (the internet) where you can get an aggregate reading of what most collectors truly want, and yet for the most part it is not only ignored, but disdained and mocked by them. I have to give crazy props here to guys like Jesse Falcon, the Four Horsemen, and the Mattel guys who haunt the forums. While they may not base all of their output on what the fans are asking for, they do actually listen to what is out there.

 OK, that’s enough for today. I’m going to try and blog once a day for the whole week, and there are a lot of fun surprises hitting all week throughout the site, leading to NYCC at the end of the week where fans will really be blown away by what is coming in 2008! Stick around!

Posted by Jason Geyer [3] Comments
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OK, so I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. Work has been kicking my ass, big time.

Lots to blog about, lots more unseen concepts to see, and lots to talk about concerning upcoming toy news that we can’t speak of just yet.

In the meantime, I’m not sure anything I could write about can possible top…a monkey on a motorcycle!
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Posted by Jason Geyer No Comments
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Ottertorials 2008 April