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Trials of a Toy Designer

Adult collectors vociferously complaining about the imperfections of the toys they collect is about as commonplace as a Republican Presidential candidate lionizing Ronald Reagan. It is perpetual.

What most fans and collectors have no clue about, are the many and varied steps, complications, and vicissitudes associated with bringing a toy from idea to reality.  In an editorial this week over at Action Figure Insider, Jason Geyer relates an anecdote about creating the Teen Titans figurines for Wendy’s kid’s meals.  It sheds a lot of light on the subject of just how difficult in can be to design and manufacture a quality superhero figurine.

Everything went according to plan until we received the final painted sample. At that point he ceased to be referred to internally as “Robin” and instead became “Sunburn Robin” to everyone involved. All of his colors were way too dark. The yellow of his costume could barely be seen against the red. So we had a problem. To compound matters, the figure was 100% approved. You don’t mess with anything that is approved, as approvals are always a pain. And look at this from an exec’s point of view: the studio is happy, the client is happy, the toy will be gone in a month anyway. Why open a can of worms just to have to pay for more paint, delay production a bit, and possibly cause bad blood with the licensor by giving them more paperwork?

Keep in mind, Geyer is relating the process behind a “simple” fast food premium. I imagine you could multiply the stress and complications by a thousand when you’re talking about some of the detailed, highly articulated, “collector” lines out there.

To find out what happened to Robin, and a few other priceless peeks behind the curtain, click on over to AFI.


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