Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Inspiration and Descendant

Pictured: a Block in robotic configuration, and what Matt D. calls "Tomy Maxx".

The lineage of robotic figures goes all the way back to the walking tin-toy robots of the 1950s, passes through various Marx and Ideal figures in the 60s, Star Wars, Micronauts and Star Team in the 70s, Robo Force and Transformers in the 80s, Z-Bots in the 90s, all the way through to today.
I bring this up because a lot of people ask me about licensing. Over the years, all of these different lines had robots, but they each had something unique to bring to the table. So my question to "you" is - what do you want a license for?

Manufacturing is a gamble. Any business is a gamble. You are trying to express something (or/and make some cash while doing it) and why would you want to hamstring your business by being locked-in to something which manages expectations? Is the robot in the above picture Maxx Steele/Maxx Zero, the invincible warrior of the Robo Force? Some people have stated they don't think it is, because their view of Maxx is something different - a bulky, suction cupped, bendy arm robot. Or a giant personal assistant robot who could actually talk. Nothing that anyone can do would meet those expectations.

Given a choice, I would have pursued my own original property*. I've spoken about it before - we were actually thisclose to an entirely different original concept being the launch line from Toyfinity. What expectations would people have if the line was something never before seen? None. It can be anything, as Glyos is. The relevance of the Block in the above pic, for people who are somewhat new to Glyos, is that the partial inspiration for it WAS Zeroids and Robo Force. That's part of what I love about the Block, and Glyos overall - it is like many things in aspects, but it isn't a copycat.
So, my advice to anyone who has dreams of starting their own toy line is to ask themselves "what is it that I want to have inhabit my life for the next few years?" Do you want to be dealing with licensors and quotas and all of the rest that goes into a standard license? Where's your inspiration? Why settle for "Crystar" when your Crystar is out there?

*I know this begs the logical question "why did you get licenses then?" The answer is really two-fold: one, I wanted to bring back the Mordles, and I'm sure any original property I would have conceived would have had a Mordle-inspired figure in it somewhere. Two, as I have said many times previously, Maxx didn't get a fair chance at retail because of the environment he was introduced into. If Robo Force was released in 1982, the conversation might be entirely different; 1984 was not a place where Robo Force as a concept was going to be able to stand up against Transformers and Go-Bots. Letting Maxx rot away forever in limbo was not something I was willing to let happen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Troop building

One of the things we were working on was a "standard" Dred Trooper.
What do you think of this guy, in these colors?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Mordles page! Maxx pre-order update! Happy Anniversary Robo Force cartoon! And more...

Also, friend of Toyfinity Daniel Hartzler reminded me that the Robo Force cartoon first aired 30 years ago this week. So jump over to YouTube and watch the one-and-only Robo Force cartoon!

So, update on the Maxx pre-orders - it looks like the figures will be shipping to you in January.
Let me explain why. Matt Doughty and I received samples of the figures, and there were some tweaks that needed to happen to make the Maxx editions they best they could be.
First, this was the first time we have detail-lined the Maxx figure. There were a few areas that we added, and a few we subtracted, to make it look the best that it can. Secondly, we had to remove two of the paint applications on the Ultimate Maxx. His elbows will no longer be a shade of gray. You can see how the unpainted elbows look in the picture below.
There were two reasons for this - in the original concept, we were going to run the arms in plain black, and then paint the elbows on this edition. However, we would have wound up with a situation where the black on the arms, guns, hands, Maxx's head, etc would have been a shade different than the arms. So we made the decision to paint the arm tubes for the most aesthetically pleasing look.
What you can't have on this particular figure, as was clear from the samples, are three painted parts touching each other so tightly. Ever wonder why a McFarlane figure might break right out of the box? In some instances, the PAINT bonds to other paint and it fuses together. There was a concern of that happening, so we removed the gray application from the elbows. I'm not too sad about it though - if you want a preview of what it might have looked like (and have the Genesis Edition of Maxx), swap those elbows onto the Ultimate Maxx. It isn't as aesthetically pleasing as leaving the elbows what we have now officially named "Maxx gray".
We also had to lose the black paint application on the center core part of Maxx's chest:
I took a chance because I wanted to add a new level of detail to a figure of this type. But it isn't possible to do (and maintain the integrity of a paint application of this type) because of the ability to disassemble the figure. I didn't want people to get their kits and have that paint app scratched just from the figure being assembled in the factory (and in turn, easily scratched when you assemble the figure), so we cut the paint application. It also had a tendency to leave black marks on the other parts of the figure. Lesson learned. You might see that paint app again if we ever use the chest as the head of a figure.

If anyone has any questions about these changes, please feel free to send me an e-mail.
I'd rather have the figure be great and delayed a month than to rush something to you that isn't going to work.
We're working on Cruel to be the next Ultimate Edition. More info on that project soon, as well as the debut of the Chronicler Mordles!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Classic Maxx samples are in!

What a wild ride it has been.

When I started the process of bringing back Robo Force with Matt Doughty and my partners in Toyfinity, I had visions of a Maxx which was painted well beyond what Ideal could (or would) do in the 80s. And now he is here.

I'm proud to say I am very pleased with this early sample. Now, some revisions have to be made; this is the first time we have detailed lined Maxx, and there are some areas which need revision from this sample. The elbows you see here are placeholders on the Ultimate Edition - the final ones will be the same highlight grey from the rest of the figure. I'll keep you updated as to when we might expect the full order to arrive in the US (we might miss Christmas on this guy), along with some behind-the-scenes pics of the work that goes into reviewing a sample.
Painting a figure this small with so much paint has been a big experiment. If we do more Ultimate figures in the future, there are a few paint apps on this figure which may not ever be replicated - so this guy is going to be unique even if demand rose to make him again.
I think the level of paint has thrown some people, because you just don't get a lot of figures in this scale which are so heavily painted. The chest was a particular challenge - the original Maxx had a very specific stickered chest which made it easy to put color in whatever patterns they wanted. I think we had over ten revisions of the chest pattern before picking the one you see above.

Keep an eye on my Instagram (@toyfinity) for more quick pics of the figure with other figures, as well as more Toyfinity fun.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Many Sides of Fangar the Conspirator

My good buddy Steve is a master archivist of old toy sale ads.
Years ago, he found the one above (I assume in the Maryland area due to the city names at the bottom). Notice anything funny about it?
We've had quite the talks about the appearance of Fangar over the years in this ad. Does anyone out there reading this have a copy of the Ideal 1985 Line Art Catalog? I have scans of two pages from years and years ago - but only of the RBT pages. I need to see the Robo Force pages, for obvious reasons.
Thanks for letting me share this on the blog, Steve! 

Also, there's this:
Independent toy manufacturing is incredibly challenging from a financial standpoint, which is why anyone who loves the independent scene should be following the work of people working in 3-D printing. One notable artist working in the medium today is David White AKA Mechazone.
What he does with ABS plastic in his garage is truly inspiring...as the costs to manufacture in China increase, the idea that we may one day be able to have completely original, professionally produced figures made on printers here in the US is a tantalizing prospect. It's very close now - check out the link! I have two of David's figures and they need to be seen to be believed.
One of the only weaknesses of home 3D printing currently is a loss of detail only currently possible with more traditional molds - but if you get one of these figures in-hand, it feels like a standard ABS action figure.

So, the drawing above...I challenged David to do a redesign on Fangar the Conspirator (one of the unproduced second series Robo Force characters) in his style. I'm super happy with the results!
I'd love to see this figure in plastic someday.
To see more work from David, follow him on Instagram at username mechazone.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The human factor

Had Robo Force continued into its second year, we would have seen the introduction of multiple new characters, including the human who "designed and built the Robo Force" - Mark Fury, and his fellow freedom fighter Deena Strong.
Conceptually, was a line all about a planet of robots too strange for kids to really get into in 1984? Transformers and Gobots would tell us no. Adding the humans was just part of the story that Ideal would have told...it is also worth noting that these would not have specifically been Earth humans, as the entire story takes place on planet Zeton. Unless Zeton would have turned out to have been an Earth colony or something along those lines...

So what do you think? Is Mark Fury an integral part of the Robo Force mythos, or something best left in 1985? Should Deena Strong finally see production as part of the Toyfinity range?

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Art is an incredibly subjective thing.

What one person sees as art, another could see as blasphemy.
In this case, though, I was amused to find that the above drawing had been done by an artist named Doyle a few years back before Toyfinity owned the rights to Robo Force.
I had to order one for my own collection. Prints are still available from Nakatomi.

So, RoboCop being Man and Machine is closer to the gods of Machines because of his duality of existence?