One of the areas where we will be working closer with Playmates in the future is bringing you unique and interesting perspectives on the toys you love. Today's feature gives you a little better understanding of the oddessey from cradle to production, using the new Homer at the Bat mini-figures as an example.
The process starts with viewing the specific episode. After viewing the episode, screen grabs are taken of the characters that they want to make into action figures. If you watch the episode all the figures Playmates did in the mini-figures sets match a pose of the character from the show.
The screen grabs are then forwarded to an artist/designer to create control drawings. You can see the actual control art here for Homer, Mr. Burns, Lenny, Carl and Chief Wiggum. Notice how each joint is highlighted, and the size of each figure clearly spelled out. It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to get the completed control drawings back.
The control drawings are then sent to the sculptor for sculpting the first figures. This initial sculpt usually takes around 4 weeks. These are then sent back to Playmates, and the sculpts are reviewed internally. If Playmates approves, they then mold, cast and send a hard copy of them to Fox for review. Fox approval usually takes about 2 weeks.
Normally when the first sculpts arrive they come in undecorated, but as you can see in these photos, Homer, Mr. Burns, Lenny, Carl and Chief Wiggum came in painted. That is because these were sculpted close to Toy Fair, and Playmates had them decorated so they could be displayed at Toy Fair [Ed - New York Toy Fair 2002].
When Playmates receives the comments from Fox, all the comments are written up and sent to the sculptor to make revisions. After the final sculpting revisions are made the figures are again molded and cast to create a tooling copy which is used to make the tools from which the production figures are made. It takes about 6 weeks to go from the start of tooling to receive first shots.
Once tooling is complete, they start receiving first shots (often called 'test shots') of the figures to make sure the tooling process was done correctly and to check for any physical defects that could show up on the figures. The color of the first shots rarely matches the final production color. Many times vendors will just use excess plastic from another project to run the first shots.
Here you can see photos of test shots of Homer, Mr. Burns, Lenny, Carl and Chief Wiggum. They are almost done. The manufacturer now sends Playmates pre-production samples where all the bugs have been worked out of the shot samples and final decoration is added to the figures. Final packaging isn't completed yet though, as you can see in this photo.
Finally, Playmates receives final packaged production figures that are air shipped over for review before product is shipped to retailers. Hopefully, all is perfect at this point, and this is what we see on the shelves. The entire process can take anywhere from 5 to 7 months, but usually 6 months is a good estimate.
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