Thursday Mar 11, 2010
Ever wonder how Sonic toys are made? To get the answers, we went straight to the source: Joe Amaro at Jazwares. Joe works in Product Development, and is involved in every step of the Sonic toy line from design to production. I asked Joe all about the design and development process, and about his favorite toys. Does Joe take his toys out of the packaging or not? What is his favorite Sonic toy? Read on to find out!
How long have you been at Jazwares?
Joe: About 5 years now.
What other toy lines have you worked on besides Sonic toys?
Joe: Action figure lines I have worked on (since I started) Mortal Kombat, Samuari Champloo, Viewtiful Joe, Astro Boy, Planet 51, Percy Jackson, A-Team and Robot Chicken.
How do ideas for new Sonic toys come to you? Do you come up with them on your own and present them to SEGA? Does SEGA tell you what to make? Do you get ideas from fans?
Joe: All of the above! We especially listen to the fans. When we have an idea we first present it to SEGA for approval.
How do you present new ideas for toys? Do you use hand-drawn concept art or computer models? Do you actually make concepts from materials like clay?
Joe: All of the above, sometime we use hand drawn concepts and sometimes we show them digital renderings. We usually do not sculpt anything until after concept approval.
If you do physically make concepts, what happens to those when you’re done with them?
Joe: We do not make physical concepts for initial submissions. Most of the sculpts we make for the figures get destroyed during the process.
Have there been any toys that you really wanted to make but couldn’t for some reason?
Joe: Yes, usually it’s a licensing thing or we do not have enough time.
Once a concept is approved, how are the toys made?
Joe: We sculpt the figure and show it to SEGA. We make revisions as necessary.
Once approved we make metal molds called “Tools” from which the figures are made. These are injected with plastic. Then they are assembled and painted. Finally we put them in packaging and ship them out.
Where are the toys made, and how is the packaging designed?
Joe: Like most toy companies most of our toys are manufactured in China. The packaging is designed while we sculpt the figure. The design of the packaging is based on title of the game from where the character comes from.
Have you ever been to the factories that make the toys?
Joe: Yes I have, I go to China at least twice a year to check on things. I got tons of friends over there now!
What is your favorite toy that you’ve made and why?
Joe: So far my favorites are all the 3 3/4in figures. I am a huge action figure fan and the 3 3/4in scale is my favorite scale!
What is your favorite Sonic toy that you’ve made and why?
Joe: 10in Metal Sonic is a favorite of mine. Especially because no one had made one before. Plus all the 3in figures.
How closely do you work with SEGA on the toys you make?
Joe: We work with SEGA very closely; they are involved in every step.
Do you collect toys? All toys, or any particular favorites?
Joe: Yes I do…I am huge fan boy! Aside from the ones we make I am a huge Master of the Universe, G.I. Joe and of course Star Wars fan. I also really like all the Urban Vinyl collector figures.
What is the rarest toy that you own?
Joe: Hmm, I own a lot of prototypes, which are awesome.
Some people don’t remove toys from their packages for fear of damaging them or decreasing the value. What are your feelings on this? Should people preserve their toys or take them out of the package and play with them?
Joe: That question is a heated debate between toy collectors. I open all of my toys, but sometimes I buy two, one to keep in package and one to open…But I don’t play with them…I “pose” them…that’s all… 😉
What is the best way to preserve collectible toys and their value?
Joe: Protective cases work the best and keep them away from your little bother!
It sounds like you have a great job – playing with and making toys! How did you get started in the toy business?
Joe: I started just as a fan about 10 years ago. I did a bunch of customs for ToyFare magazine. That led to work on TV commercials and shows like Sweet Jay Presents (later called Robot Chicken). I did freelance work for several companies and now I work for Jazwares. I did study graphic design in college so that helped me as well.
What advice do you have for people who want to make toys for a company like Jazwares?
Joe: It depends on what you want to do. You can sculpt which I would recommend knowing how to work with traditional clay and digitally on a computer! You can also design packaging for that you need to study Graphic Design. If you want to design the toys you can study Industrial Design and knowing how to draw helps a lot. Even if you are not creative there are other jobs you can do. All you really need is passion for toys!
Do you read Sonic fansites to hear directly from the fans?
Joe: Yes I do, I try to stay in contact with the fans all the time. That’s why I am here so we can all talk Sonic!
What is your favorite Sonic character and why?
Joe: I like Metal Sonic, he’s robot…I love robots!
Is your desk just filled with toys?
Joe: Yes, but right now I have mainly spreadsheets. But our area is filled with toys!
What was your favorite toy growing up, and how does it influence your current work?
Joe: I loved Master of the Universe, G.I. Joe and Star Wars. I am an 80’s child.
So anything from the 80’s I love. Toys and art have always been a part of my life, so when it was time to pick what I wanted to do I chose a career in Art. I was lucky enough that it led me to toys!
What would most people find surprising about how toys are made?
Joe: How complicated it is. There is a lot that goes in to making toys that you never hear about. All the engineering and testing that everything requires.
If you could make any toy, what would it be and why?
Joe: I think anyone who is working in the toy industry and is from the 80’s would say…ThunderCats! Without a doubt! We all want ThunderCat toys!!!
Raqib from the SEGA blogs asks: What other characters will be released?
Joe: We are trying to make as many Sonic characters as possible. Since we made all the main characters we are now trying to make some of the more secondary characters. Characters like Espio and Vector are coming!
SSC from the SEGA blogs asks: I speak for all of those who have wanted one when I ask: Have you considered making a Super Sonic action figure (not Super Poser) at all in the future?
Joe: We are making Super Sonic, the correct version!!! He will be in the 3in scale. I know fans want him so we are trying to do something cool for him!
Many thanks to Joe for taking the time to answer questions! You can download these images and see more on Flickr. Joe is very interested in fan feedback and suggestions, so if you have comments or more questions for Joe, please leave them in the comments.
Posted by Kellie in SEGA on 12:10:48PM Mar 11, 2010
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