Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re: Re-

Life is full of 'Re-'.

Re-run, re-make, re-do, re-condition, re-tread, re-peat, re-gurgitation and on and on and on. When I started to do this all-new Blogzilly, I had originally decided not to do any repeats of stuff I had done in the old Grey Matters blog, or on the Palisades Daily Bit blog or Made in China blogs. As I found myself this week listening to Yaki the Tickler and the first appearance of Crazy Alice on a full week of classic re-runs of The Howard Stern Show, I came to a conclusion.

Repeats are GOOD.

They let the people that put shit out for consumption time for a break, and the consumer of said shit gets to look at something perhaps long forgotten or only vaguely remembered or even see something that they remember vividly and want to experience in a different way. It also allows a chance for people who were NOT following the old stuff to see it for the first time.

Everybody wins with a repeat.

Back during the Made in China days of the Palisades blog, one of the features we did was something called 'It's Evolution, Baby!'. This would showcase one product or item and show it in its various stages of growth as it moved through the production process. (The title actually came from a Pearl Jam song I really dug.)

Since I am working on some new things in that vein, I pulled up some of the old ones and was looking through them and found that the one below was never re-run on Grey Matters, the Creatus Maximus blog, so I'm gonna re-run it evolution ditty on the Muppet Labs Playset.

Anyway, on to the repeat...

Starting Point
When first going over the reference we were sent, and while looking at the show, the decision was made that if we followed the show precisely we may end up with an un-cool Playset. I mean, it worked on a shoestring budget TV show, but most of the Lab stuff was fairly plain in the show itself as you can see in some of the reference shots. We decided to use a version of the Labs from the Muppet 3-D ride for our guide (which I have no pics of actually saved), and used that as our starting point.

First Concepts
A lot of the time, stuff gets the full on drawing treatment from me. In this case, the design actually started as a really, really, really rough sketch on a piece of stationary during a meeting. Yeah…I often seem to drift off during meetings. I also worked up a quick rough of Bunsen & Beaker while trying to figure out how the joints and all that would work. We worried about the likeness issues later; this was a down and dirty sketch of how the figure might work.

Enter Industrial Zoo
Shawn Knapp from Industrial Zoo took the Lab sketch a step further and worked with me to come up with a basic rough so that they could figure out what the basic shapes and designs would look like. He also worked up a nifty drawing of the Gorilla Detector, a piece from the Avery Schreiber episode that I wanted to include as a nod to the hardcore fans.

Sculpts Take Shape
Kathy Jeffers started to sculpt the Beaker and Shawn proceeded with the Labs. Check out the Beaker rough and the Lab rough. Note how Shawn used some foam shapes that he would replace with sculpted pieces as the Lab took shape. It helped to do it that way to make sure everything would function.

Finished Sculpture
They both completed their final sculptures, we got them approved and then we were good to go to get them prototyped and painted.

Painted Prototype
Plan-B molded and cast the Playset, while Kathy provided a casting of Beaker. Then Plan-B turned in a painted piece. There were a lot of limitations because I planned to do a lot of work on the Lab in China, like adding the clear parts, but Plan-B turned in a terrific job despite the limitations.

You Might Not Know
That the Lab Playset was going to ship with the Series One figures, but while I was in China I discovered to my horror that the tooling factory that had been assigned Beaker had MUTILATED the poor guy. He was so FUBAR that there was no choice but to delay the Playset while the figure was re-tooled elsewhere. We showed this on our Bit already, but it is worth a second look. Check out the Mutant Beaker next to the REAL Beaker. What a difference! It’s things like this that make those month long trips to China for me worthwhile.

Test Shot
While we were waiting for Beaker to be fixed, we went through a few rounds of tweaking the Playset. Check out the very bad factory photo of the test shot.

And Here It Is
Final product, as it will look after you open up the package and set up your display. A lot of work went into this piece, and to say it is a labor of love for us here at Palisades would be selling it short. Everyone in the company worked hard on this one, and it really shows.

See Ya Tomorrow,
Product Development

That was WEIRD...know what I mean? In retrospect, I think the process showcase was weaker than some of the others, I might have been pressed for time or something.

The thing I really hate about these repeats though is my style of writing, I sound really juvenile and odd. My guess is because I had to be very careful since it was not 'MY' blog, it was a company blog, so I had to be a bit cute and soft, I couldn't yell out 'FUCK!!!' if I felt like it.

Don't kid yourself...the F-word is universally appreciated. ;)


  1. I still love that playset. And that original factory Beaker is just horrible.

  2. I always loved that behind the scenes stuff you did.

    I think if my house ever burned down I would be most heartbroken about losing my Muppets stuff. it will always be such a perfect line to me.

  3. Thanks dude...really appreciate it. I do miss those days when the line was first coming out. It was such a great thing to sink my teeth into creatively. Haven't had that in years and I miss it.

  4. Quick question...I see the Beaker test with a closed mouth. Was there ever a plan to articulate it?

  5. There was. I have some interesting photos of a hinged mouth prototype but we bailed on it prior to producing the figure molds. Just looked really weird.


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