Friday, March 27, 2009

Plush X-Files Flukeman

Canceled product. I often wonder if other people who work in producing collectibles had as much that they developed that was shitcanned as I have seen happen over the past ten years. It all started at ReSaurus, with TONS of canceled stuff, and at Palisades it continued. Kept going with my own little venture with pretty much everything that was planned. Ah well...

X-Files. One of my favorite things in the world. Plush. Another of my great joys. X-Files PLUSH? A disaster of an idea that I am surprised got as far as it did. But, there was a time when we would try anything and see what stuck, and this plush Flukeman is one such item.

This was prototyped by a very talented woman, Susan Capone...she and her husband worked on the Oscar Can Area playset and the 123 Building Playset on Sesame Street, and she also did a smoking jacket for a canceled Pink Panther exclusive. They both did great work, but I don't think anything they did actually ever came out, since we only met each other the last year I was at Palisades.

This never even got to the factory stage. It made it only to this...a single, hand-sewn prototype.

He sleeps under my pillow, thank you very much.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Step Forward, Two...Aw Hell, You Know The Rest

I don't have a whole lot to write about today regarding Bennett. Ive been so completely drained of late thinking, worrying, fretting, watching, hoping, wishing, trying to make sure I eat which I can't seem to do lately, etc. and I don't want to just be a broken record today so I will give a brief update for those that need the info and that'll be it for now.

March 5th, a Thursday, he started ACTH to attempt to control his seizures. During the first week of the two injections a day his seizures lessened a little. Instead of 3-4 clusters of 24-32 seizures per day, it shortened to about 1-2 clusters of as little as 8 as many as 20 seizures per day. After that first week, he went down to half the dose, and went the seizure activity increased again. That was last Friday when the half-dose started.

So as of yesterday, the neurologist has decided to go back to the stronger dose, twice a day, and see where that takes us. More of the super-expensive drug ACTH is on its way and we'll start administering the new dosage (same as week 1 though a fraction higher than that) as soon as it gets here, which we believe to be today.

So that's the news. Check out this photo, taken on Monday. Hardly looks like a severely ill child at all does he?

Therein lies just some of the Madness of all of this. I'm trying to get a short video using my camera (since I can't figure out how to convert a short vid off of any of my home DVD's from my camcorder) of the episodes to show the difference, though not sure I will show it or not...might be good just because any and all info on the net about this stuff is good...might make it easier for the next parent to find information when their time comes.

Might be good to see the contrast for people that might not understand. Though even seeing how he behaves during a seizure cluster won't show you why I can't isn't necessarily the episodes themselves, though my heart breaks and I weep during every one I's the damage that is being done to his life and his brain and his future and his hopes for a normal life that I see played out before my eyes every day without having any power to influence the outcome.

That's the latest, we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chronolillogy II: Duke Nukem (Part 1)

(Part 2 in a series about my journey down the career path I am on and some of the stuff that happened along the way.)

So I cut my teeth in the world of toys and collectibles by working on something that was neither a toy or a collectible. The freelance comic-book style drawings I did of characters from a story called Average Joe for The ReSaurus Company Inc. that I went over in the last installment of Chronolillogy got my foot in the door.

OK, maybe not a foot, but definitely a toe.

I kept in touch with Mike, the VP of the Product Development department there, and would occasionally drive down to ReSaurus just to make sure he saw my face often and let him know that I was available for any kind of work. As it turned out, they were getting ready to make some action figures for a license they picked up to a video game called Duke Nukem and Mike let me know that he might need me on some of it. In fact as part of that original pitch for the license Mike had asked me, earlier in the year, to draw a quick concept of the figure. I did one, not even sure they used it. It wasn't all that inspired to tell you the truth.

Now I had no idea at the time, but when Mike called me and offered me the gig to do the turnaround drawings for the Duke Nukem figure, it was the first step of many that was leading the Borman boys and anyone else who worked at ReSaurus to really dislike me. Maybe dislike is too strong a word, but they were definitely suspicious of me and skeptical and that's understandable. Had you asked them at the time if the two of them would be standing by my side as I got married a few years from then they probably would have said, ''

See, they had always been pushing hard internally to Mike and Doug (ReSaurus Owners) to actually pursue making action figures and move away from the latex and vinyl puppets that they were known for.

They made some pretty cool dinosaur puppets for The Lost World, and some generic stuff of animals and dinosaurs, but the Borman boys had other plans...they knew that the ability to break new ground was there in the action figure market, and they had very specific ideas of how to do that, but from what I understand of what was going they always met with resistance from their bosses who never really saw the vision of what could be.

Then they actually got to a point of convincing the owners to secure the license to this game, and after all that work they don’t even get to design the thing, it gets turned over to some nimrod on the outside (that's me) and they were, rightfully, pissed.

I got the gig for two reasons I believe. One, my technical drawing skills were at a slightly higher level than theirs (only because I had around ten years of experience on them). Two, they'd been butting heads with Mike over crap all the time and I was anxious to get any kind of work at all so I was obviously very agreeable to Mike and very open to him. Mike probably felt more comfortable with me since we were the same age and the Bormans and the other guys were in their early twenties.

Of course, those were all the wrong reasons for me to be doing it. It doesn't matter a LICK if you can draw like Michelangelo, you can be a stellar product designer without that skill, and the ability to draw does not make you qualified to design a product. And then obviously I was not privy at the time of the way things really worked there as far as the relationships, so my attitude probably would have been different had I known.

Though I don't really blame myself for any of this, mind you. I'm still glad it worked out the way it did, and as much as I love Chris and Jay and the other guys who worked there the fact that they got screwed over this project but it benefited me I gotta be honest...I can live with that. It continued getting my career started, I made some money I desperately needed at the time and I made some life-long friends out of the deal.

There were silver linings.

Maybe if you asked Jay and Chris about it today they might agree with that (at least I HOPE they would), but certainly not at the time. If you thought they were miffed over the slight of having the design of the stuff taken away from them...well, they went through the roof when they saw the actual turnaround.

Pretty awful, ain't it? But I'd like to defend it if I could for a moment. First of all, I had never actually DONE a turnaround for an action figure before, so I was a very bright shade of green. But I could certainly draw better than this, you've seen evidence of that. But the main reason is because I had some of the most un-helpful art direction I have ever received from anyone, anywhere.

Maybe it was just mis-communication, but this is the way it went down. I was told I had to have a very simple, basic pose. I was told what kind of articulation cuts to indicate. But the thing that really screwed me up is that I was told to make every line not do any shading or cross-hatching or anything like that. That was SUPER odd to me but I did what I was told. You can see it in the work...I just don't normally draw like this.

Later it was explained to me that I was told that because Mike was concerned the sculptor might sculpt the cross-hatching and some other totally weird explanations, but it didn’t matter, my inexperience, the inefficient art direction and the blocking of any communication between me and the guys whose input would have mattered (Bormans/rest of PD team) resulted in one stinker of a turnaround.

Now credit where credit is due here...the figure did not turn out all that bad for a first outing, but that has little to do with me. They made it work. And when I say 'they' I mean Jay, Chris, Tony, Jeremy, Steve and whoever happened to be working there (in the department) at the time since they all came in one at a time over a period of months or years. I was the last of the real product design people to arrive, actually.

They gave it accessories that worked, they managed the sculptor to do things in the right way, they painted it, they managed it through production, they gave it what was, in my opinion, the foundation of what the ReSaurus look and feel would become. I say foundation because it wasn't a bad figure at all, but it wasn't anywhere near how cool the figures would get when everything was firing together as a well oiled machine. But I don't want to get ahead of myself here. It’s like writing a frakkin' book, this thing. And I haven’t done that either.

Staying on Duke, I also designed the vinyl accessory part of the figure, the web gear that fits over the torso.

Yet another thing that I sort of screwed up. I'm sure Jay and Chris envisioned a more realistic web gear, something grounded in reality. That's one of the things they really pushed for, a sense of realism, and here I come with a Liefeld-style packs and straps kind of thing. The ONLY thing that saved it here is the subject matter itself. Duke Nukem is somewhat campy and humorous, so it worked. But if this had been for Quake or something more realistic, it would have really shit the bed.

It was Chris I believe who designed the remaining accessories on paper.

And if I am not mistaken they also sculpted them in house themselves rather than farm out the sculpting the way they did on the figure itself. They all turned out exceptionally well, and they functioned WITH the figure in a great way. They basically believed that if you can walk through the game in this first person shooter and pull out all these weapons by scrolling through the screen, then the figure itself should be able to physically WEAR all the weapons at the same time.

To me? That's something very, very special that shows you how those guys thought every little detail through.

After the Duke figure was released, they set in motion the designs and plans for the line to become a much more complete one, by adding in some of the very awesome aliens that populated Duke's world. This was one of what I consider to be the 'core values' of what I learned from those guys. Always strive to build the universe around the main characters and not just the main characters themselves. It's a lesson that I always followed and only deviated when financial considerations (toy market getting worse later in life) forced me to do so. One of these days I ought to jot down all the things that sort of became the Commandments of Product Design I took from that job and those people.

And populate Duke's world they did. I don’t know who actually did the work, or I would credit them here, but they designed figures for the Pig Cop...

...the Octobrain...

...and a boss enemy called Battle Lord.

They sculpted some prototypes with sort of a team concept. Darryl Finney sculpted the masses of the Battle Lord and Pig Cop, while Jeremy and Jay and Chris added textures and details to them. I believe Jeremy handled Octobrain on his own sculpturally but everybody probably tinkered on elements of it. Then of course they all worked together on painting them up. (That was common at ReSaurus early on...a total team concept that got more difficult to maintain the more people with very specific egos were added to that mix.) These are those first painted prototypes.

Can you tell that the Pig Cop was shot in sunlight? We had NO sophisticated equipment so we did the best with what we had. I wish I had some of those raw pics we used to take. You'd be amazed at what was accomplished with so little.

And here is an image of some of the actual figures that got released, you can see some of the changes that got implemented, particularly in the Octobrain brain and the base which was created after the fact in China.

When all was said and done, it was shaping up to be a fantastic looking line overall, and to sweeten the pot since they were technically re-releasing the Duke figure again with this first official 'series', they devised some Duke Variants. The Night Strike Duke, which had that more realistic feel that you know came straight from the Borman brothers and a SWAT duke that had the same kind of flavor. Some of the early prototypes.

As with most lines that would eventually be created and released at ReSaurus, there were subtle details everywhere, but because they were GOOD details they didn’t come screaming out at you when you looked at the work, they were just there.

There were some great instructional illustrations that I think Steve Hamaker did for the packaging. Here are just a few.

And there were some really great images of the characters that were fully painted on the blister inserts. You might have thought those were provided by the licensor. And you'd be wrong. In the best action figure traditions from which they sprang, the guys felt that original art, created FOR the figure, would be the best, and that's what they made happen. It was too late for the original Duke figure, which did use licensor provided art, but for the new versions we got something cooking.

Mike, the VP, actually rendered out one of them, for the Battle Lord. But a good buddy of mine from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Tom Biondolillo, did the rest on a freelance basis. I remembered that his style, when he painted, has a really old school feel and I thought that was what they were looking for on these paintings, so I recommended him. They liked the samples they saw and agreed to give him the gig, and he sent in some really nifty images, exactly what we were all looking for. ( memory on all this stuff is not perfect, I am not 100% sure he did the Pig Cop.)

It was a total of six SKU's, but I only have final package photos of five. SWAT Duke is absent from the packaging photo, and I don’t have a personal copy to actually take a shot of or I would. Actually I don’t have any of the samples to be quite honest, I had to sell them along with a lot of my other stuff during some rather hard times. There was also a Military Pig Cop, a green fatigue wearing version of the Pig Cop that Chris had cooked up but I do not remember if that was released or if it was canceled before it was released.

Not a bad line-up of figures overall huh? In retrospect of course. Yeah there are always going to be things to look at and pick apart, and nobody does that as critically as we who worked in this shit, believe me. But you have to look back on any line as a designer or a sculptor or a painter and sort of put the whole thing into a perspective and see how it all holds together. I think it holds together very well.

Those times were great if you were into making and selling figures, because even if these weren't very good we'd have still sold a bunch of them. Sales were through the roof on action figure lines back then, it was SICK the numbers we were pulling.

Comparing the numbers of Duke or some of the other early ReSaurus lines to some of the later Palisades ones and to numbers I have heard from other people in this business is mind boggling.

And yet, with as many of these that were sold, you hardly ever see them on eBay or anywhere else. And you see stuff like late series Muppets or Resident Evil, which had less than a fourth of the total number of sales, on eBay fairly frequently.

I've always wondered what to make of that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Artists Alley: AH!

If you call yourself a fan of comic books, and you do not know what AH! means, then shame, shame on you. AH! is the signature of the amazingly talented Adam Hughes, who is perhaps best known for how he draws the sexy babes.

Remember in the last Artists Alley how I said that deviantART had all kinds of artists on there? I believe the exact quote was "You get the full gambit, from kids just starting out, to guys like me who are sort of in the medium area, to full-on GODS in the professional comic world, like Adam Hughes..." He is one of my all-time favorite artists, in my same love-group as guys like Byrne, Adams, Kirby, Simonson, Ross and others, and he really is a card-carrying member of deviantART.

Check out some of his most recent deviations.

If you'd like to see more of his ASTOUNDING talents in action, check out the deviantART page of Adam Hughes. You'd have to sign up for an account (I think, not sure on that), but it's free and WELL worth your time to have access to his gallery, as well as hundreds of thousands of other pieces of fantastic art!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking for The MF-ing Moment

I'm in a bad mood today.

The new week begins, and my Mom and Ken went back home to Arkansas over the weekend. It was great having them here, but she can't stay forever. As of today Jennifer's mother and father are assuming the mantle and looking after Bennett during the day since we can't expose him to Day Care germs while he is taking the ACTH medication. His immune system is just too weak and we don't want to have him catch anything that will complicate his treatments.

But the fact is, Bennett has been on ACTH for over ten days, and it doesn't appear to be working to me. There was a stretch late in the week where his episodes were getting further apart and less intense...he was having one per day for a stretch of three days. But Saturday he had two episodes, and Sunday he had three. Who knows what Monday will bring?

Hell, no one knows if this ACTH will work at all, as I have said before that is the most maddening thing about this. To attempt to treat something that is so NOT understood in ways that are even LESS understood.

Is there still a chance ACTH will be what Bennett needs to stop his seizures? Maybe. I am just not very hopeful about it.

On Friday of last week in one of my many Internet searches for any information I found a forum that I joined for Infantile Spasms, though as many posts as there were there I could find no case of anyone who had a child who started IS in their FIFTEENTH MONTH. That's when Bennett's problems started. It is almost ALWAYS in month 4-7, even if and when there is a Cortical Dysplasia. (The forum is very difficult to navigate through though, based on my own forum management experiences I wish I could streamline it for the guy who runs it to make it easier for newbies to get info and for people to know where to actually go and post.)

Not to mention that finding any cases at all where a child had Cortical Dysplasia on that site or any other is very, very hard. I'm still looking when I can carve out the time, but I also need to be in a certain mental state to do the looking. You get that? In other words, I can't be looking at weaker moments or it just makes my mindset that much worse.

See, I wake up with this grapefruit sized pit in the center of my stomach. I shower with it, I crap with it, I shave with it. I carry it with me when I go to the Post Office, I sit with it in my chair while I do my regular day job work from here at home. It is with me when I watch Bennett play and laugh and giggle and do normal everyday stuff. It is with me when I watch him have 27 seizures in a row for five minutes and stare at me blankly during each and every one. It's with me when I kiss my wife and kids goodnight and it goes to bed with me and sleeps inside me. It pokes at me a lot during the middle of the night. It wakes me up early.

And it is always there.


What I want is an MF-ing Moment. You know what that is? It isn't what you think it might be.

In 1977 a little film came out called Star Wars. I could write a full, long, tedious blog about how that film changed my life, but I'll spare you that for now. If you never saw the film, and I have met one or two people in my life that haven't, you really should. Beyond the spaceships and the aliens and the laser swords and junk is a damn fun and deceptively simple story. I say deceptively simple because you can enjoy it as just a 'boy saves the universe' storybook fairy tale, or you can examine all the subtext of how it fit into the end of the nation's angst of the 1970's, its religious overtones, its mythological elements, etc., etc.

There is a scene in that film that I have since come to call The MF-ing Moment.

It's been a tough battle in space over the Death Star, the Empire’s (The Bad Guys) ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction. The Rebels (The Good Guys) sent some thirty teeny spaceships to fight the mother of all battle stations, in an effort to exploit a weakness in the station’s defenses. Most of the good guys have been blown to bits, and our hero, Luke Skywalker, is running out of friends as one wingman bails and the other gets blasted. Racing to his destination down a seemingly endless trench to a nearly unhittable exhaust port that he has to shoot, even his trusty on-board robot gets smoked in a hail of debris and sparks by Darth Vader, the galaxy's most terrifying villain, who is in his own spaceship and hot on Luke’s tail.

Just as Vader aligns Luke’s ship in his targeting crosshairs and presses his shiny red button to scatter Luke’s atoms across the stars, Luke’s friend Han Solo comes through and his ship, the Millennium Falcon, comes screaming out of the shining light of a nearby sun to save Luke’s ass. Han shoots one of Vader’s wingman, forcing the other wingman to wig out and swerve into the wall of the trench and explode, but not before clipping Vader’s ship and sending it spinning out of control into the blackness of space.


THAT’S The MF-ing Moment, The Millennium Falcon Moment, that moment when it appears all hope is lost and then, suddenly, you get your chance to take a shot at saving the universe, and that’s what I want for Bennett.

Now I know that isn’t going to happen. I know life is not like that.

And even if I DID get that moment the likelihood is that anything born from it would only be temporary. Life imitates art. Art imitates life. Because if Bennett’s seizures were to stop today, if he had none at all for the rest of the day, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t come back tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that the cause of his seizure symptoms would be fixed.

Yeah sure, the Rebels blew the Death Star to hell, but then the Empire came back and bitch-slapped ALL OF THEM in the next movie. But at least in the movie there was a brief period of time where everybody was happy and got medals from Carrie Fisher in a super hot dress.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Some new Mighty Muggs were added to my collection this week. This of course makes my collection MIGHTIER THAN EVER! I just love saying that. And no, it never gets old.

First up? Filling some holes. An Indiana Jones, Monkey Man? Why they did him instead of a Toht or Colonel Dietrich or even better still, Rene Belloq, is BEYOND ME.

Then another single I stumbled across actually, but happily scooped up since I did not have. Though the connection is not as strong, as it never is with these Expanded Universe Star Wars guys...I just don’t really know who Darth Revan really is beyond what I read, so while great to have him from a collection perspective I'm not really sure I care.

Next Up? Filling some holes. A Darth Maul I had been missing and a First Appearance Iron Man I had been missing. Both off of eBay, great deals.

Another eBay deal, picked up a Whitey. I am considering trying my hand at a custom design and seeing if I can figure out how to actually pull it off and make it look good. Since these are all tampo printed graphics it is hard to do it and have it match up to the quality of the product when you do a custom, but maybe there is a way to do it with some masking and maybe some minor wet/dry labels and such. Anyway, thinking about it.

Then, last but not least, directly from with a coupon I had from a prior transaction gone horribly wrong (the only one, otherwise they are awesome IF and only IF you do not freak out over not always getting a minty fresh package). This is the latest Marvel wave, with classic Cyclops and Phoenix!

How SWEET is that! Bring on Colossus, Nightcrawler, a brown Wolverine and Storm so I can complete me basic John Byrne X-Men set!

Old school, baby! Snik'ty Snik't!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'll Be Block

Some asshat asked me yesterday why I would write blogs about toys or other things instead of focusing any and all of my writings or my time on what is going on with my son Bennett. At first? I was really taken aback and started to question myself and was embarrassed. Then I was just plain old-fashioned mad. Had this person been in front of me, I would have delivered unto him a freshly opened can of Whup-Ass.

Yes, Bennett and his condition and his present and his future is my number one priority. Yes it is weighing me down. I actually feel in many ways as if my entire body is covered in tar and my head is encased in an old-fashioned diving helmet like they wore in that movie with DeNiro and Cuba Gooding. It's that heavy. So I write these things, and try to get into talking about some other things that have nothing to do with seizures or spasms or dysplasia or brain surgery or anything of the sort so that I can lighten that heaviness and try to preserve what little positive mental health I have.

So to that end, join me in this diversion, and any others I choose to explore...I'd appreciate the pleasure of your company.

I remember seeing the first Terminator film for the first time in the movie theater, I even remember who I saw it with. A sweet girl named Amy who I was dating in 11th grade. It was such an awesome, life-changing movie that I always remembered my first viewing of it and it was doubly etched into my memory because I was so mesmerized by it that despite the fact that this SUPER hot chick who I was majorly into physically was sitting next to me I didn't even take a second to try to lay the mack down. Not even ONCE.

That's how good Terminator was as a story.

Most things Terminator end up being awesome. Terminator 2 was a perfect sequel in every way, shape and metallic form. There were tons of comics I read and enjoyed. I bought some of the Terminator toys that came out over the years. And of course I am SO psyched for Terminator: Salvation. I can't wait to see it.

Here's the real kicker much as I love all things Terminator I have never watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Only one reason really. I can only watch so much TV a week, and already I feel like I watch too much, so I had to let that one slide. I will probably catch it on DVD some time. Isn't TV on DVD an awesome thing? I remember when I watched TV without even having a freakin' VCR.

Then there is Terminator 3, a movie I often hear people talk shit about. I may be one of the few of the people I regularly communicate with who really loved Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Most of the folks I share movie talk with didn't like it. I loved it. But then again, I am sometimes a freak when it comes to movies. My favorite Matrix film was the second one and I really liked the third.

I've had my eye on this set of Kubrick figures for a long, long time. Always passed them up, and over the past few years I just had not been spending the money on stuff like this, but now that I have a job I have a TOY ALLOWANCE again for 'Ken Stuff' so I am constantly looking for deals on eBay to fill some holes in my collection.

These were put out the year that T-3 came out and it has taken this long to add them to my collection. Medicom put out two boxed sets of figures based on the T3 film.

You get the humans in the movie, John Connor and Kate Brewster.

Am I the only one who thinks Claire Danes is hot? Well, to me she was especially hot in this movie, and I can't put my finger on the reason why. And is it me, or does the Kubrick version of John Connor look eerily like Sean Astin?

You also get two versions of the T-X, the one based on the actress Kristanna Loken, and the full mechanical one.

And of course you get two versions of Ah-nuld. One with the coffin from the scene in the cemetery at the mausoleum of Sarah Connor...

...and one with some nifty cyborg battle damage.

That eye is awesome. It's a subtle detail from the film that shows me that someone who designed this figure was REALLY paying attention. Near the end he has a sort of bloody eye and they nailed it.

Lastly, you get one of the early Terminators, the T1-7, which is probably about as UN-Kubrick as a Kubrick gets.

Awesome to finally have these, and it will definitely keep me satisfied until I begin the hunt for these...

The Terminator 2 MiniMates that debuted at Toy Fair and are coming out in the next few months. Can't wait!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Getting Punched in the Stomach

Thought I would give an update on Bennett, since I haven't devoted a blog exclusively to him in...what, three days? And I am doing this mostly for the people who have been letting me know via comment, e-mail, phone and whatever that they like to know what is going on in an up-to-the-minute-fashion but also don't want to 'bug' us by calling, writing, etc. First of all, it ain't like anybody's buggin' anybody, but that's neither here nor there.

But I DO get the someone might be hesitant to reach out and contact because of concerns of how we are doing at the moment. There's some hesitation about whether our sleep schedule is weird or Bennett's, whether we are overwhelmed with his care currently. Some people just don't know what to say, and they want to stay connected but think it might bother me to hear the same kinds of supportive things said over and over.

Trust me...I never get tired of the support and neither does my wife. What's funny is that we actually feel bad about not giving people good news because we know that many of you are very deeply hurt by this, and we're normal...we hurt when people we love hurt just as people who love us hurt when we hurt. (What did I just say? Now my BRAIN hurts...)

So he's taking this drug called ACTH, and a very expensive drug at that. See these Questcor drug guys raised the price from roughly $1000.00 dollars per vial to $23,265.00 dollars per vial, but I am not gonna go down that road right now, makes me too freakin' mad. So he takes this drug and has been taking it since late Thursday night. It's considered by many docs a first line treatment of the seizures.

The rub is of course that we, and no one else, knows if a) the drug will work and b) if it does work to stop the seizures if would still require surgery in his brain and c) if it is to stop the seizures right now when is it gonna actually happen? When are we gonna SEE the change ala no seizures? Yeah, fun ride ain't it?

Do I sound angry today? It's cause I am. See, he had a seizure yesterday morning, around 10-ish or so, but then he didn't have one at all the rest of the day. Hmmm, interesting to say the least. We get up today, no seizures at all in the 10 o'clock hour, which is a time he usually has one. Hmmm...11:00 comes, 12:00, 1:00....I'm thinking..."Is this gonna be the day? Is this FINALLY gonna be the day he doesn't have any at all?"

Then it's 2:00, then it's 3:00, and I gotta be honest with you, I was feeling VERY optimistic. I mean c' had been OVER 24 hours since he had a physical manifestation of this thing, could that mean that the jumbled activity going on inside was also subsiding? Could this be the beginning of an upswing here?

3:24 in the afternoon, and there it is. Back again.

It's sort of like being punched in the stomach when you aren't looking and aren't set for it. I mean, even when you are ready for that punch it hurts, but when you are NOT ready? You get the wind knocked out of you. But even that isn't an analogy that serves this well at all.

You get the soul ripped out of you.

You sit there, staring off into space, not sure how to process the feelings in your head that just went from hope to fear, from joy to sorrow SO fast there isn't a device to measure that small of an amount of time. Your will to continue to move through time to the next moment and the moment after that is severely weakened but you know you had better find some motivation to keep taking those breaths because you have to be there for the people that need you. You want to scream, you can't. You want to cry, you already are but you hold back the floodgates cause you don't want to freak out your other son. You want to tear something apart, but you have to stay cool.

This is just such a big pile of shit. Sorry, I know it's a family show, or supposed to be, but that's just how I feel right shit.

I took this photo of Bennett yesterday. He was actually playing, having a good time, giggling and laughing, but there was a moment, this moment here, and my camera happened to go off during the moment. I'm showing the photo because when I look at it it symbolizes a lot of my own perceptions of how alone he really is right now even though he can't realize it, and it symbolizes how helpless I feel because I can't stop this thing in his head.

Anyway, that's the latest...maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Evolution of Rizzo the Rat (Part 2)

NOTE: Still no change in Bennett, for good or ill. Still hoping for that ONE day where he has no seizures, then I'll take that and keep moving forward. Until then? Frustrating as hell to wake up every morning and stare at the ceiling as I try to find some hidden will to get up out of bed and face each day. Some days are better than others. U2 wrote a song about that. Anyway, on to Part 2 of yesterday's blog...

Continuing with the Evolution of Rizzo the Rat...

Yeah...But What Goes in the REST of the Package…?
Rizzo is a really small Muppet. Consequently he was a really small figure in the scheme of things. Even though scale had to be cheated often in most of the lines I ever worked on, Rizzo is still pretty tiny when you put him next to a package-filling Beauregard or Fozzie or Chef. So we had to figure out exactly what was going to take up all that extra real estate inside the packaging.

Lots of ideas were kicked around. You may not know this, but at one time the bulk of the accessories was going to be some Dancing Cheeses, shown here in a concept sketch that I think was drawn by Jamie.

We had to scrap that idea. Why? Because you have to pick and choose how much time you actually have to devote to any given part of a line, and any given part of a SKU, or figure package. Any part that had a likeness has to go through full process, meaning reviews, counter reviews, revision and so on. That takes time. It also takes a lot more dough.

Accessories of real objects cost less to sculpt, take less time to review and are usually the way to go when you have a limit on all your resources. That's why so many times though the message board was screaming "PACK-INS!!!" I was quietly thinking..."Um, no..." while verbalizing the term "Anything is Possible!", because it was the best way to get everybody to just shut the, it was a great way to get information across quickly, yeah that's it.

We ultimately decided on some objects from the film Muppets From Space, a Pizza in a Box, and a hat and mic from Muppets Tonight. A good mix. Here is the main scene that provided the bulk of the inspiration for most of the Rizzo accessories.

Enter the Mancuso
So in comes Bill Mancuso, who really started doing most of the accessories as of Series 4. He is talented as shit, has a very fast turnaround time and generally is just a nice guy, even though these days he looks like a thug and would scare you if you saw him on the street.

After some concepts, Billy gets cracking on the Pizza Box and some of the other parts. Some great images of the early stages of the accessories.

Bet you didn't know that at one time the Boxing Glove was going to function. Of course...I was insane in those days and tried to do anything and everything to increase the cool factor of any added part. In the end we killed it because of costs, but Billy actually did sculpt a working model.

Too Much Information...Running Through My Brain
I can't say this enough. You can never, ever, ever, ever have too much information when you are ready to send your notes in to whoever you have making your product. I believe that so strongly that I always, well ALMOST always, would create what I just referred to as a 'Production Binder'. I'm sure there is probably a cooler name for it, but this single thing, to me, is the most important part of the process. In it, I specify everything I expect the product to do, call out every type of plastic I want, the kinds of joints I want, any problems I see as potential hurdles, and on and on and on.

These binder pages, if you can believe it, are really light. I mean these Rizzo pages. But, this particular SKU did not require as much in the way of binder data as some of the other figures have. Or some other projects. As you can imagine if you have ever opened and played with The Swedish Kitchen playset, the production binder for that was over 60 pages, and I still don't think I had enough info in there.

But this Rizzo binder was adequate for what I needed to do, so I didn't overdo it. This idea was actually born from back in my ReSaurus days. Back then, these binders had to be made by hand, with photographs and cut and paste and stuff like that then color copied, but eventually the computers were good enough to do almost everything digitally.

These binders were invaluable. I can't tell you how many times problems came up and all I had to do was go back to the binder and locate what I originally specified and that was all I needed. It saved my ass more times than I can count, and it is shocking to me that more people in the business don't do it. Of course, a lot of bigger companies take prototypes to a really completed level. We never could because of budget, so often some pretty significant things had to be completed overseas, and the only way to do it was to make sure someone over there had every bit of info they needed.

Wok Your Plan
After the tooling patterns, painted masters, binders, notes, samples, whatever you gathered for the production of the piece is in the hands of the factory, they will, if requested, give you as much data as YOU need to make sure that everything is where it needs to be. I usually insisted on getting a complete tooling plan, another thing that I have found some people even in the business do not see very often. I won't proceed without one, and they are happy to provide it if you are cool about it.

This tool plan was for the bulk of the Rizzo figure, though the jacket, since it was going to be made out of a softer, more pliable plastic, was not in here. It went into a mold that was specifically created to group all the soft parts together.

No Matter How Small
There are always going to be problems, no matter how much info you do send over. It's the nature of the beast. We are after all talking about some very complicated things. They don't seem that way when you look at a figure on the shelf, but any figure that has any level of sophistication has a ton of parts, and the days of the simplistic Kenner Star Wars figure are long gone (sadly).

But this is your JOB...this is what you get paid to DO. You try to anticipate and prevent as many problems as you can going in, but you also have to be ready to problem solve along the way. I find that to be a very exiting component of doing this kind of work...every single day there was something different, some new challenge that would await me every time I booted up my MAC in the morning. I loved that.

When Rizzo first got made, the intention was to have six individual whiskers in his nose. Three on each side. However, we were finding that each whisker did not want to stay in with just a glue point. So I suggested cutting the nose in half, and having two whiskers, those on opposite sides, be ONE long piece of material. That way the glue point could be on the inside of the nose itself, and that way by pulling on any one whisker you didn't have as good of a chance to pull it out. Here is the factory review of that hair-splitting scenario. I know. I love bad puns what can I say?

Animal Magnetism
The plan was to have a magnet inside Rizzo's head, like some of the other earlier Muppet figures, but one problem often leads to another. Frankly, the separation of the nose made it impossible for us to have a magnet hole in his head, and this is primarily technical based entirely on how the head was now going to have to be re-positioned in the mold in order to 'pull' out effectively.

Luckily, Rizzo has some big ears, and some fur on his head, which would be painted dark in production. So the solution was to create some raised areas behind his ears, and add small ridges on the inside of the hat. That way, though it wouldn't stay on his head if you drop kicked him (as we all did from time to time) the hat had enough contact and rigidity to keep the hat on his head for average moving around.

Packaging Kama Sutra
Next comes the time when you have to figure out, after you get all the finished plastic parts in the office, where the plastic parts are actually going to be positioned in the packaging. I've done it in a lot of different ways, but here's a great shot of a very simple method. Just take the parts, lay them on a print out of the cardbacks, and snap a shitty photo.

Works though!

How's Your Hole...Family?
Sometimes problems come out of nowhere. You haven't anticipated them and consequently you haven't planned for them. Ah, but this is the REALLY interesting part. You always wonder what you might have missed going in and somewhere along the way some thing is going to hit you in the face and remind you that you still will always have much to learn.

Series 4 was he first to switch to clamshells packaging. That means that the blister card went away in favor of a huge plastic package that sort of fit like a clamshell over the interior contents. I specified this in my notes, but I failed to mention one thing...with clamshell packaging there are different kinds of j-hooks. J-hooks is the word used to describe the little indent at the top of a package that allows it to hang on a peg.

Well, I didn't specify the kind of J-Hook I wanted, and this was what I got in the first round of packaging review.

An easy fix, if there is time, but it is a good reminder that you can never give the factory too much info. Nothing can be assumed to be understood. They gave me what they thought I wanted. No fault of theirs. I never made that mistake again though.

Is That an FEP or Are You Just Happy To See Me?
The greatest day in any 9-11 month production cycle is the day the very first FEP (Final Engineering Prototypes) come in to the office. This is when, like a schoolgirl, I gleefully would take the stuff out to the main area of the office, line it up on a half wall, and call people out of their cubicles to come have a look.

Gotta be honest with you...I was SO thrilled to do this. Seeing the looks on people's faces who had only seen bits and pieces of the process up to that point was priceless.

Of course, then all the criticism came in, and the changes that needed to be made, and the concerns, and the suggestions. But you know what? That's all part of the process, and it only meant that I had more work to do, so I was happy anyway. Especially since then we got to take the figures OUT of their plastic prisons and start taking some fun photos! We said "Play With It!" on lots of stuff, but it was always super satisfying to be able to show people just how far you could take that. This was shown the following day the FEP's arrived on the Daily Bit.

That, in a nutshell, is a look at the process of making Rizzo. Sure, it is not a complete picture. If it were as easy to sum up in a few pages of notes then it wouldn't take so long to go from the first step to the last, but I picked whatever highlights I felt were unique to Rizzo and threw them out here. fingers hurt. That's a helluva lot of typing. Glad I didn't decide to do this on the Backstage Playset or something. But it was fun...and a reminder of many of the things I really miss about working on this kind of stuff.

See Ya Later,

That's it for the repeat. Hope you dug seeing it again. I like the writing style WAY more then the older stuff. And it's a much more complete review of the process.

A Beautiful Blank Page

Christmas is over. That sound you hear is my sigh of relief. The tree is not actually down, as the opening image suggests. That was a tem...