Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Evolution of Rizzo the Rat (Part 1)

NOTE: Taking a break a little from thinking about all this stuff going on with Bennett, so I am going to run some of the blogs I had written that I had not gotten around to posting yet. So you might notice a little more light-heartedness in the writing style...cause I wrote them a couple of weeks ago actually. I'm REALLY hoping for a good update soon on Bennett though, gotta admit that.

OK, so I have run repeats on a couple of Daily Bits from the Palisades days. This one covers a Palisades product but it was written long after Palisades was just a memory to all of us. I wrote this during the days of blogging at the Creatus Maximus website, in a blog section called Grey Matters.

For anyone new to the party, Creatus Maximus was a company I started to produce my own stuff which fell flat on its ass within about a year. I would write about the production process till the cows come home, but I would never assume I could teach a class in how to run a business, cause I sucked at it.

Well, maybe I didn’t...it was a bad time to start doing it and actually having done it once I think I learned enough that I could do it a second time and maybe make it work...but now I got too many things in the pipe.

So here’s a look back at one of the Evolution blogs I wrote during the CMX days on one of the Muppet action figures (coincidentally also one of my FAVORITE of the Muppet figures), the often forgotten Rizzo the Rat.

Cue funky flashback music and wavy dream-like imagery...

So after that Bit repeat, it was suggested that if I were to do an all-new, all-fresh GM with an Evolution style, concept to completion journey of an item, that I should do Rizzo. So I went digging in to some of the old files and I pulled up some really interesting stuff that I know anyone who followed some of the Bits at Palisades never saw. Some of the stuff isn't anything I was comfortable showing at the time, for whatever reason. But here, things are different, there is some distance, and shots and images that are more 'raw' and less official are somehow more fitting.

Doing this has also reminded me of how FREAKING long it takes to do these types of articles, which is why I didn't do them very often before. And now, because I want to go a bit deeper, it takes even longer. But you know what they say, LENGTH doesn't matter...so, here we go, with an all NEW Evolution, Baby!

It's Evolution, Baby! - Rizzo the Rat

When Series 4 of the Muppets line came around, Rizzo was one of the characters who was pretty much a lock. He was a heavy hitter that had not, at that time, been done before, and he was a pretty popular character. Having originated in a raw form on the original television series, becoming a prominent player on the follow-up series Muppets Tonight and being all OVER many of the films, especially the later ones, we knew going in that it was time to tackle Rizzo, but we also knew that it was going to be a very difficult figure to do. He's small, his limbs are wiry, he has teeny whiskers...on and on and on.

Not like any of the other figures had been easy, but Rizzo was one that was particularly going to be a challenge.

We got very lucky with Rizzo. When it came time to get the reference gathered, we ended up with some of the best reference we had ever worked with on a Muppet figure to date. Early on, with the first series, getting reference was VERY hard. I think what happened is that after a couple of series came out and the people at Henson took notice of something different. They were used to seeing some really lowest common denominator products, and I think they saw how much we were really dedicated to a certain vision and our commitment to making things as accurate as we could and it pleasantly surprised them.

I remember in fact some of the great things the main Henson contacts I had would say about the projects, how much fun they had, how important the whole line had become to them internally, mostly as artists than as a juggernaut moneymaker, because even they knew this line wasn't going to set sales records, in some ways it was destined to just be a line born of honor and passion for the subject matter.

So as the line progressed, we got to the point where the people we dealt with at Henson bent over backwards to get us the most accurate and current reference they had. It wasn't always pure gold, especially on some of the obscure characters, but they outdid themselves on Rizzo. Take a look at these source pics.

Pretty astounding...not to mention that Rizzo was one of the Maquettes that Henson had previously had made. Every wonder why a lot of Muppet product looked very similar? That's because for the most part the Maquettes were the main source everybody used for all the products. Don't get me wrong, the Maquettes were OK...but I wanted to go beyond them, and eventually we were able to.

Building the New Rat
The sculpture began, and it actually went VERY well right from the very beginning. Why? Well, the sculptor was a very experienced, very fast artist, which was a huge plus, and the reference made all the difference. When a sculptor has great reference, a lot of the guesswork gets removed, and a lot of revisions are unnecessary.

Of course, revisions are going to happen. It's part of the process. Here's a look at a typical 'review' that I would get back on a figure. Sometimes there was a single page, sometimes there was ten pages or more. Sometimes there were a lot of overlays, sometimes just a few notes. Everybody does it differently, but I gotta say this. As a licensor, Henson's comments in their reviews were some of the best because they were ALWAYS clear. I could easily understand what they wanted, which gave me a chance to either try to convince them of keeping something if I believed in it or easily explaining to the sculptor what the changes needed to be and why.

The sculptor got the notes, made some changes, and re-submitted the piece for review.

And as often happens, a second review sheet came back, with some more detailed finishing touches.

Master of His Domain
The sculptor made the rest of the changes, and then it was time to have the sculpt molded and cast and ultimately unleash Eddie Wires, a guy who went from painting a couple of figures early on to being the absolute number one go to guy for not just Muppets, but for a TON of Palisades stuff. Here's some shots that we took on site of the finished paint master, both for the regular version and the variant.

That's it for now. Like I said, these things can be REALLY time consuming, and I got some stuff to DO today. I have some very important video games to play. I'll pick this back up today or over the weekend.

Part 2 tomorrow...!

1 comment:

  1. Rizzo is a great example of what makes the Muppets so special, and that sculpt is awesome. The stuff you guys were doing with Henson's characters was up there with McFarlane's stuff and probably better in many ways.


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