profileI met Pierre Kalenzaga, product manager for Mezco Toyz, at Mezco’s pre-Toy Fair press event on February 4th.  With International Toy Fair 2016 looming, Pierre took a few moments out of his schedule to answer some questions about Mezco’s expanding One: 12 Collective line, what’s in store for 2016 and exactly how do they put those tiny, intricate costumes together.

jman:  It looks like the One: 12 Collective is getting a huge push this year.  How has the community’s response to the line been up to this point?  Over the last couple weeks, though, Mezco has been leaking out images of new figures like Mr. Spock and Batman v Superman figures.  Is the excitement building for the line?

Pierre Kalenzaga:  One:12 has been in the works, starting more than a year before the Dark Knight Batman saw retail release. From the time development on that figure started in house, we have all been very, very excited about the possibilities for the line – and that excitement has only grown with every release. The community response has been absolutely incredible so far. We couldn’t be happier with the support that One:12 has received, and we’re very much looking forward to the future of this line, and sharing new projects with you guys as they develop.

IMG_2769jman:  One of the new additions to the new line is Marvel.  We’ve got 3 different Daredevils, 2 Caps and 2 Punishers coming out for 2016.  How did the characters get picked for treatment?  How did you guys decide on which versions to go with?

PK:  Everyone at Mezco are fans, first and foremost. So we all came into this with tons of ideas of things we wanted to see. We’re very lucky to be dealing with great people at Marvel. They been great about letting us put our spin on their characters. When it comes to the specific characters, we wanted to make sure that they were instantly recognizable, while still looking and feeling real world. That aspect is important to us with this line. We want these guys to make sense realistically, while still paying homage to the roots of the characters. The great thing about comics in general, and especially true of Marvel is that they have a great track record of redesigning their characters, and making those redesigns iconic. So, we’ve got a lot of great, existing designs to start from.

jman:  DC’s line really expands for 2016.  Shazam, Green Arrow.  Flash and Reverse Flash.  Not to mention the figures from Batman v Superman.  What character were you looking forward to the most this year?  I’m going to go into fanboy mode here for a moment and say that Reverse Flash could be my favorite of that line.  Love the scowl on his face.

Toy Fair 2016: Mezco Toyz pre-Toy Fair eventPK:  Can my answer be “all of them”? Managing this line is a little like being a parent in that it’s impossible to have a favorite. I love all of these figures for different reasons. Sometimes it’s the intricate detail we’re able to get into the figures. Conversely, sometimes it’s the lack of intricate detail, and the uncluttered esthetic of the figure that shines. So, honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite. I will say that doing the movie-related figures, and seeing them turn out the way they have, is very exciting. When it comes to the DCU figures, we’re doing our own take on the designs, so we have a little leeway in terms of our own design sense. When it comes to the Dawn Of Justice designs, we very much have to nail every part of it from the sculpt to the outfits down to the deco, or the whole thing doesn’t come together. So, it’s rewarding to see that all come together, and on top of that to see how well received it’s been by the fans.

IMG_2780jman:  Tell me a little bit about the designs of the figures.  Take, for example, Green Arrow.  He looks less like Robin Hood, than he has in the past.  This version has got more of a medieval feel to him.  Like something out of Game of Thrones.  Then on the Marvel side, there’s 3 distinct visions of Daredevil.  Where did the design team reach for inspiration?  How closely do you work with DC and Marvel on the designs?

PK:  Well, we’re fans, so more often than not, every project starts with “Hey, you know what would be cool?!” The goal with this line has always been to represent our version of these characters as if they existed in the real world. We always start with the heart of the characters. So, you take a character like Daredevil, he’s existed for more than 50 years. A character like Green Arrow has been around for more than 70 years. They have many different “iconic” looks, looks that are tied to certain eras, or certain storylines. That long history is terrific for us, because it means we’re not making anything up. We’re taking design cues from over a half century, and working that into our final design. We’ve been very lucky, as I said earlier, that we work with great people both at Marvel and DC. Everyone involved has a tremendous amount of respect for the characters, and the end result, we hope, is that we create a figure that is true to the core of the character.

jman:  New to the One:12 Collective line, also, is Star Trek:  The Original Series.  Mr Spock and Sulu, already previously announced, were on display, along with the surprise of Captain Kirk.  What kind of response have you been getting from fans about these guys?  Are there plans to take the line into the movies?  I overheard at the press event that Kirk has a specially made One: 12 Collective body.  Is this true?

Toy Fair 2016: Mezco Toyz pre-Toy Fair eventPK:  The response has been great. I’m a huge TOS Trek fan, and have vey fond memories of watching the show back in the day. The fact that we’re getting to make figures is already a treat to me. Having other fans of the show respond the way they have to them, is just icing on the cake.

At the moment we are only focused on The Original Series. I can’t really say what the future holds, but I’ve been a fan of every Trek incarnation, so I would love to do more Star Trek from different eras.

As for body construction on Kirk, there are almost ten bodies built out for the One:12 line – and that number is still growing. We wanted to be able to represent any character accurately. At the beginning of the design process we we came up with two “regular human” bodies. One that would be appropriate for Kirk, and one that would work for the thinner frame of Spock.

jman:  The line has also expanded with Space Ghost and the Universal Monsters.  How do you guys decide what properties to go after?  Is it by fan response/poling?  Or do you guys have an internal wish list of properties?

Toy Fair 2016: Mezco Toyz pre-Toy Fair eventPK:  Haha, I know I keep saying this, but we’re all fans, so our internal wish list and really, really, reeeeeaally long. We all love different brands, or different genres, and we all have a list a mile long of things we’d love to see made. All of the licenses under the One:12 umbrella are there because of a love for the source material.

jman:  Now that the One:12 Collective has expanded to this point, are there plans in the works for a female One:12 Collective body?

PK:  Absolutely, yes. There are way too many incredible female characters out there for us not to be working on female bucks.

jman:  The costumes on the figures are so tiny, yet so well constructed.  Again, I go back to the Green Arrow figure.  What’s the secret?  Are you using elves?  Oompa Loompas?  How do you guys do it?Toy Fair 2016: Mezco Toyz pre-Toy Fair event

PK:  I don’t know if there’s a secret really. It’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of back and forth, and a lot of trial and error. There was a very steep learning curve at the beginning. Sometimes we’d start a project without knowing for sure how or if we’d be able to achieve the look we wanted – and then it was on us to figure it out before production, or in some cases, during production. There’s nothing worse than having a great idea and then having to drop it because you can’t make it work. Thankfully, we haven’t had to do that. The upside is that, with every project we learn something new, and that results in every figure being better than the one before it. The downside, is many late nights at the office. But, I’m lucky to work with a great group of people, so it’s really not much of a downside.

You can check out our full gallery from Mezco’s Press event.  Many thanks to Pierre for taking the time to answer my questions!  

 

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