Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 369

Day 369 January 4th

            Ushering in the 10th anniversary of the Minimates I have conducted a series of interviews with people that were involved with the creation of Minimates ten years ago as well as the people involved with keeping them going strong today! 

10th anniversary interviews – Uriel Caton, Designer with Diamond Select Toys

Info: Besides Minimates, he does the concept art for many of the Femme Fatales, and has done control art for many DST/AA action figures, including Star Trek, STNG (new generation), Voyager (favorite, 7 of 9) and Dark Angel. He has also done control art and designs for statues of MaryJane Watson and Gwen Stacy, the Venom statue, the Mandarin bust and the Professor X bust. 

-How did you first become involved with Minimates?
Uriel Caton: At the time I was working with Nelson Asencio, who was the senior artist and creative director at Art Asylum as the Minimate concept was being tweaked and refined. I remember working on Minimates after the the initial creative brainstorm from the Art Asylum guys. I think we had a long list of Marvel characters and DC characters to do, and we were quite excited to see these new figures come to life.

What does your current job entail?
Uriel: Well, primarily I am tasked with translating the reference of any given character into a Minimate figure, one that is going to encompass not only recognizable aspects of the real version, but also the quality standards that DST maintains in a Minimate, with a blend of good aesthetics and a level of fun and playability. Thankfully, I don't do this alone, this is a group effort, and Robert Yee and Barry Bradfield are an integral part of the process.

–How does it feel to see the Minimate brand still going strong 10 years after starting?
Uriel: It still feels dreamy and surreal when I see them, lol! But frankly, there is a nice sense of satisfaction to see that the Minimates are still bringing fun and playfulness to everyone. It also makes me a bit nervous, because the Minimates keep evolving and we want them to remain appealing and fun. So it's humbling in a way, always seeing the next wave of Minimates as a new challenge; the last thing we want to do is rubber-stamp.

What's your favorite Minimates line to work on, and why?
Uriel: I have a penchant for superheroes, video game characters and fantasy figures, probably in that order too, lol! It probably stems from growing up reading all things Marvel and DC and wanting to do comics, then there's my video game habit followed by my enjoyment of books and stories of swords and magics and dragons and the like. Artistically speaking, I have to say that I always enjoyed the artistic vision of the cover painters for the fantasy books, the composition and colors always drove me to just study the painting and absorb any insight I could glean. So yeah...Marvel Minimates would be my favorite line.

–Is there any one minimate that you would consider to be a favourite?
Uriel: This might sound like a strange answer, but I really like how the Death Archangel turned out. I just feel that in the final product he really retained his character, by that I mean his sense of menace, the glare in his eyes, a quiet seething. I also love his metal wings. I know they're plastic, but I keep saying, "Oohh, those look sharp" lol!

–Is it tough to translate the likeness of certain characters into such a small toy? Who has been the most difficult?
Uriel: Hehehe, yes, sometimes it is very difficult. I consider it a kind of portraiture and caricature -- you want anyone looking at a Minimate to know exactly who it is, and some people are relatively easy to translate, but then you have others that make it quite challenging. Since a Minimate doesn't have a nose, I basically have to look for other facial features to emphasize likeness: eyes, hair, eyebrows, etc. I remember doing about seven tries for Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart); I might have pulled out some of my own hairs trying to get his likeness. Also, Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos), thank goodness he had glasses. Then there was Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), no hair, no nose and no eyebrows, lol!

–I really enjoy the work you are doing with the cover recreations and posters -- have you found it to be particularly challenging to recreate certain images for these?
Uriel: I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on any of the posters, they are a lot of fun and allows me to use my illustrator hat.
What I enjoy the most is the actual process of seeing the original work,  'deconstructing' it, and applying those same artistic values to a minimate.
 I think that the more stylized the poster, the more difficult it is to recreate, one example its "For a Few Dollars More", that one took a few tries from me. The colorist did an amazing job in capturing the color palette and the final look of the piece. 

Which is your favorite poster you've done?
Uriel: Hmm... I'd say it would have to be the "Back to the Future" poster. I have always liked Drew Struzan's work, and doing this was a treat and an honor. I was excited to have the Jack Tsai help with the colors, a very talented artist who also is a fan of Mr.Struzan's work. I remember speaking to Jack on the phone about the poster and what we both wanted to accomplish. I think in the end it came out pretty neat, and everyone was happy with the results.

–You used to draw comic books, correct? Where might we have seen your work?
Uriel: Ah, that... Well, I did few books with some independent studios in my early days -- it turned out to be more of a learning experience. The most notable job came to me quite unexpectedly, my friend Buzz asked me if I could pencil a few pages for a JSA Annual written by David Goyer and I almost fainted, hehee! I think I ended up designing the antagonist for that story, but she gets killed in the end, lol!

–If you could have any character from any property as a minimate who would it be and why?
Uriel: Hmm... That's a tough one, but I'd ultimately pick Sepiroth from the game "Final Fantasy 7" by Square (now Square-Enix), including his very imposing katana (odachi). I think the character is very elegant in design, with his long coat and hair, and also because it would be great to capture his demeanor. Of course, I also think there's lots of playability, because of the rich fantasy universe where that story takes place.  

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