Day 371 January 6th
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 – Barry Bradfield, Designer, Diamond Select Toys
– How did you first become involved with Minimates?
Barry - I had been buying Minimates for some time and was interested in making Minimates customs, but didn’t have the time or skills to actually create physical custom figures. Instead, I decided to create custom control art, since my talent lay in drawing and not sculpting. I posted a number of them online in forums and on my website to show just for interest's sake. After some time I was contacted by Robert Yee to see if I would be interested in doing some freelance work for actual Minimates. It began as a part-time job after I came home from my day job at a hobby/comic book store, but eventually, as I took on more Minimates work, it became something I could do full time.
The funny thing is, I almost rejected the job as I thought it was a request for commissioned artwork and not to actually work on the real deal. It was quite late at night, and before I shut down my computer the e-mail came in from Robert. I typed up a blunt "I'm not taking on commissions right now" e-mail, and right before I mindlessly hit 'Send', I did a double-take at the e-mail address the message came from. I promptly deleted my message and started again, sending all my contact information. Minutes later I was in the middle of a phone interview for the position. Let this be a lesson to read e-mails fully, and not just skim them!
After a week of some try-out assignments, one of which being creating a tampo file for The Thing from Fantastic Four (dubbed "one of the hardest things I would have to do", but there's since been much harder!) I got the position. Two days later I was designing front views of Spider-Man, Black Costume Spider-Man, Peter Parker and Sandman from the Spider-Man 3 movie as a proposition for what the line would look like.
– What does your job entail?
Barry - I have a number of different tasks that I perform when it comes to Minimates. I share design duties with Uriel Caton, and sometimes with Mark Wong when Uriel and I are busy. Once the design work is completed, Robert and I go over the design before I assemble the artwork onto the design sheet. Here, we make sure any tweaks that are needed are made in order to help the characters look just right. I then proceed to pick out colours based on reference and call them out on the artwork. After Chuck and Robert go over the designs for any issues, I create the tampo file for all the artwork that needs to be printed on the figure itself. Around this time, we'll start to get photos of the sculpted parts, which Robert and I go over and make any sculpt revisions. Much later, I will create a high-resolution image of the character from the waist up to be printed as mascot art on the packaging. Both Uriel and I also work on the posters that are on display at conventions and are sometimes on packaging. Usually he's the artist and I provide the colours, but I've designed a few myself as well.
– What's the reaction when you tell people you design toys for a living?
Barry - People are pretty excited about it, I think. I actually keep one of the Marvel advertising inserts in my wallet to show people when they don’t understand. It’s sort of like showing photos of your kids, I suppose... but much more bizarre. I think it’s more surprising to people that I’ve worked on Minimates for 5 years, and still have not met any of the people I work with in person. I live in Canada, and the rest of the team is in the US, so everything is done by phone and e-mail. We didn't know if it could work at first, but in a short amount of time we seemed to get a rhythm down pat that works really well.
– How does it feel to see the Minimate brand still going strong 10 years after starting?
Barry - It’s really exciting, especially with each new announcement we make. I’ve only been around for half of the ride, though, but to look at it from the first five years as a consumer, then as a designer it’s pretty wild. It's great to see my little collection of about 25 Minimates on my shelf expand to hundreds just from ones I had a hand in creating. I also can't think of another group of figures that's been this diverse and still all fits in together as if they belong in the same universe. I mean, I have Spider-Man hanging out with Batman, Doc Brown, Clint Eastwood and Nathan Drake -- this is the stuff fanboy dreams are made of!
– What's your favorite Minimates line to work on, and why?
Barry - I don’t know if I could choose a favourite, because they all bring something to the table that is fun to work on. Every line can be something new, and it helps keep the work day exciting. Just when you start to think you’re tired of drawing superheroes, you get to draw cowboys, or ghosts, or video game characters. Then you return to superheroes and you’re excited to be drawing them once more.
It can be especially cool when it's a line I'm already personally interested in, such as when I had the chance to design Batman and Nightwing, as I'm a big Batman fan. Any time Robert gets to ask “When you were younger, did you ever think you’d be working on this in the future?”, that’s a cool line to work on. Real Ghostbusters was one of those lines, as I still have old drawings of Stay Puft I drew from when I was five years old, and vividly remember coming home from school to watch the cartoon before dinner. I never knew it would be in the name of product research!
– Is there any one minimate that you would consider to be your finest work?
Barry - We often talk about topping ourselves, or how the figures have evolved, so I don’t know if I could peg one specific piece as being my finest work. There’s sculpted elements I’m really happy with on certain figures, and tampo elements on others I’m really proud of. A few whole figures that I immediately think of include Spider-Man from Spider-Man 3, since it was the first figure I ever designed. Even though I might do it a bit differently today, I’m still happy with how it turned out, since I never worked on anything prior to that figure. I’m also proud of Iron Monger from the first Iron Man movie, because he was the prototype for larger characters such as the newer Hulk and Thing designs. He also was called “the best toy yet,” by Iron Man director Jon Favreau himself on the Iron Man DVD special features, which is pretty sweet! Other random elements include things like Professor X's gold hover chair, some of the crazier goofy or scared Ghostbusters faces I came up with based on Uriel's original faces, Whiplash's painstakingly recreated tattoos, and Peter Venkman's hairless cat, which I pushed for including. I still get a laugh at that little cat, coupled with the expression on Peter's face.
– If you could have any character or any property as a Minimate, what would it be and why?
Barry - Everyone working on the figures, I'm sure, has a personal want-list floating around for not just new lines, but also lines we’re working on. For about two years, I was pushing Six-Armed Spider-Man at any chance a Spidey variant came up. After he was finally created, I had another Marvel character on the top of my personal want list that’s finally coming and should be revealed soon. I have an odd connection to the character from my days in junior high school, so I really wanted to see that character get made, and in that specific outfit. I'm happy it's finally on the way!
As for properties, I’m a big fan of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, so those would be fantastic to have. James Bond would probably be my top choice, though, since there’s not much product out there for such a huge franchise with a diverse group of characters. I wouldn't want to start with the go-to tuxedo Bonds either, but rather the odder outfits like the scuba gear from Goldfinger complete with seagull hat. Other characters I'd love in my collection would include Samus Aran from Metroid, or anything from the Legend of Zelda franchise, as I've been playing those games since they were first released.
I'm always thinking of Minimates I would like to see, though, and sometimes it's hard not to think of the possibilities when watching a movie or playing a video game that we haven’t tackled before. I will occasionally catch myself dissecting characters in my head for Minimate creation such as "Okay, so that would be a chest cap, with tampo here and here, and we'd have to include that as an accessory..."