Day 374 January 9th
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 – Nelson X Asencio, Co-founder/ Director of Creative Development - Storybox Ink Studios, co-creator of Minimates
First off thank you for taking the time to do this interview in honour of the 10th anniversary of Minimates!
Nelson - It’s not a problem; I am honored to do this interview to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Minimates. Seems like yesterday that we started R&D on the project and were thinking of names for the lil’ guys. At one point in time, we were calling them Mimics! It feels kind of surreal trying to think about how it all came about back in the early days, now that I think about it.
|First ad for Minimates, 2002|
1 – How did you first become involved with Minimates?
Nelson - At the time, I was Senior Art Director at Art Asylum and was in charge of the 2D department. This meant that I was in charge of all design that came out of the studio. We were involved with new investors so Digger Mesch had an idea to come up with a whole new line of pre-skool inspired toys which evolved into Half-pints, Wobblers and Minimates. Half –pints was inspired by Michael Lau and the underground vinyl toy movement as for Minimates was inspired by Kubricks. Minimates survived the scrutiny of the buyers, sadly Half-pints did not. I’m very proud to be a Co-creator of Minimates along with Digger.
2 – What did your job all entail?
Nelson - During the time, I was in charge of overseeing the designs of Marvel statues, internal projects, and also involved in creating the toy line plans we had at the time. For this particular project, I was in charge of the initial design of Minimates. Digger sent us a bunch of different mini-figures for us to look at…from Kubricks (which I love btw), Legos, Playmobil, and some other ones that Digger sent over from China. I started going over them to see what was missing, hence…full articulation. I wanted to combine the best of all these different figures and bring it into one. I remember sitting down in the car, on my way to work one day and sketching out the first design incorporating these ideas. I knew I wanted it to be fully articulated. Once I had that down, I asked Andrew Bradshaw to come up with different proportions for the Minimates. Longer legs, shorter arms…Bigger heads, smaller torsos, and so on. At the end, the proportions turned out to be pretty straight on to human proportions.
Once we had the final design, I was in charge of getting the 2D artwork done by Andrew Bradshaw, Uriel Caton and I, which I sent to Chuck Terciera for approval. When we were given the green light, it was sent to the sculptors and the graphics department. Manny Jesus and Djordje Djokovic would initially handle the tampo art, translating any 2D work that would become the final art for each figure. I would also oversee the prototypes that came back from China and make tweaks if needed. The final stage was the paint department, in which Tina Wang would work her magic to pull it all together. It was definitely a group effort and I am very proud to have worked with such a strong team.
3 – What was it like at the beginning of Minimates?
Nelson - At the beginning, I completely loved it. Something that was in line with Legos that was our own, I thought it was awesome. Of course, it was a hard sell at first. Many people did not want to take a chance on it, especially with the properties we had at the time.
As for its style, we were trying to copy the simplistic styles of Legos and Kubrick, but it really did not convey the right emotion. When we acquired the Marvel license through Diamond, that’s when things changed. The size became smaller because of licensing issues, but it ended up being a good thing. Since we were now doing characters we loved drawing, being that we were into comics and all, we started drawing the faces (meaning Andrew Bradshaw, Uriel Caton and I) within our own style. We liked what we saw and its become the style of Minimates ever since.
If you compare the first lines, being the initial 3” Minimates to the lines that came after we started Marvel, you can see the difference in style.
4 – Were there any of the earlier properties that was a personal favorite?
Nelson - I really liked the ‘Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon’ Minimates line. It was a project that Digger put me in charge of, from coming up with the toy line plan to final product. I would have to say that I also loved working on the ‘Lord of the Rings’ line for Minimates. It was challenging to try and get the likenesses of the actors down, but I think they turned out pretty cool. Another challenge was putting in the right detail, it was still about simplifying so that was challenging. It was also fun working on the packaging. Mshindo Kummba provided the artwork for the front.
5 – Is there any one Minimate that you would consider to be a favorite even today?
Nelson - Honestly, one of my favorite early Minimates was Eddie in the “Somewhere in Time” gear. It was never produced, but the prototype came out awesome. Man, it would have been a nightmare to produce so many paint ops, tampos and accessories, it was insane. Unfortunately, the Rock line didn’t do so well to justify another series, I should have kept the prototype - LOL.
I also loved the ‘Batman Begins’ Minimates, which unfortunately never made it to market. Batman came out awesome and Andy did an awesome job of capturing Christian Bale’s likeness. I should have kept that one too - LOL.
Guess I have more than one.
6 – If you could have any character from any property as a Minimate who would it be and why?
Nelson - Being a huge anime fan, I would love to do “Gatchaman” as Minimates. I would love to do the different outfits, the 70’s and the 90’s version. I also remember us doing some Akira concepts for Chuck back then, and that was also some fun artwork to work on.
Would love to see Star Wars as well! We need a Darth Vader Minimate for sure! LOL
7 – How does it feel to see the Minimate brand still going strong 10 years after you helped bring them to life?
Nelson - It’s awesome and it’s an honor to see something you helped to create, have such a following. I do not feel as connected with it as much now, but I am happy to see Chuck taking it to different levels and doing things that it was meant to be, like the Pirates line and the Max line. I would love to see some astronaut lines and underwater explorer Minimates come out as the years go by. The whole idea was to create a whole universe of Minimates and that’s were it seems to be going which is amazing.
It’s also great to see Uriel Caton working on Minimates to this day, keeping the look consistent for so many years.
8 – What are you working on these days?
Nelson - These days I am working hard on Storybox Ink Studios, my own design studio that I founded with Manuel Jesus in 2005 after parting from Art Asylum. We’re creating and designing for companies such as Mattel and Gentle Giant. One of the cool projects we worked on was the packaging for the ‘Obama’ figure for Jailbreak Toys. We also had the privilege to work with Newtek, the creators of Lightwave, on their ‘SpeedEdit’ packaging. We are venturing more into 3D modeling and prototyping as the year’s progress, being that it is the wave of the future.
We are also working on our own intellectual properties and building our own brands such as “Chuki and Friends”. It is where my passion lies; creating new things has always been my strong point, so we have a few different properties we want to fully develop. You must love what you do and that is the power of art at play.