Exclusive Interview with Edmund Barnett-Ward, Director of Sculpting at Designworks Windsor, the company that sculpts Character Options
Part 1 Behind the Scenes at Designworks
Welcome to Part 3 of a multi-part 10,000 word series describing in detail the making of Doctor Who Action Figures and including 63 exclusive new images of the figures in various stages of production.
"Looking back, we spent a lot of the time in the early 90's at Camelot wanting to do action figures and no one in this country did them. So eventually I started a branch of Camelot in the States and we did all of Playmates Simpsons action figures, we did Lord of the Rings - 43 little figures produced in sets similar to lego. We got into JAKKS Pacific doing WWE wrestlers and a host of other clients. All this grounding, all these elements have all gone into the current Doctor Who figure line."
"When I left Camelot I went freelance for a year before coming to Designworks. I still maintained contact with Al who himself already had a relationship with Designworks. The first job we did for him was Marvel Sliders. Though the first figure created was that of Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston, the very first actual Doctor Who product created was the 5" Dalek. It all stems from that Dalek."
"The original intention for the Doctor Who product line wasn't to make action figures. The product concept was for the RC battling Daleks, and that was it. As an added value element the Ninth Doctor and Rose figures were included. Originally they were going to be static PVC figures with no articulation at all."
Ninth 'Disco' Doctor Original Sculpt - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"People often talk about the '5 inch figures'; they are not five inch figures. When we were looking at the RC Dalek we had to pick what size it would be and arbitrarily said it would be exactly 5 inches. So the Dalek is 5 inches but the figures are scaled to the RC Dalek. A six foot man, which is pretty much what Christopher Eccleston is, in scale with the Dalek comes out to be something like 5.485 inches. And that's the scale. But people just say 5 inches."
"Character have their own electronics guys that developed the RC mechanisms for the early Daleks. All the work was done retrospectively in the Far East. We produced two Dalek models at two scales, the 5 inch and 12 inch. Sometimes we develop the electronics. Anybody who knows their Daleks will appreciate what a leap the 18" Dalek is in terms of accuracy over the original one. Again, its due to the quantity of reference materials. We weren't able to get our hands on the Dalek when we made the original one, we did it entirely from set photos and we never had a clear shot of the back of one so you can see the panel lines are quite off on the back of the head on the dome of the original Dalek and the basic shape isn't quite right, but we adapted to what was available at the time. Nowadays, we don't have a Dalek downstairs, but we certainly don't have trouble getting hold of a Dalek if we need one!"
"Most of the time, the answers to questions about small variations in released products are very mundane. There's no big mystery about why things change; it could be for a host of reasons. How to apply the decoration to a figure is the kind of conversation that we have all the time. For example, if I take something out to the car park and photograph it under daylight, it can look completely different to how it looks on screen. Anybody who collects avidly will know that you will see a lot of variations. For example, with the Kenner Star Wars figures the Hans Solo produced in 1978 is going to be a lot crisper than the one that came out in 1983 of the same figure; because of the age of the mold - the life of the tool is finite."
Astrid Peth Approval Deco - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
"I think I'm right in saying that there is no comparable resource to Designworks in this country."
In the States you have Art Asylum in New York and Gentle Giant in Los Angeles. When I started sculpting here it became clear that if we offered sculpting as well as model making we'd get more work from clients like Character, Hasbro and Vivid Imaginations. Because I'd been in charge of sculpting at Camelot I was asked to set it up here. When we started off we were doing more things like, say, bubble bath bottles and promotional pieces for clients like Nike - connected to the design side of the business, not so much the toys. Through my relationship with Alisdair we developed sculpting realistic characters into an area of specialization. It all stems from when we did the second Star Wars chess set that was done here, the first major product. The Saga Chess Set derived from all six films and was a joint venture with Alisdair at the Character Group and Hasbro. From that people could see that we could do really good facial likenesses and we got a really good response from Lucas Film."
"Our entry into Lucas Film was through a company called Logistix, a design consultancy, that were doing Star Wars products. Because they were in a really tight timeframe, we came up with this idea of all going out to Skywalker Ranch and sitting there and physically sculpting in front of them the changes they wanted, to avoid the normal couple of months processes for approvals of submitting a sculpt, getting amendments, changing it and submitting it again (which you could expect to happen two or three times because of the level of expectation that Lucas Film have for their products). This is actually a process we have since used with other clients."
"We went on from there to create another series of incredibly successful products for Character which were the Little Britain plush dolls that had vinyl rotational molded heads and plush bodies. What we identified from that line was that you had to have blinding likenesses of the characters; you had to be able to instantly see Vicki Pollard, Lou and Andy and the other characters. This is something that Character had not really done before; though they had made 12 inch 'dolls' of for example The Spice Girls and Hear'Say they were heavily stylized whereas we were going for realism, and more so than anyone else. We wanted to put a McFarlane level of detail, but in fact more than McFarlane realism, because McFarlane is slightly stylized in its own way. [Note: US toy maker McFarlane Toys produces several lines of figures from properties such as X-Files, Alien and Predator]
"We wanted to put that kind of realism onto a pocket money kids toy. So we wanted to be better than Star Wars, better than that sort of competition."
Gelth Zombie Approval Deco - All images exclusively approved for use only on doctorwhotoys.net by Designworks, Character Options and the BBC.
Don't miss Part 4 in which Ed talks exclusively to doctorwhotoys.net about the first stages of the actual process of making Doctor Who figures.
Part 1 Behind the Scenes at Designworks
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