CTR: Five years ago, many older Sideshow figures were still available for purchase at specialty collectors stores. Shortly after announcing the 12” Star Wars line, that old stock started to get bought up at an astonishing rate. How has the Star Wars line affected Sideshow Collectibles’ other lines and the company as a whole?
BO: Personal anecdote: I went down to a comic book store in Hollywood, just buying comics and looking around, and I noticed there wasn’t a single Sideshow product in there. I took it the wrong way at first, knowing that they had an account thinking ‘are they not buying anymore?’ The next week I ask our sales manager if we were still selling to them and she said ‘absolutely, they’re a great customers of ours’ and I told her I didn’t see anything on the shelf there and she replied ‘why do you think that is?’
I thought that was pretty cool. I know a few stores in LA where I can find “vintage” Sideshow stuff but I think that’s only because it’s in the wrong kind of store. But to answer your question about how it affected our company, we’ve now got all kinds of companies that want to buy products from us. Paintball stores and gift card shops want to sell our stuff, so its interesting that now we have to police them to make sure the products are going to the right sort of places. We even sell stuff to museums, with our dinosaur stuff. When we were doing Civil War stuff we’re selling it to Civil War museums. It’s really cool to get it out there and be able to branch off from the core collecting community.
CTR: Is there any truth to the rumours that the 12” lines are being phased out?
BO: I can say right now that as long as we can be, we will be in the 12” Star Wars business. We’re very happy with the way G.I. Joe has done. Where it makes sense we will keep making 12” figures. With Buffy, we’re more focused on the statues, but maybe in a few years we’ll approach Buffy again [in the 12” format] if there is a strong enough demand for it. For some of the properties that we’re not doing 12” figures for, partners like Hot Toys and Go Hero are doing great 12” product, so there’s plenty out there for the customers. For our focus, I think we’re hitting it at the right places.
We have forty plus active licenses, from the small to the big, and its really difficult to do, say, Jaws 12” figures. Though it would be so awesome!
CTR: Yes it would be!
BO: It would be 100% awesome, but how do we fit that in with everything going on? You’re hitting such a finite collector base with these things. I’m just using Jaws as an example, in place of ‘property X’ . I’ve always wanted to do From Dusk Till Dawn figures, but it’s not going to happen. It would be rad, but it’s just not going to happen. The rights just aren’t there for likenesses and we have to look at what our focus is as a company. We have a major obligation to our Marvel Comics fans, our Star Wars fans, our Lord Of The Rings fans, Aliens & Predator fans, Terminator fans, all of which are among our top five or six properties. So when people ask why we don’t do some obscure movie from the Seventies (like how Amok Time is doing cool stuff like Blackula), it’s a tough answer. We have an obligation to our existing customers, to us as a business, and to our current licensors to hit the product lines and properties that make sense. We’re not Sideshow like when I first started seven years ago, when we were doing cool Outer Limits figures, and the like. I love seeing companies like Go Hero doing Bat Boy. That stuff is great and there is a part of me that wishes we could still do that type of thing as just a fun nostalgic collectible that is hitting a small finite collector base, but the responsibility for the customer/company/licensor is bigger than that.
CTR: So, The Dead line…
BO: The Dead line is dead.
BO: As in they are zombies...
-Laughing- because they are in fact dead…
CTR: The first Premium Format figure is out already, we’ve seen the second one and the pre-order went well, we’re on to our second offering for the Legendary Scale Busts, and the life-sized bust has been revealed. What about the 12” line that started it all?
BO: We’re always looking at how we can approach the 12” line. We always wanted to transition the property into a higher-end realm just to see if we could take our own intellectual property into that territory and the fans have spoken. We now know that we can do that, and its cool. We don’t want to abandon the 12” line completely. We’ve talked about finding the best approach in doing a 12” figure, like doing a 12” figure with a cool environment. The cool thing about The Dead is while the 12” line is good for your generic zombies, there is another direction we’d like to take with it. Hopefully in the next few months we’ll be able to show a new direction, a different take, on The Dead. I think it will be interesting to see the collectors’ reaction to it. It’ll be something less traditional, but way cool! So, when it comes to 12” I wouldn’t say its 100% dead, but we do need to figure out the best way to approach it.
CTR: Sideshow Collectibles is the first company outside of Hasbro to produce articulated G.I. Joe action figures in North America, and over the past year your collection has rivaled the Hasbro line as the quintessential Joe line. What plans do you have for this line in the next year?
BO: First off, I appreciate that comment, but personally I think the quintessential G.I. Joe collection is the Hasbro line, and that is the official response from Sideshow Collectibles. (Sideways happy face) It has been great to see that the fan reaction has been as positive as it has been to our line. In terms of what is happening with G.I. Joe, I think the pace we are going at right now may frustrate some collectors because we haven’t hit on whatever character they want, but I defer to our Star Wars line where we got to Darth Vader and we’re eventually going to get to Boba Fett. We are going to get to Destro, we’re going to get to Zartan. We are actively working on them.
CTR: Haven’t we seen the first teaser picture of Zartan already?
BO: That’s not a 12” figure. We are actively working on the characters that everybody wants but it takes time to find what works best for the characters with what we have currently, so if we don’t have an appropriate body for a character, like the Baroness, we sure the hell better be working on it and we are. We are going to address all the fan favourites and we promise not to take as long as we did to make the Vader when we get to Destro and Zartan. It’s our obligation to do them. We’ve seen dioramas so far and we’ll see more dioramas. We’ll see some statuary, Premium Format Figures, and what ever else the fans ask for. A good prototype would be what we’ve done with Star Wars overall. I don’t think you’ll see any G.I. Joe bronze, but the other major categories we’ve developed with Star Wars is how we’re addressing G.I. Joe, but in a smaller scale that will be acceptable to fans. Will there be busts in the future? There possibly could be but we haven’t actually designed any thing like that.
CTR: Indiana Jones has proven to be a difficult property to successfully market merchandise for. Despite the valiant efforts made in the past by every company with the license, the products were unable to find a buying audience. How has the property been for Sideshow?
BO: We’ve done well. That’s why we keep doing what we’re doing. The best way to handle Indiana Jones is with a measured approach. That’s why you haven’t seen a Shortround yet, but we will eventually get to a 12” Shortround. Right now the 12” figures are in stasis until we figure out the best direction for it. With the Premium Formats we’re hitting one or two a year, and we’re looking at doing more dioramas and statuary stuff, but from a very measured approach. We’ve been very conservative with Indiana Jones. We know there is an appeal for it, but we don’t want to cram it down your throat.
CTR: Your Marvel collectibles are amazing, and in a lot of ways approach the characters in a way distinctly original and dynamic. What are your plans for this property over the course of the next year?
BO: We’re going to keep going where we are going. We’ve addressed many of the characters the fans wanted to see with characters like Gambit, and I know people really want to see Deadpool, which is a character we are definitely going to address. It’s about keeping the main characters in the loop, like Spider-Man and Wolverine. People can say we’ve done like twenty Wolverines, but the point of it is since we are limited edition, when we put out a Wolverine it sells out and in a couple of years you have a crop of new collectors that come into it and they might want a Wolverine. That’s the logic behind why we keep approaching certain characters.
CTR: It’s been a good year for Spider-Man fans, with a Legendary Scale Bust and a Comiquette, as well as some supporting characters.
BO: It is. We have Black Cat Legendary Scale Bust that just came out and some other stuff with her coming out. It’s funny, I was looking at this list and there was four different Black Cat pieces coming out over the next two years.
CTR: On the topic of Black Cat, the original pictures of the Legendary Scale Bust had blue eyes, and then they were switched to green. Is this something that will be represented in the final product?
BO: I thought she looked great with the blue eyes, but yes she’ll have green eyes.
CTR: What about the movies? Will we see more movie related Marvel stuff?
BO: The current slate for Marvel movies, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, definitely. We love Iron Man, its done great for us. We’ve been able to do our own products as well as partner up with our friends at Legacy Effects who did maquettes based on the work they did for the films Iron Man and Iron Man 2. As for Thor and Captain America, we’ll definitely be doing products for those. When it comes to Spider-Man, it is different license all together. So when Spider-Man 3 came around we had to take that out separate from Marvel in terms of product. Going forward with Spider-Man 4? Possibly. Right now we know as much about Spider-Man 4 as you do. As we get closer to it we’ll see if it’s good for us. The X-Men films are difficult because of likeness issues.
CTR: What about Disney. Now here is a license no one saw coming, but one that is very exciting.
BO: Disney I’m 100% into. I remember when we first announced it there was a lot of negative reactions. We hinted a lot about how Disney doesn’t just mean Mickey. There’s a lot involved with Disney. I think people now have come to see what we’re talking about. There’s Dastan from Prince of Persia, There’s Jack Sparrow, and the Rocketeer. There’s a lot more that people are going to see including a lot of stuff you probably don’t even know is associated with Disney that is part of the license. If, after the piece is announced, if anyone can pick it out as Disney, I’ll buy them a drink.
CTR: Interesting. It’s a Pretty Woman statue, isn’t it.
BO: (laughter) If we ever do a Deep Rising diorama, you know it’s from Disney.
CTR: On that topic, where are you with The Black Hole? I know I bring this up every time I see you and it’s my own personal ‘obscure 70’s movie request’, but MINDstyle’s V.I.N.CENT proved there is interest in Black Hole collectibles.
BO: I know MINDstyle is doing some products for The Black Hole, which is great. Some vinyls of the robots. I think Black Hole is a great idea and is perfectly valid. We’re not planning it, but we can do it and Maximilian would be excellent.
CTR: Old B.O.B. Would be amazing. V.I.N.CENT would be amazing. A Premium Format Humanoid would blow my mind…
BO: There needs to be a demand. Like Indiana Jones, we’re going at it with a measured approach. We’re looking at what we’ve done sales-wise with some of the animated and are trying to figure out if there is a way we can make them more event oriented. Instead of releasing them like Star Wars (every few months), maybe we’ll do them once or twice a year. And really picking cool ones and then filling in the rest of the year with the other properties that Disney has with the live action films like Pirates Of The Caribbean. On the horizon there is a possibility of us doing Tron Legacy or Pirates 4. I think there’s a lot out there for Disney. For fans of the animated stuff, if we made it event orientated, where once or twice a year there was a really over the top design, it would be cool.
CTR: Personally speaking the Animated Villain line is awesome. I have the Evil Queen in my studio and I love it.
BO: It wasn’t until we started looking at all the options that I realized there are some really cool characters. We want to make a Captain Hook and make it a statement piece. I might be the only one, but I want us to do Jafar, as well.
CTR: My fingers are crossed for Cruella De Vil. Not the live action one, mind you, but the classic animated Cruella De Vil.
BO: Cruella De Vil would be cool. I also think Scar from Lion King would be awesome. Maybe with the hyenas around him.
CTR: Universal Monsters have always been a Sideshow cornerstone, and for older SSC fans, the that property was usually the entry level collectible (mine being the 8” Bride figure). You’ve continued to produce new pieces, and the line has grown from 8” figures to 12” figures to Premium Format to 1/1 scale busts and so on. Will we see the line evolve as it has? Will we be seeing more love for the Wolf Man?
BO: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the Universal Monsters will always be a part of Sideshow Collectibles. That was our very first license we had and going forward it will always be a part of our legacy and we’ll continue doing them. The Wolf Man? Absolutely. In the next year or so we plan on taking a new look at the Universal Monsters. It won’t be a redesign or anything like that, but a new product different from what we’ve done before. We’re always open to going back to 1/1 bust or something like that. The Wolf Man and the Mummy have come up, so its something always in our forethought and like Indy, it will always be with a measured approach. For the Monster fans we want to always be able to sprinkle offerings without overdoing it.
CTR: When looking at the new line of 1/6 scale Lord Of The Ring statues, can collectors expect to find some of the larger species or characters such as Sauron or the Cave Troll, represented or are you specifically looking at a favourite characters approach?
BO: It’s a possibility. Taking a character like the Cave Troll would be better suited as a diorama. We’re totally committed to producing Lord Of The Rings products so you can expect to see more Premium Format Figures, more dioramas, and the new statue line.
CTR: A hot topic in forums is the incomplete 1/6 scale Fellowship. Really, at this point, what will it take to see the last three figures produced?
BO: Yeah, get everyone to buy them. I’m joking. It has been discussed finishing it off by doing the other two Hobbits and Gimili. The figures in that line were extremely difficult to produce. There is a lot of detail to each of them. That’s the appeal to doing them as sculptures. Every detail is so fine. Every belt had a certain patterned pressed in the leather. Over time the sales diminished, but when we ended off with Gandalf the sales bounced back up. In the case of these characters, it is a good example of risk verses reward. But we are always talking about how we can do a few more figures in that line.
CTR: Of every line Sideshow has produced, the 12” Lord Of The Rings is the only one that stands out as being incomplete. The only one missing pieces.
BO: I know, there are only three more figures to go to complete the Fellowship. I respect and understand that, and it would be great to have all of those on the shelf, so maybe if there are enough comments to this interview, we might be able to get some fires lit under some butts and see what we can do about it. If people were to petition it. if we get drawings their kids did of the missing members of the Fellowship. I want to see crayon drawings. I want to see polls. I want to see people making their own figures out of macaroni. Anything would help to raise awareness.
CTR: So you are saying that it would need to be an organized, fan supported effort to make it happen?
BO: Really, I want to see two things: Figures made out of macaroni and I want to see three-year-old kids drawing pictures of the figures. Not of the characters, but of the figures. If we see that we’ll make the other three. That’s my challenge.
CTR: I’m quoting you there…
BO: Do it! Do it!
CTR: We know that you are moving forward with the new Buffy The Vampire Slayer statue collection, and it is promising, but is there a chance you’ll ever go back to the 12” line, if nothing else than to finish off the Scooby Gang?
BO: I don't know if it’s about finishing the gang. We noticed that sales diminished as we went on with the line and that’s why the 12” line ended. We’d love to approach it again someday. If we did, ideally, it would be about doing a really great Buffy… an Ultimate Buffy. An Ultimate Angel. I know that it frustrates people that line is not complete, but the truth of the matter is the sales diminished. We were left with the choice of continuing the line at our own expense or do we aim at a new line that will hopefully satisfy those fans as well as bring in new customers as well.
CTR: We’ve seen Lara Croft in three different scales; We’ve seen Hitman in Premium Format; and Worlds of Warcraft…
BO: And we’ve seen Diablo III. We’ve seen Blizzard’s Starcraft II. The question is are we doing more video game stuff? The answer is a measured yes we are. This is the other question –besides “why aren’t you guys doing Blade Runner” that always comes up. Video games offer a unique challenge in terms of high-end collectibles. There are a lot of popular video games out there, but when you step back and look at the characters you have to ask yourself if they are iconic. We’re in the business of creating icons, or more correctly, creating tributes to icons; characters that resonate with fans. When we look at video games, we look at it from the point of view of what characters are in the video game universe that transcends the games themselves. What characters will players say “I’m will to pay a couple hundred bucks, not on a few different games, but on one single character”. That’s what we’re looking at. So we have to ask ourselves which characters stand out the most. We can list them, even though this doesn’t mean we’re making products based on them: Lara Croft (which we’ve already done), you have Kratos from God Of War, you’ve got Solid Snake from Metal Gear, you’ve got Link from Zelda, you’ve got Mario, you’ve got Samus Aran from Metroid, and a few others. If there isn’t an iconic character, it doesn’t mean we can’t do it. It just means that we have to create a piece that is iconic to those game players. Warcraft is a different scenario because there are millions upon millions of players of the game. The average sales for a video game are a million or two million copies, but Warcraft is a game that has eleven plus million subscribers, so we pick different pieces that will be iconic for them. Also, is there a great design for a character? We’ve got a whole collection of video game characters that we’re going to be announcing fairly shortly that we think that, even though they aren’t Marios or Lara Crofts, are certainly really cool characters that people will recognize that might have the possibility of resonating with the video game players.
CTR: Is that a Comic Con sort of thing?
BO: That is a Comic Con thing.
CTR: Every year Sideshow has released a catalogue of the current product lines, and each year they become more elaborate than the year before. Has there been any talk on collecting all eleven years together in one ultra Sideshow Freak drool-inducing book?
BO: Its funny that you mention that because we have actually discussed doing just that. How cool would it be to have a collection all bound together? It’s an interesting idea and we’d love to do it, but there is an issue of old licenses that we no longer have rights for.
CTR: Even though we’re talking to you right now in New York, we aren’t seeing Sideshow at Toy Fair. Instead of releasing a pile of pre-orders right then and there during Toy Fair, Sideshow opted to spread out the event online over weeks. With Comic-Con you are thinking about doing the same thing, with a month long event. It seems strange that Sideshow would opt to host your own event instead of following the Interweb’s traffic generated by the two biggest shows of the year.
BO: In a way it is psychological. Comic-Con is a great event for the people on the floor. It’s a great event for people online. 95% of our customers are not on the floor at Comic-Con. Sure you get to see updates and read all the blogs and all that but they aren’t getting the actual benefit of seeing the pieces on the floor. If you look at the math of it, SDCC and Toy Fair really cater to a small percentage of our customers and fans, so our idea is to make it more exciting for people who can’t attend the shows. Over the years we’ve announced a lot of stuff, fifty or sixty products, and it was just too much for a few days, so why not stretch it out? Comic-Con is still an important event for us and we’ll always be there (knock wood)…
CTR: Comic-Con will always be there knock wood…
BO: True. We’ll always be there and there will always be the benefit for those that can go to the event of seeing the products and prototypes on the floor, but the core of our business will always be the fans that come to our site on a daily or weekly basis, so how can we make that a great event for them? So we’re turning the entire month of July into a Comic-Con for them.
CTR: Being fans ourselves, there is no arguing that that is very cool. Wrapping up. What is next for Sideshow Collectibles?
BO: Well, we’ve always got a few surprises up our sleeves, but beyond that- I want to know what people want to see next. And I don’t mean just what new licenses they want to see. I want to know what people want from Sideshow, in terms of product types, web content, customer service, etc. What at Sideshow has worked for them, and what hasn’t? We’re always looking to innovate, change, improve. I believe that the more you stay still, stay the same, the more you regress. “Idle regression” as it were. We’re not going to let that happen, so let’s find new ideas together.