We used this image as the placeholder cover for our Rama storybook. But its actually a 2 page spread from one of our other projects. Wonder where it came from?
Its part of a book that Tucker and his talented wife, Lisa, self-published as Positive Spin Press. ‘Winter’s Eve’ is a pan-cultural celebration of all the world’s ‘Festival of Light’ holidays, including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, and of course, Diwali.
Check it out at www.thehalloweenfairy.com
- Why are people interested in mythological heroes and characters?
Since we started The Hero Project, the hardest thing to do has been to find the people that align with what you have to offer. Sometimes, serendipity plays a role and they find you.
We talked with GenerationGinger.com about the cultural value of culture-centered action figures for kids. The Rama figure is a ‘collision point’ between kid’s aspirations and cultural discovery. It was a really fun interview. See a good chunk of it below.
Generation Ginger emailed founders Wayne and Tucker to find out more about who they are and what inspired this incredible endeavor. Below is what they were kind enough to take the time and share with us:
- How did you two meet and at what point did you decide to create Go Go Dynamo together?
Tucker and I first met when he was in school. Hasbro was doing a sponsored project around toy design with the Cleveland Institute of Art. We first me there, but it would be years before we’d eventually work together at Hasbro. We’ve always worked del together. After leaving Hasbro, to start my own company, it just made sense for us to team-up.
- I love the name, Go Go Dynamo- it’s like your own superhero catch phrase! How did you come up with it?
Kids are energetic and we wanted to play off that theme. The name Go Go Dynamo was actually created before our studio name Dynamo Development Labs as a separate identity for us to create our own toy ideas under. Its is like a superhero call-to-action in some ways.
- Did you play with action hero figures when you were kids? Who was your favorite? And now?
I’m a product of the 70′s so I grew up with The Six MIllion Dollar Man and Evel Kneivel before Star Wars and the whole mini-action figure brands really took off. Tucker grew up more in the eighties, so he was a big fan of the GI Joe tv show and toys. As far as now, we both have kids and they have a lot of Lego and Playmobile figures. Tucker and I both love play ‘platforms’ and construction play, so we lean in that direction.
- What were your favorite hero stories when you were a kid and now as an adult? How does this influence the characters you choose to create and their aesthetic?
We both grew up at a time when heroic fantasy was becoming much more prevalent in kids daily tv shows, so characters like Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Speed Racer were an inspiration in both tv shows and print. I still like these single character stories because we can see them make personal decisions about what it means to be a hero…. Its easier to see the symbolism in a single character. That symbolism is very important to myth, fables and hero stories, we don’t just hear the story, we hear the lesson. That symbolism and purposeful intent drives our approach in both aesthetic and our own story telling. Its the core of what we are.
- On the Kickstarter page, you wrote about how the idea for the Hero Project was born in passing conversation at a party- what other experiences indicated that there is a market for your creations?
We see the rise in interest around tv channels like National Geographic, Discovery, History and even the increased viewership of PBS as a signal that people want more from their entertainment. They’re open to learning while they are being entertained. My son loves dinosaurs, the sheer fact that he can get a toy of even the most esoteric dinosaur is a sign that people are interested in where the past and present collide. Whether people are interested in heroes outside of the traditional pop-culture offering is sort of the question we are asking. We know we are not a mass retail concept, so the challenge has been to find ‘our people’ talk to them and see if this is something they want.
- Rama is a great embodiment of heroic qualities, but why start with him? Why not start with an American hero that more people can identify with in order to get backed faster?
We work in the business of making toys for kids and that business is good at increasing the value of those properties, but its not good at showing or offering other stories because of the scale. The large properties thrive and the smaller ones flash and burn out. Since the catalyst was a question about Indian epics, we tended to start there. We’ve read the Ramayan and the Mahabharat and there is something purely symbolic in them. We see acts of devotion and duty that aren’t always so easy to interpret in a western myth. The acts are very symbolic and demonstrative. We are also big fans of culture and truly wanted to work on something that we hadn’t grown up with. It would have been a more commercial idea to do Robin Hood, Heracles, and King Arthur, but it wouldn’t be as fun or introduce kids to new ideas and experiences. That idea is really important to us.
- Are their plans for the action heroes’ counterparts for reenactments of good verses evil, for example, creating Ravana for Rama?
Kids need a focus for their conflict. Hero stories are about conflict resolution and grows. Physical conflict is usually a metaphor for a personal struggle that the hero is dealing with. Its important for kids to externalize and have a focus for their adventures. Winning the day is important to them. So, yes, we intend to do it, but we feel that giving kids heroes that are like THEM is also really important. Its a balancing act and decision that we’ll need to make down the road.
- Can you tell us who is in the female line-up?
Our female line-up. We’ve gotten so much goodwill and feedback about doing it. Because we are so focused on how to utilize the basic male figure, we went deeper in that area. We’re catching up with some new images in the next few days, so you can be the first to share the list and the images will be in our updates at some point in the next 3-5 days. In addition to the Sita which you have probably seen, we’re doing preliminary designs for Bastet from ancient Egypt, Pele from Hawaiian/Polynesian lore, Athena from Greek myth, and Oya who is the African complement to Shango in our male line-up. We could go a million different places with it, but we wanted to start with a good cross-section of cultures. Mostly these complement our male line-up, although its not our general intent to create pairings.
9. Many moms are concerned about the ‘sex’ factor of female action figures currently on the market, as they focus much more on body and clothes rather than other qualities- how will the female heroes you create differ from this?
We both have daughters, so we see a real hole in the space for active female heroes. Many female properties are built around social conflicts supported by the physical, which work fine, but when you are trying to sell merchandise things tend to lean toward being ‘candy’. Female action is very counter to that basic market need, so almost any female gets amplified toward the audience, sometimes they are hyper-sexualized, sometimes, masculine-ized, sometimes their painted with the ‘cutesy’ brush turned up to eleven. We’ve tried to find a spot that tries to capture the qualities of a woman without leaning too hard into any of the other 3 areas. Its still a preliminary design, but I think you can see where our heart is. Some people that are used to tasting the ‘candy’ feel like what we are doing is to plain. It’s a work in progress.
- As a part of your Kickstarter campaign, some of the packages include paperdoll pdfs and even story books- is this something you may venture into creating for every doll if the Hero Project takes flight?
We are all about play and we completely value classic styles of play even though most companies don’t focus on them. We like green army men, paper dolls, jacks, jump ropes, and blocks. You’ll always see that in our work and we plan to do more of it, they’re the fundamentals of play. Besides, paper dolls might be the only way that we can ever do ALL the great heroes from a round the world, the shear amount of them is staggering!
- What is your vision for the Hero Project- what do you hope it looks like 5 years from now?
Boy, its hard to see beyond the Kickstarter because its so all-encompassing. We see a line that is probably built around more scales of figures, which might be better at delivering a specific type of fantasy play. The Mahabharat or Trojan War might be better for smaller figures to portray the epic scope of the story and cast. This project is based in sharing world culture through heroes, that’s a really huge idea to pull from inspirationally.
Thanks to GenerationGinger.com for some really insightful questions. It helped us explain what we see as the real promise of the Hero Project- making cultural discovery a tactile, hands-on, and fun, experience.
Rama sculpt in-progress. You can see the face still needed a lot of work. Fun to see all basic construction of where his joints bend, etc. The changes from this point probably took about 1 1/2 more weeks.
With all the talk of future heroes and ‘she’roes, we haven’t had the chance to celebrate the Rama figure, as much as we’d like. Let’s take a few minutes to show a bit of Rama in progress, as we were working the kinks out and trying to amplify his ‘heroic essence’.
At first, we were very focused on where the market was at for action figures. There is a general rush toward amplified, ‘hyper-realism’ that you see so heavily in console video games. Its about the ‘hard’ reality of being a soldier, but not necessarily of being a hero. We toyed with it a bit, but went back to what we really prefer, symbolism and stylization.
The farther we got into the design, the more he simplified and the more the term ‘athletic’ became a part of our focus. This body wanted to be Apollo, Tarzan, and Rama, all at the same time. It forced us to question what we were subconsciously trying to say about our subject, but also what we had to say about our specific ‘brand’ of hero. It was a lot of thoughtful discussion and pushing back-and-forth until we landed with what you see in the final.
The head in particular takes on a lot of significance. This character means a lot to people all over the word. You can see above where it started. Fairly blocky and squared jaw. What we needed to capture was that confident, whimsical of the divine look that you see on so many posters in India.
You can see in the process shots above that, like most toy developers, we work directly over photographs. We actually made trip to Sculpco in Cincinnati, owned and operated by good friend Tim Conroy. These drawings were sent after the meeting to reinforce all the input that we discussed on site with the sculptors. A figure like this has a lot of technical needs and a huge amount of surface work and symmetry to worry after. They did a great job.
Above is a shot of the figure as we’re nearing the homestretch. You can see all the metal pins sitting inside the ‘jeweler’s’ wax construction. The wax is extremely fragile and you can destroy a lot of work very quickly by mishandling it. It WILL shatter. We’ve since started working with digital sculptors, as well. (If you are a digital sculptor, give us a ring, we’re always looking for sculptor who also have a good understanding of manufacturing and process.)
This process works through all the accessories and the softwoods clothing as you see below. It takes a lot of very talented people to create a single toy (or one EXTREMELY talented person a long time on their own).
Above is a milestone in the softwoods process , where we’re reacting to the first shot at making the dhoti. This style of pant is very specific to India and we wanted to make sure it gathered and ‘hung’ properly on the figure. This blue figure is a urethane hard-copy of the sculpt. At this point, molds had been made of the original wax model and those molds are used to create a hard sample of all the parts. Assembling all those parts and painting them is what gives you the prototype that you see in all of our photography. For simplicities sake we ‘glued’ all the joints so that it would hold up during transport and photography. Prototypes are very fragile and the paint tends to flake very easily, which you can maybe see in a few of our promo pics.
I’ll be publishing a photo gallery of the sculpt in a very-close-to-finished point in the process. Its really fun to look back and see how it grew over time, just as the concept itself will continue to evolve as more people see and react to it.
What’s with the crazy feet? There are very few things that we leave to chance. If something catches your eye, its probably meant to catch your eye. A friend asked me today, “What’s the deal with Ram’s feet?”
Glad you asked.
Rama, as a result of a bit of mischief, was put into exile by his father, the king, upon the day of his own his own coronation as king. Rama dutifully followed the orders of his father and departed to the forest to live for 14 years. Upon hearing of his own mother’s mischief, Bharata, Rama’s half-brother, who was proclaimed regent, left to beg Rama to return to the thrown. On Rama’s refusal, Bharata produced a set of golden slippers for Rama. “These slippers will reside as a symbol of your reign” pressed Bharata, who carried them home to sit majestically on the thrown until Rama’s return to claim the crown of Ayodhya.
So, you see why we designed the split toes, so Rama can wear the Paduka, wooden sandals, shown in the images above. Its a very unusual, but elegant design with just a simple peg that your toes natural fit around. At one point, these Padukas were meant to be a promotional item, but we haven’t prototyped them yet.
Maybe we’ll try to add them into the figure. Thoughts?
Its rare that we get a chance to work with most of the people we know and respect. So, when we started The Hero Project, we wanted to create a way to get some of our friends involved. We asked them to contribute illo’s to what is now the Art of The Hero Project book. They’ve submitted some really inspired work and took the time away from other projects to chip in, so please take a sec and check out their work and link through to see more at their sites!
You can get this work and more in our hardbound book the Rama: The Art of The hero Project, available as one of our rewards at our Hero Project Kickstarter page. You can expect to see a few more added to this page over the next couple weeks.