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Universal Monsters / Aliens

26 Feb

This past fall, I had two super fun animation projects with Diamond Select Toys: Universal Monsters and Aliens!

Universal Monsters was my first time working with a 7″ scale toy line for Diamond Select and although I love the simple coolness and unique design of MiniMates, I really enjoyed being able to play with the texture and lighting on the detailed sculpts of this line’s toys. Not to mention, I’ve been a big Universal Monsters fan most of my life, so this whole project was one of the highlights of my year. I focused a lot on the set design as well, watching all the classic original films for reference. I’m pretty proud of the custom doors I built and painted in the opening shot, the Metaluna Mutant’s space-y/science-y living room and the expressions I got out of DST’s original UM figure, Van Helsing. I’m glad to hear from this month’s New York Toy Fair that this line is continuing with new toys!

And another highlight of 2014 would definitely be this Aliens short where I was able to play with MiniMate-d versions of the Xenomorphs from Aliens as they attack some unsuspecting soldiers and Paul Reiser. Super fun, and I hope maybe I can return to the Alien franchise someday for a longer video.


Marvel/Hasbro 75th Anniversary Variant Covers

28 Aug

Today was a pretty cool day! A few of the variant comic book covers I worked on that were previewed at this year’s San Diego Comic Con were released officially online here here and here!

All-New-X-Men-33-Hasbro-Variant-656a1  avengers-hasbro-variant-105672

The reaction was pretty much completely positive and I can’t wait to walk into the comic shops around town in October and see something that I had a hand in creating right there on the shelves.

Captain-America-25-Hasbro-Variant-86c0b  Deathlok_1_Hasbro_Variant

I produced ten covers in all, photographing Hasbro’s action figures from their 6″ and 3 3/4″ lines and superimposing them into the positions featured on classic Marvel comic book covers. I had a lot of fun with each of them but my favorites are the Guardians of the Galaxy team cover, the X-Men #1 recreation and the one with Red Skull holding the Cosmic Cube.

Uncanny_XMen_27_Hasbro_Variant  Legendary_StarLord_4_Hasbro_Variant  avengers-hasbro-variant-105671

NECA Toys: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

20 Jun

Where to begin to describe how great NECA Toys is… Well, they excel in terms of intensely detailed sculpts, poseability, paint application… pretty much everything that I look for in a great toy. They’ve created some of the best cult movie toys around, including figures from American Psycho, Beetlejuice, Gremlins, Alien, Predator, Harry Potter, E.T., Robocop, The Nightmare Before Christmas….the list goes on and on and I’ve been a huge fan for years.

One of their newest toy lines is based on the upcoming film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and this line is no exception from NECA’s record of amazing releases. Many, many thanks to the awesome Daniel Pickett (of the great toy news website for giving me the opportunity to create a short stop-motion animated video using NECA’s new ape toys!


Dan also had some very kind words about the video as well as my previous work in his post on AFi here. Thank you, Dan, for the chance to work on such a fun video! And thank you, NECA, for continuing to create such inspiring and perfect toys.


Marvel: What The–?! Deadpool vs. Punisher

12 Mar

The newest episode of Marvel Super Heroes: What The–?! was released this week and featured one of my favorite characters to animate: The Punisher!

We had a guest voice actor for this episode: Wrestler, comic fan and super-nice guy Christopher Daniels! Chris even put together his own video about his journey voice-acting for the part of The Punisher, in which I am briefly featured. It’s also an awesome behind-the-scenes look at our recording process for What The–?!:

This was a longer episode, clocking in at around 3 1/2 minutes so it was a pretty heavy production. I really wanted to have an epic battle-scene opening between Punisher and the AIM Agents, so I watched some Saving Private Ryan for inspiration. Like I said earlier, I love animating the Punisher because the figure’s face sculpt is so intense. It’s one of the more realistically-sculpted faces out of the early wave of Marvel Legends, I think, too. It was also great to have some substantial female roles in this episode: Elektra and Black Widow, voiced by Ashley Becerra and Leslie Read, respectively. I’m hoping they show up again in What The–?! soon.

Fun fact: I modeled Deadpool’s apartment after the most-terrible house I ever lived in for two months in North Versailles, PA a few years back.

Toy Collection: The Muppets & The Simpsons

6 Jun

You don’t quite realize how much crap you amass over time until you have to pack it all up into dozens of boxes and carry them each up and down a flight of stairs during a move to a new place. But if most of what you’re packing is action figures, at least it’s a lot of fun to unpack and display all those toys again! I recently moved into a new apartment and I just set up my Simpsons/Muppet shelf. Oh boy!:

simp mupp

photo 3photo 1   “Bobo, I know I say this every century, but I’ll never leave you behind again.”photo 2  photo 3

photo 2“Uh oh… Zoot skipped a groove again.”

photo 4photo 1“No, I don’t believe we’ll be telling them that.”

I began collecting the World of Springfield Simpsons toys from Playmates as soon as they were released back in 2000. They produced pretty much all of the characters necessary for a thriving toy version of Springfield and I was excited to see which characters would be in each new wave. I’m still trying to track down the rarer figures that were released near the end of the production, such as Frank Grimes and Jim Varney’s Cooder character.  The great feature of these figures was the voice-chip activated playsets that interacted with the toys. What’s better than quoting Simpsons jokes yourself apart from hearing the lines spoken by the actual voice actors?

The Palisades Muppets toy line, however, I had to play a lot of catch-up to collect. I remember seeing the toys on shelves around 2002 but I was either in a collecting-slump or simply didn’t have the money. I was a high school student, after all. Of course, compared to the prices that the figures are going for now, the original sticker prices seem like nothing. But they’re worth every penny – the incredible detail and obvious love that went into the production of these figures is very rare in today’s toy market. It’s a darn shame that Palisades Toys went bankrupt in 2006, right about the same time they obtained the license to produce Sesame Street toys. Just think of the beautifully perfect figures we missed out on….

Minimates MAX

16 Apr

A little more than a year ago, I became involved with Diamond Select Toys thanks to their Marketing Supervisor and my former ToyFare colleague, Zach Oat. The task: Bring their line of block-styled 2″ tall Minimates to life in stop-motion animated shorts! I think the work I’ve done with Zach and DST has been some of my best-looking stuff in terms of set design, action scenes, lighting and visual effects. Here are two of the first shorts, both written by Zach, that I animated based on the Minimates MAX toy line. Insider easter egg: Episode 2’s Mount Purdin was named after DC Comics Associate Editor and solid dude, Rickey Purdin!


Marvel Legends

20 Mar

Ohhhhh, Marvel Legends. The heroin of action figures that pulled me back into collecting just when I thought I was out. But this line of super-articulated, amazingly-detailed toys was more of an inspiration to me than a hobby.

These new Marvel toys were far different from the ones I was obsessed with as a child and they caught my eye when they hit store shelves, even though at the time (around 2002-2003) I had lost a bit of interest in toy collecting (except for PlayMates’ World of Springfield Simpsons toys, that is…) and had even less interest in comic books. But I broke down when they released Beast and Gambit, probably my two favorite X-Men characters. Individually-articulated fingers! Opening jaws! Cloth jackets! Simply irresistible…. Thus began the destruction of my wallet and wall space that would last all through …. what day is it today?

Upon graduating high school, I was just beginning to focus more on animating although I never imagined that one day people would pay me to play around with toys. I had used my Star Wars, Simpsons and Dragonball Z toys in some animated shorts in the past but the level of articulation and detail in these Marvel Legends made me want to up my game and really see what I was capable of doing with these new, talented actors at my disposal. The GIF below represents the first animation that I was “proud” of making. It was made on my dorm room desk, freshmen year of college, 2003.


Possibly around 2005 or so, I decided to re-enact a scene from The Usual Suspects using members of my growing Marvel Legends collection. It was just a test to see if I could draw mouths on the still frames that would sync up with the audio. I still hadn’t yet had the epiphany that using a digital still camera to shoot the frames would be much simpler than my method of choice at the time: Recording a few seconds on video tape, stopping the tape, moving the figures, repeat until done. Then, I’d capture all the footage on my computer and save each frame of video whenever it would change as a JPEG that I would then drop into a sequence in my video editing program, which I think was Sony Vegas… ridiculous. I also still hadn’t gotten the hang of securing my light source and camera to eliminate that jumpiness from frame-to-frame. But it was good practice for the process of animating mouth movements and facial expressions that I use all the time now.