Todd McFarlane Talks Toys | NYCC 2018 | NowThis Nerd

Hi everyone, I'm <oose and a while ago I interviewed Todd McFarlane about his action figure empire See Todd isn't just a comic book creator, future movie mogul and collector of extremely expensive baseballs

He's also the owner of McFarlane toys, the innovative company that changed the game for action figures with their detailed sculpts and willingness to portray subjects that weren't seen as suitable for toys First I asked Todd about why he broke into the toy business and how he opened up an entirely new market When I started Spawn, which came at the inception of Image comics, and that was going to be my character and my book, he went, he came out and he went to the top of the list, right, of the charts, that was the number one selling book, beating all the Marvel books and all the DC books People then come out of the woodwork and they go "hey let's license" One of them was toys, and the toy makers came

I never worked with any of them but the toy makers came and they all showed me their prototypes and their plan and their schematics and all this other stuff and it just was, from my perspective, was just repetitive of what I'd already seen So I go "Isn't this how you do, like, your Teletubbies and your Disney stuff?" The same, sort of the same thing I think that we need to do Spawn and make it slightly different, so make it nontraditional and then we can sell it in some of those stores you do But we should go to the Spencer's of the world and the Virgin Records and The Suncoasts and the Babbage's that were back then at that time, and sold in non-traditional places, non-traditional toys, non-traditional selling venue And I've said it many times that I walked into Toys R Us when we started this and I go "Pretend i'm 14

I'm in Toys R' Us" What's here for me?" At 14, I'm not talking 24, 14 You know was there that day? A bicycle, A skateboard and and a video console Yeah And that's it

And there is tens of thousands of items and there were three for 14 So I knew that Mattel and Hasbro and public companies that were conservative in terms of what they were doing were never going to go outside the box Were never going to go outside the PG-13 box So I go: "there's my gap" So, they could have done Freddy Krueger

He'd been around for a decade plus Right Why didn't they do it? Because they have their model and their models don't go to PG-13, I'll service PG-13 Because here's what I think they miss, And now they're starting to see it The eight year old geek turns into a 16 year old geek that becomes a 36 year old geek

Right Once you're a geek you just get older It's just that you're geekiness turns into a different thing So can I put something in plastic that will resonate with a 16 or 26 year old 36 year old Of course I can

And you know it's just the content So if I do a Disney thing is that going to resonate with a 36 year old? No If I make it look like Matrix will they resonate with them? Possibly So go get all that stuff, that's all I did I just I go through, "they're not going to do it, I'll do it

" And all of a sudden we're like "oh my gosh look at Todd, what a genius" We started with Spawn, but I knew that Spawn may, as much as I like and I created it, it could be a bit of a fad I didn't know how long the bell curve of that that was going to go So I needed to diversify So now you have to start thinking a little bit business, because you go "don't put all your eggs in one basket

" We did 'The X Files,' We did KISS, and then we did the sports And so now a sudden we're still touching places where, you know, adults or adolescents sort of hung out And if Spawn then collapsed, then McFarlane Toys could still exist because I had the license of people and characters that people liked out there So we're still doing music and sports and video game product and TV and movie stuff with 'Stranger Things,' we just signed a deal with 'Fortnite' And so we just ate it up

I think I could sell a toy action figure to my mom I I'm naive enough to think that I just have to put it in the plastic form that she would respond to So if I do Elvis or Engelbert Humperdinck, who she loved, I remember when I was a kid, she might be tempted into buying that, so go and make it the content to the demographics you want McFarlane pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable for action figures, but as their popularity grew, McFarlane's toys found themselves locked in battle with controversy and censorship Here's the funny thing, that once you pick your demographic and you hit, which is sort of cool dudes and cool dudettes, that the people who sort of complain about it are people that you were never trying to hit

There were some controversies about there, there's always controversies Moms are funny people sometimes Someone's got to think of the children! They do think of the children, but they want to put a label So they want to put a label on art as the reason why humans are flawed There was no music, there were no video games and there were not shooter first person games, and bad TV shows and bad comic books 2000 years ago and humans still slaughtered each other So what was your excuse then? The answer is: we're flawed And here's what I know for a fact: moms, anybody else, they haven't proven yet in the medical profession that watching violence makes you violent Now I know that they all just reacted and they went "da-da-da-da-da," and you know how I know that's true? Because if that report existed they would know it chapter and verse and they would shove it in people's faces like me every day of my life

It doesn't exist And you know why it doesn't exist? Because moms and parents and people are a little bit too conservative at time, they're not giving their children credit And here's the credit they should be given them: Why is it that your child could sit in front of a screen when they were 5 years old and watch 'Sesame Street' and watch 'Looney Tunes' and watch six foot talking birds and understand that wasn't real, and watch a talking rabbit and Daffy Duck, talking ducks, and understand the difference between real and fake So it's just that they just don't like it So if you don't like it, anybody, any art, let me just go on because it's the thing that gets the hair up back of my neck

If you don't like something, I can live with that every day of my life Of course, my mom didn't like everything I do What I won't give you, what I'm going to fight tooth and nail for is censorship, and censorship says "it shouldn't exist," and that's what I'm going to fight you If you don't like it personally, walk on by Don't bring it into your house

Listen to your western music, Don't buy rock and roll Problem solved But if you say "I don't want rock and roll to exist" then don't listen to that channel Turn off your radio, like, you can solve this, ahh, but because your crazy uncle brings it to your kids, that's called parenting Start doing more parenting, and then all of this is solved

Just bring into your house what is good for your family and let the rest just fall where it is And if nobody likes it, then we're not going to make money and we won't do more of it This is simple It is ultimately just a lack of responsibility and just sticking the blame somewhere else and lazy scapegoats and scapegoats

Comics were scapegoated in the '50s, with this whole Fredrid Wertham nonsense, videogame violence of the 1990s, DOOM for God's sake In an increasingly digital, post Toys R' Us world, the retail space is vastly different from 1998, but McFarlane Toys Keep on trucking, thanks to clever strategy, killer sculpts, and incredible IP

You've done monsters you've done, you know, the Maniacs, bloody, gory, but you've also done real people You've done athletes, baseball players What's the underlying philosophy that makes a McFarlane Toy? Number one: are they cool? That's really sort of most of it

And then the other one: "is it popular?" But to me, it's just dealing with cool pop culture stuff that people are enjoying People are paying money for digital skins They're paying for, like, not a physical object, they're paying for just pixels on a screen that don't exist in the real world How do you turn that, how do you sell that audience on a big hefty handsome hunk of plastics? You can enjoy 'Fortnite' forever and never have a hat, t-shirt, shoes, or a toy, or anything monogrammed with it It's OK

Now the question is, is there a small percentage of them that then do want some monogrammed stuff? So whether that's now physical like the toys, or hats and shirts, and all those other ones But now, if you're dealing with something that's being touched by a billion people and you are only going to get 4 percent of that, 4 percent of a billion is a good number, right? So it's so big now that even everybody acknowledges it, even if you get a sliver of it, it's real business that's going to be real commerce, right? They're getting the big bucks We'll get the small bucks, but it's still a good business for us How's the technology behind the sculpting and the actual casting and manufacturing changed over the years? It's probably, maybe, 15 years ago, maybe something like that, we did everything in the beginning with clay And let me tell you, nothing is better than hand on clay

Nothing replicates it There's a ton of efficiencies in going digital, whether it's sculpting or drawing or coloring, whatever But there are still a couple things that just you're never going to get exactly So what we do is we take our sculpt from what we do, now almost all of our sculpts are exclusively in digital But then we print them out

And then we go in, and then we would then do the hand stuff that we used to do on the clay But it's you know 90, 95 percent there and now we add the 5 or 10 percent, and sometimes we have to add some clay to get some of the fine details I haven't seen yet where any of the outputs, any of the machines, will give you that real real tight minutiae detail When you did it in clay, you had to then start that head all over, or you had to cut it I mean it was a mess, and it took a long time then to fix it

Whereas now in digital, you just hit a couple of buttons, and all of a sudden the eyes are straight And if the legs are too skinny, you hit a couple of buttons and you add 20 pounds to it You didn't change a sculpture, just added weight to the leg So those are all the efficiencies as to why people are going there, not that you necessarily get a job that's better It's just you can try things faster, and you can make corrections faster, and given that we're all deadline driven, then time becomes your enemy

What else is on the rise? What upcoming like toy lines, licenses, neat things we should keep an eye out for? Here's what I'll tell you: I still consider myself to be young, at least at heart I know physically the birth certificate doesn't say that anymore but I still think I got 30 years in me, right? So in 30 years, I mean I've only been at it for 30, which means I'm only halfway there So whatever you think I've done, I think I'm going to double it, Right? So that means, what's going to be the next hot video game and movie and TV show? I don't know I just want to be there and still be relevant enough with my companies and art so that we can maybe pounce on it and have some fun and play in it So I wish I could be more definitive and say "hey we just signed this deal yesterday," but I've got stuff coming down that queue and it will continue to come down that queue until people say Todd stop, stop it, this is dumb we're not going to support any of it, and then I'll just retire and go to the beach

I want to thank Todd again for stopping by the office He was a pleasure to talk to, and I can't wait to play with all those wonderful toys

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