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Checking in with Michael Horn

By Andrew Kardon     April 12, 2002

Ask a toy fan if he's heard of Palisades a few years ago and you'd probably get more than your fair share of blank stares. But ask an action figure fan the same question today, and you'll get an all-together different stare. One that sports a collector-frenzied glint.

In just a few short years, Palisades has turned from a small, virtually unknown toy company producing mediocre properties to a serious player with quality merchandise and a few licenses that're sending collectors into super-drool mode. CINESCAPE hunted down Palisades President Michael Horn for the scoop behind his company's titanic strides.

CINESCAPE: You've got MICRONAUTS, MUPPETS, RESIDENT EVIL. Some pretty big properties with some real quality behind them. Palisades certainly seems to have made a huge leap in the toy market in a relatively short period of time.

HORN: It's all about perspective. To me, it seems like it's been a long time. We've been in business for nearly eight years, focusing on action figures for more than five. Also, I feel that we are still taking small steps. Let me explain. Those properties (as well as our cool resin licenses like ALIEN, PREDATOR, and GI JOE) are great properties from great licensors.

I just continue to have this perception in my mind that Palisades is a small company that nobody has heard of. Well, maybe not "nobody," but a small amount of people. My team here at Palisades is dedicated to the cause and I believe that it shows in everything we do. From product design, to packaging, to advertisements, to our website, to our general approach.

In terms of action figures, what is Palisades' overall game plan? Who exactly are you targeting: die-hard collectors or the mainstream public?

Both. Everything we do is intended to have a collector appeal. It's the licenses that allow for more of a "mainstream" audience. That's why I believe that RESERVOIR DOGS, RESIDENT EVIL, MICRONAUTS, and the MUPPETS can all live under the same brand and make sense. Hopefully we can always satisfy the collector while also providing popular enough properties to support our company.


How did you snag the MUPPETS deal? And for that matter, why hasn't anyone ever done an action figure line on these characters?

We just called up the Henson Company and said, "Hey, we're Palisades. We make collectible action figures. We would like to license the Muppet Show." Then we sent 'em some samples of stuff that we had done (including RESIDENT EVIL SERIES 1 -- that one took some imagination) to show our abilities. Shortly thereafter, we had a license in hand. Why hasn't it been done before? Got me. But I'm glad we were the ones to land it!

Which figure are you most looking forward to seeing released this year?

I'd have to go with the MUPPETS. Just because they are so cool. I'm particularly excited about the ANIMAL figure in Series 2, full drumset and articulated eyebrows and mouth!

Do you guys have any desire to start creating your own characters?

Definitely. We just need to shake some time free to dedicate to it. The MICRONAUTS reliance will be a bit of a warm-up as we have a lot of leeway in the creative portion.

Any desire to go after more video game properties?

Sure. The issue with video games is that, like any other properties, it is difficult to do a timely manner. If you look at our history of video games, most of the projects that we did were on franchise-type properties. Things like RESIDENT EVIL, FINAL FANTASY, TEKKEN, and MORTAL KOMBAT. Easier to get products out if they are not tied in to a specific game release.

Most toy companies choose between sculpting and articulation. How would you describe the direction you chose to go with your figures?

Both. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but look at our product lines. Especially RESIDENT EVIL since the character designs allow for more articulation possibilities. Our CLAIRE REDFIELD (arguably our best single figure) has great detail in the sculpt and accessories, but also sports 16 points of articulation. Seriously, we make a real effort to be the one company that provides both aspects.


With MUPPETS you're starting to venture into the "playsets" area. Any plans to do more things like that or even vehicles?

Yeah. Definitely. We'll spread our creative wings a bit on MICRONAUTS since those figures require some vehicle-like engineering. I personally think that the new playsets are gonna be awesome. I hope the consumers agree!


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