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Stan Winston Readies First Toy Line
Makeup effects studio responsible for PREDATOR and T2 about to enter the action figure market
By Steve Biodrowski
June 18, 2001
Stan Winston's Oscar-winningt makeup effects studio has contributed creatures and characters to two of this years most highly anticipated films, JURASSIC PARK III
Toys is for me huge. But that's not what he is most excited about at the moment. He is really looking forward to releasing his first line of action figures. "JURASSIC PARK III
is going to be a great movie, and I'm anxious for people to see A.I.
because it's amazing," he says, but "for me personally, the toy line is the big thing. What we've been doing at Stan Winston for thirty years, which is creating creatures and characters for film, we are now doing for the action figure world."
Winston's first toy line, scheduled for the end of September, will be called Creature Features. It will tie in with a series of made-for-cable films that Stan Winston Productions will co-produce with Lou Arkoff, son of Samuel Z. Arkoff, whose American International Pictures created countless low-budget sci-fi and horror flicks in the '50s and '60s. Creature Features will take five titles from the old A.I.P. library (THE SHE CREATURE, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, TEEN-AGE CAVEMAN, HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER, THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED
) and create new stories and monsters for films that will air on Cinemax this October. Those monsters will then become the Creature Features action figures collectible line.
Why get into the collectible toy business? "We've been talking about it for years," Winston explains. "It started off in sort of a negative way, because for many years we had been creating characters and creatures for movies. Then they would be licensed for the toy world, and the toys and action figures were always so much less artistically than what we had created for the film. It diminished the look of what we had created. So it was like, "We should be doing these ourselves, but we're not toy makers." And the people in the toy world would say, 'The people who buy toys don't really care about the kind of quality that you put into movies.'"
This attitude changed during the last decade, thanks to the popularity of the Todd McFarlane toys lines, such as Movie Maniacs. "Suddenly we were seeing action figures that had great art, that were interesting, that were dramatic," says Winston. "It paved the way, and what it proved to me and to all the guys and artists who work with me is that the toy buyer does see the difference; they do care. I'm a toy freak; all the guys in my studio are action figure lovers, comic book lovers, and movie monster lovers. So we saw that in fact Todd McFarlane was doing it better; he raised the bar on the quality of what an action figure should be, and the buyer wanted his figures. It became flattering to me because some of the characters that we had created at Stan Winston Studio were coming onto the toy market, having been licensed by Todd McFarlaneMcFarlane came on the market with an excellent Pumpkinhead. So I'm flattered by it, and I'm also extremely jealous. And I'm going, 'You know what? People are responding; he's doing it well; we should be doing it ourselves.'"
The Creature Features toy line will each include a CD-Rom with behind-the-scenes information on the artists who created the creatures for the films. "That will set us aside from Todd McFarlane, who is not only my inspiration but obviously also now the challenge and the competition. I had to come up with somethingit wasn't enough to say, 'Todd McFarlane has raised the bar. We'll now come onto the market. The design and the quality of the toys has to be that or better.' What we've decided to do is to introduce to the buyer the art and the artist and the connection of the action figurethe design, the development, the creation of itwith Stan Winston Studio. This is not an action figure line that I'm stamping my name on. We are creating and developing the action figures at Stan Winston Studio. We are using the original artists, the artists who are responsible for the Terminator, who are responsible for the dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK
, who are responsible for the ALIENS
, who are responsible for EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, PREDATOR
for all of the great creatures down the line." (Winston is careful to pronounce the title for the ALIENS
in the plural form, because the artist truly responsible for the original design seen in the 1979 film Alien
is Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger; the Stan Winston Studio merely modified the design for the 1986 sequel.)
Winston adds, "The CD-Rom that will come with each of the characters for the first line allows the buyer to get the bio of the artist and to see the making of the action figureto see the sculpting, the painting, to see my involvement, my one-on-one supervision of the character. This raises the bar, so when people purchase one of these action figures, they are not buying a Picasso replica; they're buying the Picasso. It creates an aspect of these toys that makes each of these action figures a SPIDER-MAN #1 the minute it's on the shelf. It's never been done before. I think it's exciting."
A second toy line, called Beast Lords, is already scheduled to arrive approximately three months after the first line. The figures are "based on characters that I personally conceived of many years before and have been developing with the artists from Stan Winston Studio," says Winston. "The first line of Beast Lords will be six cat gods, unlike anything you've ever seen. Amazing characters." After that, Winston plans to expand the toy line "every ten to twelve weeks."
Winston's official website will provide information on the future toy lines. "The first series has the CD-ROMs, but for each series following thateach toy will have a password. The password will allow you to get into the private section of the Stan Winston website. There will be an expanded website that will introduce you to Stan Winston Studio, to Stan Winston Productions, and to Stan Winston Creatures. The only way to get into the making of the toys is with the password. So to have the password, you have to have the toy. It will become like a club. The thing that makes it even better and beyond the CD-Rom is that with the password, it will be constantly updatedyou'll see what's coming upwhereas a CD-ROM's a lock."