We started out with a question that's been eating away at me for a good long time. When you establish a line of incredibly popular 7 inch horror figures, why switch over to a 5 inch world of zombies? Todd explained that not everything is always an artistic choice. Sometimes, things simply come down to what a retailer asks for ...be that price or style, and in this case scale. Retailers expressed that all the other companies were reducing the size of their figures and that they'd like us to follow suit. “When the people who are buying tell you what they want to buy, you usually accommodate them or risk becoming a dinosaur. You won't survive very long.”
We'd been given a sneak preview of McFarlane's new Walking Dead Construction line previous to this interview! Think 1 part LEGO-like brick building, 1 part snap kit innovation. The result is a build-it-yourself environment any minifigure would be terrified to enter. We asked Todd how this line came to be and his answer was very simple. “I walked down the toy isles 20 years ago and wondered why the figures couldn't look better..cooler. So I started my own company because the answer was figures COULD look better and cooler. Now that question is being applied to the brick isles. Why does the final version of these builds have to look clunky? I guess maybe it appeals to 6 yr olds or moms, but if you're trying to sell something to a 25 yr old, and you make it look not realistic...when you CAN, but you choose not to... it seems like you're short changing the consumer. I looked at that isle and said I am going to make it as realistic and detailed as possible and carve out my own little niche there.”
We asked how McFarlane will reach a collector fanbase that's been tempted by the lure of LEGO minifigures for years now and his answer, bluntly, was “I'm not!” He went on to explain that he's after the 28 million fans that watch the walking dead every week (when it is aired), which is a way higher number than the “collector” base everyone is always talking about. “My job is to go to those 28 million people and say 'what is it that you like', and then make the product look just like what they see on TV. Why the other companies do what they do...you can take that up with them, but I'm going to add realism to an isle that has very little of it.”
And now...DETAILS!! Series one will have single pack blind bagged (approximately 2 inch) figures with articulation, a 5 pack of figures with both humans and zombies (low difficulty of build for all figures), Daryl Dixon on his chopper (around 150-160 pieces) riding down the highway with a zombie in the grass beyond the guard rail, The Governor's Room (just under 300 pieces) where he sits and watches the fish tanks with those floating, decapitated heads (the fish tanks light up!), and a cage door with little Penny lurking behind it...and finally, the deluxe box will contain one of the prison towers as well as around 18 inches to 2 feet of “gnarly”, dirtied up fencing with customizable grass, and Glen with a dead zombie laying on the ground. If you snap up those blind bagged figures and 5 pack, you should be able to re-enact one of those pivotal prison conflicts that have kept us on the edge of our seats.
Knowing McFarlane's business model fairly well, we had to ask if they were thinking of expanding this new construction model to their other licenses. Todd answered with a resounding YES. “What I think is missing in that industry that appeals to adults, hopefully I can touch on it and then go after more licenses that make sense.”
We couldn't let a Todd McFarlane interview go by without asking about the return of SPAWN to the big screen and inevitably, the toy pegs. Todd has answered this question many times and in this case, his response was pretty much in the tone of “nothing new to report”. He thinks the right time for Spawn to return to the action figure isles is when there is a significant vehicle for him to ride in on..and that means a full blown film rocketing to theaters across the globe. “There's a hand full of people that are waiting for me to finish my script and once we do that, I think very quickly, once it gets polished up, we'll be rolling film on it. I'm looking for a replacement writer on the Spawn comic that will free me up...and I keep threatening every year to finish that damn script, but I keep getting distracted with things like the comic book and new toy lines, so I have a tendency to fill up my idle time...not with the movie script but with coming up with other creative endeavors.”
Todd remarked he wished the photos they are taking could convey the cool factor of these Walking Dead Construction builds, but SDCC will be the first opportunity fans will get to see them in all their glory, first hand...and that will be the highlight of the show for him.
The Building Sets: MSRP $9.99-64.99 – Daryl Dixon with Chopper, The Governor’s Room, and Prison Tower with Gate. Expand your brick building apocalypse with additional figure and accessory packs.
Blind Bag Figures: MSRP $2.99 – Daryl Dixon, Michonne, The Governor, Carl Grimes, Riot Gear Walker, Michonne’s Pet Walker, and Herd Walkers.
McFarlane Toys’ The Walking Dead building sets and figures will be available this fall only at Toys“R”Us stores nationwide and online at Toysrus.com