Red Laser: Thanks for having me!
Any relation to Black Major, the other o-ring entrepreneur? If not, how does one get into the “3rd party” toy business?
Wow. Straight into it, huh? Hmm - how far into this do I go? I feel I need to restrain myself here. I have written and deleted my answer 5 times. Okay - in Oct '14 I purchased the Black Major business. I decided to not continue to use the name, as I was going to take things in a different direction than what he had done. I felt the name might actually hold me back. I had also turned down the option of additionally buying Black Major's ebay / IG / etc accounts at the time, wanting a fresh start. (Also, I could not afford them). Then a year or so passed. (It took me over a year to afford any production runs after that initial massive purchase.) In that time, some of my newly acquired molds went “missing”. Months later, he came back onto the scene, out of retirement, using the name that I had bought (Black Major - even if I wasn't using it, I owned it). Using molds I had bought, and so forth. As an extra curveball, one of the things I had purchased was his retirement. ... So....
tl:dr: I came from the ashes of Black Major, but we are not affiliated.
Of note, I have tried to extend my hand and work together with them - ignoring the past and looking to the future. So far, they remain uninterested.
How do you come up with the different paint schemes and parts swaps?
By employing people better than I am at it :) There a few key people that I work with on most of it -- and one person in particular who has handled the lion's share; customizers, designers, and more all send input as well. Beyond that, I've got my own list of over 1000 figures I would love to see made some day - so I chip away at that list mostly.
Out of the figures you have produced so far, which is your personal favorite?
- Commando - in that 'I always wanted that and now that itch is scratched' - sense.
- Infantry Officer (blonde) - a striking figure to me, and a perfect bad guy.
- Shockbots - I enjoy that I was not interested in the concept, but the figure is just awesome in appearance and how it fits in my collection. Also, it's significant as it was the first time I realized the people working with me had far better ideas than I.
- Scorpions (African) - another visually striking figure to me.
- Sky Raider - for the key reason that he turned out far better than planned.
- Odin - a childhood desire made real.
- Ravens - (upcoming) - another visually striking figure.
Which figure has had the most complications and/or caused the most grief to produce?
Sightline. Hands down. Without a doubt. The parts were sourced from multiple places - each presenting their own issues and hurdles; 25 people were involved in designing it; the entire run arrived unassembled and had to be put together by hand, 3 days before they were promised to be available, etc, etc. Just the worst. I think Gary is probably laughing about that.
How far away do you believe 3rd parties are from recreating vintage vehicles or playsets?
Far. Very far. I would love to jump into that arena, and have looked into it - exhaustively. It's far too cost prohibitive. There's no way anyone could sell the numbers they would have to produce to not lose their shirt. There is a very limited audience for 3rd party stuff. If you wanted to produce a vehicle, every 3rd party supporter would have to buy 4 or 5 each at 3x the original cost, just so that the provider could break-even.
Are you concerned about any effects 3rd parties may have on the secondary market value of the vintage toys?
Yes. I am of two minds on this. 1) I don't see any reason to directly remake anything other than to make a quick buck. Which shows a lack of respect for your audience to just cheapen or dilute the market with your secondary product - people can get duped, thinking they are buying something original and are paying that premium price for a genuinely hard to find item. I don't try to deceive anyone. 2) If people are clamoring for something that has been priced out of reach, I can understand the desire for a stand-in. I don't see making something that is obviously different from the original with even a cursory look at it.
Can you tell us anything about any upcoming plans for releases you have?
Not really. And not because I'm trying to be coy. The process just doesn't allow for astute accuracy I've found. So I am not announcing anything anymore until they are in hand. I don't want to be in the business of disappointing people when something planned goes awry, and the figure doesn't become available.
If time and money were not an issue, what would you love to create, even just for yourself?
My own toylines. But, if you mean within the sandbox I am currently in? Keep going with my monster list of figures I want to see. I am content with that.
If the producers of The Toys That Made Us asked you what toy(s) made you, what would your response be?
GI Joe. No question, the biggest influence on my life - the entire span. Toy influences as a kid? 75% GI Joe. 15% Lego. 5% Star Wars. The last 5% would be a mix of (roughly in order): M.A.S.K., Transformers, Battle Beasts, Visionaries, Buck Rogers / Battlestar Gallactica / MASH / Love Boat, Fisher Price Adventure People, A-Team, Zoids, Micronauts, Go-bots, Robotech, Voltron, , Captain Power, He-Man, Sectaurs, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Bionic Six, Secret Wars, Super Powers, Thundercats.
When it is all said and done, what do you hope the Red Laser will be most remembered for?
I would get a sense of personal satisfaction if I were responsible for one of someone’s favorite figures. I would be over the moon if I played a part in a groundswell effort to bring o-ring figures back to store shelves.