Today I wish to post an ad-hoc interview I conducted with Griffith76. Just a short introduction, he is currently the design engineer for 3rd party, MMC's latest offering, Feral rex. Feral Rex has been covered in an earlier post so Im going to go ahead and assume all readers know about the mammoth gestalt that it is. The more relevant and interesting fact is that Griffith is a Singaporean. We now have a fellow Singaporean brudder among us who is rubbing shoulders at one of the most popular 3rd party companies. I wish to present his journey and his story on his undertakings in the world of high end transforming collectibles.
1) How long have you been working in the toy industry and how large a part of it involves designing of transforming figures?
I first started to learn sculpting and scratch building in 2003 after I decided to become a toy designer and quit my first job. I had absolutely no idea what I signed up for when I took that first step, but I'm glad I did.
If I remembered correctly my first real project as a toy designer began in end 2007. Prior to that I was more involved in custom commissions. The only decent toy related project I did was an Iron Man bust that was eventually used and released by Bowen Designs. The main part of my income came from making advertising and event props that have nothing to do with toys at all.
The first figure I made in 2003 was a transforming one. The last I made by hand (I think in 2006) was coincidentally based on the same female character I did back in '03. The later ones were all done using computer software and it has been that way ever since. I've had a good mix of experiences with different types of toys ranging from statues (big and small) to action figures to transforming robots but now I'm mainly specializing in mecha action figures and transforming robot figures. I'd say the jobs that include transformable ones take up about 30 to 40% of what I've done so far.
2) In your opinion, what were your more relevant training skill sets,( educational or on the job) that gave the most value-add to your career?
I majored in Civil and Environmental Engineering but I'd have to say there was nothing useful from the uni course except general problem solving skills that I developed during study.
My career path had been a little unorthodox so I cannot say what works for me will work for someone else in a different situation, but I believe that your mindset and attitude will be the deciding factor for how far you're gonna reach and how fast you can do it. All the skills that I'm using for my jobs now are self taught through experience, from books and mostly from internet tutorials and resources.
I've learned from experience that there are two things that exists in most seemingly impossible problems and situations that you'll face in your job or in life; there's always a way to solve it and then there is always a better solution after you found the first. I believe that its this mindset that brought me where I am today and it'll bring me further still.
3) Which is your most gratifying project to date and which part of it make it so memorable?
To date its the Feral Rex project naturally. Each new toy I help create brings a sense of satisfaction that's hard to explain by words. Each project is special in its own way, with its specific goals, its highs and its lows. But for the Rex project its a compilation of everything we learned and experienced since the Knight Morpher Commander. What worked well, what won't and all the factors we know that will make it into an awesome figure, are all compacted into this team that will form the ultimate figure that MMC has ever produced. It's just awesome to be part of this. It will remain to be the most gratifying project to me until it becomes a part of the experience that will in turn, create an even better toy.
4) How did you end up working for MMC, one of the more popular and respected 3rd party companies?
It kinda happened by chance. I used IDW/Guido's concept art of the HOS Optimus Prime as a practice project for learning design in 3D, made a prototype and posted the results online for feedback. After some time (I think three years)I revisited the design, shrunk it down and sold them as resin kits. I was contacted by someone who said they'd want to make the thing into a real toy and naturally I said yes. The rest's history.
5) Would you encourage fellow Singaporans to take up toy design as a full time career or is the market such that there is less pressure if its a part time sideline?
Whatever it is that you're into, I'll definitely suggest to start it off as a hobby first. The path as a toy designer is not mainstream in Singapore and obviously not an easy one. There are many different ways and unique skills required to create different types of toys and there is no school that teaches you exactly how its done. I'd say that it's a very naive thought if someone decides to go into it for the money because you will not see any money (or enough of it) until you're better than everyone around you (or at least most of them) who's trying to do the same thing.
Since we are talking in the context of Singaporeans taking up toy design as a career, I'll say this. Singapore does not have a market for toy designers. It directly implies that you are pitting yourself into the world market (or mainly USA) to fight among others for jobs. It also means that in order to achieve certain success in the industry, you have to be good enough at international level. An amazing custom / kit-bash or even scratch built does not automatically make it a good toy.
But having said all that, it doesn't mean that I'm discouraging young (or even old) Singaporeans from having dreams to become successful toy designers. Dare to dream, learn and understand how the industry works, what it wants from you and what it has to offer you. And most importantly, practice, practice and more practice. Practice is the only thing that stands between a half-assed toy designer, a good one and a great master.
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