We chatted with Drake and Miller about the donation, The Green Hornet, and the Museum’s “Behind The Screen” collection.
MTV Geek: Tell me about how this donation came about.
Mike Drake: We first began donating to the Museum of the Moving Image around 5 years ago and we’ve been fans of the Museum of the Moving Image for many, many years. It’s a wonderful museum and we love their behind-the-scenes displays, and we saw that though they were doing a lot of licensed toys based on movie properties, they didn’t have any prototypes. So we thought: when we’re done making a toy we just lock the prototypes in a vault and no one ever sees them. But if we gave them to the museum they’d be enjoyed by thousands of people — well millions of people. So we contacted the museum and at first they didn’t understand what we were talking about! [Laughs] But after trying for a while and going to visit with them, they realized what it was that we were offering them and they’ve been happily accepting it ever since. And what’s interesting is that we’re the only toy company that’s agreed to provide them with the prototypes for the action figures.
Geek: What can you tell me about the design and sculpting of these toys?
Drake: Well Mezco does something that’s becoming more and more rare in the toy world in that we use actual sculptors. People that are classically trained in anatomy to actually sculpt with wax and clay, so working from photographs and measurements we sculpt using very very very little digital work at all, it’s all done hands-on with clay and wax.
Geek: So when capturing the likenesses of Seth Rogen or Jay Chou, you don’t use scans at all?
Drake: Photographs, photographs, photographs. And occasionally little pieces of film to get action shots or to get a grimace or growl or whatever or a specific pose, we don’t use scans at all. All sculpting.
Geek: How did you get involved with Green Hornet? How did you get the license?
Drake: Our president Mez, funny how the company is called Mezco, that’s purely a coincidence that Mez is his name. [Laughs] He’s been a Green Hornet fan since the 1960’s or 70’s TV show and when we heard it was being made into a movie, he was very excited and said, “Hey, we need to make those action figures.”
Geek: Are you doing any other characters from the movie or just the Green Hornet and Kato?
Drake: Just the Green Hornet and Kato at this time, but you know if it’s a huge success maybe the other characters as well.
Geek: When you get a license like this, for a movie, are you only licensing certain characters or are you licensing everybody?
Drake: Generally each situation is different, but generally it’s all the characters in the movie.
Geek: You also have the Black Beauty coming out as well?
Drake: Yes, we’ll be doing a Black Beauty for a stylized vinyl figure, an urban vinyl figure that we’re doing as part of our popular Mez-Itz line of urban vinyl figures.
Geek: When do all these come out?
Drake: The 1/6th scale Green Hornet and Kato are in stores right now at finer retailers and the Mez-Itz will be out in time for the movie, which is January 15th.
Geek: What else are you guys working on that’s big?
Drake: I can’t reveal anything we’re working on sat this time. At Toy Fair, we’ll reveal all!
We are working on figures for the Green Lantern movie coming out, we’ll be doing The Green Lantern and Sinestro in urban vinyl form.
Geek: Give me a quick history of the museum.
Dr. Barbara Miller: The museum was founded in 1981, and we opened our doors in 1988 for the first time in this building. In 2007 we started a major expansion and renovation project which is nearing its end and we open to the public January 15 with nearly 4,000 sq feet, changing exhibition space, a 270 seat state-of-the art theater and a smaller screening room, and brand new spaces for our education groups. We’ll be able to double the size of numbers of school tours that come through here from about 30,000 a year to about 60,000 a year. We work with groups that serve every age level from third grade up. We do hundreds of film screenings annually, and in terms of our artifacts the core exhibition in the museum is called “Behind the Screen.” Behind the Screen comprises approximately 1200 artifacts that have to do with the material culture of the moving image, so it has to do with the production, the promotion and the exhibition of the moving image, largely focused on film and television, but also extending to arcade games and console video games, the moving image in all its forms.
Geek: Besides the Green Hornet material what are some other key details about the “Behind the Screen” exhibit?
Dr. Miller: The Green Hornet artifacts that are being donated today by Mezco are not going to be installed right away in the exhibition. We have some Mezco material that’s going to be exhibited from King Kong, and the Green Hornet material will go into our collection but it will be exhibited at a different time.
Behind the Screen is separated into many different areas we have a large collection of technical apparatus. Some of the great things in that collection include; a working Vitaphone Projector from 1928, which we don’t operate regularly, which showed the first talking films. We have some new material from The Black Swan that we hope to be exhibiting. We have a large collection of licensed merchandise from the beginning of moving image to about in the 70’s, costumes, a whole variety of stuff.
Geek: How did you get involved with Mezco?
Dr. Miller: Mezco has been a loyal source of donations of the museum, starting 4 or 5 years ago. Since then we have received action figure material from Mezco from Hellboy, King Kong, The Wolf Man, Family Guy, South Park, and now the Green Hornet. And what’s really interesting about our relationship is we get the packaged action figures, which are great, but what’s more interesting to us — because we really are about pulling back the curtain and letting the public see what goes on behind the screen — are the prototypes. We have materials that talk about the process of design and production of action figures, because most people go to the store and see a box and it looks great and you buy it because you like the film and you like the way it looks. But you don’t really stop to think about: who are the people and what is the process about, through which this object gets made? What kind of decisions have to happen? Who’s involved in making those decisions? And on what basis? The King Kong material that we’ll be exhibiting, ranges from an original clay and wax sculpted head, through the poured resin prototype, then the paint masters and then the final mold, which then becomes the basis for the production of the finished product; so it’s a really nice way to tell the public about how these action figures are actually produced.
Geek: Are the reopening are there are big events going on that you’d like to highlight?
Dr. Miller: We have 6 weeks of extraordinary film programming going on that’s part of the opening exhibition. In our changing exhibition space we have an exhibit called “Real Virtuality” that is a series of installations of artists using moving image media, really cutting edge amazing things that really balances out what we’re about, so we have the artifacts and the historical objects and then in our changing exhibition space we’ll be able to show various faces of what has gone on in terms of moving image history and really what is the cutting edge of moving image production.
Both Green Hornet figure prototypes will be accessible on the Museum’s online Collection Catalog.
The 12inch 1/6th scale Green Hornet and Kato figures are on sale now both in stores and on Mezco’s website.