Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pocket Sideshow: Development to product release!

The first painted colorway of my first sofubi toy, "Snowshoe".
For nearly a year now, I, along with Circus Posterus artists Chris Ryniak, Kathie Olivas, and Brandt Peters have been working on developing a four-figure sofubi vinyl set with Mr. Shinji Nakako of Tomenosuke-Syoten in Japan.

The idea behind the figures was to make them "chibi" versions (exaggerated, baby-like proportions) of our characters, at a small size, and the heads can all fit on the all the bodies, so if you'd like, you can have a Dust Bunny head on Kathie's tentacled girl body, or maybe Brandt's Skelve skull on Chris's monster body. Lots of fun.

Concept turnaround sketches, late 2013.

We started finalizing drawings in December of 2013. The sketches for mine that you see here are actually the fourth iteration of my character's design. Of all of the characters, mine was actually the most problematic - because the heads had to be swappable, that meant that the neck joint for every figure had to be exactly the same. That was not so difficult to accomplish with the other three figures in the series, but mine caused headaches. The reason for this is the overall shape of my characters - the other characters have a very clear division between head and body, with a specific area that is a "neck", which is something all my characters lack.  Dust Bunnies are basically stretched-out gumdrop shapes, and if they have a skull/neck/spine anywhere in their anatomy, it's hidden under many layers of padding and you can't really see it.   So the neck size issue was really making mine NOT work at all, which actually almost resulted in it not being produced at all.

Luckily for me, Chris Ryniak (thank you Chris!!!) stepped up to the plate and offered some different approaches, including the one you see here - a Bunny in a snowsuit with a big parka hood. The oversized hood gave his upper section the right silhouette to balance against the other big-headed characters, and the area where it cinches around him creates a neck joint, while still allowing me to keep the proportions of my Dust Bunny characters.  It's a perfect solution! Plus, I get to see what my guys look like when they're all bundled up for winter expeditions - pretty dang cute.

Youhei Kaneko's final sculpt of my chibi figure, ready to go to the factory.

After we got all of that sorted out, it was time to get master sculpts finished. Our sculptor for this project was the incredibly talented Youhei Kaneko. Youhei has a really interesting way of sculpting, which is very different from how I work - it's a mostly reductive process in which he carves the figures from a solid block of rigid material, and then builds back up when needed. He had to do many changes as we went through a nearly three-month revision process. It was a lot of work, but we all wanted to make sure the figures were just right before they went to the factory.

Waxes, made at the factory.
After all revisions were done and the sculpting phase was finished, the sculpts went off to the factory for preparations to be made for the molding and casting process. The molds used for these figures are made of metal, which is electroplated around wax versions of the toys. What you see above are the waxes, and the cylindrical shapes on both head and body will allow pour spouts in which liquid vinyl can be poured into the molds, as well as a flange on the head piece, which will fit snugly down into the body and hold it in place.

The figures will be available soon as a set from Circus Posterus. There are lots more colorways to come as well. It's been a really exciting journey from concept to finalization!

More information and lots more pictures in these blog posts too:
From the Tomenosuke blog - Part 1 and Part 2.
From the Circus Posterus blog - here.

The final figures, unpainted, in black sofubi vinyl.

Final set in the first colorway.


  1. Those figures look absolutely awesome. Hope I can add your little Dust Bunny to my collection!

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