World Events Productions Office Visit and Interviews - PART II
WEP's Managing Director Tiffany Ilardi Explores Voltron and an Amazing Collection of Memorabilia...
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Following my story last week and interview with WEP Vice President Robert Kopler, this week we're chatting with Tiffany Ilardi, WEP Manging Director. Responsible for the overall management of various WEP brands - including not only Voltron: The Defender of the Universe and Voltron: The Third Dimension, but also Denver the Last Dinosaur, Vytor: The Starfire Champion, and the German favorite, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. Ilardi - who started at WEP right out of college - ensures licensing, promotion, and branding for these shows keeps WEP's brands in the fan's eye.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ilardi and get some additional interesting info on Voltron and the amazing collection of Voltron memorabilia throughout the WEP offices.
FIGURES.COM: Your collection here is amazing...
ILARDI: Thank you, though when I first took over the licensing for Voltron 15 years ago, we didn’t have a lot of the older collectibles in our office. The newer stuff, the stuff I licensed, is all here, but the older stuff we didn’t have, so I had to buy it - all the stuff you see here – off of eBay; every single one. That’s pretty funny because all of these years of licensing, all of the products - and there are a lot of products - from bed sheets and action figures to Shrinkie Dinks, was bought off of eBay. Even the growing Voltron you put in water...
FIGURES.COM: I remember having a lot of this stuff as a kid…
ILARDI: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing to see how much we've actually done, even in a 10 year time from when we did the first comic with Devil’s Due (back in 2003) and the Tin DVD sets from Media Blasters (in 2006), which were a really high quality product, to when we worked with Toynami...
FIGURES.COM: Many fans still look at Toynami's die-cast Voltron: Lion Force Masterpiece Collector's Set as one of the best Voltron figures ever...
ILARDI: Yeah, it’s an amazing collectible.
FIGURES.COM: Do you think keeping the Voltron brand authentic instead of exploiting it has helped attract better licensees? It seems Voltron has stayed true to itself and this has helped keep Voltron pure in a way. Have you had projects come across your desk which you said “No, we don’t want to do this?”
ILARDI: Most definitely.
FIGURES.COM: Can you tell us about some of them?
ILARDI: We’ve had a lot of proposals for little chachki items over the years. Little stuff that we thought “nah.” If we’ve ever done any items like a Voltron coffee cup or wall decals (above), we make sure to do it all ourselves and usually use all local people who make all these. We usually don’t go mass market route with the items; we try to stay in the collectibles market. The shoes and the toys and everything else the fans appreciate. Over the last 15 years, as we were really trying to keep the brand alive and continue licensing, we definitely didn’t give the rights out to anyone who asked and I know the fans are appreciative.
FIGURES.COM: Speaking of the Reebok shoes specifically (above) – there’s a certain amount of credit fans give Voltron for being authentic and real. It’s genuine, the people who grew up with Voltron recognize it’s not been exploited. Do you think now that my generation has the money to spend, how do you continue to appeal to my generation and keep this authenticity?
ILARDI: We simply try to keep our hardcore fans happy. These are the ones who are going to stand by us and support us. The Hockey Jersey that’s selling on our website is a perfect example. They’re the ones who would appreciate that and that’s something that would only appeal to our hardcore fans and they’re selling like crazy. We really just try to stick to these hardcore fans to help us keep the brand alive.
FIGURES.COM: If you had one dream project, what would it be?
ILARDI: We’ve been working on the Voltron movie for so long, I’d really love to see something big like that come along. We’ve been at it so long and it’d be a great way to introduce the people who don’t know Voltron to get to know the brand. We’ve also been talking about a Voltron OVA (Original Video Animation) would be great, going back to explore the roots and exploring all the history. We get so many questions and emails about something like that. That’d be a really cool project as well. For a product line, more toys for kids. Now that I have kids myself and they love the new show, which is great since I’ve been working on the original show for so long, which never got my kid’s attention, but now my kids love the new show…even after all the times I tried to get them to love the original show.
FIGURES.COM: That’s something we see a lot of – new shows versus old shows and the difference between the generations who love them. It’s funny how that difference exists between 20 years ago when the show was a way to promote the toys while now the toys support the idea that the fan can become a character in the show and promote the show…
ILARDI: Yes, that’s funny the difference. We continue to come out with niche items which die-hard fans would appreciate, like a line of five hi-tech watches, one for each Lion, which retail for around $150.00 each, or the Voltron hat, or the Voltron Boxer shorts (note: a personal favorite of this writer!). We continue to come up with some off the wall collectibles that our fans like.
FIGURES.COM: Because of how resourceful the current generation is, what are your feelings on fans making unlicensed Voltron products?
ILARDI: Oh yeah…being cool about it. You don’t want to knock your fans for being fans. We try to work with these people, get the license, and do it legally so we can all be happy. There’s a lot of things we never even find the people responsible – Voltron cufflinks, cards, calendars, coffee mugs. We try to keep a leash on it as best we can and put out a quality product to ensure the fans are happy with things which have Voltron on it. But it’s a good problem to have: fans who love us so much!
Be sure to take a photo tour of the WEP Offices in our WEP OFFICE TOUR PHOTO GALLERY.
A special thank you to Tiffany Ilardi for taking the time to sit down with us, answer a few of our questions, and showing us WEP’s amazing collection of Voltron memorabilia!
Be sure to check back soon as we post up our final – and longest – interview from our WEP office visit. We sat down with WEP Creative Director Jeremy Corray, who provides us with some interesting insight and future forecasting on Voltron in comics, movies, animation, and on the toy shelf!
- Jess C. Horsley