INTERVIEW: Danny "The Farrow" Anniello
Figures Toy Company Sculptor Living The Dream...
Danny "The Farrow" Anniello is living the dream. As a child of the ‘70s, Danny not only has the opportunity to re-collect his childhood heroes as new retro-style collectibles, but he can proudly say he helped bring them to life. Being the Lead Sculptor for Figures Toy Company, Danny has used his natural born talent to give collectors faithful versions of such iconic names as KISS, Evel Knieval, Gilligan and Adam West’s Batman.
Read on to learn all about Danny’s amazing sculpting work with Figures Toy Company, discover his hidden talent as a rock’n’roll guitarist, and find out just where he got the unusual nickname, “The Farrow”.
FIGURES.COM: I have to ask this first, as I am sure many reading this are wondering, but where does your nickname “The Farrow” come from?
THE FARROW: Good question! Well, the name goes way back to the ‘80s when I had a band called “Taylen Storm”. My stage name at the time was “Taylen Farrow,” but a lot of my friends and fans just called me “Farrow”.
The name kind of stuck with me, so when I started sculpting I used the name as I thought it was catchy and easy to remember. And one day when I want to become a superhero, I won’t have to think too hard for a name to use (laughter).
It is like a stage name for sculpting.
FIGURES.COM: Very cool, so you also have a history in music. Are you currently in a band?
THE FARROW: Yes, I started a new band approximately two years ago called Lords of Mercy.
Before Lords of Mercy I was out of the music scene for a number of years. My old bandmate and great friend Joe Stabile - who had been in Taylen Storm with me - was in a new band and asked me a few times to come jam as they needed a lead guitar player. Though things did not work out with that project, it really gave me a new passion for playing music again. So I started Lords of Mercy. About a week after forming Lords of Mercy, Joe had left his band to team up and I was very happy to have him on board as bass player. So I really have to thank him for getting me back into the music scene.
We just put out our first self-titled debut album, “Lords of Mercy”. If you love good hard rock/ metal with catchy hooks and straight edge, hard-hitting, right-to-the-point songs I think you will really like it. It is available on itunes, amazon, cd baby, and by our record company Main Man Records (mainmanrecords.com). You can also check out facebook.com/lordsofmercy.
FIGURES.COM: What led you to become a sculptor?
THE FARROW: True and weird story: When I was three years old, I was drawing on our living room table, copying a cartoon from the comic section in the newspaper. Then my mother came downstairs and was shocked to see me drawing a very good picture of the cartoon... but the feet were at the top and the head was at the bottom! I was actually seeing and drawing the picture upside down.
When my mom explained to me that it was a good drawing, but that the head needs to go on top and the feet at the bottom - I immediately thought something was wrong with me. However, the combination of her telling me the correct way - along with being scared - triggered something in my brain. The experience somehow retrained my mind and I have seen correctly ever since. My mom remembers this perfectly to this day. I do to… I guess because of the shock of it all. I would guess it was some sort of dyslexia.
Anyways, I wanted to tell this story because that is where my art started. Like many artists, it was something I was born with. But to answer your question about sculpting, I was in an art store in my late twenties with my best friend, “The Bishop”. I told him I was gonna buy some clay and try to make a model kit. “Garage Kits” was the title for them at the time. So I went home and tried to sculpt an ape head from Planet of the Apes and as I was doing it, it started looking better and better. By the end of the night I said to myself, “Whoa, I can sculpt”. It was pretty weird. I still have that head somewhere. When you sculpt, sometimes you look at it as if someone else did it… if that makes any sense. So from then on - with God’s help - I became a self-taught sculptor.
FIGURES.COM: What are some of your past sculpting accomplishments?
THE FARROW: When I first started, I wanted to try something different and go for a more realistic approach; using realistic hair along with trying to make accurate sculpts. So I made my own custom figures, starting out with a KISS set that sold at an unexpected amount at the time on eBay. I started doing different customs like Iron Maiden’s Eddie and Mötley Crüe, always trying to improve. I think that is mainly how I built up a name.
From there I was hired by NECA to do a Harry Potter Draco head sculpt. Randy Falk from NECA is a great guy and has become a real good friend. But back then he gave me a shot. At the time, I thought the Draco head sculpt came out good, but it was one of the first times I had ever used wax. I know the likeness could be better when I look at it now. But it was a big achievement for me to have a figure I sculpted in stores and to have worked with one of the biggest figure companies.
FIGURES.COM: You’re currently the Lead Sculptor at Figures Toy Company. Please tell us about your position and what it is you do.
THE FARROW: First I want to thank Dale Torborg, who I did not know at the time, but was a fan of my work. He was “The Demon”, a pro wrestler for the WCW. Dale actually went to Figures Toy Company and showed them photos of my work and told them if you are doing more KISS figures, you have to get this guy. And that is how the company heard of me. So thanks again Dale!
I have been sculpting with Figures Toy Company for approximately a year and half now, and I have to say, it has been a pleasure. Anthony Balasco and Steve Sandberg, who are the owners, are great people and we all get along and work together better than I could have imagined.
Seriously, they have given me a lot of creative control, as well as making sure things look accurate. They really do care about the products they are releasing and want to make them the best they can. A lot of people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes to make a figure. There are so many revisions before approvals and sometimes the sculpt changes a bit with mass production, but that is expected. Figures Toy Company are putting out amazing figures and things just keep getting better and better. There are big things going on here and big things to come. I only want the best for Figures Toy Company, as well as giving customers the best we can. That is most important.
FIGURES.COM: Tell us a few of the pieces you've worked on recently. Which have been your favorites and which have been the most difficult?
THE FARROW: I have finished the Dressed to Kill KISS set that was recently released and also the KISS Alive set coming out in a few months. I am very happy with the KISS sets as KISS is my all-time favorite group and KISS Alive is my all-time favorite album. So working on these figures has been a dream come true.
I have an advanced KISS Alive set (pictured above), which I really love. The detail on the boots is amazing and I’m happy there was no detail lost in my head sculpts. I really think KISS fans will love these figures. There will be a Gene Alive variant with a different head sculpt that spits blood as well.
Evel Knievel was also really fun to do as I have always been a huge fan of his.
Another set of 12-inch figures I sculpted are Gilligan and The Skipper from Gilligan's Island. Now Gilligan I did not have much trouble with, but The Skipper was a real challenge as the expression we wanted to capture was with a wide smile. I sent a photo of my first attempt to Figures Toy Company and they were not crazy about the likeness. Now let me tell you, Steve Sandberg has a great eye for facial features. He spent some time going over the Skipper’s head sculpt and telling me what he thought was wrong. When I went back to working on it, I took his advice and nailed it. Me and Steve have worked together on a lot of head sculpt revisions and we really work great as a team. I was really happy about the final Skipper sculpt and hope fans of the show will be too.
FIGURES.COM: What projects are you working on now? What do you have planned for the future?
THE FARROW: With Figures Toy Company I have been working on the Batman ‘66 TV show figures. We are doing a lot of characters, including the Yvonne Craig Batgirl that fans of the show have been asking about. So I am real excited about that line. I really tried to keep them in the retro style of Mego and I think it worked. They really look like they came out of the ‘70s. As a huge fan of the show, I wish these figures came out when I was a kid, but I guess since I did the head sculpts, I am just as cool with them coming out this year (laughter).
I am also working on a lot of DC characters like Kull and Solomon Kane. Also the 6-inch Teen Titan Robin, Korak - Son of Tarzan and more that I cannot mention at this time.
Another line I am very excited to be working on is the classic Planet of the Apes with NECA. This is another dream come true for me as the classic Planet of the Apes are one of my favorite all-time films and TV shows. I am working on heads for variations of the gorilla soldiers. I am also working on some of the characters from the TV show as NECA plans to cover both the films and TV series.
So it will be a great year.
FIGURES.COM: Toy making technology has really come a long way in recent years. Do you find modern modeling programs such as ZBrush and Freeform replacing traditional sculpting methods? Is there a happy medium?
THE FARROW: You know, I never gave this any thought and do not know much about digital sculpting. But there has always been something special in the way a person can hand sculpt, paint, or do anything physically creative which I think will always hold more appreciation and value to a buyer, collector or to the person themselves who created.
Just like music, there are programs that make guitar sounds and drum beats etc. But nothing is better than the music really being played live with real instruments and musicians.
So I do not think sculpting by hand will be replaced, but there is room for sculpting technology to be appreciated as well.
FIGURES.COM: Who are some other sculptors you really admire or like and why?
THE FARROW: Jeff Yeager was one of my first influences for sculpting. I bought a Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man garage kit that he did and I love it. Then I saw some more of his work and that was when I wanted to try to sculpt. Another sculptor I admire is Arnie Kim. I really loved the likeness and realism he captured with his Bruce Lee work. I think his work brought head sculpts and figures in a new highly detailed direction.
FIGURES.COM: Given the opportunity, which licensed property would you like to sculpt characters from and why?
THE FARROW: To be honest, I have been so fortunate to do two of my all-time favorite subjects: KISS and now Planet of the Apes. I would love to do more of those, and I love doing Batman, as well. As far as anything new, maybe Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie and Universal Monsters - as I love the Wolf Man. Maybe some cool movie figures like Clint Eastwood’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Love his old westerns.
FIGURES.COM: Do you collect toys and if so what are some of your favorite collectibles today and why?
THE FARROW: Yes, I do collect toys. Now I don’t want to sound repetitive (laughter) but I collect KISS figures, especially KISS items from the ‘70s. I collect Planet of the Apes figures. I love Mego figures. I used to have a big collection, but I’ve sold most of them over time and only have a few left. I also collect Underdog, Eddie Maiden, The Wolf Man, Elvis, and Evel Knievel.
And another one of my favorite collectibles, even though there were no figures made, was the ‘70s band “Angel” with Punky Meadows - who is one of my favorite rock stars and guitar influences. I have a huge and rare collection on that band. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but they were great and on the same label as KISS. They also had a big show and all. Way ahead of their time.
FIGURES.COM: Thank you so much for your time and keep up the amazing work! Any parting words for our readers?
THE FARROW: Thank you for the kind words and for the interview opportunity, I really appreciate it.
My parting words for the readers would be to always do what you love and never stop because someone tells you that you should. Never let anyone ever hold you back. There is no rule or set time to stop doing the things you like or love. The time to stop is when you feel like it. So keep on collecting and doing whatever it is you love that gets you through the day with a smile. You people are the coolest.
And be on the lookout for some killer figures this year!
A very special "Thank You" to Danny for taking the time from his extremely busy sculpting schedule to do this interview. Keep up the awesome work and rock on! For more on Danny "The Farrow" Anniello and his work, check out his facebook pages, The Farrow and Farrow Customs, as well as on FiguresToyCompany.com and their facebook page.
- Interview by Jeff Saylor
To insure your action figure collection, contact Collectibles Insurance Services at (888) 837-9537, or click here to get a quote and apply online. Collectibles Insurance Services is the Official Partner of the Figures.com network.
To buy action figures, take a look at BigBadToyStore.com, AlterEgoComics.com, Anime-Island.com, TheToySource.com, Toynk.com, BriansToys.com, ToyWiz.com, and MonkeyDepot.com.
For hobby miniatures and all your gaming needs, visit MiniatureMarket.com.