SDCC14 INTERVIEW: Mondo's CEO Justin Ishmael
Doing What He Loves: New Toys For TMNT, Iron Giant, Hitchcock...
Mondo, the small company from Austin, Texas famous for creating great illustrations and posters of our favorite films, made an announcement just as San Diego Comic-Con was about to begin that they were going into the toy business (see our story HERE). Everyone who loves toys turned their heads and everyone who loves what Mondo does turned their heads and asked “when, what, where, how much? JUST TAKE MY MONEY NOW!”
There were three properties Mondo announced they would tackle first including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Iron Giant, and Alfred Hitchcock. With such prominent and favorite properties of just about everyone, we had to find out more. We sat down with CEO of Mondo, Justin Ishmael to find out a little bit more.
FIGURES.COM: You've done t-shirts and posters... and now toys! Tell us how you got to that decision.
MONDO (JUSTIN ISHMAEL): We had always talked about doing toys ever since we were doing posters. We’d say “oh let’s do this bust” or “let’s do this thing” and we just couldn't figure out how to produce it. It just wasn't the right time. You know, we were just getting the hang of posters and doing all that stuff. It was just the three of us running the company at that time too. And just last year, we decided to go for it. What really kicked it off was The Iron Giant and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Those were kind of the ones that would be fun. The first thing we ever talked about doing was a Stanley Kubrick bust because we were really big fans of his. And we thought about who else we could do, be it Alfred Hitchcock... and we decided to make it a 1/6th scale figure because we already had a relationship with them. We did a shirt and it went super, super well. Iron Giant was as simple as asking Warner Bros. if they have it and they said ‘Yes’.
FIGURES.COM: There’s obviously a lot that goes into it than just making the toy... there's a lot of other things involved too isn't there?
MONDO: We wanted it to be more than just the figure. We’re also working on the package. So that's what we haven't shown yet, because we have all these artists that we work with, we're not going to use original style guide art for the box. We'll do something custom for it. We're going to try to incorporate everything Mondo into these toys. And we can do anything, be it figures, or prop replicas, things based on the posters.
FIGURES.COM: Tell us about the 16" Iron Giant figure. This is something that made my jaw drop when I first found out about it because it’s one of my favorite films of all time.
MONDO: Yeah, it’s got over 30 points of articulation and obviously this is just a prototype, but it’s got two heads, we'll have the Seafood sign and it's a magnetized ‘S’ so you can put it on his chest. It'll come with Hogarth and Giant's little 'dog' hand that follows him around, and then we have the gun arm.
FIGURES.COM: Do you think you’d ever make a "War Mode" Iron Giant?
MONDO: I don’t know. I don’t know if people want it to be honest. I think it could probably be even more expensive than this one. We did a poster - the first poster we ever did for Iron Giant - and we did a regular which was just him and the variant was split down the middle which was half good and half bad, but everyone just wanted the Giant. So I think we'll focus on getting this one right and then if everything goes well we'll look at other Iron Giant stuff we could do because we're huge fans of it.
FIGURES.COM: And Iron Giant is a movie that really deserves a lot more stuff.
MONDO: It really does! I wish we could do the Blu-ray release this year. Even if Warner Bros. didn’t want to do it, I would love to license it and do it ourselves. I just really want to do Iron Giant stuff that's serious.
FIGURES.COM: We noticed in your announcement and in the display case that you have a variety of different things. You have the sixth scale Hitchcock, the vinyl Mikey Ninja Turtle, the Giant... there isn’t a single category that you’re sticking with.
MONDO: I think we're going to be all over the place, like whatever makes sense. I'm glad you noticed that because coming out of the gate, we didn't want to be classified as a sixth scale company or a vinyl company... it's kind of like posters, it's not just horror or animation or comedy. Hopefully that will be the fun part about following us, is not knowing what we'll be doing next. I think a lot of it is that we're really huge toy fans so I know how annoying it is to try and buy that Iron Giant figure that came out a while ago and it's like $700 in the box or it's $250 and the voice doesn't work anymore, so I think this one is the most accurate to the film.
FIGURES.COM: Tell us about those sixth scale Mousers. They definitely have the comic book sensibilities about them...
MONDO: Yeah, we're fans of the comic book and I think it's safe to say that we're fans of Turtles in general, but the Eastman and Laird stuff is really solid. We're using that as the design for the sixth scale figures, which I'm glad you noticed because this is a sixth scale line and there WILL be sixth scale Turtles. The NECA Turtles were our favorite ever so we didn't want to just have those bigger. We're going to issue four as a basis for the design but they're going to have tons of accessories. Michelangelo, for example will have nunchucks, grappling hook, you know, standard turtle fare, but then we'll have weird stuff that if you're a fan, you're going to go "Oh My God!" He'll have Triceraton's Blaster or one of those Little Orphan Aliens, we'll try to put one of them in there. We're trying to have it so that normal fans can be like "oh cool, it's a really nice Turtle figure" but the die-hards will recognize the little details.
FIGURES.COM: And that’s often the problem with mass market toys, you like it, but something that doesn't go far enough or something isn't put in because of costs.
MONDO: Right! And the accessories! Like I bought a Batman figure just because it came with Bat-Mite. I just wanted that. I do it all the time. I bought a Two-Face figure because I wanted the scratched off coin!
FIGURES.COM: We see that you're doing the "First Turtle" figure based on the original sketch. You won't even need to do all four Turtles will you?
MONDO: Yeah, it's the one. We're really, really happy with. We're Turtle fans so when we saw that image we really wanted that. It's cool to be able to do anything. If we see something we like and if we get the license for it, we can do it.
FIGURES.COM: Is there anything in the pipeline past what we’ve seen here?
MONDO: This is the only stuff we really have that's in production and signed off on. The other things are just ideas so nothing we can really talk about. But this is a lot of stuff to get through.
FIGURES.COM: We know that purchasing posters on Mondo can be a little crazy. Will the toys be just as hard to purchase? Limited edition toys as well?
MONDO: They'll be limited edition in a way that they won't be available for ten years, but they won't be a limited edition in the sense that you think Mondo as. People will have a chance to pre-order for a length of time. We'll definitely do an allotted pre-order time and each one of these will have more photos and info and pricing.
FIGURES.COM: When is everything coming out?
MONDO: I think the idea right now is pre-ordering on Lil’ Mikey, the Iron Giant Bolt possibly in the next couple months, like August or September. Iron Giant 16" will be fourth quarter, and Hitchcock... the Mousers we'll probably hold off until we have the Turtles done and then we can show them together. So Lil’ Mikey and the Bolt are first and everything else will follow when we have more accurate information.
FIGURES.COM: Last question: what were your favorite toys growing up?
MONDO: Oh man... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was actually really into Chuck Norris Karate Commandos, that was really solid.
MONDO: Yeah, they were legit, man. Masters of the Universe, that was something I got back into hard... I was on that subscription for a while but then I had three towers of white boxes and I was like "dude, this is sad." I never took them out, I have too much stuff. I took out Scare Glow, I took out Battle Cat, Battle Armor He-Man. But I'm going back and buying broken Masters of the Universe (vintage) because everyone thinks they're crap when the legs go out, but I can fix them. So I buy them really cheap and I clean them. I think it's one of the best figure lines ever. Of course Thundercats were legit too. But yeah, I had all the Turtles stuff. I had the blimp, I had the sewer, I had all the...
FIGURES.COM: Pizza Thrower?
MONDO: Oh Pizza Thrower. I think you might be right, that might be my favorite toy when I was little.
FIGURES.COM: Did you see it outside?
MONDO: They have it outside?
FIGURES.COM: They made a life-size Pizza Thrower by Petco Park by Pizza Hut and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
MONDO: Oh my God. I'm going over there right after this. I remember that yellow piece that folds down that said 'do not shoot at animals' and I was at my friend's house and he had cats so we were chasing the cats. But yeah, pizza shooter... I have two of those at home.
FIGURES.COM: Now that I think back, that thing was pretty lethal!
MONDO: Yeah, it shot pretty hard. And they redid it for Chicken Run.
FIGURES.COM: I remember that!
MONDO: Yeah, I was thinking what's up with that?
FIGURES.COM: In retrospect, I wish I bought that.
MONDO: I know! I saw it at Toys’R’Us in the clearance aisle I should have gotten it. What were the pizzas they were shooting? What disc shaped thing did it shoot?
FIGURES.COM: Now I can't even remember. Eggs or something? [edit: they were Mr. Tweedy’s Chicken Pie Thrower]. Well, thanks so much for talking to us and we look forward to seeing it all.
MONDO: And we look forward to showing you!
A huge "Thank You!" to Justin Ishmael and the Mondo staff for allowing us the opportunity for this interview during the chaos that is Comic-Con. We look forward to the new Mondo toys!
Interview by: David Yeh, Jeff Saylor
Photos by: David Yeh
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