Tuesday, August 25, 2015

THESE BOOTLEGS ARE KILLER...


Peter Goral is the creative genius behind Killer Bootlegs, an independent bootleg toy operation based in Rockford, Illinois.  His 're-imaginings' of classic toy lines often combine various body parts and accessories from a wide variety of vintage action figures, which are molded and then cast in resin. But these aren't just simply cheap rip-offs... they are highly refined pieces of art.



Vividly painted and oozing with nostalgia, the creations of Killer Bootlegs are extremely eye-catching, expertly crafted and ultra wicked.  



Upon discovering some of these gems, I had to find out more about the man behind their conception. Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to ask Peter of Killer Bootlegs some questions...

What were your favorite toys and cartoons growing up?
My favorite toys as a child were GI Joe and Star Wars action figures. But, I played with anything 3.75" and could be mixed into play with my GI Joe and Star Wars figures. I really liked the odd knockoff figures made by companies Lanard and Remco. But, if I had to pick a favorite, it'd be Storm Shadow V2 (1988).  My favorite cartoons were, GI Joe, Thundercats, He-Man, X-Men, and Scooby Doo.

Which action figure series made the biggest impact on your childhood?
GI Joe: A Real American Hero and Star Wars POTF 2. It's all their fault!
   
When did you you decided to start making your own custom action figures?  
I decided to start making my own figures back in the fall of 2009. At the time, I was working a 1st shift job and my wife worked on 2nd shift. I would get off work and have a ton of time on my hands and be home alone most of the night. At first, they were just one-off kitbashed figures that were held together with Super Sculpy and super glue. I didn't get into the molding and casting aspect for maybe a year or two later.  

Did you find the processes of molding and casting difficult to learn?
I have to admit, it was a lot of trial and error. There really weren't any instructional videos online at the time. I didn't have customer reviews or anyone with past experience to tell me which products worked best for what I was attempting to do. It was difficult, but eventually I got a handle on what needed to be done and figured out what little tricks make the difference in the end. 

What was the first action figure that you created?
The first action figure that I created was called, Shifty Megatron. He was a one-off kitbash made with a vintage Star Wars Ewok lower body and Boba Fett torso, GI Joe Talking Battle Commander Overkill head and I think Jurassic Park Velociraptor arms. I repainted him a few times, before he was eventually mounted on a screen printed cardback, framed, and shipped to Australia where he now resides in a private collection.

Can you describe the process you go through?
I generally start with molding some of the action figure parts that I will use as my base to work off of. I have found that working with a resin casting is much easier than the actual part itself. I sculpt, cut, sand, and glue parts from other, toys, castings, and sometimes really random pieces of plastic together to achieve the desired look and feel of a vintage action figure. I make multiple molds, depending on the size of the run to speed up the casting process. Most times, I'm casting several hundred individual parts, which all need to have the vents/pour spouts trimmed off, be sanded/cleaned/polished, and then ultimately everything is painted. I like to have a blank canvas to start with when it comes to the paint application, so I cast everything in bright white resin. I apply washes, rubs, airbrush parts, and then hand paint all the details.  

Which action figure(s) are you the most proud of making?
I'm proud of everything I have made. But, some of my figures that instantly come to mind are...


Frankenfett

Phantom Starkiller

Draco Knuckleduster

Czarface

Ewoking Dead

and Star Warhol.

What are you cooking up now?
I've got quite a few things left up my sleeve for the second half of 2015. You guys will just have to wait and see.. 

Do you have any tips for aspiring action figure bootleggers and toy creators? 
Focus and have fun. They are only toys...


Make sure to visit Killer Bootlegs' official website for more info!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WHAT THE HELL DID JAPAN DO TO THE NINJA TURTLES?!


If you grew up in the 80's or early 90's like I did, there was no escaping the tsunami of green mutagen that was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise.  From their humble beginnings as independent comic book characters to a popular animated TV show, best selling toy-line, and several successful live action films, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) completely dominated the eyes and minds of not only American children, but kids around the world.

However in Japan, our beloved "heroes in a half shell" only got minimal TV exposure, and in a somewhat confusing manner.  In the early 1990's there were apparently a few different Japanese dubbed versions of TMNT floating around in Japan, some of which were broadcast on several different TV networks.  Each network aired only a specific portion of the series and many episodes were never even aired at all.  It's easy to see why TMNT didn't catch on nearly as well in Japan, especially during a time when Japanese kids were already hooked like rabid junkies on epic superhuman testosterone fueled shows like Dragonball Z (which American kids didn't get a taste of until the late 90's).

Then in 1996 the Japanese toy company Takara, which had created the original line of Transformers toys (Microchange), released a brand new line of Ninja Turtles action figures that would seemingly appeal more to Japanese kids.  Using a mash-up of popular Japanese hero, robot, and anime inspired designs, Takara called these new versions, "Super Turtles"... successfully making our beloved green heroes look absolutely nothing like what they should look like (pre-Michael Bay).  Nice job asshats.


To help sell this new line of bastardized TMNT toys, TV Tokyo produced an animated two part OVA mini-series called 'Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend'.  What the hell?  Did this new series really need to exist?  I don't think so, most Japanese people I know who grew up around that era have never heard of the fucking thing... but it does exist, and the marketing team behind it tried really hard to turn the Turtles into "superhuman" badasses. They even hired the composer and singer of the popular Dragonball Z theme 'Cha-la-head-cha-la' to write and record an opening song for the show to help ensure it's success.  Here is the result...
 

Cow-abomination.

So as you can probably gather from the lengthy intro proceeding the god-awful theme song, the explanation for the turtles transforming into Saint Seiya-esque "Super Mutants" is due to some sort of magical fucking crystal... Once again, did this shit even need to exist?

But of course that wasn't the first time (or the last) that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise had made some really strange decisions and decided to produce some really weird and fucked up toys...


To be continued...
. . .

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

WEIRD GODZILLA TV COMMERCIALS [UPDATED]


Godzilla is recognized around the world as the most iconic Japanese character ever created.  Even people who have never even seen one of Godzilla's roughly 30 movies, know who he is and what he looks like.  Godzilla is a giant monster with giant appeal. So of course, just like Star Wars, marketing and advertising companies around the world try their damndest to slap the big G onto their products and TV commercials.  However, if you don't ask the company who owns the rights to Godzilla, TOHO, for permission to use him commercially... you can expect a visit from their relentless lawyers.

Big companies like Subway learned that lesson the hard way after using a giant green lizard monster in their 2008 '$5 Footlong' TV ad, resulting in a $150,000 lawsuit.  Although, there are rare occasions when TOHO actually works together with foreign companies to produce officially licensed Godzilla TV commercials.  Such was the case for this awesome Nike commercial from 1992, in which TOHO gave the rights for Industrial Light & Magic (the special effects team behind Star Wars) to produce it's own version of Godzilla to go one on one against NBA superstar... Charles Barkley.


For more info, check out 'The Making of Godzilla vs Barkley'.

Last year we got a fun new officially licensed Godzilla commercial, this time advertising everyone's favorite candy bar, Snickers.


But that wasn't Godzilla's first try at helping to sell sugary junk food to Americans. Nearly 30 years before, in 1985, he was promoting Dr. Pepper in these two classic kaiju styled commercials.



Another 'sweet' TV ad not made in Japan featuring Godzilla comes to us from Dutch candy makers, VENCO.  I'm not entirely sure if this commercial was given the OK by TOHO, but it's pretty damned funny.

 

Next up we have a "Godzilla" TV ad from Thailand... well, it's technically not Godzilla, even though I'm fairly sure they are using the exact same Godzilla suit that was used in Godzilla vs Barkley.  It's a Thai gas company ad that obviously didn't ask TOHO for any type of official approval, which is why Godzilla appears to have grown a horn on his snout... but whatever, it still counts.


Back in 1984, TOHO had just relaunched their Godzilla franchise and were busy promoting the big G wherever they could.  In order to appeal to the adult audiences who had grown up watching Godzilla as kids in the 1950's-1970's, TOHO collaborated with the Asahi beer company to create a couple of family friendly beer commercials.  While they aren't wild and wacky like the commercials above, the somberness portrayed by Godzilla as he stares into the distance holding a giant glass of beer is just strangely beautiful...



...I could use a beer that big too...

Being a lot more wacky this time around, Japanese electronic company Hitachi used Godzilla to advertise their state of the art home karaoke system back in the early 90's. Even though karaoke is as normal in Japan as anything else, I'm not sure if it did very well, but this particular ad is one of the big G's most entertaining. Enjoy!


UPDATE July 23, 2016: 
With the brand new Godzilla Resurgence (シン-ゴジラ)coming out in less than a week over here in Japan, I will be adding brand new Godzilla TV ads to this article. You can also expect a review of the film opening night ;)

First up, a TV spot for the Japanese department store, PARCO. The footage from this ad is taken taken directly from the new film itself, however some sequences have replaced Godzilla with a CG koala bear, whom is the current mascot for PARCO stores, and made it appear as if it and Godzilla are gearing up for battle.




And here is a TV spot for the 'Shin-chan vs Shin-Gojira' episode of the animated series Crayon Shin-chan. The full episode aired last night here and it was pretty cool to see the new incarnation of Godzilla in animated form. It was a fun episode full of the kinds of gags you would normally expect from the long running Crayon Shin-chan series. I'm a fan of both Godzilla and Shin-chan, so I really enjoyed the episode, as did my kids. I tried finding the full episode online today but they had all been taken down by TV Asahi, so until that becomes widely available, enjoy the teaser TV spot below this promo image :)


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