Wednesday, November 24, 2010

He-Man Fisher Price Little People

"I am Adam. Prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. This is Cringer, my fearless friend. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said, 'BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!'"

You've gotta love opening credits with plot exposition. He-Man, Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, The Facts of Life...okay, maybe not that last one. In any case, I watched He-Man way more than I should have, especially considering I was in my upper elementary school grades when He-Man came out, and should have been past it. I used my younger brother as an excuse, but I was really the one who wanted to watch it. Swords, magic, fantasy, weird was sweet.

And then I decided to make some Fisher Price Little People out of them. These are very hit and miss.
He-Man, Man-at-Arms, and Teela

The Sorceress, Ram-Man, and Orko

Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Mer-Man and Beast-Man

I've gotta say, Mer-Man might be one of my best likeness ever, and Beast-Man my worst. What's up with that guy? And who at Lou Scheimer Productions and/or Mattel gets royalties for hyphenated names?
Next up: LEGO something or another. Probably. Maybe socks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rubber Duckie in Denver

I was in Denver for the first time in almost ten years last summer, with a group of teachers. The workshop took us on a field trip, but most of the time was spent in downtown Denver itself. Rubber Duckie had a pretty good time.

Leadville--the Silver Dollar Saloon, where we had lunch. I think Molly Brown worked there or something. Yeah, let's say she worked there.
Also in Leadville--the Tabor Opera House. When they finally track me down, I'll be hiding in the prop room in the basement. Watch out for traps.

The weird clock tower on the 16th Street Mall. There's a cabaret that runs in the basement. We were a little too scared to check it out.

Larimer Street in Lodo--lots of nice old brick buildings and overpriced cafes. The bookstore around the corner is awesome, although there was a frightening man singing "Let's Get Physical" in the bathroom. I don't...think he was talking to me.
The old Tivoli Brewery, now the heart of the Auraria Campus. Nice campus--I just didn't want to be stuck in it all week.
Denver skyline--as a Salt Laker, I was a little jealous of their tall buildings. But as a Salt Laker, they should be a little jealous of our mountains. Booyah!
Buffalo Bill's grave on Lookout Mountain. Hey, at least I didn't climb the fence and put Rubber Duckie on the headstone!

The view of the prairie from Lookout Mountain.
Denver was a good time--I was just back there last week, and even with the cold and snow, it was still fun. Nice people, fun restaurants, great buildings.
Next up: Fisher Price Little People of a 1980s variety.

Rubber Duckie in Denver

Friday, October 29, 2010

Muppet Carrot

One of my all-time favorite episodes of The Muppet Show guest stars the late Gilda Radner. A hilarious comedienne who managed to fit in quite nicely with the chaos of the Muppets, she has a cutting wit that was way ahead of its time.

On The Muppet Show, she ends up singing alongside a seven foot tall talking carrot. Like this:

Quite the cliffhanger, no? You can see the entire thing on Season 3 of The Muppet Show. Or fish around on YouTube. Anyway. A few years back I was feeling the ambition of the young, and thought, "I want a seven foot tall talking carrot to be amongst my Muppets..." and set about making one.
Most of the customized toys I make are simply toys I buy at the store, then I chop pieces off of them, slightly modify them using Sculpey polymer clay, and then reassemble them, paint them, and introduce them to their new friends. Not unlike Sid, the mean neighbor kid from Toy Story, but with better intentions. Usually. I hope.
I'm not a sculptor--I'm a cartoonist. And I'm not really a cartoonist. I'm a doodler. So tackling something as complicated as a giant Muppet Carrot seemed like it would be difficult, but like I said above, I was young and ambitious and hadn't been beaten down by the world enough yet to know any better. So I set about making the Muppet Carrot.
For the Carrot to be oversized but still in a toyish scale, I decided it had to be just over a foot tall. That's waaay too much Sculpey to use to make a toy out of, and it's not like there are many plastic carrot toys that would have fit the bill. So I tried an experiment--getting a styrofoam cone from a craft store, carving it down a bit into a carrot shape, and then coating the carrot with Plaster of Paris. I hadn't ever used it before, but it seemed like it would work. Around the lower part of the carrot, I buildt a tuxedo with Sculpey. Brilliant? I thought so. Until, to cure the Sculpey, I put it in the oven at the usual 225 degrees:

As the Sculpey cured, it contracted a little bit at the same time the styrofoam was expanding. This caused all sorts of fractures inside the carrot, and I had to start all over again. I mean, even Kermit the Borg was shocked. So you know that's bad. Fozzie doesn't look that shaken by the events. He must know that a happy ending is around the corner.
I used the same strategy, but made the tuxedo a little thinner, and fixed a few things I didn't like about the sculpt anyway. I found some plastic fronds that seemed carroty enough for his greens, painted the heck out of him, and voila! Which is French for CARROT!
Yes, he's standing on my bathroom floor. Don't judge me.
His eyebrows and moustache were sculpted separately and then attached; it seemed a Muppety enough approach. His beady eyes are just push pins. In this picture you can see all of his open, styrofoam pores that I didn't seal over well enough with the Plaster of Paris. Curse you, digital cameras!
The Muppet Carrot being welcomed into the group by the gang. Including the Swedish Chef, who I'm sure has some unsavory (actually, they might be savory) plans for the poor fellow. Beaker's still in freak-out mode. But when isn't he?

Then backstage at the Muppet Theater, adding to the general mayhem. Not Electric Mayhem, although he hasn't ruled out a performance with Dr. Teeth and the band.
Next: Rubber Duckie back on the road!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A-Team Fisher Price Little People

I haven't seen the recent A-Team movie yet, and I might live the rest of my life without ever seeing it. For me, the A-Team was everything it should have been back in the 80s: action, adventure, a little bit of conspiracy, a cool van, and explosions.

Really, they could have called it the "B.A. Baracus and Murdock Team" and I still would have watched it. Mr. T was intense, awesome, and inspired one too many little boys to get unfortunate haircuts and wear gold chains, but I still loved him. More than him, I loved the one member of the A-Team I most aspired to be: the is-he-crazy-or-just-funny "Howling Mad" Murdock. Dwight Schulz was and is very entertaining, plus he got to fly the helicopters and planes and death machines that the team appropriated now and then. I didn't care much about prettyboy Face, although I did like it when a plan came together under Hannibal's leadership.

Anyway, in the interest of recreating my entire media childhood via Fisher Price Little People, here ya go:

Hannibal, B.A. Baracus, Murdock, and Face
Coming soon: more stuff. And junk.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LEGO Batman Villains

When LEGO announced that they were making Batman building sets a few years back, it was several of my geeky dreams coming true. But because enough is never enough, I realized that to complement the Bat-villains they were producing, I'd have to build some of my own. With mixed results. Now that the Bat-license seems to be on hold, we may have seen the last of the Batman LEGO sets (although the video game still seems to be selling strong), so these may be as close as I get to the real thing.

Clayface may be the grossest LEGO guy I've ever's he's a LEGO construct with lots of Sculpey put on him, baked, and painted. Not my best effort...and yet that's kinda what Clayface looks like. Uh...clay.

Ra's Al Ghul and Talia...he's in need of a cape.

Firefly--a simple custom that turned out pretty sweet.

Mad Hatter. I think I went overboard on his hat.

Black Mask, Harley Quinn (made before the official minifig came out in the second wave of Batman sets), and Man-Bat. I really wish they had produced an official one of him. He's using a Werewolf head, which is biologically inaccurate, but it works well.

Mr. Zsasz, a Bat-villain who cuts himself with a new tally mark every time he kills someone. I at least had the decency to give him underwear...

The official Bat-Villains mixed in with my customs...a fairly frightening group. No wonder Arkham can't keep things under control.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rubber Duckie at Bryce Canyon National Park

A few weeks ago we used the excuse of a half marathon to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. It's only about an hour's drive from our family's cabin in Southern Utah, but we haven't taken the time to go visit. I had been there myself when I was a pup, but my wife and kids hadn't ever been there. So we took a little look-see. Rubber Duckie hasn't ever been there either, so he came along for the ride.

At Bryce Canyon, as at the Grand Canyon and other Southwestern sites where you have a big dropoff, you always have people standing precariously on the edge of a thousands-foot cliff. In the case of Bryce Canyon, they mostly seemed to be European, in their California rental cars on their way around the "Grand Circle" of National Parks in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. They seemed to be having fun, even at the 8000 foot elevation. Where's the biergarten when you need it?

From Left-to-Right: Carter, Rubber Duckie, and Miles. Rubber Duckie is in an enormous footprint which we were pretty sure was a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, my brother-in-law, whatever.

"Back up just a little bit more...little bit more..."

Blue skies, orange rocks, a yellow duck. It doesn't get much better.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thundercats Fisher Price Little People

Ah, the Thundercats. Technically, the Thundercats might have been some of my first homemade toys I ever made. I was old enough when Thundercats came on tv that I was past my prime in terms of getting my parents to buy toys for me, but I liked the characters and situations on the cartoon enough that I still wanted some way to play with some toys. Not having the internet or the idea to butcher Fisher Price Little People yet, I had some salt clay that I made into very rudimentary peg-like shapes that then I declared to be Lion-O, Panthro and the rest. I even made a clay Thundertank and Lair. Man. I was a mess.

That mess has continued on into the 21st Century, where the internet does exist (thank you!) and Fisher Price Little People are being butchered right and left. Soon, unmodified FPLP will be an endangered species. Keep them safe from me.

I only made characters from the first season of Thundercats--none of the ancillary characters who came along later, like "Nasty Alley Cat-O" or "Longhaired Persianina" or whatever their names were. Just the characters I knew, and I didn't make the mutant villains or those weird Ewok-Daggit-Robot-Koala things. Rober-berbles? I do have some standards. Not many.

Lion-O, Tygra, Panthro, and Cheetara

Of this set, Panthro was always my favorite character--maybe because he was the inventor, maybe because he got to drive the Thundertank, maybe because of the nunchuks. In any case, he was baaad. I tried some color shading on the toys that was moderately successful, trying to duplicate their look from the show...then again, can anyone really duplicate the beauty that is Cheetara? I don't think so. That mullety 80's hair doesn't grow itself, you know. So. Hott.

Wily-Kit, Wily-Kat, Snarf, and Mummra

Even as I was aging out of the target demographic, I didn't like Wily-Kit and Wily-Kat. I liked their gadgets--those hoverboards they had, and little smoke bombs and all--but their voices bugged the heck out of me. And I always liked decrepit nasty Mummra better than his amped-up MUMMRA THE EVERLASTING version. And then there's Snarf. A character I was born to love. I mean, it's Snarf! I have no idea what the hell he is--lizard? Gremlin? Pekingese? But his grating, cracking voice, his nannying of Lion-O, and his Smurfy Snarfing all bring me great joy. And my FPLP version of him rocks hard.

That's it. A whole Thundercats post without me making a "HOOOOO" joke.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Muppet Batman: Joker and Harley Quinn

The final characters we're visiting as part of the Muppet Batman group of enemies and allies is Joker and Harley Quinn. At one point, I think I was considering Fozzie Bear for the Joker, but I wanted someone with a little more edge. More edge than Fozzie Bear, you say? Impossible! But true. So I looked at the Muppets I had kicking around the toy box, and it became clear that the Muppet who unnerved me the most when I was a kid was undoubtedly Crazy Harry.

Crazy Harry was fond of blowing things up. And, it being the 1970's, people were prone to saying things like "That's dynamite, Kermit!" and then Crazy Harry would pop up with his little detonator box and say "Did someone say DYNAMITE???" and then depress his plunger, and an explosion would go off. It happened a lot. In any case, Crazy Harry was nuts. And, with a little bit of a paint job, I think he makes an excellent Joker.

It's surprising how little I had to do to the action figure to make him into the Joker, really. I lightened his skin a shade or two, painted his hair green, and just repainted his clothes to look more like an inmate--er--patient's jumpsuit from Arkham Asylum.
He gets an inmate--er--patient number on his back, too. That's not the PIN number for our bank accounts. In case you're wondering. Really. It's not.

The Joker's main squeeze is Harley Quinn, and in between me really genuinely liking the character, and her being named "Quinn," I had to find a way to get her in. After using Miss Piggy for Catwoman, and Janice for Poison Ivy, that only left one regular female cast member from The Muppet Show--Camilla the chicken. She's Gonzo's girlfriend (when he remembers which chicken she is), but here she's putting on the jester costume to play Joker's moll. So if there's a dust-up later on between Gonzo and Crazy Harry...things will get crazy. Er.
To make Harley Quinn, I just did a simple Sculpey jester's hat and collar. It's not completely accurate to Harley or Camilla, but it works. And hey, she's a chicken.

That's it for the Muppet Batman collection--there will be more DC Comics and Muppets figures coming sooner or later, but I think we need to visit some other genres first. The Fisher Price Little People are begging to be let out...I think we'll see some of them this week.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Muppet Batman Sketchbook

Before the final reveal of Joker and Harley Quinn, I stumbled across these old papers--a kind of sketchbook of part of the "creative process" that I go through when I make these things. It's not just tearing action figures limb from limb and then reassembling them to make new toys. It's mostly that, but not just that. I probably drew these in between calls at a previous job, so be kind. I know they're disproportional and not in scale with each other and everything else--I'm a doodler, not an artist. In any case, it's interesting to see what worked and what didn't--who survived, and who didn't.

The first sketch was Batman and his allies--from the beginning, I wanted Batman and Robin to be Link and Dr. Strangepork from "Pigs in Space." Their allies started out with Kermit as Alfred, and Fozzie Bear as Commissioner Gordon. I still like those ideas--especially Fozzie as Commissioner Gordon. Fozzie didn't end up as any character in the final collection, although I suppose he could have made a creepy Joker. Comedy gone bad. Very, very bad.

Anyone who knows about my love for both Catwoman and Miss Piggy is probably somewhat disturbed by this fusion of the two. Due to the lack of female characters, Catwoman had to either be Piggy, Janice, or Camilla, so my choice was clear. Scooter-as-Riddler survived to the final cut, but the other two here, Gonzo-as-Penguin and sax player Zoot-as-Two-Face did not. I still like the idea of Gonzo as the Penguin, especially since I don't have any Gonzo in my final lineup. And...I just realized how much that little sketch of Gonzo looks like FDR. Awesome.

This sketch is the last one that has rejected versions of characters that didn't make it--my favorite too, Beaker-as-Scarecrow. Tall, lanky, and with the potential to be ubercreepy, I love this version of Scarecrow. But I didn't have a Beaker to spare (he's one of the rarer figures), and I did have a headless Animal. So...still creepy, but wow, that Beaker would have been sweet. Everyone else made it through to the final cut.

Here's the final five after recasting and revising them. I do love Rowlf-as-Alfred, both because it brings my favorite piano-playing dog into the fold, and because I like the idea of man's best friend being a gentleman's gentleman. Kermit became Commissioner Gordon probably for the simple reason that he was already wearing a trenchcoat. Sculpting a Muppet Penguin from scratch to be The Penguin was a stroke of genius that coincided with my burgeoning self-confidence in my sculpting skills (misplaced self-confidence, but it hasn't hurt anyone yet). When Beaker fizzled, Animal stepped in, in that inarticulate way of his...and Floyd became Two-Face when a Zoot became too hard to acquire. In Batman: The Animated Series, Harvey Dent and Pamela Isley have a fling before they become Two-Face and Poison Ivy, respectively; Floyd and Janice have a thing goin' on themselves, so I thought keeping them together would be sweet. I'm mushy like that.

Coming soon: Joker and Harley Quinn!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quinnarama Baby Namer

Back by popular demand, it's the Quinnarama Baby Namer! Okay, only one person asked me, but that person is popular enough that I figured I'd repost this. It was part of the original website, and published well before I was even close to having kids. Several years later, I have two sons, and even though I didn't get all the names I wanted in there (it turns out my wife had some say in it too), they're in there somewhere. Thank heaven I didn't have any girls. I'll present this in its original format, swear words and all. Sorry, Grandma!

Quinnarama Baby Namer

Besides producing hundreds of Fisher Price Little People, we're eventually going to produce hundreds of human offspring. This is a list of my favorite names for those lucky bastards; you can use them if you like.







Mahonri Moriancumr






The Edge





































Friday, June 4, 2010

Muppet Batman: Mad Hatter, Riddler, Ra's Al Ghul, Scarecrow

In this penultimate posting of my Muppet/Batman crossover customs, here are some of the villains who don't always make it into the movies or cartoons, but who are still heavy hitters in Gotham City...and who have been making a more respectable showing in the 21st Century than I'd expected.

First up is Scarecrow, master of fear. He was a pysch professor who went a little nuts, and now uses his expertise to scare the heck out of people and take their money. For Scarecrow, I decided to use an Animal figure. While he's usually a drummer for the Electric Mayhem, I happened to have an Animal figure without a head. This seemed like a good time to use him, since Scarecrow's face is completely covered by a mask. So I sculpted a new noggin for Animal out of Sculpey, added a few details to his body, like a shirt and some patches, and that was pretty much it.

I tried to preserve the shape of Animal's face under the mask, although that nose might not be big enough. Then again, his nose is pretty much foam rubber, so it's malleable. That's right. Malleable.

I don't know that anything prompted me to turn Scooter into the Riddler other than I needed a Riddler and had an extra Scooter to play with. I sculpted his suit from Sculpey, based on the Frank Gorshin Riddler more than anything else, painted it, and gave him some "angry eyes" pupils on his glasses. Not much to him.

Since Dr. Teeth is a hat-wearing cat, and Mad Hatter likes to make cats wear hats, I figured I'd use the good Doctor for the evil Hatter. Based of course on the Alice in Wonderland character, Mad Hatter commits crimes using hats, usually to get more hats. He's a crazy holdover from the days when more men (and women) wore hats, and it doesn't seem like he'd really work as a villain today, but some writers have kept him around. I gave him a new hat and coat via Sculpey, turned a Muppet Labs Robot Rabbit into a White Rabbit, and that's it.
Dr. Teeth has very odd proportions. Far be it from me to judge. But he's a freak.

Ra's Al Ghul has been a Batman villain since the 1970's, and wants to dominate the world so he can destroy it, remaking it in his own image. He's tried to do that in various ways, and runs afoul of Batman every darn time. He was portrayed by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins, and is supposedly immortal, resurrecting himself via "Lazarus Pits" when the need arises. I think Sam Eagle would make a magnificent Ra's Al Ghul--the arrogance, the cluelessness, the hot daughter (it's never come up on The Muppet Show, but I'm sure Sam has one out there somewhere).
In any case, this Ra's is from a Muppet Treasure Island Sam Arrow, and has some sculpted ruffles on front of his chest, a cloth cape, and vicious talons to eviscerate enemies. Brutal.

A cadre of...lesser...Bat-villains, ready to flee from before Robin's might. Possibly even Alfred.

Next up: the Bat-finale, with Joker and Harley Quinn. Stay tuned!

Muppet Batman: Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze

One of the best things about Batman is his "rogues gallery"--the villains who call Gotham City their home. You'd think that with the Caped Crusader locking them up after every attempted heist, they'd figure it out and try someplace like, I dunno, Omaha...but they keep coming back to Gotham City. And Batman keeps stopping them.

So when I started turning Palisades Toys' Muppet action figures into Batman and his allies, I knew I'd need to have his enemies too. I didn't dig as deep as Zsasz or Clayface, but I go beyond Joker and Catwoman.

These three villains are associated in my mind--partially because of Batman: The Animated Series, and partially thanks to the Batman & Robin movie that I've otherwise tried to purge from my mind. Mr. Freeze, a brilliant but tragic figure, was in one of the first episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, and completely blew me away. I decided that one brilliant scientist deserves another, so I used Dr. Bunsen Honeydew to create Mr. Freeze. I cut away his lab coat, added some body armor with Sculpey polymer clay, and a capsule from a gumball machine became the dome over his head. Once I painted the figure, I knew I got him right. All I need is a little frozen Beaker, and it'll be done.

The next villain is Two-Face, formerly Gotham's district attorney Harvey Dent. He's another character I grew to love in the Animated Series, then hated on the big screen when played by Tommy Lee Jones. The Dark Knight brought us yet another version of Two-Face, and I liked him there, although I felt like he was underused and probably overwhelmed by what Heath Ledger's Joker was doing in the same movie. In any case, I picked Floyd, the bass guitarist from Electric Mayhem to play Two-Face in my little caper.

I made this several years before The Dark Knight came out, and tried to make his scarred side of his face kind of cartoony but still gross. It's less graphic than what they did to Aaron Eckhart, which is probably a good thing.

The final villain in this trio is Poison Ivy, who uses plants to commit crimes, and feels that plants are more deserving of compassion than people are. I think Janice, the groovy lead guitarist for Electric Mayhem, makes a fine Poison Ivy, even though she'd never hurt anyone...but somehow i think she's got a green thumb herself. Her costume is made of some silk leaves that I cut into many many little pieces, and I think the effect works better than a Sculpey tunic would have.

I'm sure they're either hatching their next scheme or looking for directions to Omaha...either way, they're up to no good.

Up next: Scarecrow, Riddler, Mad Hatter, and Ra's Al Ghul. Batman's in trouble.