With the advent of crowdfunding, there’s been a fair number of DIY toy projects out there.This month there’s been a kickstarter for a line of Ninja figures, called “Legends Of The Hidden Force”.I liked the designs, and while I’m mainly a G.I.Joe fan, and this being a line coming out of the G.I.Joe community, it’s something different, rather than just “G.I.Joe but tacticool”, which works for some, but doesn’t do much for me.
Since, I’d like to see this succeed, I figured I’d give the creators a chance to get some of their opinions out into the G.I.Joe blogosphere, so without further ado, here’s some comments from Darren and Matt from Whiskey Jack Toys.
Chad, the other half of ChadMatted, the designers, doesn’t do media, but is also important as a consultant.
Make sure to check out the Kickstarter, and the Whiskey Jack Toys website: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1754423583/legends-of-the-hidden-force
Thanks for agreeing to do this, care to share a bit of the background for how Legends Of The Hidden Force came to be?
Darren: We had just come off a 3 ¾” o-ring Military action figure line, and were looking at what was next.We saw our peers (and friends) were all digging into their own 3 ¾” o-ring Military action figure lines, and saw the opportunity to do something different.We landed on Ninjas out of a few possible options, as it seemed the cheapest option for us to entry into the game.Just a few tools to get it started.
Matthew: My initial ideas begin around the unproduced “Legends of the Arashikage” along with ninjas heavily influenced by the different masters from the Arashikage.
Darren then began throwing around the original ideas that eventually morphed into what is now “Legends of the Hidden Force.”
Q.A lot of background details and lore has been created for Legends Of The Hidden Force.This helps flesh the whole line out, and is different from a lot of independent toylines, especially for a completely new property.Were there any major inspirations?
D I’m not sure exactly what you mean.I mean, lore and details are key to every toy line.If you don’t have a good story, good characters, and a good direction, you don’t really have a toy line.
My personal inspirations came from 80s ninja movies, and gijoe, and video games and other media where ninjas factored heavily, much like everyone else I would assume.
But the story inspirations are from classic sagas and tales.
Q.Legends Of The Hidden Force, in a lot of ways, really feels like a toyline, with ideas like the Adventure Packs.Was that always the intention, or did it blossom into this over time?
D We’ve scaled it way, way back.We had vehicles and playsets in mind right away as well.There are some great designs we hope to get to.
This has always been intended as a full on toy line.There are comics outlined, cartoons outlined, many, many figures designed (you have no idea of some of the loops and curveballs coming), vehicles, playsets, costumes, trading cards, etc etc.
– all planned.I don’t see any reason to do anything with half effort.It’s full effort on all of these – Hidden Force, CHAOS, I.M.P.A.C.T., etc.
Our intention is to get to retail with every step we take.National retail eventually.
Q.The Ninja concept is a lot of fun, and not one really seen as a stand-alone acton figure line.Was there anything other than Ninjas considered before settling with Legends Of The Hidden Force?
I had 8 partially fleshed out ideas, out of about 30 altogether.At this point there are four fully fleshed out and ready to go.
We opted for ninjas because of the price of admission as we mentioned earlier, but as we were exploring ideas and notions, we quickly all gravitated to ‘the ninja one’, and haven’t really looked back since.We love these characters.We know that given the opportunity, you will too.
Q.Legends Of The Hidden Force has a fairly intricate weapon and accessory system.The customization aspect is quite impressive, was there anything that inspired the system?
Matthew: I really wanted each character to have individualized accessories.
The accessories from the 80’s Joes will always be tied to a singular character.So instead of creating 24 unique weapons I looked at what we could create using modular weapons to get more bang for our buck.LEGO (specifically their Ninjago line) was the starting point for our “Hidden-Forged” accessories.Nerf Modulus was another.
On the accessory topic, it’s impressive to see how unique each figure’s accessory compliments are, were they assigned to characters intentionally?
Matthew: Some were absolutely intentional.I wanted Shinobi, the main protagonist, to have swords.
Kusa (whose name means grass) got a threshing scythe.Our snake-them troopers, the Hebi-Gi, needed the ability to strike from a distance, hence the spear.At some point, though, we also had accessories that we wanted to use, like nunchakus, and divvied those out to the characters that were left.
Q.While the accessories are intricate, I have to admit I like the subtlety of the sculpting on the figures.The lack of sculpted on weapons is refreshing in comparison to most 3 3/4 figures.Was that intentional or just something done to keep costs down and parts sharing easier to do?
Matthew: I think it’s a bit of both.Costs savings for sure, but ninjas have a specific look that we didn’t want to stray from.
We added a few details here and made sure that they could be repurposed in various ways.The armored torso and the upper arms are the base example as we could paint them as clothed or bare skin.
Q.A thing I’ve found impressive with the roll out of the digital previews is just how unique each figure is.Obviously a lot of effort was put in to make each figure unique, was it difficult keeping some designs, like Shinob, relatively muted after doing intricate figures like Tatsu or the Hebi-Gi ninja?
Matthew: I appreciate this as it’s one of the things in which I’m most proud.One of the main things I wanted to do was have everyone be as unique as possible.
While there are some shared color schemes, mainly Obake and Kyonshii, no two characters share a primary color.Most of the color schemes were a direct result of their name or their inspiration.I wanted to make Torashi as tiger like as possible and Raiju’s is a literally translation of the reference image that Darren gave me.Other designs came from reasearching tv/comic/video game/etc ninjas.Once the intuitive designs came together the others fell into place.
D Matt’s amazing.It’s as simple as that.
He always throws at least a few options for each character as starting points, and many, many of those unused designs end up being the basis for later characters.His designs are just too good to toss out.
For instance, Shinobi v2, I want to say he’s due in series 10, barely changes anything about the figure, but actually changes everything, and completely changes the tone and feel of the character.And that started as an alternate design to the original.We just couldn’t toss it out, so we repurposed it for a later release.
Q.There’s obviously some G.I.
Joe nods in the Hidden Force, without being too blatant.
Was it difficult to not go to that well too often?
Matthew: Yes and no.While I have fond memories of other 80’s toys, G.I.Joe was and is my favorite childhood toy.I think it’s easy to see that influence here.
Oddly enough, though, a character like Shinobi (who is Cobra blue) was never designed to be a “Cobra” ninja even though he could be used as one.Like I mentioned earlier, the inspiration for the line came from Joe, but the more we developed and got to know the characters, the easier it became to not go continue to go to that well.
D I’m a lifelong fan of Gijoe as well.
It’s easily the reason we chose the size, style and format.But although it was fun to entertain Gijoe adjacent characters at first, we quickly began to love our creation too much, and trimmed the most of the parts that weren’t true to it.Only a handful of nods remain, and they are in the initial lineup.
Which figure are you most excited about coming to life?
Matthew: Of the figures that have been shown, Shinobi.
We have a character that we are considering for our BackerKit that I’m really excited about though.
D All of them.
Obake is just a fantastic bad guy that I can’t wait to see people latch onto.Shinobi has shades of me from my young adulthood (mostly the impetuousness and poor decision making).Furi is the pet I never had.Torashi is my son.Kuno is a mashup of my younger loves.Raiju is my relationship with my father.
Omen has shades of my spirituality.Komainu is my lack of self awareness.Oni is if I stopped caring about people.Joro is my nature of second guessing myself.
Ne is who I hope to age into.And so on, and so on.
They are all extremely personal, and I love every one of them.
I can’t pick just one.
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