McFarlane Toys’ recent announcement that they were getting back into the genre action figure game with a The Walking Dead line of figures got fans of both Robert Kirkman’s comic book and AMC’s television show riled up in a good way. While the release teased there would be two series of six-inch figures, with the first hitting in September featuring comic book characters Officer Rick Grimes, Michonne and a Zombie Lurker and a Zombie Roamer, and the second series out in October will coincide with the premiere of the second TV season with the TV characters of Deputy Rick Grimes, Daryl Dixon and the distinctive Zombie Walker and Zombie Biter, not much else was revealed.
FEARnet decided to dig a little deeper this weekend on the floor of this week’s annual American International Toy Fair in New York City, where McFarlane Toys has a booth for all of their action figure lines including actual prototypes for The Walking Dead figures. Carmen Bryant, Executive Director of Public Relations at the McFarlane Companies, happily talked to us exclusively about the new license and confirmed the deal was only signed a week ago, despite being in development since 2010.
Bryant says that The Walking Dead has been a property on owner Todd McFarland’s radar for some time. “Todd had a really high level of interest for several different reasons. One, Todd has been working with Robert Kirkman for some time. They worked on Hunt together and they are partners at Image. Todd’s had strong awareness of his buddy’s property and the buzz. It’s also one of those lines that even though its genre it definitely has mass appeal. It’s a good marriage for us.”
As to how the line actually started to take shape, Bryant says, “We started talking to Robert first last year about doing the figure line. At the same time, Todd said he wanted to do both lines – film and TV. Right away Robert started talking about the TV line with AMC and they were up with it. We’d worked with their licensing before, so it was an easy connection. AMC is pretty much letting us be the creative directors. We tell them what we want to do and they have been really good because it’s a collaboration between Todd and Robert.
“What’s great about Robert,” she continues, “is that he’s an artist and while he has a definite point of view, he’s also in our playground so he says, “I want you guys to do what you do” which we love. It’s a lot of fun and he’s really excited about everything. For us, he’s our audience and we know if he likes it then that’s the vision for us.”
Talking about the design nuts and bolts of the figures, Bryant reveals, “We have the two different lines but at some point they should be interchangeable. There are characters in the comic line that have not been introduced in the TV line, but we are all anxiously awaiting for those characters to integrate into that line. However there are some differences, like if you watch the show and if you are looking at [the first series] Rick, you’ll say it’s not quite like the TV Rick because it is the comic book character.” Asked If they plan to do actor scans of the cast for the second series of television characters, Bryant says they hope to. “So far everything is hand sculpted off the comic books. For the first TV series, we aren’t doing facial scans but I have asked if we could go on set this summer when they start to film and do that, because we’d not only like to scan actors but props too. We want to understand their world from the ground level and discover what else would bring fans closer to the show.”
Bryant also reveals that Robert very hands on about crafting the character looks and line ups, especially with the television characters. “With the TV line, we had someone else instead of Darryl but Robert said, “You have to have Darryl!” He let us know he’s a fan favorite and AMC agreed so we have him in there. Also when we showed him the concept sketches, we had a lot of ribs and flesh exposed and he said they didn’t look that way. He did not want the ribs poking out and that’s when we came up with the idea of having the gore inside. Robert also wanted them painted more realistic rather than the black and white comic book style. But that allows us some day to do more of a variant that feels more like the comic book.”
As for “the gore inside,” Bryant says that’s the special surprise fans will get with the zombie figures. “One of the things about the zombies is that you will be able to pull them apart and you will be able to see their guts inside. I don’t know how far we can go with it. Todd’s ideal is exploding brains and blood oozing,” she chuckles. “Todd also wants the gore contained inside [the figure] so you look at it in the package on the store shelf and then you take it home and then it’s bleck! So that’s his vision.”
Bryant says major retailer interest has already been huge and they’re hoping that signals a long running series for both mediums of Walking Dead figures and maybe more. “We’d love to do resin statues but we don’t have that license yet. Robert likes that concept so we’d love to be able to do some higher-end stuff. We’d also maybe like to get them signed by Todd and Robert for fans.”