CONCEPT TO TOY SHELVES
The development of a new toy is a very involved process that includes safety guidelines, quality control, brand consistency, cost control and marketability. This guide will help describe the manufacturing process and define common terminology used in the industry. Each stage in the product development process is critical for both the licensor and licensee and requires specific features of the product to be reviewed.
Phase I: Conceptual Design
Toy makers are given the task to develop toys that are safe, durable and fun to play with. In order to decide what to make, designers pitch different ideas and concepts. Concept boards are developed to communicate the overall goal of the toy for development. They may include movie scrap, photos and/or other rendered material where needed. Toy features should be considered for approval or rejection at this point.
Phase II: Action Figure Creation
Sculpt Input Drawing
Once the final wax and/or accessory pattern is approved, the manufacturer will proceed to creating a Deco Master. A Deco Master is a is the first fully decorated 3-D image that is delivered to the licensor. The Deco Master is often referred to as a painted hardcopy. A hardcopy is a resin casting generated from the final wax by using a 2-part silicone mold process. This provides a relatively quick low-cost "hard" copy to be made. The hardcopies are fitted with metal or plastic pinned joints to allow some basic movement. The Deco Master hardcopy is hand painted to represent what the final figure would look like. Deco Masters are often used to provide the manufacturing plant a detailed example to be used for paint reference. In some cases, Deco Masters are used for marketing purposes such as advertisements and Toy Fairs.
Sculpt input drawings are used to communicate specific details to the sculptor. This often includes special features, articulation, textures, etc. Pattern drawings are created to give general dimensions of the figure. Once approved, a sculptor will create a wax sculpt for the figure. The sculpt will be used to get feedback of any potential changes. Wax sculpts are then compared to their inputs. The figure's detail & pose should be considered at this time. In some cases, secondary sculpts (capes, jackets, etc.) may be submitted separately. This process often requires approval from the licensor when applicable.
Injection Molded First Shot
The manufacturing plant will create steel molds used for the injection mold process in which are used for final production. Injection molding machines use small plastic beads that are melted and injected into the molds at a high pressure. First shots prototypes are developed and used to create samples for approvals to ensure safety, fit, form & function. Early first shot prototypes are often created in random colors and may lack features such as peg holes and/or copyright markings. During this approval process, changes can be made to the steel molds and more test shots are created. Painted test shots are produced to ensure the proper paint scheme. These samples are also known as Final Engineering Pilots (FEPs). Once approved, the figures can be released for mass production.
Phase III: Packaging Design
When a new segment or line is created, the design team will develop a package line look with the help from the packaging department and studio. Line looks are presented to the licensor to hear reactions and comments to the direction. Once approved, the team will proceed to package development for individual items in the line. Package design often begins with a rough preliminary art design. Graphic artists will generate packaging concepts. These concepts are often hand-made conceptual mockups which are used in the submission process. The line look is evaluated by whether or not the look meets the packaging objectives. Evaluation should include fit with the balance of the brand, consistency with brand character, and clarity of communication of the key elements. The package layout may include early photos for design purposes. Final photography will be made once the layout is approved.
Conceptual Packaging Design
Phase IV: Quality Control & Final Production
The manufacturing plant will create the final packaging to produce final production samples. During this process, Engineering Pilots are created to offer a first-look at how the figure and accessories are displayed in the plastic blister. Engineering pilots are also referred to as packaging mockups. Once approved, final production samples are submitted to the licensor for final approval. The licensor will evaluate these samples to ensure the same quality as all submissions throughout the product's development. Approvals and changes are often noted and attached to the samples. After the final approval, the product's development is complete and the figure is sent to production.