Concept to Toy Shelves
There are many steps involved in the creation of action figures. This guide will help describe the process and define terminology used in the industry. Each stage in the product development process is critical for both the licensor and licensee. At each stage, specific features of the product should be reviewed. The following development stages are delivered by Hasbro to Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) for approval.
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.
Ketwol Concept Board
Phase II - Figure Creation
Sculpt input drawings will only be submitted when full detailed scrap on a given character is not available. If detailed scrap is available, input for figures will include the LFL supplied movie scrap that supports the outfit, and a representation of the pose. Pattern drawings are created to give general dimensions of the figure. The sculpt will be used to get feedback of any potential changes. Once approved, a sculptor will create a wax sculpt for the figure. The wax sculpts are delivered to LFL in person and compared to their inputs, when applicable. The figure's detail & pose should be considered at this time. In some cases, secondary sculpts (capes, jackets, etc.) may be submitted separately. Very specific direction from LFL for any revisions will be necessary when the wax is presented.
Once the final wax and/or accessory pattern is approved, Hasbro will proceed to creating a Deco Master. A Deco Master is a is the first fully decorated 3-D image that is delivered to LFL. The Deco Master is often referred to as a painted hardcopy. A hardcopy is generated from the final wax by using a 2-part silicone mold process. This provides a relatively quick resin "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 figure would look like. In some cases a "complete" Deco Master may require additional support (i.e. soft goods or new process) from the Orient office/vendor. When this occurs, with agreement from both Hasbro and LFL, a final pre-production sample of the product will be submitted to LFL for approval before the item goes into final production.
The Orient office/vendor will create steel molds used for the injection mold process and will ultimately be used to mass produce the figures. Injection molding machines use small plastic beads that are melted and injected into the molds at a high pressure. First shots prototypes are produced and are used for samples. The figure can go through another approval process to ensure safety, fit, form & function. These prototype figures are often created in random colors. Early versions may not have any copyright information. Once approved, the molds may be modified to include peg holes and/or copyright markings. More test shots can be produced at this point which can be used for fit, form, function and safety. Paint samples of the figures are created to ensure the proper paint scheme. These samples are also known as Final Engineering Pilots (FEPs). Once approved, the figures will be released for mass production.
Phase III - Packaging Design
When a new segment or line is created (Expanded Universe, Classic transition, Episode I), the team will develop a package line look with the help from the Packaging Department and Studio. Line looks will be presented in person to LFL to hear reactions and comments to the direction. Once approved, the team will proceed to package development for individual items in the line. In some cases, the line look might also apply to a segment (e.g. Epic Force, Freeze Frame slides). In those cases, LFL will have an upfront opportunity to look at the segment for structure and graphic detail. The package design often begins with a rough preliminary art design. Graphic artists will generate packaging concepts. Some of these concepts are printed and made into hand-made conceptual mockups 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.
Once the final layout is approved, a final film/chromalin is produced. This two-dimensional final package digital ink jet "chromalin" will be submitted to LFL before going to press with the package. The chromalin will reflect all comments made at the package layout stage. It represents accurate production color, or indicates any requested changes.
Conceptual Package Designs for Power of the Jedi
Phase IV - Final Production Samples
The Orient office/Vendor will create the final packaging to produce final production samples. During this process, Engineering Pilots (EPs) are created to offer a first-look at how the figure and accessories are displayed in the plastic blister. EPs are also known as packaging mock ups. Once approved, final production samples are submitted to LFL for final approval. These samples will be actual production sent to the States from Orient/Tijuana. The sample is evaluated by LFL to confirm that the product and package contain the same quality as all submissions throughout the item's development, including any items noted as "approved with changes" at the previous stage (deco master, pre-production sample, final film). Once approved at this stage, the item's development is complete and the figure is sent to production. Toys are sent to distribution and ultimately to retailers for purchase.