Accessory Packs and Nestlings shipping update plus Package Design Process Part 1
Get ready for yet another information-packed update! (actually it's mostly photos)
We'll begin with the info that everyone wants to know- 'When are the products going to ship?' And then, we'll look at more of the behind-the-scenes process. First, here's the latest news.
Current Production Status
Accessory Packs and Nestlings
In the previous update, I'd mentioned a plan to begin shipping out the Accessory Pack and Nestling orders to backers by the end of October and as of this writing (November 5th) these items are all completed, but still in China. The reason for this can be summed up in two words- revisions and testing.
After receiving final production samples for the Accessory Packs and Nestlings at the end of September, I noticed a couple of paint issues that had to be corrected in order for us to proceed. I was not happy with the paint on the head and neck of the juvenile Troodon nor the water section of the Wetlands base.
Having them go back and revise each and every one of these pieces unfortunately set things back a couple weeks, but I felt it was necessary. I'm willing to accept some subtle variations in effort to keep things moving along, but these were simply too far off from the approved deco samples they'd sent me previously. I'm just glad there was still time to make the corrections.
Ever notice those labels on toys that say 'Choking hazard' or the 'CE' on your toy packaging? Those are the result of safety testing.
Within the collector community, safety testing is an aspect of toy manufacturing that is rarely talked about and admittedly not something I had much knowledge of myself until recently. However, for anyone selling manufactured product to the general public, it is important to be sure that standard safety requirements are met for toxicity, flammability, and construction, before the items leave their country of origin. I had neglected to factor this into my previous shipping estimates and I sincerely apologize. Establishing a toy testing account and negotiating a quote took about a week and now testing is currently in-progress which normally takes 1-2 weeks. I expect testing to be finished within this coming week. So with this information now available to us, here's the current projected timeline:
Accessory Packs and Nestlings are now estimated to ship out from the factory the week of November 13th. Allow about 2-3 weeks to transport the goods from China to US customs in California. From there they will be sent on to the Fulfillrite fulfillment center in Lakewood, New Jersey to be processed which could be an additional 1-2 weeks before the fulfillment process begins. This location is ideal because it's close enough for me to visit whenever I need to, plus they have a good reputation with crowdfunded projects and have a well-integrated system for using BackerKit information. While I can't guarantee it, I will do all I can to get as many of these products out to backers in time for Christmas as possible.
The deluxe Raptor figures and Build-a-Raptors are currently in-production and have not had any additional delays. They are still expected to be completed by late November or early December but will however require safety testing as well, so expect them to land in the states toward the end of the year barring any major revisions. Realistically, I predict that these items will ship out to backers in January.
International orders will not be split
Since my last update, I've heard from many of my international backers who have concerns about splitting up their orders, potentially incurring additional customs fees. At their request, I have marked those orders to be shipped all at once, but I'm also aware that only a fraction of the backers actually see these updates, so it's likely that there are still many international backers not expecting this change of plan. Because I see this to be a reoccurring issue that could adversely effect many people, I have decided to keep all international orders complete- not to be split. Only orders with a US address will be split between Accessory Packs and Nestlings/ and deluxe Raptors and Build-a-Raptors (unless requested otherwise). For those with international orders only containing Accessory Packs and/ or Nestlings, yours will still ship ahead of the deluxe Raptor wave as planned. I want to get product out to backers as soon as possible, but not at the expense of them having to pay more.
Production galleries- Accessory Packs and Nestlings
Over the past several weeks, I've posted new photo galleries on Facebook of the final production samples for the Accessory Packs, Nestlings, and Build-a-Raptors. Click on the images below to view the full photo set for each.
Now that the recent developments has been addressed, let's take a step back in time and see what all went into the art for the packaging.
Package Design process Part 1- The Package Art
In the beginning...
As you are all well aware of by now, the deluxe Raptor figures, Accessory Packs, and Nestlings for Beasts of the Mesozoic have unique art work representing each species as it may have looked living and breathing in it's natural environment. Here's a step-by-step look at how that process evolved.
Concept and reference
Before the package art is even a consideration, the look of the raptor toys needed to be established. Let's face it, these creatures may not be fictional, but we know so little about their outward appearance that there is still much left to the imagination. To keep things in the realm of plausibility, I researched the habitats of each raptor species and tried to match their look to a modern bird counterpart inhabiting a similar ecological niche. Yeah I'm probably completely off and there's no science in this method, but it gave way to some interesting designs and grounded the look of the figures in reality. And while there's no evidence of them looking this way, there's also no evidence against it either. Here's a run down of all of the raptors and their contemporary color influences.
From this point, it's a matter of translating those colors and patterns to the dromaeosaur body template. Here are my original designs that were born from this idea.
Once I had the logo and basic packaging layout established (which I'll discuss in Part 2), it was then time to think about the image on the packaging.
I grew up at a time when the package art for action figures was a masterpiece unto itself. Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Dino Riders, M.A.S.K. and G.I. Joe all had incredible artwork on the packaging. I knew if I ever had the opportunity to create a toy line of my own, I wanted the package art to be just as impressive. The package art not only brings life to the figure, but creates an entire world and scenario for the viewer to associate that figure with. My first idea was to do the art myself, but then I felt it was better to pursue more seasoned professionals. Enter Jonathan Kuo.
At the time, I had only known Jonathan through association, but I was well aware of his talents as a wildlife illustrator. While perusing his portfolio one day, I came upon this image:
Immediately I knew this was my guy. His work has just the right combination of motion and flare while maintaining a very believable level of realism. With a few tweaks to Jon's art to better match it to my design, I plugged the image into the package layout and the rest is history.
After putting this together, I immediately emailed it over to Jonathan with a proposal to have him work with me. Luckily he liked the idea and gladly accepted.
For each raptor piece, I provided my concept art with the corresponding modern bird reference, a brief description of the habitat, package art templates, and the best fossil reference for the animal I could find. The pose and composition however, I left up to Jon. He would give me several thumbnail options and then we would move forward from there.
The look for Balaur here is most noticeably different from it's conceptual counterpart. Jon based his image more on the Anhinga reference than my design and I liked it so much that it ended up being the final design for the figure.
There were several cases where the look he created for the art directly influenced the sculpt. Adasaurus and Linhereaptor are perfect examples of this.
Dromaeosaurus ended up in a much more snowy environment than I initially envisioned, but it looked so good that I kept it. It was the inspiration for the look of the Dromaeosaurus base.
I loved Jon's idea of putting Pyroraptor on a carcass. Brilliant!
I also asked for a raptor head sketch to use on the side of the box.
In addition to the main raptors, we of course would also end up with Accessory Packs, Fans Choice raptors and Nestlings all of which were in need of new art.
Luckily, Jonathan was up for continuing with the project and produced art for all four of the Accessory Packs.
With the main line rounded out, I felt it was a good opportunity to give the Fans Choice raptors their own unique look separate from the others so I reached out to my friend, Sara Richard. I had been a fan of her dinosaur illustrations for years and always felt they stood out due to her unique style- like no other dinosaur art I'd ever seen.
One thing I really wanted to avoid was commissioning someone who's work seemed to mimic Jon's- I wanted something completely different and Sara delivered. After seeing her Fans Choice work, I knew she'd be perfect for the more playful tone I was looking for on the Nestlings as well.
Notice how the 'Pyroraptor on carcass' theme carried over to the Fans Choice figure.
This Zhenyuanlong is one of my favorite poses.
And of course new side art was needed for the Fans Choice box as well.
The profile of this grey nestling would also became the side art.
Since we're on the topic of packaging, I felt it appropriate to show all of the final packaging in one place. Notice how distinct each figure is because of the package art.
For the Nestlings, the art is used twice- once on the insert with the Beasts of the Mesozoic logo and then again on the back without it.
Creative Beast Studio tour
Before I go, I just wanted to share a video I made recently showing my studio and work area. I think you artists and toy collectors out there will especially get a kick out of this.
My plan is to do more videos moving forward beginning with (p)reviews of the production sample Accessory Packs and Nestling. Keep eye out for those in the weeks to come.
-BackerKit closing dates- in the previous update I had mentioned the closing dates for the BackerKit pre-order store. Due to the recent delays mentioned above, I feel it's too soon to set specific closing dates until we get closer to completion of the remaining raptor production. I will give you all a couple weeks advance notice not only for when the store will close, but also for when the first items will begin shipping. That way if anyone needs to change your shipping address or if you'd like to lock in any additional items for the pre-order price, you'll have plenty of time.
- Unanswered Kickstarter backer surveys and declined cards- as of this writing there are still 63 unanswered surveys (Kickstarter backers only), and 9 declined credit cards. Remember, your order can not ship until your survey is answered and your order is paid in full. Please contact me if you have any questions.
- Please share this update- it has occurred to me that despite my efforts to reach as many backers as possible with these updates and through social media, there remains a large percentage that does not see them. In effort to keep backers informed on the project, I ask that those of you on social media and on the relevant forums please share these updates with the appropriate audiences. I still get backers contacting me about how they've been waiting for their order since May and I understand how frustrating that can be for those people. At the very least, if you see anyone asking questions about the project, please feel free answer on my behalf based on these updates. Spreading this information would be a huge help- I don't want to leave anyone out of the loop.
- For those in the New Jersey area- I'll be attending a local toy show in Wayne, NJ on Sunday, December 3rd. While my main purpose for doing the show is to sell off a few toys from my collection, I will also have production samples of the Beasts of the Mesozoic action figures on display. Project backers will even receive a discount off any of the toys I have for sale. Please come by if you're in the area.
Man, every time I write one of these I expect Kickstarter to tell me my update has exceeded the maximum length. With that in mind, I'll wrap this up.
Take care everyone- I'll talk to you all soon!