Interview with Erik Scoggan of Unruly Industries

As you know, July of this year, Nerd News Social once again conquered San Diego Comic Con. We had a packed schedule of meetings and interviews to bring you the best of the best content that our press passes could get you. Most of us had no time to walk the convention floor until a few days in. But one of the best parts about the convention, are the things that you don’t plan or see coming. Unruly Industries, was one of those things I didn’t see coming! 

Unruly Industries, part of Sideshow Collectables, are not just “toys”. They are designer collectables! I know what you are thinking, Lindsay, we see “collectables” all the time, tell us more. WELL! Unruly has a line up of some of my top favorite artists and designers and took their 2D art and brought them to life into our world as 3D sculpts! It’s like someone took your favorite flat pieces of art, stuck a bike pump into it, and popped it out of the canvas! Well, the process is a little more complicated than that. So here is my interview with Erik Scoggan, the Brand Manager at Sideshow Collectables telling us all about it.

Lindsay: How’s work? Do they let you have some free reign?

Erik: Yes, absolutely. I think yesterday, randomly in the middle of the day I went and did a podcast about insect-related superheroes, came back to my office and art directed some packaging artwork, and then approved some sculpts for a new toy. It’s a pretty fun atmosphere here.

Lindsay: That seems awesome. You are going into podcasts, and now I’m interviewing you. How does it feel to be so popular?

Erik: I don’t think I consider myself popular – haha.

Lindsay Laughs.

Lindsay: I checked out some of Sideshow’s videos, and it was insightful how you had a section for every phase of the process of creating figures. It seems you have a pretty awesome team.

Erik: It’s so funny, I kind of equate it to santa’s workshop here where you can go peek in looking at the elves building at every stage. We go all the way from an initial brainstorm sketch idea through sculpt, paint, even the fabric in the clothing being designed. Then you end up with an awesome looking prototype. All the different disciplines are constantly inspiring to be in. It’s equally as humbling to see how much work goes into every single aspect of the process.

Lindsay: You are a part of Sideshow, but Unruly Industries are the “Designer Toys” of Sideshow. Can you tell us a bit about Sideshow and what makes Unruly Industries so unique in its logo and branding?

Erik: Yeah, Sideshow collectible has been around for 25 years now. We are known for making high end, premium quality, statues and collectibles and all that type of stuff. It’s something we feel very passionate about. Something that is new to Sideshow in recent years though, is taking what we do creatively and pushing to develop our own original content, brands, and new formats. Court of the Dead, our original IP, is an example of one of our own IP’s. It’s a dark fantasy property that is kind of like Game of Thrones in the Underworld or Dungeon and Dragons. Because we are such a big fans of storytelling here, we wanted to launch our own properties that are full of character, action, and lore that can act as a platform to showcase the awesomely talented artists we have here at Sideshow.
 
In terms of exploring new formats, our CEO is a huge fan of designer toy scene and has been wanting to get closer with a lot of the artists in that scene. I’ve personally been going to DesignerCon for 5+ years now and it’s by far one of my favorite conventions of the year. We even as a company sometimes go to the LA Art Show together. We are such a big fan of the alternative art community, that we launched our own brand dedicated to it so that we can engage with those unique artists that you might recognize from an underground art gallery, or a live street painting event. In other words, we wanted to make a platform that we could work with those people that we so desperately admire! To be able to do it in a way that has the same quality Sideshow is known for, in the premium statue formats, but in the designer toy realm is the goal. Because ultimately, we are just huge fans. If you walk into anyone’s office here, you’ll see it littered with art and toys. Whether you are a deep comic book aficionado, or are more of a fan of alternative and street art, we are developing projects with artists that both crowds can be fans of.

Lindsay: I like hearing about the different offshoots of what you guys are doing. Definitely Dungeons & Dragons, and story telling is such a huge thing for a lot of the audience at Nerd News Social, including myself. I’ve been playing since 4th edition. Is that a game you’re developing as well?

Erik: With Court of the Dead specifically, we almost worked backwards in a way. We launched these statues of the original characters that we had. They had so much artistry and storytelling built into them, and because they are not a licensed character, and we can do all the approvals on them, we get to put in as much as detail and stylization into it as we wanted. They were such widely and well received, that we wanted to keep growing Court of the Dead into something bigger that enables us to tell stories in more ways then just figures. So we do have graphic novels that features the huge cast of characters and tell the epic story. We also launched a sucessful Kickstater for the Court of the Dead: Mourners Call boardgame with Project Raygun, last year (shipping now!) raising almost half a million dollars! The game is super fun and ompetitive – there were some pretty heated rivalries forming here in the office. I got to work, help coordinate, and project manage that. It’s so crazy still to see our own property blow up into a board game like this!

Lindsay: Sounding like you are having a lot of fun.

Erik: How could you not! I mean there are so many teams here doing so much good work. I’m part of the Sideshow original team – so we are involved with anything that is new. We are trying to push the boundaries of what people expect from Sideshow, which is super exciting! You gotta lean on your creative allies a lot in this kinda job, but it’s so rewarding. So I’ve worked with Court of the Dead, and now fully focusing on Unruly Industries, as well as some other super secret things we have in the works. Shhhh.

Lindsay: I love secrets.

Erik: It’s fun to have them, but hard to keep them sometimes.

Lindsay: Talking more about Unruly, which caught my eye at San Diego Comic Con, your characters are designed by an amazing lineup of artists. To name a few, you have Tracy Tubera, Chogrin, Tony Riff, and Craola. Huge names which together span various themes such as Kaiju, Marvel, DC, classic monsters, and original characters. What is your process for picking which designers to partner with, and what project they will work on?

Erik: Very good question. Every artist we work with, and every piece we make, can have it’s own little journey. It helps makes every piece unique! For example, with Tracy Tubera, he is obviously a well known sneaker-head. We love his art. We’ve seen him at DesignerCon for years, and when were starting this program, we said that we got to work with him! His art is right up our alley. So. we reached out to him, and luckily with our 25 years of experience in the industry, he was willing to jump on board with a brand new program. He trusted us with his art, which is fantastic and we are forever grateful. We’ve worked with a lot licensors such as DC, Marvel, Star Wars etc. over the years and wanted to match up some of our newly-friended artists with some of those properties! So we developed some figures taking his style and apply it to Marvel characters, as you’ve seen online. I know Tracy is already fairly well known, but in our program one of our goals is to raise the voices and expose some of our Sideshow fanbase to the awesome world of Designer Toys. It’s such a rewarding opportunity to work with all the artists we get to partner up with. Jumping over to another line, like the the Kaiju figures we’ve developed Mike ‘Poopbird’ Groves, were developed differently than with Tracy. We hired Mike to do some concepts based on some Kaiju ideas we had come up with in-house and worked with him in a freelance capacity to add his unique style to that idea, and man, did they turn out adorably destructive! We love Kaiju and monster here! The fact that we freedom to do something unique in the space is exciting to me.

Lindsay: So, it’s more of a team thing. Like “Hey team, I saw this artist, let’s approach them.” Or, “Hey team, this theme is really great, let’s do some of this in house.”?

Erik: Yeah, to a degree. Some of the pieces we made, are pieces that an artist has had on their Instagram for a while. We just had been admiring it. For example we’ll be looking online and see something awesome and go “Hey Tony Riff, I love your “I See Colors” illustration – you down to make this into a 3D figure?” And then we will license the rights and get jamming on it. I’ve been very pleased that so many of these artists want to jump on board. The pieces are turning out great, I’ve been extremely proud of them. To answer your question though, it’s a mixture of us discovering artists who have great work, and want to make original stuff. Or hiring people who want to put their spin on a licensed property.

Lindsay: That’s awesome. I saw some of those works in person, they are phenomenal. What’s interesting is, I know a few of these artists like Tracy Tubera and Chogrin have worked in the animation industry, and even in the toy industry before. Which means they know how to turn a character pose showing the sculptor what it should look like on all sides. Are you able to get these kinds of assets from all your designers so your sculptors know what it should look like at all angles, and what do you usually request from the artist?

Erik: It’s unique to each piece. Because with Tracy and Chogrin, they are so good at turnarounds, allowing you to visualize in such a great way. It makes our job so much easier to have that road map. We have a lot of great sculptors in, and out of house, who can just take one illustration and translate it into something beautiful, but to have the fully realized concept art really takes it to the next level of accuracy to the original art. I’ll broadcast to any artist out there that want to get into toys, I highly recommend getting good at turnarounds! That will make you much more of an attractive candidate to work in toys, because it’s such a valuable skill. (and not so secretly make my job easier – haha).

Lindsay: Totally! You have a really skilled team then. It can still, even with turnarounds, be tough to transition from 2D-3D. How are you able to keep the artists vision as a whole? And what’s the process from receiving the artists 2D drawings to life with the final 3D product?

Erik: That’s actually decent chunk of what my job entails, it’s keeping in contact with the artists along the entirety of the process. As much as humanly possible, we try to keep the artists involved in the process. We’ll get the original art, and turnarounds if possible up top. Then our sculptors will take their initial passes at it, and while they do a fantastic job, we always send sculpts by the artist to make sure the shape play and the line work from the original is translating as it was originally intended into the piece. From that point on, we will refine that sculpt until we are happy with it. If it’s a license we will request approval. If it’s an original work we’ll internally approve it with the artist. Those are then 3D printed, and our unsung heroes of the mold & cast department will clean them up and make sure the engineering function correctly (super important!). It will then typically go into paint at that point, and then we’ll photograph and put them up on the site for pre-order! If the piece is straightforward enough. Depending on the complication of the piece, these things can go pretty quick. They definitely go a lot faster than our Premium Format Statues – they are simpler and their shapes are a little more conducive to the designer toy form.

Lindsay: It seems like you have everything available to your finger tips there at the studio. That’s quite amazing. As a consumer, out of curiosity, how long does it take from you getting the sketch to it being up on your site for either pre-order or purchase?

Erik: That’s a good question. If the figure is simple, depending on paint application, it can take only three to six months to get that done. Sometimes a bit longer, in terms of getting to prototype form. To get all the way to consumer it can take about a year to a year and a half. As much as we can, we want people to see it sooner than later.

Lindsay: That’s definitely not that long. I was thinking it would be longer then that. On your website, I see a few items marked “RSVP Now” and “Pre-Order”, out of curiosity, is there a difference between the status of RSVP and pre-order, and how much of an influence does the customer have if they do either of these options? Does it affect any outcomes?

Erik: In terms of the difference between RSVP and pre-order, we do previews on our website. A lot of them are announced around our big events, like Comic Con, Spooktacular, New York Comic Con. It will be one image that is either teasing the piece or announcing that we are doing a partnership. The people who see that, and are excited about that can sign up to receive a notification and be the first to know when it goes up for order. A pre-order is when we have a prototype all done, we have everything quoted out, and approved, then we will photograph it with our awesome photography department and put it up for pre-order/for sale. It helps us anticipate how popular a piece is, and perhaps if there is a demand for more from the character or variants. A lot of these designer toys are limited edition, so the higher the pre-order numbers are is great for the artist. It tells us that people really want to support these artists as much as we do. It helps drive that conversation forward. I’m excited to work with artists we are working with, and the future ones, and bringing their fans to our fun little club here. I know I’m running off on a tangent now, but one thing that was really cool when the brand first launched, and our first couple batch of figures were released, was seeing all the other artists start following each other, and becoming friends in real life, and online. It’s like being part of one big weird art family, and everyone is supporting each other. It’s a really cool scene.

Lindsay: I didn’t even think about that. That is pretty awesome. I’m glad to hear that. You’ve selected a really amazing bunch of people. And you were even able to do one of your own pieces. I want to talk about you specifically. You started out in 2014 as “Graphic Designer” and last year you became “Brand Manager”, additionally you will be unleashing your own designer toy collection called “One Scoops” now available for pre-order. Can you tell us a little bit about your roughly 5 year journey with this company and how you got to where you are today?

Erik: It’s been a great 5 years. I used to work as a graphic designer in the graphic art department. Doing packaging and trade show graphics, decals for the figures, etc. Anything here that needed printed 2D support. It was great. Then, as I mentioned earlier, we started the Sideshow Originals program, and it was growing rapidly, and needed more graphics support. So they stole me from the graphics department to work on Court of the Dead. I worked primarily on that property for a couple years helping design books, trade show materials, and making that board game Court of the Dead: Mourners Call last year. That whole project was fantastic. I highly recommend people checking out anything Court of the Dead, it’s really cool! So after that, like I said, our CEO was interested in starting the designer toy program and I was recruited to help with that. The brand came together pretty dang quickly, and we developed the style and started early days of picking artists. I like to describe it as a combination of punk rock, hip-hop, and alternative art gallery. Then we put that mix together and that’s what the brand is, and that’s what we want to be passionate about bring to life, and redefining what Sideshow as a company can do. I talk in circles about it, but I truly believe that it’s an exciting time to be a fan of Sideshow, and a fan of designer toys. To represent all sorts of characters from pop culture in unique ways. To bring to life pieces from artists that you may not have heard of, or ones that you have loved for years.

Lindsay: Yeah, sounds like you guys are checking all the boxes, at a time where things are blowing up in popularity. Comics used to be nerdy. Now there are TV shows about comics. If you want to be closer to them, then you want something to let your nerd flag fly. Something that’s so true to the character, to have a piece of that. You guys are doing an excellent job. Plus table top gaming. I’m definitely checking out Court of the Dead after this interview.

Erik: Having my own art be made. I can’t believe that actually happened. The One-Scoops, are such an inherently weird concept. I was out with our production manager, hanging out one night just brainstorming ideas, saying ‘what if we made the characters into a weird thing’… ‘how about just melted ice cream?’… ‘how would that even work? Maybe they could be in hands, or something?’ So I went home that night and drew a character in that style, and brought it to work the next day saying ‘Hey this is super weird, but I am just going to show you guys what I drew last night’…then Anna our Director said ‘Actually, that’s pretty cool let’s explore that more’, and then we pitched it, and the rest is history I guess?

Lindsay and Erik laugh.

Erik: It felt like, not a joke, but an idea that I never thought it would be made, but every step of the way it kept proving itself. I grew up reading The Far Side comics, and watching off-brand cartoons, eating junk food… you know the usual signs of a weird kid. To see that all influence combined into an actual product that people can buy. It’s super hilarious and I am eternally grateful to everyone that said “let’s make it!”

Lindsay: Congratulations. I love it. You are basically getting two pieces that you can play with. A lot of figures you have on display, you can’t do much with it. With your piece there it is a lot you can do with it. You are encouraging people to pose it and play with it.

Erik: I believe people should take toys out of the box and play with them. To have something designed for that is fantastic.

Lindsay: I definitely have some that I am not removing from their packaging. That’s a different story though. The One-Scoops, thats something that I would definitely do some fun stuff with. It seems like there is so much to what you have to do, even though it sounds fun. But there is a lot that goes into what you have to do to be successful at what you do each day. Can you tell us a typical day for you, and what’s some of your routines and life hacks that keep you on the top of your game?

Erik: Wow, one thing I like about this job, is that no two days are identical. I mean, there are so many different projects and events at different stages of development. Every day is different. One day I might be ruminating in the graphics department working with them on packaging for product, then another day discussing an upcoming convention that we might be a part of, how we can push the envelope, what we can bring, and how to engage with the fans? Then the next day you might be having an interview with a super cool blog *cough cough* haha. It’s super interesting to do all that everyday. I went to school for graphic design, and I never thought I’d get to talk to artists like Craola or Jesse Hernandez, or Tracy Tubera. To become friends with these people, and help them produce their art in such a way is awesome. To answer the other part of your question, in terms of “Life Hack”, I feel coffee is important. Everybody always says that. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat good food, have coffee, exercise… they are not so much life hacks, but life tips.

Lindsay: You are like Dr. Designer giving me my prescriptions.

Erik: Haha – Yeah. I try to be nice to everybody that I am working with externally and internally. If I had to reverse roles with anyone, I would never want to work for a jerk. I try to root for these artists, as much as possible. I really think it does make a difference to them, and with everyone you work with. I see my own co-workers more then I see my own girlfriend haha. You have to have a good environment. I think everyone here has that though. A typical day here involves a lot of joking, and having a good time, but also spilling a lot of creative juice and pushing boundaries. Sometimes I take it upon myself to make sure my work day has some extra fun in it. I guess that’s a life hack that keeps me positive, and the people around me. It’s never a dull day here.

Lindsay: That’s very wise words. I’m going to keep that to heart. It’s just always good to check in with yourself, and make sure you are having a good time. Being kind to others is so important. Since there is so much that you do, I’m just curious, are you able to tell me your most favorite things you do with this company. Is it possible?

Erik: I’ve probably expressed this too many times here but, It’s really being able to take the art, and help make it come to life and be able to share that with the artist and the fans. It’s the most rewarding part because as you work on the piece from the start just as concept art or a 2D illustration, as it gets to the end you get to be excited all over again in a new way because it now exists in the 3D world! That’s pretty special. Even if a piece is a pain to get sculpted, or there was an annoying approval, to see our actual final product come out and see people light up about it. It’s so gratifying.

Lindsay: You had an impressive lineup of collectibles at San Diego Comic Con, that caught my eye. That was Unruly’s debut convention correct?

Erik: Yes, San Diego was the first show that we showed all of our product. It was really exciting. Last November at DesignerCon, we were there undercover, wearing t-shirts, and soft launching, but throughout the new year we were amassing prototypes and artist collaborations, and making a huge bevy of figures and artwork that we were super exited to share at San Diego Comic Con. It was a big display. I can’t believe how much was done in a year. A little over a year ago, we didn’t have much but a seed of an idea of what we wanted to do, and now we have all this!

Lindsay: Yeah, so where can we find you next and what can we expect to see in the future for Unruly?

Erik: Definitely we will be at DesignerCon 2019, down in Anaheim. We are going to have a big presence there. We are going to have some things you’ve seen before, but a lot of brand new things you definitely haven’t seen before. We encourage people to come stop by, say hi, and chat!

Lindsay: Awesome!

Erik: In terms of the future, we will be making appearances at conventions through the year, looking to meet with more artists, doing collaborations with other companies, cultural influencers, and artists of any genre. Basically, make stuff with people who follow their own path.

Lindsay: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Nerd News Social world?

Erik: Thank you for reaching out, and taking such an interest in us! A lot of people work long hours, and do a lot of creative stuff to make all this happen. The fact that you guys take the time to promote it, and talk about it… We appreciate that.

Lindsay: Thank you so much, and we appreciate the purity that comes with your company and I look forward to seeing you at DesignerCon!

Want more? You can order their figures on their Unruly WEBSITE, follow their social networks for the latest news (INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER), check out their YOUTUBE for an inside look at Sideshow and the people who make up the crew, and find out more about “Court of the Dead” HERE

Which figures most interest you? What figures do you already collect? Let us know in the comments. And remember, you never know what you’ll find on the con floor.

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