Hot on the heels of Super7’s ThunderCats Ultimates! and ReAction lines being shipped off to customers, we caught up with Brian Flynn to talk about both lines—the first wave of ReAction figures and his plans for this scale of collectibles, as well as the first wave Ultimates! 7″ figures consisting of Panthro, Jackalman, Mumm-Ra and Lion-O. The interview will be published in two parts, the first focusing on the ReAction figures, and the second focusing on the Ultimates! line.
TC.org: Hi, Brian! Thanks for catching up with us again. August was a very big month for you guys. We saw the highly anticipated Ultimates! Wave 1 ship at the end of the month, but you also delivered the very first wave of your new ThunderCats ReAction figure line. How have things been since we last spoke?
BF: Hi! Other than the world falling apart, we’re all good this side. We are happy that we finally got these two lines out; it’s great.
TC.org: Being a newbie myself to the ReAction figure line, the closest association I personally have with this scale, as a kid of the 80s, is Dino-Riders. Where does your love for this scale come from?
BF: As a kid my first toys were in the 3¾” scale. Here in the States, everything from Star Wars to Battlestar Galactica was in this scale, so to be able to make ThunderCats in this scale was something I have always wanted to do. It wasn’t until Masters of the Universe that the scale of toys changed drastically in the toy market, but for kids before that mostly everything was in this 3¾” scale.
TC.org: The first six ReAction figures were revealed at New York Toy Fair 2020. They were scheduled for May/June originally. Did the COVID-19 pandemic delay their production?
BF: Yes, it certainly messed everything up. I don’t think anything stuck to schedule. It was a very confusing time and factories were closed. We didn’t even know if people would be buying these figures because of the pandemic. It is still messing a lot of things up for many people.
TC.org: Based on the matching vintage font and purple and red color schemes used for the villains and good guys, it’s obvious that a lot of research went in to the design of the cards. Sharp-eyed fans will recognize even more. How do those design choices get made? Why was it important to capture nostalgia with this scale?
BF: Part of the design choices are making sure we do it right. We want to give all the cues that make you happy when seeing it. While it’s different from the vintage packaging, there is an emotional component at play. It’s not something you need to own—you will buy these because you love it. We want you to have that feeling again, like when you were a kid and you saw these for the first time.
Part of getting it right has a lot to do with the ThunderCats community. Fans have been so helpful. People have been reaching out to us with information, helping us track things and assets. I have to give a big shout-out to the guy who owns the original ThunderCats logo, too. He got in touch and offered it to us to use. That makes it really great for us to be able to use something fans have been asking for.
TC.org: Az Adamson delivered the character artwork to massive applause. How do you choose an artist for this type of product? What direction was he given?
BF: It really varies from property to property. The good thing is we have done enough of these over the past few years that we can refer to. We’ll make a mock-up of the style we’re looking for and the artist would go with that. In that regard, each property, like Universal and MOTU, or TMNT, they each evoke a specific feeling when you look at them. For example when you look at The Worst or the TMNT cards, they’re each unique and easily identifiable. You can clearly see that ’90s vibe in the TMNT art. So while we change it up, they’re still easily identifiable as being part of the same line.
TC.org: Your MOTU ReAction figures’ artwork has been sought after by fans, demanding it be released in some kind of book form. The ThunderCats artwork seems set for a similar response. Will you continue working with Az Adamson as the line grows? Is a book of artwork something you would consider?
BF: We usually hire an artist for an entire series because we want the look consistent with the same voice. So yes, Az will be working on this line. We’ve talked about a book, and what it might look like. I’m not sure if a standalone book would work, but an artwork book is something to think about.
TC.org: If not in book form immediately, how about using the art on T-shirts? Would that be possible?
BF: I believe that with Warner Bros. we don’t have that license, so we’re not allowed to make apparel. There’s in most licencing companies a difference between hard goods (plastic toys) and soft goods (shirts, etc.). But we would definitely be interested. I mean, who wouldn’t want a red Mumm-Ra shirt?
TC.org: Let’s talk about the figures themselves. Slithe is bulkier and shorter than the others, however, Mumm-Ra, who is taller in the cartoon, is not taller here. How important is relative scale to you in this line?
BF: We sort of throw back to what was done between ’77 and ’85. Like with Star Wars, R2-D2 was way shorter, and Chewbacca and Darth Vader, who were much taller in the movies, were just slightly taller than Han and Luke in the toyline. It was really, for us, never designed to be a scientific format. It’s more about how they look when you place them together.
TC.org: Your Aliens ReAction line gave us an adorable Newt figure. Can we therefore assume that you won’t overlook WilyKit and WilyKat in this scale? The line would feel incomplete without them!
BF: I’d say you don’t have to worry about that.
TC.org: Great news! So since ThunderCats has many differently proportioned characters, can we still expect smaller characters like Snarf, Ma-Mutt, and Luna to be included one day, perhaps with more limited articulation?
BF: I’m sure we’re going to be working on something in Waves 2 and 3. There will be more.
TC.org: That’s something to look forward to. Let’s talk articulation. ReAction figures have a very basic five points of articulation. Is this simply part of the charm of the ReAction line, or have you ever considered bending the knees or elbows, or adding waist or hand articulation?
BF: I personally don’t like it in 3¾”. It’s not the stuff that I played with as a kid. Taking G.I. Joe out of the equation, these figures never really had articulated knees or elbows at the start. Not until much later when it was added to some figures for the sake of movement. But that’s not what they were originally intended to be. There are companies that make highly detailed art ones—modern versions, if you will—in this scale, but for this, it’s the nostalgic version that we are aiming for, and that type of articulation is not appropriate for this.
TC.org: During the Ultimates! Wave 2 preordere, fans wondered whether the sword and dagger accessories from Mumm-Ra’s vintage LJN figure might ever make an appearance in the Ultimates! line. Lo and behold, here they are with his ReAction figure! Any reason why you chose these instead of the Sword of Plun-Darr from the cartoon?
BF: We chose that because this line is more throwing back onto the vintage LJN toys, and we are making it further apart from what the Ultimates! figures are. I mean, you wouldn’t want these figures to just be smaller versions of the Ultimates! figures, right? They’re supposed to each offer a different feel.
TC.org: Mumm-Ra’s cape was incorporated into this version using some kind of plastic. Did you ever consider fabric?
BF: No, never. Once again, when talking about the original Kenner figures, Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader both had plastic capes. So of course we’ll go with that nostalgic feeling of what those toys were like originally.
TC.org: Does that mean that whenever we get to a Jaga ReAction figure, we’ll also see plastic used for his cape?
BF: Never say never, but I would say that as a first step, let’s do plastic.
TC.org: Three figures from Wave 1 of the Ultimates! line are represented in this first wave of ReAction figures, but Cheetara and Slithe are both from Ultimates! Wave 3, while the Ever-living Mumm-Ra is from Wave 2. Is there a pattern to the figures you’ll be releasing? Are the two lines likely to line up character-wise with one another?
BF: We approach the ReAction line differently than the Ultimates! line. We don’t do more than four per Ultimates! wave because that can be too expensive, while with the ReAction figures we sometimes do two, four—often six or eight. Six is your typical drop for a larger wave for ReAction figures. So, when you’re planning groups of six, how you approach that is very different than when you’re planning them as groups of four. You think differently on the assortment of characters. I mean, if we just released two waves of six then you’ll have twelve characters, whereas with Ultimates! you need to get to three waves first before getting the same amount of figures. So, it all has to do with planning.
TC.org: Which character from Wave 1 is your favorite?
BF: It is tricky because I’ll be clowned on for using the obvious, but I would have to say Mumm-Ra. But just because of that, I will also say Slithe. Yes, those two.
TC.org: Like most of your glow-in-the-dark figures, this year’s SDCC exclusive Glow-In-The-Dark TMNT ReAction figures were green, but the exclusive Glow-in-the-Dark Baxter Stockman Ultimates! is blue! Is it safe to assume that this blue material is also a possibility for the ReAction line? Could we see a spirit Jaga in this blue Glow-in-the-Dark material?
BF: Yea! We spend a lot more time with Glow-in-the-Dark in Vinyl than with ReAction. If I could I would make a lot more. You get your typical white glow that we can make glow yellow, green, blue and so on. You get something that’s more of a salmon pink that glows green. There is a lot of different colors. Glow-in-the-Dark is always cool, so I would say there’s a good chance.
TC.org: Your final MOTU ReAction release included Battle Cat and Panthor, and ThunderCats has a big cat of its own—Snowmeow! He’d need a different harness, but otherwise he’s an ideal candidate for reusing the tooling from Battle Cat and Panthor. Could Snowmeow be a ReAction possibility? Snowman and Snowmeow were a 2-pack in the vintage miniatures line, so a ReAction release would be an awesome throwback.
BF: It would be. It’s a good idea. *silence* Was that what you wanted to hear?
TC.org: *Laughs* Yes, that’s good enough. As long as it’s out in the open. From beasts to playsets—in 2018 you released an SDCC playset for the Planet of the Apes ReAction line. With ThunderCats there are several cardboard diorama playset possibilities. I myself am currently using my Mattel diorama that came with their WilyKit and WilyKat exclusive. The ReAction scale would make potential playsets less enormous. Is this on the horizon?
BF: We have a couple of things that we’re looking at. I have to add, that for every ten people who buy ReAction figures, only one would buy a playset. They’re nowhere near as popular. But what’s interesting is we’ve been able to get more mileage out of something like the playsets, where we take the tooling and make a different background for different things. We’ve got enough pieces to do something and will probably have some fun with that a little bit later, but it’s not on the cards right now.
TC.org: How about vehicles like the mighty ThunderTank? Surely in this scale it would be a lot easier to make. Are this and other vehicles on the horizon at this stage?
BF: Like with playsets, there are very few who buy vehicles. These are very expensive and complicated to make. It’s not that we don’t want to make these;it’s just something very different to do in this scale. We’ve tried many different things in many different scales before, like the massive Snake Mountain (which is currently on a boat, I might add), or the MOTU Battle Cat / Panthor beasts in ReAction. We’ve still got a couple of other things we’re going to try. If it works, great. If not, then we know. But no, vehicles for that line are not currently in the cards.
Join us Monday, September 14, for Part 2 of our interview with Brian Flynn from Super7, where we’ll chat about the ThunderCats Ultimates! Wave 1 figures, which are arriving in collectors’ hands starting this week. Did we mention Wave 4 is coming at the end of September????