S.H.MonsterArts Interview @SDCC 2014
Bandai Tamashii Nations
August 4, 2014
Interview by The Articulations Series
Xavier Lim, Director of Marketing, Bluefin Distribution.
Hannah Lemmer, Product Developer at Bandai Co., Ltd
The Articulation Series (TAS): How many Godzilla universe S.H.MonsterArts are planned in a year? Is it a set number or does it vary depending on what's on the workbench?
Hannah Lemmur: It's not a set number. It can be anywhere between 2-3 characters. We don't want to oversaturate the market with too many figures of the same line. We also consider the popularity of certain characters as well as the timing.
TAS: How far are S.H.MonsterArts releases planned?
Xavier Lim: Pretty far actually, but that's all I can say about that.
TAS: Are there any monsters in the Godzilla universe that Bandai Tamashii Nations cannot get the rights to produce?
Lemmur: I don't think so? Haha. It depends on the M.G. If we want to go and get a character, it's something that we can definitely go and do and offer a certain line up or if we want to do a certain type of line doing more than one character, it's certainly possible. There's a lot of different ways to go about getting licenses to characters. Usually it helps to have more than one from a series or an era.
TAS: It seems that more and more Godzilla monsters are being released as a Web Exclusive vs. a regular release. What's the reasoning behind this?
Lemmur: It has more to do with the Japanese market. [Through Bluefin Distribution] web exclusives are regular releases for North America. It definitely has to do with the domestic Japanese market popularity than it does with the North American popularity.
TAS: What determines whether or a not a figure should come with an accessory such as a breath effect or not? For example, why does Godzilla (Adult Jr.) come with one but not the 2014 Godzilla?
Lemmur: Sometimes it has to do with timing. If you're working with a movie and it's not even finished yet, and you're doing the research and development at the same time, it can be hard to get the correct information for final designs. You might just have to think of another option or another way to make this character appealing.
Lim: The other part about the breath effect was that Warner Bros. kept making adjustments to the CGI up until the movie's release. So there was no way to come up with a proper breath effect within the timing of the figures' development.
TAS: Are there any new Japanese properties being considered in 2015 for the S.H.MonsterArts line like the Rebirth of Mothra series or Gamera, or will it continue with just Godzilla? What about Western properties like the Hobbit & Pacific Rim?
Lemmur: For Japanese properties] there might be something in the works… [For Western properties] we might have something up our sleeves that we're trying to work on, but that's all I'm going to say about that.
Lim: [For Japanese properties] there are some things coming up on the schedule… I can't specify what they are, but there are some things fans of other Japanese properties can look forward too. [For Western properties] it's a little more difficult, mostly because the market demand within domestic Japan is different from what's superhot in the US. Since Tamashii Nations is a Japanese manufacturer, they are mainly concerned with making products for their market first. But with luck, there are maybe some properties that might have some mutual interest across the ocean. We'll just have to see which properties would make the most sense to be released on both sides.
TAS: Alien & Predator franchise- Discontinued or on hold?
Lemmur: It's on hold for now. We're kind of waiting to see how things turn out with our current lineup that we have. (Alien Warrior, Predator Wolf, Alien Big Chap, and Predator Wolf Heavy Arms Ver.)
TAS: Godzilla (2014) was a hit, can we expect the Muto's in the near future? Possibly as a two pack? Possibility of an LED light feature?
Lemmur: Anything's possible.
Lim: Bluefin is actually pushing for that kind of thing with Tamashii Nations, we've provided them with data and input on the benefits of producing that monster. But you know, we can only go so far because the decision is ultimately Tamashii Nations to make. They have to consider the market input from other regions, especially the domestic Japan market. In fact, the movie was just released a couple days ago in Japan, so it's much too early for them to consider producing it yet. I don't know how much an LED feature would add to the cost of the MSRP. We do want them to keep it relatively affordable and adding LED capability would increase that cost.
TAS: What was the decision behind releasing Godzilla (2014) as the 60th Anniversary piece instead of Godzilla (1954)?
Lim: Tamashii Nations has a really broad schedule for their releases. I can't really comment on their decision, but Godzilla (2014), the movie itself, was a 60th Anniversary feature, so it does makes sense for the Godzilla (2014) figure to also be a part of that celebration.
TAS: With Godzilla (2014) being released, many fans want to know if America's previous attempt, Sony's GODZILLA (1998), is a candidate for the SHMA line?
Lemmur: This is something we haven't considered yet. We always listen to what our fans say, so if there's enough [demand] for something like this, it's something that we can possibly consider in the future.
Lim: There also might be some licensing issues [with Sony's GODZILLA] as well. Some more investigation of that property is needed. It would have to be released as a web exclusive in Japan anyway, but I'm not sure what the legal spider-web for that is going to be. It can also be a contributing factor if we ever decide to look further into it.
TAS: At a recent event, a normal painted Heisei Rodan variant was displayed. Now that Fire Rodan has been long out of print, are there any plans to re-issue it using this variant? What do fans need to do to make this release happen?
Lemmur: I saw that! Haha! I believe that was one of our prototypes that somehow escaped… Just write on our (Bluefin Tamashii Nations) Facebook [wall] and let your voice be heard about what product you want.
TAS: The S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla (1989) prototype that was shown originally with Biollante- what happened to that? Is there any plans to develop it or has it been scraped?
Lemmur: No comment.
Lim: I actually don't know the answer to that.
TAS: Godzilla 2000 Millennium was a hit and sold out in NA in less than 5 months. With Kiryu (2003) being released later this year, there's hope for another Godzilla 2000 for 2015, possibly the film version sculpted by Wakasa instead of the Concept version by Sakai?
Lemmur: No comment.
TAS: If the new weapons and Godzilla effects sets sell well, can we see more sets like this in the future?
Lemmur: These are a lot of new products that we've been starting to make. If we see them doing well there's certainly a lot of other things we can make to go with Godzilla, but nothing planned in development at the moment.
Lim: Those are some things that North Americans have always been requesting for ever since S.H.MonsterArts were brought over to the US. We've provided Tamashii Nations with feedback about these types of products that American consumers are looking for to compliment releases from various lines. The demand for effects parts isn't limited to S.H.MonsterArts, but also S.H.Figuarts as well. They do know that North America is a good market for these type of releases, but it's ultimately up to them whether they decide it's something they want to continue pursuing.
TAS: With the recent DBZ Web Exclusive being reissued for the UK and NA consumers, does this mean that NA will see a re-issue of the first two S.H.MonsterArts Web Exclusives released in 2012? (Toho Ultimate Weapons & Godzilla Effects Set & UX-01-93 Garuda & Mechagodzilla Effects Set)
Lim: The FiguartsZero Goku was the very first Tamashii Web Exclusive that was ever re-issued and that was a very, very special case because its main purpose was for launching the market in Europe. The North American market sort of piggy-backed on that re-issue, but again, mainly for Europe and other new markets just to get the Dragon Ball thing going over there. It's not likely this can ever happen again because the limited nature of the Web Exclusive label pretty much ensures that once it comes out, it's done.
TAS: Very often requested characters on Bluefin's Facebook wall- Bagan and Super Godzilla- are they a possibility or has Toho said no to their rights?
Lim: We see the requests on our Facebook page, but the issue is that these characters are so obscure that it's hard vouche for them for the US fan base, especially if the people within Bandai haven't heard of them. There might be a few kaiju super fans within Bandai that know about them, but I don't know what their level of interest is though.
TAS: In the recent poll held in March this year, out of a little over 10,000 votes, Titanosaurus was rated the #1 most requested monster of the Godzilla universe, Godzilla incarnations excluded, by the NA consumer fan base. Bluefin Distribution is also pushing for Titanosaurus to be produced- any developments on that or are you still looking at the data on both JP and NA sides?
Lemmur: We're still looking at the data. There's a lot to go through and a lot to consider as far as both Japanese and North American markets.
Lim: Bluefin has been providing suggestions to Tamashii Nations on monsters that should be included on their release schedule, but it's ultimately up to Tamashii Nations in order to decide if they want to investigate the property, the character, look at the markets [Japan & North America], and also globally to see if it's something possible they want to do. Bluefin is pushing that particular monster, along with a few other choices, including the original Mechagodzilla.
TAS: Why are Showa era monsters 'on the back burner'? Many NA consumers would like to see more of that era now that the Heisei era is coming to a close.
Lim: I'm not certain what they have planned for Showa era stuff, but we have been pushing certain characters for MonstersArts that just so happen to be from the Showa era. We'll just have to wait and see.
TAS: Last year at SDCC, we were told that the S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla (1964) was purposefully scaled smaller than the Heisei and Millennium monsters to better represent its era. This decision has been met with mixed feelings among fans and collectors. If and when Showa era monsters return to the scene, will they continue the smaller scale set by the Godzilla (1964) figure or reset around the Heisei and Millennium monsters scale?
Lim: It's likely that they'll continue the relative scaling introduced by Godzilla (1964) so that other characters from that era match it. It's there for differentiation purposes from the other eras.
TAS: Can we expect anything more from Peter Jackson's King Kong universe in the S.H.MonsterArts line, or was Kong it? (V-Rex)
Lemmur: We haven't officially considered anything yet, but I'm sure that a lot of people know by now that there's a new King Kong movie in planning, a prequel, so maybe a possibility in the future.
Lim: Bluefin's also been pushing for the V-Rex as well. The ball is in their [Bandai] court, we've provided the input on monsters from various properties and stuff that they should be making. Besides King Kong, we're telling them about Jurassic World because there is a demand for a sort of super articulated, cool proportional sculpted dinosaur.
TAS: In 1962 Toho and Universal agreed to let Godzilla fight King Kong. IF a figure of the 1962 Kong were to be produced, how would that work in terms of licensing? Would Tamashii Nations need approval from both Toho and Universal? Would Universal allow it?
Lemmur: We would definitely need approval from both studios. In some cases though, a studio only wants to push the more relevant version of their character. That's what it would come down to.
TAS: The prototypes of Utsuno Ikusami & Evangelion Angels introduced some time ago- are they still being considered for production?
Lim: I haven't seen or heard anything of it yet [Utsuno Ikusami]. It might just be a prototype sitting on a bench. Same with the Angels. Just because you haven't seen any recent images on it, doesn't mean it's necessarily canceled, but it doesn't mean it's coming either. There's a lot of products like that because of timing issues and other releases. They have to figure out some things for them I guess.
TAS: Thank you both for your time and answers!
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