|Interview with Toy Maker and Entrepreneur Todd McFarlane
by Mark Sean Orr and Sandi Kilpatrick
Collectors World Online - 2005
McFarlane Toys, a subsidiary of Todd McFarlane Productions, is a company founded by comics
creator Todd McFarlane which makes highly detailed model figurines of characters from movies,
comics, popular music, video games and various sporting genres.
"Todd McFarlane is th Willy Wonka of toy making."---Mark Sean Orr
Can you tell us about yourself and McFarlane/Spawn? How long have you been in the business and
what got you started?
I created the character of Spawn when I was in high school. Originally, I wanted to play professional baseball,
and went to college on a baseball scholarship. That didn’t pan out, and I decided to pursue a career as a comic
book artist. After more than 700 rejection letters, I landed a job with DC Comics. Eventually, I made a name for
myself drawing, inking and writing Spider-Man for Marvel Comics.
After leaving Marvel and founding Image Comics with seven other artists, I was finally able to give life to Spawn,
the character I hadconceived so many years ago. The success of Spawn led to the founding of McFarlane
Toys. Spawn was the first toy we created, and he’s now in his 29th series – a major accomplishment for any toy.
That success enabled us to go in other directions, and we now have many very successful lines and have
raised the bar within the action figure industry, showing what is possible.
I was always amazed that people who have been in the toy business for 50 years weren’t doing what they
should have been doing to clay. Everything that I’ve done since I started my company in the 1990s –clay would
have done that in the 1970s, in the 1960s and the 1940s. Clay has always been able to go into any shape and
any form. Why we gave it shapes that nobody else thought of? I don’t get it.
To me it’s not about, “Todd, how did you do it?” it’s, why weren’t they doing it? I always scratch my head; that
boggles my mind more than anything else.
I am involved in every single toy that comes out of here. I’m there at the beginning as Todd the artist, and I’m
there at the end as Todd the CEO, and a lot of it in between. I approve all the various stages – I approve the
paint, the packaging and how we box it up. I’m fairly anal on the toy side of things.
We love the McFarlane figures, especially the Sports Picks. What were the first figures, and when
did you decide to include sports players?
Since I started "Todd's Toys" back in 1994, I've always wanted to make Sports figures. Sports has always been
a driving passion in my life, and I knew I could put out better product htan what people were seeing in the mid-to-
late 1990s. I struck licensing deals with the NHLPA and MLBPA and made some figures in 2000 that bore the
player's name and likeness, but didn't have official team logos on them as they weren't licensed by MLB or the
The figures sold OK, but their main purpose was to show the leagues what was possible - that I could put
together an incredibly detailed sports figure that would retail for just $10. The MLBPA and NHLPA lines helped
me convince those two leagues that I was a serious player in the toy world, and that I wanted to deliver a whole
new type of product. We landed the league licenses from the NHL and NFL in 2001, with MLB and the NBA
following suit in 2002.
We christened the league and PA-approved lines "Sports Picks" and we've released 49 lineups of current
players, and eight lineups of retired stars.
We were excited about the release of the Corpse Bride bobblehead dolls. What happened there,
and will they ever be produced?
While we do produce many Corpse Bride products including action figures and other collectibles, McFarlane
Toys never had plans to release bobble head dolls*.
Are you a collector, and if so, what do you collect?
I collect all kinds of things. I'm on eBay all the time! People think that because I have the record baseballs, my
collecting is limited to high-end items. That’s inaccurate. I collect everything from one dollar Slurpee cups to
sports board games to baseball cards. I'm kind of all over the place.
What are some of your favorite figures? What figures haven’t you made that you would like to make?
We constantly go after toy licenses, and we don’t get them all. There are some lines that we don’t get that I
really wish we had. But like anything else, you can’t worry about what fish got away. You have to concentrate on
the fish that you have, and the one you’re going to go and chase after next.
There isn’t any line that I don’t look at where my mind doesn’t go, “If I were doing that, this is what I’d do.” I look
at all of these toy lines and think, if I could only do one, this is what I would do. That would be my perfect world.
What else does McFarlane make besides figures that our readers might not know about?
McFarlane Toys makes action figures from the worlds of comic books, sports, music, movies, TV and pop
culture. In addition to our licensed lines, we have a number of very successful in-house lines: Spawn (now in its
twenty-ninth generation of action figures) McFarlane’s Military, dragons. Our new Pop Culture Masterworks are
three-dimensional re-creations of iconic movie posters and record albums.
What is coming up that you can share with our readers?
We’re very excited about our new line of Lost action figures, re-creating key moments of the characters on the
hit ABC television show. Looking ahead, you can expect to see a more diverse product line than we’ve ever
had. We are continually looking for ways to keep reinventing ourselves, and then we go beyond that.
Bobbles and More would like to thank Todd McFarlane and Chuck King for getting this interview completed.
McFarlane / Spawn is one of the hottest collectibles manufacturers in the market today and we appreciate them
taking the time to answer our questions...THANKS!).
Regarding our question about McFarlane making bobblehead dolls..our info was taken from the following
McFarlane Toys has been named the master toy licensee for Tim Burton's latest stop-motion animated feature
film, Corpse Bride, which is scheduled for release by Warner Bros. Pictures in Fall 2005. Capturing the film
experience, McFarlane Toys will produce a full product line inspired by the upcoming feature film, including
collectible action figures, bendable figures, PVC and plush toys. Additionally, this agreement marks the first time
McFarlane Toys has expanded its categories to include fashion dolls,-- bobbleheads--, novelties and gifts such
as candles, glassware mugs,pewter pieces and ornaments.
January 20, 2005
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