MondoCon: Toymakers discuss inspiration, process of bringing imagination to life

Noah Levine

At MondoCon, toymakers went back to their roots to discuss their inspirations.

On Sept. 14 and 15, Mondo, an art house which produces toys, vinyl records and screen printed shirts and posters, hosted the fifth annual MondoCon. At MondoCon, attendees  purchased incredible artworks from a variety of artists, played Mondo board games and listened in on several panels featuring discussions on toy-making, art design and more.

The Daily Texan sat in on the “Art of Toy Making Panel,” which featured several artists discussing their inspiration for designing and the process of manufacturing toys.

Many of the artists attributed the start of their interest to the films they were exposed to as kids. Hector Arce, the production manager for collectibles at Mondo, helped design the Godzilla creature from the 2014 rendition of “Godzilla.” He said an event from his childhood inspired him to follow his artistic career path.

“I remember going to Kmart with my dad when I was like five and seeing the ‘Godzilla’ VHS and him being like, ‘You know what that is?’” Arce said. “I was like, ‘It looks like a dinosaur. That’s awesome.’ He bought it for me. It changed my life and put me on this path of wanting to create art sculptures”.

Brock Otterbacher, creative director of toys and collectibles at Mondo, said his inspiration stemmed from the use of visual effects in films.

“I was always inspired by visual effects,” Otterbacher said. “There’s a shot in (‘The Accidental Tourist’) with a commercial airline going by the camera. I remember yelling at my brother to rewind it over and over again so I could watch the composite shot.”

Erique Watson, brand manager at Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. and toy designer, said part of the beauty of his job is being able to provide customers with the same toys he cherished as a child.

“The first action figure my dad bought me was ‘Faker,’” Watson said. “I actually got lucky enough to do an exclusive (‘Faker’ figurine) with Diamond (Comic Distributors, Inc.). This was one of these things where (I could take) something that I cared about when I was like six and put it out to the same kind of people who had this figure back in the day.”

After discussing their artistic inspirations, the panel went on to discuss the process of designing a “Mer-Man” figure from the “Masters of the Universe” series. Attendees were shown stages of the design process, including sketches and 3D sculpts. Otterbacher said one of the most unique aspects of the figure was designing its fish-like eyes.

“(We) wanted the eyes be clear and paint the pupil on top of it so the light behind would actually give the illusion that it was like a fish eye,” Otterbacher said. “We kind of engineered (the eyes) to pop out.”

While sculpting is a huge part of the toy-making process, Florian Bertmer, a MondoCon artist, said painting is where the toy really shines.

“Painting is maybe 40% of the final product,” Bertmer said. “For (the painter) to add the textures really helps push it further than what originally it was, which was a great sculpture.”