Mondo is a company with a magic touch in the sense that all the great work they do sends fans into a frenzy. Their limited edition posters sell out in minutes. Their gallery showings get people lined up for days. They release vinyl albums for beloved soundtracks. The company continues to expand, and their latest endeavors are sure to arouse even more passion from fans. Earlier today, Mondo announced that they will start selling toys starting with figures based on The Iron Giant, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Alfred Hitchcock.
Last week, I spoke with Mondo CEO Justin Ishmael about the company’s foray into toys, and he revealed not only details about the individual toys, but also talked about their availability, how much they might cost, when pre-orders might begin, and more. We also talked about what the company has planned for Comic-Con as well as their first annual convention, MondoCon. Hit the jump for the highlights and the full interview.
Ishmael and I had an extensive interview, and while I encourage you to read the whole article, here are the bullet points for the main topics:
- The availability will be based on pre-orders. “If 500 people want this, 500 people are going to get it. If 10,000 people want it, 10,000 people can get it,” says Ishmael
- The Iron Giant figure will probably be in the $200-and-up range because it’s a deluxe figure.
- The Iron Giant has over thirty points of articulation right down to each individual knuckle on the Giant’s hands. It also comes with two different heads, a replaceable arm to turn him into “war mode”, lights up, comes with a tiny Hogarth, and a seafood sign with a removable “S” that you can magnetically attach to the giant’s chest a la Superman.
- There are two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michelangelo figures. One is based off Mike Mitchell‘s “Lil’ Mikey” drawing. The other is based off the Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird comics.
- The Eastman/Laird 1/6th scale Michelangelo figure comes with expected accessories like his nunchucks but also accessories that only die-hard, super-fans of the comics will appreciate such as the “Little Orphan Alien” from the Michelangelo one-shot.
- Each Eastman/Laird Turtle will get a figure, and each one will probably retail around $150. The release of the Turtles will be spread out so people don’t have to drop a large sum of money all at once.
- Ishmael hopes to release a new toy every quarter or so. For example, that’s what could happen with the Turtles.
- Pre-orders for the Iron Giant bolt and Lil’ Mikey could begin around August or early September, and the 16″ Iron Giant might be this year as well. The 1/6th scale Eastman/Laird figures will probably begin pre-orders in 2015.
- Wednesday night (aka “Preview Night”) will be “Batman Night”, so Mondo’s booth #835 will be selling Batman: The Animated Series 7-Inch records featuring five different sleeves (this isn’t new information, but if you weren’t aware of it, click here for more).
- They’re planning to show off the Iron Giant 16″ figure, and each day he’ll be in a different pose.
- They will have Disneyland-inspired Iron Giant pins such as an “S” pin like the one he wears on his chest. There will be other pins as well.
- They’ll be handing out Iron Giant masks in the hopes that a lot of people around the Con will be walking around wearing the Iron Giant’s face.
- Except for Batman and one other thing, all the posters will be for things they’ve never done before including their first and second video game posters.
- Fantastic Fest attendees with VIP badges can attend MondoCon for free.
- They’re going for a SXSW-type environment but targeted more specifically towards movie and pop-culture fans.
- There won’t really be toy vendors or anything like that. It will be more of a curatorial experience based on Mondo’s appreciation for particular artists.
- There’s the possibility of bringing in a screen-printing machine so people can see how the posters are made.
- The plan is to make the convention a full-time thing where you can stay all day and participate as opposed something where you walk around, leave, and go home.
- The last or next-to-last round of artist announcements will come shortly after Comic-Con.
Here’s the full interview:
JUSTIN ISHMAEL: Oh, man. It’s alright. Are you going to Comic-Con?
I am indeed.
ISHMAEL: Oh, cool. I’m excited. No matter what I say, please come to the booth and check out what we’re doing. I think you’ll be impressed.
I usually am every time I swing by.
ISHMAEL: This year, I’m obviously talking about toys and stuff. I don’t want it to be like, “Oh, yeah. Mondo’s totally changed.” But we’ve been working on this for a while, and it’s kind of a big like, “Hey! Look what we’ve been up to.” So it will be interesting to see what people think.
I’m a huge Iron Giant fan. I’ve got two Mondo Iron Giant posters, and when I saw that you had posted the Iron Giant thing on your Instagram, I may have screamed a little bit. What was it like working with Brad Bird on that?
ISHMAEL: So we were just curious about if this was doable, and we asked Warner Bros. and said, “Hey, are these rights available?” and they said yes. And then we started talking about what we wanted to do with the property. So first we decided on bolt and then we decided on doing an Iron Giant toy. Because they had done stuff in the 90s, and it’s really cool for what it is. It had a style to it. It was movie accurate. But we wanted to be as movie accurate as possible. So we went to him and said, “Do you have anything to help us make this as accurate as possible?” Any design sheets or whatever. And he was like, “Oh, we have the design file we used for the movie that we made the Iron Giant from, so you can just use the actual file.” It was like, “Whoa. Okay.” So that’s kind of the only reference you need. Obviously, it’s not like you take the files and just press “Print” and the toy came out. But we used those and engineered it to—I don’t know the exact count—but I know there are over 30 points of articulation.
ISHAMEL: Yeah, so he can get really crazy. In the pictures, take note of the hands because the fingers, each knuckle, is articulated. So in one he has his hands on his hips like in his “Superman pose” and in another one he’s putting his hand up like he’s blocking something and the hand is open. What’s cool is that in the animated movie, the Iron Giant emoted a lot. He was happy, he was sad, there were a lot of things. So I’m hoping we can still get a lot of those emotions across with the toy. Because it comes with a little Hogarth, so it will be able to sit in his hand on his shoulder. Whatever you want to do with him. It’s been super exciting and getting those files, it’s no question that it’s 100% fully accurate. It’s kind of hard to mess it up, you know?
ISHMAEL: No, it’s all going to come with it. Iron Giant is going to be about 16″ tall. It’s going to come with—oh, man. The most fun part is it’s going to come with the seafood sign, and you’ll be able to pull the “S” off the seafood sign and put it on the chest just like he did in the movie. It will magnetically go on to the chest. He will have the “dog hand.” We’re calling it the dog hand. It’s when he’s blown up his hand is walking around. The hand you can pose and fool around with it and stuff. Another cool thing is we’re going to have switch-out head and switch-out right arm. So the switch-out head with be red eyes and teeth like the really angry Iron Giant, and he’ll have the gun that his arm turns into and it will have a green light and stuff. So yeah, there’s going to be a lot of things you can do with it so it’s not just a figure standing there. He’s going to come with a girder and some other just general trash, junkyard items. We were really trying what we would want and prepare to deal with what was most important. It was hard, but I think we came down with a good inkling of stuff from the movie.
See, before you mentioned any of this, this was already a “Shut up and take my money”-thing. What is the price point on this and how limited will it be?
ISHMAEL: We’re still working on a price point. It’s definitely probably in the $200-and-up range. It’s going to be a deluxe figure. It will have light-up eyes and all that stuff too on both heads. The availability will not be as crazy as our posters. It’s going to be that we’re going to put it up for pre-order and take orders. If 500 people want this, 500 people are going to get it. If 10,000 people want it, 10,000 people can get it. I don’t think we’re going to be as hard because toys take forever to do and develop and a lot of work goes into them. It’s a lot harder to do and make worthwhile than a poster.
So at Comic-Con, what’s going to be really fun is we’re going to display this thing, but we also made masks of the Iron Giant face, and we’re going to be handing those out, so we hope a lot of people will be walking around with Iron Giant masks on. I’m really a big fan of Disneyland, specifically pin trading, so we did a bunch of pins this year. Like the Iron Giant has a couple. He has a whole pin and there’s going to be an “S” pin, and there’s going to be some other pins down the road. We’re going to try and have a lot of Iron Giant stuff.
When you say “other pins down the road,” do you mean over the site or over the course of Comic-Con?
ISHMAEL: We’ll have other pins at Comic-Con as well. We’ll have a Hitchcock pin. I don’t want to spoil too much. We’re going to have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuff. You remember in the 90s with the ice-cream with the Turtle head that would break off and have gumballs in the thing? We’ll have pins of that ice cream. Those will be at the booth. We’re trying to have a good sampling of all the stuff we do there this year.
If anything is left, will that then be sold on the site?
ISHMAEL: Totally. If anything is left over, we’re not going to throw it away. We’ll definitely have it on the site.
ISHMAEL: This is an important event for me. There have been a lot of people who have taken chances on us. Obviously, Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon and a lot of people because we had never done toys before. So it wasn’t like you could walk in somewhere and go, “Oh, yeah. We do posters all the time. Give us toys,” as if that were the same thing, which it’s not at all. So there were a lot of people that were like, “Oh, cool. We respect what you’re doing, but have you ever done toys?” And we’re like, “Um, no…” and they’d go, “Well then we’re not comfortable giving you a toy license.” So this is like a proving ground if these are going to be up to snuff for people, because we have a lot of ideas. We have a lot of stuff we want to do outside of this. We have no shortage of ideas for other projects, but it’s like, “When do we want to do it? How do we make it happen? How do we do it the right way?” So several people were like, “Well, you know, we’ll take a look at Comic-Con, and we’ll see what it looks like.” Like we have [Michelangelo], we have Iron Giant both, and they look great. And the other stuff I’ve seen with super, super-detailed painted 16″ Iron Giant. It looks amazing. It weirdly looks like a fashion shoot almost. It’s like his back, so it’s like, “Hey! I’m back! It’s the Iron Giant! Remember me?” Because he’s posing with his hands on his hips. It’s on a white backdrop. I can’t wait for you to see him. I think you’ll really like him.
So we’re hoping to have a show-off thing every day where—and this is if we can get it and make it work because this is still the prototype. It’s fragile and things like that. But we’re thinking one day you’ll see the Iron Giant there waving at you like, “Hey, I’m here!” And then the second day you’ll see Hogarth in his hand, and it’s “Oh, hey! Cool!” And then the third day it’s like the war-version. And so it, “Oh, cool. You can do the war-version thing.” And then the fourth day he’s got the “S” on his chest; he’s doing the Superman pose.” So just to kind of show all the kind of stuff he can do instead of having him just stand prone in one position the entire time. So that’s the hope: to really show off what he can do.
With what you’re planning for Comic-Con, will you start your booth on Wednesday night or are you starting on Thursday?
ISHMAEL: We are going to start on Wednesday night. Wednesday night will be Batman night because it’s “Batman Day” officially. We announced the five 7″ [albums] earlier this week, and we’re also going to have four posters on sale in addition to that of Batman-related stuff. We’re going to announce something else at the same time. It’s a lot of stuff, moving pieces. I don’t want to be like, “This is happening!” and then like—
I totally get it. Circling back to the toys, how often would you like to release them, ideally?
ISHMAEL: Whenever it makes sense. We don’t want to start releasing toys just because we’re making toys. Like, “Oh, we’re going to make three action figures in this style from this property just because we can,” you know? I think we’re going to take a slower pace to it where we’re really, really, really going to focus on one thing rather than solve everything around it. Then we’d just kind of put it out there.
I would say at least four times a year would be nice, at least for me. Like every quarter there’s something. I think what will actually happen is that the stuff we have now we could spread it out to where we have it’s just instantly turning it out. For instance, like the Turtles, there’s four turtles. And I’m hoping we don’t just release like a Michelangelo and no one cares about the other three. I think that would work out for all of us in terms of like spreading them out.
ISHMAEL: No, we’ll probably spread them out. I don’t know if it will be, “Every four months we’ll release a turtle!”, but since they’re going to be kind of pricier, I think it would be hard for a lot of people. Like let’s say they’re $150 for each one. I don’t know a lot of people who could drop $600 on one thing. I wouldn’t want to do that to people like, “Make or break! You have to do it now or never!” We want to give people time to.
So it’s not like going to be a Sideshow Collectibles thing where people might need an installment plan.
ISHMAEL: No, like I appreciate that thing, but whenever I do it—Like I did it recently with like, “Oh, cool. I’m going to buy the Hot Toys Batman and Robin 1966 set.” And I did and then I hit some weird thing so later it charged me six months later, and I was like, “Oh, I thought I paid for this. Oh, darn it.” So I think it’s going to be more like when we release it, you buy it and then like, how we do posters, we let you know it’s going to be “X” amount of time before this ships out because it takes time to produce or whatever the case is. So we’ll be in communication about what’s going on and when they’re coming out, but I’m hoping this stuff is going to received well so we’ll have it available for a lot of different people, so there’s not going to be a lot of cases of, “Oh, I didn’t get this thing,” or whatever.
The name of the game for me is not to have the coolest, smallest edition. The main goal for me is to—We got into posters. We kind of just do our things, and people started being into posters. Then we started doing our own art, and people took note of that. And then we did studio stuff, and then that became fun. So I’m hoping we can do the same sort of thing where we can start doing toys, and start working with new release stuff, and have the same kind of spirit with toys. Even like, eventually, I would like to look a decade down the road, and not from a, “Oh, I want to blow the company into a huge giant thing.” I would love to do movies that made sense, like historic blockbuster movies. Like the toys that are in Target? I would love to do toys in Target that were good. Toys that were solid.
That would be nice.
ISHAMEL Honestly, man, that’s my endgame. The frustration for me comes when I go to buy toys at Target, and it’s like $15 for a 3-and-3/4-inches figure or something that’s like super, hyper-posable. Like they have joints in the feet, and it’s why do you need so much posability in a 3-and-3/4 figure. Not to criticize what they’re doing, but I’m just at an age where I’m looking for something different. And it not that I need super-expensive toys. I just want a toy that is good and has a lot of playability to it, and you can do stuff with, and it’s not going to fall down when you try to stand it up. That’s kind of what I’m looking for. Essentially doing what MacFarlane [Toys] did for toys at one point. Like that kind of level of change, but the change is for everything to have the super-quality we put out on that level. It would make other people be like, “Oh, we have to step up our game.” And hopefully push everyone to do quality stuff. But look at me talking about that stuff when we haven’t put out a toy yet. [laughs] So the kind of goals that we have we want everything to be super, super quality, and start with a small group of stuff and work out if that makes sense.
ISHMAEL: Well, the Fantastic Fest VIP people already get into MondoCon. That’s something that’s for sure. Like if you have a VIP badge that will get you in. That’s on a very surface level. But we’re going to, at least in my mind, it’s going to be a SXSW environment but for certain kinds of people. They’re all movie fans; they’re all pop culture guys. We’re really working on making it to where there’s a lot of stuff to do, and obviously that means people at a booth, but we’re mostly bringing in artists. I was at convention last weekend in Austin, and there were a lot of guys who were like—and they were from other cities in Texas—they were like, “Oh, I’m driving in from Houston to meet Laurent Durieux,” or, “I’m excited about Mike Mignola,” or, “Arik Roper, I’m so excited.” So it’s going to be that kind of thing we’re you’re not walking through a convention, and there’s tables of Diamond merchandise or Doctor Who stuff. It’s not going to be a lot of toy vendors and that type of thing. It’s going to be, “Oh, cool. My favorite artist is there.” That type of thing. Like, “Oh, cool. My favorite record label is going to be here.” It’s almost like an expansion of the things we’re super into; what Mondo does just more of that. Kind of like a curatorial where we like the artist. We like Basil Gogos. We’ve never worked with him before, and always wanted to. Let’s fly him in and hope other people like him too. He done a lot of Universal Monster stuff, so there’s kind of a connection there.
But as recently as yesterday we were looking into doing stuff like bringing in a screen-printing machine, and having a live printing machine at the convention. So if you like the posters, it opens your eyes like when I realized how they were made. The appreciation goes up so much more where you can see the different colors and the whole process and whatnot. That’s one example of stuff we’re trying to do on the convention floor and after hours that makes it a full-time weekend thing rather than you come in, and you walk around, and you leave, and you go home. We want it to be where you could stay here all day and participate.
When will we get the next round of announcements in regards to artists who will be attending?
ISHMAEL: I think we’re probably going to do a last round or if not a last round, a next-to-last round shortly after Comic-Con. We’ve been all eyes on San Diego, so after we come back and unload everything, we’ll probably make an announcement. Hopefully, we’ll also have panel announcements. We’ll have screening announcements. And the rest of the people who are coming is exciting. There will also be surprises at the convention that are unannounced. All kinds of stuff. It’s still coming together, but really well. I’m really excited for it. But beginning to mid-August is what we’re thinking about making our announcements.
One of the cooler things I heard about your recent Disney show was that there was a higher female attendance, and you also had a couple female artists. Do you have plans for more female artists to join the Mondo ranks or at least attend MondoCon.
ISHMAEL: Totally. Anne Benjamin, we reached out to her, and I think she’s going to be attending. That’s definitely something we’ve been focused on lately: expanding the artist pool, and finding new people to work with. Not just female, but just new people and new stuff.
ISHMAEL: Kind of. Batman night is just because it’s an actual fan thing that a lot of people are doing, so we were like, “Oh, cool.” We were doing the 7″, so figured we’d do them there, so it made sense. So everything else, there will definitely be some themes throughout the convention, and I think at least two of those days could possibly be called a “day”, but the rest of them are a myriad of different things we’re releasing. I’m actually super-excited this year because I think if I’m not mistaken, everything except for Batman and one other thing, we’ve never done a poster for it before. It’s like a brand new thing, and one other video game thing too. We’ll have our 1st and 2nd video game posters there. That’s really exciting for us too. I think people will really enjoy what we’ve worked on. We’re doing some stuff for anime. There’s some summer movies coming out that we’re doing some stuff for. I think people will be happy, hopefully.
Is there a license you never thought you would be able to get, and then you did?
ISHMAEL: I mean Star Wars was one of the big ones we got, for sure, but that was years ago. I think the Iron Giant toy. The other really crazy one was the Turtles because just growing up that was such a major deal. Like in front of me right now I have Playmates Turtles from the 90s. I have the new series Turtles. I have the NECA Turtles. I have the ones Dark House put out. I have a canister of Ooze on my desk.
So hopefully we’re doing something that people will really, really enjoy. I just know from first hand how crazy and excited I was to see when NECA put out there 5″ Turtles a few years back. Those were some of my favorite figures of all time. It’s something we’re very particular about with the Turtles stuff. We didn’t want to do what they had done and just blow it up. Just like doing the same design like a 10″ figure. We’re going back from scratch from our fan perspective. Like Eastman and Laird had totally different styles, so we’re going more towards issue #4 and stuff from like the original series. So we’re being super-nerdy about it. When we’re doing approvals for a lot of things, we’re referencing panels from issues. It’s not like “Oh, Nickelodeon doesn’t know about.” It’s really something no one should know about. [laughs] Like you shouldn’t be filling your mind with this junk, but it’s really specific weapons we’re going to add in, and really specific character stuff that happened to them.
We were talking about The Iron Giant accessories, and the Turtles accessories are going to be way crazier. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but there was a Michelangelo one-shot with Christmas, and the hot toy that everyone wanted was called “Little Orphan Alien”, and we made a Little Orphan Alien for him to have and hold as an accessory for his figure. And a lot of people may have no idea why that’s there, but for the people who never thought they’d see that, it’s for those people. We’ll still have the nunchuks; we’ll still have all that stuff. But we’re really going to go deep for the super-fans too.
ISHMAEL: No, it’s crazy. Fans come up to me a lot now. Like this Wednesday I was at the comic book store, and we’d just put out that link for the record label looking for someone for that record label position. And so he was like, “Hey, you’re Justin, right?” And I said yeah, and he said, “Oh, cool. I’ll be right back.” And he ran out to his car, and he brought back a resume. He was like, “Oh, I was hoping I’d run into you! Here it is.” It was so nuts.
He was living at the comic book store, waiting for you.
ISHMAEL: Yeah, it was crazy. It was a good resume. It was very well done. It looked like a record. So it’s just amazing that people are responding to what we’re doing. I’ve been a huge nerd about Comic-Con because every year when you go people expect it’s going to be fun. Like when you talk about our booth, it’s hopefully exciting for the stuff we’re bringing out and new things.
So even today, there are only seven people who know, including you guys, that we’re actually doing toys at all. I had actually spoiled it so many times online. I have messed up, but no one’s noticed, so that’s the thing. No one seems to have any idea that we’re capable of doing toys. Like I put the Iron Giant image up, and a lot of people were like, “Cool record album cover,” or “This is a weird poster, but cool.” And it’s like, “No. This is a 3D image.” And we tried to make it so it wouldn’t like a poster. We had so many different versions, and nothing we did made it look like a toy. It was like, “Oh, god. How do we do it?” So we just put it out that some people are going to guess right, other people are going to guess wrong. But just being around the office we’ll have stuff in the background. And we had to be careful for a long time about taking pictures in the warehouse because we might have a poster in the background that we haven’t released yet, and people would be like, “Oh, wow! They’re releasing this Tyler Stout thing. I saw it in the background here!” or whatever. So there are these pictures out there where you can see the toys in the background, and people stopped looking around because there are toys in most of our pictures anyway. But like the Turtles figures are in the background really clearly, and Iron Giant stuff is in the background, and it’s pretty clear. So that was funny to have this, “Oh, no! People are going to notice!” and no one put the pieces together. So I’m hoping it’s not a sign of like, “Oh, we don’t really care.” It’s more like we really didn’t know, and want it to be a total surprise at Comic-Con. So it will be really fun to see what the reaction is.
What’s your process for determining when or where these things will be shown or released?
ISHMAEL: This is not typical. We don’t really want to show stuff before it’s done too much, but since this is our first ever toys, we wanted to do it in person and have it as much there at Comic-Con for people to see for themselves. So there’s only so much you can see from a picture, but if you can see it and walk around it and look at it from all angles and make a decision for yourself. I don’t want it to be based on height or what I say or past reputation. I want you to see it, and make the decision for yourself. And I think if I went and saw this Iron Giant figure, I would be very excited. Basically, I want them to have the feeling we had when we saw in the box the Turtles figure for the first time, and being like “No way. No way.” Like when you see it for the first time, that’s the reaction that people who love this poster or love that movie can get that exact same kind of rush for this thing. And actually know you can get it. And if you know about it, we’re not going to do some tricky thing where we drop it all of sudden. This Comic-Con thing is mainly just a “Hey, people at the convention. Come and take a look.” This is our first foray into this world, and when we release the Iron Giant we’re going to give specific attention and dedicated pictures, and probably a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff to show people how we worked on it. It will be more individualized from here on out.
But this first one is throwing it all at you, and you can see behind the curtain of everything we are releasing and working on at the time just to give you an idea of all the stuff coming up. I think that was one thing we didn’t want to do with posters is become like, “Hey, we’re just a poster company. Mondo is just the poster guys.” I wanted us to be, “We’re the cool shit company.” We put out cool stuff.
Do you know a time frame of when you’re planning to let people pre-order the toys?
ISHMAEL: We’re going to do the Iron Giant bolt and Lil’ Mikey hopefully in August or early September. Honestly, we would like to have the first sixth-scale turtle pre-ordering towards the end of the year, and those would be more likely to go in 2015. But probably the Iron Giant 16″ figure would be this year as well.