Introduce yourself and tell us about your role with Four Horsemen Studios.
Howdy all! So as you may or may not know (guess it depends on the article title!), my name is Chris Gawrych! My current role with Four Horsemen Studios is...... a whole lot of everything! For many years, I have served in a freelance capacity as their factory liaison and Production Manager, where I oversaw everything from the beginning stages of figure engineering and mold tooling, all the way to the end product of quality control and pack-out. As of January of last year, 2020, I proudly came on in a full-time capacity. Now, in addition to the development, tooling, and production responsibilities, I have my hands in a great many more areas! I am manning the customer service emails, and have already had some fantastic interactions with a number of fans! I am taking on direct responsibility for retailer interactions and purchase orders to ensure everyone can get what they need, as well as having direct control over placing our orders with the factory and keeping our numbers solidly squared away. Recently I have begun handling the webstore along with Jeremy, and I am the goofball behind some of the newsletters hitting your mailboxes. I was a driving force in our studio move to the bigger offices downstairs during this unfortunate down time - but fortunately it was the ideal time to do this, and we couldn't be happier!
You’ve actually worked in the toy industry for years. Tell us a bit about your past jobs elsewhere.
So yea, I have definitely been around the block in the toy biz, and have had my share of highs and lows. My first ANYTHING was doing custom figures for good old ToyFair magazine with my muttonchop'd man of mystery, Zach Oat. I must have created well over a dozen figures for their WISH LIST section, and here's a little secret - everything was done from scratch! There was a customizer's corner, so I wanted to make my figures the real deal, plus it helped me to get better and faster with sculpting! My VERY first experience in the industry was with a small company sculpting some indie figures that never saw the light of day. My first officially produced piece was ..... Blinky! Yea, who is Blinky, right? LOL well he is the radiated squirrel with the copious amount of eyeballs from the Simpsons Movie, produced by McFarlane Toys. It was also my last with them. Thankfully, after much begging and pleading, Kyle Windrix and Randy Falk of NECA fame (former McFarlaners) gave me a shot at the big leagues, and the very first piece I did with them was Scut Farkus, the yellow-eyed bully from the beloved A Christmas Story! It was, and still is, one of my favorite pieces, and even the actor Zack Ward was a big fan (and yes, I have gotten to meet and hang with him several times, and he is just a SUPER nice guy!)
Then, as luck would have it, a year into my career, I was somehow able to convince my bosses to let me go to China and see what goes on with production. This would prove to be the most fortuitous event in my life, as I spent the next 9 years in a dual role, sculpting toys and working with the factories while home, and then spending weeks at a time in China, visiting our stable of factories daily, to ensure tooling and production went as smoothly as possible. Needless to say, I played a key role for a decade at NECA, handling arguably one of the most important positions in the company. A year or so into this, I began assisting the Four Horsemen by looking in on their Seventh Kingdom: The Queen's Counsel series, which was already in production. But after that, I was all hands on deck starting with the Scarabus series, one of my favorite designs to date. You can also see quite a change in production quality starting with this line as well. Over the last few years, I have also begun building up my personal consulting company, D13 Toys, by helping smaller companies connect with quality and reliable factories in order to produce their independent lines. Current examples would be ZICA Toys (Sectaurs and Comic Book Heroes), Fresh Monkey Fiction (Eagle Force and Amazing Heroes), Lone Coconut (Plunderlings), Amazo Toys (Space Force), TriAction (Boglins), and a number of upcoming projects like Tecco Toys (Age of Mecha).
In addition to those gigs, you’ve also recently started working on your own toys. Tell us about those.
As for my own toy lines, this is something I am doing for fun on the side. The Space Force line is a collaborative effort, but it basically falls under me (I'm confused too, don't worry!) And an extension of that successful Kickstarter launch is the American Presidents line, which hits different demographics, similar to Space Force. You get this crazy fun variety of heads and a body, all at a dang good price point. It's something for historians, customizers, and collectors alike. Lots of interchangeability. And like they say, the 2 things you should never discuss are politics and religion....... so of course my next project will be something I have been thinking about and working on for the last 12 years - BIBLICAL ADVENTURES! Yes, realistic 6" highly articulated action figures with soft goods robes, based on characters from the Bible. Hopefully it resonates well with people around the world.
In your role with the 4H, you get to visit the factories in China where these toys are produced. Talk a bit about those experiences.
With my role at Four Horsemen, part of my duties involve travel to China for factory visits, to play with all the upcoming toys, bottomless pots of various teas, foot massages, and commuting at least 1 hour to go basically anywhere. I would have 18 hour days with 3 factories, and I would also have days of just swimming in the hotel pool or hiking the mountain in town. I loved drowning myself in fine cut reviews, to ensure all the details are in place and all the articulation was functional, before they went off to get tooled in steel molds. I can't say enough about Mr. Wong, the factory owner, and my faithful companions Eddie (and his team), and Calvin (with his team), holding it down in the motherland. They continuously blow our minds with just how much amazing detail they can replicate from our paint masters. Without all of them, I don't think I could find another factory that can handle our high level of quality.
One thing I would always have to remind myself and others, is that these great people are working on a product they generally know nothing about, and 95% of the people at the factory do not speak English. Sometimes frustrations would arise, and instead of just going off the handle as a first response, I take time to think about WHY we are having difficulties, or why instructions were misinterpreted? I always feel we shouldn't assume people from another country will fully understand all instructions given to them, but rather, it should be viewed as a team effort, giving them appreciation for working as hard as they do, and providing them with as much information and direction as possible. And this sincerity and respect towards them has been given back tenfold so many times. (life lesson!)
Where I would take around 5 trips a year, 3 weeks per trip in the past, these days I may only need to go once or twice a year. Unfortunately, with the current COVID crisis, that makes it no times a year. But I am very lucky in that I work with very competent and independent factories that have been handling our product for so long, that they know exactly what we expect for the final outcome. Nothing beats being there in person to use simple gestures and drawings to get across a point that sometimes may take several emails, but with all our modern technologies, there are lots of conveniences available to us.
I certainly do miss spending time in China though. I have developed so many relationships over the years and have made so many good friends, either locals or visiting foreigners who are there for the same reasons. I am beyond proud to call Kit Lau of Acid Rain and Joseph Tsang of Hot Toys two of my very good friends! I had been a guest of honor at a large hotel during Chinese New Year, gave English lessons to my friends on the hotel staffs, visited multiple temples at various regions, helped prepare dinner at a friend's house that involved a chicken that started off alive....., shocked scores of locals when I toss out some verbal Chinese at them, VIP seating at the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Festival, travelled to various cities and countries in that area of the world, with Japan of course being one of my favorite destinations, spent way too much money in Hong Kong buying way too many toys, won a nice chunk of money in Macau the first time I ever played roulette, the list goes on and on with so many memorable experiences.
What are some interesting facts about the process that fans of Mythic Legions would be surprised by?
A large majority of Mythic Legions fans would honestly be surprised by a good 60-70% of the tooling and production processes, I feel. And that's because most customers in general usually don't have any knowledge of production. Things like fine cuts, plastics materials, shrink rate, different types of packaging material, how paints are applied, etc, are all foreign concepts. Something I have been wanting to do for a long time was to show a step-by-step video (similar to the How It's Made tv series), highlighting and explaining every step of the process, so that our loyal fans can have a better idea as to why it takes as long as it does to put out a new wave with new parts. If you guys want to see something like this, just let me know!
We’ve previously posted the fun story about the “Halfnon” miscommunication. Do you have any similar fun stories?
Honestly, no story will ever beat "Halfnon". And honestly, it doesn't really surprise me that it happened! I was asking the factory for a 50/50 series run, where 50% of the figures made would be with blue glow, and the other 50% would be the green glow. I believe some of my wording was "50% of production will be in blue, 50% of production will be in green", or something similar. And when we saw that perfectly split, dual-colored skeleton of incredulous glory, we had such a fun laugh over it. And there was no disrespect involved, it was almost like what Bob Ross would call "a happy accident". It was a simple misunderstanding, and it got corrected. But yea....... I am sure a few of the diehards would do anything to get there hands on one of these hahaha
I remember you telling me another story about a custom “bird head” you made for the Gothitropolis figures. Share that story if you would!
Regarding my "bird head" custom....... now that I think about it, I may very well be the first Mythic Legions customizer! How cool is that??? So yea, one day I was thinking about what crazy bird custom I could make, and somehow the thought of Big Bird as one of the characters came about. But he couldn't be happy of course. So I just inverted the eyelids to make him look angry. I sculpted the entire head in clay, and gave him an articulated beak, plus a separation of the neck and head. I then worked out the color scheme, which if you look, you will see it is Sesame Street themed! But the best part? I had the factory make me about 8 official copies, painting up existing figures with factory paint, and making copies of the head in resin. He even comes with a set of wings of course! Take a look and let me know what you all think! I am very proud of this piece, and I kept wanting to expand more on this........... only time will tell.
Final question - which is your favorite Mythic Legions figure?
Finally, the big question, what is my favorite Mythic Legions figure? Well, this is a simple answer! It's a figure that has not been put out yet, but it will completely blow everyone away. I tell you what, being in the office every day and looking at this dragon, it is just staggering! The fun factor alone, and the size?? Oh my stars and garters! And the best part is the.......... oh, wait, what's that? I am not supposed to mention the giant deluxe dragon yet? It hasn't been announced? Oh........ um, ok can we just delete this last bit and forget I ever mentioned anything? We can't? Seriously? ................................. oh man I am in trouble now...........
(Editor's note - Chris sent me so many cool photos to use in this article that I could get them all in! Some of the extras are presented below for your enjoyment!)
Published on 04.13.21