Custom Toys and Action Figures by Blayne

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Toy Documentaries

One of the magical things about 80′s toy catalogues for me was seeing a glimpse of what was out there – a kind of behind the scenes look at what might (or might not) be coming to a store near you. With the internet and streaming video today, fans aren't limited to booklets and magazines to learn more about the artists and creators behind these products.

Seeing interviews with fellow fans and the designers of beloved toy lines really reminds me of that same magic I felt as a kid. For many people, childhood toys connected you to a universe beyond yourself. As an adult (and one who customizes/sculpts), learning more about what went into the creation of those toys captures some of that magic again. :)

My favourite quote from a toy documentary thus far comes from "Princely Toys", an interesting 1970s BBC documentary about a collection of clockwork automata:

"Happily the real does not forbid existence to the unreal. These individuals are fragments of the imagination, and reflected the age to which they were born."

Toys, as much as any other form of culture, are reflections of a particular era. The influence of these products I believe have a greater, lasting influence on those that consume these items. Learning about that creation process is fascinating to me, so I'm always interested by toy documentaries. It's unfortunate that so many fly under the radar. Below is a listing (full length when available) of the various toy documentaries I've found online.

"The Secret Story of Toys"

The Secret Story of TOYS from Anthony Ladesich on Vimeo.

This is my favorite toy documentary so far. While it's fairly short, it features some of the artists responsible for NECA's Sci-Fi movie sculpts discussing their craft. I would love to see a full length documentary on the topic one day.

For more information about the artists and processes used by the NECA artists, had an article with 150+ pictures from their NECA Studios tour.

"Paul Harding: Wax Master"


Interviews with sculptor Paul Harding.

"Princely Toys" [via

An interesting documentary from 1970s BBC, complete with radiophonic workshop-era analog synthesizer and often poetic musings about the subject of clockwork toys and automata.

"Toy Masters"

This is a documentary about the genesis of Mattel's "He-Man" franchise. However, it's YouTube channel is blank, and it's difficult to track down what happened to the full documentary, which apparently saw release in 2012. While researching, I came across a posting at asking the same questions. 

I did come across an interview with the documentary creators linked from their Twitter account that is worth reading over. Apparently the documentary is finished, but still pending release.

Another documentary (a pair of videos with a few interviews) is available on YouTube called "The Secret Origins of He-Man and The Masters of the Universe". I'm uncertain if this is/was connected to "Toy Masters", but it covers a similar subject matter - interviews with Mattel employees about the creation of their 1980s toyline.

"The Secret Origins of He-Man and The Masters of the Universe"

Part 1:

Part 2:

"Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys"

Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys SNEAK PEEK TEASER FOOTAGE! from Plastic Galaxy on Vimeo.

I first came across this preview via Plastic Galaxy looks to be an amazing mix of curated interviews with fans and creators about the creation and phenomenon of Star Wars toys in the late 1970s and 1980s.


Journeying further back from the 1980s, there's an interesting documentary called "Toyland" which interviews many of the (now elderly) designers of the Slinky, Twister, Operation, etc, while covering the modern process of pitching new games/toys to toy companies.

* * * 

I'm continuing to search for more behind the scenes/making of documentaries related to toy design and production, and will update this post as I find them.

Continued Reading:

More information and photos of various toy prototypes can be viewed at "Behind the Toys", such as this neat forum post about the various 1990s Kenner/Galoob 'Aliens' figures.

Another resource for photograph of Kenner-era Star Wars wax sculpts and prototypes is The Star Wars Archive Database (source of the Hoth Leia photo used earlier in this post).

There's also an excellent posting found here that indexes a variety of articles and tutorials on toy sculpting and prototyping.