There is little doubt that reading the text attached to our Sideshow coverage is an afterthought and most of you didn't even notice at first that there was anything in this section other than these pictures of SSC's amazing figures, but what follows is just as cool as the images. Rebelscum had the opportunity to speak with Tom Gilliland. Not only does this interview tell you a bit more about him, it’s got a few little cool tidbits about Wookiees, Droids, and Jar Jar Binks.
You come from a film background, with credited work on Men In Black, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and Devil's Advocate to name a few. What got you interested in working in the film industry?
It was a top rated opportunity to paint for a living, which was my dream at that point. Painting has always been my strongest medium and at that time film F/x was the final frontier in regards to cool subjects, and really challenging techniques. I had been painting models and prototypes for collectibles companies, but at that time there was not enough business going on to support a fulltime career, the film F/x business was however still in full swing. The fact that I could ‘have my cake and eat it too’ was in the end the draw that got me going in films.
In what ways has that experience translated to what you do at Sideshow Collectibles?
Well they are really different career paths, but the common thread is obviously that most of Sideshow’s products are derived from films. Most of the Art dept staff has some film experience and in a few cases has worked on films that we are replicating things from. So there is a very natural and comfortable feeling about digesting what’s in a film and breaking down a subject for product. Having experienced projects on the film making side of things, we have a better understanding of what went into a film characters original design or execution and therefore have a good foundation for creating the products we make.
What, if any, is the one thing from any of the Star Wars films that stands out as the most memorable?
Well as a kid I was always more into western and war movies. The characters were usually more interesting or hard bitten than in Sci-fi films and that’s what always appealed to me. When I first saw Star Wars [after having waited in line with everyone else to date myself] I was all hyped up. Not only was this not a squeaky-clean outer space flick but also, it was inhabited by gritty hard-bitten bad-Asses, most notably, Han Solo. When he drew down on Greedo, blasting him from under the cantina table halfway through a conversation, I thought, this is awesome! This guy means business! He didn’t even sit up to waste this guy! To this day I still know that Han pulled the trigger first!
We now know that the Order Of The Jedi line consists of Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Kit Fisto and Mace Windu. How were these characters/ incarnations decided?
One of our main objectives in handling the Star Wars universe was to bring a sense of celebration to the unique orders, clans, etc that inhabit the universe. It’s also a huge sprawling universe with hundreds of characters. It was felt that one great way to hold collectors interests would be to segment the line into subcategories and then play those for all they were worth. In the end we could turn one massive collection into several smaller and more easily digestible ones.
The Order of the Jedi was a great place to start as we had solid characters to choose from, really fun accessories and some costuming that was both challenging and fun. The woven toothy fabrics of the costuming made for some great projects.
The individual choices seemed to make themselves as we were developing everything right in the midst of the third films release. Thus Anakin, Obi-wan and Mace were all obvious. Luke felt like a great place to start so that there felt like some scope to the line, Kit brought some more interesting landscape to the idea and any others went towards rounding out the Jedi order for completeness.
Was Kit Fisto a risk? Was this figure meant to test the waters to see if collectors would be as interested in support characters as they are in main characters?
Well there was some concern as he was the first secondary character we put to the test, but to be honest we got nearly as solid a response to him as any of the other main line characters we introduced. I think that in the end if you stand behind the choices you make and deliver a quality product, the fans see that sincerity and they step forward and support the product. We thought Kit to be an interesting and underused film character and we developed him with the same care we gave all the rest. He appears to have found a strong home within the order of the Jedi line.
Who was the most difficult to design?
I think the development team would agree that it’s not the individual characters that are so tough it’s the line as a whole that presents the challenge. There is so much expectation that you have to try to pull off as many features as possible to not only please the fans once but every time. We have worked hard to give each project its own highlight and to maintain a standard that will continue to please fans for years to come.
That said, so far I would place the biggest challenge in re-creating Anakin’s robotic arm. This is the kind of detail that would usually be handled as a single part slug type accessory. The one on our figure is a masterpiece of model building and tooling that delivers a really crisp, intricate and uncompromised accessory.
There has been talk of altering the female body for characters like Aayla Secura and Slave Leia. In the past you used the standard body on the Nova figure, what would make you reconsider doing so again on these figures?
A hotly debated internal question. At the end of the day, folks are torn between the articulation wanted for saber wielding Jedi like Aayla and a more anatomical but fixed realistic look. Great anatomy can be achieved but it removes most of the articulated aspects unless considerable expense is incurred. Usually in the end the expense outweighs the benefits with the average collector. We continue to explore better possibilities, but feel that the base body augmented with great costuming, portrait etc is still a very viable baseline to operate from while we continue to feel our way through this area.
Has there been any additional development in the design of characters such as Chewbacca or C-3PO?
Droids and robots are high on our list, but poor chewie is a bit out in the cold at the moment. We would love to find a great way to represent this icon, but giving him the stuffed animal look would hardly dignify his stature in the SW universe. Until we can get really clever Han will have to go ‘solo’.
With the Jedi figures, we've seen characters in their most iconic incarnations. What factors came into play in deciding what version of Han to do first?
Well the 1/4 scale line really influences it most. We had proceeded down that path by reproducing all the classic renditions of the character, so with the 1/6th scale stuff we looked to a more offbeat note to start with. The Bespin version felt like a good middle position to start with. Now folks will have the principal ANH version to look forward to rather than look back on as we cover all the incarnations of this most popular hero.
Personally speaking, how many figures would you hope to see SSC produce in the Star Wars line?
I’d like to see the span of the universe really well covered. With sub sects to the line like the Military figures we can potentially be making a large number. There are also a good number of characters that have not been done yet or costume versions still left unseen. All these bases and the standards are what we are looking to cover over the next few years.
You'd have to be blind not to notice that the U.S. Infantry Officer: Army Of The Potomac figure from the Brotherhood Of Arms line looks a little bit like someone… Can we expect to see any familiar SSC faces in the Military Of Star Wars line? (…Or tattooed SSC freaks who work in the press? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink)
Sometimes you have to be a bit self-indulgent. Yes a few of us plan to make an appearance in the ranks, but we are also dedicated to giving some of the familiar if not famous film faces their shot as well. As for tattooed freaks, that covers plenty of the staff as well.
What can we expect as far as Clone designs and production numbers in the M.o.S.W. line?
Hard to say yet, but we are exploring the idea of more open editions for some of the more staple troops. We are sensitive to the ‘Regiment’ builders out there. Our goal with the militaries is to handle them in a similar fashion to our real world military lines. We approached the concept with authenticity in mind as well as an eye for any military details we could dig up from role playing books to novels to allow us to really blow out the possibilities. Expect to see NCO and officers represented along side the rank and file ‘grunts’. The line, in the end will probably play both sides of our marketing equation with some open opportunities and other more special figures treated as limited editions.
Are there any characters you can safely are not currently being considered for any of the lines?
Jar Jar binks
In the case of the Skiff Guard and Jabba's guards characters (including Lando), can we expect to see them with slightly altered versions of the blaster that came with the exclusive version of Luke?
In the event that we explore these characters we would have to do something in order to not break our own exclusive rule, which is no repeats. Its tough to be able to choose a good item for an exclusive that won’t come back to haunt you in later products. So bottom line yes we would do something to protect the original part
Sith eyes. When will we see them?
Keep your eyes and ears at the ready…
What can you say about any future plans for Expanded Universe characters?
Well there are plans to cover them, quite a few in fact. I think one of the most interesting elements of the SW universe is the fact that the design base for subjects extends well beyond what the films presented. These characters also allow for some additional freedom in creating or reproducing the designs so that’s an exciting angle for us as well.
Hypothetically, if SSC were to produce accessory sets for the 1/6 scale line, what would you consider to include?
Well, we have plenty of theories, but some feedback from the collectors is really going to help in choosing the direction. Ultimately we wish to explore this with some new ideas as well as exercising some caution so that we do not undercut our full figure offerings. I think the fans will really dig some of the notions we have for this idea.
When I was visiting in October the 12" SW line hadn't made it to packaging designs yet. What can we expect to see? Will the boxes be comparable to other SSC packages?
If you haven’t checked out our Production Blog yet, please do so. We have recently unveiled the Star Wars packaging – which is fairly inventive in its design, and really showcases the figures and accessories nicely.
When it comes time for an Endor version of Luke, can we assume that the figure itself will be altered, or only the accessories?
This is a tough one. I suspect we would be making some fundamental changes to differentiate the release from the Jedi version of Luke. Still really early to give away the plans, but we would either alter much of it in order to justify it’s being a new release or consider it for a special occasion Limited edition version.
What one figure would you like to put into this line more than any other?
A rancor with a Sith Witch rider! Not likely, but would be really, really nice! ;)