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BIG Chief Studios – The Interview

Doctor Who Action Figures Online Exclusive

Back in 2015,  we asked Mark Andrews from Big Chief Studios Limited if he would be willing to answer a few questions for us in an exclusive interview – only for Doctor Who Action Figures Online!

Luckily our good friend agreed and now we are pleased to bring you the answers to many questions; as asked by our followers and ourselves.

Take a look at the full interview below to gain an insight into the company behind the 1:6 Scale Doctor Who Collectors Figures and learn a few exclusive secrets along the way!

The Interview

First of all Mark a big thank you for taking the time out for our Question and Answer session. As you know, Doctor Who Action Figures Online has been following your progress since the announcement that Big Chief Studios Limited would be producing a range of Doctor Who figures. How did the decision to focus on Doctor Who come about? Are you all fans of the show?

Well we had actually worked on Doctor Who, both classic and the then new series one, in previous roles for other companies, on products including ceramic cookie jars, collector edition plates and mini busts. So when it came to approaching BBC Worldwide for a license of our own back in 2011, we were already well versed with all things Who and understood the potential for collectables based on the show. At that time BBC Worldwide were seeking new licensees,  having already successfully established the toy range at market they were looking to shift their attention toward collectors and so our timing was perfect. Like most of the population we were excited that the show had returned to TV with an all-new Doctor in the form of Christopher Eccleston, and of course we had all grown up with the classic series. It is a great show as each generation of staff member has their own particular favourite Doctor.

Anthony Stonestreet asks how does the BBC go about giving you the permission to make official merchandise?

Like any business, we had to first present our ideas and concepts for the potential range we were planning and the financials along with the presentation. There then follows further discussions before an agreement is arrived at. Any licensor has to have the confidence that the potential licensee can deliver the goods based on their proposal. It can be a bit of a drawn out process at times, depending upon the property and number of categories of products required, but once the deal is in place, you can then get started with the fun part – creating great product!

Cameron Anthony Grey has noticed that some fans have given Big Chief Studios a hard time in the past for delays etc. Did you know how “passionate” fandom gets when you started up, or was it a bit of a shock?

Well, we are all fans of all things geek, to be honest, so we are well aware of how very passionate and enthusiastic fans can be. Delays are a frustrating element of the process and more often than not, unfortunately, something beyond our control. We know all too well how frustrating it can be for customers, especially when they have paid in full and are still waiting on their products to arrive. The frustrating part for us as a business is when customers hound us and seem to be under the impression that we do not mind the delays. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ask yourself would it not be in our interest to have the goods out and available to buy? After all, if we are selling a product, then we are making money. When we are forced to wait due to delays, we have no new products to sell. The annoying thing is that the world in which we all live is a consumer driven one and manufacturers like ourselves are all compounded by the same issue, namely we all get our products made in China. Dealing with overseas vendors is not the easiest, especially when they are all too aware of the required ship date and then they seemingly show very little sense of urgency to ensure that deadlines are met. We are not alone in suffering at the hands of vendors, unfortunately, with other manufacturers seeing similar if not lengthier delays. The other thing is that despite what collectors may think, there are actually very few vendors that can actually manufacture the products to the quality that we require. It is very difficult to educate these vendors as to what you actually require. Having representation over there is essential and we are very fortunate to have a great quality control team.

One of the most popular questions our followers wish to ask you Mark is which figure is next? Mary Ellen Daugherty asked if there is any chance for a Fifth Doctor?, Mark Jeffery Simmons asks about his Doctor, the 2nd incarnation, Patrick Troughton, while Marc Davis asked if there are plans for the Ninth Doctor?

Character selection is always a balancing act and is carefully considered. As fans, we ourselves might want to see certain characters, but whether that character is viable financially for the company is another matter. We have to consider the potential sales versus the cost to manufacture for each individual figure. Characters from the new series (2005 to present) easily outsell the classic characters. However, that does not mean that we will not offer any of the classic Doctors, or other characters from past series. It basically means that we have to consider all possibilities and try our very best to balance characters that we believe will be strong sellers, together with characters that may well prove less successful. That way we cover all bases. Our next figure offered for pre-order will be the Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston.

Another popular question asked by followers such as Jennifer Ings, Peter McCleary is if Big Chief Studios are planning to release other companions and monsters such as Captain Jack, Sarah Jane Smith and the Daleks and Cybermen? If there are no plans at present, is this an area you are interested in pursuing?

Captain Jack is definitely on our to-do list and fans will see him added to the ranks at some point next year. As I mentioned earlier certain classic characters have to be carefully considered before we elect to move ahead with a figure. Sarah Jane was actually considered some time back, but when Elizabeth Sladen sadly passed away we felt that the timing was wrong for the family and so decided to hold off. We feel sure that she will make an appearance somewhere down the line though. Daleks and Cybermen are constantly discussed and fans will certainly have them in their collections at some point. We won’t do them though if we cannot do them right. We really would love to do the definitive Dalek that opens up with lights, pipes and tentacles!

Macauly Cairns asks once a character has been decided upon, what process did you have to go through to decide and how do you come to the choice of what costumes/accessories they have?

Once a figure has been agreed upon we look at the various iterations and deviations in costume for that character. Ultimately we aim to re-create a defining moment for the character that perfectly captures and embodies their spirit and look. Ultimately “the look” will be from a particular story, episode or scene, which will hopefully prove so memorable, that fans will consider it to be the quintessential look for the character in question. Accessories can be somewhat more difficult to arrive at. The obvious items are determined very quickly, Sonic Screwdrivers for example, but others often prove to be more awkward. We do not simply want to add bits and pieces to fill the box, we always try to add accessories that have some substance and meaning for that character.

This leads us to our next question. How long does it take for a figure to come to life from the drawing board to release? Do you have access to the artist and props?

We will actually have several items in development at the same time. This time last year we were well into developing the new series seven version of the Eleventh Doctor, the series eight version of the Twelfth Doctor and both Jim Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes from our Sherlock line. At the same time, we were finalising pre-production samples of the First Doctor and the Weeping Angels. Generally, a figure takes around nine to ten months from concept to completion. We endeavour to get this development time down as much as possible, to enable us to release figures far quicker, but inevitably delays may swallow up any time saved during development, which can be very frustrating. It is an on going process and one which we aim to improve upon. We are lucky enough to have access to some great reference materials and sometimes are able to meet with the artist in question. For example, we were lucky enough to take photos of Karen Gillan’s ears! Something sadly missing from the official reference materials.

Are there still plans to develop expansion packs?

Expansion packs remain firmly in our plan, albeit in a different form to how we originally hoped to release them. The main issue is that we are currently maxing out at around 1000 pieces of most of the figures, which is also the minimum order quantity that we have to order from our vendors. Whether we make a full figure, or an expansion pack containing certain items, this minimum order quantity remains at 1000 pieces. The question for us as a business is if we have sold 1000 pieces of a certain figure, will we also be able to sell a 1000 pieces of an expansion pack containing an alternate costume, or an alternate head with select accessories to those same customers? The reality is no we would not. The majority of customers will remain happy with their figure purchase, that perfectly captures that character for them, and will simply not bother buying an expansion pack that allows them to recreate a version of that same character, in what may well be a less popular guise. That said we are keen to keep the expansion packs going and have done so through via our exclusive incentives that we are offering for free for purchases made via either by payment plan or for those customers who have paid in full. We are excited about our first “build-a-figure” incentive packs that we are including with forthcoming products. The first of which is the Tenth Doctor’s Pyjamas and Slippers pack that comes with the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. We will also be offering an exclusive alternate Tenth Doctor portrait, to build your figure, that will be included for free for customers who purchase the Ninth Doctor direct from BIG Chief.

Anthony Dobrez and Cameron Anthony Grey said that they would love a 1:6 TARDIS. How is the development process going?

Well, we have so far announced the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS and also the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS, both of which also could be accompanied by the Twelfth and Ninth Doctors respectively. Provided that sales continue and that the dioramas prove popular, we will then consider a classic TARDIS to accompany our First and Fourth Doctors.

Would you look to develop other scale props from the series?

Right now our focus remains on the 1:6 scale category. We also have 1:4 scale statues on our license, but given the increasing cost to produce such pieces and subsequently the higher price at retail, we have no plans right now to explore the larger scale.

Apart from Doctor Who, are there any other licences you would like to investigate with Big Chief Studios?

We are currently in discussions with a number of licensors, but at this stage, it is too early to let fans know. Rest assured you guys will know as soon as we are able to confirm.

Thank you very much for your time, Mark. It is very much appreciated. Could you leave us with one final clue for the future of Big Chief Studios and Doctor Who?

I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.

Take a look at Big Chief Studios great website and browse their exciting collection of Doctor Who and Sherlock merchandise and watch this space for even more exciting product announcements from the Big Chief team soon!

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