Diamond Select Toy’s first figure in their new Star Wars Ultimate Quarter Scale line, Darth Maul, will be hitting shelves on December 10. We had a chance to talk with two people who were instrumental in the development of the line, Chris Schaff, the Project Manager who oversees sculpting, painting, construction, and sounds, and Chuck Terceira, the Director of Diamond Select Toys who provides direction for the line and makes final character decisions.
If that’s not enough to get you salivating for this new line, we also have gotten our hands on our very own Ultimate Quarter Scale Darth Maul figure and snapped a ton of detailed pictures which you can check out in our IMAGE GALLERY below after reading the interview.
JI: Why did Diamond decide to do figures in 19” scale?
DST: The Quarter Scale line gives us the opportunity to create a unique niche in the marketplace because it is a size not currently in use by any other Star Wars licensor. It allows us to offer a price-point far cheaper than a 24” figure, but also allows a greater level of detail than a 12”. As future licenses develop, you will see more properties in the Ultimate Quarter Scale, thus enabling DST to better stand out on shelves. We are looking to establish a new brand here and we are thrilled to have Star Wars help us launch it.
JI: The character selection seems to be a mix of Original Trilogy characters and prequel ones. Is there any type of order you’re using or is character selection random? If random, what factors go into consideration when picking a character?
DST: When setting the release order we wanted to select a mix of characters that appealed to fans of both the classic films and the prequels. We wanted to release a line that would not only generate immediate support, but keep collectors interested to see who would be next (and in what outfit). As the line proceeds, we may make adjustments based on completion time (some outfits/parts are more time-consuming than others) and licensor approvals, but so far we are right where we intended to be. In terms of character selection (and their sound clips), there was nothing random about our game plan. As more and more figures are released, people are going to see the entire Star Wars universe fall into place.
JI: Will you only be doing figures from the movies, or can we expect to start seeing figures based on the new Clone Wars Animated Series as well?
DST: For the time being, we are sticking to the core 6 films. When we sat down to flesh out our schedules, we filled all of the slots and still had great characters left over. We’ve talked about Clone Wars and Expanded Universe, so don’t give up hope – you never know what the future will bring.
JI: Of the figures made so far, which do you think has turned out the best and why?
DST: Oh come on, these things have become like my children; you can’t ask me to pick a favorite. OK, how about a tie for 1st? Darth Maul & Mace Windu. When you look at Darth Maul, in or out of package, you can’t help but be impressed. The layers of the clothing, the detail of the head/face, and the signature double-bladed lightsaber all make for an outstanding presentation before you even push the button to hear that raspy ominous voice. The most common remark from everyone is “This really costs under $100?!” – and that does an ego good. Mace Windu stands out for me because he IS Samuel L. Jackson. You take one look into that face and you can hear the voice in your head.
JI: Which figure maybe didn’t come out quite as well as you would have liked and why?
DST: I’m going to have to say Emperor Palpatine, but it is not his fault. You may not think it, but there is a limit to the number of facial expressions that look good on a head that size (believe me, I reviewed MANY). Palpatine ended up a little more neutral than some would like, but I really felt it was important for people to feel there really was value in buying both him and Darth Sidious. Therefore, I went with polar opposites everywhere I could: Sidious with his fearsome visage and red robes, the Palpatine in his classic black and a patient expression. I also would have liked to do the Force lightning bolts, but at that scale it just didn’t make sense. To do them as accessories would mean holes (or pegs) in the palms or fingers of the figures and I just didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about making them permanent parts of the hands. Now, that being said, everyone looks at him in the office and loves how he turned out, but they don’t know there were any variables on my part.
JI: Which figure was the most challenging to sculpt and why?
DST: Luke Skywalker is currently at the top of my nemesis list. I currently have 4 (possibly 5) different Lukes planned for this line. If you thought Palpatine and Sidious were tough to make unique from one another, try doing it for a small army of Lukes. Even though they will all have radically different outfits, accessories, and sound clips, we want collectors to be able to put every Luke on the same shelf and not feel like they have duplicates.
JI: Out of the announced figures, which one has the most articulation and how many points does it have? Which one has the least and how many points does it have?
DST: Darth Maul has 23 (ankles, double knees, thighs, hips, waist, chest, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, neck), and that is the target for all of the figures in the line. We will obviously have to reconsider that amount when we get into the armored characters and droids, but we’ll make those decisions when we see what the outfits can handle and still look great.
JI: Does Darth Maul have any other accessories besides the lightsaber and does that split into two parts?
DST: The lightsaber does indeed split in half. Maul also comes with the binoculars he used on Tatooine. The last “accessory” is an extra left hand/glove. Not only does it have curled fingers to let him hold the other lightsaber half, but it also has the wrist controller he used on the probe droid on Tatooine.
JI: Since Darth Maul never talked much in the movie, what kind of sounds will this figure come with?
DST: When we designed the line, we set a target of 15 seconds per character. Depending on the “must have” lines, some characters are above than and some are below, but we think everyone will be pleased with what we picked. In terms of Maul, he has 3 speaking parts and the sound of his lightsaber activating.
JI: Listen for yourself what Darth Maul says:
JI: Will Darth Maul have tattoos under his shirt?
DST: You’ll just have to buy one and find out. Just kidding. The answer is no. While the outfits “can” be removed, I don’t necessarily think they “should” be removed. If Maul were to go shirtless, you would see all of the cuts and joints that give him the articulation we are so proud of. I just couldn’t get comfortable with the mock-ups we created, so we collectively agreed to go with a pure black underbody and table the idea of tattoos (for now).
JI: When you sculpt the more human characters like Han Solo, what is the process you go through to capture the likeness of Harrison Ford or the other actors?
DST: There is no one answer for this. In some cases, there is digital scan data available that we use as a basis for a character and then one of our sculptors will modify it as needed (hair style, facial expression, etc.). In other cases, everything is done freehand by the sculptor. Remember, back in the 70s and 80s there was no such thing as digital scanning. Regardless of how it is done, I have downloaded a massive archive of reference photos and I burn a CD for each project. Between that and the reference that our Lucas contacts will provide along with their requested/required sculpt (or paint, or outfit) changes, we are prepared for just about anything. It is funny you mention Harrison Ford because the only scan data available was from the new Indy movie, so every Han Solo and Indiana Jones figure you’ll see will have started out with the same basic head from an actor 25-30 years older than the character we are creating.
JI: Can you choose to do any character that ever appeared in a Star Wars movie or have the folks at Lucas provided you with a specific list of characters?
DST: I’d have to say the line plan was very mutually agreed upon. Although we are talking about 6 feature-length films, there is a select number of characters and outfits that everyone thinks about, so our wish-list and theirs were almost identical. They have made “suggestions” as to what characters they would like to see on shelves sooner than others, but neither side has had to “force” a character on the other.
JI: Will you be doing any other Ultimate Quarter Scale Indiana Jones figures beyond Indiana Jones?
DST: Oh most definitely. You’ll have to wait and see what we’ve come up with, but there are 4 figures from the Indy license on the radar and another 1 or 2 that are being kicked around. However, just so no one gets disappointed later, we are not planning on a Temple of Doom Indy with the ripped shirt because we’d have the same exposed mechanics problem that we saw with shirtless Maul. These are fantastic collectibles, but the inner workings are not quite appealing to the eyes.
Thanks to Chuck Terceira and Chris Schaff for answering our questions for us. Now without further ado, check out over 45 images below of the upcoming UQS Darth Maul figure that will be released on December 10, 2008 for $79.99.