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DVD Review: Toys Are Us - A Revolution in Plastic


2 comments posted

They used Mindless Self Indulgence? Awesome.


Destroy All Podcasts DX's picture
Posted by Destroy All Pod... on 11 September, 2008 - 19:40
Toys Are Us

Okay, well, I've now had a chance to watch this movie twice. The first time, I found it tolerable. The a lot harder to watch. Fortunately, I had Nekrodave and my girl to buffer my rage the second time around! ;)

First, I actually like how most of the folks mentioned that large toy companies like Hasbro and Mattel exist to cross-promote gargantuan licenses to maximize profits. As such, their priority is clearly license acquisition, focus groups, marketing, etc. Creative design takes a bit of a backseat in the boardroom. At the same time, you have small outfits like MaxToyCo, run by folks like Mark Nagata who have no desire to grow into such a large corporate entity simply because creative control (i.e., their art) is more important than absurd profits.

Of course, that said, even Frank Kozik, himself, warns that as soon as you start making money off of your "art", you're IN teh MARKET. "Artists' integrity" suddenly becomes a hazy thing. I'm not saying all folks who run any kind of toy business would sell out in a heartbeat to make the multi-millions Hasbro and Mattel do, but there definitely is a blurring of the lines once profit becomes involved.

And I guess that's where my biggest annoyance comes in. I can respect Frank for being honest like that, but there's more to be said. The whole (30-minute!) film exudes an attitude that the "art" is what makes designer vinyl better than the "crap on a stick" that Hasbro, Mattel, and the like put out. Are you serious? Just because you make only 30 of the umpteenth colorway of such-and-such mold, and charge people $100 for it, that makes it "better" than some Batman figure the Four Horsemen designed for Mattel that *kids* will actually play with?? Hubris.

C'mon...Skullbrain's own Glenn Pogue mentioned a lack of "pretense" when referring to designer vinyl. Yeah...maybe in the "art collector's world", but in the toy world, that's a little hard to swallow...especially right after Patrick Ma talks about how great designer vinyl is because there are so few units made. The implication, of course, is that if more are made, the stupid masses who could never understand such "high ART" would start to buy these things. Congratulations, you're classist, buddy. Pretense, anyone?

The other part of the movie I found laughable was the inclusion of people like Tara McPherson and Nathan Jurevicius. I mean, these are fine artists in their own right, but they're introduced in the film as "Toy Creators". Again...a little hard to swallow. Some sculptor in a factory in China (who gets NO props) took one of their paintings and sculpted a statue of it...and that makes them "Toy Creators"? There's even a scene with Nathan Jurevicius talking to a fan about how there "might" be a glow version of one of "his toys". "Might". "MIGHT"? I'm sorry, but if you don't even know what versions exist of the toy based on your artwork, you're hardly the toy's "creator".

Then there are a few people like J Neth who are artists first, designers second. People like this actually seem to exert real control over the products that get sold under their names. The thing is, how can you call these things toys? Neth, himself, talks about his creations as art sculptures for decorating your home. How in the hell do you define a "toy" as an art sculpture for decorating your home!? I mean, fine...they are what they are, and that's fine. But toys, these are not.

Still...despite what anyone may think about the designer vinyl world, there IS some good stuff in this movie. And it's probably not the music (which, I'm told, is "hipster punk"). Basically, any interview with Mark Nagata is great. Little nuggets here and there from Brian Flynn and Frank Kozik were on point. And Steve Agin's appearance in the extra about vinyl toy history was surprisingly excellent, as Josh mentioned.

Overall, I think it's worth seeing just for the sake of educating yourself about designer vinyl toys (if you're into toys at all, that is), but if you have strong feelings either way about the "scene", this movie is only going to reinforce them.


Sanjeev's picture
Posted by Sanjeev on 16 September, 2008 - 11:49