How Hasbro makes action figures look just like movie stars
- Until a few years ago, action figures didn’t really look like the actors in Marvel and Star Wars movies.
- But that changed when Hasbro introduced its Photo Real technology in 2017 to sculpt lifelike models.
- Watch the video above to find out how your favorite superheroes and movie characters go from a 3D sculpt to store shelves.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Matt Stuart: This isn’t actually Paul Rudd. It’s an action figure of Paul Rudd. And it’s got a lot more detail than the action figures you may be used to. You’ve probably seen action figures like this before. It’s based on a movie, has some accessories, and it kind of looks like the star. I think? Definitely not an exact resemblance.
Up until a few years ago, action figures didn’t really look like their movie counterparts. That changed when Hasbro introduced its Photo Real technology in 2017. Used on both its Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series lines, the technology allows the company to create figures with faces that look exactly like the actor they’re based on. The figures begin like most others. Things like accessories, outfits, and points of articulation are all planned out digitally, and a basic sculpt and molds of the figure are created.
Dwight Stall: Once we have a 3D sculpt that we’re in love with, that matches our design spec, it gets turned over to the model shop. They will cast it, which is a process of taking the files, growing the files, taking those pieces, casting them in rubber molds so that we can make duplicates.
Matt Stuart: Once the duplicates are made, the process of making this plain white figure look just like its character can begin. It starts with some pretty high-res photos of the actor in costume. The photos are provided by the studio. In this case, Marvel, which works with Hasbro to make sure they get the photos and angles they need. But for something like Star Wars, which didn’t have lifelike action figures in mind when it began filming more than 40 years ago…
Sam Smith: So a lot of it kind of relies on on-set photography, especially for kind of getting some of the character likenesses. Really just being able to capture every angle of the character, every angle of the costume, and really being able to accurately recreate that in a digital sculpt.
Matt Stuart: Once the reference photos are chosen, the real fun begins.
Dwight Stall: We will take these types of images, and we’ll send them down to our model shop, and they will take these into different programs, cut them apart, and reconfigure them.
Tony Colella: I can show you that we use our 3D modeling software. And in here, we take all the photo reference that they’ve given us, zoom in, get all these details. We create multiple layers, and we just kinda go in here, and we start refining different shapes, different colors.
Matt Stuart: The sculptors use the reference photos and the already-crafted head sculpts to digitally recreate the actors and paint their face onto the digital sculpt.
Laura Jones: When I get the head in, it’s actually just like a plain, blank, white head. And then from there, I add all the colors. I’m just constantly going back and forth between the reference and the sculpt and painting, and we try to recreate it.
Matt Stuart: The artist might add some blush, refine the eyes, increase the overall saturation — basically making sure any detail in the actor’s face is mirrored in the figure.
Laura Jones: Add shading to underneath Harrison Ford’s scar, so we make sure that comes out in the sculpt. Anywhere that we feel like we want to accentuate. His brow line, he kinda has a serious look, so I put some shading in there so when it prints, it really accentuates the sculpt.
Matt Stuart: Once the face is finished, it’s printed onto the head sculpt. Finally, the sculptor will assemble the different parts of the figure and paint the non Photo Real parts.
Tony Colella: We’ll prime this out, the whole figure. We’ll base out the figure. Then we’ll start doing all the hand-painting. All the details. We’ve got our green here. So just going in, hand-painting all those details. And then by the end of it, we’ve got a fully painted model.
Matt Stuart: Because the process is so new and secretive, there were a few things Hasbro couldn’t show us. But once the model is complete, Hasbro, its manufacturing partners, the licenser, and the actor all work together to make sure everyone loves both the figure and the packaging it will come in. And a few months after everyone signs off on it, it’s ready for store shelves.
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