Plastic Crack is a new documentary that showcases a number of toy collectors in the east coast and Florida (save for two) area of the United States. Helmed by fellow toy collector and film maker Guillermo Olivo, Plastic Crack is a four episode docu-series per season that runs about 40-45 minutes per episode.
I was given the opportunity to watch the series and review it, for which I’m both humbled and grateful. It was really cool to see members of the toy collecting community with whom I’m familiar have the opportunity to discuss collecting and their personal toy collections; everyone’s is so different. Collections varied from a few shelves, to a room, to a house, to a second house, to a complete condominium.
To correspond with the Plastic Crack notion, a tongue in cheek reference to toy collecting being an addiction, the subjects in the docu-series are sort of broken up into ‘users’ and ‘dealers’. This really isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. For example, mega collector Irving Santiago is also a show runner, the face behind Ultracon in South Florida. So, naturally, not only is he going to have an uber collection, but he is a toy seller. Therefore, people in the community are going to see that collection and understand that it’s a rotating stock (somewhat– some things are just too good to sell, although the documentary shows Irving conducting an online auction in a Facebook group).
Which, funny enough on a personal level– I don’t as a rule listen to podcasts, but I can listen to a toy auction for hours. I don’t know why or the distinction, but something about working the crowd live like a ringmaster appeals to me. Okay, back to Plastic Crack.
The first season has us following two and a half main narratives before peppering the rest of it with interviews from the community. Plot Line A follows Irving Santiago trying to protect his collection from Hurricane Irma. Plot Line B follows 80s toy collector and YouTube personality Justice Cury as he discusses his former alcoholism, relationship with his wife and two beautiful children, and his current involvement with the toy collecting community. He also shares how his toy collecting fixation replaced the fixation with alcohol and gave him a new group of friends.
Plotline C-ish: This narrative is loose and one that I’m pulling out of my hat, but it’s the points of the season that follow Hasbro’s G.I. Joe VP of Marketing Kirk Bozigian and the other interview subjects who have that reverence for 80s toys like G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Transformers, My Little Pony, and so on. These are the points of the documentary that are easiest to digest and have the educational elements and high energy that I personally enjoy when watching documentaries about toys and toy collecting.
Plus a LEGO collector and a gentleman who collectors a wild host of die-cast cars, whose collection doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the narrative, in my opinion.
It was interesting when the worlds sort of overlap, proving that it really is a small collecting community after all. For example, the Plastic Crack crew interviews a woman named Vickie who has a spectacular Star Trek toy collection. She’s also in a relationship with Irving. Then later, there’s a segment where Justice Cury heads over to Claire’s house, and Claire has been our resident Transformers collection during the docu-series. And my goodness, what a collection it is, up to and including the limited edition Bumblebee Camero that was released during the Michael Bay film era.
Team Bumblebee VW Bug for life. Though that car is still spectacular.
Overall, Plastic Crack is interesting, engaging, and highly watchable. But now for the constructive criticism and areas of improvement before we segue into our exclusive Toy Wizards interview with the creator and director of the series, Guillermo Olivo.
1) I personally found the music unsuiting for the entire series. It stuck out and took me out of the moment instead of punctuating what was already happening.
2) I felt like at times the energy and narrative floundered and the crew had a little bit of trouble stringing the story together into a greater piece. While Plastic Crack was very good at presenting the facts, I feel that it bordered this place of complacent neutrality. For the seasoned collector, sure, I could watch and go “Oh, I know these people and what they’re doing.” But for someone not in this world, I think they might watch Plastic Crack and feel uncertain if this collecting world is a problem, or a danger. Are these subjects lame dorks? Or is this a fun, energetic, and happy world? While of course, people have the right to form their own opinions, which I hope they do, it really it the job of the author/narrator to set the tone and show people how to consume a piece of media. It’s how we know we’re going into a comedy or tragedy long before the curtain falls and we’re left unexpectedly crying.
3) The Male-Centered focus. Yes, the documentary had commentary from Claire, Vickie, and Summer (the My Little Pony Collector). Yes, those women vaguely discussed their partners and their feelings about their collecting. But ultimately, the show not only had that “What does your wife think of this?” question that makes me cringe, but it had a little bit of ‘Boys Club’ stink on it, especially as we segued into sitting in with the ‘My Wife is Going to Kill Me’ podcast members. Don’t get me wrong– they were super cool and all of their talking points were highly valid. But by displaying a separation, you’re creating a separation. If a woman comes from a place of direct speaking and authority and love for her toys, she’s no different than a man unless you are making her so.
Thus? Don’t make her so.
My Megazords are valid.
Ultimately, Plastic Crack is a good show and hits some great nails on the head in the community. It’s extremely well edited, engaging, and comes from a place of love and passion. It showcases some members of a community, and leaves room for more to get their moment. Because really– us West Coast kids are waiting for you.
I give Plastic Crack by Guillermo Olivo 3.75 stars. But because that isn’t a real thing and I couldn’t resist the G.I. Joe urge, I will round it up to 4 out of 5 stars.
Because we’re a community, right?
And we’re in this together.
Toy Wizards Exclusive Interview with Guillermo Olivo, creator and director of Plastic Crack:
Hi Guillermo! Thank you so much for giving Toy Wizards this interview, plus a billion congratulations for getting season one of Plastic Crack all ready for us to view! What an amazing feat; you and your crew should really be so proud of yourselves for your amazing accomplishment. It was a very fun, interesting, and digestible docu-series.
Okay, Let’s start from the start– clearly, you’re a toy collector too. In the third episode of Plastic Crack, Irving hands that Dick Tracy figure over to you, or is that a different crew member? What is your history with toy collecting? What are your prized pieces or the bulk of your collection?
That wasn’t me; I was behind the other camera during that sequence. The Dick Tracy that Irving kindly gave away was to the film’s DP Sean De Grandy who happens to be a collector as well. And that moment was super funny to all of us because it took a very long day for us to get that fifteen minute sequence. We arrived to Irving’s place a little bit after lunch to start setting up lights and to properly plan the logistics cause as you probably saw, Irving’s world is buried in toys so it was quite a challenge from the get go to execute it the right way and we ended up wrapping around 1AM so it was a heavy long journey. By the time that we were getting to the end of the auction, Sean who spent hours hiding in corner with that camera decided to start buying toys as well. After so many hours seeing toys come and go and literally being surrounded by collectible toys all over the place, he couldn’t help it, broke protocol and fell for the plastic urge.
My history as you say with toy collecting goes back to my one-year-old self. From a very young age the Star Wars figures made quite an impression on me, and eventually G.I. Joe joined the ranks and never left, only to be joined by robots in disguise among other stuff in the following years… I didn’t experience the typical (and normal…) stories that you hear when someone say that after 10 or 12 they moved to video games, or when they got their first girlfriend, or when they went to college or when they got married they moved on and gave away their toys. And eventually reaching their late 30’s the nostalgia kicked in and that’s what got them back in collecting. Well I did all of the above but I never got out of it. I did all of that surrounded by toys, I’ve been collecting action figures formally and nonstop since the age of 6.
Ironically, I rarely post or show my collection around, but not because of shame or anything. I’ve been super public and open about collecting all my life, it’s just (again ironically coming from me after showing so many collections on film) I guess I’m not that type of collector who show things publicly, I’m super private, to be honest. But in regards of my prized pieces I will have to say that they are probably the least valuables in monetary terms but the most important to me in a sentimental sense.
The first without a doubt are a C3PO and a R2 whom if I have to sell, I wouldn’t get $2 for them, however those two guys have been with me since I was 2 years old and they are all beat up. But think what Woody and Buzz means to Andy and that’s what those means to me, secondly my all-time favorite character Boba Fett who also survived the journey since I had two back when I was a kid, one to play with and the other one to stare at. The less played with I just got back from CAS who preserved it beautifully and last but not least I will have to say is a G.I. Joe Leatherneck who not only I used on the film literally during Ron Rudat’s interview but also, he was kind enough to sign the card to me when we did the interview.
Now, let’s discuss your history with film making, directing, etc. Is this your debut or are you a seasoned veteran?
Definitely not my first rodeo but I don’t know about calling myself “veteran”. And yet I’ve been doing this since fresh out of school and it’s been 20+ years. I’ve incurred in a myriad of different genres and formats in that journey, and I spent a little more than a decade producing prime time television programing for the two big Hispanic TV networks in the US. In the past years we were involved in a joint venture with two important news entities developing short documentaries and in the past two years we decided to start developing formats of our own. After so many years being the chef and “cooking” for someone else eventually you want to open your own “restaurant” and on that sense Plastic Crack is spearheading that new phase of our company and careers.
What is your relationship in the collecting community and how did those relationships influence your decision to film a documentary? How did those relationships influence who you interviewed versus followed around in your show? Great job getting Kirk Bozigian, by the way. You chose some excellent people to chat with and follow around!
Well, I’m not an outspoken member or a well-known character among the community cause as I stated above I’m not a big fan of the spotlight, I’m the behind the camera or backstage kind of guy (literally) So my relationship to the community as a whole is very subtle. However, I have always been a loyal attendee to toy shows, conventions and religiously either JoeCon or Star Wars Celebration and it happens that during a Kirk Bozigian’s panel at JoeCon, he was giving the attendees (with his characteristically extreme passion about G.I. Joe) the behind the scenes of the brilliance and marketing strategy that eventually gave us the U.S.S Flagg carrier. And right there on the floor I started planning to find a way to tell that story from a collector’s perspective but I needed a catalyst or a trigger.
I met Irving Santiago quite a few years ago in the convention scene; the toy community in South Florida is not that big but it only takes a few steps around the block to come across Irving if you are into collectible toys. And so, fast forward many years later Hurricane Irma was approaching the coast like a nuclear bomb, we got a mandatory evacuation order and I called to check on him and he told me that he was staying behind cause he could not leave his collection. So, in an equivalent crazy reaction I was at his place a few minutes later recording that statement with a small camera that I had in my car. Irving became the catalyst needed and we started following him around with a more proper film crew, and following him happens to be quite eventful as you will see in future episodes. By doing this during a Joe meet up in Clermont, Florida. We met another great collector, Carlos Beron. Who eventually introduced me to Justice Cury.
And Justice was like a franchised fast food – drive thru combo meal… Burger, fries, soda and a bagged toy included! Not only I’m super grateful of being able to tell his story and being there and capture it on film while precisely substantial events of his journey were happening but also due to the exposure of the amazing toy community in Michigan. If it weren’t for the snow I would probably move there because they truly have a joyful, friendly, and caring toy community.
After following Justice and Irving for quite a while. Francisco Salazar (writer and show runner of the series) and I started killing ourselves for a defined editorial line and we targeted specific collectors to complement the segments, to whom I’m extremely grateful for their time and dedication to the project. To wrap up this long answer, while we were putting together the first radio cut of the first episode, I messaged Kirk Bozigian and told him the whole story and said that I couldn’t tell the story that I wanted to tell without having him and he said “come on over” without hesitation. Can’t thank him enough for that.
So, you settled on the name Plastic Crack for the documentary, which I personally have mixed feelings about because of the image it might project to the uninitiated or non-collectors who think we have a legitimate illness or addiction, but I understand the tongue in cheek decision there. What were some other titles you went through before settling on Plastic Crack? Or was that the name out the gate the entire time?
The working title was simply “collectors” during the production phase but I noticed in the very first meetings with all the parties involved that the term was too broad and was always relying on a deep full explanation, the runner up was “each figure sold separately” but it lost due to the fact that it was aiming at a very specific type of toy. Then we explored other titles but they used to lead to a very specific toy line or era. From my experience and perspective “Plastic Crack” is typically used as friendly harmless joke, and yes it has a strong analogy with a harmful addiction but part of our journey is an attempt to kill myths, and from my humble perspective toy collecting is neither a dangerous conduct nor a “horrible” addiction.
Actually, quite the opposite cause like in my own case, there is nothing more effective to detach from the daily struggle than to walk into the toy room. So, I was sitting with a friend who was organizing a recent action figure haul and he was carefully placing each action figure bubble wrapped inside an individual zip lock bag to then store them in a plastic container and when they were all jammed together, they did indeed looked like illegal drugs so I said on the spot “Plastic Crack it is!” But the factor that eventually led to that title without hesitation was Justice’s story, since he was able to overcome a real-life addiction thanks to the plastic aid.
How long from idea to television did this project take? I want to say I saw evidence that it was filmed in 2017, correct? How do you feel now that it’s finally online and people are starting to watch it?
It’s been on the pre-production queue since 2015 but principal photography formally started in September 2017 with Irving Santiago and the Hurricane.
I feel extremely grateful of the overwhelming massive reaction from viewers who not only took their time to watch the first season but also took their time to write and shared with us their opinions of the final product and it’s super interesting to see how some of the stories resonate with each viewer, some felt greatly for Irving and his struggle, others were deeply impacted by Justice’s. And the rest happens to connect to other parts of the episodes but not necessarily to the main storylines. And some are expressing their (in a very funny positive way that we are truly enjoying) anxiety due to the cliffhanger at the end of the fourth episode or proudly saying that they “tricked” their spouses to watch it. We are currently digesting comments and placing them on a big “beautiful mind” wall of Post-It sticky notes in order to take them in consideration for the next seasons.
What are your ambitions for Plastic Crack from here? You mentioned to me that ‘each season has four episodes’. What does season two have in store? Is there anything cool in the pipeline you’d like to discuss? Have you started filming more episodes yet?
In regards of the ambitions we are very humble and extremely grateful of the international demand to see it and I have a personal commitment to a few specific countries to do it, and we are pushing hard to get it there. Even with the fact that when you have several countries asking to see it happens to be a very good problem to have as a filmmaker, this is something that we are taking seriously and we are pushing as much as we can to achieve. Hopefully we will be able to announce soon other platforms that will carry the series and that will have that reach besides the US and the UK.
Filming wrapped formally last summer and we’ve been killing ourselves in the editing suites ever since, but if you liked season one you are most likely going to enjoy season two. Not only the cliffhanger gets a historical resolution within the toy community recent finds, but since the collectors’ profiles are well established at that point we push the subjects and storylines deeper and into more fun stuff. We will definitely keep showing incredible collections in between but I’m super glad to say that we also crossed the border in one of the episodes and explore the hobby from a more international point of view. We drafted the seasons to be a three-act archetype so season two falls in the middle of the storyline.
If you could get your hands on anyone in the collecting community, who would you like to follow around/interview/showcase their collection?
I will definitely go abroad again. Tapping in Brazil and Argentina was a super fun experience and interchanging ideas and the usual tricks and issues about the hobby with an international collector makes the scope broader. There are quite a few amazing collectors abroad that I wouldn’t think twice to pay a visit if I have a chance. I will also truly love to be able to interview toy makers abroad and get their perspective on the subject.
How do you feel Plastic Crack is blazing its own trail compared to other popular toy documentaries, such as The Toys That Made Us?
We are very lucky to have our series ready in this time and age; there are wonderful and very well executed toy documentaries out there right now. I am a firm believer that the more the merrier. It’s been so long since the last batch of toy documentaries happened that an update was way overdue, plus from a personal perspective I believe toy collecting is at a peak at the moment.
The point of comparison surfaces every now and then, especially when talking to non-collecting entities and I’m always happy to explain that for us. A great achievement will be to be able to add another layer to their amazing series, they made a spectacular job telling the history of the toy lines and we show the other face of the coin, those who bought those toys back then and are buying them again now. With this formula, the collectors in the audience wins because they get both sides of the coin.
More information on how to watch the Plastic Crack documentary can be found here.
EDIT: This article originally had Kirk Bozigian incorrectly listed as G.I. Joe’s head designer, which is an erroneous detail. The first 125 original 3.75 inch G.I. Joe figures were designed by Ron Rudat, followed by Mark Pennington, Dave Hassle, and Kurt Groen.