Just recently, Toy Wizards was introduced to a brand new company called Paragon FX group, a company specializing in movie prop replicas for the collector’s market. Curious to see what they had up their sleeve, Toy Wizards got together with Tyler Ham to learn more about Paragon FX Group and what items collectors can expect to see coming from them soon.
Hi Tyler! Thank you for giving Toy Wizards this interview. Would you tell us a bit about yourself?
My background: For the last 20 years my time has been spent between the film and collectibles industries. For the first 10 years I focused primarily on visual effects, working at companies like Industrial Light and Magic, Tippett Studio, DreamWorks animation, and some on-set work for Disney. I then went into the collectibles industry starting out as a freelancer and eventually working for Factory Entertainment, Super7, SEGA (in licensing) and a company called Source3 which turned into a tech company and was sold to Facebook. I have also done freelance work for several collectibles companies including EFX and MEGO. I am 100% in the collectibles area now, as the last film I worked on was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
How did you know it was time to jump and create your own company?
Well, I guess to clarify I should say that I am not a founder of the company, but I would consider myself a founding employee. The collectibles industry is very small and insular, so when I was approached to come on board I was already familiar with the other founding employees and their previous work. During my interview process it became very clear that we all shared a similar vision of what a new collectibles company should look like; lean, talented, fun, but we also shared a lot of similar thoughts on how to avoid pitfalls that some other companies have run into like getting caught in pre-order loops, etc. All that mixed with backgrounds in helping launch similar companies made it all feel right. “We have done this for other people, so let’s do it for ourselves” was our motto in those early calls.
What were some of the determining factors in deciding which licenses to pursue first?
My counterpart and myself are both collectors and entertainment enthusiasts as well and we chose which licenses to go after based on a few factors like “would we want this?” “Has this prop been made before?” “How strong of a fanbase does this property have?” I would love to say that building props is all just fun, but there are a lot of business decisions that go into each choice.
Licensing in itself has several challenges. Every studio has a different way they sell and approve products. Sometimes a license you want isn’t available because another company has it, or it is temporarily moritoriumed for some reason or another. Sometimes a certain license may only be available in a package. A lot of those things which are very out of our control also drive those choices. Acquiring licenses is a lot of work – often months long – and maintaining a license is a lot of work as well. That is why you really have to have faith in the products you want to develop before inking those deals.
In addition to acquiring licenses to create prop from specific movies or shows, how did you decide what actual piece or prop to recreate?
That’s a great question. A lot goes into that. The first question is really as simple is “is this piece cool?” If the answer is yes, we go to step 2! Many factors include if it has been made before, or if it has, can it be made better? Can we manufacture it so it is still affordable on the back end (This is a big one I don’t think a lot of people think about) A great prop is no fun if nobody can afford it. There is also always a bit of putting aside your own ego. There are a lot of amazing looking props from movies and series that we have no personal attachment to – and you have to be able to look past that and focus on it being something a fan of that series would like. This works in reverse also – There is a bunch of stuff I personally would love to make, but in reality I also know that I would be the only customer for such pieces. It is really a fine balance.
Do you think it’s more important for a company making prop replicas to provide its own take on a prop that other companies have created, or are you guys taking the plunge and making pieces that fans have never seen before?
I think it totally depends on the prop. For us, we are coming out of the gate with pieces that have never been officially replicated before. It feels good to be the people to bring a “first” to market. We also have pieces in development that have been released prior (most several years ago) but we are never “copying” another companies work. The prop replica community are like a giant hive-mind of detail detectives and new reference photos and discoveries on iconic props are being made constantly. A prop made 10 years ago might have been considered “perfect” then, but based on updated discoveries is outdated now. Our goal is to make items that feel like they walked off the movie set and ended up in the fan’s hands. The people who buy these collectibles tend to appreciate that and if its a piece they want and own an older version of, are generally delighted to be able to purchase a more accurate example.
All licenses and legal pieces aside, what is the number one grail item that you would love to create as a prop?
That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many. I think everyone wants to make a lightsaber, or a Maltese falcon, etc. including myself, Those REALLY iconic props. One thing I would love to make personally is a replica head from the AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON werewolf, mounted like a trophy. Another – if money and space were no object – would be a replica of the Time Machine from the George Pal THE TIME MACHINE. I have been fortunate enough to see the actual prop at Bob Burn’s house and it is really stunning in person. It is also really large, but so well designed.
What are some of your hobbies, interests, or collections that might surprise some of your friends and families more familiar with your professional or freelance work?
I really wish I had a great answer for this but the answer probably won’t shock anyone. I collect 70s and 80s era toys. I think it’s important to surround yourself with things that inspire you, and when working in toys, what better than the toys that formed your childhood play and imagination!
Is there anything that you’d like Toy Wizards readers to know about your company’s story or journey?
Our company is made up of people who are engineers, artists, and collectors. We have been doing this for over 40 combined years and even though you might not know who we are, there is a good chance you have seen – or even own – some of the items we have developed for other companies.
There has been a lot of turmoil in the “toys for adults” space in the last few years. As collectors, not only have we heard the frustration, but we also have experienced it. We don’t want to be another company that comes on the scene that is looked at pessimistically – We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, in fact we often joke that we are trying to go back in time to a period when you bought something and it actually showed up at your door a few days later. NOBODY likes paying for something and not seeing it for over a year. It’s like when you sent your flag points in as a kid and the order form said “Your hooded cobra commander will show up in 6-8 weeks.” That wait period was HELL. And today, 12 months is the new 6-8 weeks. No good. We have set up our company production and funding wise in a way that we feel strongly we will avoid that trapping.
All the business stuff aside, we want our company to be fun. We want the work to be fun, and that fun to come through in our products. We have some really “serious” props coming up with months long engineering, etc- but we also have some light hearted stuff that we think fans will appreciate as well. We won’t release a product that we don’t believe in.
What items and projects can we expect to see from Paragon FX? Any hints or teasers?
An animal body part, an ashtray, and a safety shield. Hardly sounds like a company product line and more like something you would find in a dark curio shop next to a mogwai – but that is what we are leading with!
Elaboration would probably be great here. The animal body part is actually our “Cursed Monkey Paw” replica – licensed through Creepshow TV – and replicates the prop as seen in the season 1 episode “Night of the paw.” This story is well known and this prop is just gross and creepy in ways that horror fans love.
The Ashtray is our wink to the diehard Creepshow film fans. When you watch the Original creep show movie you might notice a very specific ashtray being easter-egged into all the stories. Sometimes it is a hero object, other times it is just on a desk – but its there. This ashtray has taken on the moniker of “The Traveling Ashtray” and has never been officially released as a replica.
Finally – our shield. I love this goofy thing. When I was a kid our local TV station would do 48 hour BATMAN marathons every New Years eve and day. My dad and I would watch Adam West and Burt Ward for HOURS. One of the best gimmicks on the show was when Adam West would reach under his cape and pull an over-3 foot long folding bat-shield out from his utility belt. The shield has never been replicated before, is an awesome part of Batman TV lore, and we are so excited to be able to bring this to fans.
For socials, we are @paragonfxgroup on IG and Twitteron facebook its https://www.facebook.com/paragonfxgroup
Our site (its just a landing page while we build out our e-commerce site) is www.paragonfxgroup.com