As an added bonus, we also talked to the incredible artist and designer of PTERANTOR, Chris Lee (The Beast is Back), who explained the labor of love it took to create this figure:
Mondo: I want to express how much all of us here at Mondo love what you do. Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming an artist?
Chris Lee: Thanks so much! I’ve started working in a "professional" capacity over 15 years ago. That journey is too long to tell, but the short(ish) version is that I’m originally from Sacramento and started working at a very small graphic design company, with mostly non-profit clients when I was 20. I kept that job throughout college, learning the ropes of design as a business.
I then graduated in 2006 from Sacramento State, with a degree in graphic design and, during that time, I started incorporating illustration into my design work, participating in art shows, and generally just trying to figure out what I wanted to do in the arts. It was through those art shows and the early days of MySpace that I started to make real connections and new friends.
Art shows led to my first opportunities in the designer vinyl world (in about 2004). From there, my budding career flowed organically: I moved to LA after I graduated college, worked at magazine and at a motion graphics studio, all while continuously freelancing on the side. I’ve been fully independent since 2009 and have worked with a wide range of clients, like Target, Nike, Disney and Wendy’s. My passion projects have played a crucial role in my career and have opened more doors than any corporate project has. These projects allow me to exercise all of my interests at once: graphic design, branding, illustration, package design, and photography. Pterantor is probably my most ambitious passion project, to date, and I’m so happy it’s finally out terrorizing the skies.
Mondo: Let’s chat about this upcoming SKY KING PTERANTOR Soft Vinyl Figure. What was the inspiration behind the design?
Lee: Pterantor is the result of combining my love for kaiju, vintage dinosaur toys, and pterosaurs. There just aren’t that many pterosaur-inspired vinyl toys out there (outside of the venerable Rodan). I wanted to create a figure that was more dinosaur toy, but also still kept a foot in the kaiju pool.
Mondo: It can be quite challenging interpreting a flat 2D image into a 3D object. How was the process of bringing your amazing 2D art into 3D for you?
Lee: I’m not a sculptor, by any stretch of the imagination, but the first step in bringing Pterantor to life included my attempt at roughing out version in clay, just to see if this was a concept I would want to explore more with a professional sculptor. After this rough model was made, I worked with Dante Rockford to fully realize my vision. I worked with him over the course of a month or so, to dial in Pterantor’s proportions and details.
Mondo: Venturing into soft vinyl production is quite a lengthy and arduous process. Can you explain to our readers how the process works and what parts you enjoyed the most in making this figure?
Lee: The short version is that toy production is full of ups and downs. The best you can do is provide as much information as you can to the factory, during pre-production, through notes, diagrams, and mockups – knowing full well that you’ll have to deal with the inevitable speed bumps that will occur along the way.
As far as what I enjoyed in the production process specifically, I think seeing the final tooling master (the version of the figure that will be used to make the molds) was pretty exciting. If the toy engineers at the factory say something will work, then you’re pretty much golden. Overall, my experience was pretty smooth, but I have to give credit to the factory production manager. While some problems did arise, her consistent communication made it all very manageable. I realize this isn’t always the case, and I definitely did not take my experience for granted.
I break down the entire production process for Pterantor, in detail, in a "making of" blog post on my site.
Mondo: Did anything interesting come up in the production of the figure? Were there any changes needed in order to make it more production-friendly?
Lee: The wings were always a design challenge, from the very beginning. That shape is just not soft vinyl friendly. I had to change my original articulated wing / arm design to work for soft vinyl production, due to technical limitations of the molds. The original design would have required the wings to be injection molded PVC which would then be attached to a soft vinyl body. That combination of materials would have looked really bad, so a redesign was necessary.
In the end, the revision ended up being a better design choice overall and I’m really happy with the final result.
Mondo: Soft vinyl toys are known for their inventive and fun color ways. What was your process like determining what colors worked best for the SKY KING PTERANTOR figure?
Lee: Instead of leaning into color palettes from sofubi classics from Japanese companies, like Bullmark, M1, and Marmit, I instead drew inspiration from Pterantor’s roots: vintage dinosaur toys.
The first colorway of Pterantor was called “Imperial”, to pay homage to the dinosaur toys produced by the company of the same name, back in the early 80s. There are multiple colorways of Pterantor coming out in the future and all have a foundation inspired by that era.
Mondo: We are very excited (and thankful) to have the chance to exclusively release the GID “Phantasm” SKY KING PTERANTOR colorway. Can you explain to our readers why you chose to do a glow-in-the-dark figure, and what that means in the world of designer soft vinyl?
Lee: I’m honored you guys picked this one up as an exclusive. Personally, I’ve always liked toys with glow-in-the-dark features growing up. I also know there are people out there that collect glow-in-the-dark exclusively, and I think it’s just one of those timeless novelty features.
Mondo: Are there any other upcoming cool projects you have in the works?
Lee: My good friend and fellow illustrator Matt Kaufenberg and I will finally be releasing our space adventure themed toy set called Joy Riders, in the coming weeks. The set includes two figures and a vehicle. We’ve been working on this project for six years and we can’t wait to reveal everything.
Mondo: Thanks, Chris! You’re truly a great person and do wonderful work, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!