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The creation of an action figure is a lengthy process and follows an approval life cycle that consists of multiple stages (phases) and checkpoints that had to be approved by management. In order to illustrate the process, we will begin the process with character selection and follow through to the final product as seen by the consumer in retail.


The approval life cycle can be broken down into the following steps.  This is also illustrated in the image below:


The approval checkpoints went from:

  • Sculptor

  • Toy Biz Management

  • New Line

  • Actor

  • and this process would sometimes repeat

The New Line Cinema approval form below clearly shows the many stages each action figure was required to pass, before being given the authority to be produced.



Once Toy Biz and New Line Cinema come to a consensus on which figure to produce, they then decide what outfit and look they want to achieve that will best express the screen accuracy of the actor.


During this stage New Line would gather images from the movies (that were still in production) and create a character profile folder that will be used by the Toy Biz team to reference during each phase.

For the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the actors had a clause in their contracts that demanded the actors approval of each figure with their likeness.

Once the character has been selected, the actual design process begins with sketches of the proposed figure.

New Line Cinema with help sometimes from WETA or Gentle Giant (who provided the scans of all the actors), would send a "character profile package". These packages would contain very detailed images of the actor posed in a few stances, while also containing acting doubles posing specifically for Toy Biz as figure reference.

Frequently weaponry references would also be compiled which would include multiple reference images of the weapons for the character.

Toy Biz worked with in-house and 3rd party artists to render proposed concept art and control pieces.  These artists typically worked across many toy lines, and provided work for hundreds of characters, all in the same required format. These concept sketches would go to Toy Biz management for approval. After the initial sketch art was approved and was given the green light, the sculptor chooses the base material to start working the figure.

It is quite clear that Toy Biz wanted to have the most detailed product possible for the fans of the Tolkien movies.





The sculpting artist would typically use some form of clay-like material or wax to bring the conceptual art to life. Castilene was used for a large portion of prototypes during this time. As it is easy to work with and holds its form very well.

While each sculpting artist has his or her own tool of choice, the process with which they shape and form the body is generally up to each. Most figurines are sculpted as a single piece, with articulation being added later. Other sculpting artists may prefer to remove the limbs and work on them separately before being attached later on. This kind of flexibility allows the sculpting artist more control to produce finer details on the prototype.

The sculpting artist will often reference the conceptual art and character profile folder imagery to ensure the figurine is as realistic as possible. Some sculpting artists may gain inspiration from other sources than the provided character reference material, like using real tree's for instance for such characters like Treebeard. After the general body shape is complete, the sculpting artist will begin to add the finer detail. 

While some of the heads were sculpted by