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SENIOR PROJECT MANAGER
Damon Nee is one of the most important people in the making of our LOTR figures. He and Jesse Falcon brought Peter Jackson's universe to life in plastic.
Damon has had a hand in all aspect of development of these terrific toys. Not to mention, he is the PROLOGUE ELVEN WARRIOR.
I am honored to not only have him in our group, but to have been granted a LOTR Archive and Museum exclusive interview with the legend.
Damon is currently Director Of Product Development for Disney/Pixar Animation, including Frozen!
Donnie: How did you get you start in the toy industry?
Damon: As a kid, and all the way through college, all I wanted to be was a comic book illustrator. When it came time to land an internship my list began and ended with Marvel. Good thing I landed the gig.
After my internship ended, I picked up a series of temp positions at Marvel. Mostly filling in for assistant editors when they went on vacation. I made enough of an impression and connections that when a position opened up at Toy Biz my name came up as a candidate. I applied, interviewed and was hired. I was Assistant to the Creative Director. Not very glamorous but I was in.
Eventually I started designing, and my toy career started in earnest. It was a great marriage of my love of comics and the drafting skills I picked up in college (I have a Bachelor of Science in Commercial Design).
Donnie: What do you think of our group, and the love Toy Biz still brings fans 20yrs later?
Damon: The group is great. It is quite obvious you have such a passion for the line. I’ve been taken down memory lane and it’s bringing back fond memories of a highlight in our careers.
Donnie: What was your position within Toy Biz, and role during the making of our LOTR figures?
Damon: I honestly forget what my position was during the time we were developing the LOTR product lines. Could have been either Senior Product Manager or Director of Product Development. In either case, I would take design lead on my projects for the line.
Donnie: The idea of bringing real actor likeness to action figures was groundbreaking.
Who decided to work with Gentle Giant? Toy Biz, or was it collaborative?
Damon: At this point we were already working with Gentle Giant on a regular basis and had leveraged their scan data for several live action based projects. It just made a ton of sense to work with them on LOTR.
Donnie: Do you have any memorable stories about your time working on LOTR?
Damon: All of us from Toy Biz look at those days as the highlights of our careers. An amazing group of talented and passionate people that loved what they were doing.
Donnie: Were there any particular figures that you were excited about, but never materialized?
Damon: We always wanted to develop playsets and larger accessories but the one character we really wanted to see come to life was the Balrog. Jesse can provide the specifics but it all came down to economics. He would have been an immense investment and it did not look like it would make financial sense.
Donnie: What happened to Toy Biz as a company?
Why did they stop producing LOTR toys?
Damon: Toy Biz and Marvel merged. We became Marvel Toys as the toy arm of Marvel Entertainment.
Eventually we moved out of vertical development and into a fully licensed model. Those of us who stayed on leveraged our expertise to guide licensed Marvel development.
Donnie: What are you up to these days?
Damon: These days I am still in the Toy Biz. Now for Disney, working with our animation and live action studios to translate character and story into toys. We recently wrapped up the launch line for Frozen 2 with lots more in the works.