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Our first character design artist interview is with Irish born and UK resident Eamon O'donoghue. Eamon is a freelance Illustrator and Designer, who is responsible for many of the toys on your shelves. He has worked with Mattel, Hasbro, Mezco, Diamond Select and many countless others. Eamon designed previous Lord of the Rings figures for a company called ACI Toys back in 2015. His current work regarding Lord of the Rings, are on their way to stores around the world right now! Diamond Select Toys has 3 waves of 2 figures that offer a Build-A-Figure Sauron. Each figure will be packaged with at least one part! I had the privilege to ask the designer a few questions about the new LOTR figures. I hope you enjoy it!
Donnie: Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself.
Eamon: I am from Cork/Kerry Ireland and after graduating art college I moved to the UK where I had a few 9-5's as an illustrator and designer doing all sorts from club flyers to album covers. After a stint in advertising I went freelance where I began doing DVD covers, book covers and the occasional movie poster.
Donnie: How did you get started in toy design?
Eamon: Well most of the DVD covers I was doing were for properties like Masters of the Universe, Transformers, ie toy based properties. This work led to doing toy packaging art and this then eventually into toy design, specifically action figures. I've always loved and collected action figures so its work I was keen to say yes to and in some occasions actively chased down.
Donnie: Tell us about your creative process in character design.
Eamon: The first and the biggest thing is research, lots and lots of research. This goes for both stuff that has to be designed from scratch like a Mezco figure and stuff like Lord of the Rings where the costume is already there. Pinterest can be a great resource for instance. The issue with LOTR was that it was made just before the internet took off so high quality reference photos were really hard to come by. LOTR characters are very detailed with lots of intricate details and character specific markings that don't always show up on screen like the gold leaf pattern on Legolas's tunic or the viking like patterns on Gimli's boots. Getting stuff like that as accurate as possible is the main thing. Once I do that, I start drawing the front view along with their weapons. I always add too many weapons but its best to have them drawn just in case they can be included. Sometimes they can't as each figure has to be made within a specific budget.
Donnie: What are the tools of your trade?
Eamon: Well it was just pen and paper but these days it's hand drawn with pen on Wacom tablet. I usually draw the outlines for characters in Clip Studio and colour render in Photoshop. Then there's an iPad full of reference images there should I need to see details. Moodboard app on the iPad is handy for lots of images.
Donnie: Did you have any part in selecting which LOTR characters are made?
Eamon: No, as a freelance artist, I am just told what characters to work on. I can and do suggest a specific look, weapons, accessories and diorama's but the actual character selection is down to the management at diamond.
Donnie: What type of reference materials are supplied to you?
Eamon: It's part of my job to be able to seek out and source my own reference. For LOTR I had the Bluerays and the making of books. But even with that it can be hard to see exact details especially on the orcs and Sauron. I have a friend who worked on the Hobbit movie and he told me even the orc are different from each other on set. Things were slapped together knowing they would be filming in the dark.
Donnie: Are you instructed to present particular facial expressions, or are you given liberty to choose?
Eamon: I generally choose an expression but it's then up the sculptor if he wants to stick to it or not. With LOTR, I felt stoic was the way to go on the human characters. I felt the Orcs had to have a screaming face though.
Donnie: Tell us about Sauron. How is the process different in creating a Build-A-Figure vs your standard release?
Eamon: Sauron was especially tricky as there's not much footage of him and he was just very hard to get a good read off of. His armour has a crazy amount of details with ancient scribbles and ruins across much of it and most of this you never see but you know it's there. You never see his feet in the movie either so he was a lot of work to get right. But I hope between myself and the sculptor that we get it right and looking at the build parts I have so far, I think we nailed it. :) Design wise he's just another figure that we just break up.
Donnie: How were the characters determined for each wave?
Eamon: That is not something I am a part of. Occasionally they may ask me my opinion on what character to release over another but mostly it's management who decides.
Donnie: Will DST continue the Lord of the Rings line after wave 3?
Eamon: I certainly hope so. I think if the sales and support is there from fans Diamond will go as deep in Middle Earth as they can. Everything is on the table as far as I am aware so if these sell well, DS will certainly continue making them.
Donnie: Will there be any horses or other larger figures like Trolls?
Eamon: Again, Diamond Management will need to see how sales will go with these first waves. I am ready to draw and design anything from the trilogy so as a fan I hope so and as an artist I also hope so as working on LOTR is very cool.
Donnie: How can fans follow your future work?
Eamon: My facebook is a mixed bag of personal and professional stuff but I tend to post more figure related stuff on instagram so I suggest folks follow me there.