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fansite and museum

A Middle earth action figure community

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I had the privilege recently to sit down with toy sculptor Eric Nocella Diaz, who worked with Toybiz on many figures, including Lord of the Rings. 

You may have seen some of his work on a recent post of mine( Uruk-Hai from NYC Toy Fair 2001). 

You may even have some of his toys in your collections. 

His portfolio stretches across many companies and brands.

He was nice enough to take time out from his busy schedule, to address the fans here at Toybiz Lord of the Rings Archive and Museum.

Donnie: How did you come about working on LOTR with Toybiz?

Eric: I was up at the ToyBiz offices in New York City dropping off some finished prototypes and saw some 2d art rotations of the LOTR character designs on one of my art directors desks. 

I had asked him to let me take a crack at the Uruk Hai soldier from the line but unfortunately it was already set to go to another sculptor. 

About a week later the art director called me and offered up the Uruk Hai character and I jumped all over it. 

The deadline to get the sculpt done was a little shorter than what we would normally get to work on a fully articulated action figure, but I didn't care because I really wanted to sculpt that particular LOTR figure. 

Then I would get a crack at another figure with them, an elf character (HALDIR) and some accessories pieces at the 1-UP and 2-UP scale.

Donnie: What was the process like working on sculpts for Toybiz in general?

Eric: I loved working with everyone up at Toybiz in New York as they were my biggest client at the time. 

The entire team up there were really into everything that passed through the office up there and it was such a great learning experience working with all the toy art directors. 

If they knew they could trust you and you were just as serious as they were about their toy lines your phone would always be ringing and the work flowing. 

There were so many fun projects I got to work on with them and seeing the toy lines do really well in the stores was the icing on the cake.

Donnie: How did you get started in the toy business?

Eric: I got my start in the toy business when I got hired to do some sculptures for the Art Asylum around the mid to late 90's. 

I had already been making some maquette type sculptures for a few small independent comic book companies (August House, Visual Assault Comics Omnibus) before that. 

I knew how to sculpt a bit but Digger Mesch who owned and ran the Art Asylum back then taught me how to make professional toy prototype sculptures. 

I learned how to articulate action figures and finish them in a hard toy wax medium during my time at the Asylum.

Donnie: Who were some of your influences professionally?

Eric: Some of my sculptural influences early on were artists like Thomas Blackshear Jr. who I got to meet in New York City before I became a pro. 

Just talking with him and watching him launch his Ebony Vision line of sculptures in one of those Hallmark type stores had a huge impact on me. 

Also studying the older great masters like Michelangelo and newer masters like Fredrick Hart helped to shape some of thinking process on my approach to sculpting. 

Another big influence artistically were the instructional how to draw 2D art books by an artist named Jack Hamm. 

The diamond in the rough influence for me goes to sculptor Wayne The Dane Hansen. 

He used to make and sell these intense sculpting videos of him working on detailed garage kits. I used to buy all my sculpting tools from him that he would make by hand from scratch.

Donnie: What materials did you use in making the toys?

Eric: I use all types of materials for making toys and it really depends on the concept and its function. 

I would use a hard wax that had to be mixed in a crock pot as a finisher to get a good clean surface and some softer clays to rough in organic forms. 

Then maybe some styrene plastic parts and sheets for technical designs for complicated accessory fabrication.

Donnie: What other toy lines did you work on?

Eric: I worked on some preschool Spiderman and friends and a bunch of professional WWF/WCW wrestler toys for Toybiz, some of the Beatles Yellow Submarine lines for McFarlane Toys, the ET 20th anniversary lines for ToysRus and some of the Butt Ugly Martians for Hasbro. 

I had a small prototyping studio with a few employees that I started with another sculptor and we would work on several projects from a bunch of companies at the same time. 

I also did a few projects for the designer toy Kid Robot a bunch of years back as well as the Video Game Award trophy sculpture that they collaborated on with Spike TV.

Donnie: Do you have any interesting stories about working on the Orcs that were displayed at Toy Fair?

Eric: The cool thing about the Uruk-Hai Orc sculpt I did for Toybiz was that they had asked for several variants of it once it was decided that it wouldn't go into actual toy production. 

I sent them a bunch that were used in a big battlefield display with some of the other production prototype figures for their big Toy Fair showcase display.

Donnie: What are you up to these days? 

Do you have anything cool that the group can check out?

Eric: I have a collectibles company named Argonaut Resins that I produce handmade resin figurines for which I started back in 2008. 

I created the well known Tuttz cat brand with this company and have been developing all sorts of products for it lately ranging from 3D prints, T-shirts and 2d artwork. 

The next big project on the launch pad are some comic book adventures featuring the Tuttz cat.

Check out what Eric is up to by the links below.


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