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INTERVIEWS

DIRECTOR OF MERCHANDISING MARVEL WORLDWIDE

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Jesse Falcon
Jesse Falcon

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JESSE FALCON

Jesse Falcon is a name that almost everyone that collects Marvel toys will know. He has been with the company for more than 25 years, and has held many postions. During his time working on Lord of the Rings, Jesse was one of the Project Managers having a front seat to to history.  he is not just a corporate guy either. Jesse is also a actor, writer and producer as can be seen on his IMDB page


I have to be honest and say that this man intimidates me. His involvement in the world that we all love is monumental. I had the chance to meet Jesse is person, and it was an amazing and intimidating experience. He is a brillant and artistic person, that I hold in very high regard. Heck, he brought us the toy we love, and delivered absolute perfection in my book. The Toy Biz LOTR line is still unmatched over 20 years later. His and all the rest of the Toy Biz teams passion for the work they did is undeniable. It's not often that the makers are this involved. The night I spent with the team, I was welcomed with open arms. Many of them answered any questions I had, and tossed in stories that they wanted to share about the good times. I will revist my time with each of them later. Ok, enough fanboy banter. On with the interview.


I had the chance to ask Jesse some questions about his experience with working at Marvel and his time with Lord of the Rings. I hope you enjoy.


Donnie: We all know you as the KING of LOTR toys and are proud to have a Q&A with you! Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us.


Jesse: That’s incredibly sweet but the true “king” is Richard Taylor. It was Peter's vision of Tolkien but Richard has been and continues to be an incredible inspiration to me to this day.


Donnie: How did you get your start in the toy industry?


Jesse: I literally started kit-bashing toys and making my own vehicles for shows that I loved ( but were no toys for) like “battle of the planets” when I was in 3rd grade. I kept doing that, customizing action figures, all the way through college. I got an internship at Marvel in the summer of 91’ and after that moved to NYC & interviewed at Toy Biz.


Donnie: What was your role during your time working on Lord of the Rings toys?


Jesse: I was a director of PD at Toy biz. (maybe?) That was 22 years ago when we went after the rights???


Donnie: Toy Biz LOTR figures are considered to this day, some of the best representations ever produced. What do you think attributes that to?


Jesse: A lot of things. The team @ TB that got that grant of rights had been together as a team for 5 years and we were constantly pushing each other to make whatever was on the drafting table to be better than the test shots that we had in hand. Lots of young passionate toy freaks who mostly lived together (many of us shared a place on and off in NYC) and we had several major DIFFERENT kinds of brands that we were working on feverishly before we got LOTR. 


Marvel/WCW/Capcom/Zena/ action figures as well as dolls/ vehicles and a host of other types of odd products that gave the team an understanding of manufacturing things that all wound up getting focused into whet we were doing at that time. I mean the other figure lines that came out of TB at that time were the OG Sam Rami Spider-Man Movie AF lines / the HULK Hands https://www.marvel.com/read/hulk-hands-a-history

And MARVEL LEGENDS!


Donnie:  You traveled to New Zealand to work with Gentle Giant on the actor scans. Can you tell us about that experience?


Jesse:  I literally think about that trip in a day dream once a month. It was a once in a life time experience. I was there for a month and if you have time Ill jump on a call and tell you all about it, suffice to say that Vigo, after being scanned, in a device that looked a lot like the “tele-pods” from the movie “The FLY” talked about the experience in a blooper…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpMGw-YB5Co


Donnie: Your likeness was used for the Elven Archer release, was that pre-planned? Did you get to choose which character you would become?


Jesse:  I don’t have a clear memory of the how but Damon and I were product managing a lot of the LOTR figures and the toy industry is full of stories of toy makers sculpting their buddies into the line (did that to my buddy Andy & Ian for Marvel Legends as Dr. Doom and Nick fury – attached! ) so I think when it came time for us to make ‘army Builders” for the human characters we volunteered.


Donnie:  Do you have a favorite LOTR project or figure you worked on?


Jesse:  The toy industry is a grindhouse. You are constantly having to come up with something that’s better than what you just did. If you want a very dramatic example of a similar type of schedule the toy industry is on watch the McQueen doc. Is very similar. Toy fair / SDCC / NYCC/ fall toy fair HK TF – all events that we have to have showings at and build on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OjX3ZbsfbU


So… with that I have to say that my favorite part of the Tolkien universe are the “Balrogs'' they are just these awesome engines of destruction and when I was a kid I lived in England and Tolkien was part of the curriculum and I fell in love at an early age. I saw the animated films and there was a lot of rotoscoping in that film and even then I don't like ‘that’ Balrog in that film – though it was less than what it was in the book – so I remember being in my office and getting a courier from New Line and open it and seeing these prints of the finished Balrog with a big “PJ APPROVED” across the print – the maker mark of this is final and you can move forward and just marveling at what I was looking at. That was 6 months before the fellowship came out.


I knew we had to make one. And we tried and tried. And for whatever reason it didn’t happen. Buyers said it would be too big & bulky for them to stock, they balked at a high price item blah blah blah. We made an amazing prototype that had articulated wings and I got my buddy Jason Mantzoukas to be the presenter at Toy Fair.  But it just never saw the light of day.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1727621/

And with all of that all you can say is thank god for Randy Faulk! (Randy Faulk of NECA who later made the Balrog we know).


Donnie:  Were you involved in the Burger King Uruk-Hai deal?  Were there any other figures considered for that or other exclusive deals?


Jesse:  I have the vaguest recollection of this. When I see posts with all of them, I am constantly reminded of all of those variations that we did. That figure was just one deal and I think it was for the first movie? Not 100% sure…


Donnie:  Do you have any memorable stories you can talk about during your time working on LOTR?


Jesse: Lots. Let’s get on a call and I’ll tell you.


Donnie:  The Toy Biz LOTR catalog is immense. What was the biggest challenge in producing so many figures in a short amount of time?


Jesse:  It was kind of a dream for toys as all. The movies were already shot so we all knew what the characters were going to look like and had copious amounts of reference which is very uncommon in toy development.


Donnie:  Were there any particular LOTR figures that you were excited about, but never materialized?


Jesse:  The Balrog – again thank you Randy!


Donnie:  What are you up to these days?


Jesse:  I oversee product development for all Marvel toy development Worldwide.

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