P&P: Congratulations on getting Ox on the cover of the 2011 Toys "R" Us Great Big Book. How do you feel about Uglydolls having their own sections in two of the most well-known toy stores in Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz?
DH: I still have the Big Book from when I was a kid with the 70's Star Wars page somewhere.
I must say a huge huge congrats to our entire team at the NJ Prettyugly office for working day and night for almost one year to help make this happen. Toys R Us is the local toy shop in many towns across the USA, and we are thrilled to be opening an FAO Uglydoll shop within each location in the US this year, all across the world next year.
It's really thrilling to walk into the very Toys R Us I used to buy Star Wars figures at in the early 80's and see our set up there. If you can, check out the FAO and Toys R Us Times Square shops with the wild molded buildings and characters...its like our books came to life.
I am also excited because I know our being there with these FAO boutiques at Toys R Us will ultimately send more business to small shops and local toy stores. That is always very important to us. We built this for our fans and friends and we hope everyone enjoys.
P&P: The Uglydoll "brand" has really grown over the past 12 to 24 months. From tin toys to clothing to party accessories, what can we expect next?
DH: Uglycon November 2012 at Giant Robot! I can hardly wait but I guess I will have to.
I have been writing a book to help aspiring creatives. It is years away due to the movie schedule but it is something I am really excited about.
A few years ago we produced Kaiju figures with an authentic monster toy factory in Japan. This year we are producing the Lucky Uckys from our life long love of the cheap unpainted Keshi figures...really excited abut those and the new tin toys we have coming. We just released an extensive Uglydoll party line available now at Party City and I think its the best of the best line we've ever done. Truly excited over that one, and we hope everyone gets a kick out of it.
Sun-Min and I are also super thrilled to be releasing POP Uglydoll figures with Funko. We have been huge fans of the POP Heroes and POP Star Wars guys and are so excited to line ours up next to them!
Wage, Ice-Bat, Babo, OX and Ninja Batty are joining the POP series very soon and we hope our fans will love them as much as we've loved working with the super pros at Funko. The Funko guys are truly brilliant and we have been dying to work with them since the day we met them years ago.
P&P: If you had to choose one character to represent the entire Uglydoll line, which would it be and why?
DH: Wage was the first, and he was brought to life 10 years ago this year. Wage, Babo, OX and Ice-Bat are the main guys, at least for us, as seen through our books especially.
P&P: Do you have a specific plan to developing your Uglydoll characters? Do you start with the name and backstory or do you base those on the illustrated character?
DH: Since day one, Sun-Min and I had a motto of sorts that we were not producing toys, but telling stories through books, toys, and anything else we loved. If there is going to be an Uglydoll bucket, the story comes first.
So everything begins with the story. While most know of Wage through the tale of Sun-Min first sewing him for me based on a picture of him in a love letter, Wage had already meant something to us and was a character with a story on paper, which is why she decided to sew him together for me. The story is all that matters.
P&P: Earlier this year it was announced that Uglydoll would be turned into an animated feature film. Is there any news or progress to report on that front?
DH: I can say that Sun-Min and I have been writing the story around the clock night and day non stop and it's been a true joy.
P&P: Has anyone ever expressed a negative reaction to the toys being called Uglydolls?
DH: Not really negative. John Stewart was the first and only to make fun of our name that I've heard of, really.
To us, ugly means unique and different. Uglydoll characters have funny little twists and turns inside and out which make them who they are, just like we do. What makes us different is supposed to be celebrated and proclaimed from the roof tops, not covered up or altered.
P&P: What toy, writing or illustration work are you doing outside of the Uglydolls?
DH: Sun-Min and I haven't had much time to work on anything else now that we are on the movie 24-7, but I can say we are building an all new company piece by piece which we are VERY excited about, it's something simple, oddly familiar, and completely new.
P&P: It was announced that a Bissy Bear figure will be released. Will 2012 see more books and toy releases from the Bossy Bear series?
DH: Bossy Bear's newest book is delayed even more so now that the movie takes up all of our time.
We promise to return to Bossy Bear in a big way when we can.
P&P: I've watched enough children's shows over the past year to fry a normal man's brain. Is there any chance we might see the Bossy Bear stories turned into an animated children's television series?
DH: If the right team comes along, sure thing. We are very picky though.
P&P: Not many people probably realize the number of toys you have released. Can you name some of the non-Uglydoll lines that you've released?
DH: When we were building Uglydoll the designer toy market was just barely starting, but to us, Uglydoll was always a "regular" toy line meant for toy shops and gift stores ( and books, although those took us longer to release ) and to us, not really part of the "designer toy" movement. We were really fortunate to get wrapped up in that category somehow, probably due to some of the shops we were selling at the time, such as Giant Robot, the original US based spot for Michael Lau and Pete Fowler items.
During those early years we've made hundreds of collectible toys with Toy2R, all which serve as potential book and licensing projects we would love to go back to once our schedule allows us to do so. We also produced many Kaiju items made in Japan, mostly out of love for that category. There was a time when we were going to Tokyo several times per month, and during that time accumulated way too many Kaiju toys. ( the only toys we have left at home )
P&P: There are two toys that I still hold out hope will one day be released. Any chance we will ever see a Pounda or Little Bony vinyl?
DH: Someday when we have time!
P&P: Where do you see Uglydoll 5 years from now?
DH: I see Wage with more patches on his apron.
P&P: Is there one artist (living or dead) who you would love to collaborate with?
DH: Dehara, Koji Harmon, Gargamel, Bwana Spoons and Le Merde anytime, always! The Super 7 crew, any day also.
Gargamel did a figure of one of our off beat characters a few years ago, and Dehara, Le Merde, Sun-Min and I did work on some crazy resin figures in the past...and the Bwana Spoons Kaiju Babo's are some of my favorites.
The Koji Harmon Ice-Bat series is truly staggering. So we have worked with all of them, but would love to work with them again, anytime.
P&P: There are a lot of passionate Uglydoll collectors out there. What are some of the things you are passionate about collecting?
DH: I am passionate about collecting experiences and photos of my family.
I used to collect toys but now Sun-Min and I take great pleasure in buying next to nothing.
Now instead of buying the toys I like I just take photos of items and leave them at the store. We still pick apart toys for research, but that's mostly girl's toys and baby toys, as they usually are most creative and are filled with the most interesting mechanics / tech.
P&P: What would you tell someone who has aspirations of making toys for a living?
DH: The same I tell any artist or designer or story teller coming to us for advice...Decide if you want to be George Lucas, or the artist who animates Yoda.
Both are fantastic paths, but there is a huge difference, and it is a choice to make.
We often receive letters from artists who were inspired by Lucas and want to do what he did, but end up going to art school to receive training to do what Ralph McQuarrie did.
And five random questions:
P&P: Who do you think is the greatest television detective/private investigator?
DH: Columbo, just one more thing.
P&P: What book are you currently reading or did you read last?
DH: Reading Education of Millionaires
P&P: Star Wars or Star Trek?
DH: Galaxy Quest
P&P: If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
DH: I have the same super power you have and I use it from 5am to 10pm daily.
P&P: What was your first job?
DH: I've had two. The first was manager of a toy shop in the early 90s...I left Art Center to go learn the real world scoop on how boutique toy retail and distribution works.
My 2nd job was at a Flash animation company, which didn't last long. I left when they asked me to change a color to purple. There's no way someone is going to tell me to change a color..
Ok maybe Sun-Min can.