I’m often asked about the strategies and creative process that Molecule8 used when creating the John Lennon Imagine 1:6 scale figure. I hope this article gives you a glimpse into the hard work, challenges, and artistic process that went into the making of our first figure release.
Before the Figure
As a collector of realistic pop culture and video game action figures, I’ve always appreciated being totally blown away when a new figure arrived, but that was a rare occasion. I wanted to see more ultra-realism and a near-perfect likeness of the character, as well as better posing options with more human-like anatomy. I was repeatedly disappointed. I also felt that the collectible action figure industry was stagnating as a whole, and could use some new innovations. With my experience as an executive in the video game industry tucked under my arm, I set out to gather a team of top creative and production experts from around the globe who shared my passion and dedication. In 2015, Molecule8 was born.
My own adulation for John Lennon made him an easy choice for our premier 1:6 scale figure release. We knew that it was going to be a challenging task, since Lennon’s devotees ranged in the millions and we knew that every detail of this tribute to Lennon would surely be scrutinized. Nevertheless, we were up for the challenge. After some time and determination, we acquired the license from The John Lennon Estate. Our next task was to gather as much Lennon information and photographic reference as possible. We selected countless photos showing various angles and expressions of John so that we could achieve the look we were envisioning. Next step, find a talented sculptor with a delicate touch.
The Figure – Our Creative Process Begins
We were lucky and honored to have K.A.Kim; a renowned sculptor that we knew could capture John’s likeness and personality and who is known for her unparalleled artistic skills and meticulous detail work. She created the head sculpts for Lennon at final scale size using traditional sculpting techniques. It amazed me how a lump of clay could be transformed into the vision I had for our first 1:6 scale figure.
Molds were then created for head and body, a special formula of resin was poured, and an impressive John Lennon figure form emerged as a gray model master. It was time to bring in skilled artists to begin the process of delicately applying thin layers of paint in varying colors to create Lennon’s life-like skin tone. Much like applying paint to a canvas to create a fine piece of artwork, every feature of Lennon figure skin areas were rendered in detail with brushes that had only a wisp of tiny bristles. Their goal: to capture John Lennon’s essence in his expression and bring as much realism to the figure as possible. Lennon’s hair was sculpted in several parts and painted separately from the figure to be attached in the last stages of production.
What a Legend Wears
We reviewed and tested literally hundreds of special fabrics that would look natural on a miniature body. Does it crease realistically? Will it conform to and hang off the body in a natural-looking way? How do we best make it accurately resemble his iconic “Imagine” era clothing? The dark blue velvet material was particularly challenging to get just right. Not only did it need to be lush to the touch, but also thin enough to apply the intricate printed pattern to it. The army jackets are stonewashed to give them a real-life worn appearance before applying the tiny military patches. It was important for all of John Lennon’s clothing to find the absolute thinnest material to make the whole product look right in the chosen scale. But, we successfully searched out the perfect fabrics and bought up as much as we could, since we anticipated that our revolutionary Lennon figure would be highly sought after.
Capturing the authenticity of his 1970s stitched leather cowboy boots was achieved through highly detailed sculpting and a specialized painting and weathering process. Another accessory that took many phases of changes and improvements were Lennon’s iconic glasses. Normally, action figures’ glasses are made out of plastic, but we intended to do something new and better. Our first attempt at actual stainless steel miniature frames was passable, but the frames looked too thick on the small face. An enormous amount of time was spent on further R&D, until we were finally able to create 0.3mm thick frames that were much more realistic than our first attempt. The lenses were made of a special poured liquid resin and the unprecedented final product finally met our goals for a new level of realism and quality.
I was truly excited about our innovative base and how Lennon and our future figures will be able stand and be displayed. Most action figures cannot stand up on their own without a metal pole inserted into the figure or a brace hugging their waist. We developed a new system for supporting and displaying the John Lennon figure. We combined elegant tempered glass with a magnetic base and footwear system that was met with skepticism at first, but is proving to function perfectly. We anticipate that this magnetic system will soon become the industry standard for displaying high-quality collectible figures going forward. This is one of the things that I initially set out to do–to be an innovator in the industry, and bring delight to the average consumers and fellow avid collectors alike.
My team and I were determined throughout this journey to create a very unique tribute to John Lennon and to capture the very essence of his spirit. I feel we accomplished what we set out to do: to create a fine piece of collectible art with proportional articulation that hasn’t seen before, and at a reasonable price point for this class of collectible figure.
The Molecule8 team continues to innovate at every opportunity. We are very excited about the debut of our John Lennon Imagine figure, as well as other upcoming character figures that are currently in development. We are proud that our John Lennon creation is the first of many cherished museum-quality figures to come.