Sideshow collectibles have been around for over 25 years, producing some of the finest characters from film, television, video games, and comic books. The process by which they make collectibles is fascinating and complex. Let’s see how they do it
Sideshow statues move through a detailed process that starts off with the conceptual design, either lifelike or imaginative. After that, the 2D design is rendered into digital 3D and wax sculptures. From there, two main molds are sent through to paint. After paint comes costume design and manufacturing. Lastly, it is sent to China for production.
Let’s look at the detailed process and each level of design that every statue and collectible goes through when Sideshow decides to create one of their unique products.
The first step is a concept design
According to Tom Gilliland, the creative director at Sideshow collectibles, the very first thing the team does work on a type of blueprint for the upcoming statue that they are going to be producing (This is known as the exploration phase). It deals with ideas such as the essence of the character, the stylistic universe that it comes from, tone, and presentation. Incorporating these elements helps the team capture and effectively arrest an individual’s imagination when they look at the statue in question.
There are two ways in which the concept design is formed. One is by taking a survey, and each artist brings their ideas in terms of their vision and how they think the piece should be produced. This is mainly for designs that relate to characters that the team can embellish on. The next is concept design based on lifelike characters, and instead of dealing with the idealism of a character, the team deals with their realism, and instead of great embellishments, the team brings through their ideas in subtleties. They do this by studying the characters from the films (their body language, their nuances).
The next step in the process is digital and wax sculpting
A specific team comprising of sculptures handle the wax and 3d digital design after the concept art has been rendered in 2D. The team likes to call the area that they work in “the waxworks.” During this process, the sculpting team renders the 2D images into a 3D digital space and then carve out the sculptures from wax. Some team members (Matt Aylward) have even created their own tools to sculpt the statues with precision and detail successfully.
After sculpting comes molding
Everything that the team from waxworks sculpts has to go through molding and casting. The first step in creating a mold that this team deals with is creating a silicone mold. Once poured and set, it will capture every detail and nuance that the wax sculpture has. From that mold, they will remove the wax piece, and into the negative space that is left behind, they will pour in the resin. At this point, they pressurize the resin and force any air bubbles out of it.
After the casting is removed, it is then sent to mastering. This process is where the casting mold is cleaned. This entails making sure the air bubbles are patched, the keys are all synchronized and working together, as well as sanding off the seamlines.
Paint follows molding
Following molding, a prototype and paint master mold will be sent to the team of painters. This means the team paints and tests their ideas on the prototype and then renders the paint master, which will be used for final manufacturing. According to Anthony Mestas, the team has two jobs: to create the perfect paint master and then to create a piece that comes to life. The team spends many hours mixing paint and then painting many layers onto a mold creating and matching exact colors of skin tone and any other elements that need to be precise.
Cut and sew is the next process
When the art direction calls for something above and beyond for a piece, the responsibility falls onto the cut and sew department’s hands. They then need to raise the level of authenticity of a piece through costume design. Their job, in essence, is to manufacture clothing that accentuates the dynamic of a character.
The final step is the production
Jason McCann lays out the process by which the final paint master model is sent to their production house in China for mass manufacturing, stating that what they do is not so cut and dry. The managers need to bridge the gap between what the artists at Sideshow are producing and what the manufacturers in China will replicate. The management team needs to custodian the lifespan of the project all the way through manufacturing until it is in the hands of the collectors. Sometimes members of the team will actually travel to China to oversee the entire process.
As you can see, the process by which Sideshow statues and collectibles are made is a detailed and intricate one. There is never one person who works on one specific element but rather a team of creative professionals who pool their knowledge and experience together. They then together create some of the finest looking statutes and collectibles (from various media such as film, television, and video games, and comic books) in the world.