AFJ'S DAY AT NECA WITH RANDY FALK!
By Jarrett Kruse
There is no way around it Junkies, Randy Falk is a busy man. I could swear that I saw him dis-apparate like a Harry Potter wizard several times throughout the day. One minute he would be in his office, the next he was nowhere to be found or somehow pulled off a David Blaine style trick where he's in two places at once.
As I entered the NECA workshop last Monday, I had to at least keep my cool for the sake of professionalism. That lasted about 90 seconds until I started geeking out about this cocoon of toys that I was going to be spending my day. This was the equivalent of going backstage at a Rolling Stones or Springsteen show for me. Yes, it was that big a deal to me folks. It is a rare occasion that you get the keys to kingdom or breathe the rarefied air of some of the most talented toy makers on the planet.
I was graciously met by both Randy and self-professed NECA "Jack of all trades," Chris Gawrych. Both of these guys had clearly been here longer than a half hour when folks with far less exciting jobs, would still be getting their coffee and checking their email. No, no, this was, "its almost 10 AM, let's get moving!" Crises can happen in a toy workshop just like any other business but what I loved so much as I watched the painters & digital wizards working their magic is that unlike most jobs in this day and age, NECA produces a tangible final product. Everything they do in the shop is carefully taken care of from the tiniest NECA Scalers to the 1/4 scale giant figures that are easily some of the best and most affordable pieces on the market today.
Almost in a daze, I started drifting away from Randy & Chris as I wandered closer to the shelves overstocked with NECA product. It was action figure heaven with everything you can imagine from figures you bought 10 years ago to figures you'll be buying this Summer. I felt like Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams seeing my childhood idols in plastic form. It was awe-inspiring and I could not help myself in thanking everyone I met profusely like I was on the election trail.
I gravitated towards the 1/4 scale Apollo Creed from ROCKY IV, right before Drago kills him in the ring. It is a fantastic creation, brilliantly realized with the greatest detail. The alternate head was at his base an I started to fiddle with the articulation and felt like Tom Hanks in Big and I said to myself, "just don't break anything!" Seriously, I looked and felt like a goofball kid as I came upon the work stations of each staff member. Every open space was better than the one before with products from their personal favorite characters and brands. NECA is of course their go to, but I loved that they all had at least one figure from another company acknowledging that the toy making process is a collaborative effort.
NECA stays ahead of the curve and these guys do not skimp on anything, even in their personal work space collections. But like in Godfather Part II, it is more of a hybrid saying, "keep your friends close, the competition closer, and there's no need to make any enemies." That's called "class" gang. The integrity and respect that Randy shows his workers is something that you cannot buy. These guys would walk over hot coals for the good of the company. That much was certain by the time my stay was over.
The sheer amounts of Predators, Aliens, newly arrived ROCKY pieces and a lot more that I cannot mention as in SDCC and other important letters to Junkies. (I don't want to risk talking about something I saw and have a NECA hit squad take me out!) Randy really does not need an office, he needs the revolving door that Christopher Reeve used to change from Clark into Superman back in '78. This is not a guy sitting up on high in his cushy leather chair handing down orders to his minions. Quite the opposite.
In fact, Randy was hands on with every problem or issue that arose that day all the while entertaining guests besides me. I kept an eagle eye on his comings and goings as Chris entertained the heck out of me with his real life tales of toy shopping in China. Randy expects his workers to go above and beyond and after that, still do it a little better. That is the reason that NECA has become NECA. Its the reason why anytime a Junkie posts, "which company do you hope gets this license?" The answer is consistently and invariably NECA, NECA, NECA...
First off Randy, thank you so much for accommodating AFJ here today for a peek behind the curtain in the NECA workshop. It really is a terrific treat to meet some of the talent that work on our favorite toys. NECA is one of the Junkies’ favorite toy brands.
RF: You are very welcome, happy to have you in and to share a bit of what goes on behind the scenes with all the AFJ fans and followers.
Is this a “normal” day for NECA? This feels more like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for artists!
RF: There is nothing normal about this place J. But yes, very typical day as far as what goes on here and all the things we are working on and the problems that need to be solved.
AFJ gets a lot of questions about NECA being as one of the top brands that they prefer to buy. Tell us a little bit about how NECA came to be.
RF: In a nutshell I worked at McFarlane for about 2 years and learned all I could and quickly realized I wanted to go in a different direction than they were headed so I started looking for a new home. I came to NECA and set up shop, gradually hiring and establishing an entire creative team and building the brands and lines that fans collect and enjoy worldwide
One of the questions we received on the AFJ page was how much does it cost to create say a 6-7 inch action figure from start to finish? Ballpark figure for those thinking that their figure is the next big thing. Kind of like me with Captain Junkie!
RF: Easily over $30 Grand for a single figure.
Now, here are some questions **direct from the Junkies FACEBOOK page** from real members. I have simply cleaned them up a bit but you will get the drift.
Randy what would be one license you would love to get your hands on in the future?
RF: Mad Max films.
I would be curious to hear what other horror lines we will see from NECA. Don't get me wrong I love Predator, Freddy, Jason. But I would like to see some diversity in the licenses
RF: We are continuing the success we have had w Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Evil Dead and we are bringing back greats like House of 1000 Corpses and Chucky
Are we going to see more ROCKY figures besides the four that were just released? So many members are crazy ROCKY Junkies.
RF: Yes, we are about to announce series 2 and we have 4 series planned out
Build-A-Figures (BAF) have been a big success for MARVEL and DC. Is that something that NECA would ever be interested in?
RF: We did them way back on several occasions including all 3 Hellraiser series, Harry Potter and maybe more that I am forgetting. Basically it costs us too much and if we create a new figure like that we are better off releasing it as a SKU and not a BAF, it works for the bigger guys because most of their lines are repaints or reused and they have little no accessories or paint deco on the figures so they can put $ into a BAF.
Are their any newer licenses that NECA has been eyeballing and can tell the Junkies about? Please?!
RF: Plenty but I can't discuss due to ongoing negotiations.
SDCC is right around the corner! Can we expect any big announcements and/or surprises from NECA this year?
RF: Of course J, of course....
After the success of last years 7-inch Ledger Joker, West/Keaton Batman & Reeve Superman, can the Junkies expect to see a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman? If not, are their any movie figures NECA are thinking about?
RF: No Lynda Carter Wonder Woman but I am always looking for ways to get new and exciting figures out there through different channels
TMNT are absolutely huge on the AFJ page and a lot of them want to know if their are going to be 6 to 7-inch Turtles coming soon?
RF: Yes, the arcade TMNT and Foot sets for SDCC is just the beginning.
What is your personal dream license of figures to make for NECA Randy? Mine is Back to the Future but it never seems to happen so we all want to know what your “white whale” is.
RF: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and the Mad Max franchise.
And finally, if the AFJ comic book and characters become a big hit, can I count on you and NECA to make the first Captain Junkie action figure?
RF: Sure right after Johnny 5 (From Short Circuit) and Harrigan (Danny Glover from PREDATOR 2) and Bennett (Vernon Wells from COMMANDO) and The Golden Girls line 😉