INTERVIEW WITH STREET SHARKS CREATOR JOE GALLIANI – AFJ EXCLUSIVE

By Daniel Edward

Over the past two years, I re-discovered a joy for collecting action figures. I would pick up a few He-Man figures at a yard sale. Sometimes I would find a Thundercat at a flea market. I didn’t fall in love with a line of toys until I got my first Street Shark. Pool shark tipster was larger than my other figures. Also, he was painted with fun and verve. Further, I enjoyed the shark motif that strayed from the typical Muscle Man to something unique. I began collecting every Street Shark I could find. After collecting close to fifty I yearned for more information on my favorite line of toys.
I joined different social media groups furthering my collection. I acquired strange Street Shark items like candy dispensers and fake beepers. To my chagrin, there wasn’t any information on the company or the creators. The logo "Streetwise Designs" was on each shark and item, but Google searches yielded no satisfaction. With no information I continued to search, I just had to be vigilant to find out how my favorite toys were brought into the world.
Somehow I came upon an article on Mental Floss that named the creator Joe Galliani. The article was written well, authored by Jake Rossen. Not only did it name the creator, but had some information on the beginnings of the Street Sharks. I read the article overjoyed to have a beginning, but still had so many questions about my favorite toys that were unanswered.
I decided to play Internet Detective. Could I find the creator of Street Sharks? Now that I had a name I spent some time searching and found a bio of a Joe Galliani that was working in the environmental field. Could this be him I wondered? The pictures looked similar to the 90s pictures yielded in my previous searches. I found his profile and messaged him... hoping for a response from the creator, the god, the alpha of the Street Sharks. Almost immediately he responded: “Yes, that’s me, Daniel”. So I began conversing with a toy creator from Mattel.
I showed him pictures of my collection. I sent him screenshots from the Street Sharks Facebook group other collectors had started. I asked him if he had time for an interview at some point in the future. Right away he said yes and we set up a time for a chat on Monday. Monday arrived and I had every intention of doing a live video interview. Unfortunately, my mother had an operation at Fox Chase Cancer Center on Monday. So as not to pass up my moment with the Street Shark creator, I sat down on a bench in the hospital hallway outside the surgery waiting room, dialed the number Joe Galliani had given me and started the interview. It was not the video interview I wanted, but I was not going to pass up a moment with a Mattel creator who was being hospitable with his time to a stranger.

“Hey, Joe it’s Daniel from Facebook... thanks for taking the time.” We started talking and he was genuinely happy to answer my questions and talk about Street Sharks. I told him about the article I’d found and how I found him on Facebook. I started the interview with a quote I read from him. “I went to the college of Mattel, let’s start there.” Joe then painted a verbal picture of his beginnings at Mattel sweeping floors and working his way up to employment arranging displays for line previews.

Joe Galliani:
 It was hard at first. Get me that He-Man or that Skeletor. I didn’t know which figure was which at first. After a few months, I caught on and knew which figures to display in front of dioramas and rotating lighted displays.
DE: (I was wowed for a moment. I was talking to someone who had been a part of toy history. He had his pencil and hands in my favorite pop culture phenomenon. I knew some Masters of the Universe collectors who would forever wonder why I didn’t ask any He-man questions. I knew I’d be lucky to get 30 minutes and I had so many questions about my Street Sharks.)
DE: What was Streetwise Designs?JG: That was David Siegel’s company he was the other designer. He had designed a line called Dino-Riders this toyline where he kinda slapped a saddle on the back of some dinosaurs. He was very proud he’d designed a toy line where he could just repaint the dinosaurs and put out different waves of figures. He saved a ton of money using the same molds, he was very proud of that. Now we had a new idea about sharks and he wanted to paint the same sharks over and over like he did with Dino-Riders. I told him we needed a more diverse line of different sharks. We needed a hammerhead, we needed a tiger shark... etc.”

DE: How involved were you in the cartoon?

JG: I wrote three seasons of scripts. That was what I did besides designing the sharks. There were some scripts written before I was involved but they were really bad. I changed them and came up with the taglines: "Jawsome", "Fintastic", "I smell ya bro".

DE: Why were the sharks so big? Other figures are half the size of the turtles and he-man for instance.
JG: The sharks were made to dominate the other figures you played with. They were made to be bigger and badder. You could actually fit a Ninja Turtle in a street sharks mouth, that was the idea. Cost of raw materials and cost to make bigger figures wasn't an issue then.

DE: At some point, the toy packages changed. They went from shark cages to boxes without cages to the basic blister pack on a card. Why the change?

JG: Cost and the kids were beating them up. The boxes with the cages were expensive to make and they didn't hold up well to kids in the stores. Back then the way you bought toys was you went to the store and tried them. That's why the sharks had the try me feature on the box. The kids would damage the boxes and we got complaints.
DE: What inspired the 12-inch mail-away?
JG: That was a beta test. You would have a mail away for a higher end, more expensive figure. Customers would send for it, then you had a mailing list of customers who would buy bigger expensive figures. It was 12-inches because he was to be bigger and dominate like we made the sharks to dominate smaller figures.

DE: The Space Sharks are very hard to find. Are they a limited number compared to the other sharks?
JG: Oh yes, very limited. I'm not sure the exact number but I'm sure there was only one production run of them. I was surprised when I saw them for sale at the Mattel store. I know they only went out to certain areas and locations.

DE: Did you keep any prototypes, drawings or figures for yourself.

JG:
Yes I have prototypes, drawings, and unopened products in storage from Street Sharks and Mattel in general. My wife has been wanting me to sell them. I knew keeping them would be worthwhile as boys become men and then become boys again re-collecting their toys. I recently sold a He-Man playset “Eternia” to a gentleman in a collector's group as he was dying for it. I have an amazing Hot Wheels collection with special cars in special boxes for the employees.

DE: Are you willing to take any pictures of anything you have? They didn't have to be perfect pictures or scans, just a cell phone picture would be great.
JG: Sure let me see what I have in storage.

DE: They did Taco Bell giveaway and so many other items that weren't figures. Did you hate or dislike any product?

JG: No, I got paid for all those. I wanted more stuff. Why didn't we have a Street Shark bike I always asked. But they did put out over 50 Street Shark products that weren't figures.

DE: I have the beepers and candy dispensers... (I said proudly).

JG: Well, I have hairbrushes and toothbrushes and all kinds of stuff.

DE: After Season 2 of the show it changed and Dino Vengers later Extreme Dinosaurs was crowbarred in. Were you involved in that?
JG: No, that was Seigel and Mattel trying to get the most out of the line. (I nixed all my Extreme Dinosaur and Muscle Mutt questions.)

DE: (I could tell I was almost out of time) One last question, your favorite shark?
JG: Moby Lick (he started laughing). I used to give them to females I knew at Christmas. He had this great Gene Simmons tongue that rotated. I can't believe they let us put that out.

DE: He squirted water out of the head too.

JG: Yes, he did (laughs).
I thanked him for his time. I never met someone so generous with his time while being so happy to speak to a stranger. I wrote down my last few notes and went back to the waiting room for my mother's surgery to finish. My only regret is that I didn't do a video recording, but I doubt the hospital staff would have obliged me. Beyond an amazing story regarding royalties he asked me to keep to myself, I had everything written down. I was happy that I acquired knowledge for the toy community and that I am now able to release it into the ethos. I the collector, the spectator, reached out into the world and found a creator and solved some mysteries of my favorite toy line. Joe Galliani is now a member of our Facebook group Street Sharks Jawsome.

Daniel Edward is a avid action figure collector, father of two, and Captain of his own Street Shark Team. For more Street Sharks talk, trading, and overall enjoyment join the Street Sharks: Jawsome group

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