Monday, December 22, 2008

New Models in the Pipeline

Months ago, Pegasus showed be samples of their new rocket ship. They were pre-production versions and Larry Pegasus told me they would be in shops very soon. The pre-production version was perfect, they needed to make a box and decals, then ship them to the distributors and off to stores. Now perhaps six months later they are still not in the shops. What happened?

The miniature model and figure business is very complex. In this instance the rocket pods were judged to be too pointy to be safe and they had to redesign the model, re-cut the mold before they could begin production. So we are again at the "They should be in the shops in a few months" stage. Retail price will be around $15.00 each for the rockets and they have a nice decal sheet for them too. The Pegasus US Army truck will be in the shops "soon" also.

Most companies that make plastic figures and models don't have employees making their products. They are not large enough to own factories with Pegasus or HaT employees working three shifts a day producing plastic soldiers and tanks. They contract every stage of the process. They hire someone to do research. They hire someone to do the initial sculpts. They hire someone to make the molds. They hire someone to draw the box art. They hire someone to make the boxes. They hire someone to produce the molds. They hire someone to package it all and someone else to ship it to distributors who purchase the product. Once the distributors/ importers have the product they sell it to retailers.
Most of the people they hire don't work directly for the model company. They work for some other company that contracts with the model company to do a job. The model company has no control over when the actual work gets done, because they are independent companies or independent contractors. So the sculptor may say he will sculpt those 20 poses in 20 weeks and then his muse does not hit him and he takes 40 weeks, or 120 weeks or never. And time is wasted. Or his sculpts miss an important pocket flap, drawstring, ammo pouch and they have to be done over. Or his sculpts won't come out of a mold. This is a critical element the sculpts have limitations due to the mold making process, the completed figures have to be able to be ejected from the mold. Some sculptors just don't get this and make great sculpts that could never be produced in plastic without being 9 part figures.

So when people ask the question, when will this product be available, the answer is no one really knows. The best anyone can do is give an estimate based on how long each step should take, given the products place in the line up. Companies can only do a few models at a time because of the expense of each step and the limited number of sculptors, mold makers, etc who can do this type of work. Most of this work is very precise and even a tiny error results in figures that are way too tall, or too short, or goofy poses, or historically incorrect.

The sculptors are artists who no little or nothing about history or the military. They don't know how a soldier holds a rifle, how a tribesman holds a spear. They are not wargamers and don't know that we want the new Germans to be compatible with the HaT set or the Revell set; they probably never even heard of those other companies. Then just to make it more difficult, most of the work is done in China or Eastern Europe and the folks there don't speak English. And Imex, HaT and Pegasus are American companies, based in the US. So imagine how hard it is to direct these processes from 6,000 miles away by phone and email with someone who does not speak your language as their primary language.
Some big companies like Italeri and Revell probably do have it easier because the people they use are more local, but even then we see a more uneven result because they are not run by hobbyists who care about the army men they way we do here a Bunker Talk.
Oh, and did I mention all these new Pegasus products will be out soon? They are all past the pre-production stage, so it should not be too much longer before they are in stores. Next year the T-34/76 will join the Pegasus T-34/85 on the shelves.


Plastic Hussar said...

Nice commentary today Mike.

It is good to remind us of what goes into the pipeline. Helps us to put our concerns about delays into perspective.

And have a Merry Christmas!

Bunkermeister said...

It is a weird business. Most companies have no direct control over their employees, or their product. A strange way to do business, but even the big companies are actually rather small operations.

Merry Christmas to you too!