Last week I brought you a series of articles and reviews of a great new action figure line from the Chinese toy company, Ori-Toy. Today I’m following that up with a very special article: an exclusive interview with the founder and toy designer, Mr. Mo Mou.
Not only was Mo kind enough to answer my questions, but he also included photos and sketches to some of the behind-the-scenes elements of his company’s designs. Some of the pictures are pretty large, so you’ll have to click on them to see the full image. And as always, let us know what you think about this unique line of toys in the comments below.
Mo Mou: Dear all, I’m Mo from Ori-Toy and I started the business in 2009. In the beginning Ori-Toy concentrated on OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) toy designs, but beginning in 2010 I started to develop original toys such as Ori-Fig and Ori-Bot (Ori-Bot is still under development).
V: What were your inspirations in developing the Ori-Fig?
MM: Ori-Fig was originally an Arabian genie named “Anonymous”, which I designed many years ago. This genie lives in people’s minds and helps in collecting memory pieces; in different cases he will change himself into different characters. (So you may find that the trousers of an Ori-Fig is a bit like genie trousers.) When I developed Ori-Fig, I re-employed the idea of “identity changing” from Anonymous.
MM: I’d love to, but I don’t have a plan for this yet. I think Anonymous may have to be born with some media, like a comic or flash animation, before it becomes a product.
V: When I look at an Ori-Fig, I feel like you were able to blend the stylized look of a vinyl figure with the articulation and dynamics of an action figure. Was this the goal all along?
V: Part of my initial appeal in these figures is their basis on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms storyline. Are you a big fan of the Three Kingdom’s stories?
MM: Yes. I like the Three Kingdoms; many characters inside the stories are cool and full of character. Three Kingdoms toys are rare in the market, so I chose this story as the pilot product for Ori-Fig.
V: With a cast of so many characters, how do you choose which ones should be made first?
MM: Guan Yu is one of the most famous characters in the Three Kingdoms. In Asia, I believe even those who don’t know the Three Kingdoms story well have heard about him. As a warrior/general, he was also one of the most powerful fighters at the time (certainly Lu Bu was another); so I chose him as the first character in the product line. For the following characters, I always choose my favorite.
V: I can definitely see the Arabian influence in the Ori-Fig design. I know the design would lend itself well to characters like Aladdin or Sinbad, but I can also see the opportunity for mythical figures like Hercules or Thor. Do you have plans on expanding into other legendary people from around the world?
MM: That’s a cool suggestion! I like mythical characters too. Let me think about this.
V: What’s your process for designing the figures? Are they done on computer or do you start out sketching with a pencil and paper?
MM: Concept sketch first, then I proceed to CAD, and then refining and molding. The Guan Yu sketch is the first concept sketch of the character. You’ll find that the details on the figure were fine-tuned compared to the sketch.
V: Something else I really like about the Ori-Fig design is its versatility. Are you planning on expanding into other genres?
MM: Apart from Three Kingdoms and The Ravages of Time, I’ve started looking into anime licenses. I hope that Ori-Fig can be cross-developed into anime and game characters.
V: The Ori-Fig body seems like it would lend itself to customization. Do you have any plans on releasing blank Ori-Figs so people could create their own characters?
MM: Sure, I have a plan for that.
V: Lastly, I’m going to end on a tough question. Aside from Ori-Figs, what’s your favorite toy or toy line right now?
MM: My favorite toy is Takara Yusha (Brave) series. But frankly, I like old toys more than new toys. I feel that the latest toys are too “collectable” and more for display. I like toys that are for play rather than for just owning. But, the latest Masterpiece Optimus Prime is a good toy! It has a cool transformation, which I like a lot!
V: What’s your favorite toy or toy line from when you were a kid?
MM: Well, there are so many toy lines I liked when I was small. Transformers, Mashin Eiyuuden plastic kit, SD Gundam, Yusha Series, Saint Seiya, . . . too many! If choosing a favorite one, I may go with Saint Seiya because I liked those like crazy as a kid.
V: Mo, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat with us, and also for making the articles and reviews last week possible. Also, congratulations on getting this fantastic toy line up and running. I hope we see the Ori-Figs for a long time to come.
MM: Thank you for giving me a chance to introduce myself and Ori-Fig to toy fans. Thank you so much!!
Also, I know some of you are chomping at the bit to buy these figures. While they’re not readily available yet outside of Asia, Mo is working to bring them to online retail. The details are still being hammered out, but once everything is ready we’ll definitely update with an announcement.
For more Ori-Fig awesomeness, check out the Ori-Toy website.