Behind Play Imaginative’s Super Alloy Figures

This is a guest article by Jedd-the-Jedi. Jedd covered the Singapore Toy, Games, and Comic Convention for AFP and is based in Singapore.

This handsome-looking fellow is a Super Alloy Batman from Play Imaginative, and designed by Jim Lee. Before its release, few had heard of the Singaporean company, and to toy collectors in Singapore it is quite a big deal that a local company has managed to snag the rights to produce action figures of Marvel and DC characters. The exclusive figure was unveiled back at the Singapore Toy Games and Comics Convention (STGCC) in September, and is currently available over at Big Bad Toy Store.

Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times ran an article about Play Imaginative on Sunday, with interviews with the company’s two founders. Play Imaginative approached DC Comics in 2011 to obtain the licensing rights to create a 12-inch tall Batman action figure, which they were granted after DC saw and approved of the prototype made mostly of die-cast metal. The company is currently working on Super Alloy figures of Superman, Green Lantern and a new Batman. They’ve also signed a deal last December with Marvel Comics to make toys based on its movie characters, and a Super Alloy Iron Man coming out in March 2013 is the next release.

Play Imaginative co-founder and business development director Jacky Teo tells the newspaper that he was inspired by Japanese “Chogokin” toys. “Chogokin” is Japanese for “super alloy” – hence the name of Play Imaginative’s series of figures – and is used to refer to toys made of die-cast metal. As a collector of high-end figures, such as those by Hot Toys, Mr Teo has noticed fan demand for such figures based on movie characters such as Batman, Indiana Jones, Rambo, RoboCop and Iron Man on the rise. The hot and humid Singapore weather isn’t particularly kind to plastic and vinyl toys, so die-cast metal ones would seem to have an edge there.

Super Alloy Iron Man Mark VII 1 Super Alloy Iron Man Mark VII 2

(Photo credits: Play Imaginative)

The secret is apparently in the material. More than 80% of each figure is made of metal, with plastic being used for joints including elbows, knees and fingers. The company’s co-founder and creative director Darren Gan likens the material to that used in the production of Hot Wheels die-cast cars. Using metal also allows the Singaporean design and engineering team of 18 to add electronics into each figure. The Iron Man figure’s eyes, arc reactor and repulsor beam blasters in the hands can light-up.

The company makes their own 2’/2-inch Trexi figures and is also known for starting up STGCC, which has since been sold to Reed Exhibitions. Mr Teo sent an e-mail to Jim Lee to ask if he was interested in designing something for for Play Imaginative, but he thought that Trexi was too small, and had something along the lines of a 12 inch scale figure in mind. The design and engineering work for Batman, based on Jim Lee’s designs, took a year to complete.

For those who are particular about scale, it’s been revealed that the DC Comics figures will be made in 1:6 scale, but for Marvel Comics, the company will produce figures in three sizes. The 1:6 scale figures are exclusively for Singapore, while the other two – the 1:12 scale and 1:4 scale – are for the global market. Smaller figures will be less articulated, while larger will be more intricate in design. Since the figures are predominantly comprised of metal, female characters are unlikely to be produced, although the company isn’t ruling that out entirely. Armour-clad characters will take priority. “We don’t want to start making every character. Even right now, we cannot make everything,” explains Mr Gan. “We don’t even have time to make figures from the first two Iron Man movies.”

I guess it’s always nice to see smaller companies that make figures aimed at a specialty market get a leg up. And you can throw some national pride into the mix too.