Joshua Reynolds: How long have you been collecting Trendmasters prototypes and why did you decide to focus on these?
Jonathan Shyman: I started collecting Trendmasters (TM for short) Prototypes back in 2003, completely by accident really, and shortly after the company closed down. And at that time, since I was new to collecting or even being familiar with what toys TM made, let alone their Prototypes, I came to realize quite quickly, there was a rather large flood of them on E-Bay as a constant actually. So when I reflect back to that time, I often wonder exactly what I missed because I do know I missed a lot of great pieces then. But... I think over the years it's safe to say I have probably made up for the chunk of time I missed, so I've had no choice but to get over that and just be open to what the future holds for me in that respect.
I focused my collecting on TM solely for their Unreleased Osmosis Jones Toy Line. That was what really tipped the jar for me. They nailed the toys as a bang-on likeness from the film. Loved the movie and I thought it was really underappreciated. The live action part, not so much. I think the Farrelly Brothers kind of missed the boat there, but the Animation in the film was incredible. When I found out about this toy line that never happened, I got all excited and began searching out the toys almost immediately. Took me some time to get a few leads, but I did it and I'm thankful for my perseverance and patience at the same time. Hard to have those together in the same room, Ha!
If I go back a bit, I can explain the build up here. In the mid 1990's, I remember having a TM Slimer figure from their 1997 Extreme Ghostbusters line, long before I even paid attention to which company had produced it. However, let me just say this, as I know for myself that TM really did make some amazing figures, irrespective of the fact that there were many that might say otherwise. It's really a shame that a lot of their best stuff never hit the toy shelves in my opinion, and I think that might have perhaps changed the outcome of what could have been had they been released, who knows. But since the movies or shows the toys were based on had diminishing numbers in terms of returns, profits, or whatever, the lines were canceled and never went into production. I'm not exactly sure whatever happened to that Slimer figure, but it was with me for a few years, and then after I started picking up prototypes from Osmosis Jones, I started researching other toy lines TM did, and then it dawned on me that the Slimer figure I owned was one of theirs. Was this foreshadowing, perhaps?
My background is in Classical Animation, dating back over the past 20 plus years now, so as you can imagine, I do like a good cartoon. The Osmosis Jones Film of 2001 was exactly that for me. As well, The Iron Giant from 1999 was another of my all time favorite Animated Films. Isn't that ironic that TM also held the master license for those toys too? And then there is The Animated Godzilla the Series TV show from 1999, that we will get back to.
Reynolds: What is your favorite piece in your Prototype Godzilla collection and why?
Shyman: Well, that really is a tough question. I have hundreds of prototypes in my collection and I really do love them all. But if I was going to narrow them down, I would have to say the Osmosis Jones Deluxe 10" Prototypes would be at the top of the list, along with my three Animated Godzilla Cyber-Godzilla Prototypes and then the Un-produced 4" Godzilla Doom Island 'Thick Neck Long Tailed' Prototypes as my absolute favorites. I have included photos of all of these here.
The Osmosis Jones prototypes blow me away, considering they went unreleased completely. TM had created 21 toys in all for this toy line and then it was just left for dead. Sad but true. The movie bombed, so the toys were canceled before going into production. Seems the investors were not convinced the toys would end up being quite like the prototypes and there was some concern there. But more so because the movie was a flop, they believed the toys would have been a hard sell? Who knows for sure, but I can tell you, I have gotten very many compliments about this toy line ever since I put out some nice clear images of them over the years. And these Deluxe Prototypes I mention, are those that I had to wait eleven years to add to my collection. The DRIX figure (in red & yellow) is resin, but the Osmosis Jones figure (the lead character in blue) is made out of K-Resin, which is still a form of plastic, but it works best for giving a likeness of glass, you know like a windshield on a car or something. And since Osmosis is actually a white blood cell, I really think TM nailed the look of him as an exact TV likeness. Actually both of these figures are perfect. Couldn't ask for more, other then to have had them hit the store shelves! But since they were the first figures I went in search of, they have to be my top two favorite figures, because they helped me break the ice into the world of prototype collecting.
Then comes the Unreleased Animated Godzilla the Series Cyber-Godzilla Prototypes. It's a little weird, that I have a lot of my prototypes in sets of three. Not really sure how that happened, as I never planned it that way, but it just turned out as such. I was fortunate to come across one of these and actually win it as my first one on E-Bay way back in 2003. Lucky to grab a second one of these also on E-Bay some twelve years later, and then completely freaked when the third one came to me, which I discovered it completely by accident. I stayed on the owner of the last one for four and a half years, before he actually agreed to part with it. Delightfully shocked is more like it, but very grateful. These Animated Godzilla Cyber-Godzilla's really blow my mind. I guess it all makes sense too when you think of the expression: "Things Come in Three's..."; I'd have to agree with that.
Lastly is this incredible Un-produced Godzilla Doom Island figure. I personally truly believe it is without a doubt the coolest Classic Godzilla figure TM has ever created. The first time I laid eyes on it in the 1997 Official Dealer Catalog, it just really captivated me. The girth of it, the length of the tail and of course the thick neck and angry look... WOW! Love it. This was the figure that pitted me against many Godzilla fans on several forums that just proceeded to rip it to shreds, saying how out of proportion it looked, or how the tail was too long, etc.
All the hate that has surfaced over the years about TM and their take on these figures left a really bad taste in my mouth. For me, I just loved these figures. TM gave them character. Who cares if they thought the figures looked jacked on steroids or not? It was their take on the figures. And remember, these were toys, meant to be played with. Are you really going to have superhero figures without any muscle or girth and feel excited to play with just a stick figure? Yeah no, I highly doubt that. If you do not like the figure, that is within your right, but you really shouldn't lose any sleep over it, if you know what I mean. Remember, these are after all, toys based on people wearing monster suits, so...
Anyways, this figure to me remains my favorite of all the Classic Godzilla toys I have seen that TM made. And people freak when they see how small it really is, for the amount of detail that went into it. It's only four inches in size and fits in the palm of your hand. I had found out this figure was scrapped because the actual scales on the skin of the figure was so detailed, it was damaging the tampo machines (hope I got that name correctly), and those were very expensive to replace. Same thing happened with the TM Mars Attacks Martian Spy Girl with her extra pointy breasts and the dress material. So she was made in a limited run only. I think most people do not know that. For this Godzilla prototype, I believe TM had tried to alter the sculpt somewhat, which is why my plastic prototype test shot of this figure looks quite different from the catalog shot. They changed the tail completely, changed the torso twist and elevated the right heel off the ground and also made the neck a bit shorter too. I know the catalog image of this beast is made of a Super Sculpty material and not resin, as I was able to track down the owner of this particular prototype, seeing that it is a one-of-a-kind figure. So I will consider myself extremely fortunate to own the figure in the form that I do.
Reynolds: Where do you get your prototype figures?
Shyman: Well, I never reveal my sources per say but in a nutshell you really just need to know where to look. The obvious choice would be E-Bay of course. I have seen and missed out on many great pieces that appeared on E-Bay over the years. Believe it or not, as I still am amazed at this, but I was actually very fortunate that one of these amazing one-of-a-kind, Un-produced Godzilla KoTM Fire Rodan Plush Prototypes that I lost out on back in 2004, actually just recently came home to me about a year and a half ago, as I became familiar with the buyer just by accident on my TM Prototype Toys Group page. We did a deal and now that plush sits happily with my others in that collection. Freaked me right out. Every once in a while you may have a story like this to tell, or you keep trying to create your own favorable outcome by doing the research and “hunting” down these rare elusive prototypes. I have also had many people come to me with offers of stuff, based on them tracking me down from my Flickr Page or reading about my collection in one of the Godzilla Forums or other interviews I have done. I actually try to keep a low profile. I am not one to go around bragging about owning anything. I love my toys, but I have also come to learn that collecting in this field has its extremely ugly side to it. I won't get into all that, because most of the stuff is just unbelievable. Especially when you consider these are technically just toys, but it can definitely mess you up with what you find or what you have to go through to add such and such piece to your collection. I will say this, though: I did wait eleven long years to add the last couple of pieces to my Osmosis Jones Prototype collection, after staying on the seller all those years. Crazy. But it worked. The big payoff came a long time after, but I try to focus on the fact that it did actually happen. So when people ask me "Where do you find your prototypes?" I tell them the truth: Perseverance! And that really works too. You also need a great deal of patience, because if you can track down the hardest to find of prototypes, chances are there will be a waiting game involved. I know that all too well.
Switching back to discussing E-Bay here again, it has really provided me with the opportunity to acquire many prototypes over the past fourteen years. Way back in 2003 when I was just starting the prototype collecting, E-Bay was flooded with some really cool TM prototypes. And at that time, I really was not aware of what was even out there, so I was kind of lost, not knowing what to be on the lookout for. I was very much like a 'Prototype Virgin' at that, Ha! But to help me with that, during my research, I became familiar with the TM Official Dealer Catalogs that were used as 'Sales Sample Visuals' to promote the various toy lines. So I started picking up as many different TM Catalogs as I could find for each year they were produced. I now have the 1995 Catalog, through till their close in 2002. That has been an enormous help for me. I really cannot stress that enough. Having those catalogs gives you all the information you need to help you figure out what was prototyped or not and that becomes your stepping stone, since the catalogs only featured prototypes and Paint Master Sample pieces, etc. I was also very fortunate in my collecting days, to have even acquired some sample prototypes that were the very same ones used in some of the catalogs. I consider that to be a real bonus, because the figures that appeared in the catalogs would have been the best of that batch of the prototypes made.
I have some very cool Hand-Painted resin Gumby Prototypes that appeared in the 1996 Official Dealer Catalog, some Osmosis Jones prototypes that appeared in the 2001 Dealer Catalog, a set of all four of the Shadow Raiders / War Planets resin Prototypes that appeared in the 1999 Official Dealer Catalog, a funky Tooting (yep, a farting) Santa Claus Un-produced Plush with resin eyes prototype from the 1999 Catalog, and a couple of absolutely beautiful Vintage Godzilla KoTM Plush Prototypes that appeared in the 1995 Official Dealer Catalog. Might have a few others, but my mind may be playing tricks on me. I'll leave it like that for interpretation, how's that?
Reynolds: There have been images of concept art for Trendmasters Manda and Kamacuras floating around the internet, do you know of any other such concept art?
Shyman: Firstly, to answer that question, yes this is true. There was, I believe, fourteen different one-of-a-kind Godzilla Doom Island 'Art Packets' in all. They were incredible. They also were the original pieces of artwork that were used by TM to create the actual Doom Island toys. I would like to state for the record, that those originally all came from me. I didn't put the Manda and Kamacuras online though. I kind of stumbled on to them by chance many years ago, and then chose to sell them off later on. They were quite the set, I'll tell you that. Most people are probably already very familiar with those Doom Island Dinosaur Box Sets, right? And the Battle Armor Kumonga and Battle Armor Anguirus. And there was of course a few other unreleased Doom Island figures prototyped. I had most of the Art Packets for those toys as well. Each one was amazing. But what else was in some of those packets was even cooler.
If my memory serves me correctly, there was supposed to have been at least three more dinosaur box sets, with one set featuring SpaceGodzilla vs. two different Anklyosaurus's. And they were badass! I actually had the only two resin prototypes of each Anklyosaurus and I loved those. They had a pseudo-Anguirus look to them, but fierce. And another of the dinosaur box sets, was to have been Destoroyah vs. Dimetrodon. I also had the only resin prototype of this Dimetridon figure as well. It was a light pinkish color. Interesting creature for sure, but didn't seem like much of a threat for Destoroyah. But hey, who said toys had to be stuck in reality, right? Good stuff still. And the third additional dinosaur box was to be Godzilla vs. two different Triceratops and those were also completely badass as well. I say this because I also had the only known four different resin Triceratops prototypes in existence. Long story short, but I ended up trading all of these one-of-a-kind prototypes for a bigger more important prototype in my TM collection. something more unique in my opinion. Was a piece for my Animated Godzilla collection. But those Triceratops figures were wicked.
What I always loved about TM toys was that they each had so much character, which made them stand out to me. There is a catch to this sentence too though. I learned a long time ago, for each toy that TM did produce and put out there, there was equally just as much if not more, prototypes of other toys and toy lines that never saw the light of day. Can you imagine that? And those pieces are what I always strived to find. Sadly, I think if all these toys would have been released, perhaps there really would have been less hatred towards TM and their Godzilla toys, who knows? It's a touchy subject, because I am definitely no expert on Godzilla. Nor am I the biggest fan. However, if the toys were made by TM and was a prototype, chances are, I either owned it at one time, still do, or know who does now. Let's sidetrack for a moment here. Take for example the Animated Godzilla the Series prototypes. We all know most people in the Godzilla universe hated Godzilla 1998, right? The movie was OK, but didn't hold up to your typical Godzilla film in the fandom. But irrespective of that fact, you cannot deny the cartoon series. That was everything the movie should have been. Each episode saw Godzilla Jr. battling a new kaiju mutation and he had his thermo-nuclear breath. Plus the stories and animation were very well done. So you take the toys from that, that TM made a perfect TV likeness to, and you create a killer toy line and then not release them, and all the fans draw a blank? Sad but true. But what most people do not know is, they really should be blaming Walmart for that, not TM. We'll get more into that later.
Anyways, once again, I got very lucky to have come upon these Art Packets when I did, and then all these Un-produced resin Dinosaur Prototypes intended for those Dinosaur Box Sets almost immediately after. A weird coincidence really. These prototypes did all appear at Toy Fair 1996 though, and there is a photo that shows a few of them there from the TM display. I have included a picture of that here for the gallery.
I do like to consider myself a bit of a Visual Library. Not trying to brag about any of this, but I have over 12,000 images of TM prototypes and production toys, all of the catalogs from 1995 till their close in 2002, a special Godzilla King of the Monsters (KoTM) 4 page Flyer, a thick binder called the TM Product Review Binder, some other adds and flyers, that all took years for me to track down. It helps keep me organized and also provides great visual materials for my Facebook Group: "TRENDMASTERS Prototype Toys". I'm what you would call a diehard fan and true hardcore collector of all things prototypes from TM.
The Art Packets were great, because they basically were the ABC's to build these figures from scratch. You had multiple drawings and concept art, dimensions, and then the breakdowns of all the internal mechanisms for sound and lights, if they were to have those. For a person with an Animation background, it was all very familiar for me to see. I have full respect for the artists that created those.
Reynolds: We know of the Mega Mutation figures for Destoroyah and Godzilla, but do you know if there were any other such figures planned?
Shyman: The Doom Island Mega Mutation line was awesome in my opinion. Only comprised of Destoroyah and Godzilla in both five inch and eleven inch size. No other characters were planned. It's worth mentioning that most Godzilla collectors never understood these figures. Still to this day, I get questions saying: "OK, what is the principle with these figures exactly?" Or, "What is going on with those spikes and blades?" Or, "Why would Destoroyah and Godzilla have these huge holes in their chests with gigantic spikes protruding, they didn't need those things, so...?" And those are all valid questions and of course true. Both Godzilla and Destoroyah did not need the extra spikes and blades, but those were completely original ideas from the creative minds working on the Trendmasters Godzilla Doom Island line. At that time, in 1996 / 97, the Transformers Toys were a very popular big ticket item, so Trendmasters was trying to find ways to jump on that bandwagon as well, so the idea came to them about having some of their biggest license characters being able to transform, or “mutate” into more ferocious Kaiju, if such a thing were even possible, right? So they created these different points of articulation, where with Godzilla, he had these massive shoulder blades which could extend and retract, as well as revolving thigh spikes, and the giant chest cavity spike, that when a button is pushed in the stomach, the chest pops open, like someone kicking in saloon doors, and this massive chest spike comes at you! Destoroyah was done up very similar. No shoulder blades, but also thigh spikes with a door that opened on each upper leg and a longer more pointy super chest spike. Craziness, but damn cool. Personally I thought this idea was just brilliant. Take an already super popular giant monster and put a completely new twist on it and come up with these Mega Mutation Kaiju Creatures and let the Godzilla Forums go crazy with questions.
I think what people couldn't get past with this concept remained: Why would Godzilla or Destoroyah need these added weapons? I always laughed and said, of course they don't need them, but Trendmasters wanted to experiment with something different. Let's not forget these are toys and this added feature was to enhance the playable features, that's all. And for me, I think that really sums it up. Done. No need to try and dissect what or why these monsters had more weapons, just look at them as a cool new toy with different features not previously seen before and I'm good with that. I think that pretty well covers it.
Reynolds: It is known that the Doom Island line was pushed out to some countries, do you know of which ones?
Shyman: The Doom Island line was slated to be the biggest and baddest line of all the Godzilla lines Trendmasters had done. Unfortunately though, things did not really pan out that way, as the line was sadly cancelled, which I believe was due to a lack of interest, if you can believe that? Back in the 1997 time period, Trendmasters was already working on the upcoming Godzilla 1998 film, so interest was being divided up. Since the 1998 Godzilla's reveal remained a big secret till about the time the movie was released (apparently this was a huge error on the marketing strategy), when that movie opened and then ultimately tanked, it left a pretty bad taste in most of the serious Godzilla fan base. However, most do not know the Trendmasters toys for this film, brought in millions of revenue. And even though the Doom Island line was in development before the 1998 toys, I think that still helped sink the ship on that line. So what ended up happening is, Trendmasters only released some of the Doom Island toys over their website, along with some prize giveaways of some of the prototypes. A Mega Mutation Destroyah resin Prototype was apparently one of the prizes. How cool would that be to have won? I actually have a one-of-a-kind four inch resin Destoroyah, which was to be part of the Doom Island line and was used in two of the Doom Island trade paper ads, but is not a Mega Mutation figure.
Meanwhile, some Doom Island products did make it overseas to Asia with Taiwan being the biggest distributor of the toys it would seem. But it was only within the past few years are we now becoming aware of this, as there has been a couple of sellers on E-Bay who basically flooded the market with listing after listing of rare Doom Island figures. This started about six years ago and then just hit again the past four months, so the collector's market got excited all over again. Myself included. Now ironically, even a number of the ex-Trendmasters people had no idea some of these toys got as far as they did in their development and packaging that were being sold out of Taiwan, in the open boxes and carded. This was how I was able to get all of my boxed & carded Doom Island figures, so I was excited. I remember chatting with the Doom Island Product Manager on the phone one day, long after Trendmasters had closed and he assured me no boxed Kumonga toys made it out, so he thought!? But I had to laugh when I had to prove him wrong and showed him the boxed Kumonga in my collection! He was completely shocked actually. So what does that tell you?
Reynolds: Are there any major differences between prototype figures and the ones that were actually released?
Shyman: The resin sculpt is interesting, because it is a very early sculpt, painted and all, but devoid of the shoulder blades and chest spike, at this stage of development. It's possible this was more for a testing of the actual sculpt of Godzilla alone, before the additions of the 'Mutation' accessories were to be added. Such a wicked figure. And at point of interest, since I am often asked about resin vs. plastic prototypess, notice on the resin Godzilla how the claws and teeth are so much longer and sharper? Makes for better presentations at the Trade Shows, and for Catalog or Packaging Art. But when the figures go in for mass production, they have to change those particular details, and make them safe for children. To me, that changes everything, which is why you really want to find the resin prototypes, if you can. But they are not meant to last being much more fragile and bounced around from show to show, etc. But they are the better sculpts and paint jobs for sure.
Reynolds: In issue #15 of G-Fan Magazine (May/June 1995), it is said that Trendmasters was discontinuing Mothra and replacing her with the kaiju that we saw in the Godzilla Wars & Doom Island lines, along with Varan, Ebirah, Gabara, Baby Godzilla and Hedorah. Do you know if this information is correct?
Shyman: Yes, I do remember reading that in G-Fan and I include the actual blurb from that issue, as a small JPEG here. From what I know, from a collector stand point, I believe if you look at the Battra figure, I think the buyers were thinking perhaps Mothra was looking a little too soft & girly for a match up with the other figures from the line, so they changed her up for the meaner more sinister moth: Battra. Cue the theme song from Sesame Street: "One of these things is not like the other..." I do have some Godzilla King of The Monsters (KoTM) resin Battra Prototypes. The larger resin head comp prototype was created at the St. Louis Office and sent to Asia to be used as a reference piece, primarily for the ten inch Battra figure. Awesome.
And all those other monsters mentioned above did not get prototyped from what I was told? I am sure they were most likely planned, but things changed and those toys never materialized. Makes you wonder what could have been. Something that was relayed to me years ago was this: As many products as Trendmasters made, there was apparently just as many that were never released, so even though that might sound like a contradiction about these other figures not being made, I am still not surprised if those other Kaiju were not even prototyped. It happens. Sad but true.
Reynolds: Additionally, do you know how well the Trendmasters Gamera line sold and what they may have been planning for the future of that line?
Shyman: The TM Gamera line was short lived simply because it was not making any money. And remember, it's always about the money. I'm not sure if they took too long to bring out the Gamera line while the Godzilla figures were bringing in a lot of revenue, or if they just missed the boat on the popularity of Gamera when they did decide to release those figures. Hard to say. The Gamera line appears in the TM 1997 & 1999 Official Dealer Catalogs, but I don't think they came out until the 1999-2000 period? Basically, in a nutshell, there was just no reason to continue it any longer due to the lack of interest, so they ended it. I don't recall what the promotion was for these figures back then, but if there is a lack of interest in anything trying to bring in revenue, it just won't work. People used to wonder about other additional figures from this line, either unreleased or un-produced, and from what I know, plans to produce any other Gamera figures or his enemies, the answer to that was no, that was it.
I guess I am guilty of this myself, as the Gamera line was not a priority on my list of collecting. I do have some Gamera prototypes in my collection, but I happened upon them just by chance. They were offered to me, so I made the purchase. Couldn't pass this stuff up. At that point in my collecting, I was open to acquiring more prototypes of other TM toy lines besides the unreleased Osmosis Jones and Animated Godzilla line. These two lines were my absolute favorites hands down. And once I made the decision to start collecting other TM lines of prototypes, I began getting emails from a few of my contacts with offers for other toy lines. It started to feel like Christmas every day for me. I had boxes and boxes of figures arriving all the time, and my wife began to wonder what I was up to and where we were going to store all of these figures. Made me laugh. But I have always been extremely resourceful, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to uncover what happened to a lot of these toys that never hit the store shelves. You do the long hours of research (and I do mean long), looking high and low for those very rare prototypes, and then you get that message that changes everything. That one of your contacts has such and such figure, and it's the grand pay off. Indeed. Well, it's also the grand payout too, because the world of prototypes, especially the TM unreleased ones are never cheap. It's what makes collecting fun for me, even though it has its fair share of frustrations. You also need to be very patient. Some of the pieces in my collection were on my wish list for seven to eleven years, so you can imagine how exciting it is to finally get hold of them, considering there was on average usually only twelve or less of each prototype made of any particular figure in its developmental stages. The odds of finding these pieces are very slim. I was never a fan of Gamera, but when I got the prototypes, I did become more interested in them.
What I have of this line is a few test shot prototypes. I like them because they are pretty outrageous colors, unpainted plastic figures in bright yellows and green and the basic cream colors. I also have a few resin Paint Masters of Gyaos and Zigra, and an incomplete resin Guilon, with a missing leg and tail. It's a little bothersome because of all the Gamera figures, Guilon is my favorite. I also have a plastic Paint Master of Viras in all blue, which is completely different paint colors then the released figure, and I like this one much better. I have three different Zigras in all: a first shot unpainted plastic figure in flesh color, and blue plastic, another Paint Master plastic prototype in a metallic purple wash and grey color, similar to the Official Dealer Catalog image, and a resin Paint Master in silver with a blue wash.
Reynolds: It has been debated if Trendmasters Power-Up Figures were a success on the store shelves or not. Can you lay this debate to rest and tell us if they were a success or not?
Shyman: To be honest, I am not really an expert on the Godzilla Wars toy line. And we already know about the Doom Island Power Up figures, because those were technically never released, so that answer is irrelevant. From what I know, when I checked with some of my contacts who were ex-Trendmasters employees, apparently the response was: They were OK sellers. Kind of leaves it to your own imagination, doesn't it? But I don't think anything really big out of the ballpark. The core monsters probably sold better. I think that makes sense. Since it has been heard so many times and still to this day, I have often read comments and questions like: "Why would Godzilla or any of the other monsters need armor to fight other monsters?” I actually have to take a step back, because it's like the people asking this question are talking like the monsters are real and would therefore never need the additional armor, right? Of course not, but it boosts the playability factor to another level in my opinion. Let's be honest here and remember, these are after all toys and toys are meant to be played with, correct? So, it's just like a new added twist dressing up the monsters with even more might, using the battle armor accessories.
To put it simply, it's basically just another way to sell an action figure. It's like Batman or anything else. Do it a million ways so you can sell it a million times over as something somewhat new. Plus it's cool looking to put giant sized bazooka missile launchers on Godzilla, at least that was the consensus at Trendmasters and I like that way of thinking. It was fresh, original and added character to the famous Kaiju that were dressed up this way. Same can be said for the humongous chest spikes on the Doom Island Mega Mutation Prototypes. I absolutely loved the look of those mutations.
Reynolds: Do you think if it wasn’t for the 1998 movie that Trendmasters would have carried and why exactly did Trendmasters close down?
Shyman: This is certainly an interesting question and probably one that I could answer in a few short sentences. I imagine this might surprise most of the Godzilla fan base, but the 1998 Godzilla was not the downfall of Trendmasters. The 1998 Godzilla toy line sold very well. It actually brought in millions of revenue. But the actual problem came from there just being too much stock left over on the toy shelves, that none of the Retail Chains were wanting anything more to do with Godzilla from that point forward. Sad but true. Because that is exactly what brought on the downfall of the unbelievably incredible and accurate Godzilla the Series toy line. So you can blame the stores like Walmart for that, not Trendmasters. Trendmasters was rip roaring to go for the Animated Godzilla line, but Walmart gave the big "NO" to the toys, so when the Godzilla the Series TV series was canceled, sadly so were the toys, because none of the big chains were willing to take on any new Godzilla products, no matter what they were. All this, because there was just too much stock left over that wasn't moving and add to that fact, if Walmart says no, then the toys are usually scrapped. I know for a fact, many of the ex-employees despised Walmart for their power in those decisions. I think it is common knowledge that the Animated Godzilla line would have killed it in sales. No doubt about it. The movie was bad as a Godzilla film, but enjoyable as some other monster movie. But the Animated Series completely redeemed this particular Godzilla back to how the movie should have gone down. You know, Godzilla had his thermal nuclear breath and he actually battle a new and exciting kaiju every episode and they were great stories to boot! This is why the TV Series was such a big hit and made a lot of the '98 Godzilla haters take another look at this promising series.
So Trendmasters at the time didn't think Walmart was going to say no, so prototypes were still made for the Animated Godzilla Series and they were spectacular. Problem was nobody was willing to pick it up, and none of it was ever made into production. As a rule, Trendmasters usually made twelve prototypes in resin and plastic to serve as Sale Samples. Toward the end, only a handful of resins were made to be used as production sign-offs, and tooling was done so they could have actual plastic productions pieces ready for Toy Fair. It was a gamble, but any potential buyers had to pass on the line. It drove everyone crazy, because in my opinion, it stood to truly be the most original and unique Godzilla line Trendmasters would have ever created. It's so sad, because to this day, so many years later, I am still getting emails with people and their parents begging me for info on where I got my prototypes from this line from and would I ever be open to selling them. I always tried to answer everyone back, but the news was always the same and was not what they had hoped to hear. But that toy line was really among my all time favorites, next to the 2000-2001 Unreleased Osmosis Jones Prototypes as well.
Now, further to all this, at the end of the run for Trendmasters, Bank of America took it over in November of 2002 and sold it to Jakks Pacific. The CEO from Trendmasters just owed too much money and I had heard also wasted through too much money and couldn't handle the books anymore after his partner CEO left. Trendmasters were doing great stuff still right up to the end for the most part, but then it just grinded to a halt.
Reynolds: What is your favorite Godzilla movie if you have any?
Shyman: Interesting question for me because honestly, I really am not the biggest fan of Godzilla. Might be hard to believe, based on my collection of so many Godzilla prototypes, but in all honesty, if Trendmasters did not have the license for Godzilla toys, then I would have nothing in my collection. The only reason I have anything of Godzilla is primarily because of Trendmasters and Trendmasters only. There is so much Godzilla product out there, and way more now because of the resurrection of all these giant monster movies coming back, but I honestly have no interest in the any other toy products if they are not made by Trendmasters. Just how I am. I have seen lots of people's collections, where their entire houses are filled wall to wall with Godzilla and I feel so overwhelmed just seeing photos, it's crazy! If I were one of those true hardcore Godzilla heads, we would need a bigger house and my wife would want a divorce, Ha! Now, I realize this question has nothing to do with toys but I wanted to share some insight first, before actually answering the question.
As I kid growing up in the '70's, like most kids, I loved the giant monster movies! I understood it was people in suits fighting other people in suits surrounded by miniature sets and it was awesome. Made my childhood more exciting and complete, because your mind at that age is so willing to wander, dream and fantasize because you really cannot properly grasp reality at that age, and no child should. I grew up addicted to WUAB Channel 43 and I believe it was every weekend they played another monster movie and I looked forward to those Saturday afternoons watching them all. And the one film I vividly remember was: "DESTROY ALL MONSTERS" from 1968. Just the title alone guaranteed tons of wreckage and that's what I was looking for. And this film delivered with so many different kaiju attacking and destroying world capitals! Plus you also got the added bonus of some alien stuff thrown into the mix which made this film double the fun! Now, if I watched the film again (haven't seen it since I was a kid...), I can't say I would feel the same way now. I also grew up loving Scooby Doo, same as my wife. So about 7 years ago, I picked up the first two seasons of the Scooby Doo show on DVD and my wife and I sat down to watch it... Oh boy. After almost ten minutes, I stopped the DVD and my wife and I both looked at each other and said the exact same thing: "Yeah, I can't watch this..." Just wasn't the same feeling at all as when we were kids. Kind of sad actually. But not surprising.
You know, with my background in Classical Animation, when I was studying cartoons, one of my Professors told me he used to work on the original Scooby Doo show and he hated it! Hate is a strong word of course, but he told me with a smile, so it's a little more forgiving. But years after I graduated, I could completely understand him in this respect. I went on to work on many different children's TV cartoons, including the Emmy Award winning Arthur and Animal Crackers and Caillou to name a few. To this day, I have never seen an entire episode of any of the shows I worked on, but I did see my name on the credits and that was enough. I know most people's views on Caillou and I don't blame them, as I worked on that show for over three years and it was truly wacky! Same thing with Arthur but I was never a fan of that show at all. The character design just freaked me out too much. It paid the bills and that was it for me. I would come home after work and would much rather watch reruns of Bugs Bunny or The Flintstones! Anyways, we like what we like, which is what makes us all different and unique with our preferences so there is no complaint there.
But it does bring back another interesting thing worth mentioning here. After I saw the Godzilla 2014 film, I went searching out the toys. Most of them didn't impress me. For me, they just didn't have character, which is something I always felt Trendmasters did have and lots of it. The only thing from that film that really blew me away was that Japanese movie theatre exclusive cup and cup topper figure. Damn. That thing was the best sculpt of any of the Godzilla 2014 products out there. I was quite literally blown away. And I think I was probably one of the first few people in North America to own one of those too. Now, the thing that was also as impressive as it was scary was just how deadly those fins on the cup topper are. You could easily slice tomatoes with those blades for fins, like a super ginzu knife, Ha! We have a young child, so I had to be sure and keep that cup far away from him. Now, fast forward a couple of years, and I became less interested in that cup and was happy to let it go to someone else who would better appreciate it now. Same thing with those FUNKO Mystery Minis of Godzilla. It was cute, but couldn't hold my interest for more than a few months, so I can let that go as well. The thing with the Trendmasters toys is, they still continue to hold my interest very intensely, because their character remains, even if the company does not.
Reynolds: What would you say the rarest piece is in your collection and how did you come to acquire it?
Shyman: Oh boy. I'd have to say this is a rather loaded question, because I consider each prototype in my collection to be the rarest piece, and I mean that in the most humbled of ways of course. The world of prototype collecting is a very strange one at that. I know how rare each piece is, and so I know it can come at a very steep price and with a lot of disappointments along the way until you get it in hand, or the seller drops a bomb on you and changes their mind perhaps, or wants more money. It happens. Hard to explain, but in my fourteen plus years of collecting, I think it's safe to say I have sold my soul a good few times over to get a lot of the pieces in my collection. I have my so called absolute favorites, but because all I collect are Trendmasters Prototypes, I consider each one to be a stand out on their own. If only twelve or less were made of each Trendmasters prototype as their standard rule, that should give you an idea of the rarity right there. And a number of the resin prototypes in my Godzilla collection are one and two-of a kinds. Amazing.
Most people I think are not aware that Trendmasters had an entire second Year of Godzilla 1998 toys planned, but because there was too much stock left over on the toy shelves of the retail chains, everything was just left alone and scrapped. But I somehow managed to obtain a few of these second year resin Godzilla Prototypes. Some one-of-a-kinds and some two-of-a-kinds. Absolutely incredible too. I was informed they had brought in better sculptors and the results of that are pretty evident when you look at the prototypes.
You've probably heard the expression: "Things come in three's...", yes? Well, it's rather ironic that a lot of what is in my collection are in sets of three of the same prototype, so I am often reminded how fortunate I am to own any, let alone several multiples of the Doom Island and Animated Godzilla the Series unreleased prototypes as well as a few other lines too. I never planned it that way, but it just ended up that I come across another of the same piece and I'm like: Yes, I have to have that for my collection too. That's just the way it worked out. You can't plan this stuff. Right place, right time, right questions and sometimes you are presented with the grand pay off. I like that. But at the same time, I can honestly tell you that nothing in my collection came easy. There was always some form of a struggle to accompany each proto in my collection. Whether the seller changed their mind, or I had to wait two and a half to eleven years to finally buy one of the prototypes highly desired on my “Master List.” I've been there. And it's not fun! Can you imagine waiting eleven long years to be able to obtain one of your favorite toys? Well, I went through exactly that to obtain these two deluxe resin Osmosis Jones prototypes! Not sure how it worked out that way, but it just did. I stayed on the seller and couldn't, or shall I said wouldn't let up. We kept in touch and then there was a long gap of four years with no contact, and then I started up the communication and kept it up until he finally said, "OK we can now complete this deal..." Might seem easy when you read this, but fill in the gaps with eleven years of waiting and wondering and worrying, etc. It's quite maddening. But like anything, with time, as it goes on you just have to deal. So I did. And so the big pay off really IS the big pay off finally, when it comes to actually holding these pieces in your hand as you marvel at the wondrous moment of: YOU DID IT, THEY ARE YOURS, finally... (cue sinister laughter here for a solid 10 minutes), Ha! Yep. Well, that's how it has gone for me anyways.
So to answer your question here, why don't I say the rarest pieces are some of these second year canceled Godzilla 1998 Prototypes, as shown in the photos. I think it's amazing that Trendmasters never lost their stride in coming up with a new invention on things. I certainly had no idea another Godzilla toy line was planned for the next year, but then when I got the prototypes in hand, I started doing some research and I came to realize quickly just how awesome the idea and the toys were. But sadly nobody will ever see them, other then these prototypes. So I am extremely fortunate to say that I own these. Even if the hardest of hardcore Godzilla Collectors hated the 1998 film, Trendmasters still did a bang on job with the toys. And I think the second year toys would have kept winning over new fans for sure. Yes, I am biased saying that, because I own some of the only prototypes in existence for this concept, but just look at the photos and let me know what you think yourself, and go from there.
So Trendmasters had planned some completely different colored figures with some funky names like: The Nuclear Glow Godzilla, which is one that I own. Solid green resin with incredible translucent jade-like fins in a bright lime green color and super dynamic pose. Love it. There was also a Mayhem Godzilla planned, in black, blue and red. Never saw that one and cannot confirm it was ever prototyped, but I am thinking it must have been. The mystery is still out there… There was also the Steel Attack Godzilla, painted in metallic silver of course. What's amazing about these is the detail, look, pose and colors are mind blowing to me. Just incredible and that is an understatement too. There was also a line of “Teen” Godzilla's planned for this second year toy line. So Godzilla's that are older than the Baby Godzillas but not fully grown or matured like the released figures. So these are a little slimmer and not as much girth, but they are a wicked grey color with beautiful pine green colored fins. I nicknamed these the "Roar Godzilla's", based on their taunt pose and look. Makes sense.
When I first discovered my first Roar Godzilla, I had no idea it was part of an entirely new line of figures. It just got more and more exciting as time went on. Then I found a second different Roar Godzilla and then a third one too. Wow. Remember the things come in three's line? Fits here too. Since I seem to be the only one who has these, when they have been showcased on my Trendmasters Prototype Toys group on Facebook, the general consensus is, they are very well liked and that follows with: "It's a shame these were never made... I totally would have bought these, they are amazing!" And I have to agree, they really are.
Which brings me to the end of this interview with this closing thought of... Trendmasters made a lot of toys. But what most people do not know is, for every toy that was produced, Trendmasters had just as many if not more, that were not produced. And I always said, their Unreleased and Un-produced Prototypes were the very best, which sadly most people will never know about. So I am happy to be able to contribute to the presentation of a number of these beautiful prototypes that never saw the light of day, or found their way to the local toy stores.
Linked below is a gallery page containing snapshots, artwork, and other images very generously supplied by Jonathan Shyman to accompany this interview, including pictures of prototypes from the Trendmasters Godzilla the Series, Doom Island, Gamera, and King of the Monsters lines. A huge thanks to Jonathan Shyman for sharing so many pictures of his collection!
CLICK HERE FOR FULL GALLERY
Jonathan Shyman is a hardcore collector of prototype Trendmasters figures, having acquired extremely rare figures from their three Japanese Godzilla-based lines, Godzilla: The Series line and Gamera lines, among others. Beyond also collecting these rare items, Mr. Shyman also does work in animation and has appeared in a number of Hollywood films & TV Shows, such as The Aviator (2004), Punisher: War Zone (2008), Death Race (2008), Chloe (2009), and Unstable (2009), to name a few.
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