As World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fans know, wrestlers' appearances are almost as exciting as the fights themselves. These superstars wouldn't trust just anyone to create their action figures. Dan Brodzik is the co-owner/manager of Front Line Studio, a studio in San Fernando Valley, Calif., that sculpts, molds, casts and paints toy prototypes, most of which fall under WWE licensing.
"We create prototypes of the six inch action figures," said Brodzik. "I genuinely like the kinds of figures that we work on. Even after eight years of painting, I still enjoy it every day. But there are other figures out there that I would also like to have a hand in developing.
"Many people have the misconception that this type of job is monotonous and simply mass production, but we typically paint only two of each figure. One is sent to Hong Kong to be used as a guide for manufacturing and the other is used by WWE for reference and packaging photography."
Brodzik began painting toys in 1999 through freelance assignments. He attracted so much business over the past few years that he decided to open a studio with his cousin in 2006. Now he has six freelance artists working under him.
"Our next challenge will be to create and distribute a toy that is solely ours...while also working on prototypes for others," explained Brodzik. "The ultimate goal is to emerge as a company that makes licensed collectible toys and figures of our own."
Four months after graduating from the illustration program at CCS, Brodzik moved to California where he eventually landed a job in a studio that created creatures and make-up effects for movies.
"When I first moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, I didn't have work lined up and wasn't sure what to expect," said Brodzik. "Prior to my interview with the effects studio, I sent them a self-promotional piece that I created during Lora Parlove's portfolio presentation course. They told me flat out that was the reason they called me in for the interview."
For the next four years, Brodzik painted aliens, zombies, corpses, giant bugs and other creatures used in Hollywood films. In 1999, the industry experienced a lull and he was hired by Applause Inc (on a freelance basis) to paint prototypes for Star Wars figures that were being launched to coincide with the release of Episode 1. This experience helped him discover his passion working with toys.
But it was also through these early experiences that Brodzik realized some of the challenges of the entertainment industry.
"The biggest challenge is easily the deadlines," Brodzik said. "Even in the effects industry, it seems painters were last on the totem pole after designers, sculptors, mold makers and fabricators. After each of those departments ran a day (or week) over their allotted time, the piece was already late by the time it got to us. So we are usually always under a very tight deadline.
"My CCS experience helped prepare me for these real world challenges. Thanks to the high expectations of my instructors, I had more of an understanding about the importance of meeting deadlines than anyone around me."
"Also, the experience of working with different people and practicing all the basic techniques was of great help."