Tomopop Interview: Daniel Zana and MCA


For those of you that haven't seen it, The Vinyl Frontier is a documentary that takes a look inside the vinyl toy world. Directed by Daniel Zana, the movie officially released in 2011 and came out on DVD in 2011. Recently, in connection with the DVD release, I got a chance to talk to Daniel, but I also got the chance to talk to artist MCA, who was one of the artists featured in the documentary and who worked with Daniel, Nemo and Keith Poon on a Baby Sharky variant that was included with one of The Vinyl Frontier's bundles.

Hit the jump to check out what they had to say about their collaboration, as well as their thoughts on the vinyl world's future and a bit of info behind The Vinyl Frontier!

Give us a little bit of back-story about each of your backgrounds. How did you get into the scene?

MCA: Well, I have always been a fan of trading, still am, and once I got a web site up, I made sure I had a "Trades" pages, on this page I listed many things I was/am into. One item listed was Toy2R, I had just seen a few record themed Qees online (these were early early Qees) — not sure what they were, but thought they were cool & added em up in my list. Anyways ... Raymond Choy (owner of Toy2R) was searching the interweb one day and came upon my site and dug the characters I had going ... so he emailed and explained what he was up to and asked if I'd wanna try my hand at designing some Qees ... That's how it all started.

Daniel Zana: I had enjoyed the work of LA artists like Luke Chueh, Tara McPherson, Thomas Han, and Joe Ledbetter after seeing their stuff at Cannibal Flower art shows in downtown LA. I also remember picking up issues of Juxtapoz and visiting Giant Robot in LA, where they had tons of great art and Japanese toys. I later came across the Kidrobot store in LA which really introduced me to vinyl toys and more artists in the scene. I picked up a Dunny and from that point on, I was hooked.

MCA, I've seen your style described as simple, yet whimsical and instantly recognizable. Can you tell us a little bit about it? Who were your influences and how did it come to be?

MCA: I am a fan of simple characters, characters that don't need a lot to capture the spirit of them — that's what I try an do. So, I try my best to keep it basic and rough and make sure they seem alive after I am done drawing them. My first influence was my grandfather that I always drew with when I was a kid. He really got me going and I haven't stopped since. As a kid I used to draw from Mad magazine (Sergio Aragones!) and  from comics like Dennis the Menace, Heathcliffe and stuff like that. I was always into more cartoony stuff than super hero stuff. So I guess like a lot of folks who start off just copying stuff, I got sick of that & just tried making up my own guys...

For MCA: What do you find the most invigorating or captivating about working with vinyl toys? Is there anything in particular that keeps making them fun for you?

MCA: I think making your first original sculpt toy is pretty awesome, just to see it sitting there all 3D, def wild. So yea, when I got the 1st sample test pieces of my Evil Ape, that was the best. I have always been a big toy fan, trying to find odd guys at yard sales or flea markets — weird monster and monkeys and other unknown treaures as well as Toys 'R' Us style toys — going thru the clearnce rack & trying to find cool stuff ... So being able to now make toys is wild and yea as long as folks ask, I'll be down to work on new toy designs.

So tell me a bit about how The Vinyl Frontier came to be, Daniel. What was the inital spark?

Daniel: I wanted to start a new long form doc project; something that I could do my self in a DIY kind of way and work on something that would keep my interest for a while. I had never tried making a documentary and the world of vinyl toys was new to me, so I figured, why not explore that world and show my findings to the viewer, whether they are rabid collectors or just picking up their first Dunny.

Daniel, when you were shooting, how did the actual process go? Were the artists willing to talk to you openly? Were there any artists you wanted to interview that you didn't get to?

Daniel: The process was certainly a learning experience for me and over the course of four years, I learned so much about the vinyl toy community as well as what it takes to make a film. Most of the artists I spoke to were incredibly friendly and open to chatting about their work and what inspires them.

There were definitely a few amazing artists who I would have loved to talk to, but because of time constraints and limited resources I could only get to many while I was at Comic Con in San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York. With a roster of about 35 artists, I think the film gives a pretty comprehensive look at the vinyl toy scene.

Did you run into any issues while shooting?

Daniel: I came to a point after shooting the film where I didn’t know where to finish. It's hard because just when I think I have it all, I get introduced to so many new amazing artists whose work I wanted to show. But in the end, it was more important to me that people see what I had been filming for the last few years than have it be some ongoing film that never saw the light of day.

How did the two of you decide to come together and work on a vinyl toy?

MCA: Well, Daniel asked if I was interested and I thought the new Baby Sharky by Keith Poon was a cool design ... so I gave it a shot and out came Vito! 

Daniel: After chronicling the fantastic vinyl toy world, I definitely felt like creating a piece with an artist featured in the film. Since through the film, we follow Keith and Nemo as they make their 8-inch Sharky, I had developed a great relationship with Keith. He had mentioned that he had a new Baby version of the Sharky that was due to come out and I figure that shape would look great with the artwork of MCA, which is sort of playful and menacing all at the same time. And after a few short months of development and refinement, Sharky "Vito" Finzetti was born.

One of the major changes since the end of the film (and the documentary hints at it throughout) is the rise of the self-produced toy in the vinyl world, along with the use of other media like resin and bronze alongside vinyl.

MCA: Yea, some great stuff coming out of all that — Le Merde is a madman. I wanna try my hand at sculpting.

Daniel: I’d say more power to the people! With the recession affecting just about everything these days, companies have been less likely to produce something with a newcomer. I also think that when people like Le Merde, Sucklord, Arbito, and Sergey Safonov start putting out their own creations it inspires the entire scene and show that you don’t need to be a huge artist to have a toy exist.

For both MCA and Daniel: How do you think the toy scene will change in the next 5-10 years? 

MCA: I think the scene will continue, but maybe the releases will slow down or maybe complete opposite with artist just all doing it themselves and producing all kinds of wild stuff! Have you seen what Luke is doing with Grody Shogun? Sick stuff.

Daniel: I think that collectors will be a bit more discerning about what they’ll be collecting toywise. There are so many toys coming out all the time and after a certain point, collectors can only buy so many pieces. I also think that we’ll be seeing a lot more resin work out there and plenty more artists who will work with plush, wood, metal, etc.

For MCA, what projects are you working on next, outside of Fleabaine with Plastic City Toys? 

MCA: As far as new toys, Fleabaines has been delayed — but hopefully we'll see him in the near future! I have a few new things in the works with Toy2R and maybe a figure w/Super 7 (based on MAJK characters I designed w/JK5).

And for Daniel, would you ever consider doing a sequel to The Vinyl Frontier with some of the newer artists that have risen in the last couple of years?

Daniel: I have definitely thought about taking another look at the vinyl toy movement and the pieces they produce. Whether you call it art or toys, it’s always evolving and taking the form of new mediums and new artists are constantly coming up with new wacky characters.  

Right now I’m working with the Army of Snipers Crew (Angry Woebots, JRYU, and Ritzy Periwinkle) to document their work with the Little Lotus Project. Along with 7 other artists from around the world, they’ll be traveling to Mae Sot, a city on the Thai/Burma border and doing art workshops with refugee children and raising money through a traveling art show in New York, LA, and New Zealand.

Thank you, Daniel and MCA, for the interview!

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Brian Szabelski
Brian SzabelskiEditor-in-Chief   gamer profile

Brian Szabelski is Tomopop's Editor-in-Chief, stuck with an ever-growing collection of figures and toys. When he's not posting on Tomopop, he can usually be found working on any number of project... more + disclosures


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