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Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver - TOMOPOP
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Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver


4:00 PM on 11.16.2012
Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver photo


Here at Tomopop, we recently talked up GIANTmicrobes' exciting new holiday line-up. As a fan of the brand, I didn't think it could get any better than simply sharing my love of their work, but I was joyfully proven wrong and had the chance to interview Drew Oliver, the brains and imagination behind GIANTmicrobes. It was a great experience and one that made me appreciate the toys and their message even more. 

Hit the jump to read my interview with Drew Oliver!

Drew Oliver

How did you come to create this toy line? Were you always interested in toys? In science?

I've always been interested in small things and in hidden worlds. I liked to read Stuart Little and James and the Giant Peach as a child, and I think the microbes are an extreme extension of those sorts of worlds. But I've also always liked making things, and not simply imagining them or writing about them. So creating the microbes real has been a fun and rewarding project from the beginning.

Why microbes?

Besides my personal attraction to small things, it's difficult to find new areas where the imagination can play. I think of microbes as occupying the exact opposite end of the spectrum as space travel, which is huge and far away. There are lots of stories told about space, but not so many about the microscopic world. Of course, while Dr. Johnson may have remarked that "there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea," I do think that there is a lot of space in the microscopic world for the imagation to play.

Stem Cell

GIANTmicrobes toys appeal to both children and adult collectors. Do you find yourself designing with one or the other in mind?

I always try to direct my designs toward the audience that I think will appreciate them. But my sense of children is that they respond to many of the same things that adults do. For example, on the Stem Cell design, although it is directed at adults (and doctors and scientists particularly), the oversized eyes create a sense of infancy which is universally appealing.

2012 holiday releases

Are there any of the 2012 holiday releases that you are particularly excited about? Why?

We try not to add complexity for complexity's sake, but I always particularly like when we are able to add new design features in order to capture a new concept. For example, the Cancer doll that we are releasing can be "cured" by turning it inside out. I like the way that design function represents reality.

I noticed that GIANTmicrobes(r) has begun to release toys of animals, like the minnow and the upcoming lab mouse, as well as microbes. Is this a trend that we will see continue in the future?

It is an extension of the original idea, which was representing very small things. While minnows and mice are much larger than amoebas of course, they are nevertheless archetypal small creatures: when you think of a small fish, you think of a minnow; when you think of a small creature, you think of a mouse. (Of course, because they are associated with labs and medical work, mice are doubly tied to the existing line.) It's unlikely that we'd use the GIANTmicrobes(r) line to create "regular" animals, but I do sometimes muse that, in the grand scheme of the world, we ourselves are all microscopic. But since that's hardly our concept of ourselves, it would be rather more ironic than what we've done to date.

GIANTmicrobes vinyl

Your vinyl figures seem to be more anthropomorphized than the plushes. What was the reasoning behind that?

As the GIANTmicrobes(r) world continues to develop, we are adding more and more personality to our creatures. This pulls them farther away from reality, but the Originals are still there for everyone who is interested in purer art. However, more anthropomorphization allows more room for imagination and gives them space and freedom to grow.

Dust Mite and Orange Amoeba

How do you decide which microbes to make next?

The GIANTmicrobes(r) collection has a number of different categories -- from the true "germs," to the civilization of microbes found in the body, to the freedom-loving microbes who mind their own business (like the Amoebas), to the larger Dust Mites, and insects, and now Minnows and Mice. We try to develop new designs that keep the world balanced. We also try to find creatures that will keep the emotional balance: some scary, some kind, some interesting and unusual.

Are there any of your toys that you are particularly proud of? Why?

I like the ones that push the concept-boundaries of GIANTmicrobes(r) the farthest. That includes both the very original designs (Common Cold, Flu, Sore Throat, and Stomach Ache) since they introduced the concept, but also the Brain (which started us on the body) the Amoeba, the Beer & Bread (which inaugurated the food microbes), the Martian Life, and of course the Minnows and Mice.

Is there a message that you would like to make to our readers?

If there is a message to GIANTmicrobes(r) beyond the simple fun of it, it's that even very small things have significance -- whether for good or ill -- and often much more than we appreciate.  And that does include us.

[Thank you, Drew Oliver, for participating in this interview!]

Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver photo
Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver photo
Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver photo
Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver photo
Tomopop Interview: Drew Oliver photo





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