With Upper Deck - March 18, 2008
the start of 2008, Upper Deck has released information about a variety of new
product lines. We've heard about 6" realistic figures called Pro-Shots. We've
also heard about 12" versions of the Pro-Shot figures called Pro-Shot Ultimates.
More recently, Upper Deck announced preliminary information about MVPs, smaller
vinyl figures that show artistic renditions of NFL team mascots. Finally, we've
been teased with the suggestion that there will be mini versions of the All-Star
With all the new lines there are questions, opinions,
speculations . . . how will the Pro-Shots compare to McFarlane's Sports Picks?
How is Upper Deck able to do figures of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods when McFarlane
can't? What figures will be released as mini-ASVs? How exclusive will the new
12" figures be? How will all this affect the current All-Star Vinyl line
and the Platinum Club?
Dave Sanders, Upper Deck's Product Manager
for Sports & Entertainment Figures, was kind enough to provide the following
answers to these and many other questions regarding the various sports action
figure lines from Upper Deck.
seems to be a lot of confusion coming from the different product lines coming
from Upper Deck. Besides the ASVs as we know them today, there's talk of smaller
ASVs, the Pro-Shots, 12" versions of the Pro-Shots . . . what can you say
about what the different lines will be?
Our Fall lineup will
consist of the Pro-Shots 6-inch figure retail and hobby lines, the Pro-Shots Ultimate
12-inch polyresin statues, a new configuration of All-Star Vinyl in a smaller
size and more retail friendly prize point, MVPs-the new team art figure we sneak
peeked a few weeks ago, and Quarter Kicks, a miniature collectible shoe model
project we've been working on with Nike and Brand Jordan over the last 2 years.
Our goal has been to bring new ideas and concepts to the sports figure category
while focusing on exclusive athletes that only Upper Deck can bring to the table.
Jordan Pro-Shots figure #1 Prototype.
Pro-Shots questions: In terms of final product look, size, quality and style,
how will the Pro-Shots compare to McFarlanes? If I'm looking at a Pro-Shot sitting
next to a Sports Pick, what will the similarities and differences be?
goal of the Pro-Shots line is to deliver our exclusive athletes Jordan, Tiger,
and Ali in the popular scale, quality, and look that 6-inch figure collectors
have long been waiting for. McFarlane makes a great product and our goal is that
the line will deliver the level of quality that sports figure collectors have
come to expect. This is why we enlisted Gentle Giant Studios to sculpt and we've
also secured one of the top figure manufacturers overseas to produce the line
for us that produces similar figs in the marketplace.
To accomplish this
on the development side, we are also using facial and equipment scans of Jordan
and Tiger. The figure sculpts go through extensive rounds of approvals with each
athlete and their representation. I've seen a few board posts where people have
questioned the likeness on a couple of the figures, which I find pretty odd since
we are using face scans as the basis of the sculpting, but I understand from the
photography. Both the '85 Jordan and the '00 Tiger are challenging poses to capture
correctly on film. However, in person the figures look great and I think collectors
will be quite happy with the end product when they see it in stores.
the product line as a whole, how will it differ from Sports Picks? Should we expect
to see several series per year by sport, with various players, as we do with Sports
Picks? Or will the player selection be more exclusive, with more versions of a
few players? How many players do you think will be featured each year?
focus is building in-depth series of figures featuring Jordan, Tiger, and Ali
in various moments throughout their careers. When you look at all of Jordan's
classic shots and championships, Tiger's numerous Majors, and Ali's historic achievements,
we feel there is enough product content for each series to continue for some time.
New waves (2 figures) of each athlete will be rolled out approximately every 3
months, so collectors will be able to build and follow the series over time.
is always the chance that we would offer other legendary athletes in the future,
but if so, it would be on an exclusive basis. We don't plan to expand the line
into league-wide series as this is something that McFarlane already offers. We
feel what we bring to the table that is unique is our relationships with the most
iconic athletes of all time. The other difference on a product level is the ability
to include Upper Deck trading cards with each retail release. I think this will
also bring an additional collectibility and excitement to the line.
is a lot of talk regarding why McFarlane has never done a Michael Jordan. Some
have said that licensing costs would force McFarlane to sell Jordan figures for
$50 each, or would have to release many, many different poses just to cover those
costs. (As they did with Gretzky.) Can you explain how exclusivity plays into
your being able to release Jordan and Woods figures while McFarlane has not?
are definitely a lot of misconceptions floating around regarding licensing of
Jordan and other Upper Deck athletes for figures. We have exclusive long term
deals with Jordan and Tiger for a full portfolio of collectible products and memorabilia.
Athletes like to work with Upper Deck because of the wide range of products and
services we offer them, not just a one-off deal for figures or a specific collectible
category. For another company to be able to release a figure of our exclusive
athletes, they would have to approach us for a sub-license.
We have been
approached before, but with us now moving into the sports figure category, we
feel we can offer more to collectors and our athletes by doing it ourselves over
the long haul. Regarding Jordan figs from other companies having to cost $50 for
it to work licensing-wise, this simply isn't the case and is definitely blown
out of proportion.
shown in this artist rendition, alternate uniforms will be used for the hobby
versions of the Pro-Shots figures.
know the Pro-Shots will have retail (TRU) and hobby versions, and the two versions
will have different color uniforms. What other differences will there be between
the two versions? Packaging? Edition sizes? UD has included special collector
cards with other figures in the past - will retail or hobby versions of the figure
The retail version of Pro-Shots will feature
a clear acetate display box that displays the figure in a nice diorama type layout
from the actual moment, and also displays the matching collector card prominently.
The hobby version does not include the card and is packaged in a smaller clamshell
similar to figures you see in the marketplace. In regard to the edition sizes
for each version, we don't plan to publish them. However, based on the retail
version being exclusive to one retailer, this automatically makes it very limited
versus figures you see out there that are carried by multiple retailers. Similarly
on the hobby version, with it only being offered to hobby-type accounts and stores,
they will be quite limited as well in relations to other figures out there.
How often will new Pro-Shots come out?
waves of Pro-Shots (2 figures per athlete series) will roll-out at retail and
hobby about every three months or so after the first releases.
read on the forum some complaints about not getting info about Pro-Shots out to
Platinum Club members . . . this confused me a bit because Pro-Shots are a completely
different product line than ASVs, and therefore wouldn't be considered part of
the benefits extended to PC members. I know you've posted some info there as a
courtesy to PC members, but ultimately, will the Pro-Shots collectors have their
own club and/or message forum?
We are planning to launch
a new larger figure site in the Fall that will cover each of our lines. Rather
than an individual club for Pro-Shots, it is likely that we would offer an overall
UD figure club that supports each of our lines.
So you anticipate one forum for all the various figures . . . how will the Platinum Club fit into this? Will the Platinum Club be a members-only club for all the various figures lines?
We haven’t determined all of the details of the new site yet, but there would most likely be a forum to discuss each of our upcoming lines. We are still determining what type of club we’ll offer next year. There’s a chance the club may transition into an overall UD sports figure club, rather than just ASV.
retail Pro-Shots are depictions of memorable moments from the athletes' careers.
That would mean that to be historically accurate, only one uniform combination
would be possible. How does UD plan to address this with regards to the hobby
variants in different uniforms?
On the retail versions, the
packaging and card celebrate that particular moment by including the actual photos
and some historical text explaining the moment. On the hobby side, the figures
are treated more just like stand alone figures without reference to any particular
moment. To keep them authentic to their various eras, we do some research to make
sure the uniforms and shoes are swapped correctly so that for instance the hobby
version of the '85 Jordan features him in the Bulls alternate white uniform and
alternate color Air Jordans. Similar on Tiger, we find reference images from the
same tournament or year to change out his clothing to. We have something unique
in mind on the Ali figures for the hobby line, which we can't reveal yet as we
are still in approvals.
Woods Pro-Shots figure #2 prototype.
the new 12" figures in the works - can you give any ballpark estimates on
edition sizes, prices, packaging or `how these will be sold?
12" line is called Pro-Shots Ultimate(s) and fittingly we are working with
one of the top manufacturers that produces similar resin statues for the entertainment
licensed collectibles category. While we are still finalizing a few details, they
will likely retail for $149.99, similar to other large statues in the marketplace
from licenses like Star Wars and Marvel. They will likely be limited to 2,000
pieces or less which should help protect their value and collectibility over time.
They won't be released as frequently as the Pro-Shots figure line, with just a
couple of statues per year per athlete.
These will be real high-end pieces
and very limited, something fitting for display in one's office or game room.
The packaging will be a 4-color closed box since the emphasis is more on protecting
the statue inside then being able to display in package.
question on the mini ASVs?
We are still finalizing the details
of the new ASV configuration that will feature a slightly smaller size and lower
price point achieved through much higher production runs for retail stores and
a different tooling method. The packaging will remain similar to the window boxes
used currently on the line. The big news is that the line will include a collectible
trading card featuring the player artwork and a display base for the figures as
With all these new product lines, I'm
trying to get a feel as to where the ASV line will fit in long term. Where do
you see the ASV line going in the coming months and years?
Vinyl will continue to be a main focus of our figure offerings for each sport.
We think the retail focused line will bring a lot of new collectors into the fold
and open up a lot of new opportunities for the line to grow and expand.
can you tell everyone about the MVPs?
The MVP concept, which stands for miniature vinyl
platform, stemmed from the designer/art toy movement with figures like Kid Robot's
Dunny, Toy2R's Qee, Medicom's Bearbrick and Kubrick, etc. A platform toy is where
you have one common shape and then designers do their own graphic interpretations
over the figure.
We worked with miQ Wilmott of TWEEQiM to create the figure
itself in each of the 4 leagues and then he headed the art development for the
NFL with 7 other artists. The lineup of artists is top notch, many of whom are
very well known in the art toy community. We held a draft where the artists could
select which teams they wanted to work on which brought some personalization and
attachment to the designs versus just randomly assigning the teams. The designs
have come out amazing and we think the line will interest both sports fans that
want their favorite teams as well as designer toy fans that are looking at them
from more of an art toy perspective or wanting to collect a piece from their favorite
The figure will be 8-inches tall with articulation at the waist,
head, and arms. Considering the figure is about as wide as it is tall, it's a
pretty hefty hunk of vinyl that has a real cool feel to it and provided a ton
of deco space for the artists. It also features a removable helmet that allowed
the artists to do some additional cool things both on the helmet and underneath
it with the figure or character's hair, etc. The line will be released in very
limited quantities, less than ASV figures overall. We are still finalizing the
details, but most likely the line retail for $44.95 SRP, which may initially seem
high to sports collectors but is very much in line with how much similar platform
toys cost due to how limited they are and the amount of decorations and painting
required on each figure.
We think this line is going to turn a lot of heads
and really bring some innovation to the sports collectibles category even more
so than All-Star Vinyl given how unique the designs are.