Friday, March 16, 2012

NEWS: Jon Karis Explains Rise of the Beasts Cancellation

Jon Karis, coordinator for the now-cancelled Rise of the Beasts line, has posted a rather lengthy explanation as to why he withdrew the Kickstarter project just moments before its deadline.

The post, which appears on Jon's site, was posted in-part as a response to this article posted at Battlegrip, in which Phillip Reed offered some speculation as to why the project was canned, despite having reached its funding goal.

Here it is in its entirety:

Hi guys!

Just to give some clarification here.

My work with the guys at Plastic Imagination has been ongoing since June of last year when they approached me to help them get their start-up toy company going. This specific project has been in the works for over 8 months now. Just about every option has been looked at since then. From everything domestic to using China. The original intent of the project was to release one figure at a time and let the sales of that figure fund the next. In pouring over dozens of possibilities, we ended up going with a factory in China that has a proven track record of making high quality PVC toys. Why them? They had a great quote and a good reputation.

Throughout the process, dozens of factories were talked to and over a dozen of them provided quotes. When a factory was selected, two quotes were revised. One for a smaller run of 1 figure (to be run initially) and the other for a larger run of multiple figures (to see what kind of price break on a longer run, more sculpts). Funds were put in place to make the smaller run, to see how well they could produce the figures at the 60mm scale.

Once that was settled, we decided to look into the viability of funding the large run via Kickstarter instead of releasing them 1 figure at a time. As far as the $11k goes, that works out to about $10k after KS and Amazon take their cut.
$10k factored in:
Costs already put into the project
The cost of the large order
Inspection fees
A high estimate on shipping from China to here
and the cost of shipping out x reward packages

That is where that number came up, plus a little extra in case of any unforeseen costs. And while the success of OMFG on Kickstarter is definitely where the idea to use Kickstarter to fund the larger run came from, the funding number itself was definitely not arbitrary or based on OMFG at all.

Leading into the Kickstarter project, the order had already been placed for the smaller run and was only awaiting payment, which was made shortly thereafter. The factory said that they would have pictures of samples 20 days after payment was received. Being that they had a solid reputation online we didn't doubt them. They had been saying for over a month prior that yes, 60mm was no problem at all, the basic articulation was no issue and the paint apps and packaging (originally intended to be a blister pack, later changed to a blind box) was no problem. We also saw examples of current and past items they had manufactured.

So the Kickstarter was launched, the payment was sent and the idea was to have a working sample about a week before the end of the Kickstarter project and a final product from the first run in hand before any of the pledgers money was ever used. This created 2 fail-safes.

1. If the samples came back less than what we were promised, we would have ample time to cancel the Kickstarter, and
2. If the samples were great, we would have a final product in hand before the other order was even placed, let alone paid for.

There was a bump in the road in getting payment to the factory though, that delayed them receiving it by 12 days, which was entirely on the sending bank. That being said, it delayed the sample enough to where it might not be in before the end of the project. Had that not occurred the 60mm/80mm issue would have been known 10 days earlier and the project would have been updated or cancelled then.

To be honest, up until Friday, I did not expect it to hit the goal. We were no longer on track to hit and it looked like interest had waned. That wasn't really an issue as the plan would have then reverted to 1 figure at a time. However, Friday night a couple large backers came through and we passed $11k. From there it was a matter of trying to go even higher to be able to fund more figures in the initial wave and get a better price on volume. The factory had been communicating fine, they were tooling the figure for the mold and it wasn't until the very end when they came back and said, "Sorry, 60mm is just too small. 80mm is the minimum for these figures". We got some clarification from them last night as to why and there is an issue in keeping the detail in the mold at the smaller size via the process they use.

So there we were, past $11k, past $14k and right at the tip of $17k when the current factory dropped the bomb with little time left on the clock. What do do?

Well, there was certainly not a mad rush to find other factories, although throughout the entire process other factories were still being contacted and quotes acquired. Why vet other factories when you have one already? Lots of reasons. Getting better prices, making different style figures (4", 7"), not putting all your eggs in one basket, etc. etc. So there were other options for factories already in place. Could we have let it fund and then taken the quote from another factory? Sure, we could have. But what if these other factories couldn't run the 60mm figures? We had just had one factory back down as to what they said they could do, so why trust another 100%?

There was one factory that we would have trusted to give the business too, that I had been talking to about a HE-Man sized figure and the Series 3 figures. The subject of having them do the Kickstarter run came up the day prior, too (I would have pushed to switch factories in a heart-beat). After hearing the news about the 80mm that morning, I was anxiously awaiting a response from the aforementioned factory. If they had come back with a yes before the end of the Kickstarter, then the $17k would have funded and they would be making the figures instead of the current factory who is making the 80mm lion. But they hadn't gotten back in time and I wasn't willing to trust another factory 100% with someone else's money. The the only other option was to cancel. When they did get back that morning they said that they would nothave been able to meet the numbers or time frame for this order anyways.

Up to that point I was talking to my buddy at Plastic Imagination about what to say after I cancelled the Kickstarter. I wanted to explain up front about the 80mm thing, He and the other guy at P! did not. They wanted to put a happy face on it. The happy face being two of the current factories (one local to him in Canada and the other one mentioned above) giving better options and lower runs than the current factory, plus one other option that I can't disclose. I told them that I though it was a mistake, but as Plastic Imagination is theirs and not mine, I acquiesced. Huge mistake. The shit hit the fan in a big way and I emailed him back saying that I needed to post about the factory issue. If they didn't agree, I would likely do it anyways and take heat from them for it. Anyone who has known me for years knows that I try to be as open as possible and don't spin anything. Having to, or rather agreeing to, post their statement put me in very a bad position and now my reputation has taken a pretty good hit.

So yes, two very big mistakes were made. The first was not having a final product in hand prior to launching the Kickstarter. We trusted that an established factory could do what they promised exactly and got burned for it. The other mistake was leading with their spin piece. I think that in itself was the bigger mistake. Had I come out with the factory issue initially, things would have not blown up and my personal reputation would not have taken that hit.

So now the positive. The factory in Canada is cutting a mold in the next 30 days, direct from the 3d. If they work out, that cuts down a lot of time and money for this and future projects. The other factory I mentioned is also still in talks. We will see how that goes. Myself, I would love to be able to work with the latter as there are somemajor benefits. There is also the 3rd option that looks very, very promising. I am really excited about it, but can't give any details yet.

As far as Kickstarter goes, we won't be taking a 2nd bite at that apple. At least not anytime in the near future. Being hosed by the factory like that last minute and having to dash the hopes of hundreds of people has pretty much killed it.

Going forward?

I still have full faith in the guys at P! and will still continue to work with them to get Plastic Imagination going strong. There is a lot more than Rise Of The Beasts in the pipeline and one bad judgement call on their part (the spin piece) doesn't change my friendship or respect for them. I have known them both personally for a long time know and they are great guys. They just made a bad call (as did I).

Rise of the Beasts will still be released, starting in June when the Gold Lion hits. People who were at the $45 level or higher before I cancelled will be getting a free gold lion as our way of saying thank you for supporting us and sorry for having to cancel like that. The remainder of that run will be sold. A free gold lion is great, but 80mm is not a very good in-between size so we don't want to continue the run at that height. That being said, the mold has already been paid for, so reorders will be cheap. I can see other 80mm lions down the road.

We have a lot of other possible pieces in the pipe for ROTB, a 6" He-Man styled figure, a GI Joe/Marvel sized figure, a comic, playsets, etc. We are getting quotes on these and if they are viable, we will do small runs to make sure we have a winner. But the focus right now is on Series 1 and getting them at 60mm. When (not if) those have come to market, the other sizes and stuff will be looked at closer.

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