I’m thrilled to bring you an exclusive Q&A session with none other than Mr. Jesse Destasio of Toy Pizza!
The first wave of Toy Pizza’s Action Figure of the Month Club have begun to hit mailboxes (mine included!), so what better time to “sit down” with Jesse and learn more about Toy Pizza, AFOTM, Knights of the Slice and more!
Jesse was even so kind as to include some images not revealed before, so make sure to read through the Q&A below to get your fill on some Toy Pizza Goodness!
First and foremost, thanks for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to chat! Let’s get right to it – So, for folks like me that discovered “Toy Pizza” through the Action Figure of the Month Kickstarter campaign, can you give us a bit of background on Toy Pizza?
- We started about 5 years ago as a YouTube program for Frederator Studios (creators of Adventure Time and more). Nicky is a video editing powerhouse and I come from a background in toy design / entertainment licensing. I’d like to think we provide a unique point of view, between the pure joyous fandom of Nicky matched with my battle-hardened, industry insider grit. Our mascot is the Knight of the Slice and we launched a Kickstarter roughly 4 years ago to make them into action figures. Since then it’s been steadily growing in popularity…so much so that it’s now my full-time job.
Although we’re talking Toy Pizza, another fascinating cookie jar you have your hands in is, well, just about everything. I’m referring to Eerie Theory Entertainment, Inc. From Artist & Brand Management to Branded Content, you definitely have your finger on the pulse of the industry. Are there any projects that we should be on the look out for from ETE?
- I’d like to consider myself with my finger firmly off the pulse now…hahah. I’m sort of purposefully in exile from the world of licensing and management so I can give my all to the Knights of the Slice and our fans. There is no question my time in the professional world, working for different IP holders and movie studios helped give me a strong sensibility of what works and what doesn’t…but at the end of the day it was toiling to advance someone else’s vision.
- I know people automatically think it’s based on Power Rangers, but I was just slightly too old to embrace them when the show first came out. The inspiration is more directly a love letter to a line of 3 3/4″ figures Banpresto released covering all sorts of different Japanese characters from Kamen Rider, Lupin III, Kinnikuman, and beyond. I was thinking about doing a retro line of figures with minimal articulation even before Toy Pizza was launched…then Super7 came out with Alien ReAction and did my idea better than I ever could.
- Yes, always been obsessed with designing and customizing figures into my own characters. The childhood drawings are from a series I call ” Old Heroes” where I dig up terrible drawings and make them into new, contemporary figures. My feeling is I have never had better ideas than I did before I was the age of 10. It’s very fulfilling to continue to introduce more and more Old Heroes.
- Originally the KOTS was not going to have Glyos joints. I was just going to do standard twist joints and possible ball jointed shoulders, like another line that featured Kinnikuman, Chojin Power Series. Matt Doughty and I had been friends for several years and he convinced me to do the project with him and his factory. It ended up being the right choice and continues to be a strength of the line…even if it was largely rejected by Glyos fans in it’s debut.
- The Tokusatsu genre is the spirit of this line. I want these characters to seem right at home in a live action japanese (badly dubbed) fight scene you might watch on YouTube. The line has sort of morphed influences from that original inspiration. The Vector Jump armor is an homage to Spiral Zone and other “future perfect” designs of the 80s. The Rift Killer is a bio-mechanical love letter to Nirasawa. The Old Knight is based on a static Imperial soldier I had a kid. So it’s sort of a melting pot of all the toys and artists I admire. As for what’s next…hard to say. The line has always sort of evolved and mutated, it sort of has a mind of its own.
- The world of Knights of the Slice is based on a simple premise- Food is Religion. So if we assume that’s true, what sort of people and tribes occupy that world? The order of the KOTS are a sort of benevolent (?) police force who have corporate overlords, but generally try to safe guard food for the population to eat it. Anyone trying to hoard or disrupt food are villains and dispatched by the KOTS with extreme prejudice.
- Yes, the AFOTM club has been the biggest single catalyst for our tiny little toy line. The lineup was in no way intentional, it was complete anarchy. I basically spent every penny I made from KOTS on sculpting new figures, so I had this backlog of amazing characters that were designed on a whim but were such oddball ideas, they didn’t fit anywhere. So I took all these disparate ideas and just decided…”well, let’s let the public decide how many of these get made”. So the line up is filled with a random mishmash of characters that will hopefully tie together in some sort of cohesive narrative. That idea itself, of a self-fulfilling narrative, is a big part of the KOTS mythos. A lot of the bios and names are decided a few days before a figure goes on sale. I sort of let the final product tell me it’s own story and how it fits into the world.
- I’ll let you in on a little secret, I actually pitched Hasbro to become a joe licensee. I was interested in taking over the Collectors Club when the current deal ended and I spent a lot of time crafting a pitch deck that I thought spoke to what was missing from the experience and how I could fix it. It was politely declined and I heard later from a mutual friend that I had ruffled feathers by starting the presentation with the proclamation that “Gi Joe is dead”. I believe the quote was “At least it wasn’t forgettable”. That experience galvanized me to prove I could do it better than it’s been done, even without the license. I think I have a proof of concept with the AFOTM.
Regarding homages- it’s something I try my best to avoid doing to only doing lightly. I always say homages are like cilantro, a pinch too much ruins a dish. Homages are the easy, low hanging fruit and you see a lot of indie toy lines sort of collapse once they exhaust the cycle of “Star Wars colorway / HeMan colorway / Transformers colorway. It collapses because they are selling someone else’s idea and repeating motifs we’ve all already seen.
That being said, I of course (hypocritically) have some homages coming up soon!
- That’s a tough question but I think I’d go with designing toys, because creating content takes so much more work! I’m lucky Nicky handles everyone once the camera is turned off, because it’s way harder than picking out some pantones and sending an order to the factory.
- I strongly want to do enrollment for a new Kickstarter for AFOTM club in Nov.
I want 2020 to be even bigger and better. I think once people start getting Jan. in the mail and sharing pics, I think a larger audience will become interested and we could double our campaign this year.
For the immediate future, I’m looking forward to getting our first new figure, The Desert Rat, in people’s hands.
- He also looks great when matched with the Old Knight’s parts.
- To fold is the only way to slice. It is foolish to consume pizza any other way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed diving in to the awesome history of Toy Pizza as much as I have! I’m really looking forward to all that Jesse and Nicky have in store for us in the future.