Exclusive Q and A Session with Toy Pizza’s Mr. Jesse DeStasio

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!

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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. 

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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. 
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Back in 2015, your first Kickstarter campaign for “Knights of the Slice” successfully funded. What was your inspiration behind Knights of the Slice?
  • 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.
Speaking of inspiration, you at times share artwork that you created depicting your creations. What’s super-cool is the fact that some, if not all of these drawings go as far back as your childhood. Needless to say, it’s a kids dream come true to have their imagination come to life. With that said, have you always been interested in toy design/creation?
  • 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. 
The Glyos System – you love it, I love it. What was the process behind deciding to use the system in your pieces rather than another build design?
  • 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. 
Toy Pizza has so many unique offerings, with many obviously influenced by Tokusatsu. Would you say that influence is still heavy in the line today? Do you see it being an influence in the line in the future, or do you see your Knights taking off in a different direction?
  • 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. 
My last question mentioned the Knights, which for those that may not be familiar, refers to the Knights of the Slice. What can you tell us about the Knights?
  • 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. 
I was introduced to Toy Pizza by the Action Figure of the Month Club Kickstarter campaign. Although other companies have offered a monthly subscription, it would seem that the AFOTMC campaign really hit a broad audience. In turn, it seems that this new venture has something for absolutely everyone (I’m looking at you, Desert Rat, you sexy bitch). Was the lineup intentional? Or was it tweaked along the way as your imagination went in to overdrive?
  • 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. 
Desert Rat leads me to a two part question: For Joe fans out there, is there a possibility of seeing other G.I.Joe/Action Force homages in the line? What about homages other 80s goodness?
  • 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!

 

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The Toy Pizza YouTube channel is a huge success and highly entertaining. It seems like you Gents somehow manage to squeeze at least 30 hours out of a 24 hour day. I know this question is like asking you to pick between your children…but what would you say is more fun? Creating toys or creating content?
  • 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. 
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The AFOTMC offerings have begun shipping, with January’s shipment en route. As we get closer to 2020, what’s on the horizon for Toy Pizza? Is there anything you could tease us with? (here’s where I would lead in to your images).
  • 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.

 

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  • He also looks great when matched with the Old Knight’s parts. 
Final, silly question – How quickly do you reject those who don’t fold their slices from your life?
  • 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.

I’ll be sharing a review of my first Action Figure of the Month figure, so make sure to stay tuned for more Toy Pizza goodness!

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