Well friends, it’s been 3 long years. There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. That said, the latest update from Bill has been met with mixed feelings, as he’s shared some news regarding the future of Fresh Monkey Fiction that will weigh heavy on those that still support Bill and his endeavors (like me). Here’s the scoop –
Finally the Eagle has landed, we have recovered our tooling and I can be a bit more open with what’s been going on behind the scenes.
To start meet Tiandeng Liu.
This is the factory manager for both our Eagle Force and Larry Hama figures and is the reason we do not have our toys. This post will echo the post of Spero Toy’s AWOK line who is also using Tiandeng Liu to produce their line of action figures.
Tiandeng Liu has not been able to deliver on his commitments for completing either of our Eagle Force or Larry Hama projects. He has been paid to finalize production but currently takes anywhere from 7 to 15 days just to reply to our messages, oftentimes leaving us in the dark as to what is going on. It’s important to understand this was not always the case. Throughout most of the process he was very responsive, completed the initial run of the AWOK line on time, and revised our tooling (which he recognized as his mistake) so we could scale up our figures to be proper 1/18th size.
However, once we paid him for production this all changed. Over the last year he started to drop the ball again and again. After we got our new Project Manager (Chris Gawrych, who currently also handles development and production for Four Horsemen Studios) and his local team on the ground involved, it seemed to get worse. He became even more closed off, refused to communicate, and wouldn’t move the project forward to meet our agreed upon timelines. It even got to the point where Tiandeng Liu would be hardpressed to commit to any specific deadlines. Spero Toys (as well as few other companies we know about) began to have similar challenges.
Currently we are taking the stand that Tiandeng Liu is holding our project, funds and property hostage. He has admitted that he has not completed the manufacturing for all the parts needed to complete final assembly. This has been confirmed by Chris’s team as they have visited the assembly factory several times and found many figures 1/2 completed while the factory waits for the remaining parts to be delivered by Tiandeng Liu so the project can be finalized.
Although Tiandeng Liu has recently apologized for the delays, he has not been able to provide any updated images or timelines, only a new proposed delivery date of late January 2020. This of course if unacceptable but we have had little recourse as he has refused to return any funds we have paid him or turn over our tooling to Chris and his new factory. Over the last 8 weeks we have been trying to negotiate with him, including Chris’s team visiting him in person on a few occasions. Three weeks ago he finally agreed to hand over the tooling, however he missed the initial date that was agreed upon, so we had a new target date of last Friday to pick up the tooling. I’m happy to report, we now finally have our tooling in hand. See image.
This is a huge win for us, as we’ve basically been in hostage negotiations for over 2 months. Until last night he held our biggest asset, the steel tooling. I’ve had to be very careful how we navigated this situation, including not being vocal online or to our backers, because at any point Tiandeng Liu could easily damage our tooling and we’d not be able to recover anything. Just so everyone understands, the steel tooling is our most expensive asset and also the most volatile. We have 9 steel tools and any one of them can easily be damaged, by even something as minor as a key scratch. Now that we have the tooling I can be more open about where we stand.
What does this mean for the future of these projects? Recovering the tooling is a major 1st step to finally completing this project. Now that we have secured the tooling the plan is for Chris’s team to test the tooling, finalize any remaining pieces that need to be manufactured and supply those to the assembly factory for final assembly and delivery. This all needs to be analyzed and negotiated with the assembly factory and logistically will take some time to figure out. Chris will be flying to China in early November to oversee this process. We’ll keep in lock step with updates when we have them.
I know this is not the news anyone wants to hear. It’s a cluster and I have tried night and day, every day for the last 3 years to avoid this nightmare, but sadly these are the types of situations that can happen when working in China. I have lost a significant amount of personal funds, outside of the funds we raised on Kickstarter, and my business and reputation have been ruined by Tiandeng Liu. It’s not lost on me that this situation has impacted others who want to use Kickstarter as a platform, and for all of that I am truly sorry.
Tiandeng Liu has our funds and all we can do is try to take ownership over this situation as best we can to finalize the manufacturing and get our figures completed by the end of the year. We are also considering contacting the local authorities to report Tiandeng Liu, but we have been advised that at this stage this might not have an impact and could cause further delays.
For those of you who are contemplating a kickstarter and working with China, let this be a strong lesson that it can be a nightmare. No matter how much blood, sweat and tears you put into dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s, the factory holds all the cards.
I know many of you are passionate about Eagle Force and would like to see the line continue. As my business and reputation has now been ruined thanks to Tiandeng Liu, I more than likely will close Fresh Monkey Ficiton, so I have been negotiating to pass this property to other creators who are interested in expanding/revising the line once we have delivered on the commitment to this kickstarter. More to follow on that in 2020.
There you have it, folks. My heart for sure breaks for Bill, as I know the blood, sweat and tears that he’s put in to this endeavor. He’ll continue to have my support throughout this process as I’m sure he’ll have yours.
One thing’s for sure – I can’t wait to get these awesome figures in hand!