It was great to meet Pete Jirles, President of Mindzeye Studios, and his brother, Jeff, at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. Thank you for taking the time to speak to our readers about the awesome offerings coming from Mindzeye Studios regarding the Gears of War franchise. Now that you've had a chance to recover from the awesome outing that you guys had at SDCC, you can hopefully answer some of the grueling questions that we have in store for you (j/k).
It's obvious to see why Epic Games awarded Mindzeye Studios the license for their Gears of War IP. Epic Games is very guarded with their IP and it speaks volumes when they choose their partnerships. Congratulations on that. The level of detail and skill that is shown on the pieces thus far have all been outstanding!
• Can you let our readers know how you were able to secure the license and what did that entail? Does the license also include the sequel, Gears of War 2?
PJ: We actually contacted Epic Games after seeing the amazing teaser trailer for the first game. We immediately saw the potential of the franchise. After making contact and presenting our work on the Hybrid line, Epic was interested in seeing what we could do with some metallic finished statues. So we drew up a contract and started conceptualizing various characters, poses and bases. We will definitely be working on some characters from the GOW sequel.
• Epic has their own in-house lead art designer/sculptor, Chris Perna, did you work with him on a consistent basis? How much artistic control does Mindzeye Studios have when it comes to working with licensed material?
PJ: Chris has been great during the process. Since he knows the characters inside and out, it's nice to call on his expertise when in any phase of the design stage. He really knows what he's doing. And being a perfectionist is something that Mindzeye Studios can relate to, so we've tried to mimic Chris's attention to detail at all times. Control with licensed material is a bit limiting, since the licensee obviously doesn't want anything about the IP to change. Consistency is a key component of working with an outside franchise like Gears of War. But we are able to conceptualize and design poses, bases, environments and decide which characters to produce.
• While we're on the subject of Gears 2, did Mindzeye influence Epic's character designs for their sequel?
PJ: We left the character development for the sequel to the professionals. Epic definitely knows what they're doing when it comes to the Gears of War franchise. They come up with the characters and we'll sculpt the hell out of them. We're fine with that scenario.
• A lot of the readers might not understand what cold-cast bronze is. Can you briefly describe what & how it's manufactured?
PJ: The process of cold cast bronze (or faux bronze) is relatively new and unlike traditional bronze casting, does not involve pouring molten metal - as is the case in the "lost wax technique." The cc bronze process is accomplished by mixing a liquid plastic, typically a polyurethane resin, with a finely ground bronze powder. In mass, the bronze powder is very heavy, relatively expensive and must be handled very carefully. This heavy mix of polyurethane and bronze powder, which has the consistency of honey, is then poured into a rubber mold with the intent to only partially fill the mold. The partially filled mold is then slowly rotated either by hand or on a rotational casting machine. This rotation will allow the mix to evenly coat the interior of the mold and as it hardens it will form a perfect bubble-free exterior face coat on the casting. Subsequent pours of resin are then used to create a solid cast.
• Many companies produce their statues using a laser-scanned technique while other do it the old-fashioned way by sculpting it by hand. Can you tell us how Mindzeye approaches sculpting?
PJ: Rapid prototyping is becoming more and more prevalent as the technology advances and costs drop. We actually had the Marcus Fenix statue rapid prototyped, but had to sculpt in some lost details and finish him by hand, which actually took quite some time. There was a fair amount of additional sculpting that was needed in the end. While Dom and the Boomer were both created by sculptors from scratch. Mindzeye Studios is definitely interested in sculpting and creating things by hand, but with quick turnaround times of rapid prototyping, it's nice to have options.
• These three pieces are available in bronze or platinum finishes. Are there any plans on offering painted pieces since I noticed that some of your other offerings have that as an option?
PJ: We went into the Gears license wanting to create statues that not only lived up to the look and feel of the game, but also provided a mythic quality to each character. As if they were frozen in a time of struggle, chaos and despair, but were somehow able to rise above it all and conquer their demons, as well as the ones amassed against them. Granted, that might be taking it a bit far, but we had quite a few meetings and discussions before the first concept was put on paper on how the Gears characters would look in bronze and what type of effect that would have throughout the entire line. So it's always been about the classic bronze/platinum look that hopefully conveys that symbolism. But we are considering colored bronze pieces in the subsequent Gears statue lines, which would have the paint/dye fused with the bronze to create a muted colored finish. We always want to maintain the original metallic concept.
• The three pieces that have been shown to the public are not only detailed on a scale of ten (10), it's been ratcheted to an eleven (11). Do you have plans for the rest of the usual suspects such as Cole, Baird, & Carmine (since he's returning in some form to the sequel)?
PJ: We do have plans for a Cole statue for sure, which will be going into production soon. Carmine is also on the design block, along with a few other characters mostly turning up in the sequel - or playing a more central role.
The bronze & platinum cast Dom barely made it in time for Comic-Con (the knife that rests on his shoulder will be added later)
• For instance, when we spoke at Comic-Con, sculpting the Sonic Resonator Device on Cole's back would be awesome since he carries that for practically half of the Gears 1 game. Also, attention to these details really hit home with the Gears fans and collectors around the world. Perhaps you can offer both versions- one with (extremely limited run) & the other without. So how about it, Pete?
PJ: We've actually been kicking around that very idea since SDCC. We definitely listen to fans and one thing that we've heard loud and clear is bring on Cole and Carmine - as well as more locusts, so we're drawing up plans on how to best unveil these next pieces. One thing I can say is that we've just begun to work on the Gears line. We have many plans. And the excitement is growing each day. We're continually pushing the design envelope.
• The Gears universe is so rich in character designs, does your company plan on consistently adding to this line with the multitude of COGs and Locust Horde? If so, will you consider a frequent buyer's club/Collector's Club by offering collectors a slightly reduced or exclusive offers similar to what Master Replicas does?
PJ: We are considering exclusive offers to a Collector's Club that we're preparing to set up. We were sure that the GOW line would catch people off guard and grab attention, but even we weren't prepared for such a positive response across the board. Gears fans have been fantastic with their comments and feedback. We definitely want to give back when we see that.
• So far, the three pieces that are offered are "stand-alone" pieces, are you planning companion pieces similar to what Sideshow is doing with their Star Wars and Lord of the Rings statues? Perhaps Marcus chainsawing a Locust?
PJ: You guys should be a part of our design team! We're drawing up concepts as we speak on how to best implement more companion pieces locked in combat. Stay tuned, it's going to be big.
• The Boomer is getting rave reviews at our site, did you expect this kind of reception from a "bad guy" piece?
PJ: Once the Gears licensing contract was nearing completion, we began to do more extensive research on the characters and what our options might be right out of the box. The minute we saw the 3D digital renders of the Boomer we all agreed he was going to be the centerpiece to the initial line. Marcus and Dom are great, but the Boomer is just a fantastic antagonist. It doesn't hurt that his gun is the size of New Jersey, either.
Mindzeye Studios' attention to detail even has a crack running through the Boomer's base depicting how heavy he is!
• Many Gears' fans have already made the venture to your site to either view the statues or pre-order them directly from Mindzeye. What other retailers will offer your pieces?
PJ: We're currently setting up retailers and distributors for the Gears line. One thing that we found following the unveiling of the GOW statues was that retailers and distributors were as impressed with the designs as fans were. So the Mindzeye Studios line of the Gears characters will soon be available around the world.
• It was great to not only see these statues in-person, but it was great to have the chance to talk to you, Pete. Congratulations on the Gears statues and we look forward in featuring you on our site in the near future and as more product starts rolling out. Thank you!
PJ: It was great meeting you guys. Your feedback and support have been fantastic. We'll be in touch as soon as we have anything new to report - which will be very soon. Keep up the great work on your site. Thanks!
Check out all of their awesome statues here (you can also order them directly from their site): Mindzeye Studios