Dinosaur Toys for Adults are Just the Best
"It's more than just a creature that you made up, it's something that was actually sharing the same planet, at one point, as you are now."
David Silva makes toys for a living. His day job, with National Entertainment Collectibles Association, involves sculpting action figures for franchises including Predator, Alien, Terminator 2, and Pacific Rim. That’s pretty sweet, but the toy line he really wanted to see was one that company bigwigs couldn’t muster much excitement for: dinosaurs. Despite the poverty of really great dinosaur action figures Silva just couldn’t get the industry on board.
So he set out on his own, and in his spare time designed a line of scientifically accurate raptors under his “Beasts of the Mesozoic” banner, at his company, Creative Beast. His Kickstarter raised $350,000, nearly tripling its goal. Apparently he’s not the only one who thinks realistic dinosaurs are the future of fun. Inverse spoke with Silva about his project, and about why his velociraptors look nothing like the ones in Jurassic Park.
I imagine there are a lot of 10-year-olds who would say you have a dream job. Do you feel that way?
I usually think about how I might have the best job I could possibly have for what I like, and I guess that’s what a dream job is. I can’t really complain, the only thing I wish there was more of was dinosaurs — so I ended up doing that on my own time. So I have that, too.
How did you get into dinosaur toys?
I started sculpting a dinosaur because I felt like, well I can learn an actual animal anatomy and also show them [my bosses] I could do a creature-type thing at the same time. So that inadvertently led to me getting back into dinosaurs, like I was when I was a kid. I was really getting interested in how it all worked, and how you would just look at the bones and understand how the muscles worked and how to flesh it out and everything. It’s really challenging at first — I mean, it still is, but there’s so much to learn. It’s exciting when you’re done because what you end up with is your interpretation of something that actually existed. So it’s more than just a creature that you made up, it’s something that was actually sharing the same planet, at one point, as you are now.
Why aren’t the big toy companies already doing this?
There were several occasions since I’ve been working in the toy industry where it was proposed, and I was involved with making a prototype, and at different stages we got cancelled. There was not usually an explanation. It seemed like a good idea, and it would just go away, and that happened twice. There was another time when I proposed an idea to the owner and he was like, “There’s not enough dinosaurs for us to do.” And I was like, “What? OK…” I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing anybody, but it’s happened several times so after a certain point you’re like, “Well if this is going to get done I just have to figure out how to do it myself.”
Your first line is all raptors. It’s a bit of surprising choice, given how different real raptors would have looked from the ones everyone has seen in Jurassic Park.
Like a lot of kids I liked the Jurassic Park movie and I loved the velociraptors in that movie and eventually I got a dinosaur book and I looked up velociraptor in there. I was hoping to see what I saw in Jurassic Park, and it was something that looked really different. And I was very intrigued by that and I wanted to learn more about that creature and I’ve just been intrigued by those types of dinosaurs ever since.
What do you think of the Jurassic Park velociraptors now?
I don’t mind it. And it actually has a lot to do with the last movie where they kind of explained — these would look different if you went back in time because they manipulate the genes, and all that. I was like, “OK I’ll buy that.” They’re sensationalizing dinosaurs to make them look like what people expect them to look like so that people will come look at them.
I actually love the Jurassic World movie. I think the velociraptors on there are great; I think it’s a cool design. A lot of people have asked me if I would do one, and I have zero interest in something like that because it’s an owned property. It’s something that a studio has designed — it has its own product out there already whether you agree that it’s good or not is not, that’s not really the point. To me, the whole thing that I want to do is kind of my own mission of what I want to see, and hopefully what other people want to see as well.
How do you ensure that your toys are scientifically accurate?
I always start with gathering references, and that generally starts on the internet. I have several books that I like to go to; there’s several artists, like Greg Paul — I like looking at his anatomical stuff for reference. There’s several other books that are good for information, but also I have to be careful with that because the information is always changing.
I have to get started, because you can look at references for months and not get anything done. So I’ll start it, and I always show in progress stuff online on Facebook or whatever, and because the community is so into this, I get a lot of good feedback. If something looks wrong, someone will tell me, “That should be more like this,” and I’m like, “Dammit.” But then I’m like, “You know what, they’re right and that’s good to know.”
When do you get to quit your day job and make dinosaur toys full time?
When I stop loving my job.
I enjoy going to work everyday. I work with some cool guys and we have a lot of fun. And it gets me out of the studio in my apartment, and it’s good for me to be around people and interact with other creative people.
I went through the whole Kickstarter and I think I only took off one day of work the whole time. I was challenging myself. I was like, “I need to be able to do both. I need to be able to make this work; If I can do that I feel like I can continue balancing both.” Hopefully I’ll be able to do that for several more years. The stuff we do at work with the Predators and Godzilla — all that stuff — that’s fun stuff.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.