Thursday, 9 March 2017

Toy Customizer: Joe Amaro

Toy Designer Joe Amaro

Joe Amaro from Amaro Studios has been working in the toy industry for over 15 years. Including working with the Four Horsemen designing and sculpting the MOTU Classics Battle Ram, The Wind Raider, The Talon Fighter, Night Stalker, Stridor and The Hover Robots. 

As a hobby he also customizes action figures. Toy customizing has quickly become an ever-increasing hobby thanks to adult-collector toy lines, and the slow pace at which they release new product. There’s nothing stopping you from creating your very own ideal action figure. 

MOTU!: Hi Joe and thanks for taking time out to do this interview with me. Ever since I saw your custom Dark Soldier Head I became a instant fan. I bought 2 heads and now I own 2 custom Dark Soldiers that goes with my 1987 MOTU Movie Display. You have made some awesome customs over the years and your work is just getting better and better. 

Joe: That is awesome, thank you for your support!!! 

MOTU!: So Joe, how did you get started doing action figure customs? 

Joe: I think like everyone else I started when I was a kid. I really wanted the band from the Star Wars Cantina so I made my own. In the 90’s ToyFare magazine had a completion to design an action figure line. I entered some ThunderCats and won. I was then hired as a freelance artist to make customs for all three Wizard publications: ToyFare, Wizard and InQuest Gamer. That’s when I really started taking customizing more seriously. The customs that everyone remembers from those days are the Bearriors. 

I worked with them until 2006. From there I went on to work on the TV show Robot Chicken and that led me to working in the toy industry. 

MOTU!: How long have you been customizing figures? 

Joe: Forever, Haha! It is my break. When you work professionally as a designer/sculptor you have to make things the way you are instructed or how the licensor wants them done. Plus there are many restrictions because you have to think about production. So when I am customizing I am free to do whatever I want, without any restrictions. 

MOTU!: You do a lot of sculpting on your figures, not just the same old repaints seen elsewhere. What materials do you generally use to "make the magic happen"? 

Joe: I use all kinds of clays and materials. It really depends on what I am trying to create. But generally I use Sculpey and Magic Sculpt. 

MOTU!: Your paint jobs are very well done. Can you tell us a little on your technique for getting a sweet paintjob that gets past the pesky joint rub problem? 

Joe: A trick on joints is to sand them down a little, just enough so that the paint does not rub off. Also applying thin coats is very helpful, like with an airbrush. But in the end it is really unavoidable. 

MOTU!: Any horror stories of something gone horribly wrong? 

Joe: Horribly wrong? Not really. The motto in the Amaro household is “Anything can be fixed” There have been several times where I had to restart or redo something. The second time around it is always better. 

But as far as horror stories, one time my wife asked me to make ramp so our Yorkie “Killala” could get on the bed. So my thought was to not only make a ramp but also a G.I. Joe fort. While making it I severely cut my hand. I was cutting foam core and I had a big pile of trash on the table. I did not know but buried in the pile of trash was also my Xacto knife. When I went to move everything into the trach I used my hand to swipe it off the table. My Xacto stuck into my plam and slashed me open. I need 7 stitches. The doctors were concerned that I cut my tendons, but luckily I did not. I think anyone who works with an Xacto knife has a similar story. Haha 

MOTU!: On the opposite end of blood loss, what has been your favorite custom to date? Not necessarily your favorite character, but one that just turned out exactly, or better, than you planned. 

Joe: That is a difficult question…I can think of two…my Classics Mumm-Ra, it came out close to perfect. My custom Conan the Barbarian is another. Those two are some that have gotten the most attention. 

I also do a lot of original sculpts that I technically call “customs” because I make them so I can use them with my figures. My two favorites of these are my Mythic Legions Dragonian Knight and Dragon that I made for the Four Horsemen show Toypocalypse. The second would be my Jabba the Hutt for the 6” Star Wars figures. Both of these are completely original sculpts. You can see work-in-progress pics on my Facebook page. 

MOTU!: Do you have upcoming MOTUC customs that you're excited to be working on, or planning out? 

Joe: Not MOTUC, but ThunderCats. I am currently sculpting Mumm-Ra’s tomb. I hope to have some casts for sale at Power Con this year. You can see a work in progress pic here. I want to try to have some more customs to show at Power Con.

MOTU!: Where can people see more of your work? Also, what is the best way for someone to get in touch with you for commissions? 

Joe: You can view my work on my Facebook Page at Amaro Studios - 

For custom work you contact me at: 

MOTU!: Thanks Joe, great talking with you! We look forward to seeing more sweet new customs from you during 2017. 

Joe: Thank you! I hope I get to meet you guys at Power Con this year!

If you want to check out more of Joe Amaro's work, click on the links below for more reviews from The Fwoosh and Pixel Dan!!

The Fwoosh - Review Work for Joe Amaro

Pixel Dan:

Rudy Obrero and Joe Amaro's Manta Raider Video Review

Joe Amaro's Castle Warriors Customiztion Kit Video Review Exclusive Molten Hammer by Joe Amaro

Joe Amaro's Mystic Hammer Figure Accessory Review