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Pardee's Picks: Retroband Holiday Workshop Visit

Juxtapoz // Saturday, 21 Dec 2013
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"The North Pole may indeed house the most famous hand-made toy factory in history. However, with the ever-growing popularity of vinyl toys, customized blanks, resin casts and collectable high end japanese bootlegs, hundreds of one-man toy factories are hiding all around the world. One of these passionate little workshops in particular, RETROBAND is snuggled in a location that no North Pole elf would even survive in: San Antonio, Texas. 

“Making Toys I wish I Had Growing Up.” This is the slogan of RETROBAND. And those 8 simple words describe the company perfectly.

Using a pile of a thousand old VHS horror tapes for inspiration, and an equally large collection of vintage action figures, Retroband passionately Frankensteins bits and pieces of those old figures together, along with his own sculpts, creating amazingly accurate, obscure toys that instantly ignite nostalgia in all of us weirdos. 

Aaron Moreno, Retroband's owner and lead sculpter/designer, currently releases about one limited toy a month, often based on horror movies he loved as a child, but with the brand's popularity and audience growing rapidly, plans on expanding the amount of releases in the near future, including original designs as well as officially licensed projects. But a lot of blood, sweat and tears of joy go literally pour into each release, so we decided to head down to Texas just in time to document RETROBAND's holiday release, "BILLY", the killer Santa Claus from 1984's "Silent Night, Deadly Night".

Aaron was nice enough to put on his Texas-elf costume, let us take some photos of his personal "Santa's Workshop" and bombard him with a few questions about what exactly goes into the process of hand-making a toy that resembles the ones we loved from our childhood. 

Q: With so many obscure and cool properties that would have made amazing toys when we were little, how do you decide which one to tackle?
A: My ultimate goal is to pay tribute the best I can to a film that I genuinely love with a passion, so the choosing process is as simple as "Which film do I want to thank for existing?" I then draw out the character or characters in toy form. I take close notes on color of clothing, iconic accessories, etc. And I go from there.

Q: Do you re-appropriate existing action figures to create new ones, or do you sculpt your own designs?
A: Some custom toy-designers collect as many figures as they can in the size they want and mash them up to create other figures, then remold them, recast them, and paint them a unique color. I caught on to that process in the beginning but quickly decided to start sculpting my own pieces.  After my "FATHER" (From CREEPSHOW) release I started sculpting my figures. I would say 85%-95% of the figures are from scratch. Hands and sometimes accessories are used from existing figures. But that's slowly and eventually going away. I'm progressing in techniques more and more as I sculpt.I refused to rely on other toys to make what I was envisioning. Also it feels good having the freedom to make whatever you like. 

Q: The packaging and card art you have done for your last few releases is incredible. Who is the artist responsible for the art?
A: Mainly, with the last few releases, it has been Gabriel Hernandez aka Safari (@worthyenemies). He's one of my closest friends. We go way back when we were in an art collective called Third Vision Collective. He was the first person I told about my toy project in the beginning. He's Amazingly talented and doesn't even know it! Glad to have him on board! I've also worked with Cody Schibi on some packaging design as well. 

Q: Top 2 favorite horror movies?
A: Dawn of the Dead 1978, Lost Boys.

Q: Any plans for other genres of toy releases outside of horror?
A: I do actually. I want tackle Menace to Society and maybe Boyz in The Hood. I did start a NWA x GI-JOE action figure line. Still in the works. But 2014 will have a original line up coming soon.

Q: Anything else you want to add?
A: Happy Holidays!!  

See all of RETROBAND's past and present toy releases here: http://www.retroband.bigcartel.com

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