Boldly going Back to the Future: Chris Huisman on designing two iconic brand models for TOMY Plus

Chris Huisman, TOMY Plus

Chris, thanks for joining me. You identify as a professional Tinkerer and Toy Master. Love that! What kind of products do you create?
I design a wide variety of products, from replicas to toddler toys, ride-on toys to action figures, feature plush to wooden train sets.

Oh wow. For some reason I imagined you specialised! I think because the thing that caught my eye recently is so incredible… It’s the TOMY Plus model of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Saying that, calling it a model scarcely does it justice…
Thank you! Replicating the 11-foot studio model of the USS Enterprise was a thrill! I was able to work with a few legends in the Star Trek community to make this the best die-cast replica that it could be…

Actually, Chris, perhaps I should’ve said it’s die-cast – and it’s huge! Who are some of these legends?
Gary Kerr, Matt Cushman, Karl Tate, and Glen Swanson were extremely vital to the USS Enterprise project… They provided technical data, official paint chips, and other really important information.

That makes sense, because some of the detail on it is extraordinary… The shuttle bay in particular blew my mind. How’s it gone down with fans?
Thanks, Deej. Personally, I love the saucer separation feature, but I do love how the shuttle bay turned out. And I’m pleased to say consumers are raving about it… It’s kind of humbling to realise that I’ve made such an impact on Star Trek and sci-fi fans.

Chris Huisman, TOMY Plus

Well, let’s talk about that… With a license as beloved as Star Trek, how easy is it to balance what fans might want with what designers can realistically do?
I’ve had the good fortune to consult with some of the biggest Star Trek fans on what they’d like to see… And the great fortune of working with TOMY’s incredible Marketing, Project Management and Design and Engineering Teams to make it happen. My colleagues in Hong Kong and China – led by Michael Siu and Joe Chan – were a massive support to the development and production of this amazing replica.

How did this project come to fruition, Chris? And what was your biggest challenge?
The team at TOMY had been envisioning a high-end collector program for several years; one that captured a wider pop-culture fanbase. With the immeasurable help of some colleagues, it manifested into a solid program. As regards the biggest challenge… Well, that was making sure every detail was correct. Star Trek fans are brutally honest with their opinions, so it was important to set the bar high in order to make sure nothing was overlooked.

I think you’ve cleared the bar. I’m going to include a few photos, by the way; I want people to see your work. Tell us about yourself! How did you come to be doing what you do?
I’ve been a creative in the toy industry for more than 25 years… And while I have a couple of patents and award-winning toys, my first dive into the business was actually in die-cast replicas. Over the years, I’ve used my time and talents to explore other areas of the toy aisle learning about the consumer’s needs and pushing for innovation wherever possible.

Chris Huisman, TOMY Plus

Brilliant. And what would you be doing if you didn’t do this?
That’s a good question. I had a billion jobs before TOMY, including butcher, garbage man, concrete construction and English tutor in a prison…

Naturally… Who hasn’t made the little leap from penal system to toys?! Ha!
Ha! What would I be doing now, though… I’d probably be expanding on my side business/hobby of retro-purposing junk into functional lamps and centrepieces. Either that or running a salvage yard.

Retro-purposing junk into functional lamps?! You won’t believe me when I say this, but I tried to find someone that did that a couple of Christmases ago! What kind of junk?
The junk I’m always look for is typically familiar and sometimes difficult to recognise… Gears, cameras, sewing machines, airplane wings, old oscillating fans, musical instruments, blenders… Just about anything. I mostly work on commission for individuals looking to enhance their home or business.

Chris Huisman, TOMY Plus

Junk aside, what’s next for you?
Perhaps you’ve seen our next high-end replica, the time machine from Back to the Future?

The DeLorean? I have seen that… Don’t tell me that’s yours as well?!

Oh my days! Tell us about that! Huge; die cast again…
Yes, die-cast again. It also has amazing lighting effects, plus a super-cool smoking feature: it produces smoke out of the back.

What? Wait a minute… Are you telling me that you built a smoke machine… Into a DeLorean?
Ha! I am! So again, I like to think with those features and that detail that we’re really doing something that fans appreciate.

Chris Huisman, TOMY Plus

Oh, no question. I mean, what a treat! That’s terrific, Chris. The team must be thrilled. I feel I’ve got lost in my own question here, we were talking about what’s coming up…
So Tomy Plus has quite a few surprises coming up, and I’m excited to be bringing them to life. Of course, I can’t say what they are, but I’m 1000% certain they’re going to blow people away.

Well, you do – if I might be so bold – appear to be doing that, Chris. Alright, let’s wrap this up… What’s the one question I could’ve asked you today but didn’t?
You could’ve asked about other hobbies! Painting, sculpting, collecting vintage toys, building and riding motorised bicycles, researching and collecting old military equipment…

Crikey. You might be the most interesting person in the industry, Chris! Let’s get into some of that when you come back… You have an open invitation to come back and talk about other stuff in the future. Thanks, Chris.

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