Many designer toys have gone bad, but never so many in such profound way. Some of the resident evil toys are maybe scary because they show how inoffensive and limited roles video game characters got 2play in the pop cultural pantheon. KodyKoala is able to challenge the Nintendo and Sega holy canon, ingeniously infecting its purity with a heavy dose of walking dead and zombie outbreak serum. Inbuilt obsolescence is transformed into a mark of valor, a way out of the toy cemetery and anti-Mecha flesh fairs. His sculptures are not afraid to be battered video game monuments and damaged heroes.
Hi, thank you for your time. On your site you called yourself a nerd in love with school. What is your range of interests and what fuels your imagination in your artistic work?
My main love is of toys. I have always loved little pieces of plastic shaped into memorable figures since I was a kid. Most kids outgrow this, but I never quite outgrew my “toy phase”. As I got older, I added a love for video games to the mix. Ever since I got my first Nintendo Entertainment System, I have been obsessed with them. Eventually, mixing the two seemed like the right thing to do. I started to collect video game related toys. I had a decent collection, but, after a while, it seemed that the toys being produced were not very innovative. I wanted to see something different. I didn’t want to see Mario in a different figure pose; I wanted to see him in a unique situation. This is why I started making customs. My first pieces were to help me figure out what I wanted to do. I started with the Urban Vinyl Scene, and then moved on to Action figures. I explored a lot of styles, and I’m still trying to do things that are not “my style.” I just like learning how to do new things, and explore my dark side through my figures. My figures can be demented, sexy, cute, and even futuristic.
Mainly you make video game figures and statues, but how do you see yourself apart from that? Tell us about some other stuff you would like to explore.
Apart from video games, I still see myself as a very creative individual in all aspects of my life. I have always been fascinated by sculpting. I see so many great sculptors of figures, and I want to do that. As I work on my figures, my sculpting skills have gotten better, and I eventually want to sculpt something from scratch. Sculpting from scratch would mean that I am not bound by what figures are available. I would also love to design the art for a video game. I love how iconic video game characters can be, and it would be great to design something that memorable.
Can you tell us about any resonances to childhood found in your modified characters? Have you discovered any play concept?
As a child, I always took apart my toys to make something new. I was especially intrigued with electronic toys. I always wondered how the lights and sounds worked, but when I took it apart, I would find a circuit board with some parts, and that was it. I became an electrical engineer so that I could figure out how all that worked. Now that I am doing figures, I want to incorporate electronics into my pieces. I am slowly starting to put more and more lights, sounds, and other things on my figures.
You chose some multimedia icons and titans, a true Pantheon of Nintendo and other characters. Most subjects that you redesigned (Peach, Super Mario, Yoshi, Megaman, Pikachu) had a background of cuteness and flexibility that made them globally famous and long lasting. Do you see that same flexibility in your work? How expandable can it become in time lacking that frame of cuteness?
I think that the flexibility of these characters is what helps my figures be memorable. People get tired of the constant cuteness and want to see something darker. I grew up with these icons, but it seemed that they always stayed the same. I want to add different perspectives to these characters to reach out to those who have grown tired of the character brands as I have started to become. I feel it adds to the spectra of personality for them.
Your toys certainly have an emotional dimension. On how many levels do you speak after all? Most artists reveal a certain intimacy with the subject of their attention. How do you relate to your figurines?
I have known these characters since I was little, so working with them reminds me of the joy I got when I got a new game, or when the new issue of Nintendo Power came out when I was younger. I have so many great memories relating to these characters that I want to share them with people who see what I make. It is a great way to combine my childhood and adulthood.
Do you remember any project of effort in all your artistic practice? Something that really took time and hard work?
My longest project to date would have to be a game of Hungry Hungry Koopas that I am currently working on. This is a very long build because I have to make each “Hippo” and then I have to carve out the bases to look like stone. This is making four individual figures for one project. It is a very long task, but the end result is going to look amazing. This has been a work in progress since January.
Do you prefer to work on your own or collectively?
I typically do everything on my own in terms of building and painting. Eventually I would love to do a collaborative work with someone. There are so many great artists. It would be interesting to see what we would be able to come up with. For ideas, I usually bounce thoughts off my brother Will. My brother gives me amazing ideas for figures and toys. When we brainstorm, things go a little crazy, but in the end we come up with something really cool. Even my seven year old son, Camron, has started giving me some input. There’s no telling what direction my work might take if I add a child’s perspective.
After repeated artistic work, have you discovered any key principles that have come to involuntarily define your work as a whole?
The majority of people know me for my work with the zombie figures. I also make cyborg or battle damaged robots, so a lot of people would define my style as dirty and dark. That was not my original intent, but I can see how that would become a defining characteristic. I like to change up my style to keep things fresh, but a lot of my requests are for this style.
Obviously you have references to Japan’s technological evolution. Osamu Tezuka saw the robot heroes from Japan as perfectly acceptable in our world where “everything is fused together”. From your perspective as an American artist, do you see this technological mastery as scary in any way? Is man victimized or helped by machine?
I actually work in the technical field full time, so I feel like technology is a great help. We can accomplish so much more with the help of machines. One day, I would love to drive a giant mech and go around helping people. Technology is ultimately for the good of people, but with any technology, there are those who would abuse it. I think we just need to be careful with how fast we grow to ensure we are ready for it.
Do you involve any psychological resistance or merely play? Is Peach somehow a reaction towards the pink globalization, the cuteness?
Lately, I have been getting a little tired of the same old figures and images, and I love giving them a new dimension. I feel it keeps them interesting. I take these characters to a dark place because it doesn’t get done very often, and I find it interesting. Everyone has a dark side, even iconic characters. I love doing all styles of figures, but I seem to get the most response out of the ones that are dark.
Do you believe that the imaginary mind behind the new wave of designer toys can be somehow replicable or, maybe, influential or interchangeable? (Taking into account the similarities and the differences behind most custom toys)
The new wave of designer toys has so many similarities, but is still so very unique. The majority of designers start with a similar base (such as a Munny, Qee, etc.), but then they incorporate their own style and imagination into making amazing figures. When I started making figures, I was drawn into how you could turn one base into so many different things. I think this is why so many people like designer toys. Even though the toys can be in so many different directions in terms of art and style, they are relatable because the base figure is so recognizable. I know that for me, I have a hard time relating to really abstract art, so having something familiar helps pull my attention towards the piece.
Have you made any transformer-style toys or are you thinking of making any? What is the potential for new customizations?
I use transformer parts in a lot of my figures, but I have not really given much thought into making an actual toy. I love all the work that people do making transformer-style figures, but I haven’t had the want to do one myself. I am not saying that I will never do one, but currently there are no plans for one.
Are you addressing the social in some way? How far away do you consider yourself from the conventional view?
I am not sure that I am directly addressing my audience or society in any way. I mostly make things that I like and that I think are interesting. Luckily for me, my audience seems to have similar interests and likes.
How important is fandom to you? Do you take into consideration the shopper identity or wish to create some sort of personal reception?
I enjoy the fandom, but I do not really think about my audience when I make something. When I started, I wanted to have unique pieces for my personal collection. I wasn’t concerned so much about durability as I was about the look. Now that I have decided to start selling my work, I think about the durability of my work a little more, but I still make things that I like. When I do commissions, I try to incorporate things that I would like to see in a figure and go from there. Ultimately I decide whether or not I want to do the commission, so I still get to monitor what I put out.
Behind iconic success is certainly a market understanding. Do you see designer toys as having a long reign or a short reign? Do you see their longevity as being dependable upon merchandise or the shopping landscape?
The Internet plays a huge role in the success of designer toys. I know that I would not be as recognized if it were not for the Internet. Many designers do not have the means to market to a mass group, but with the Internet and social networking, a current piece can go viral in a matter of hours. I feel that as long as we have a global network connecting everyone, designer toys will be around in one form or another.
Do you see the potential of designer toys transforming into mass cultural products or wearable technology, gaining a generalized style, after being sold worldwide by important companies?
I see a big potential for designer toys gaining a lot more speed in the coming years. Even now I see how much it is impacting sales of different kinds of products. Funko has these really unique vinyl POP figures, and now I see them everywhere. I see them on shirts, cups, and all sorts of places. It is just a matter of time before it really picks up.
Are you thinking of developing or branding characters or mainly stick to reinterpretations?
I would love to come up with my own character. Working with all of the popular characters that are currently out, I am trying to get a feel for what qualities make a character. I know that when the inspiration hits, I will be ready to create a truly unique and memorable character, but for now, I will stick with reinterpretations.
What happens next for you, Donald?
With me, there is no telling what is next. I do know that I want to expand my scope of figures to more than just video games. I want to work with characters from different genres and put them in interesting situations. Video games will always be my love, but it is fun to get out of your comfort zone sometimes.