I could never get into collecting toys. Except for my one-time splurge on a really awesome 12-inch figurine of Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 4, I’m too cheap to buy them. But when I saw artist Shaun Nakasone’s custom pair of vinyl toys based on Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead adventure-horror game, I had to physically stop myself from reaching for my credit card.
Under his Sciurus Customs label, Nakasone enjoys sculpting these figures for people partly because they were originally meant as gifts for his friends. “A few of them urged me to post [the figures] online and it pretty much went from there,” he said in an email interview with GamesBeat. “Some are based off commission requests but most are just characters I have an attachment to and I guess others like them, too. The characters I sculpt usually don’t have many figures based on them, and I think people appreciate the fact that there are some [like them] out there.”
Whether he’s re-creating comic book superheroes or video game characters (more pictured in the gallery below), Nakasone always starts off with a blank canvas. He uses collectible vinyl figurines as a base for the characters: Hasbro’s Mighty Muggs line and Kidrobot’s Munny toys.
“By poring over reference materials, painting, and sculpting, you really get a good idea of the design that made the character: What makes them work, and what makes them distinct,” he said. “It’s a pretty meditative process and its interesting to discover small details that you [didn't see before]. I also enjoy the sense of progress after each figure, learning from my past mistakes and improving on ideas and methods.”
For The Walking Dead, Nakasone had the added challenge of adapting the game’s comic book-inspired graphics. “I sketched out the designs of the figures on the computer, getting as much references from books or the Internet as possible,” he said. “It’s really important to study the references, seeing what aspects of the design that make the characters and dissecting what makes the art style the way it is. That is most of the work for me: staying true to the character no matter the change in media or proportion.”
“Lee and Clementine have a different style to most of the custom figures I make,” he continued. “There’s a really sketchy, grungy quality to the [way] characters are rendered in the game: lots of lines of varied weight and smudged color caked on top of each other. I wanted to make sure that aspect of the art style translated to the final pieces, since it really informed who the characters were.”
Nakasone wanted to send both pieces as a donation to Tested.com’s second annual Octoberkast, a 24-hour live podcast that raises money for Child’s Play, a nonprofit organization that donates games and toys to hospitals for sick children to play with. Among this year’s Oktobercast participants were a number of staff members from Telltale Games, including The Walking Dead story consultant Gary Whitta, creative lead Sean Vanaman, and lead designer Jake Rodkin.
Unfortunately, Nakasone wasn’t able to finish Lee and Clementine in time. So he set up his own auction on eBay, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Child’s Play.
“I ended up doing Lee and Clementine from the Walking Dead on one part because of Telltale Games’ link with Octoberkast, but mostly because of my emotional attachment to the game and its characters,” he said. “Telltale Games really did a fantastic job getting me to really care for [them]. Everyone I know who played the game really empathize with Lee and has a protective/paternal feeling for Clementine, which I’ve really never seen a game do to this degree. That pretty much made them the perfect choice for characters I wanted to make for the charity auction.”
Like his earlier work, Lee and Clementine will mostly likely end up being one-of-a-kind. He doesn’t have any plans to make other characters from The Walking Dead. But even if he does, don’t expect him to include Kenny. “He ended up pretty dislikable in my playthrough,” he said.