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Here's an expanded version of the interview with QMx President Steve Dymszo from my Retro Rockets column in this month's issue of Toy Shop™ Magazine. Enjoy!



AT: Can you tell us a little bit about Quantum Mechanix and the products you’re releasing?

SD: Sure. I founded the company back in February of 2006 and we secured licenses with Universal for the new series of Battlestar Galactica and their classic monsters, Paramount for Classics of Sci-Fi which is War of the Worlds, Conquest of Space, and several other films, as well as MGM for Stargate SG:1 and Stargate Atlantis to produce vehicles, weapons, gadgets and prop replicas.

AT: QMx seems to be notably avoiding the biggest properties like Star Wars and Star Trek. Is that due to a market already saturated with product for the properties?

SD: Yeah, obviously they’re covered by other licensees now, and I worked with them for many years. I think that there is a bit of over saturation with Star Wars and Star Trek. Both have a bit of life left in them for prop and vehicle production, but I didn’t want to start a new company with them. Also, I wanted to get into some other properties that were far less represented among existing manufacturers. We also have a license for Joss Whedon’s Serenity. There are only about 25 licensers for that property, whereas Lucasfilm and Star Wars has over 250 companies making products. Working with properties like Serenity gives you a much broader palette to paint with so you don’t knock heads with other companies on products. This way every time we come up with an idea, we don;t get, “Nope, that’s taken.” With Universal, we propose an idea and they say, “Yep, you can have it.”

AT: What are some of the products you have coming out from Serenity?

SD: Alliance Money packs, which are already available, an exclusive set of 10 color blueprint sheets for the Serenity herself created by Tim Earls and Geoff Mandell, who were the artists who worked on the film. The blueprints are a precursor to the Serenity ship we’re releasing, which will be a twenty inch model, which we hope to release with lighting.



AT: The Alliance money packs retail for around fifteen dollars, which is very reasonable. I heard that QMx will be releasing a prop replica of Malcolm Reynolds’ pistol from Serenity as well for $250.00. Is your pricing strategy for competitive reasons, or are you trying to attract peripheral fans who might not already be collecting prop replicas because of high price points?

SD: Both. Part of it is competitive, because we’re competing again companies for the collector dollar who offer higher priced products and we’re trying to give our sales reps as wide a spread of product as possible. The Galactica Dog Tags retail for $14.99. They’re character driven, the packaging is very character-centric, and it’s a nice, lower price point item for collectors who don’t want to drop $300.00 - $500.00, but they want some kind of memorabilia from the show.

AT: And these are molded from the originals used on the series?

SD: Yes, we get all the original props from Universal. We got a big box of tags and collar pins, as well as plaques from the sets which we’re thinking of replicating.
On the other end of the spectrum for higher end collectors we have a two foot Galactica model coming out, which will be in the $300.-$350.00 price range. We think that a lot of collectors will actually buy both and display them together. The release is strategically planned; we didn’t want to come out with the Galactica first, because then you’re spending advertising dollars to sell 3000 models. If it comes out nine or ten months after the dog tags and collar pins, we’ll have enough market saturation and name recognition to sell the model more easily. That’s why we’re doing the dog tags first, they’re a much easier product to sell. An Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, Universal Theme Parks, and several other store will be carrying them.

AT: What’s coming from QMx in the Universal Monsters line?

SD: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula Ring is our premier piece, and that was obtained from Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest Ackerman. The ring was originally worn by John Carradine in House of Dracula, but wound with Lugosi for Abbott & Costello meet Dracula and he wound up keeping it himself after the film. We molded the replica directly off the original ring, and we actually scaled up the master pattern so that the replicas wouldn’t be reduced slightly during the molding process. It’s pure sterling silver, and shrinks quite a bit.
It comes in a wooden coffin with a velvet bed. We have the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s fossilized hand which is 1:1 scale. We’re also going to be doing Frankenstein’s Journal that will have artwork and biological schematics. Things like how the neck bolts attached inside the head and where the wiring went, etc.



AT: Is that a fantasy prop?

SD: It’s a stylized fantasy prop, as it was never shown in the films. None of the original artwork exists anymore, but Universal gave us the green light because we showed them some of the art and they were very happy with it. Our graphics manager Jason and I will be creating a lot of that artwork, as well as Frankenstein’s notes for the project, like, “Dare I defy God and blah blah blah.” So it’ll be a novel, but it will also be an art piece and it will be in a weathered, leather bound case.
We’re also doing a Mummy set, which will be a replica of the original Mummy ring from the film, which is also owned by Forrest Ackerman. We’re going to put it on a bandaged hand, in a sarcophagus with the scroll he carries in the movie. The ring by itself is only about three quarters of an inch long, so we thought if you put it on a mummified hand in a nice display it conveys the whole experience of the film. The Creature hand is similar; by itself it’s neat, but it’s going to come in a wooden shipping crate that’s stamped with all the places it’s been, and it comes packed in actual wood shaving excelsior. It also has chain of custody papers and will come wrapped in a 1950’s newspaper. If you read the newspaper, there’s an article about how two guys were killed in Brazil by a jaguar, and other faux period news based on the film.
We’re not just selling a prop, we’re selling the whole experience evoked by the pieces. We’re trying to impart a “Wow!” factor.

AT: Any other monster items in the works?

SD: One I can’t discuss yet, and the other is the Wolfman cane. We’re molding the cane top from the original “hero” cane and it will be sterling silver plated. It’s a large, heavy piece and making it solid silver would bring the price way up. The cane will also come with other display elements.
We’re sticking to classic monster items because we want to release tasteful, classy products. We’re avoiding the more modern, gory properties. We don’t expect to be releasing bloody Phantasm flying sphere replicas anytime soon.

AT: There are several other prop replica producing companies out there - what sets Quantum Mechanix apart from the crowd?

SD: The first element is that every single person working at QMx is a huge fan of the properties. From the art guys to the head of operations, we all love the films and tv shows. We sit in the office winging movie quotes at each other all day long. We can have a little more fun doing this. I loved working with Lucasfilm, I worked with them on projects for a number of years (at another company), but it’s pretty cut-and-dried, you have to be careful about what you say, and everything has to be analyzed. Here, we told Universal and MGM that we want to have more fun with this, we want to be a little irreverent and they’re ok with it. They said, “Yeah, have fun with it.” We have fun on our website, we have some in-jokes there, and though we’re a corporation, we’re a bit less “corporate.” When people look at the website or our products, I want them to think, “Ok, these guys get it, they’re fans. They didn’t have to do this little thing, add this little detail, but they did it anyway.”



AT: Where do you see the company in five years? Are you building towards a different goal or are replicas the pinnacle?

SD: Yes, there is a fiendish plan for world domination. We started with Quantum Mechanix, but there’s also Quantum Space, which is a division to produce super high-end replicas of flown NASA hardware. I’m a huge collector of that kind of stuff. The first piece which will be released in early 2008 will be a 1:32 scale Apollo Command -Service Module, which will be signed by several Apollo astronauts. We’re going to release a 250 piece super limited edition Apollo 13 with the blown-out panel and one of the Apollo 13 astronauts will sign that. We’re also doing Russian hardware, like a Soyuz capsule with all the antennae, we’re getting a huge response on that stuff. A five foot tall Saturn V rocket, along with an M1 Russian moon rocket in scale to go with it, and more.
Quantum Gadgetry is another division to release consumer electronics devices for the office that we’re developing. Everyone we’ve talked to about them has been enthusiastic and ready to buy them for every employee in their companies. They’re $40 -$60.00 items and I think that when people see them, they’ll say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I do that every time I see a kid go by on those roller-skate sneakers. They’ll be out around the first quarter of 2008. We want to get the prop replicas business running and everything smoothed out before we start focusing on other areas.
We also have plans for a division called Quantum Archeology. I’ve talked to a number of professors and museum owners, and nobody’s creating high-end replicas of museum items. We’re working on a full scale replica of the Rosetta Stone that’s in the British Museum that a number of curators have expressed interest in. There’s a whole world of artifacts available for this type of treatment, and we’re the company to do it. We’re working on a large scale, cutaway model of the Pyramid of Giza that shows all the internal chambers, which will be our premiere piece.
The items will be for museums, they’re teaching aids for Universities and schools, and for collectors as well. We don’t want to do pieces like the Franklin mint, with stylized brass pyramids, we want to release accurate, beautiful models.
We’ve talked with the Smithsonian about placing the aerospace and archeological items with their museum store. Right now, their space models are mahogany models with almost no detail other than the paint job. Our Apollo CSM will have all the hand rails, the nose cone will be chrome plated correctly, the service module will have the matte, stainless-steel finish, and will cost just about the same amount as the mahogany models they sell now.
In the QMSpace line, we want to do a series of German V2 rockets from World War 2 as well, with detailed paneling and rivets. We could do ten different versions of the V2.

AT: What’s your dream property for making prop or vehicle replicas?

SD: 2001: A Space Odyssey. I would kill somebody to own a beautiful two and a half foot replica of the Orion space plane, with a nice base showing the 2001 logo, with all the detailing you never saw on the screen but was present on the filming model. An Aries 1B - 12 inches in diameter on a lunar landing pad base, a three or four foot Discovery model - but they won’t issue a license for it at present. We’re pursuing it, though. Kubrick’s death muddied the waters.

AT: Any thoughts about making wardrobe or costume replicas?

SD: Nothing at the moment. I’ve bad experiences in China and India trying to get those reproduced properly in the past. We have 95 items on our product plan right now, and I could add another hundred if I sat down and thought about it. There are so many things we can do in the materials and media that we already know how to work with that I don’t want to take the company in a direction and try something we can’t handle yet. It would be great to do costume pieces, but it’s in the future, not the present. Mal’s holster is part of our Serenity license, because we knew we were doing the pistol, so if we get enough interest in the holster, we’ll explore releasing it as well. All part of our followup marketing plan.
For more information on QMx's products, check out their website at :
http://www.quantummechanix.com

©2007 A. Taylor All Rights Reserved - Steve Dymszo Photo by Michael Durovick.
 

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Just now catching up with this, Anthony. Great stuff. Thanks for posting; I wish Quantum all the luck in the world.
 

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Carson Dyle said:
Just now catching up with this, Anthony. Great stuff. Thanks for posting; I wish Quantum all the luck in the world.
Ditto, another great article Anthony!

I'll be curious to see how their real space line does, I'd love to see some accurate stuff from the Apollo era.
 

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So much for me doing business with QMX.

I paid them for a set of their Serenity Ship Papers a almost a month ago, they sent me a "shipped" notice with a tracking number about a week later. I waited another week, when they didn't arrive I checked the tracking number, the post office said the number was invalid. I started emailing QMX's customer service, and when I got no response from that for five days I started calling their 800 number, which nobody ever answered. After leaving email and voice messages for over a week I finally got a email in response, the sum total of the message,"Did you get your papers yet?". After responding no, and waiting two more days for them to respond to that, I finally got fed up today and left a message stating I was cancelling my credit card payment. Miraculously, an hour later I get a voicemail message from "Steve" stating he had just heard about this, and was getting my set in the mail today. No apology, no explanation, his attitude seemed to be I should be grateful he straightened it all out for me.

I have no way of knowing the quality of their product since they haven't bothered to get me the item I paid for almost a month ago, but their customer service truly sucks. When I pay over a hundred bucks for something, (and pay $11 shipping on a item that probably weighs less than 6 ounces) I expect little things like for my item to be mailed, the tracking number to be valid, and my phone calls and emails to be answered in less than a week.

It was my first and last order from QMX. If you know this Steve, Anthony, you ought to let him know this is no way to be doing business on expensive prop replicas.
 

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Update: I did receive a very nice call from Steve Dymzo himself today apologising for the delay in responding, and assuring me it pointed out flaws in their ordering system that they were actively rectifying. While I still think my particular order was handled poorly, he did seem very sincere about making sure it wouldn't happen again to other customers and sorry it had happened.
 

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Oh, I'm sure the papers themselves will be great, the main reason I ordered them was because the artist, Ben "Whitefall" Mund, is someone I've known and corresponded with about Serenity props, he owns an amazing "hero" prop grenade and was very generous with sharing info about it. He's a great guy known to many that frequent the prop replica boards. 'Sides supporting Ben, I thought they'd look good displayed with some of my Wilco Firefly stuff.
 

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I know this thread is years old but I'm curious if Quantum Mechanix ever followed through with any of the Universal Monsters line. The Wolfman Cane sounded amazing!
 
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