"You knew there was a dangerous creature on this planet and you knew from the tale of Darmok that a danger shared might sometimes bring two people together. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. You and me, here, at El-Adrel." - Captain Jean-Luc Picard to the Tamarian Captain Dathon in "Darmok"
"Darmok", written by Joe Menosky, has to be the purest distillation of what STAR TREK has always been about. In it the Enterprise meets the totally alien "Children of Tama”—and despite all of the technology at their disposal, our crew finds themselves totally incapable of understanding the Tamarian's unique language. Realizing that, the noble Captain Dathon goes to extraordinary lengths to communicate with Captain Picard. In this one episode the ethos of Starfleet and STAR TREK itself is on display. It’s hard for anyone that loves The Next Generation as much as I do to pick a "favorite" episode, but this is mine.
I don't know how many people can say that they remember the first time they watched an individual episode of their favorite series, but I remember this one. At my parents’ house, after the cold open & credits, during the first commercial break, my best friend called and simultaneously we said, "DID YOU SEE PICARD'S NEW UNIFORM?!"
We loved it instantly, and called it the PNNU-- an acronym that stands for "Picard's Nifty New Uniform." Of course, our favorite component of the new ensemble was his jacket, the PNNUJ. Not only had we been given an amazing new episode, but also a fantastic new uniform for our captain.
That uniform was an instant fan favorite and something of an icon itself. So much so that the next year, when the new line of "Next Generation" toys was launched, the first figure released was Captain Picard in his new uniform jacket (my original figure lives right here on my desk).
Celebrating Star Trek: The Next Generation's 30th Anniversary, the ANOVOS Star Trek design team has decided to re-release Captain Picard's Uniform Jacket, but with its original iteration as introduced in the fifth season episode, "Darmok." Shop Now!
Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
When I set eyes on the original helmet from The Mandalorian™ in person, my first thought was: “Wow, that helmet wasn’t as I expected!”
Click here to order your Mandalorian helmet now!
Having closely studied the original Boba Fett™ helmets, I can appreciate why Jeremy Bulloch dubbed him “Bucket head.” Boba Fett and Jango Fett™'s helmets were similar in size, where The Mandalorian™'s helmet is more compact and fitted.
Forty years past Boba Fett’s creation, we are clearly in a different time and this new helmet serves a different purpose. The Mandalorian’s helmet, as with the entire costume, is built for action and stunts. Everything is tight and well fitted. There is no bucket feel or bobblehead here. This helmet is meant to move with you and be purely functional.
Pedro Pascal is The Mandalorian in the Disney+ series THE MANDALORIAN. Lucasfilm Ltd. © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
My second thought was regarding the finish, recognizing that it was going to be one of our biggest challenges.
At first, the helmet’s paintwork seems quite simple—just a pewter finish with some weathering—but upon closer inspection, this isn’t true at all. Just for comparison Captain Phasma™’s helmet has a chrome finish and Jango Fett’s helmet color was a result of being cold cast with aluminum powder. The Mandalorian’s helmet is neither! It is unique and quite complicated. First, because of the way it was painted, it changes its color contingent upon different lighting conditions. Second, don’t let the initial “one-note metallic” finish fool you! There is an incredible amount of subtle intricacy, not seen in other paint jobs, with clever shifts in tonality—somewhat mimicking the contouring seen in the makeup industry.
Pedro Pascal is The Mandalorian in the Disney+ series THE MANDALORIAN. François Duhamel. © 2018 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.
We learned the exact paint process the production team used to paint the original screen-used helmets. Even though we knew how the helmets were painted and detailed it still took our development team a few weeks to settle upon a paint process we can implement for mass production which replicates the beauty and subtle tone shifting nature of the original helmets. To perfect our finishing process we painted our prototypes side-by-side with an original screen-used helmet which allowed us to instantly compare our paintwork directly to the original piece and make adjustments as needed. Once our factory paint and finishing processes were authenticated against the real screen-used helmet, our research team directly guided our artists as they hand-painted and weathered each helmet based on the same multi-stepped techniques used to create the originals. There was a lot of cleverness poured into replicating the paint finish and I am proud that we were able to provide this artisan touch to our collectors in this helmet.
Helmets ready for the intricate painting process and helmets ready for final touches. © 2019 ANOVOS & ™. All Rights Reserved.
Boba Fett will always have a cult following and this new character, The Mandalorian, is awesome in his own right and will likely find a similar fandom. His look takes advantage of all the latest technologies in digital printing as well as modern paints. He is more streamlined, and his overall design is far more agile. He is the future and a character worthy to be called The Mandalorian.
ANOVOS finished helmet. © 2019 ANOVOS & ™. All Rights Reserved.
© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd.
“It’s just a bunch of rags sort of wrapped around her. I mean, I get wanting to dress up like the main character but it’s not like Rey’s costume is all that interesting.”
Honestly, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could even respond to my friend after hearing that comment. I mean, I’m a film geek first, sure, but I’m a costume geek second, and I don’t know if I’d ever heard an opinion about a costume just so totally different from my own. And, about my girl Rey? I just couldn’t believe it. Call me obsessed, but I launched into a rant about the virtue of our dear scavenger’s ensemble before my friend could finish off the rest of their blue milk.
Let’s talk about the brilliance of Rey’s original design from The Force Awakens. When you first laid eyes on her in the earliest scenes of the movie, did anything come to mind? The sandy landscapes of Jakku brought back memories of another dusty planet, certainly, but the gauzy wrappings of beige and off-white must have reminded you of someone. Of course it did. Luke.
Customer Supplied Pic. Photo by Justin Tongson.
Now, love them or hate them, I think we can all agree that the newest films are undoubtedly a kind of remix of the original trilogy. Personally, I think that’s a great thing. At the end of the day everything is just a remix with a little splash of something new. Done right, you’ve got a nice little homage. And Rey’s outfit is definitely just that, an homage to someone we already know and love with a potent visual cue we’re already familiar with. But I think the references go even deeper than that.
Rey is, at the core of her character, a scavenger. And what I find just so interesting about her costume is that it’s, well, just so scavenged from other characters. I’ve covered the very obvious resemblance with Luke’s ANH look but if you’re looking closely you’ll find inspiration from two other early Star Wars heroes as well. To me the low slinging holster is just so cowboy, so undeniably Han. Leia’s look, for better or worse, has always been largely defined by her very loud, very proud hairstyles, and Rey is no different. The criss crossing right-over left style lines of her wrap recall the Japanese influence of Luke and Obi-wan’s Jedi’s underpinnings. It really seems like little bits and pieces have been taken here and there and reforged into something new and interesting, not unlike the franchise itself. What we end up with an amalgamation that’s truly cohesive within the Star Wars universe. You know what you’re looking at when you see her—a hero.
A splash of something new also makes an appearance in her costume. Little details are hidden throughout out from her mismatched sleeves to the versatility of her wrap. While borrowing from the past costume designer Michael Kaplan never forgot to give Rey her own spark of personality. Her look feels useful and a natural reflection of her setting without beating you over the head with it and I appreciate that subtlety.
Customer Supplied Pic (Gloria Northup)
I think we did a wonderful job of bringing Rey’s costume to life. Real leather was used for the appropriate parts and the pants are a lovely silk blend. The gathering at the shoulders is meticulous and I can tell you first hand the colors of the ensemble are excellent. And despite what my friend said about this just being a series of wraps (it isn’t), we took the time to carefully pattern everything off of the original movie assets.
Maybe I’m just a dreamer but I relished being a part of this project and the opportunity it gave us to add our own little stitch to the tapestry of this costume.
We hope that you’ll enjoy wearing it as much as we did creating it.
"All wings report in." - Garven Dreis, Red Leader
I don't know about you, but I've never been an Imperial sympathizer. Nothing about their ideology appeals to me. I much prefer liberty, and freedom to being a faceless automaton in plastic armor.
I am a Rebel, and a very specific one at that. I'm not royalty, a smuggler, or a general, and I'm no Jedi (though I do prefer a lightsaber to a blaster). I'm an X-Wing pilot. I have been ever since I saw the Battle of Yavin forty two years ago, and my first squadron commander was Garven "Dave" Dreis - Red Leader.
I've always liked X-Wing pilot gear, and nothing epitomizes that dashing look like their flight helmets. The one piece of equipment that could be personalized were their distinctive Koensayr model, #K-22995 Starfighter Helmets. And, to me the helmet most tied to aerospace combat was Red Leader's.
Now, I've lived most of my life around Airforce aircraft. I served in the USAF, was an AirForce brat before that, and I grew up around jets. Red Leader's helmet has always caught my eye because its primary color is the same, greenish-yellow "zinc chromate" pigment that all military aircraft are born with. Everything from freighter to fighter starts out with a primer coat of yellow zinc chromate to act as a base layer protectant against corrosion for the aluminum structure and skins that comprise any air or space-frame. Eventually those hulls end up wearing whatever color they require for the duty they're assigned to. But, if you pull a panel, or open an equipment bay you'll find that same yellow staring back at you, the color of Red Leader's Starfighter Helmet.
Red Leader's Helmet flash (the proper fighter community term for what designer John Mollo referred to as "graffiti art") is unique too. The red marks on the front of his helmet are stylized representations of the shapes used for fighter weapon system targeting reticles (similar to symbols seen on the Death Star's main targeting array). And, while it lacks the familiar Rebel Starbird, its earcups display the insignia representing "The Alliance to Restore the Republic.”
Costume design is an art unto itself. The best designers consider a character's traits while they also take into account the actor playing the character, story, back story, and even elements of the surrounding set dressing, when designing a new costume. A great costumer is one that tells an unwritten story with clothing, and John Mollo was a master storyteller. My feeling is that he had very firm ideas about what kind of squadron commander "Red Leader" was supposed to be, and that character was ALL pilot. That would account for the elements on his Starfighter helmet that tie into aviation. From its distinctive color to its markings, everything unique about this helmet says "Fighter Pilot". Sure, ultimately Red Leader was bested in combat by Lord Vader, but his flying during “The Battle of Scarif” proved his skill as a leader in the cockpit, and it took a pilot who just happened to be a Dark Lord of the Sith (!) to knock him out of the fight.
Rest in the Force Garven Dreis, Red Leader. We'll keep ’em fighting, and flying!
When people talk about their dream careers, or anything they really hope to achieve in the future, the topic of “meaning” tends to crop up. You can aspire to do what you love, sure, but is it meaningful? That’s the holy grail. There are the obvious choices in that regard, of course; doctors, nurses, firefighters, charity workers…these are significant and meaningful pursuits. Me, personally, though? I mainly, humbly, traffic in Star Wars.
Now I have never thought of that as a small or shameful thing by any means. If you had asked me as a kid if I thought I would end up not as a lawyer or a ballerina, but as someone who professionally chats about sci-fi and debates the color of fabrics filmed over 40 years ago, I would have said “probably” and “I hope so”. I would have gone to school for a degree in ‘the fandoms’ if it was offered, no questions asked. Who wouldn’t, right?
This past Star Wars Celebration however, having met so many of you and cheered with you and thrown back shots of Malört with you (I have neither forgiven nor forgotten this one) after the show, no longer a vendor and a customer but true friends who simple share the same love of a galaxy far, far away, I was reminded that my job, too, has that special little X factor called meaning.
This was my first celebration and to say that I was unprepared for the level of warmth and good spirited fandom that you all brought to our booth is a huge understatement. I had lost count of the number of kind strangers that came to us for a handshake and chat alone within hours. Words of encouragement passed by us like leaves on the wind and troopers wearing our armor gave friendly waves as they happily marched to their next mission. We honestly had come to the con armored for blowback regarding our recent string of long, very transparent blogs and newsletters issued that same week. Instead we found that we had reopened a channel between us that had been closed for way too long. We were finally reduced back to the ideals this company was founded on: Just a bunch of fans, us but especially you, collaborating to turn out the most kick ass costumes and props we can muster. That may seem silly to some outsiders but you and I both know it’s not.
Like any sales experience we did have our share of customers come to us with difficult questions or unresolved issues but it was a wonderful feeling to be able to talk with them in person, face to face, and do our level best to help. Some of you came to us upset but I like to think that we left each other as friends.
The love we all share for this franchise is meaningful. The time we got to spend with you all and the friendships we left with are too. This is my job as much as it is my passion and I may not be a lawyer or a doctor, but at ANOVOS we work daily to make dreams come true and I refuse to believe that’s silly. It was an absolute pleasure to have geeked out with you all and I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the next one. The human spirit was alive and well at Celebration this year and you just can’t beat that. You can’t beat Star Wars, man.
See you next time!
Hello Star Warsies!
I’ve just returned from Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Since we breezed through setting up our booth in record time, I was able to wander around a bit and see what was in store for us over the next few days.
If you weren’t able to make it, let me just say that it was INCREDIBLE! I was amazed by the complexity of some of the displays as well as the attention to detail displayed by the costumed participants I met. I’m always impressed by the level of devotion people display for the fandom, and their commitment to all things Star Wars is truly amazing!
Right near our booth was a full size, fan-built Hover Tank from Rogue One that you could have your picture taken with! The detail was so precise that it felt like actually being on an occupied desert planet being pursued by the Emperor's troops. Special thanks to Matt Sortwell for the tour!
The Canadian 501st Regiment set up a life-size, 3-scene diorama. Each scene had a donation box in front of it and they would take a photograph of you in any of the scenes for a small donation to that particular charity. These fan-created scenes brought you into the world of Star Wars in a very realistic way. It’s no surprise why so many people choose to express their fandom through serving in this international organization. I’d like to give a special thanks to Karl Fetts of the Sith Lord Detachment for giving me a tour of the display. Keep up the good work, Troopers!
A great many ANOVOS customers came by the booth to see what we had to offer, which included answers to well thought out questions. They brought their passion with them, and I had many discussions about their future plans, and how all of us at ANOVOS could best help them to achieve their dream costumes. It was a pleasure talking to each and every one of you and I look forward to seeing you all again at the next event!
One of my favorite days was when a fan-built droid showed up to our booth. It turned out to be stuntman, puppeteer, and creature effects artist Lucky McQueede. He took home the coveted ‘Best in Show’ prize in the official Cosplay Competition, and having seen this phenomenal cosplay up close, I can tell you his win was well deserved!
Yes, there is an actual human in there somewhere, and you can learn more about Lucky here. Great work, Lucky!
After a while, I noticed the crowd’s attention seemed to drift away from Lucky’s handiwork, eventually shifting entirely away from him at one point. A quick look around the booth told me why - the voice of Darth Maul had arrived!
It seemed that Sam Witwer decided HE needed a selfie with the droid too!
As is often the case, many celebrities not scheduled for panels showed up to support the franchise. Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert made an appearance on the ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ stage to the delight and raucous applause of fans, and I heard that the original Lando Calrissian, Billy Dee Williams, was also seen in the building. Having seen him in the teaser trailer for Episode IX: ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, I wasn’t surprised.
All in all, I found my trip to Star Wars Celebration Chicago to be exactly that: a celebration of new and diehard fans coming together in honor of one of the greatest fandoms to ever exist. The collective love of all things Star Wars was everywhere, from ‘Dark Helmet’ and ‘Barf’ to the Ralph McQuarrie design concept Darth Vader costume by Kenn Kooi (that scared the crap out of me every time he walked by), and all of the screen-accurate depictions of every Star Wars character imaginable. All I can say is that I can hardly wait for next year!
Special thanks to Christopher Copeland for this AWESOME fan shot!
May the Force be with you!
Last time we shared a few of the research notes we gathered at Lucas Museum of Narrative Art archives at Skywalker Ranch while examining the original Imperial Royal Guard Helmets. This time we'll discuss the techniques we are employing to replicate this classic helmet.
Just as the Royal Guard's helmets were initially created in a different, unique way from other helmets in the Original Trilogy, so too would ours.
Okay, so here’s our Imperial Royal Guard Helmet:
- Our helmet's shell is made of fiberglass and finished to match the look of the original.
- The helmet's interior is fully lined with adjustable padded cushions to ensure a comfortable, and secure fit.
- Our helmet is painted the precise shade of "Candy Apple Red" that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi designers Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero chose for the Royal Guard, and polished to a high gloss.
So why use fiberglass when the original helmets were made from thermal-formed plastic? Strength, and durability. While beautiful, the original helmets were never intended to last much beyond filming the movie. Of course, our replica had to be built tough enough to stand the test of time. Thermally-formed plastic is flexible, and that could easily lead to damage with a piece with this much plastic real estate. When plastic flexes it can crack the paint finish. We want this helmet look just as good years into the future as it does the day it comes out of the box, and so fiberglass provides the needed scaffolding for a truly wearable, serviceable piece.
Recall for a moment that one of the weird things we discovered about the original helmets was the odd way in which they were made. Originally sculpted in one piece, the helmets were manufactured in two thermally formed halves joined together vertically with a number of thin, glued plastic rectangles right up the middle of the sculpt starting from the back lip to the front. We could easily see a rough puttied line along the seam while examining the exterior back of the helmet. The sort of structural putty used to join these two halves together is subject to stress in the form of torsion or torque. The exact sort of stress placed on the helmet simply by wearing it, could cause the plastic to flex. This flexing would in turn cause the putty joining the two vertical halves of the helmet to split eventually leading to structural collapse. We couldn't have that, and it's another reason we opted to craft our replica from fiberglass.
The original helmet's internal geometry is weird as well. Designed to look fearsome, it featured sunken cheeks, a single visor, and intentionally slender, otherworldly proportions. The original helmet was so narrow that when Pete Ronzani (Head of the Jedi Plastics Department) mocked up, and tried on the first prototype Guard helmet - the sides of it touched his face. Our helmet has been engineered to be a bit more forgiving on the inside than that first attempt. It's been lined for both a finished appearance, and for comfort. And to insure a proper fit, it comes with moveable pads to adjust the helmet to the wearer's ideal size.
And that leaves us with the most striking aspect of this piece, it's color. It's not just "red." In stark contrast to the Empire's ordinary monochrome look, the red Royal Guards signal the arrival of The Emperor himself. No ordinary red would do for The Emperor's most fearsome warriors, and so Jedi costume designer Aggie Rodger - recalling some cars from George Lucas' classic American Graffiti, used a very specific shade of "Candy Apple Red" from a few of the hot rods in that film. That beautifully rich, red color is just as vibrant today on the surviving helmets in the archive as it was in 1982, and so we were able to precisely match it for our replica. A strikingly cool color for the hot rod of Imperial helmets.
I said last time that the Imperial Royal Guard Helmet was one of my favorites in the entire franchise, and I meant it. It's bold, it’s red, it’s creepy, and I love it. Oh and Mom, I'm sorry about the book (but really, it didn't spoil the movie for me).
So it's time for a confession of sorts. I read the novelization of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi BEFORE I saw the movie. I found the book on May 22nd, 1983. I begged my Mom & Dad for it, and I promised that I wouldn't read it before the movie opened.
I read it that night.
The best part of the book was the middle section that consisted of eight pages of fuzzy, over saturated ’80s publication photos, and the coolest picture in there was the very first one. Darth Vader standing next to something red and radical. Some kind of amazing new trooper in red armor and a cloak, which the book described as the Emperor's Royal Guard. I mean, look at those guys. They’re beyond intimidating. I know they’re wearing helmets, but somehow they’re even more expressionless than simple Stormtroopers. Are those pikes? You know, the things people display heads on? Dude.
The takeaway from this I suppose is don't trust an obsessed twelve year-old Star Wars fan with no self-control, and I've been fascinated by the red Imperial Royal Guard since before the film even opened.
This is only one reason why working at ANOVOS is amazing. It gives us the ability to investigate, measure, and document these amazing pieces from our past. We do this to preserve these pieces, and to facilitate their recreation, so that we can see and touch and wear something from long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
So, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that I'm really excited for us to finally be making the Royal Guard's helmets. These things have been on my personal "Holy Grail" list for a long time now, and the wait is almost over. There's just a tiny problem, we have to totally re-engineer the helmet from the ground up.
What we see in the archive is sometimes not how we necessarily imagined it when seeing them on the movie screen. By now, that should be a familiar trend in our blogs.
So, this first blog will be what we found. By studying these artifacts (I prefer the term “sacred relics”) we begin to understand the story of how they were made back in the day. We should be able to discern the intent from the technology as a function of its time and, if we’re lucky, see if our current technology can either complete or re-tell that story. It’s almost a form of archaeology.
Okay, here’s a few “Did you know?” facts :
- This helmet was thermal-formed.
- Helmet was assembled in two-halves, and seamed right down the middle.
- This thing was fastened directly to the cape.
Thermal-Formed: One thing we were not expecting to discover, was that this helmet had been thermal-formed—the process where a sheet of plastic is heated to a forming temperature, stretched onto a single-surface mold, and forced against the mold by a vacuum. Admittedly, we were guessing it utilized fiberglass construction. So, to pick it up and find it so lightweight was surprising to say the least.
Seaming: The other weird thing we discovered was its odd construction. As you looked inside the original helmet, there was an unsightly seam of glued thin plastic rectangles right up the middle of the sculpt starting from the back lip to the front lip. When you then looked at the exterior back, you could see a roughly puttied line which was, in fact, the seam of two halves! As any curious ultra fan of this suit would then ask...how exactly was this even fabricated. That’s when it dawned on me, it had to have been a single sculpt that was then cut in half with each half then being vacuum formed. Ockham’s razor, right? Had each half been sculpted or milled separately, you would think that they would have engineered a gluing lip or something.
Cape Attachment: The last thing that was worth bringing up is how this was made functional. Did you ever notice in the movie, the head never moves independently of the cape and vice versa? Well, we have a definitive answer as we found two hooks that we assume latched onto the fabric ponchos that the guards wore. This couldn’t have been comfortable to say the least.
Okay folks, that’s it for now and I hope you enjoyed our research notes.
Part 2 will talk about how we discussed and concluded which technique we decided to go with in replicating this classic helmet.
This update reflects changes that pertain to orders placed on and after April 11, 2019.
To our customers,
To begin, we are going back in time to explain how a well-intended policy eventually led to a growing problem for both ANOVOS and customers alike. Specifically, how our Golden Rule policy concerning refunds prior to shipping ended up negatively affecting production cycles and fellow customers.
Our forementioned Golden Rule policy stated that so long as a pre-order product had not shipped, ANOVOS would provide a refund to any customer that requests it—no questions asked. While this policy is not standard in our industry, it was a way to make customers feel comfortable about their pre-order. The issue we experienced was not in its intent, so much as in its application.
For example, when a product had production issues and became delayed (as discussed in our earlier letter), we would push out the delivery date. This change caused some customers to cancel their orders, and in some ways, resulted in a buying habit of waiting until an item was in-stock prior to making a purchase. However, this “wait and see” behavior frequently backfired on the customer since the majority of our items are produced to meet a minimum order quantity, leaving little—if any—inventory available after pre-orders were fulfilled.
As an unintended consequence, cancelations of pre-orders caused a gradual shrinkage of overall production budget. Fewer pre-orders led to a number of issues including an increase in raw goods pricing, increase in per unit cost, a deprioritization of product (moving items to the back of manufacturing queue) and—in some extreme cases—the cancellation of items that no longer met the factory’s minimums. This not only elongated the manufacturing time for one project, but also other projects, causing a more systemic issue.
After careful study and consideration, the only conclusion is that the funds secured via pre-orders need to be locked in order to ensure a product is financed through production and delivery. The only path forward is one where all sales are final effective April 11, 2019. We will continue to honor any existing refund requests made prior to this policy change as business permits, and will still consider future refunds for customers after a product is in-stock and ready to ship, but only on a case-by-case review.
Many of you have been customers of ANOVOS for years, and we are thankful to our community for your loyalty and support. This decision was not made lightly, and is necessary to ensure all products are produced and delivered in a timely manner. Thank you for your understanding and continued support.
Joe Salcedo, CEO ANOVOS Productions LLC
Dana Gasser, COO ANOVOS Productions LLC
Dana and I (Joe) started ANOVOS as fans with a passion for making costumes and props at a professional level. In the early years of the company, we relied on experience gained from time spent within the fan community and applied it to our business, focusing on craftsmanship, quality, and accuracy. We were small, nimble and able to react quickly. For us, passionate fans to the core, our greatest struggles have been finding the appropriate balance between creating a highly accurate replica and the time it takes to make that replica as accurate as we want it to be. The “complex burden of accuracy” has caused us an immense amount of pain, largely in the form of compounded delays.
We are fortunate to have access to original assets at an unprecedented level. We have leveraged that access by investing in a first-rate, research team who use the best technology to capture every nanometer in efforts to bring you the most exacting licensed props to exist.
With that access comes a tremendous amount of expectation, from our licensors, from you, and from ourselves. Our focus on accuracy is relentless, but that focus has come at a number of costs. To keep costs reasonable, we utilize overseas manufacturing partners. This is a challenging process because we create highly specific (nearly bespoke) products, in a mass-manufacturing environment.
The challenge becomes compounded by the complex nature of our products (different materials and specialized techniques) and the need to use multiple vendors. To arrive at a counter sample (their version of our prototype) all vendors have to be choreographed in schedule and task. With more vendors, comes an exponential increase in variables. If multiple prototypes are required, delays occur and in extreme cases, vendors substituted, running the risk of starting the production timeline all over again. Unfortunately, this has happened more times than we’d like to admit.
This process has caused delays, costing us time and money. We could simply allow a product to go through as-is, but that isn't who we are and that isn't the product we want to place into your hands. While it is hard to put a true percentage on accuracy, we like to say a final product is around 90–95% as accurate as the first prototype. The complexity of working with multiple vendors to produce our required level of accuracy creates a web of management that includes a constant dance and orchestration of input and feedback, all of which takes time, causing delays. Again, this could all be avoided if we simply accepted "good enough" product, but that is not who we are.
In early 2018, we were forced to come to terms with the fact that we were no longer keeping up with our promised delivery dates. We discovered what I have relayed above: our delays were largely due to our overwhelming commitment to accuracy sometimes sending back production samples as many times as 4–6 times until it was done correctly. Thus, until we had a clear path forward to mitigate our need for accuracy and the hiccups it was causing, we hit the brakes on pre-orders just after May 4, 2018.
Our first step was to make dramatic shifts in both our thinking and approach.
Simplify : First, we had to admit we can’t do it all. It was a painful acknowledgment, but with the size and scope of our offerings, the sheer volume and complexity that comes with managing the web of vendors per project was overwhelming. It has led us to realize that we have to protect our timelines by being more careful about which product pathways we choose now. Thus, we are shifting our focus to products that can be manufactured with as few factories as possible, streamlining our product and reducing the possibility of delays. This seems simple, but the implications are vast. As a result, while you were unlikely to know why, you may have noticed a simplification of the type of product we have brought to pre-order in 2019.
Bringing it Home: Second, we are bringing a select number of production runs here to the United States. While we can't do large volume here due to cost, small runs of product that demand a skilled artist's hand are viable for stateside production. The quality of our US team's work is impeccable, rivaling the quality as seen in the originals! As I type this, we are moving more product lines, including some prop collectibles, to our US manufacturing teams. This effort not only upholds our commitment to accuracy, but also creates a more dependable timeline for delivery to you.
Delivery Expectations: In the next few weeks we will be updating our expected delivery dates. After an exhaustive analysis of the past five years, we now have a more accurate assessment of how long the average product takes to manufacture. While this won't correct past issues, it does help ensure that your expectations are properly set when you purchase an item from us. Secondly, because we will also have parallel manufacturing in the USA, we are able to better ensure a shorter timeline for more products.
Internal Growth: We remain proud of our products and are equally proud of our project managers who have evolved along with this process. They have continued to respond admirably to the ever-changing demands we placed on them and have seen us through the worst of times. They are working hard to constantly upgrade our procedures, and we have already seen huge improvements in all aspects of our production schedule. Many products that have been long delayed are finally starting to ship to you. Our faith in them has never been more steadfast.
I sincerely hope by cracking the door and allowing you a glimpse into our process, it has provided a bit more understanding of both our current strengths and past weaknesses. More importantly, I hope I have conveyed the absolute resolve we all have to get it right despite many challenges.
Your continued feedback has been a huge source of inspiration. Thank you for giving us the chance to be better. We are listening. We are improving.
Joe Salcedo, CEO ANOVOS Productions LLC
Dana Gasser, COO ANOVOS Productions LLC