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The Mighty Boosh
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
As I think most people know, I am English but have lived in Hong Kong for 17 years. My home is just 15 minutes' drive from the HQ of Dragon Model Limited ('DML'), and for some time it had been my intention to try to get an interview with Freddie Leung, the President of Dragon Models.

Since DML - long the mainstay of the 1/6th military world - haven't produced any new 1/6th figures for almost 2 years, I thought I would get in touch to try to find out what is happening at Dragon and end the speculation that's been rife on the 1/6th boards. I called them up and Freddie Leung and his son Adrian Leung, DML's Director of Business Development, kindly agreed to meet me, so I went along to their Tsuen Wan HQ on Thursday 29th May.

My main question was "has Dragon Models stopped producing 1/6th figures completely?"

In a nutshell, the good news is no they haven't; the bad news is yes they are taking an undetermined break.

You can read the complete interview here - EXCLUSIVE ONESIXTH.CO.UK INTERVIEW WITH DRAGON MODELS - Not Out of 1/6th, Just Resting
 

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Say what?
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Now, that's how to get to the bottom of it...ask the president of the company.

Very informing. Thank you.
 

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Now, that's how to get to the bottom of it...ask the president of the company.

Very informing. Thank you.
I didn't even know that kind of people actually existed - I've always kind of thought about them like the yeti.

Great interview anyway. I like DML and would really like to have them around the 1/6 business longer. If for nothing else, I still need at least 8 more M36 uniforms... :bag
 

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Say what?
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I didn't even know that kind of people actually existed - I've always kind of thought about them like the yeti.
Interestingly, and ActionMan already knows this, folks like that might not be as elusive as you think. Many times, all one has to do is ask.
 

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Resisting Evil
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I didn't even know that kind of people actually existed
And here I thought the figures just produced themselves.....:rolleyes
 

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Great interview David!

Wish I could treat you to a pint of your favorite adult beverage... thanx for posting this up!
 

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OSW Admin staff
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Its interesting that they keep saying that 1/6th is not profitable, i guess some one forgot to tell Hot Toys that!

I understand their point, but if they can't make money who is? There are a lot of new companies around doing 1/6 so there must be money in it...or they have found a way to make it for less...

I think someone needs to talk to DID and ask them how they do it, cause they were around when the market crashed and they are still making figures...

1/9 movie line? I guess they are following Hot Toys guide line but in a smaller scale?
 
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I understand their point, but if they can't make money who is? There are a lot of new companies around doing 1/6 so there must be money in it...or they have found a way to make it for less...

I think someone needs to talk to DID and ask them how they do it, cause they were around when the market crashed and they are still making figures...
My thoughts exactly! Their answers hardly reflect a business acumen that I can understand. Otherwise, how are Soldier Story, DiD, DAM, and on a different ball game Hot Toys apparently doing so well?

ZP
 

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The Mighty Boosh
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
the feeling is that Hot Toys do well because of their 1/6th movie figures - apparently far bigger sellers than military.
 

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Its interesting that they keep saying that 1/6th is not profitable, i guess some one forgot to tell Hot Toys that!

I understand their point, but if they can't make money who is? There are a lot of new companies around doing 1/6 so there must be money in it...or they have found a way to make it for less...

I think someone needs to talk to DID and ask them how they do it, cause they were around when the market crashed and they are still making figures...
I think that - in regards to profit from 1/6 - that DMLs problem was that they set their prices too low. Hot Toys found their niche in movie figures and are apparently doing fantastic, even despite the price of their figures.

However, they are also offering something else, which is QUALITY. Nothing bad to be said about DML, as a lot of their stuff still holds up for scrutiny, but when it comes to bodies and especially headsculpts, HT are way ahead of DML. And if we look at DML's closest competitor DiD who are producing figures from pretty much the same genre (WW2) they have started to vamp up their game with some relly fantastic headsculpts and paintjobs. That makes a lot of difference.

So what I'm saying is, if DML wants to stay in the game, they should fix the sculpting and painting, and then they could very well compete again.

One thing I really want them to do. They are too good to stop.
 

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Thanks for going out and actually meeting those guys and bringing us the information, a very informative glimpse into their thinking. I'm glad to hear that part of the delay with the Firefly is that they are having the model checked by an expert, that is somewhat reassuring. Johkaz (on the UK board) made some excellent points with great examples, especially something as simple as U.S. Jerry cans (which are rarer then hens teeth right now). There has been an influx in the secondary market of people buying up (primarily Dragon) items from people getting out of the hobby and selling their collections and Jerry cans and tankers are probably the most sought after items. Dragon already has the molds for the Jerry cans so that should not be a new expense.

I would be happy doing less but staying in the hobby, even just 3 to 4 figures per year would be a good sign, but even more importantly is that they REALLY need to stay in the 1/6th scale vehicle market (they really can own this market), even if they just re-release vehicles as kits (and I know there is a point of market saturation). If Dragon could make just one new vehicle per year I think that would allow everyone the chance to get a vehicle they want and spend the time building it. Too many vehicles at once and you start getting backed up, so you don't need to bring out many vehicles, just one well made detailed vehicle per year would be adequate. Another important point would be to do vehicles that may have a few variants and be up front in announcing which model / variants will be released so the consumer can make an informed purchase decision and not feel burned. A lot of folks bought Panzer 2 and Shermans from the first release then furiously set about re-engineering them to make other versions only to finish and have Dragon release the version they were making.....the reason I make this point is that vendors were complaining that nobody wanted to buy the DAK Panzer 2C and they couldn't understand why when everyone on the boards were clamoring for that version...well they bought the first version and worked to convert it to the C model...if they new the C model was coming they would have waited and bought that version...sometime patience pays off but there is also a fear amongst some collectors that each release it the last chance to get anything and won't gamble on a future release.

One last thing, buying 1/6 scale vehicles are investments, in time, space, effort and money, unlike a smaller scale, so you have to adapt your sales strategies to match your target audience or you will have friction and issues. If vendors allowed for a payment system (much like Sideshow's flex-pay system) then I think more people would be prepared and able to purchase large vehicles and expensive figures, sometimes just splitting the cost in half (2 payments) can make all the difference. I know it's harder for vendors but Sideshow makes it work and is probably the only way they can sustain moving enough product at the now higher prices. I know for me the flex-pay option is invaluable, I certainly could not have gotten a Batmobile without it.

Dragon and other manufacturers (or vendors) could do a better job of polling the opinions of the main hobbyists, on the boards or probably on their own sites, ask what we want to see, or see re-released, and especially with vehicles, gauge your market...I think Dragon listened for the cries for kits over pre-built which was a smart move. Not every vehicle has to be a BIG vehicle, there are lots of small and mid-sized vehicles to be done and wheeled over tracked should be easier to make (we all want Humbers, Dingos, Ferrets, Land Rovers etc. and T-34's....add your vehicle of choice here).

Bottom line, we all hope that Dragon continues with 1/6th in some fashion and I think they can hold a big part of the market by making less and doing it well, quality over quantity is what most of us really want.
 
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the feeling is that Hot Toys do well because of their 1/6th movie figures - apparently far bigger sellers than military.
Thank you for your time and effort. It is an interesting read, albeit not reassuring.

However, I was mostly comparing DML lack of success with Soldier Story, DiD, and DAM apparent success. How can these seem to thrive while DML states that it needs an improvement of the economy worldwide? Does DML operate that differently from the other companies that still make 1:6 military figures?

ZP
 

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Thanks for sharing your interview...very well done indeed, I was a collector of DML's WW2 1/6th figures until the price was hiked up with no real major improvements to the product, plastic was still used for the boots, ammo pouches & flocked plastic caps etc etc ...I still own a very large number of DML figures that I spend time updating with improved item's.
DML without any doubt moved the 1/6th hobby forward to what it is today & released a large number of superb figures for the time for which I am very grateful but sadly just like 21st Century & BBI before them they didn't keep up with the competition...are there as many collectors buying WW2 figures in the same numbers as they did when DML were still in that market ?.. I moved on to modern figures as well as buying a few movie figures from Hot Toys but am quite happy to pick up the odd WW2 figure from DID/3R...which are not released in the same volume per year as DML were releasing them which helps, the 1/6th figure market has fragmented over last few years diversity & choice of figures has increased significantly for 1/6th collectors.... if DML do decide in the future to get back in to the 1/6th figure market how can they realistically compete with Soldier Story, Dam Toys, Hot Toys & DID/3R to name but a few?, I would love to see them return but I think the chance of that happening anytime soon is slim....I think they would be wiser sticking to a marketplace they really know inside out...vehicles...nice big 1/6th vehicles :thumb.
Chelseaboy
 

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Does DML operate that differently from the other companies that still make 1:6 military figures?
In a nutshell, yes! One of the principal reasons that the other companies charge so much for their figures is that they make very much smaller production runs of each figure, lower production runs means very much higher unit costs! DML have never done that and they do have strict protocols for how they manage things. For instance, DML figured out a long time ago that they needed to implement a three-figure policy (this mostly applies to plastic injection molding of items) that is to say that they need to make at least three similar figures to just break even on the tooling costs for the molded parts. This works very well in the 1/35 model range but after a while it became a bug bear for the 1/6th scale people who felt that they were getting all the same kit with every figure. Remember the complaints, "one new items doesn't justify releasing the same figure", maybe not from a hobbyist point of view but from a business point of view it makes perfect sense. It's the only way to move forward. A company has to progress in increments otherwise it'll blow the wad in one giant leap and then fail as it waits to reap back those investments (look at what happened to 21st Century when it jumped into vehicles, too many too soon and the hobbyist left them on Wal-Mart's shelf and waited for the blow-out prices). My biggest bug bear with DML was the British Ammo boots I always thought they ought to change that mold and, I reasoned, that they surely must have had their money's worth from it by now. However, from a business perspective I can see that DML would want to off-set the lower cost a mold that had already paid for itself against the much higher cost of a new mold for say a new weapon and bayonet combination (even if they didn't quite get the SMLE as accurate as we would have liked). These other companies that people keep mentioning don't have the same issues to work through as DML, they are making things in wood, faux leather and pot cast metal. Whilst many people think these things are more realistic you should realise that the only reason they do use these materials is because they have no experience in plastics and they were forced to use these materials. The fact that they seem to have won the PR battle with these items has always been a mystery to me given that so many of these items are rather shoddy and simply do not carry the crisp detail that plastic is capable of. Yes, they're getting better as their experience grows but given their manufacturing procedures they are never going to be able to ramp up their production numbers, without quality suffering further, which means they'll never be able to lower prices. So we're stuck with very high prices for the foreseeable future, especially if DML don't get back in the game.

DML are, first and foremost, a plastic kits company; it is where their expertise lies and it's where they are most comfortable. They have tried to move in other directions but their heart will always be in plastic kits. They also want to make affordable figures that folks will want to buy multiples off but, as I indicated earlier, in order to do that they have to move by increments not leaps and bounds. The hobbyists don't understand the business side of things and have pasted them to the wall for every release, and every little mistake, whilst at the same time giving companies like DiD and Caltek a pass. Caltek's 1940's era French Poilu was a pile of junk, the only thing of use on that was the MAS 36 rifle, everything else went in the bin, including the stupid headsculpt and the crappy body! DiD's WWI Tommy came with a great SD uniform but in the wrong colour; the boots ranged from mmhhh to so-so; the puttees went to the bin; the bayonet didn't fit on the SMLE and was missing a fuller groove; the SMLE had big honking cross-head screws holding it together and the detail wasn't all that crisp; and the helmet was crap. And I'm not even going to mention the horrible gross-grain they used on the webbing or the functional wire cutters that fell apart as soon as they were opened. The Caltek RAF pilot came with great gear but the RAF service dress was horrible, badly made, not accurate and leeched dye. The hat was crap and the Irving jacket was too short and didn't come with the trousers! And yet all these figures were lavished with praise. But, if DML had released any one of those figures in that state, or any figure with that many faults, they'd have been pilloried for it, (their Peter Markham RAF pilot was lambasted for the simple fact that the RAF battledress was the wrong colour). DML don't make perfect figures but they don't make figures with that many errors either! I tend to view DML as the turtle to the DiD/DAM/SS hare. They may be slow and boring but I do get good solid releases when they get it right and they do get it right more often than they get it wrong, not that you'd notice from the brickbats they receive from the hobbyists. The other thing that made DML so unpopular was the sense that they were a large company, out of touch with their fan base and only interested in turning a profit. In truth DML did themselves no favours by badly managing the PR over this and many of their on-line 'placemen' actually made the situation worse, talk about shooting yourself in the foot! But with DML out of the market for the foreseeable future the perception will be that DiD and HT are the dominant players, let's see how they fare, in terms of PR and complaints, now that the hobbyists no longer have their favourite whipping boy to hand.

So, in summary, there are logistics that you have to work through as a company if you want to keep a particular line profitable, especially in the economic downturn that we've just been through! And whilst the economies of the US, Britain and Germany are picking up and actually growing this is not true for the rest of the world, and especially not true for the rest of Europe (which is the biggest market after the US and is essentially buggered at the moment...in fact there's a real question mark hanging over the future of the European Union right now, all eyes on France!). So, yes I do believe DML when they say that they can't quite make a profit in these times. Remember, whilst they are still, essentially, a smaller, family-run business they are quite larger than DiD, DAM and SS and that means they have considerable overheads to meet before the can declare a profit. What constitutes a profit to a small group of guys working out of a large shed in Shengen is not the same as the profit required to sustain a company working out of an office block in Hong Kong! When I was younger and involved in setting up a business the best advice I ever had was to 'watch out for creeping-death overheads', it's still something I adhere to today! It's horses for courses guys and at the moment the markets do favour the group of enthusiasts with the lowest overheads. But that said, even DiD seem to have slowed their release schedule!
 

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The Mighty Boosh
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for sharing your interview...very well done indeed, I was a collector of DML's WW2 1/6th figures until the price was hiked up with no real major improvements to the product, plastic was still used for the boots, ammo pouches & flocked plastic caps etc etc
Chelseaboy
I agree with you, up until the Falklands figures they did in 2012. They were a quantum leap in HS for DML - not quite the hyper-realistic HS other companies have produced, but several thousand per cent better then their previous HS.
 
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