In McFarlane household, action figures are the family business - East Valley Tribune: Home

In McFarlane household, action figures are the family business

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Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 12:54 pm | Updated: 7:06 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

There’s never a shortage of things to play with at the McFarlane home. Ominous-looking dragons reside in 7-year-old Jake McFarlane’s Ahwatukee Foothills bedroom. Characters from the movie “Shrek” and the TV show “Lost” line the bedroom shelves of sisters Cyan, 15, and Kate, 12.

There’s never a shortage of things to play with at the McFarlane home.

Ominous-looking dragons reside in 7-year-old Jake McFarlane’s Ahwatukee Foothills bedroom. Characters from the movie “Shrek” and the TV show “Lost” line the bedroom shelves of sisters Cyan, 15, and Kate, 12.

They even have access to a special toy showroom.

Being the offspring of a toy designer has its advantages.

Dad is Todd McFarlane, an artist, writer and toy designer/manufacturer who’s best known for creating the “Spawn” comic book/movie/toy franchise in the early 1990s.

While they say it’s cool that their father creates comic book characters and action figures, to the McFarlane children Todd McFarlane is just Dad.

“We used to play with Barbies a little (as kids). We’d put our dad’s toys on our shelves,” says Cyan.

“If we asked for something similar (a toy) to something he had done, he would try to convince us to play with his,” says Kate, on the way her dad used to joke around with her on her toy choices. “He would say look, mine has better detail.”

“They would say, 'It’s nice, Dad. It’s cool.’ They were young. They didn’t get into the Alien and Predator detail,” says McFarlane, sitting with his children at his Tempe office, describing his daughters’ early reactions to the fantasy-inspired toys he creates.

The McFarlane brood admit they have a unique vantage point: They get a behind-the-scenes look at how toys are made. And not many children can say they’ve had an action figure named after then (one of the “Spawn” characters was named after Cyan).

A toy story

As parents, McFarlane and his wife, Wanda, have always been careful to show their children video footage that’s age-appropriate. That goes for any McFarlane toys that have dark or racy themes.

“Kate did a voice of a character (the young Cyan character on the animated version of “Spawn”) on HBO. She still hasn’t seen it,” says McFarlane of the R-rated cable TV episodes he says his children can see one day when they are older.

“It’s a parent’s responsibility,” he says.

He says the toys are an extension of the comics, movies and shows, created with collectors in mind.

There have been exceptions.

The hauntingly realistic “Lost” figurines were inspired by Cyan’s love of the popular ABC show.

“Cyan was a fan of the show before I was,” says McFarlane, who began watching the program with his daughter.

Kate, Jake and Cyan McFarlane, pictured in their father’s Tempe office with some of his creations. “It’s really cool,” says Jake. “I’m really lucky to have a dad who has a job like that.” (Ralph Freso, Tribune)

Jake says he’s into his dad’s Dragon series, and he has a growing collection at home.

Now that the children are older, McFarlane says he invites their comments on some of his creations, wanting to find out what they think is cool or not.

“He’ll bring home sketches and models and show us,” says Kate. “He’ll ask if it reminds us of a person (or character).”

It’s not all about fantasy and adventure or “Spawn” or sci-fi when it comes to the McFarlane family’s free time.

Creative talk comes in a different form — with games and activities they engage in as a family.

When Jake’s not in school, he says he often visits his dad’s office. “My dad helps me draw some of his stuff. I like to color them in,” says the second-grader, who likes to sit at his dad’s computer and draw electronically.

“We used to go to As You Wish (pottery studio) and make clay figures and paint them,” says Cyan.

Traditional games like Monopoly and card games like Hearts are also family favorites.

“We play Pictionary and Cranium,” says Kate, adding that her dad is the designated artist for drawing games. A perfectionist by nature, detail is always important to McFarlane. “He gets into such detail (with his drawings), sometimes we’d run out of time.”

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