Gurdeep Bains on his approach to Toy Design - YuMe Toys

Gurdeep Bains on his approach to Toy Design

Gurdeep, it’s always great to catch up. Infront of us we have YuMe’s impressive Jujutsu Kaisen range. Why did this brand feel right for collectibles?

Season 1 of Jujutsu Kaisen resonated deeply with a diverse audience, captivating anime enthusiast worldwide. Its impact was substantial that even ardent manga fans found themselves enthralled by the animated adaptation. Recognising Jujutsu Kaisen as a priority, we were eager to delve into the immersive world of this captivating series. As enthusiasts ourselves, we identified the immense potential within the anime landscape and strategically devised a plan to make a significant impact for the highly anticipated release of Season 2.


Anime has a distinct style. How do you approach capturing that in 3D collectibles? Does it present any unique challenges?

It’s important that these collectibles resemble the characters seen in the show. That said, we’re not producing fully articulated action figurines or high-end statues. The figurines we design are much smaller since they must fit within our capsules. However, that doesn’t mean we lose the essence and likeness of the character. We have to be more creative in how we approach the stylisation and ensure we capture each character’s unique features so they still appeal to the fan base. We have done this across our capsule ranges from Disney 100 to Stranger Things. Fans really like the look, so we have followed that premise. Given that the characters in Jujutsu Kaisen possess unique powers and capabilities as sorcerers, we’ve taken special care to convey these traits in our designs. Each pose is meticulously crafted to be hyper dynamic, effectively capturing the key abilities and powers of the characters from the show.

And while they are static poses made to display, you have managed to get a real sense of motion and energy in this range.

Well, what’s great about the show is that each character has well defined attributes. We tried to take their iconic signature moves and poses from the show and encapsulate that in a static product. We have incorporated additional side accessories that can be attached to each character to form a more dynamic display. We hand drew the backgrounds to sit behind each figurine, which also helped to make these feel more authentic. Each character displays are snapshots of an exciting moment within the series. Working closely with Crunchyroll was key to achieving all of that.

Away from collectibles, have you got eyes on designing other ranges for Jujutsu Kaisen?

Absolutely. If this goes well, we’d love to do a second season of collectibles, but we’ve also brought Jujutsu Kaisen into our DZNR plush range. We’ve extended our line to bobble heads, squishies and even stationery. The IP offers us a lot of characters, a lot of storylines and it’s very action-orientated, so there’s lots of exciting avenues to go down with product.


You mentioned earlier that you’re a fan of the show. Does that matter when it comes to designing licensed ranges? Does it help to be a fan?

It’s a good question!


I always include one!

Ha! Well, there’s always a risk that as a fan, you’ll go down a path of designing solely for yourself. What we’re trying to do is create product that has wide appeal and bring the appreciation of anime through a product to a mass audience. You don’t have to be a hardcore fan to design ranges like this, but I think it helps greatly. It’s tough to watch just one episode, or look at a brand style guide, and design just from that. If you design that way you leave so much on the table, and I think you end up failing to capture the details that make the IP much loved by fans. The best way is to really immerse yourself in the IP. We’ll live it, sleep it, talk about it – this all creates a great atmosphere for brainstorming ideas around a brand. And to be honest, most of the team are already interested in the brands we design for before we start working on them.


It’s important as it steers so many elements of our design process. For example, when we’re designing these capsules, a key part of the process is mapping out the unboxing experience. That has to take fans through a journey, because the unboxing process here teases at which character you have. You unearth a series of clues as you go. So to make that part of the play experience as authentic as possible, you need to understand the nuances of the show… Being a fan helps with that immensely, because some of these clues are little nods that only core fans of the show will pick up. You won’t get that in a brand style guide.


As an example, this heat-reveal power card tells you the strength of the character. If you’re a fan and you’ve watched the series, this information will give you a clue as to which character you’ve got. We also have a paper envelope which, using origami, you have to fold into a shape that represents one aspect of the characters. Fans will clock what these clues mean – it makes for a unique, fun unboxing experience.


Great example. Diving into that, what goes into designing a compelling unboxing experience? What makes something fun rather than admin?!

The IP will always steer what we do. With our Disney 100 Surprise Capsules, we’re obviously dealing with a younger audience than with our Jujutsu Kaisen capsules. It means the unboxing experience for that was a little more straightforward, whereas with Jujutsu Kaisen, we could explore much further making the clues a little more intricate and detailed for that target audience. We like to give bang for your buck, and we see these clues as fun games to play before you get to your collectable character. And they’re all cool things to keep alongside the collectible. Of course, at the end of it you still end up with a really cool detailed figurine display, but we just build up the suspense before you get there.


How many licensed ranges are you working on at once? How many things are you having to be a fan of today!?

Ha! A lot – and capsules is just one range that we do! But working on different things at once really fuels the creativity. Ideas jump around from one thing to another, and they do inform each other in different ways. One innovation that began life in one project might actually end up seeing the light of day as part of a totally different range. It’s a melting pot in the best way possible! Brainstorming and innovation should be messy, crazy process where all weird and wonderful ideas come to light. It’s only by doing that do you really get to a truly great idea.


Away from Jujutsu Kaisen, YuMe has a Squid Game range on the way. What appealed about working with that IP?

When the show came out, it was huge. Everyone watched it, so we had to be involved with it somehow! It’s been exciting exploring how to incorporate the show’s games and challenges into capsules. It’s been a fun design process and Netflix are brilliant to work with. We look forward to unveiling it all soon. I would say stay tuned!


One last question before we wrap up: what’s the key to a successful creative collaboration between toy companies and brand owners?
There’s always a bit of give and take. They know the IPs better than anyone and we have to take direction and their feedback onboard. On the flipside, it’s our job to push boundaries in relation to ideation and innovation. We like to do things differently and our partners like that about us because we always keep authenticity at the heart of our products. The best collaborations see both parties learn from and listen to each other, they respect each other’s knowledge and skillset, and ultimately it’s bringing about the best possible product for the consumers. For Jujustu Kaisen fans I believe we have done that. 


Gurdeep, this has been fun as always. Thanks again.

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