Like many, Michael Kwong started his artistic career as an illustrator in Hong Kong. His fascination with fantasy art and robotics has led him to create his own universe of creatures and creations known to us now as The Galaxy Bunch. First launched in 2003, the crew has gone through some phases of evolution and is now in its third incarnation, the Virus Series. Aside from the Galaxy Bunch, Michael has released several other character projects through his design studio, Locomotive Productions (www.locoism.com.hk). Some of these include the ephemeral plushy Clumsy Poppet and Hello Space Boy. Naturally, being an illustrator, a comic series for the Galaxy Bunch is on the way.
Format: How, and why did you start creating toys?
Michael Kwong: Well, I created the Galaxy Bunch in the winter of 2001 when I was still living in Ohio. They were still flat images at the beginning and after three years of development, I wanted to push the images forward and tried some new approaches to present my images rather than just illustrations. â€œToyâ€ was the first word that came out from my mind.
Then I started learning how to make and product toys in 2005. In 2006, my first approach of Galaxy Bunch, the night gross series was launched at the Taipei International Toy Fair, and surprisingly, 500 pieces had been sold out within four days, and that encouraged me to dig deeper.
Drawing and model making are always my love. My mom told me that the first thing I picked up wasnâ€™t a teddy bear but a crayon when I was still a baby.
Format: How did you get invited to the HK Festival in Dubai? Please tell me about their festival.
Michael Kwong: The Hong Kong Trade Development Council had invited me to show my creation in a show in Dubai. It was my first time showing my works over there. There were a lot of different designs in the show such as graphic, productâ€¦it was a big showcase for Hong Kong talent.
Format: Has vinyl culture arrived there yet?
Michael Kwong: Well, I think the Vinyl Culture is still very green over there, but everything has a beginning stage, just like Mainland China. People seemed interested in what we showed, though I donâ€™t think they knew the value of designer toys yet.
Format: What was your inspiration for the Galaxy Bunch series?
Michael Kwong: I love to think all the time, the universe gives me so much inspiration and gives me so much space to spread my imagination. It is a mysterious and fantastic place for me. I have attempted to create a whole new dimension with different kinds of planets, creatures and environments ever since I was young. I think I have created a world in my mind and so many characters live inside it. Thatâ€™s why I always wonder if itâ€™s possible to create a reasonable and believable dimension in my mind, and make other people believe it as well. When I saw Star Wars in the movie theatre a long time ago, I was stunned. It inspired me so much.
Format: What galaxy are they from?
Michael Kwong: The galaxy bunch lives in the same galaxy as we do, but possibly 200 years later. Alpha, Beta, and Doubleheader live in a city called Iron City on Metropolitan planet. Longranger lives on a planet called â€œEthiopiaâ€ which has a lot of crazy creatures existing there. Octobot lives on a planet called Hyraland, which is a water world, and he is the only one who canâ€™t dive over there.
Format: You have designed the Virus series, but, are there other series for the GB?
Michael Kwong: Yes, the first Galaxy Bunch Series is a Night Gross Series, the second one is Virus Series, then the Ultimate 8 inch series. There will be six more series coming out in 2008.
Format: Some theories claim that the human race is a virus, because we take over environments and spread vastly. Do you believe this to be true?
Michael Kwong: Yeah, it seems like an interesting theory. Humans are like a virus to Earth only because they pollute the environment.
Format: Moving on to other toys, Husky Robo looks crazy! I would love to hear more about how he came in to being.
Michael Kwong: Kevin is a good friend of mine. We were colleagues in design school in Hong Kong. We both launched our image at the 2003 Hong Kong Comic Festival. I like his work; he has heart. The Husky Robo is very well done and it is a good crossover between Trexi and Husky.
Format: Please tell me about other toys you have made.
Michael Kwong: The Doll of Clumsy Poppet is the other work I did in 2003 and its Vinyl is coming out in 2008. At 8 inches tall, he represents the spirit of dreams. When people still maintain a youthful mind, they can see the poppet, otherwise they cannot. I think having dreams is a very important thingâ€¦The Rusty Simpson was a project crossover with Toy2R. The toy traveled around the world for exhibitions. It was a fun project.
Format: What else do you work on? Please tell me about your work with Locomotive Productions.
Michael Kwong: I am an illustrator myself and still doing a lot of illustration jobs for clients, like painting the Macau Map, Stamp illustration. Also, I design characters for my clients for different usages. Moreover, my company is doing a lot of graphic design work, like annual reports, editorial design, event design, but I am changing my companyâ€™s direction to be more focused on our own brand and creation. So, unless the job is interesting, we will not be taking any design service jobs anymore.
Format: What are your future toy projects?
Michael Kwong: In 2008 we have many projects scheduled to launch.
The Ultimate Alpha: An 8 inch tall Vinyl with a ball joint body. Each character will be designed differently and uniquely, with unique special features added to each Ultimate series.
3 inch Alpha Project: there will be six new three inch Alpha series launching in 2008. The first one will be called Saleman series, which will come in April, then the Robo series, Prisoner series.
Clumsy Poppet 8 inch Vinyl.
The Ultimate Omega: an 8 inch tall Vinyl with a ball joint body again, night gross painted in his eyes, with mechanical looking paint.
Format: Why do you think toys are so popular in Asia but still fairly underground in North America?
Michael Kwong: I think it is just the time problem. Since Asia has a lot of toy designers like Michael Lau, toys are just a hit in Japan. I think more and more people in North America will follow this trend when they can see more, and the internet makes it easy to search around. So I think the North American market will be big Art Toy market pretty soon.
Format: What do you like to do in your free time?
Michael Kwong: Well, I play snooker and soccer with my friends. Normally I have to sit all day to paint and sculpt, but in order to avoid my butt getting too big I need to run.
More Info: http://www.locoism.com.hk