Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am joined by the very talented Jill Thompson who is here to talk to us about her very first Kickstarter project The Scary Godmother Doll. Thank you for joining us today Jill.
Thank you for inviting me James!
Could you start off by telling us about about who the Scary Godmother is?
Well, The Scary Godmother is like your fairy godmother, but for Halloween. I came up for the idea over 16 years ago, when my first niece was being born. I’m a comic book artist and I wanted to make something cool for the new baby. I also was vying for the coveted title of godmother! Back in the day I was a bit more goth than I am now, so I envisioned myself standing at the back of the church with my motorcycle jacket, wild red curly hair and crazy shoes and thought…”HA, I’d be a pretty scary Godmother!” and truly I had one of those AHA! moments when the lightbulb goes on over your head because I immediately thought of this black tu tu wearing, little ,witchy fairy and scribbled her down! Once she was on paper the ideas started rolling in! I envisioned her monster pals and Hannah the little girl from our world who gets to visit her Scary Godmother on the Fright side!
Since I was an established comic book artist who had been working for years on things like Wonder Woman and Sandman, I shopped my idea around and found a small publisher called Sirius Entertainment who immediately wanted to publish books and comics featuring Scary Godmother and her pals. We did four graphic novels and eleven comics together! Currently all of those stories are recompiled into two volumes and being published by Dark Horse Comics!
Soon after the first book came out Scary Godmother was optioned for animation by Mainframe Entertainment. I also produced a Scary Godmother Children’s play in 2001 in Chicago with Runamuck Productions. We adapted the play to television for the first Scary Godmother Holiday Spooktakular. It got shown on Cartoon Network and a sequel was ordered based on my second book, Scary Godmother, The Revenge of Jimmy! And that’s the concise Scary Godmother history in a nutshell!
I’m sad to say somehow I missed Scary Godmother the first time around, not sure why but she sounds fun! The next obvious question I know has some fun legal mumbo jumbo to it, why is this the first Scary Godmother Doll especially since it was on TV?
Well I sometimes ask myself the same question! I know that Sirius was a very teeny publisher, and to create merchandise costs lots of money as we found out when getting quotes for the creation of the doll. So I’m sure it was a matter of finances and potential risk vs. publishing more books for Sirius. ANd...when your property gets Optioned for film or television, your ancillary rights are some of the things that are packaged up with it. Because that helps the project get sold to networks or movie studios. That pretty normal. Then its up to the company that has the rights to do something with them. And no one ever did. I know I had a ton of ideas that I had drawn out for merchandise ever since I published the first book, I just couldn’t do anything with them, except show them to executives and say…”I think this would sell really well! Halloween is a really popular holiday for selling merchandise!” and then wait and see if it went anywhere. It just never did. Who knows why?
How did you get your merchandising rights back? Was it just a matter of the contract sunsetting and the rights reverting back to you or did you have to fight to get them back?
No fight involved at all. I loved the shows that we made and I worked alongside the director Zeke Norton and the animators to make sure it was as close to the books and comics and play as possible! I highly recommend watching them at Halloween on Cartoon Network and snagging yourself copies of the DVDs! Working on the shows was an amazingly creative and life changing experience! But after a certain period of time he contract was up and all of my rights reverted back to me! Which is great! Now is the time to move forward and get all of those cool things I have in my products sketchbook out into the real world!
As a father of a little girl I have to say this is an extremely well designed and put together fashion doll. Is that because it’s a prototype or because your team has decided to focus on a high quality product?
I designed her as the type of Scary Godmother doll that I would be willing to buy! I tend to do that with all of the things I make. I want them to be my vision. I see no need to cut corners or make a cheap doll. I want her to be a really beautiful, high quality thing that you can play with or display! She is meant to be loved! I’m learning lots about hidden doll joints, ball joints, the world of kit bashing dolls and other doll collector stuff. very fascinating.
I like that you put removable wings with thick tabs so the clothes can be changed easier, though at the same time those seem like the first things that would get lost. What age range are you looking at for this doll as she seems too nice for my five year old.
I suppose that’s why Barbies are always barefoot, right? Those pesky shoes get lost. and sucked into the vacuum.
I’m hoping that parents will know that the doll can be given to their younger children, but when their kid is ready to play with something like that is at their discretion. I suggest 5 or more years old. Whatever the standard age is on fashion dolls with small accessories.Definitely not for anyone under three. I wanted there to be an easy way to change her clothes and be able to offer clothes like sweaters and jackets and dresses that didn’t have to be scoop backed to accommodate her wings. I mean, really, how is she supposed to wear a backless coat in the winter time? Brrrrrr! And yes, the wings might get lost, so I suppose I should think of adding an extra set of wings somewhere down the line. Or maybe parents might want to hide those wings until their child is old enough to keep track of them?
Who does one talk to when you decide you want to make your own doll? That seems like a very niche design market.
I know! Luckily I have a friend who just launched his own line of toys. He’s also a toy collector and dealer and very knowledgeable about all of these things. We happened to run into each other after I got my rights back, it was the Universe giving my doll it’s blessing, I think! So, he’s working with me to get her made. He introduced me to all of the right sculptors and doll clothing makers and painters. I hired them to create this prototype! So, I’m fortunate to be working with a seasoned professional who knows how to navigate this world to make sure things go as smoothly as possible!
For your very first Kickstarter I have to give you high marks for content. You’ve created a story of you, your product, and shown off the key features of the product, you’ve even managed to slip in a part of a budget breakdown! All great things in my book which brings up the question, what resources did you use to setup your Kickstarter? Did you just look at other Kickstarters or did you have someone familiar with Kickstarter help you set it up?
I read up on how to create a successful Kickstarter, I know what I like to know and see when I pledge to a project and I have had several friends who have run successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past. They helped advise me with what was good to add and stuff like that. I realize I have one chance to get people all the information they might need! Not everyone who sees this campaign will be familiar with me or the Scary Godmother, so I knew I had to give them some kind of an overview of my history as where this character came from before she was envisioned as a doll!
Speaking of budget breakdowns, boy howdy do dolls cost a lot! $150,000 to make a doll? With $40,000 of it for just a mold? That is quite a bit! Have you broken down the rest of the budget with hard numbers internally? Found suppliers and the like for production or are you doing that after you have money in hand?
You’re telling me they cost a lot! The minimum amount of dolls is quite the maximum if you happen to be a one person operation! That where lots of the cost breakdown goes. The minimum number of dolls the factory requires to start production is several thousand. We shopped around to many many factories and this was the case throughout. We have spreadsheets with all of the costs broken down for each component. The figures come from the factories that source and create the dolls. None of this information is estimated on my part.
What are you plans for fulfillment? You having everything sent to you where you’ll assemble and ship or do you plan on your manufacturer to do that?
The doll will be fully manufactured,assembled and painted, boxed and shipping boxed at the factory. We will probably be working with a fulfillment house on the shipping of the doll to customers. We will be storing surplus in a way so I can have access to it when I need to. Some of these things can’t be nailed down until we actually go into production, you know? Some things can’t be scheduled until we have a start and end date to our production.
How did you discover Kickstarter?
My friend Patrick used Kickstarter to launch the gallery addition to his comic book store. It was the first Kickstarter I contributed to, but it doesn’t show up on my backing history because I forgot the account information I used for it and just started another one! Since then I have been able to help many people fulfil a dream or create something cool! I think it’s a wonderful way to get something started!
A key part of successful Kickstarter is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer. How are you engaging your backers? What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on? Interviews? Videos? Stories from the project?
I’m sending out videos, both serious and silly. I’ve been showing some of the rewards that I am offering that only I can provide.
I plan on documenting the entire process once the doll gets into production so everyone can see where we are and what is being done.
I’m still got to work extra hard at my day job, which is drawing comics! So every once in awhile I send out behind the scenes sneak peeks of what I’m illustrating!
What kind of media attention have you received with your project? How are you spreading the word? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Youtube? Advertising? Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?
Well, I’ve been reaching out on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, doing podcasts and interviews in the comic press, I’ve contacted my local media who seem to really hate getting innundated with Kickstarter letters…I’ve contacted all the professional wrestlers I know who love comics so they can let our shared fans know what I have in the works! I’m always looking for new venues to get the word out there. I’m contacting as many comic book shops as I know who have supported my comics over the last 20 years so they can inform their customers!
I’m still new to this, so I don’t even know what Kicktraq is.
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?
HA! It’s a ton of work! But, you are working for YOU and your dream! Make sure you make an appealing video package, be it serious or silly. Make sure the information is clear. Give people lots to looks at! Make sure the rewards are unique and varied! The time flies by really fast! I’m still hoping I hit my goal so everyone who has pledged can get the things they pledged for! The Doll and ALL the extra stuff. Each one is a Work of Heart!
Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
I really want to make my goal not only so my dream gets underway but also so everyone who has pledged and spread the word will get their doll and other incentives!!! We are all in this together!
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!