The SCS presents the 10th in a continuing series of looks at the pre-production art of the World of Springfield line thanks to Chris Lauria, who does most of the playset art for Playmates Toys. This time around we have images from the making of the exclusive THOH 4: The Collector's Lair set. Here's Chris to give you the needed info on this artwork:

Hello SCS fans!

I've returned (hopefully not too late) from beneath my pile of work to show you the pre-production artwork I created for the Treehouse of Horror IV playset. Since this set is on shelves now, and many of you were asking when we could see the art - here we go:

Obviously, as all of you know, the set is based entirely on the THOH episode "Desperately Xeeking Xena". Playmates heard quite a few requests for a set based on the Collector's Lair environment, and I agreed that it would make a cool set.

When I started working on the set, the very first challenge I saw was the layout. After watching the episode and capturing many screen shots, I thought that a standard, single level set wouldn't do the environment any justice. I made a suggestion to Playmates that we create a two-story set. Since the 'exclusive sets' are consumer-assembly', Playmates said "If you can fit it in the box, we'll do it".

I started with some rough thumbnails to get an idea of how the set should layout. It was a little confusing since in the episode, the area is MUCH larger, and seems to change. Playmates wanted some reassurance that the set would actually fit in the package with the figures, so I then created VERY rough views and a "pack-out diagram". I normally don't need to go through this stage, but since this was going to be a different type of set, and we had several figures to fit in as well, it was necessary. The final 'pack-out' ended up being changed, but I had to prove that all of the pieces would squeeze in there.

I only did the one concept sketch (with and without figures). Playmates liked it right away and told me to go to color presentation art.

The color presentation art was a lot of fun, but I remember having quite a few other sets to render at the same time. I wish I had more time to render this one, but I think it came out o.k.

Once the concept art was given final approval, I was asked to create the control drawings. This is where things got tough.

The trickiest aspect of the entire set was making the two floors look proportionally right, still being able to fit the Collector figure on the second level, and making sure ALL of it would fit into the package. I knew the Collector figure would be huge, but I didn't have an actual prototype to work from. I based the balcony area off of my Comic Book Guy figure, but somehow I still got the dimension wrong. Playmates had to adjust the balcony a little to accommodate his enormous torso.

I also wanted to make sure that most figures would have the needed head clearance while 'walking' around on the first floor. Even though I used the box dimensions to figure out the largest size possible for the back wall, Playmates still had me reduce it slightly, making it tougher.

We were concerned about the Collector's weight while standing on the second floor from the start. Since there was no resistor port up there, no one would be pressing down on the figure, but we were still worried that it might get 'shaky'. I had the 'wood' column supporting the balcony in the first sketch, and Playmates asked me to make the column & bookcase one piece during the controls. Unfortunately, the bookcase was one of the first casualties of "cost reductions". I included a detail of the bookcase since it didn't get made. Since you can't quite see in the episode what is on the shelves, I got the chance to make a few things up. I HAD to put the Dr. Colossus bust in there since he got cut from the Jailhouse label art... but once again, Dr. Colossus does not see the light of day... oh well.

Most of what you see in the controls were drawn by hand, scanned, and converted to Illustrator using Streamline. The 'wood-grain' texture was made be scanning an actual piece of wood (I like authenticity).

The biggest complaint I have read about the set, is the lack of color. I too feel that the set lacked some spot color and detail. The reason for so few color operations is because of cost. This set uses a lot of plastic, has a lot of separate pieces, includes one ENORMOUS figure, includes one stretchy figure, and required a license to use Lucy Lawless' voice. I am surprised that we were able to make the set at all! The only compromise was cutting things like spray applications, accessories, and the bookcase piece.

For some reason, the final sculpt does not seem to have as much detail as I felt I indicated in the controls. I kind of thought the back wall and the floor would have some 'stone' texture on them. Playmates did add the candle holder on the wall (something I overlooked). The large size of the set and group of figures seems to make up for any shortcomings in my opinion.

Overall, this was an extremely fun and challenging set to design. I am pretty happy with the final product.

Some quick notes on THOH IV:

* The "double edged light saber" was dropped due to cost and a copyright concern

* I don't know why the "Lucite" is red

* I was going to use Matt Groening for one of the 'bagged' people, but I wasn't sure if everyone would recognize him (specifically, the casual fans...)

* The "phaser" accessory was altered to make sure there wouldn't be a copyright issue

Enjoy the images.

Any questions or comments you have, please post at:

Thanks again!

Thanks to Chris and Playmates again!

Rough Thumbnails/"Pack-out Diagram"

THOH 4 - Prototype Art THOH 4 - Prototype Art THOH 4 - Prototype Art

Concept Sketches

THOH 4 - Prototype Art THOH 4 - Prototype Art

Color Presentation

THOH 4 - Prototype Art

Control Drawings

THOH 4 - Prototype Art

Detailed Close-Ups

THOH 4 - Prototype Art THOH 4 - Prototype Art

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