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      TLS at Comic Con, Part I - Inside the Booth!

      TLS at Comic Con, Part I - Inside the Booth!

      SDCC 2019 is in the books.  It's a long journey; no wonder there’s a void, a little emptiness the week after.  We’re busy all year; we have deadlines, releases, timed releases, retailer exclusives, set dates – a smorgasbord of frenetic activity played to the cacophonic, yet harmonic tune of everything and all things into the stew pot at once.  And the stew still tastes good…better than good…great!  We have no downtime, there isn't much space to reflect, let alone acknowledge that the only option is forward without a second to waste.  So, why the void?  A 5 day pop culture love fest in the middle of July, just five days, 360 days shy of the balance of the year…why the emptiness for a seemingly innocuous blip in time?  I’m slammed this week pulling together deliveries for Aggretsuko, and My Hero Academia.  Also delivering a compendium of content, updates, commercials….the whole enchilada, as they say.   There is no down time, no time to be down, no down when everything is up, and when nothing is down…then why the SDCC blues?   The following year’s SDCC is being conceived not so long after the current year’s SDCC is finished.  SDCC is the only project we work on for nearly a year’s time, a full lap around the sun – through all the seasons, nearly all the months, in every day there is a small action dedicated to the 5 day summer crazed carnival of pop culture delights, banked on the sunkissed bum of So Cal’s San Diego Bay.  TLS in its best year delivered 10 lines, although each line consists of multiple populations, upwards to 66 skus in it’s most compulsive form…lil’ ole us have out performed, if quantifying by sku count, some mighty industry giants…and all things said, all things underscored, to make San Diego a reality, a destination, a raison d’etre, TLS concocts nearly 20 individual, completely unique skus of the micro run variety.  Essentially 19 different production runs, mixed in addition all the complexities- stickers, tees, Fan Jam, totes, shopping bags, schedules, hotel rooms, travel arrangements, rentals – “and the kitchen sink”, as they too also say. 

      It’s momentous, mountainous, Everest-like…this 5 day event, a titan amongst the lesser, and defenseless microbes rowing our way across the earth’s surface.  The baby is born, similarly near the same cycle as my own embryonic experience, carried through the Fall, and Winter of ’73, to breath my first breath of air in the summer of ’74.  The impact for feeding this baby for nearly a year is nothing short of…well…impactful!  And so is its post partum.   For a year’s time we’ve toiled to make sure we can deliver a fan experience worth noble acts of participation, to set a tango if only to be so lucky to have a partner to tango with.  TLS’ showing at SDCC has historically been the toran, and rune for what the year brings.  It’s no wonder why we invest so heartedly, in which “heart” is the key, and invest, merely our great emotional currency.  We aim to turn you on to the TLS vision.

      SDCC is filled with big, bright shiny lights, inside, outside, up, down, all around.  It's a miracle TLS can find it's voice through the Marrakesh markets of all things and then some.  Not just lights but sounds – “booooom, grooooowl, sparkle, pop, crash”  - it’s as if ILM is having indigestion, or a barf off with Dolby, but all over the convention!   In the Marvel, Star Wars, Batman, Celebrity appearing, Hall H loving climate, transfixing laser beams of hypotonic powers to the Jonestown Jonesies, how on earth is TLS going to cut through?   We don't have a hypnotic laserbeam!  Or do we?  It (SDCC and all of its options) seems like an exercise Sisyphus would envy, but the years are increasingly becoming different; a different awareness, acceptance, enjoyment, and participation with the TLS Brand vision, all because of the growing TLS Army. 

      I was asked, “What's different this year, is it the range of licenses”?  I don't think so?  We had Turtles at it’s prime, MOTU just two years ago, Predator (a fan favorite), Xenomorphs (another fan favorite), Power Rangers when they still had mucho powers, Mega Man, Street Fighter, My Little Pony (still when Pony was king), Horror (The Freddy/Jason/Pennywise SDCC exclusives were fire) – TLS has always had some of the best selection of licenses, some of the best exclusives (IMO) – I couldn't say that having Leonardo is less attractive than Stewie?  They're both cool, but we all know TMNT fans are mad about their Turtles!   So what is it?  How did TLS cut through the static, to sell out of nearly all exclusives on the floor, some in record time, and more on the website?  I think it's the magic of 10!  10 years pounding the TLS message, of fine tuning Action Vinyls, of valuing the Fan Experience, the want to create unique, dynamic, thoughtful, energetic, and imaginative products, but under the parabolic timeline of 10 years, and the undying desire to turn you guys on, and include like minded folks who want something cool, and unique!  I think 10 years later we’ve hit that new level…we leveled up (queue the Zelda music)!  TLS is like that Sub Pop Brand who is now getting play on mainstream radio dominated by Aerosmith (you can tell I came of age in the 90’s, right?  Lol).    TLS is cutting through, we’re cutting through the static, we’re bringing in new fans, new folks wanting to have a fun and engaging experience, and it’s all because of the core TLS Army who has believed in TLS since Day 1.  The success of SDCC 2019 is your achievement!  Thank you!

      I’m shaking off the void, which is more just an exhale (zephyr-like in expulsion).   A much needed exhale, to put a bow on this fantastic chapter, and to open the sails to new winds, a new energy, and more of it!  Here's to the rest of the year.  Thank you SDCC 2019!  Thank you TLS Army!  Thank you to all the new faces, welcome to our family, our brand of fun, jump into the deep end, the water is fine, and we’ll make sure you swim, just like Michael Phelps, powering through your 400meter into an imaginative Action Vinyls experience!

      An unequivocal and Special thanks to Team TLS – our staff is the best in the biz, we do more with a little than those who have a lot….I’m thrilled, and profoundly proud to be a part of Team TLS.

      Enjoy the Video, a look at SDCC 2019 through TLS’ eyes.  Stay tuned for new blog updates: Fan Jam wrap up, and how life and art collide, via Action Vinyls and Cosplay!  I’ll have those up in the next couple of days!  Carpe diem!

       

      TLS at Comic Con, Part II - Cosplay!

      TLS at Comic Con, Part II - Cosplay!

      I’ve explained this for years – Comic Con is like Halloween but in July.  It’s colorful, a celebration of (nearly all) things pop culture; folks are happy, engaged, invested, and whole heartedly adopt the suspension of disbelief for the better part of a week as (most do) dive in head first into the “Let your freak flag fly” mantra.  It’s a general psychic energy, bonding everyone, all who’ve come to “play” to let loose, be accepted, enjoy passions, share passions, and walk heads held high now matter the shape, color, size, preference, gender, or form…all is welcome, one of the most democratic institutions quilted from the love for the popular arts, aka comic books.   It’s hard not to smile seeing characters lifted from the pages, and movie screens interpreted by (ostensibly) your neighbor, or colleague who quietly sits in the cubicle next to you, showing off rows of Funko Super Heroes or TLS Action Vinyls, adorning victory from the drab drapes and melancholy of an 8 hr work day, finding the power of inspiration through the imaginative, character mythos from decades of story telling, truth to the truth seekers, and aspirational to those searching for inspiration.  Story is powerful.

      Comic Con is it’s own story, a “choose your own adventure” filled with meet ups, meet and greets, factory direct interactions, and more importantly, all the like mindedness; a will to step in another’s shoes, show off all the wily creative cleverness through transformation, of one’s self into the avatar of their choosing….for the time, psychically bonding oneself to the powers, prestige, and forces of the character portrayed.  At the same time, being recognized for the transformation, and the audience too agreeing; suspending all judgments, biases, prejudices, and the disbelief in magic if only to accept this brand of magic for the entirety of the half week before returning to rules of habitual normalcy.  That is magic.

      The costumes, the roll play, the transformation into heroes, villains, zombies, out of this world creatures, and creatures from undiscovered worlds is the theater, the main stage, the true play at hand which delights the spirit, ultimately leaving smiles all around, and if not, inspiration to participate and play the next round.  As much as we have our agenda, which is to help participate in this magical experience for all who are willing to find us, we too are extras in this magnificent play, if not an enjoying and willing audience, inspired by the creativity from the nation of prop builders, costumers, and makeup artists who flock to San Diego each year to present their masterpieces to the public.  It’s difficult not to take notice, and drink it in.

      TLS is part of the fabric of a greater pop culture quilt, at least a stitch or two.  We are excited to be involved in any conversation pertaining to the creative arts, and imaginative experiences.  It’s exciting to be a cell working inside the larger organism, symbiotic with the goal to tell story in an authentic way, be custodians of great stories which briefly graze our hands, and with great pride and fiduciary duty we hold this task with all do seriousness, if only to stay focused while imaginations open up and lounge effervescently inside the topography of a great mythos.

      Thank you Comic Con, thank you cosplay, thank you cosplayers for lending your talents, your imaginations, and intrepid spirit, which embodies all things San Diego Comic Con; the true guardians of the Comic Con galaxy.  Also, thank you to all the cosplayers who allowed TLS to film them.  Lucky us, we caught a few adorning the garb, wares, and wigs of many of the TLS Action Vinyls we had on display.  Til next year!  Please enjoy our Video!

       

      TLS makes a Hot Wheels Commercial!

      TLS makes a Hot Wheels Commercial!

      I think the question I was served up the most upon our announcement that TLS had linked up with Mattel to launch a new Hot Wheels line was…..hmm, let me think about it, there were a lot of questions!  Question 1 – What are you going to do different that Hot Wheels hasn’t already done?  Question 2 – Do they roll?  Question 3 – How is this going to fit in as an Action Vinyl?   Question 4 – Why?  I suppose the last question was all around spiritual in nature, perhaps bigger than life on earth, but sure, I’ll tackle it?

      TLS isn't willy nilly - an aside tangent, did you know “willy nilly” is derived from the phrase “will he, or won't he?”  Like, in Hamlet.  Carry on.  As I was saying, TLS is of the deliberate sort, at least in our impulses, however impuls’d in the yeoman or layman’s eye they may be, rather all choices are very strategic in nature because said impulses are reliant on a simple criteria – “Will this be fun”, and “Do we like it?”  Not to suggest we’re of the un-serious nature, and roam like plebes subject to all prehistoric, and reptilian inclinations, because we certainly are not.  By gum, we’re a toy company, a proper one at that, we’ll operate with professional proficiency, and nothing short of.  In defining our impulses, those of the simple nature; “is it fun, do we like it?” – we are serious folk who apply all due seriousness to our impulsive fun, and that’s not the corny garden variety of fun, as in, I, Jonathan Cathey do not have a business card with the job title “Proprietor of Fun”… my (business card) is to the point, CEO – however, “Fun” meaning, “Wouldn't making Hot Wheels be fun?”  And the only answer was/is, “Yes.”  So that’s that, and what is is, so let's move on to the other questions.  To back up a tiny bit in an effort to reorient the disoriented, if I’ve offered additional insight to help the reader form a more developed opinion, another quick volley to the question existential in nature, “Why?”  The answer to this question would naturally be, “Because.”  

      Now we’ve cleared path to the other nuts and bolts; “What will you do different?”  Being a gentleman of sound mind, turbulent passions, and creative adroitness, I put myself to the task of using the gifts born to me by my mother, with cooperation from my father, those gifts commonly established as ones own imagination.  “If this is that, then what will this be?”  If I may?  “That is clearly This!”  So it is, and that is how “this” became “that”, and per further cross-examination “that” is now “this”.   Modestly, these are trade secrets, mortgaged to myself, deed and all, from said imagination, a common agent.   If further clarity is needed, let me first qualify such clarity with the accord of my better visual and syntactic aid, “I yanked on this, pulled on that, pushed in there”…the divination of discovery, and as the chicken is to the egg , and vice versa, alas, “This” becomes “That”.  One simply needs to look with one’s own eyes to acknowledge this to be of an ardent, steadfast truth. 

      For the question, “Does it roll?”  Of course, what is the point of a car if not to roll?  If not to roll, then what?  A smart looking car on cinder blocks?   A car with an oil leak, overflowing oil-pan, grease stains on the driveway, with small insects making their way like Woolley Mammoths to the La Brea tarpits into said oil-pans, only to become permanent fixtures and future residents of the oil rivers we drill from sludge, millennia old, comprised of grease matter pertaining to dead insects, foliage, and animals?  Of course ittheythem roll!  Don't be silly.

      Instead of playing pepper with the spray pool of inquiring minds, I found it best to write a commercial to illustrate with earnest, an observable investigation to quench the inquiring minds of all questions related, relatable, and relative to support the following premise, and premises: “Indeed, these are different, indeed they are great, indeed they roll, indeed they are fast!”  The eyes do not lie.  And if in fact a commercial I did write, then it is also fact a friend, he did direct, and my colleagues, they too joined me in the telling of story, with this thespian exercise, to naturally disclose to the viewing public what we so whole heartedly claim to be a truth amongst truths – “TLS Hot Wheels are the cats pajamas!  GO get your race on!”   SO, without further ado, enjoy our visual proof.

       

      Bean Jam

      Bean Jam

      Nashville, here we come! Last year I waxed poetic about Nashville, the birthplace of my father.  Just down the road in Columbia, TN where my grandfather was born.   At the State Capital in Nashville there’s a tomb of a distant relative, and littered across the cemeteries many a Cathey find their residence, and of course, Cathey’s Creek, with a church by the same name, and certainly an adjoining cemetery which holds the bones of my relatives.  Apparently, Catheys still reside on Cathey’s Creek Road, so the church parishioner says, as we pulled up in our rented mini van, headlights blazing, much to her surprise…I hollered out the window, “Hello, my name is Jonathan Cathey.  I think this place was named after my family!”  She seemed indifferent, however hospitable, and revealed there might be a few of “us” buried out back.   The conversation taking place among the flicker and flare provided by the jubilant fire flies, creating a soft canopy of glowing dots scattered throughout the thick air, and the serenade of crickets, and other insectly beasts, however, serene, and peaceful.  I quite much like Cathey’s  Creek.  I can see why my relatives settled there a century or two ago

      In a sweet twist of luck I’m able to trace my roots with the advent of Bean Jam, not having visited Tennessee other than a time, many moons ago.  A Southern California resident, life long, where the mighty blue Pacific holds my heart, and always will.  I’ve had a natural curiosity to explore Tennessee for obvious reasons but hadn’t.  Leave it to a friendly guy, with a glass half full outlook, who inspires positivity, friendship, togetherness, community, and passions, contagious to all he encounters…the man with the effervescent slogan, rebranded from the My Little Pony dogma, “Friendship is Magic.”  It certainly is, sir.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to explore my roots, during an event which is all about bringing like mindedness, friendships, shared passions, and creative values together for a night of fun, revelry, surprises, prizes, laughs, hugs, and a beer or two.  Thank you for the friendship.

      Bean Jam is a celebration of community, an offshoot of Fan Jam for the folks who’s cars, trains, and aero-planes can't make the journey to San Diego, we decided to bring it smack dab in the heart of the nation, the literal chest, not so far from the mighty Mississipi, near the Great Smokey Mountains, the famed Applachians, and to the pulsing beat of Music City, right on the doorstep of Mr. BB King’s, the gentlemen suitor for none other, the lovely lady Lucille, god rest his soul.

      This year will not disappoint.  New games, familiar games, new faces, new friendships, familiar friendships, great prizes, surprises, swag, hugs, eats, drinks, beers, and high fives!  We’re going to turn this mutha out!  Tomorrow, I’ll post the Fan Jam blog just to prove that we can turn this mutha out, and the moving pictures will instruct how we turn this mutha out!  Without further ado, here are the particulars:

      Where:  BB Kings, 152 2nd Ave North, Nashville, TN 37201

      What:  Bean Jam – includes food, drinks, swag bags, games, prizes, surprises, and a heck lots more.

      When:  Sunday, Aug 25th – 6p-9p.

      Tickets:  Tickets go onsale, tomorrow, Friday Aug 9th, at Noon PDT @ www.theloyalsubjects.com.  Tickets are $100.00/ea, only a two ticket maximum purchase per person purchasing.

      Capacity:  Only 80 tickets will be available.

      Purchasing Rules:  No refunds, no swaps via TLS, no trades via TLS – make certain that you know you can go, we will not honor refunds even if the excuse is good.

      See everyone in 2 weeks!

      TLS at Comic Con, Part III - Fan Jam!

      TLS at Comic Con, Part III - Fan Jam!

      This year marked the 5th annual Fan Jam.  An idea first presented by a friend of the Company, with the simple implication, “Let's do something special for folks who like, and support TLS”.  Great idea (I thought), a fan appreciation event but without the walls and borders between folks who like TLS and the folks who work at TLS…a “break down the velvet rope” style event in which we all mingle, chop it up, share our passions, have some good eats, a few drinks – a “Jam” of sorts.  I, coming from the music side of things (“things” being an operative for just about anything), and often default to music analogies – I liken my Company to a bunch of musicians, on tour, in a van, all playing our part to make a song, our products, the actual song.  Everyone playing a role, creating symphonic harmony, and not exclusive to just the folks building the products but inclusive to the folks participating with the products through the retelling of story, the joy of collecting, sharing, trading, selling – the plenary whole.   Or, a “jam” – we all play!  Naturally, the event would be called “Fan Jam” – we’re all fans, we all get to play.  

      The first Fan Jam was at a DIY steakhouse.  That’s the definition of “Jam”…literally; everyone cooked his or her own steak.  We sat at group tables, we mingled, we ate, we drank, we shared, we introduced, we made new friendships, we cemented old ones.  Also, the first exclusive Fan Jam item, a signed, and numbered print on archival paper documenting the range of Transformer Action Vinyls released to the present per the present, but aptly now in the past, being 5 years has expired since.

      We quickly realized this might be an event we could recreate, making it an annual tradition, if we could amplify the participation.  We ditched the diy steak in favor of prepared steak, found a bigger venue, a good one for feeding guests, and intimate enough to encourage dynamic engagement through sharing, show and tell, games, activities, and competition.  I called a good friend, an owner/founder of Tender Greens, “Hey man, can I rent your restaurant out for the night?”  He quickly replies, “Sure.”  That was that.  My buddy is a visionary – he cares about the planet, sustainable food solutions, urban farming…he’s a teacher, mentor, an inspiration, a frequent guest of Ted Talks, and I’m lucky to call him a friend.  A liege to conscious constructs, it's a no brainer to support a business like Tender Greens, and knowing the quality is top notch, the TLS Army will certainly enjoy the banquet.  I had outfitted 5 of his restaurants with art.  I had curated and produced two restaurants arcades with the help of artists who are friends; the other three were outfitted with my personal art.  We're creatively connected through our experiences (Erik and I), and I owning a creative business, let's keep those channels and circuits open, a boogie down at Tender Greens makes perfect sense.  In short, Fan Jam 2 was held at Tender Greens, splitting from the seams, packed, and loaded with bounteous energy, a true Jam.  Folks were happy, naturally let’s partake in a Fan Jam 3!

      Fan Jam 3 launched like a birr, an exertion, and intensity, a room filled with high spirits, and joy. 

      Fan Jam 4, splitting from the seams, double stitched even.  Fevered pitch.

      Fan Jam 5 – this year, equally powerful.  I understand there’s a need for more space, to include more participants, it’s clear that the will to participate exceeds the capacity…the event, certified provenance, is best in an intimate setting for the exchange; games, one on ones, group activities, competitions, team work...if we go too big we loose the rendering, and value of creative and meaningful participation.  I curate the activities but the show is the participants, and I would hate for that stage to flip where the participants are TV watching as we try our best to perform a dance or two to the delights of some.  We will figure it out for Fan Jam 5, with the intent to include all, the very least all we can. 

      Fan Jam 5 did not disappoint, you, the TLS Army brought “it”, and by “it”, I mean “IT”, as in CAPITAL I.T.; passion, devotion, fun, exuberance, imagination, you know, the “IT”!  Thank you to all who came, we have a deep love affair; the TLS Company, and the TLS community, certainly a harmonious matrimony.  I had a great time hosting.  A special thanks to the TLS Crew for their tireless, hard, imaginative, talented, and awe-inspiring work.  A special thanks to Steve Johnson for really being the inspiration, and driver, if not, the motivator to make Fan Jam what it is, a fun, engaging celebration for everyone.  Here’s to another great year on the books, and many more to come!  Enjoy the video…the TLS Film Crew duo crushed it as always.

      Last thought – this was TLS’ 10 year Anniversary!  We’ve muscled it out for 10 years, through the thickets and such, growing the TLS mission each year, exponentially.  Thank you to all who came to help celebrate our decade old existence.  Here’s to 10 more!