Thursday, May 17, 2007

Diamond Buys Art Asylum

Here's the official word:

Diamond Select Toys and Collectibles, LLC (DST) is excited to announce its acquisition of select assets of New York based Art Asylum Inc. The acquisition, which is effective immediately, comes after a long and prosperous relationship between the two companies.

Art Asylum was founded in 1996 by Digger T. Mesch and Donna Soldano as a development and design house, and quickly became home to some of the most talented designers in the toy industry. Their work has been manufactured by some of the best known companies in the industry, including Toy Biz (Marvel Toys), Playmates, Hasbro, Play Along and a host of other companies. After several years as a development house Art Asylum created Art Asylum, LLC and turned to manufacturing and developed lines for licenses including Batman, Star Trek, Tony Hawk, Bruce Lee and KISS.

The effects of the acquisition will be felt immediately in the toy industry, as the fast growing DST, one of the leading toy and collectible manufactures for the specialty market, now has the added value of an industry leading design house. DST is consistently putting out many new products a month from licenses including Marvel, Spider-man 3, “24,” and Star Trek and now with the added depth that the Art Asylum name and experience brings, DST will look to become a major player in the industry.

DST has contracted Art Asylum in the past for their Star Trek and Marvel lines, but will now have the full breadth of talent in house, and available for upcoming releases – including the new Battlestar Galactica line and future projects.

“Art Asylum made its mark on the toy industry with its unique style and top of the line development. We are excited to have access to all the tools that built the company and utilize them to help grow our business even further,” remarked Chuck Terceira, Director of DST.

Art Asylum’s most notable and longest running brand, Minimates, will now lie in the hands of DST which has utilized the Minimate brand previously with its Street Fighter, Rocky and most notably Marvel licenses. Minimates have become the #1 block figure brand in the world and aside from DST’s lines, there have been successful lines based on DC Comics, Lord of the Rings and KISS. The 2” scale action figures, with 14 points of articulation, are heading into possibly the biggest year ever with DST, which has a full stable of licenses prepared to add to the ever growing Minimate Universe.

Moving over to join the DST team as part of the deal are Donna Soldano and Robert Yee of Art Asylum. Soldano, one of the founding partners of Art Asylum, has vast experience in both product development and overseas production. She brings to DST over 10 years of experience in developing toy lines for both the specialty and mass markets and along with her wide knowledge of the industry. Robert Yee has occupied several posts in the toy industry including serving as Director of Legal Affairs for Toymax Inc. and serving as Director of R&D for Monogram International. More recently Yee, an original member of the Art Asylum, rejoined the company in 2005 to head up product development. Yee’s legal knowledge coupled with his experience in leading development and overseas production teams will be fully utilized by DST.

Adam Unger, who served as a vice president at Art Asylum, will be working with DST on a consulting basis during the transition with a focus on new business development and sales.

Digger T. Mesch recently formed Dig Deep Entertainment in Hong Kong. Dig Deep is focused primarily on developing Digger’s original content for film and television but continues to create high end design and development of 3D product and events. Dig Deep recently developed DST’s Marvel Civil War bust line and Marvel Zombies. Digger will be available for consultancy on the projects that Dig Deep Entertainment develops for DST.

“The acquisition takes DST’s level product development and production departments to new levels, and we are excited on all fronts,” added Terceira.

I'd known about this for a while but for some reason, this press release makes me sad. I've been working with the Asylum on and off for about ten years now but I mostly remember 1998-1999, the one year I spent in the studio. The work was great, the jokes were loud and the nights were long. I barely made enough to eat. But it didn't matter. I was having the time of my life.

Art Asylum was the turning point of my career, bridging my floundering comic book work with a lucrative time in advertising. I learned how to work in an office environment and deal with extreme personalities (which we all were). I got to work on Marvel, DC and Star Trek, for crying out loud. It doesn't get any better than that.

Robert's already invited me to the new offices and I'm happy to visit but it won't be the same. Renee found out a few years ago her college was closing its doors. Now I know how she feels.

1 comment:

Cromely said...

I have trouble walking into what's left of the Seattle CompUSA locations as the go through shut down these days.

I spent a lot of weekends demo'ing product there and hundreds of ours talking about products in those stores during the week from 1/1998 thru 1/2001.

It's depressing to see them shut down.