Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sevans Models: Portrait of a Licensee

Here's an interesting article about SEVANS Models. I transcribed it from Doctor Who Monthy Issue #114 (July 1986). This is an interview with Stuart Evans - the man behind the highly accurate Dalek model kits from the mid-'80s. This interview gives insight into how he obtained a license from the BBC to manufacturing them, and also discusses his expansion of the model range to cover other monsters from the Doctor Who universe. Enjoy!


A scan of the original article from DWM (click to enlarge).

Stuart Evans, of Sevans Daleks, talks about his merchandising experiences and his plans for the future.

“I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Who. It really is quite beyond the comprehension of anyone born after the mid Sixties just how massive Doctor Who in general and the Daleks in particular were between 1963-65. Every child in our street had a toy Dalek.
“It’s quite an admission, but I’ve never lost the love I developed for the show all those years ago. Indeed, the desire to one day be involved in some aspect of the programme has been on e of the few continuous threads in my life”.

After school, Stuart went to Salisbury Art College, but left before completing his B.A. Graphics course.


“I found my way into a local government, pen-pushing job, which afforded me the opportunity of getting an HNC in Business Studies on day release.”

Moving on to a job in the Civil Service, Stuart became increasingly dissatisfied with his work, and concentrated on finding other interests.


“The quite out of the blue, I was sitting in the bath one night, and there it was, staring me in the face… the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary Special. I decided then and there to put all my efforts into building a full-sized Dalek.

Stuart persuaded the BBC Who Exhibition at Longleat to let him measure up one of the props. However, he quickly realised that building a full-scale Dalek model just wasn’t viable, and decided to turn his attention to a scaled down model. Having created his first scratchbuilt Dalek, after reading up on model making and fibre glass techniques, Stuart was ready to move on to other things, when h
e attended the Longleat Convention.

“The model was in the back of my car – until two fans saw it, and I left one Dalek lighter.
“I now knew there must be a larger market on maybe several dozen people (believe me this wasn’t false modesty, but total ignorance speaking), but I had no contacts in TV, the press, or merchandising.

GETTING THE LICENSE

However, when Stuart’s job moved offices, he met Simon Lydiard, ex editor of the defunct fanzine Skaro. Simon suggested that Stuart approach BBC merchandising.

“At this time, I’d envisaged making two fibre glass models a month, and wrote into Chris Crouch (then of BBC Enterprises) asking only if I could use the work ‘Dalek’ in an Exchange and Mart ad I’d planned, and how much the BBC royalty would be.
“Chris wrote back saying ‘no can do’, and that unlike the Sixties when everyone under the sun obtained Dalek licenses, nowadays concurrent merchandising wasn’t entertained.”

BBC Enterprises did add that if Stuart could get a manufacturer interested, they might reconsider.


“Again the idea dropped, and then a couple of weeks later, I was in a local model shop, and heard mention of a nearby firm specialising in short run kits.”

Stuart spent the next month living on their doorstep picking up tips on how to make moulds and dies. Eventually he made up the tools for a foot-tall Dalek kit. He approached the BBC again, who agreed to see him.

“With only a day to go, the first mouldings were ready and we sped to the factory to collect two of the most awful pieces of tat you’d ever seen.
“Fleet of brain as ever, and with only hours to go, I realised what had to be done, the pokers were heated, the Doc Martens donned, and the two made the trip as smashed up ‘exterminated’ versions!”

Stuart impressed Chris Crouch and Brian Codd (of Terry Nation) sufficiently to win the world rights to making Dalek kits.
“Now the problems really started; who would produce the quantities required, what would those quantities be. All previous Who merchandise had been kiddie-based: there’d never been any accurate, well researched, up market, up-price models before.”

CREATING THE PACKAGE

Aiming to build a creation that would please him personally, Stuart determined to create ‘The Ultimate Dalek Package’.

“The three-thousand-word history took six months to research. The lead Dalek from Genesis was measured and refined over several months and individual parts were moulded and tooled.
“I wanted to make this one kit have the potential of being assembled in many forms, and this has paid dividends, as many customers were to but four or five kits, just to create their favourite variants.
“Everything went so smoothly that I should’ve guessed that there was trouble around the corner and sure enough, with all the ads placed, two unforeseen things happened.
“First, I realised that the shoulders were 3mm too far forward. The moulds were, at great cost, altered. Then with only days before the kit’s launch, the factory (one of the main contractors for Marks and Spencer and Boeing Aircraft) developed faults on its moulding plant and I had no kits to send.
“To further compound this, I had an overnight success to contend with! Everyone’s estimation of the market was way out: every day for weeks we received literally hundreds of orders and well over a thousand before anything was ready.
“Mercifully, extra hands were laid on, and we finally shipped the goods out.
“With this behind us, the long lacking ‘fun element’ once again returned, and within weeks of sending the first kits out, we were getting loads of photos and letters from fans saying how good the kits were.”

Stuart plans to stay in merchandising for as long as Who lasts and then perhaps another decade, if he can secure the rights.

KITS IN PREPARATION

“I really want to stay in business long enough to exhaust the main monsters and get down to the really rare ones, like Quarks and Zarbi”.

Although he keeps an eye on the market, he basically turns out the models he likes the most.

“Hence K9, which would still be a big seller in America, being kennelled at the moment in favour of other things.
“The kits no the drawing board are Ice Warrior, 1967 Cyberman, Feature Film Dalek, Davros, Tardis Console, New Mk6 Cyberman and Sil Borad. The first three of these kits will be available this Autumn, with a possibility of the Mk6 Cyberman appearing at Christmas.
“Readers will have to wait until the ad appears for details of price and exact box contents, though I can now reveal that the Ice Warrior and Cyberman kits will both stand over fifteen inches tall and will have solid one-piece plastic heads, alternative weaponry and costume details, and that in the case of the Cyberman, you’ll get three heads: trooper, Controller and zapped trooper with the Cyberface showing through behind the mask … Oh and you’ll also get a scale Cybermat!
“I’m introducing new elements with each kit, with resin, rubber and self-adhesive components appearing, the Cyberman will have individual pipes and tubes and I’m currently trying to find a supplier for synthetic bristles for inclusion with the Ice Warrior to simulate its body hair!
“As the histories on these two monsters are somewhat slighter than that of the Dalek, you’ll get details of how to recreate your own Ice Cave diorama and readily obtainable components.
“The ‘humanoid’ kits will be comparatively simple to produce and should hopefully be available from UK and foreign dealers within a few months of issue. The Dalek family of kits is, however, so time consuming to manufacture that we can’t really afford to sell through agents and keep the price so low, so it does look as if certain of our kits will remain exclusively available from us, the manufacturers. Generally, anyone wanting any kit in a hurry or by a deadline, is much safer ordering direct from us.
“All the kits should retail around the £15 mark and the original TV Dalek will still remain on sale.
“One other point perhaps worthy of mention is that subject to final BBC approval each new kit will contain a raised plastic badge of the monsters’ head or whole body, which can be painted and pin-backed.”

Stuart does his own modelling, tooling, artwork, research and a lot of his own photography.

KEEPING UP THE STANDARDS

“To be perfectly honest, by the time I’d explained what I wanted to an assistant, I could have done the job myself, anyway!
“The ability to design is only one factor in the equation; you’ve got to have a good eye for advertising and PR, a grasp of commercial law and basically the ability to see a sizeable hole in the market, then come up with a really good product to fill it.
“Almost every time a Merchandising feature appears, the BBC get flooded with readers’ ideas for ‘Terror of the Zygons Draught Excluders’ or ‘Gallifrey Kitchenette Tin Openers’, and although they’re always receptive to marketable ideas, they actually receive singularly few. That not to put people off, it’s just that unless the possibility of a worthwhile royalty return exists, it’s not worth the administrative expense involved.
“Perhaps my biggest handicap is that I’m a perfectionist and will only release a kit when I’m two hundred per cent satisfied with it. Were any other manufacturing company producing the same range, there’s probably be six titles available already; only the quality and accuracy would be as woolly as the merchandise of the past!
“For all this, I should be releaseing between three and five kits this year, which should live up to, or transcend the standards I set myself on the Dalek.”

If you have any difficulty in obtaining SEVANS kits, or have any comments on them, please write in to them at: PO Box 34, Trowbridge, Wiltshire BA14 8XY, enclosing an SAE for your reply.

Guide to the pics:
1) A realistic scene from the SEVANS models video, which was used on a Pebble Mill feature
2) Stuart demonstrates one of the full-size silhouettes cut out before the modelling begins
3) A close-up of the Davros model – under two inches from the chin to the cranium

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