Another exciting project with prehistoric animals, another success! The Cyberzoic Kickstarter campaign raised an impressive fund of $609.470, and the action figure line will certainly expand with new characters and creatures. For those who don’t know the story behind this action figure line, here’s the official synopsis.

CYBERZOIC: the story

Together with Dr. Filippo Bertozzo, we asked some questions to Creative Beast Studio founder David Silva about this new world where dinosaurs, humans, robots, and dragons collide.

MATTEO: You’ve often stated that this project was born from some ideas you had in college. Can you tell us something about how your approach to dinosaurs and your collaboration with other artists influenced what we see on Cyberzoic?

DAVID: Back in art college, I would alternate many projects around four different stories I’d created. Two were sci-fi and the other two were comedy adventures. I really enjoyed coming up with characters, creatures, works, etc. as the subjects of my projects, but I needed there to be a context to make sense of the designs, which is why I came up with the different stories. Cyberzoic originated as one of those sci-fi stories, which at the time I was calling The Divine Extinction. The story was about humanity nearly being wiped out in a distant future and having to rebuild civilization on a post-World War III Earth. There was a heavy emphasis on how the surviving wildlife changed over time to adapt to this new, harsher environment. From these adaptations, new species were born, leading to different types of ‘dragons’. The story also had dinosaurs, resurrected from the dead by demons, one of which was Dybukk. There were also angels who would aid humanity, and key among them were Argenteus, who was a hybrid human/ angel, and Arctic, an elemental angel born from the chaos of war and sworn to protect the planet (this character would eventually be merged with the Arctic Dragon to become Kuraokami).  And caught in between was Dragolina, who had ties to both the demons and angels, but also to nature. Over time, my interests shifted, and through working with other artists, the story evolved into a technology-vs-nature dynamic as opposed to an angels-vs-demons dynamic, but at its core, it was still a story about the fate of humans and if they can finally find peace with the natural world, despite their destructive nature. And it of course had dinosaurs vs. dragons.

FILIPPO: Dragons… Why them? I have the feeling that, in fantasy and sci-fi products, the presence of dragons in settings with dinosaurs already tends to obscure them in the general audience’s view. You spend a great deal of time and energy building a vast and intricate world where human civilizations have a strong relationship with dinosaurs, so, despite the presence of other prehistoric animals, dinosaurs are an important presence in this project. Don’t you fear that dragons will shift people’s attention towards themselves?
Furthermore, what challenges have you found in making these dragons coherent with your setting, AKA the idea of making believable alien dragons in your storyline?

DAVID: Part of what I want to show with this world is how connected every living thing is. Dinosaurs and dragons are coexisting here, but they’re all treated as wildlife. Not dissimilar to going to the zoo and seeing alligators, giraffes, lions, spiders, etc. None take away from another because they’re all interesting parts of a whole, an ecosystem, and each one complements the other in some way.  It’s no different here- the dragons are essentially ‘dinosaurs’ that evolved on an Earth-like planet but with slightly altered circumstances, and these deviations cause their differences. I want to illustrate how life itself is our common link. We all live to survive and help to continue our kind, while constantly being shaped by our environments. This is the thinking for all of the designs in Cyberzoic.

MATTEO: Looks like Cyberzoic has everything a kid from the 80s grew up with. Is there anything you had to cut out of the project? Would you like to add something else to the lore later on?

DAVID: The story and world are huge, and there was a lot that I wanted to do for this first campaign that had to be put off until later. We had more Tech Knights, herbivore dinosaurs, and other dragons that all had to be dropped from the initial Kickstarter, as it would have not only become too expensive, but it’d also be too much to commit to within two years. Worldbuilding with action figures is tricky due to the complexity and costs involved, but hopefully, our comic book will allow us to show a lot of things that we aren’t able to get to yet with the toys. At this stage of our story, the robotics and armor technology are relatively primitive and can only function for short bursts without an animal host, but eventually, we want to show upgrades to this technology, evolving into fully autonomous robotic lifeforms, while still maintaining a visual connection to its organic ancestors.

FILIPPO: Feathers are a great addition to the project. However, I am curious to know if you found challenges to making the armor fit on the model surface when feathers create an uneven surface compared to a more “leathery” scaled skin (as in the original Dino-Riders toys).

DAVID: While there are sculpted feathers on most of the theropods, ultimately it’s all solid plastic and works just as well as scaled skin, if not better since it’s a more textured surface. As long as the armor is properly designed to fit, I don’t see this being an issue. 

MATTEO: We know there is a lot of research behind the dinosaur figures’ design. Have you taken a similar approach with weapons and dragons?

DAVID: With the story taking place several hundred years into the future, we aren’t able to draw much inspiration from real life as far as weapons are concerned. We do give some practical thought to things like energy sources, artillery, weight stabilizers, and various types of melee gear, but ultimately it’s all very conceptual. As for the dragons, we try to approach them as being shaped by their environment, so their look may be influenced by the evolutionary track of animals in similar environments, but they aren’t meant to look too much like anything we know in real life.

FILIPPO: In the general information you are releasing about Cyberzoic, you showed there are many tribes of humans. Did you base these groups of people on modern/ancient human civilizations? If yes, which one? Is there a specific culture you would like to add as a future inspiration for a new Cyberzoic tribe?

DAVID: The tribe’s aesthetics are a direct reflection of their values and beliefs. The Tech Clan is very futuristic but takes influence from medieval Europe. The Fire Clan is more primitive and savage-looking, reminiscent of Ancient Rome. The Desert Clan sees technology as a non-linear progression and is mostly analog, resembling something close to the militaries of today, but slightly more advanced. The Dragon Clan coexists with nature and is often Viking-like, similar to the Fire Clan in some ways, but with more reverence and respect for nature. The Water Clan is one that we plan to explore later on but they believe that robotics are man’s next evolution, and they have a look mostly inspired by Japanese culture, albeit more futuristic.

MATTEO: You’ve been asked many times to create figures inspired by pop culture, and perhaps this sci-fi context would have been suitable to add them. Is this something you’ve thought about?

DAVID: It is fun to create homages to the pop culture that has inspired me, you can see that already with the Dino Riders-inspired Sabre Tooth Tiger set. There could be more, but I’d still want to work the references into the Cyberzoic design language so that they work with the overall look of the line. I wouldn’t be interested in a straight duplication of an established design, however. 

FILIPPO: You are collaborating with different artists in this project, and all of them are incredibly skilled. Among them, I am interested in the collaboration with Lewis LaRosa. How did you find him? How has been working with him?

DAVID: I met Lewis on Instagram – apparently, he was already a Beasts of the Mesozoic fan! I was blown away by his work and we’ve been looking for a way to collaborate for a few years now. I eventually had an idea to commission a Cyberzoic character illustration, similar to the Street Fighter group art pieces done back in the 90s. I was always so impressed with how much character was packed into those illustrations, and when I approached Lewis with this idea, he was excited to do it. The final piece turned out better than I’d imagined, and I hope to have him do another one for Cyberzoic II. 

MATTEO: There’s been a lot of discussion about what dinosaurs should look like in a potential live-action Dino-Riders movie. As a fan of the franchise and creator of its spiritual successor, do you think they should have a vintage or updated design?

DAVID: A big motivator for creating Cyberzoic is to show that scientifically accurate dinosaurs are the most amazing type of dinosaurs and they can, and should, be represented respectfully in pop culture. Any modification to make them more threatening or more nostalgic only waters down the potential of the concept, in my opinion. The true versions are the most relatable to our own reality and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. After all, nature is the undisputed best designer of all time.

FILIPPO: The Kickstarter campaign is over, and now we can think about the future. What is your dream for Cyberzoic in the future? Are there any media or products you would like to cover to expand and explain the lore you are creating for this setting?

I have high hopes for the comic book that we’re writing now, as far as sharing this vision and expanding the lore. But beyond that, I would love to see Cyberzoic as an animated series, video game, or even a live-action movie. It’s all very wishful thinking at this stage of course, but we’ve been designing the toy line to be cinematic, so a translation into any of those media wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I’d love to see any or all of those happen, but for now, I’m extremely grateful to just be creating the action figure line. 

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