ENG: Wild past is a German company that surprised everyone with its adorable 1:35 Protoceratops and recently showed future projects, including an Italian dinosaur… Let’s talk about this and more in the interview with the manager Stefan Klein.
MATTYONYX: Hi Stefan, Welcome to Paleo-Nerd! First of all, would you please introduce yourself and your
company to our fans?
STEFAN KLEIN: Hello Matteo and Hello Paleo-Nerd Community,
First of all, I have to say, I am very honored that you are taking the time to get to know Wild
Past and me better.
My name is Stefan Klein, a lifelong dinosaur enthusiast from Germany and I actually work
full-time with people with disabilities. Our new small company Wild Past started as a hobby
project and is now becoming increasingly professional. We have set ourselves the goal of
realizing dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals as toy figures according to the latest
scientific standards. The figures are supposed to take on an instructive character.
Where did your passion for dinosaurs come from, and when did you start collecting dinosaur
models? Do you remember the first dinosaur toy you ever owned?
I try to keep myself short :D. My passion for dinosaurs probably started very early in my
childhood. When I was 2 years old, my grandpa gave me a box of various plastic “dinosaurs”.
In fact, they were the cheap dragons and Marx rip-offs produced in China, which you could
buy everywhere during the 90s. And there we are: the 90s! When Jurassic Park came out, I
was just 5 years old. Dinosaurs were just everywhere at that time, in magazines, toy stores
, and on television. Then as now, there is something mysterious about these animals, and I
always found it exciting to learn more about them. And dinosaurs are just fascinating: they
are big, have horns, clubs, come in all different shapes and sizes, and have dominated the
earth for millions of years. Do I have to say more? No, you have to admit, you know exactly
what I mean 😉
Was your work on DinoToyCollector.com (an online database of DinoFigures from different companies) crucial in the decision of making a line of uniformly scaled 1:35 dinosaurs?
I wouldn’t say that DinoToyCollector.com was the reason for me to produce our own figures.
But while maintaining the database I noticed that there are many, many figures, but these
are mostly present in different scales. Of course, there are many series, especially at the end
of the 80s and beginning of the 90s, that tried to achieve a uniform scale (mostly 1:40) for
their models, such as the Carnegie Collection or early Schleich figures. But mostly small
species were overlooked, even if there are great exceptions, like the Carnegie Protoceratops
I got my first idea from. We decided on the 1:35 scale because with this scale you can depict
both small and fairly large animal species without having to buy a new apartment because
your available space. Placing a sauropod and a Protoceratops next to each other on the same
scale makes it clear how different these animals were. I find this idea appealing and it
teaches people of the different sizes.
What were your main references? How much research do you put into your work?
The most important references for our models are primarily bones and today’s animals. We are fortunate to live in a time in which it is easy to converse with other people across the globe. Knowledge and ideas are easily accessible through the world wide web and we appreciate that very much. Of course, the Skeletals of Scott Hartmann and many others are worth mentioning, but reading scientific papers is essential. In addition, there is a lot of information in books and a visit to the museum is always worthwhile. When we use a source, we try to incorporate it accordingly on our website. Our image of the animal is then created through the interpretation of the various sources.
Do you get assistance from any paleontologist?
Do amateur paleontologists count? The first work was still detached from such cooperation. The many conversations with like-minded people made it clear that something like this is immensely enriching for our own work and I would be happy if we could take advantage of such opportunities.
How do you choose the color pattern and palette? Would you be interested in making painted variants of your dinosaurs (sexual dimorphism, maybe)?
When choosing the color, we take a very close look at the natural environment in which the animal lived. If you look at today’s animals that live in similar biomes, you get a good idea of what the animals of that time might have looked like. But you also have to look at the position of the animal within its ecosystem. Did it have feed competitors? Did it live in flocks and did it have to communicate by coloring? Did it have to camouflage itself? All of these questions play a role.
Representing sexual dimorphism through different colors makes perfect sense. This is particularly conceivable with the feathered species if you look at today’s birds. There is also a small difference in our Tethyshadros to see 😉
Can you describe to us your way of working?
Sure, of course! But here I have to speak for myself. The approach of the other two artists can of course vary but is essentially very similar.
- At the beginning of a figure, there is always an idea. This can come suddenly, but sometimes you are looking for inspiration.
- When I know which animal I want to do, I start researching: I get all sorts of information from books, pictures, scientific abstracts, the Internet, museums (if possible), films, and think about whether I can make the animal. Most of the time I see the animals with completely different eyes afterward. Reading the papers in particular is the most important. Only from there and from museums can I get the exact sizes of the bones, which are decisive for the overall appearance of the animal.
- I start modeling on the PC. It starts with a low poly animal in a simple pose all the way through to texture and its final pose. There are thousands of cool timelapse videos on the internet that show what kind of work they do. A job that I really enjoy.
- It’s being tested, tested, tested. Are the textures correct? Can the figure really stand? Are there any errors in the model? Can it be produced like that? We artists always find something that we could have done better 😉
- All details are discussed extensively with the manufactory and the figures are made there. Sounds easy, but it takes a lot of time and I’m glad we found our manufacturer.
Can you tell us something about the criteria by which you select the species to sculpt?
Especially now at the beginning, we find it exciting to take on animals that do not already exist 100 times in toy form. We all have our own preferences and ideas and we discuss what is possible. I also have a very close look at the wishes and suggestions from the community and it often happens that I think: “Yes, great idea. That’s it! I want to do that”. Especially with the 1:35 figures, we also have to consider the degree to which it makes sense to produce the animals. Yes, we could make a 1:35 Archeopteryx, but the end price for the customer would not be justifiable. That’s why we try to add little extras, such as the nest, the base, or the Kotlassia.
And now… It’s Patriotism Time! We’d like you to talk about the upcoming Tethyshadros models. How did you come up with such an obscure and anatomically strange species? what do you like the most about it?
I had to laugh at “Patriotism Time!” Well, I chose Tethyshadros for a number of reasons. In the beginning, I wanted to bring many small, rather underrepresented species to life, as I think there is a lack of these on the market. Then I looked around to see which species are suitable and also have a good fossil record. I came across Tethyshadros. I was aware that there was this little hadrosaur and actually (now Patriotism Time again) I liked the idea that this little dinosaur might roam the cretaceous European islands, also in Germany. I am always fascinated by examples of such island dwarfism, since you normally only know the rather large hadrosaurs, such as Edmontosaurus, Lambeosaurus, Corythosaurus, etc. I also repeatedly caught myself thinking what it would be like to pet the little one. The choice was made quickly. Somehow, I took him into my heart.
Are you facing some challenges while sculpting?
Oh yes, there are many challenges. In the beginning, I first had to familiarize myself with all of the 3D modeling software. Fortunately, that was quickly done.
A great challenge is always to manage the balancing act between a good model and “producibility”. I had to learn that on the hard way on the Protoceratops, for example, as its neck shield has many so-called undercuts. Anyone who is familiar with this field knows that this leads to problems with injection molding or is simply not possible. You might not think that the Protoceratops was made in a two-part mold.
Another big problem with modeling on the computer is the transfer to a real model. The textures are sometimes not as “crisp” as they are on the computer, perhaps also because the figure is smaller than expected. Modeling by hand has clear advantages here. But that was a learning process and I think you will see a clear difference with Tethyshadros in particular.
Which are the next initiatives that fans and collectors should expect in the future?
Well, a few days passed between the questions and my answers, in which we presented another model: The Scutosaurus from Kayakasaurus, which some Paleo-Nerds are sure to know. I am very happy that this contact came about and that we can add more ideas, inspiration, talent, and skills to our team.
Due to the high administrative effort involved in creating the figures, I will unfortunately have less time for modeling. But how exactly our future will look like after these first 4 figures, I cannot say. It depends heavily on the financial success of these figures and whether we can afford more.
What I can say for sure: we are not running out of ideas 😉
That is also the reason why, apart from the main series, we will offer a few more models at Shapeways. Because the models are printed there, we have a space in which we can be creative and not have to worry about production.
Can you give us some links to your site or social platforms? Where can collectors buy your models?
Our website can be reached at wildpast-studio.de
The site is still not finished, but you can already find information about the figures and animals there, as well as our sources.
You can also find us on Instagram & Twitter
The Kayakasaurus channel available on YouTube is always worth checking out.
At the moment our figures are available at Everything Dinosaur, Dan’s Dinosaurs & Urzeitshop. Links to the shops can be found on our website.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to write some lines about Wild Past and me. I hope you, as an Italian Dino-Nerd, will appreciate the Tethyshadros we made.