How did your career as an artist begin? What has influenced your artwork? Did you always want to be an artist?

I come from a family of artists. I was basically always encouraged to create artwork. My mom was a big fan of sci-fi and horror films and the paranormal. She was the type of person that would take me to the drive-in every weekend to see new horror and sci-fi movies — Planet of the Apes, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Omega Man were my favorites. On the weekends, she’d sit me down to watch creature features — King Kong, The Creature From The Black Lagoon and all of those great black-and-white films.

She was really involved in ESP and all of the weird stuff. I was a born skeptic but was always around it. It sparked a very early interest in me for the weird stuff. Anyway, being an artist with that in mind, that’s all I drew — and she encouraged me to do so.

How did you get into doing artwork for bands?

After becoming a musician in high school, my interest in rock and roll grew. When I gave up being a musician (because I was so bad at it), I turned around and started doing artwork for bands. After doing some stuff for some local bands in San Diego, I started working for Motley Crue when I was 18. To encapsulate a long period of time — about 18 years — after working with Motley, I started working with a number of other bands. Mainly, it was a lot of the “hair bands” — Guns n’ Roses, Aerosmith… I always kind of hated doing the “hair band” stuff because I didn’t really like the music. I was having a lot of fun hanging out with these bands, but I was always listening to weirder music.

Eventually, I started working with grunge bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, then a lot of punk bands like the Ramones. I worked for years with the Black Crowes, and really dug it. They gave me a lot of freedom, and Chris [?, lead singer] was always a good friend to me. He is one of my favorite people in the world. I worked a lot with Skinny Puppy. They are my favorite band and we have like minds, so they would just turn me loose.

What was it like being on the road with some of these bands?

Bands would take me on the road with them, but it really wasn’t that fun. It sounds like it’s fun, but it’s not — especially when they are taking you out there and locking you up in a hotel room for a few days and having you just draw. It just wasn’t that fun. There were always some weird stories that came out of it and weird stuff to deal with. I had more fun with it when bands came into town and I got to go meet with them, show them artwork and have a good time.

How does working for a corporation differ from past experiences working as a freelance artist? Do you like the corporate side of the industry? Is working for a corporation more rewarding than freelancing?

Being in the corporate situation at Mattel, I think I’m lucky because I get to be the way I want to be. I didn’t have to conform to come here. My peers and the people above me accepted me right away. I’m still considered a loose cannon and a goof ball, but that is fine with me — that means I’m in control of what I want to do, and I’m not really conforming to any form of art direction.

I like the corporate thing, but it’s different [than working for other companies] because I’m working with creative people. Every day is a different day. You design artwork and you get accolades for it. When you’re working by yourself and you’re doing some big painting or something, it’s a different situation. When you turn over a painting or album cover, two years later they’ll send you a t-shirt or a poster or something and that’s it.

How did you actually end up working for Mattel? Your background is in painting. Was it tough to make the transition to computer artwork?

It’s actually kind of a fluke because I had no interest in working anywhere (other than freelancing). Probably about a year before I came to Mattel, I was experimenting with what you can do with a computer. I had always been a painter. I got very quick at doing paintings on the computer, and I had heard that you could do very well if you knew what you were doing. So I sent out a few resumes to some companies just to see what I could get. A couple of months later, I was contacted by Mattel, and they told me that someone from Hot Wheels wanted to meet with me. It was Michael Heralda. I met with him, and we hit it off really well. I had always loved Hot Wheels cars, so it was — and has been — a perfect fit.

So you are happy with where you are? What is your current position in Design?

I love it. I plan on retiring here. We don’t have a position called art director, but that is sort of what I am. Basically, I’m the manager of Hot Wheels graphics. I’m still a key designer, but I’m also the scheduler. I handle all of the corporate stuff and try to keep all of the designers’ lives as creative as possible by absorbing all of the corporate stuff.

As an art director, you must get to guide the direction of Hot Wheels graphics? Where is this side of Hot Wheels headed?

I’ve tried to bring a new theory to Hot Wheels graphics. My interest is mainly with the kid-oriented stuff. We are always going to have that collector following that wants the serious decorations, serious pinstripes and serious flame jobs. There is always a market for that. That is easy. They are fun to do, and they always come out great. But my interest is to make kids go crazy over not just the car but also the graphic designs.

My philosophy with it is that each car is a canvas. So every time you get a car to do, it’s a challenge. I want to make sure that we are working with the design of the car but, at the same time, it needs to be something that you’ll never see on a real-life car.

I kind of look at it like skateboards. The younger kids pick out a board because of the graphics. The older kids pick out a board because they like the design of the deck, the rider, or the sponsor. I’m gearing toward making kids walk down the aisle and say, “I want that one!”

Coming from a background that could be described as a little more edgy than children’s products, do you ever feel that you have to hold back or be more “mom-friendly” than before?

I think “mom-friendly” is a corporate word. I think that people who think that way don’t give moms enough credit. The majority of mothers that are buying toys for their kids these days are way more hip than they are given credit for. Moms are, in my opinion, more aware of trends that are going on in youth culture — therefore, I don’t think they are as offended as one is led to believe. Most kids are blowing the skulls of aliens and innocent bystanders inside-out with nuclear sniper cannons on their video screens these days. The days of June Cleaver are over. I think we would have to go out of our way to really offend anybody, and if we did, it would smack of trying to offend.

I like things to be edgy based on the quality of the artwork and not necessarily the content. I think that is a true challenge, and it makes for a better Hot Wheels design. You can take the simplest thing and make it edgy; it just relies on how you approach the design.

When we come up with ideas for themes for segments and 5-packs, it is a huge group effort. We have an open invitation to all Mattel employees every year to submit ideas for these, and always come out of it with a vast list of possible themes. A lot of them we have to shelve because the timing might be off — they might be just a tad too edgy for the time. I personally can hardly wait to unleash these things on the public! In the meantime, we are going to push it as far as we can.

I’ve currently completed a sci-fi 5-pack, a sideshow 5-pack, and four Halloween 2-packs — so I’m having a fun year! I am really proud of these, because I really have pushed limits with the tampo and have gotten back great results from the plant. The Halloween 2-packs are really going to be something — vampire, werewolf, mummy and zombie themes. Each has one car that is black with black, white, and grey tampo. The other car is colored with full-color tampo. I’m going to buy a trunk full of these things to give out to all the little hellions that live in my neighborhood for Halloween this year — and keep a stockpile for myself as well.

The Hot Wheels Convention last October was the first convention you had attended. What was that experience like for you?

Overwhelming to say the least. The collectors are so passionate about the brand, and so generous. I have sat and signed art before for groups of people back in my rock and roll days, but this was way different. I am involved in something that means so much to people, something that has been a part of their life since they were children. It is strange to feel that appreciation and, at the same time, know that I am riding a fine line of possibly not meeting the approval of the global Hot Wheels community. But the real highlight for me is meeting the kids. They’re what it’s all about to me. I’m really looking forward to the Nationals in Virginia this year — it will be a hoot.

Explain how the graphic design process works…

The graphics team divides up the themes, then we pick our “wish list” vehicles for the themes. With us being involved in this process, it allows us to be more involved from the beginning, and gives us more time to think out the deco. It also helps avoid inappropriate “hot potato” cars to show up in weird places… like the Ice Cream Truck going into the “Wild West” segment. Once I get a guarantee that I’m going to get the cars that I picked for that series, I start with thumbnail sketches or overlays over the shape of the car.

Are these hand-drawn sketches?

Right. That is what I feel comfortable with. Michael Heralda, for example, has been doing this for a long time. He is a mad scientist at this [designing graphics on the computer]. He can do three to four cars a day without having to sketch something out. He is brilliant that way. I’m more meticulous, because I’m always trying to re-invent the wheel, trying to find the artwork move within the body working with wheel wells and the shape of the body. I just haven’t had enough time working on the computer. I always do a sketch first and then, once I get that to where I like it, I scan it and build it on the computer.

So you feel that you are getting a lot more out of tampo printing then you used to be able to?

Yes. We’ve been getting away with a lot lately with tampo printing. When I first came here, I was told that you can’t do a line this way, that you can’t use gradients because they get too dotty, etc. The plants have not only gotten better, but I think we were limited in what we were able to do because we simply weren’t trying to do certain things.

On a fluke, I just started trying things and on each thing I did I was getting stuff back that looked like fusion graphics. Of course I’ve seen things come back that we expected to work better, but more times then not we are getting very nice things back. As a group we have talked about spending time trying to push the envelope with the printing process. So, hopefully, you’re going to see the graphics take a wild transition.

With tampo printing, are you limited to four colors?

Right, you are limited to four colors. But, if you are using gradients and stuff like that, it really works more like a four-color process. The eye perceives colors that aren’t really there. If you use gradients, you might end up with three or four colors — rather than just the two colors that are really there. To me, we need to one-up it every year and push it as far as we can.

Last year you visited several of our production facilities overseas. What did you gain from that experience?

The most important thing was that I learned how the tampo process works. After being involved in the rock business, primarily what I was doing was t-shirts. Tampo is basically the same thing. It’s like silk screening. Seeing the ink actually being put on the cars blew my mind and, when I came back from there, I started to push the limits of what we could do.

There has always been this talk about fusion graphics becoming the future when it becomes more cost effective. But, in all honesty, I think fusion graphics should stay their own separate entity. The thing that is cool about tampo is that it’s like a painting on the car, a piece of artwork. I like the idea that you can feel the deco on your fingertips. It gives it soul. A decal doesn’t have that.

The trip just gave me a whole new appreciation for Hot Wheels cars. It blew me away. These things are handcrafted! To me, every time you buy a Hot Wheels car, you are buying a limited edition print. I take pride in making sure every piece of artwork reeks of that.

 DESIGNER PROFILE      All Designs by Miq Willmott

Date posted: August 20, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Red Line Club

Want to drive your own life-sized Hot Wheels® car? Chevrolet made it easier when they created the Hot Wheels® Special Edition 2013 Chevrolet® Camaro® Coupe. Now, we’re going to make it even easier for one lucky grand prize winner with our Hot Wheels For Real™ Camaro® Sweepstakes!

The promotion period begins on August 1, 2013 and ends on October 31, 2013. There are two ways to enter the Sweepstakes (Only one entry per person per email address will be accepted regardless of entry method.):

  1. Scan the QR Code on Hot Wheels® product displays available at participating Kroger stores during the Promotion Period. (Compatible mobile device required.)
  2. Access the Promotion website available online at and follow the instructions provided to enter the Sweepstakes.

The Grand Prize is one sweet ride! You’ll be cruising around in a Hot Wheels® Special Edition 2013 Chevrolet® Camaro® Coupe with the RS package, equipped with Chevrolet® MyLink, Navigation Package and automatic transmission (subject to potential winner qualification and vehicle availability). No more just gazing longingly at your 1:64 edition and dreaming of possibilities — this one is for real!

Make sure you carefully read the Official Rules for all details, restrictions, and eligibility requirements.

Good luck!

Date posted: August 9, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Collecting HWC Offers Promotions

It’s time again to get your plans rolling for the big show! The 27th Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention returns to Orange County this year for some of the most friend- and fun-filled times any true die-cast collector can imagine. Tickets for the show are available now!

What: 27th Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention
When: Wednesday, Sept. 25 – Sunday, Sept. 29
Where: Hyatt Regency Orange County, Garden Grove, CA
More Info: Check out
to purchase tickets or for more information.

Your event ticket gets you into the show, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of room-to-room trading, seminars, autograph sessions and more. But there are also a number of very special events that require additional specific ticket purchases in advance. (Specific details can be found in the confirmation packet you receive once you buy your tickets to the Convention.) These events include:

“Evening With Phil Riehlman” Dinner: The man who brought you some of your favorite castings — such as the Volkswagen Drag Bus and the Blown Delivery — celebrates 20 years with Mattel! The gourmet dinner will be held on Thursday night, September 26. Dinner guests will receive a very special souvenir dinner car (produced by Mattel, limited to no more than 2,000 pieces), t-shirt, pin, and more. Note that seats are limited.

HWC Vending Machine: Make sure you sign up early for your pulls — there will only be five sessions. You’ll get some great Hot Wheels merchandise from this goodie-filled machine. There’s a reason why people line up for this — and then come back for more!

No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament (Charity event): The poker tournament begins at 10:00 AM on Thursday morning. Win great prizes, benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and have fun!

Button Bingo (Charity event): There will be two sessions during the show. The first session will be on Wednesday at 8:30 PM and the second session on Friday at 1:30 PM. Fun, and it’s for a good cause.

Hot Wheels Convention Mania Game (Charity event): The latest convention craze is still going strong! Begins on Thursday afternoon at 2:00 PM.

And speaking of charity, don’t forget to show up for the Charity Auction on Friday night (admission included with your ticket to the show). This also includes the silent auction. All charity benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, so we urge you to participate.

NOTE: Tickets for the Convention are $70.00 each ($75.00 if purchased online) and good for all five days. You may purchase tickets online (see More Info link above) or by mail. (Tickets are not sold at the door.) Tickets are limited and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Ticket sales will end September 6 or when the last ticket is sold, whichever occurs first. This event is produced by Collectors Events Unlimited, LLC under license from Mattel.

Date posted: August 9, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

Categories: Collecting Conventions/Events