Reis O’Brien is Handmade by Robots Now!

As huge Handmade by Robots fans, we saw this a few weeks ago we just had to get the inside scoop!

Turns out he is now a proud member of the Handmade by Robots team and we had to find out more.

That is Reis who worked for Funko, created Bimtoy and its Tiny Ghost, did some of The Creatives cards and is an inductee of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame! So we reached out to the Robots to find out everything we need to know about the new Handmade By Robots Creative Director and we hope you’ll be as excited as we are for what’s to come.



Reis, what was the first collectible you ever owned? What got you hooked?

That’s a hard one to answer! Mostly because what we consider collectibles now were just my toys that I played with when I was a kid. But I guess if we’re talking about specifically buying a toy for the purposes of display over play, I’d have to go with Hasbro’s 12-inch Star Wars figures from the mid to late 90s. I had all of them standing on shelves in my old apartment. That’s the first time that I remember buying something just to set on a shelf and stare at with geeky joy.

Maybe sets like this gave Reis inspiration?


What do you collect today?

Ha! What don’t I collect? As a toy and collectibles designer, I’m constantly picking up things for “research”. But there are certain collectibles that I’m crazy about. Like the “Panzer” sofubi figures from MechNoiz and Mezco’s One12 Collective figures. I’m also a full-blown Lego addict.

We can see why he likes these Mezco figures


But there are a few things, not toy-related, of which I’m building a pretty massive collection. Comic books, being a big one for me, specifically bronze age stuff. I’m also very much into toy soldiers, from modern-day plastic ones to lead ones from the 1930s. I also collect scrimshaw, which is an old sailor’s art form of scratching and inking in images on whale teeth. But I only collect replica scrimshaw, which is done on resin made to look like teeth.

We bet Reis will like Kobe Toys
(made by port workers in Japan in the 19th Century)


What is that one collectible that eludes you? Do you have a personal grail?

Hmmm… I’ve been pretty fortunate to score many of my grails over the years. It takes a lot of patience and diligence, but most of them show up eventually. The one that’s truly eluding me these days is from a vintage action figure line from the 80s called “Nightmare Warriors”. Imagine He-man figures, but they’re skeletons dressed as historical characters. I have them all but the “Poncho Villa” figure. I know he’s out there, but he rarely pops up and when he does, he’s insanely expensive. One day, though…


How did you get started in toy design? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Yes, I’ve wanted to be a toy designer my whole life. Ever since my grandfather put the idea in my head on Christmas morning when I was 5-years-old. He was an artsy guy and knew I was inheriting that trait from him, but saw my love for the toys I had just opened, and mentioned how one day I could be making toys like this. The concept that somebody had to draw out and engineer this toy hit me like a lightning bolt. Ever since then, I wondered “How can I become one of these people?”


And now he is one of those people!


I actually didn’t get started until later in life. It wasn’t until my 30s when I was working as a graphic tee designer that I found a way to get my toe into the toy design world. We were doing this thing called “gift with purchase”, where you’d buy a kids graphic tee and there would be a cheap toy related to the graphic attached to the hanger. None of my coworkers wanted to work on the toys, but the company needed someone to take it over and be in charge of everything, and I couldn’t have volunteered faster. So that’s how it began, with me coming up with knock-off Transformers, Madballs wannabes, and tiny skateboards. 

We want to see Reis’ Madballs
(here are some we already documented)


What was the first design you ever did?

Another difficult question! Again, I eased into toy design, so there were many little-known designs that I did in the beginning, but I guess my first official design that got some notice were the Jungle Book Pops that I did for Funko. I designed Baloo and King Louie, both of which were a challenge, and to this day I suspect that they were hazing the new guy a bit. I was like, “Can’t I get an easier first assignment, like a human or something?” Haha!

Good enough for The Bare Necessities…


What is it about Handmade by Robots that drew you to them?

I was aware of HMBR since ECCC 2018 and had bought a few at retail, but it was at NYCC 2019 when I went by their booth and noticed that there was this excited buzz coming from all the people walking up to it. I saw people walk by, double-take at the booth, stop dead in their tracks, then walk over saying things like, “Oh wow! Look at these!” That’s when I first realized that HMBR was the new rising star and I started thinking that I missed that honest, sincere excitement from the collectors and wanted to be a part of that again.

We felt the Force as well …


What can we look forward to with HMBR?

So many great things on their horizon! We’ll be going even bigger in our Knit series, but you’ll begin to see subtle, yet extremely charming, steps in evolution. We’re also beginning to explore new possibilities in brand new form factors, not only in vinyl, but in other materials as well. We’re researching interesting techniques in collectible design from around the world and drawing inspiration from them. I have a ton of ideas, Mary has a ton of ideas, and our biggest problem is which ones to do first. Not to mention, we’re having great conversations with new licenses, so expect to see many more fan favorites getting the HMBR treatment!

It’s all a big secret, the only thing we found so far is this doodle…


What are some of the inspirations behind your own brands Bimtoy and Tiny Ghost?

Honestly, with Tiny Ghost, I was inspired by the simplicity of many classic characters. Ones that were very basic shapes with minimal features for the faces, like Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Miffy, etc. Then I took inspiration from Japanese toys, where a basic form factor gets treated with different colorways and printing on the vinyl. I feel that I took that about as far as I could take it, which is why I shifted gears with the Soul Mates line, turning Tiny Ghost into more of an expressive character. That expressiveness was inspired by my favorite comics and cartoons from decades past, like Peyo’s Smurfs, Hank Ketchham’s Dennis the Menace and Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. Then I added a huge dash of MAD Magazine’s sense of tongue-in-cheek parody and irreverence, which is keeping everything fun and silly.

Meet Pacific Northwest Tiny Ghost


Do you have any advice for someone looking to break into the toy design industry?

The most important thing is to just be a “doer”. You’ve got to immerse yourself in toy design, study everything that’s out there (for both inspiration and also what’s already been done). Also, study toy history. That’s incredibly important. As toy designers, we come from a rich history of artists, idea people, kooky characters and trail blazers. You can’t truly be a part of that without knowing where you’ve come from. 

But the most important part of being a “doer” is to always be doing something. Sketching, doodling, creating constantly. Every day, I try to put something into this world that wasn’t there before. Even if it’s just a scribbled idea on a Post-It note. Get it down on paper (or your IPad, these days), because it’s not doing you or anyone else any good locked away in your brain. Also, getting ideas out, makes room for new ones to grow. Are they all going to be great? Absolutely not. But there will be gems in there, I promise. As long as you keep creating.

Every Toy Designer needs a Lair


Thanks, Reis!  This was fun and we cannot wait to see what you will come up at Handmade by Robots!



Tell Reis what you want to see next.
Comment below!

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Ray Houk
Ray Houk
1 month ago

I would love to see Beebo from Legends of Tomorrow !

1 month ago

I would love to see:

Eric Draven “The Crow”
Donnie Darko
Frank The Bunny “Donnie Darko”
Art The Clown “Terrifier”

Just to name a few! Love you guys!!

1 month ago

Anything gory would be great!

1 month ago

I saw your Godzilla and was thinking of getting one. How about the various Dinos from Jurassic Park? I bet you they would look great!

1 month ago

Amazing interview. Wishing to see a Star Wars line by HMBR in the short term.

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