Regal Robot made their big debut just a couple years ago at Star Wars Celebration Orlando and made a big impression. Their high-end decorative collectibles have had fans drooling ever since. The journey to that point, however, required a lot of hard work, and even more passion.
Tom Spina, the creative founder behind the company has been working around the movie prop industry for a long time now. He fell in love with film as a child, but got his professional start as an intern at the Jim Henson Company which, he explains, was life-altering, “It showed me all these amazing people doing creative things for a living and let me know, ‘yes, [I] can pursue [my] dreams.’ From there, it was all about perseverance; working “real” jobs and doing whatever I could on the side to expand my hobby and skills and turn it into something more.”
Tom’s work before Regal Robot included working on all new stuff, but also saw him champion a relatively new field of movie prop restoration. His work in preserving the iconic masks/costumes has made him highly sought after by collectors and conservators looking to preserve bits of TV/film history. While Regal Robot offers up brand new products and creations for fans, Tom explains that the restoration work is often the more challenging of the two tasks, “Our approach is extremely sympathetic to the needs of each individual piece and takes a very, very careful touch. I’ve got a wonderfully talented team that puts incredible effort into the unique challenges of each restoration project.
“Our goal is always to maintain as much of the original piece as we can. To be sure our work doesn’t obscure anything original. When we repair, we always only paint the repairs and keep as much original paint untouched as we can. It’s a matter of doing as little as possible, but as much as necessary. A tricky balancing act that’s different for every prop that comes through.”
Throughout his career, Tom has had the chance to work on some pretty cool projects along with handling some seriously iconic pieces of movie history. As such, I had to know what’s the coolest thing he’s had the chance to work on, “Oh wow, I couldn’t choose! I think the work we’ve done conserving the original Muftak costume from Star Wars certainly ranks very highly. Recreating many of the cantina creatures from that film for commercials and such is another high point. Oh and our work conserving pieces for the Museum of the Moving Images’ Jim Henson exhibit really brought things full circle for me.”
Star Wars is the primary focus of Regal Robot’s endeavors, but I asked Tom if there were any other “dream” properties he wanted to work with for licensed material, “There are a few licenses I’d love to explore but wouldn’t want to tip our hand. If we had to pick just one Star Wars movie, for me, it would have to be the original 1977 film. That was the start of it all and there is so much cool stuff packed into that film. Genius on all levels. All these years later and I still get goosebumps. Endless inspiration!”
While the origins of Regal Robot are unique and fun, it’s what the future holds that fans and collectors are sure to find the most exciting. They just announced a new product line called the Star Wars Custom Character Studio. The Studio will offer up limited edition busts and maquettes of the most iconic creatures/characters in the galaxy far, far away but the coolest thing is the ability to commission a custom sculpture! So even if your favorite character rarely gets any attention from the collectible market, you can make it happen.
“This is a new endeavor in our licensed work,” tom explained, “where we’re expanding from decor and furniture to now offer 1:1 character busts and statues, maquettes and other collectible art. It’s a progression of decades of work doing FX style sculpture and working with original props, and giving folks a chance to not just buy limited editions (which we will be doing, of course) but also commission custom pieces and get statues they’ve dreamed of but never seen made!
“Over the years my team and I have had the opportunity to recreate the cantina many times for commercials and official video projects, each time excitedly adding new characters to our roster. Now, we’re bringing those years of research and our sculpting skills to this new endeavor…Our new Star Wars sculptures can draw from any of the Star Wars theatrical releases and we can also interpret concept art and paintings, or recreate maquettes and conceptual sculptures, making that galaxy of inspiration that much bigger.”
Custom commissions and “officially licensed” don’t seem to immediately go together. As a collector for the past couple decades, I was curious to know how something like that worked when it comes to a property as large as Star Wars (which is also fiercely protected as an IP), and how the approval process still applied:
“We’re very lucky to have a wonderful partner in Lucasfilm. The people there are as passionate as we are about these characters and the films. Each piece we make, whether a product where we’re creating 50 or 100 pieces, or a custom item made for a private collector, does have to get approved and go through a several step process. There are some limitations, but it’s a bit case-by-case and often, those limitations lead us to creative solutions we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”
So, while you (probably) can’t get a custom statue of a Hulked-out Darth Maul riding a dragon into Mordor, you can still get some quality work on your favorite characters/creatures (even if they barely appeared on screen). It’s an incredibly neat idea and you’ll be able to learn more about it at their booth during this year’s Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, “We’re about two months away and definitely in high gear at the studio prepping for the show! We’ll be giving folks their first in-person look at (and chance to purchase!) our Tauntaun Maquette Replica – Phil Tippett Signature Edition and Life Sized Chewbacca Bust, as well as our Space Slug Desk Organizer set which is in the works right now!”
Since Regal Robot made their big debut at Celebration Orlando, with their incredibly cool Dewback couch, I had to know what they were planning to bring to the show floor this year, “The Dewback Sofa found a home last year, but we’re working on a few possibilities for a cool item for folks to take pics with at our booth.”
I couldn’t pry the information out of him, but with Celebration just around the corner Star Wars attendees will find out soon enough. Until then, I appreciate Tom taking the time to chat with me about what’s ahead for the company and why Star Wars fans should be keeping an eye on their stuff.
For more information about Regal Robot, or to order some of their products, be sure to check out their official website.