|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2008)|
Art Asylum is a New York City based design studio and toy company, responsible for innovative design work on toy and collectible lines for several manufacturers, as well as on their own products. Sculpting, painting, packaging and illustration were all done in-house, and they have contributed much to the hobby, including pioneering work in the 1:4 scale realm, concealed articulation and the Minimate mini-figure. It lives on today as a division of Diamond Select Toys.
Started by Digger Mesch and Donna Soldano in 1996, Art Asylum was initially just a work-for-hire sculpting studio which designed various action figures, busts and statues for numerous toy companies such as ToyCom and Playmates. A notable job in this period was the design and production of the "Scuba Steve" action figure prop for the 1999 Adam Sandler film Big Daddy. They also sculpted deluxe Star Trek action figures for Playmates, and designed new packaging for the U.S. release of Kaiyodo's Neon Genesis Evangelion action figures.
With an increasingly profitable segment of the toy market being older collectors seeking heavily detailed quality designs, Art Asylum decided to enter the market as a full toy company. A small player compared to industry giants like Hasbro and Mattel, Art Asylum's licenses ranged from well-known brands like Star Trek, Eminem and Tony Hawk to more cult properties like Bruce Lee, Dark Angel and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They also signed leading rock and metal musicians like KISS, Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie for a number of categories. The Star Trek range became one of their signature licenses, and they released action figures, Minimates, role play items and electronic starships for multiple incarnations of the franchise.
Art Asylum also has a history of collaborations with other companies, starting with Aztech Toys, with whom they made the first series of Silent Screamers action figures in 2000. They next partnered with Play Along Toys in 2002 for The Lord of the Rings Minimates and the C3 Construction line (including sets based on Batman and Justice League), and partnerships with Diamond Select Toys and DC Direct have given it access to popular licenses like Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
The company dissolved in 2007, and some assets (including the Art Asylum name and the Minimates brand) were acquired by Diamond Select. The company still maintains a New York City office, and many of Diamond Select's toy lines feature design and sculpting work by former Art Asylum staffers. The Art Asylum logo appears on all packaging, and the Art Asylum site is now Diamond Select's official blog.
The company's enduring legacy are the block-style miniature figures Minimates, which Diamond Select continues to produce for a wide variety of licenses. Diamond Select also continues to produce a variety of Star Trek items, continuing the toy categories begun by Art Asylum.
Art Asylum Licenses
- Alice Cooper - Minimate, quarter-scale action figures and Rock 'N' the Box
- Bruce Lee - Minimates and quarter-scale action figure
- Celebrity Deathmatch - Promotional Minimate only
- Clive Barker’s Jump Tribe - Plush
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Action figures and Minimates
- Dark Angel - Action figures, vehicle and Minimate
- Eminem - Action figures
- Iron Maiden - "Eddie" Minimate, quarter-scale action figure and Rock 'n the Box.
- KISS - Minimates, 24" action figures and Rock 'N' the Box
- Kung Faux - Special Limited Edition "Break Boy!" Minimate
- Madballs - Reproductions of vintage Madballs, plus new designs
- Napster - Minimates and plush (both unproduced)
- Ozzy Osbourne - Minimate, quarter-scale action figure and Rock 'N' the Box
- Rob Zombie - Minimate, quarter-scale action figure and Rock 'N' the Box
- Speed Racer - Minimates and vehicles
- Star Trek - Minimates, action figures, electronic ships and role play items
- Tony Hawk - Minimates (unproduced) and action figures
- DC Comics C3 Construction - with Play Along Toys
- The Lord of the Rings Minimates - with Play Along Toys
- Marvel Minimates - with Diamond Select Toys
- Silent Screamers - with Aztech Toys
- Spider-Man Rogues Bust Series - with Diamond Select Toys
- Star Trek Alien Combat Series - with Playmates Toys
- "KISS Toys From Art Asylum 'N' The Box' & 'MiniMates'," http://www.kissasylum.com/news/artasylum022002.shtml
- "Rock 'N Boxes From Art Asylum," http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/481.html
- "TNI Spotlight: U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A From Art Asylum," http://toynewsi.com/index.php?itemid=1826
- "Toy Fair 2003 - Art Asylum," http://www.figures.com/databases/action.cgi?setup_file=fignews2.setup&category=actionfigures&topic=101&show_article=114