Kumagoro!By Kris Kleckner, Producer, 2005
When we first licensed Gravitation, I had hoped that we'd be able to immediately start producing merchandise for the show. However, as industry insiders will tell you, licensing a show does not automatically entitle you to merchandise or soundtrack rights for that show; so we started negotiating. Now, working with Japanese companies to acquire licenses takes a lot of patience. It can take months or even years for Japanese company to even consider allowing an U.S. company to license something.
So once we were finally able to reach an agreement, we launched immediately into production of the one item I wanted to make the most: Ryuichi's Kumagoro (that's "Mr. Bear" in the English version). The production of a plush isn't as easy as it sounds, especially when you have the intimidating prospect of having it scrutinized by both the producer of the show and Maki Murakami herself (that's the author of the manga which inspired the show).
Not to be daunted, we launched into production and began to search far and wide for an experienced quality toy manufacturer. After all, if Right Stuf is going to do something, we want to make sure it's done right! Once we located our manufacturer, we started what is known as the"prototyping" phase. This is where you send tons of sketches and images to a skilled designer, so that they can get an idea of what you want, and turn it into reality. The first prototype version looked, well, sorta like a mix between a rabbit and a dog. It sort of reminded me of something you might find at a street carnival. You can see what I mean in the pictures to the right. It definitely wasn't Kumagoro, but we had a lot faith in the people we were working with. They set back to work and within a couple more rounds of changes we had him - Kumagoro was finally real!
Think he looks good in the pictures? You should play with him in real life. He's totally true to scale as seen in the show (he's 14" tall, 6" wide and 5" deep). Plus he's soft, floppy, and absolutely so cuddly that you'll never want to put him down. It was very, very hard for me to give up my sample and send it to the Japanese to review. But it was worth it - I am happy to report that Ryuichi's favorite loveable, huggable Kumagoro has been approved by our Japanese licensor, and is now available for pre-order! (See the plush section for details.)
I sincerely hope that you enjoy him! If there's a special something that you'd like to see, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know… you might see more of your favorite Gravitation characters soon!