Large as life: the creative process behind those amazing E3 trade show figures

In an increasingly digital world, there’s something all the more impressive about something with a huge physical presence. And in terms of marketing, things don’t get much bigger than the Hulkbuster armour pictured above.

Standing an awe-inspiring four metres tall, the model is the biggest to date from German firm Muckle Mannequins. The firm has created life-sized figures across both Marvel and DC film franchises in recent years, but has also worked on games franchises such as Zelda, Bioshock, Tomb Raider and many more over a 20-year span.

It’s also a company MCV has quite an attachment to, as one of Muckle’s 2003 Tomb Raider models still greets every visitor to our London office today.

As well as creating life-sized figures for point-of-sale, Muckle can work on a smaller scale too, designing models that can be packaged with special editions of games, for instance. We catch up with Matthias Muckle to talk about the business and the opportunities for games publishers and retailers in such models.

How did you get into creating life-sized game characters?

Around 20 years ago I visited an exhibition of software developers in Cologne. I saw a life-size game figure there of Lara Croft and wondered if it made sense to replicate it as an eye-catcher for point-of-sale locations. I discovered the figure had been built as just one single part, which would make shipping replicas in high quantities very expensive. However, it was agreed that I could use the game character as a prototype to create casting molds. So I packed the figure after the fair and set about producing it in large numbers.

How many figures have you designed since then and how do you imagine the creation of a new figure?

Before production we need to clarify how the character ultimately has to look, in close consultation with the client. What stance should it have? Should it have any special accessories? Which colours need to be used? Which surface texture should it have? Sometimes we even have to wait for the approval from the actor portraying the character.

When this step is done, and the prototype approved, it can then be replicated. Again, extreme precision and artistic talent are required when it comes to the painting. This is mainly done by hand and requires specialist talent.

Has the decline in physical sales impacted the demand for point-of-sale figures?

Our figures have actually become more and more important in the point-of-sale activity of many markets, since they attract the attention of clients.

We have also built figures ranging from just keychain-sized right up to the Hulkbuster. We produce mainly life-size figures which are needed for movie releases or are used at exhibitions, but there’s also a huge market in small figurines for limited editions [such as the Mad Max: Fury Road Collector’s Edition below].

In the past few years, 3D printing has brought about big changes, and we are always striving to pick up on and implement innovations. Now it is no problem for us now to produce individual figures at short notice and small editions for trade fairs.

With over 20 years to draw on, which figures have stood out for you?

You develop a special bond with each figure after such a long development period. You take care on every detail and you start thinking about the role of this character. Therefore it is hard for me to have a favourite figure.

That said, our first Lara Croft figure is very special to me because it was the one that made it possible for us to start in this business. One of the most popular figures is the Joker from The Dark Knight. The expression of this character – portrayed by legendary actor Heath Ledger – is astonishing.

One of our largest figures is Hulkbuster, which is so large that we have problems to assemble it in our showroom. In order to use Hulkbuster, we always have to disassemble the roof light in our studio!

Last year, we created a type of Spider-Man which hangs down from the roof. This model is an absolute eye-catcher which can go up and down with the help of a motor.

The Justice League figures were a big challenge as we had to both produce a complete set of seven figures and deliver all of them worldwide on time, for the movie release. Such projects require you to cooperate with your licensors and logistics partners very closely.

For further details see or contact Aziz Mir at or on +49 (0)621/8281395 

This advertorial feature was created in association with Muckle’s Mannequins

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