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20 Questions with Casimir

Posted by: vader at 1:28 am on Saturday, December 2, 2006

I’m quite certain that the name Cason Pilliod or Casimir (as he is known online) is no mystery to both the action figure collector and the avid fan of Bruce Timm’s work on the DC animated series. Cason is known to most of us as the man who makes his own action figures based on characters from the DCAU, such as Batman: the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited. If the toy franchise based on any of these series hasn’t produced an action figure of its more popular (and sometimes even obscure) characters, it is very likely that Cason will make one just to add to his personal collection. And in some cases when toy companies do produce certain characters but doesn’t get them quite right, expect Cason to fix things and make them more show-accurate.

It may have been noticeable lately that Cason has been less visible online. His web site, Inanimate Objects, has not been updated in almost half a year. Fanboys (myself included) have come to expect something new posted there at least once every month. So a long hiatus like this leaves many of us wondering – has he hung up the Dremel and gone into retirement?

Well, I have just been so privileged to be granted an interview by the “man of mystery” himself. I’m very pleased to share with everyone an update on Casimir and a slice of his life as he answers some old and new questions for us.

Oh, and just to side-track for a second here, Cason has also granted us the first exclusive look at his new collection set up in his very new home. You can check them out in the Gallery section later.

Now let’s get on with the questions…

1. What is your “real” job? Is it in any way related to toys?

Currently, I’m a Production Artist, meaning I perform layout work for publications and advertising media. It’s not really related to toys, except that I tend to have access to the best art and layout programs available, and I tend to use those in all my projects, toy-related or otherwise.

2. Do you have a favorite toy from childhood? Which one is it?

I doubt I could narrow it down to one, and if I did it would likely change with my mood. Most people know about my old Sesame Street Grover doll that still hangs around. He likes to travel the world and get his picture taken in far away lands. Action figure-wise, I’m still fond of the original Millennium Falcon playset. Who isn’t? The more I look at the vintage Star Wars ships, the more I appreciate the skill and talent that was required to scale these down to an affordable size and still make them visually identifiable. As for others… I sometimes wish I still had a full set of Dinobots. I think those would look swell on my desk.

3. How/When did you get into customizing action figures?

Well, there’s two answers to that question. On one hand, I’ve been modifying my toys to meet my expectations since I was a wee lad. For example, I thought the trash compactor on the Death Star playset was too small and weak, so I built a larger one that could really mash the figures together. (And it still fit under the playset.) I recall He-Man use used to fly around in a boxy blue ship on the MOTU cartoon. Since there was never a toy made of that ship, I made my own from cardboard. Lest we forget, I also had my own “expansion squad” of Dreaknoks made from swapping G.I. Joe parts. These were just some of many childhood projects.

As an adult, I started creating “customs,” as most of us think of them now, during college. I’d seen an animated Harley Quinn done by the incredibly talented Scooter (http://www.scooterscustomworks.com) in a toy collectors’ magazine. Given that Harley is my favorite, and there was no figure of her at the time, I thought “I could do that.” Little did I know I was taking the first step down a long but delightful road. This was in 1994, maybe 1995. (As a side note, Scooter’s Harley custom that inspired me now hangs on my wall. The guy is pure class!)

4. Who has had the greatest influence on your work?

I suppose the obvious answer is Bruce Timm, as most of my figures are created in his “style.” I’ve always enjoyed visual techniques that can convey great amounts of information using as few elements as possible. In my eyes, it’s a more satisfying challenge to convey a character or story element through simple lines and color. Anybody can create art using messy techniques. It’s easy to hide errors. But a simple style can be unforgiving. It’s all or nothing. Thus my appreciation for the talents of artists like Timm, Ragnar, Cal Slayton, Eric Wight, Shane Glines, Darwyn Cooke, the old masters of animation and so many others.

On a more immediate level, I’m a product of my parents. My dad is quite the craftsman with tools, and my mom can paint, sew and cook like nobody’s business.

5. Your customs seem to revolve mainly around DCAU characters. Why is that so?

As I said above, I’m a big fan of the show’s visual style. I’m also a big fan of good script writing. When BTAS appeared on the air, I hadn’t followed any DC characters for several years. The show’s visual style and lean writing pulled me back in. Like Timm’s simplified designs, the scripts managed to collect sixty years of great stories and characters and boil them down to the most basic essence. The end result was something stronger and cleaner than had come before. Aside from a few stinkers (“Christmas with the Joker” comes to mind), the practice of reducing elements to their most basic premise endured through to the end of JLU. Good writing is the foundation of any good show, be it movie, television or stage. Regardless, the DCAU shows are certainly more enduring than most of the competing super hero programs over the years.

6. How many figures/toys have you customized? Of those, which one is your favorite and why?

How many? Oh dear. I lost count ages ago. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t count them all now. Some have been recycled for parts, and others now live on other continents. Certainly several hundred by now. I probably could have made more over the last ten years, but I prefer to take my time. Quality over quantity.

As to my favorite, that’s like picking your favorite child. There are some that I hold dear because they required a great deal of original sculpting, like Mxyzptlk or Clayface, while others are just silly fun, like Dagobah Artoo. (It’s just dirty brown paint. Took about thirty seconds. What’s not fun about that?)

7. What would you say is the hardest part about doing customs?

I’m going to give you two answers again. First, I find selecting projects of an appropriate skill level can be tough. (I doubt that’s something many people would admit, but I suspect it’s common.) What I mean is, sometimes I’ll start a project that’s effectively more than I can chew. As my skills grow, I always want to try projects that will present a challenge, but sometimes I’ll start a project and realize it’s not yet within my reach. It will get moved to the back burner until my skills catch up with my vision. I can’t tell you how many times I started a Clayface. It was years before I got that one right.

On a more physical level… Sanding. Sanding can be the bane of my existence. It’s the difference between a good custom and a great custom. (Actually, that’s true of any art that requires sanding, like woodwork.) I can certainly do it, and it gets done. I just get tired of it quickly.

8. What is your least favorite part/thing to do when working on a project?

There’s the sanding, but I won’t go on about that again. I also wish I could speed things up. Between waiting for the epoxies to dry, and just finding the time to work while living a full and real life, sometimes it can take months to finish a simple project. That’s not always a bad thing, but it can wear on one’s enthusiasm.

9. What would you create/customize if you had unlimited time and resources?

Eventually, the entire DCAU! Okay, I’m kidding. Partially. Seriously, though if I had unlimited time and resources, I would likely concentrate less on customs per se and more on developing my sculpting skills, plus become more adept at the art of molding and casting.

10. Next to you, who would you consider to be the best customizer? To paraphrase, who is your favorite fellow customizer? Please pick only one and tell us what makes him/her stand out.

Well, first off, there is no “best” customizer. There are lots of talented custom toy-making artists out there, working in numerous styles and mediums. Comparing them, even those who work in the same style, is like comparing apples to oranges. Besides, some days everybody knocks one out of the park, and other days we strike out. As for picking one, I can’t do that. It’s just too hard! Some of my current favorites include Mike Danza, Tyke, Faithfulbutler, Crushinaguy, Doubledealer, Bill Burns, Batlaw, Sami, Airmax, Bottleimp, Chip’d ‘n Stone, Scott Rogers, Glorbes, Scooter, Charlie Jackham, Lars, the always amazing Les Walker, and that’s just a partial list from a fuzzy memory. There are many more, working in many styles.

11. What is the toughest project you’ve had to tackle?

Hmmmm… Generally speaking, I’d say my recent Clayface. Like all Timm designs, the simplicity of the line and shape left no room for error, and that was tough to pull off. I won’t say I managed it 100%, but I feel I got pretty close. He was also 90% an original sculpt, which is just tough to begin with.

12. What is your proudest achievement to date?

Custom-wise, it’s just maintaining a level of quality I’m happy with over the years, plus improvements in skill level. When I look at my customs from ten years ago compared to this year, I can easily see how far I’ve come, and that makes me proud.

13. What is your opinion about toy companies’ gimmicks like “exclusives” and “short-packs”?

Hate ’em. I understand there’s a financial element driving these decisions, but I have yet to read any proof that either tactic actually improves sales. Personally, if I have to run into Target everyday in the hopes of finding an exclusive before the scalpers get to it and then it’s gone, I’m not likely to be in a spending mood and stop for toothpaste. I know that to be a common sentiment. Short-packs make sense in focus groups, but no matter how a pack-out is determined, there will always be some peg-warmers. The solution is to fix a greater problem, and that is distribution and how retailers are able to order. Selling mixed cases may be easier for the accountants, but it ultimately hurts sales when a line dies because of unintended peg warmers. Allowing retailers to order more specialized product would go a long way to extending sales. They could order various quantities of specific characters. True, that requires retailers to actually know the product and what sells, but I never said it would be an easy solution. Also, tying in to that, there’s no reason toys can’t have a specific release date like books and music. (Toys do have specific release dates in Japan.) The only reason it isn’t done is “that’s the way it’s always been done.” It’s time for change. Toys as we know them are losing ground to electronic gizmos every year. An industry that can’t adapt will fade away.

14. Speaking of exclusives, have you made your own rendition of the JLU Hal Jordan? If yes, when will we see him? If not, why not?

Ha! I haven’t yet, but I will eventually. I’d like to obtain a casting of a Hal head, but if not it won’t be a big deal to make my own version. I’ll get around to it eventually.

15. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A comedian. A model-building FX guy. A puppeteer. Depends on the day, I guess.

16. As of this writing, you haven’t posted any updates on your web site. Have you gone into retirement? If not (and I hope), when can fans expect to see your new stuff?

I have most certainly not gone into retirement! This last year has been fairly dramatic for my family and me, and real life always takes precedence over toy making. I am chomping at the bit to start several new projects. I can’t say for sure when I’ll have anything ready, but I’ll be back in the swing of things before too long.

17. What does your better half have say about your hobby?

The Violist is a great supporter of my little hobby. Being a collector herself, she has an appreciation for such things. Of course, we try our best to maintain a balanced life, so toys are just a part of our lives.

18. What advice do you give beginners who are just getting into this craft/hobby?

I’m asked this question often, and the answer is always “start small.” Don’t jump in head first and expect to make the world’s ultimate, end-all, be-all Batman figure. Chances are you’ll end up disappointed with the results and not want to try any more. Instead, make a realistic assessment of your skills and start there. If you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, than start with some simple repaints. The vast majority of toys made today are almost always missing a color application somewhere. Take some paint to those Joker eyes or Two-Face lips and see how much the figure is improved. Then try painting a whole figure. From there you can move on to head swaps, and then sculpting. Stretch your skills without over reaching, and you’ll find the hobby to be a very satisfying experience. The good news is, in this day and age of the internet, there’s no limit to the inspiration and instruction available.

19. In 10-15 years, do you foresee yourself still doing customs, or would you have gotten tired of all this already?

A lot can change in 10 years, and sometimes things change in real life that can affect one’s hobbies. However, all things being equal, I expect I’ll always be crafting something or other. I enjoy shaping, painting and generally using my hands to create. Of course, if you’d ask me this question 10 years ago, I’d probably have said I couldn’t see me doing this still. Clearly, I’m not much of a fortune teller.

20. If you can describe yourself in one word, what would that be?


*** End of interview ***

Casimir’s custom figures focus primarily on Bruce Timm’s creations including:

Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures

Superman: The Animated Series

Batman Beyond

Justice League and Justice League Unlimited

The latest version of Cason’s action figures collection is available for viewing in our Gallery section. And please don’t forget to visit and bookmark his web site at Inanimate Objects.


About the Author: vader




  • kastor says:

    Great job, nice to hear that even someone so great has trouble some times. As a new custom maker it can get very frustraiting.

  • phulboss says:

    thanks for the efficient interview, cason. i share your sentiments about sanding myself – it can really put a high premium on one’s medical insurance but it’s ultimately worth it when the custom turns out to be much better than expected.

  • Scooter says:

    Cason’s work is one of a very small handful of ‘customizers’ that transcend the hobby into a true art form.

    I remember a couple years back, I was talking with a very well-known DC/book/artist and I mentioned something about Cason’s work. The guy (who should probably remain nameless here)said to me “Oh my gosh, you KNOW Casimir! That guy’s work is fantastic!” just like any of us would have gushed about Alex Ross or Jack Kirby.

    Cason puts it all together so elegantly: Art, Presentation, Photography, Web Design, Sculpting…He’s the Full Monty.


  • Grundy says:

    Thank you for dropping by the site for an Interview Casimir,

    I’ve been a long apostle of the phenomenal work that he’s doing. I’m walking down the same road and is (clumsily) following his footseps.

    Keep on doing what you do Casimir, all the DCAU customizers out there look forward in being more inpired by you.

  • I have the honor of having shared creative internet interactions with Cason, and he is one super artist, as you can already see. I was trying to make my own Batman Beyond old man Bruce Wayne (I was so jealous of his…still am!), and Cason suggested and contributed a figure body that worked like a charm. The guy is first class all the way. Every time I look at his work, I learn something. Amazing talent.
    Honored to know you buddy! Keep on rocking us!
    And yeah, get back to that dusty bench! The custom world needs to see your work!

  • BlackKnight says:

    Cason Does the most Amazing work in the Animated Scale of customizing that I have ever saw. All of his figures look as if they stepped off of the cartoon. His figures are better than what you see on the shelves at your local toystore. Outstanding work & a credit to the customizing community.

  • Wild Willy says:

    As a collector of “Customizers”, That’s right! Not only do I make and collect custom figures, I have created an intimate atmosphere online where some of the most tallented custom figure makers on the planet can hang their hats and share their work.
    As one of the first few members Casimir has become a true “Pilliod” of our comminity, raisning the bar with each new piece which he presents.
    Being at the top of the customizing foodchain has not effected Cas in any ill mannor, he will share ideas and lend help to those who are starting out as well as those who have lots of experience.
    I along with the rest of the members at CBF are proud to have Cason onboard and we look forward to seeing him back into the swing of things.


  • Glorbes says:

    Cason is one of the greats of this hobby. Among the Timm-styled Animated crowd, he’s considered THE reference point of what is an ideal custom. As well, his point about the clean, crisp, and simplified style presenting its own challenges is dead-on…and he has mastered it unlike any other in the world. He has also provided inspiration to countless customizers (myself included)…So, yeah, its time for him to get back to work and keep inspiring!

    Great interview (and a kick-ass collection gallery too!)


  • Carthut says:

    Been a big Fan of Cason’s work. Highly detailed stuff. He’s one of the reason I started customizing JLU figures etc.. Salute C!

  • NAUGHTY BOY says:

    two words for Mattel.


  • christian (aka hunter knight) says:

    cassimir is the best!!! his work inspired me as a customizer i owe him a lot!!! good to know you will be back!!

  • Tristan says:

    As always, its great to read about Casimir and seeing the man behind the myth. Coming from the cheap seats, Ive been a long time admirer of his work, it was the thundercab batmobile that got me, I still have the Lee’s action figure and toy review issue. Some 4 years later, it is still the inspiration for me to do my own customs. Thanks Cason, keep up the great work.


  • jerry j says:

    you’re collection is a Dream come true : )

  • Adam says:

    i have to say, those are impressive^^ i love the cheetah figure and your Supergirl is excellent as is that custom Mxyzptlk. i actually find it amuzing that Mattel is actually making many of the figures you have here now XD especially your Joker. i just picked up the Justice League three pack he was released in last night XD

  • josh says:

    amazing stuff, how would i go about purchasing your customs?
    the batcave featured in the first picture with alfred batgirl nightwing robin and batman, where do you purchase that or did you create that too?
    im a big fan and keep up the amazing work

  • Enrique says:

    Hi, great job all the action figure look very real.
    I want to buy some justice league and batman’s toys. Send me a email if you are interesting in this.
    Good luck and i am going to wait for your mail.

  • jenifer says:

    Hi, great job on the justice league supergirl action, figure they look very cool. I would like to buy the justice league supergirl action figures. E-mail me and tell me if and what the price is for it. Please email me.

  • i love your toys accept yor giganta ohhhhhhhhh

  • aiman says:

    hi im from brunei.pls make me have that supergirl action figure.i neeeeeeeeeeeed it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • aiman says:

    yeah me too im sorry to say this but i dont like ur giganta.

  • brandon says:

    The batman custom figures look great!Really nice job on the batgirl it looks just like it and the details are really good.Batman,Robin,Nightwing,Alfred look great so do the other customs there really neat.

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