Some historical notes from an early Krystonia Panton employee! Take everything below with a grain of salt, it has been a LONG time, and a lot of this is hear-say. The below are my opinions/thoughts only.
I ran the Krystonia order desk from 1989-1991, as well as the collectors club. If you wrote to Krystonia during those years, most likely it was me that responded. A lot of the below is based on what I was told/overheard during my years there.
Krystonia was originally invented by the two guys that wrote the book - Beau Dix and Mark Scott. They presented the concept to Panton to produce the line of the first figurines. Panton was originally in the business of selling porcelain horses and music boxes, and continued to sell these until Krystonia took off. The "Large Wodema" 1301 piece was the piece that sold Pat Chandok on the concept.
At some point there was a falling out/legal case and B. Dix and M. Scott lost the rights to Krystonia. I don't know any of the details. Dave Woodard took over the role of creating the piece concepts, taking what he could from the original book that was not produced in the first run (N'Tormet, Vena, etc). From 1991 onward the pieces were all Dave and Pat, which is why they are a lot different than the original first 3 years of pieces - lots of dragons, very little else.
The first batch of Krystonia was much, much more highly detailed.
Very early Grunch
Grunch as an example - early piece, lots of dark highlights, etc. Later piece - slop on the solid gray color! Also note the smaller krystal (to save money).
Now check out the differences between the two Spkye figures - the first one is an early version where some real attention and time was spent. The later Spyke (as evidenced by the item number) looks much more like a cartoon and I doubt more than 10 minutes was spent painting it. It's crap!
After the line took off and the orders started pouring in, pieces were in very low supply and just about everything was backordered. Stores were clamoring for these things. To speed up production, simpler paint jobs were applied to the pieces and in my opinion the quality suffered.
Sometime in 1989, they decided to make some items in China (because it was cheaper, I assume). The plaques and waterballs, while initially popular, were very poor quality. Waterballs were frequently returned from stores because of air bubbles, and the plaques, well, the less said about them, the better.
The collectors club was started in 1990. I personally mailed out all those "keys to krystonia" (which took about 4 days of labelling and envelope stuffing). So many of these broke in shipping - they were shipped in a plain white box with a little bubble wrap, inside a large manilla enelope along with some random paperwork that had been lying around the warehouse. The post office had a field day with these and many keys had to be replaced.
I got to do a few shows, South Bend Indiana, Los Angeles trade show....dressed up as N'Chakk the wizard. The costume was made by Pat's sister and was incredibly heavy and warm.
I left Krystonia in 1991 but continued to follow the line for a few years as I still had friends who worked there. It seemed to me the pieces started getting sillier every year - somehow some of the "cool" factor went out the door. Eventually they moved all production to China and apparently the line died a slow death. Where once they had several hundred stores carrying the line, you would be hard pressed to find more than a couple stores that carry it. Eventually they just sold old stock with some painted on gold and silver highlights for the collectors club pieces. Groc with a lantern? Owhey with gold feet? I'm not sure what the thought was here, but maybe they were just trying to clean house...
Regardless, I still love the "classic" Krystonia as it will always hold a special place in my heart! I'm putting this archive together to remember the "glory days".
Random Krystonia factoids as I remember them:
- In 1990, Hanna-Barbara was in talks to produce a Krystonia animated series. I even wrote some preliminary music for it! Nothing ever came of it however.
- 502 "Dragon's Play" was originally called "Pook Ball". The krystal was actually a small furry pook. They (literally) hacked it off and replaced it with a krystal because it was decided it looked "cruel" (even though the dragons do play pook ball in the book...
- Books 2, 3 and 4 were ghost written by someone in England. I'm not sure who did the artwork for book two but compared to book one it looks like a high school student did some quick sketches.
- Panton allowed employees to buy pieces at wholesale cost. Many employees took advantage of this and bought figures to re-sell to collectors.
- Even though the rubber molds were destroyed when pieces were retired, the original resin sculptures were kept around so new molds could be created if needed. I have no idea if they ever did this.
- Pieces were retired randomly and had nothing to do with the number of pieces sold or produced. For instance, 1701 Large Rueggan was a first year retirement even though the piece was not very popular (unlike the other two retirements 1012 and 1091).
- Very early pieces had red or white felt instead of the standard green.
- The warehouse workers had a secret fort in the back built out of empty boxes of waterglobes. Inside the fort was a chair, some pillows and a small TV set. Management was never aware of this! They had cleverly rigged up a "door" that would slide up and down, and when in place it just looked like a large stack of waterglobe boxes. It was hysterical!