I have been a collector of Halloween masks and collector’s busts since the early 80’s. When I used to read FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine one of my favorite parts of the magazine were the Captain Company ads in the back, in particular the ads for Don Post Studios and their amazing masks. I was always partial to the Grey Timberwolf but back then my parents wouldn’t buy me a Halloween mask for $42.75.
Once I started working I could afford the masks I always wanted and thankfully I was not disappointed by any of my purchases. At one time, my collection of masks was over 125 but as time went on I started to notice something. The quality of the masks started to go down and the prices started going up. This really disillusioned me to the whole mask collecting thing…it was no longer fun feeling ripped off everytime I bought something. The box that would arrive at my door with my newest treasure ended up looking nothing like the picture in the catalog or on the website! Very often the masks now looked like they were painted by children and the latex pours were so thin that the masks would collapse on themselves, even when properly stuffed. Who knows, since many of these masks are now being outsourced to China, maybe they are painted by children! Thankfully this is all changing now…thanks in part to some new kids on the block, Trick Or Treat Studios!
I first became aware of Trick Or Treat Studios thanks to a posting on The HMA, the Halloween Mask Association. Though I liked the designs my first thought was “Here we go, another company selling less than stellar masks.” I couldn’t of been more wrong. After an article in HorrorHound magazine (issue number23 from May/June 2010) I gave in and decided to take a chance and bought a witch-type character called Sea Hag. This character reminded me alot of the Old Witch from the Tales From The Crypt comicbooks.
One thing that impressed me right away was that after I ordered, Chris Zephro, the owner of Trick Or Treat, e-mailed me and thanked me for the order. We e-mailed back and forth a bit and it made me want to write this blog. First off, let me show you how the Sea Hag is shown on their website:
And here is what I received:
Honestly? You can’t get better than that! The latex is pretty thick and the paintwork is exceptional. I can’t even tell you the last time I was this happy with a mask purchase…these guys really know their stuff and now I have to figure out what else to buy! Once again the excitement is back…the excitement I used to feel when I started collecting 30 something years ago. Nothing beats the smell of latex when you open up a box with a new mask inside, especially when it looks amazing!
Chris was also nice enough to sit down with me to answer some questions about Trick Or Treat Studios (something else that really impressed me). This is what he had to say:
DA: Did you grow up watching monster movies? What were some of your favorites?
CZ: Yes, I loved monster movies. When I was a kid I would watch the monster creature features every Sunday morning. They’d feature all of the classic monster movies from Universal and a ton of low budget monster movies. I also loved the mainstream features. My favorites were Halloween, The Exorcist and JAWS, all of which I saw in the theater and clearly shaped my board line sanity.
DA: Were you a collector of monster masks as a kid? If so what companies did you collect from?
CZ: Yes. I loved the early Don Post masks of the late 70’s. I also loved Topstone and early Distortions Studio masks. All of these masks were the inspiration for starting Trick or Treat Studios, given that nothing out there today gives off that feel. Fortunately, our amazing Art Director, Justin Mabry, shares the same love and passion for these companies, hence the look of our 2010 lineup.
DA: Currently you have pieces sculpted by great artists like Erich Lubatti and Justin Mabry. Any plans on adding other artists in the future?
CZ: For sure. Justin has put together an amazing team of Artist and Designers. We already have a great Devil face mask from Aaron Lewis and in 2011 we will be adding designs from John Wrightson and Neil Kennemore.
DA: One of the major problems with mask collecting these days is quality. More often than not it seems that what you see in the catalogs or on the websites looks 100 times better than the actual piece you receive. How do you plan on maintaining your quality when larger companies couldn’t?
CZ: This is the primary reason I thought that this venture could work. So many companies made the decision to move all of their production to China and abandon quality for cost savings. Well you see the result. In fact, there is a name for the practice you describe, it’s called “Bait and Switch.” This is the practice of taking pictures of your paint masters and putting them in your catalog and bringing those same paint masters to shows and then sending production copies that look horrible to your customers. What these companies fail to understand is that saving a few bucks per mask is a one time savings, the long term damage of destroying your reputation is far more costly. It’s very short sited thinking. It’s unfortunate, some great companies killed their reputation doing this practice and customers are running from them at top speed. It also makes it difficult for Trick or Treat Studios because customers want to start with a small order and see what the masks look like before they decide to move forward with us.
Currently, we have a partnership with the best latex mask company around and I use the term “Partnership” strongly. We are in this with them for the long term and we are partnering on a number of ventures together. The long term commitment and nature of this partnership will insure our commitment to quality.
It’s also worth mentioning that all of the pictures we use on our site and in catalogs and pieces we bring to shows are production copies. I take this very seriously, hence why we missed the biggest Retailer Trade Show this year in Houston, the production pieces weren’t ready and I didn’t want to exhibit with paint masters.
DA: Trick Or Treat Studios has only been in business for a relatively short period of time. How has the feedback been so far?
CZ: Amazing! We have received a ton of reorders and the feedback from end customers has been tremendous. The quality to price ratio is right on target. In fact, a number of customers have told us that we should raise our prices, but I don’t plan on doing that anytime soon.
DA: One of my favorite pieces that you offer is Gruesome sculpted by Justin Mabry and designed by Eric Pigors from his Toxic Toons Collection (www.toxictoons.com). Will you be offering others from this collection?
CZ: That is one of my favorites as well. Justin hit that design right out of the park, in spite of the fact that a number of other mask companies told Eric that his work couldn’t be made into masks due to the complexity. I was really proud of the design Justin came up with, bring Gruesome into the third dimension. But to answer your question, yes, Justin is working on a Toxic Waste Zombie and Aaron is doing a face mask from Toxic Toons. They should be available sometime early 2011.
DA: Do you plan to do Halloween props in the future or will you be a strictly mask-making company.
CZ: Justin love props and this is something we will be expanding into very soon. Look for a Shock and Radio Active Zombie prop to come out sometime next year.
DA: Will your masks be available in stores for the Halloween season (in places like Spirit or any of the large Halloween superstores) or can they only be ordered through your website?
CZ: Our primary target is retailers, local costume stores and distributors like Morris Costumes. We have quite a few retailers as customers now and that will definitely increase in 2011 with our presence at the Halloween Expo 2011. In addition, we are making our masks available on our site at www.trickortreatstudios.com for those end users that can’t get them locally or on their favorite costume website.
DA: Your 2010 line of full head and face only masks is an impressive start. What can we look forward to for the 2011 season?
CZ: About 15 new masks from new Artist and Designers.
So if you have been hesitant to buy from Trick Or Treat Studios, don’t be. They are, in my opinion, a force to be reckoned with in the mask making business. I will definitely be adding more of their pieces to my collection and I am really looking forward to seeing what they come up with for the 2011 season. Great job guys!
QUICK UPDATE: Just to show you how behind this company I am I immediately purchased a 2nd mask from them. I am not a cheap person when it comes to things I like but I am careful (I have been burned too many times by other mask companies). I ended up getting Gruesome and once again it looks fantastic! Check out the pics!!!