Making Minecraft Hot Wheels!

Bryan Benedict talks turning monsters into motors!

In news so burning hot it'll melt through the tarmac if we delay sharing it a second longer, we've teamed up with Mattel for a new range of Minecraft Hot Wheels cars! So Minecraft fans, better start your engines! Wait, do people have engines? Probably? Yeah? Biology teachers, send your hate mail to the usual address.

Everyone else, check out these awesome new Hot Wheels motors, which transform Minecraft's monsters into fierce auto-mobiles. But how did they do it? Marsh sat down with Bryan Benedict, designer for Mattel, to find out! Marsh didn't ask Bryan if people have engines though, because Marsh is the brains of this operation.

Marsh: could you tell me a little bit about how you came to work at Mattel and Hot Wheels?

Bryan Benedict: I spent ten years in the car industry designing real cars before coming to Mattel. I studied automotive design at ArtCenter and after ten years in the industry, Mattel actually reached out to me out of the blue and asked if I would be interested in joining the team here. It sounded like an exciting opportunity and I haven’t regretted a moment of it since. It’s been a blast!

M: A lot of them made me laugh out loud. Particularly I liked the Enderman as this shady-looking limo!

B: (Laughs) So when I designed those it's about fully immersing myself in that character and really understanding who that character is.

It’s really about “What’s the personality of that character and what kind of vehicle type makes sense for that character? What little details can I add that really play into the story of that character?”

And so the Enderman kind of wanders around aimlessly right? So it’s sort of like a lowrider vehicle that you would expect to be wandering around, just kind of cruising around... and then of course it’s got the block exposed in the trunk, with the trunk half open so you can see the block hidden in there, [because] it’s always carrying a block around.

B: Creeper was fun because it's this, as the name would suggest, kind of creepy character. I thought a rat-rod really felt like it got to that sort of gritty creepiness, and then a vehicle like that enabled me to have an exposed engine, which I then was able to translate as the TNT block. So it’s the TNT block itself which serves as the engine for the car.

M: Yeah, that’s really neat. Those two are probably my favourites, though I did also like the Zombie as this kind of slightly shambolic looking jalopy.

B: The idea on that is – “OK, what’s the automotive equivalent of a zombie?” – it’s like a demolition derby car that just keeps going and going after it should be long dead, right?

Then with the bumper missing it kind of enabled the front end to stick out further so it evoked a sense of his arms sticking straight out in front.

B: Then, of course, graphically getting that colour break - with the lower representing the pants and sort of the rear fender representing the tattered shirt and then the upper body obviously [being] his skin tone.

M: I particularly like the Golem’s actual functionality. The forklift on the front to represent the swinging arms.

B: I was driving one day and I saw one of these - we have these garbage trucks, little mini garbage trucks that follow behind the big garbage truck and they all go into the smaller spaces to grab the big bins and then bring them over to the bigger truck, where the bigger truck can’t go.

And when I saw this truck, it was like a pickup truck with a forklift on it grabbing a dumpster and then tipping it over to dump it into the larger garbage truck, I thought – “That’s a perfect metaphor... it’s perfect for my Iron Golem car” – so that’s where I ended up with that vehicle type and gave it the forklift on there.

B: Then [I was] just trying to capture sort of the bulkiness of the character. The large brow, just in the way I capture that, was kind of inspired by a 50’s era truck because they had that larger, taller cab - but squaring it off, obviously, for the world of Minecraft.

I don’t know if you noticed but every single character has the drop icon on the chassis of the car – so whatever that character drops when you kill 'em, is represented on the chassis and we actually did that in full colour. We really felt like it was worth having that nice little surprise feature on the bottom.

And in the case of Iron Golem and Creeper, there’s a secondary drop element represented in the bed – so the Iron Golem has the Iron Ingot in the bed and the Tulip on the chassis and the Creeper has the Gunpowder in the bed and the Disc on the chassis.

M: What about the skeleton and the spider?

B: So the Skeleton, I figure he’s fast and nimble and kind of comes right up on you, and he’s really spindly. I thought it’d be perfect to make him a race car, like an open-wheeled race car, because that enabled me to create a really spindly shape and also a very fast vehicle.

Then the Spider car actually complements that because it is a Holler Truck and that truck actually opens up to then place the Skeleton on top so then you have a Spider Jockey.

So the two work very well together, and it’s another feature within the line where you can play out some of the story in the vehicles. So that Spider-Truck is basically a three-block shape, much like the Spider himself, where the cab represents the head and then there’s that thorax where we call the mid-section which is a little extended cab thing. And then the bed in the back and the box on the back which actually splits and opens up to create a bed, or a platform to place your Skeleton car on.

B: I actually designed it so that all the cars would work on that bed, but it’s specifically designed for the Skeleton to fit on.

M: There’s got to be slightly different practical considerations between working on these and working with a real car!

B: (Laughs) Yeah absolutely, and it was a little bit of a culture shock when I first started. But once I adjusted, I really found my niche here. The big differences between the car industry and the toy industry are – really it’s schedule. I’m working on multiple cars all at once, and they’re all due within a few months [at Mattel], you know?

In the car industry you’re kind of working on one project at a time, you have a couple of years to complete that design, it’s a lot different pacing than we experience here. And obviously we don’t have to worry about fitting a person inside or an engine or anything like that here. But there’s other challenges; we’ve got to make our cars track compatible. There’s a whole rigid set of guidelines that we go by that enable the car to perform well on a track and on various types of track, so there’s a lot of thinking involved in creating a car for Hot Wheels.

B: But really, it’s such a great brand that really allows the designer to let loose and be imaginative and creative and wild and crazy and that’s what really drew me into working on the brand and it hasn’t let me down. This idea of taking popular characters that everyone knows and loves and transforming those characters into cars. It’s a really exciting opportunity.

Sadly, Tom again: Want to take some of these for a spin yourself? They'll be launching in October and we'll have more details on the site soon!