Fanattik’s Creative Director, Melissa Tudor, discusses their celebratory range of D&D products

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS at 50: Melissa Tudor on Fanattik’s limited-edition gifts and collectibles

Melissa, thank you so much for joining us! You’re the Creative Director at Fanattik. Who are they?!
Fanattik is a global licensee for many of the leading film, video and tabletop game studios. It’s an award-winning company specialising in creating limited edition pop culture gifts and collectibles.

A lovely, concise answer – thank you! What kind of limited-edition gifts and collectibles do you create?
We make exciting replicas of in-world items that you might see a character pick up in a film or game and collectible coins, ingots and medallions. These appeal to the hardcore fans, but we also make pieces for general retail… Playing cards, for example, and art prints with exclusive artwork, jewellery, bottle openers, clocks, desk pads and board games.

A broad range! You hold a number of intriguing licenses. How did you first come to work on DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, though?
We had been a licensee for Yu-Gi-Oh! for a number of years… We were producing product that got us a lot of attention – not just within the fan community but also with brands themselves from within the tabletop world. I also think Fanattik is very good at creating anniversary product. With the 50th anniversary on the horizon, Hasbro reached out to us – and the rest is history.

Excellent. And on that point, what DUNGEONS & DRAGONS products are you releasing to celebrate the 50th anniversary?
We’ve got a range of limited-edition products coming! We’re recreating the original book covers from 50 years ago in metal, presented in a really cool display box. We also have a set of two medallions based on the iconic Beholder! They showcase the style of character art using a then-and-now comparison…

Melissa Tudor, Fanattik, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, Toys & Games, Video Games

Oh, that sounds amazing! What a terrific idea!
Thank you! We also have a 24-karat gold-plated Red Dragon coin in a display case, a set of three enamel pin badges featuring the famous Beholder, Mimic and Mindflayer. Then there’s a spinning pin badge based on the monsters from the first edition. Also, shortly after the 50th anniversary releases, we have non-anniversary D&D-related product – so keep your eyes peeled!

I will, most definitely. I’m curious then: when you’re working on ranges like these, Melissa, how do you make it happen? Where do you start?
Luckily, we have members within the creative team who love DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. They’ve played the game for years – so the ideas part is easy! We then have a look through the official assets the brand provides, or request access to some that may be harder to obtain. If it looks promising, we then work on transforming 2D art into 3D digital sculpts. We then either make a 3D-printed prototype or take the plunge and go ahead with getting a mould made to get a first real sample.

It’s quite an intuitive process, then?
Quite intuitive, yes. We do work closely with the Wizards of the Coast team in Seattle, though; we have a monthly video call with them. All of this gets run past them – and sometimes even the particular artist who made the original art!

As our pieces are so fan focused, it’s important we work closely with the Wizards team. I’ll be flying out to Seattle this May to meet with the team to review product ideas for next year, for example. And our M.D. – Anthony Marks – will be meeting with members of their team at the Las Vegas Licensing Show as well.

Melissa Tudor, Fanattik, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, Toys & Games, Video Games

Let me ask you this: what is it about DUNGEONS & DRAGONS that means it continues to appeal after 50 years?
I think it remains so special because it’s perfect escapism. The game allows each player to create their own character and story… It’s inclusive as something you can play at any age. Most of all, the D&D world is vast and ever-expanding – all of which creates a space for people to fully immerse in fantasy alongside a group of others and have a different experience of adventure every time.

Working so closely with the team at Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro, what do you think will be next for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS?
I believe it’s only getting more popular, more accessible, and generally ‘cooler’ to play as time goes on…

Cooler to play? Why is that, do you think?
Partly because the exposure the game gets in pop culture contributes to a growing audience. Take ABC’s Ghosts, for example, or Netflix’s Stranger Things – which, coincidentally, we’ve just signed a license for! Then, the ability to use digital tools like D&D Beyond – and view many hours of video content on YouTube and Twitch – makes it easier than ever to get into the game.

Also, the amazing Baldur’s Gate 3 video game has really done wonders for the expanding D&D community. Here at Fanattik, we’re excited for the new D&D expansions in 2024 including Vecna: Eve of Ruin. That’s coming out in May – and maybe we’re working on a lovely product for that…

Nicely teased! I hope you’ll come back and tell us about it… In the meanwhile, how did you come to be doing what you do?
Well, the first thing you should know, Deej, is that I’ve always been geeky! I was the one completing as many video games as possible or queuing outside Borders dressed as a Harry Potter character waiting to get my hands on the next book! I went to university and completed a Graphic Design degree – but worked in finance doing a little design on the side until – luckily – I came across Fanattik.

Melissa Tudor, Fanattik, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, Toys & Games, Video Games

Roughly when was that?
That was in 2018. At the time, I was one of the company’s first employees. They started off in licensed art prints and were just beginning to venture into other forms of merchandise – so it was perfect timing, really. I was hired to do more of the brand side of things; making sure products were approved from concept to manufacture. I soon began designing as well – and now I lead a very talented team of in-house designers. It’s been an amazing journey.

Terrific! Final question, then, Melissa – and I always think a tricky one… What’s the one question I could’ve asked you today but didn’t?
Do I play D&D?

And do you?
Ha! In all honesty, I hadn’t prior to us getting the license! However, Fanattik decided that we should all stop work and have a boardgame day so that the D&D players in the company could educate the rest of us on it. And it was great fun! We all learnt a lot.

Great answer! Thank you so much, Melissa. And our cyberdoor’s always open: do come back and tell us about your products – anytime!

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