Numskull Designs’ Karl Mizen on giving iconic characters the rubber duck treatment with Tubbz

Karl Mizen, Creative Director at Numskull Designs, tells us about the origins of Tubbz – and which character has been the toughest to ‘duckify’ so far.

Over the past few years, Numskull Designs has enjoyed success in the collectibles space with its Tubbz range of cosplaying duck figurines.

Officially licensed replicas of characters from popular movies, video games, TV shows and comic books, each figure comes in their own tub featuring the character logo, and can easily stack on top of other Tubbz making it them fun and easy to display.

We caught up with Karl Mizen, Creative Director at Numskull Designs, to find out more about the origins of Tubbz – and which character has been the toughest to ‘duckify’ so far.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

Hi Karl – Happy New Year! Let’s talk Tubbz… Where did this idea for licensed rubber duck characters come from?
Happy New Year! The idea of Tubbz came to us by total chance. Our friend was gifted a novelty rubber duck based on a famous crime-fighting billionaire – completely unlicensed and of poor quality. Our initial reaction was: “We could do better than that.” After some research, we decided to give the rubber duck some Numskull treatment.

We took some time to work on a base duck – we call this the naked duck – and once we were happy, began to experiment with some of our favourite characters. Tubbz, at this point, was called Tubbies – as in bathtub buddies… Yes, we’re glad it didn’t stick either!

Ha, I wasn’t going to say a word! Was it easy to get brands on board or did they take some convincing?
They were very well received by the brands we initially approached, and once we’d released a few ranges, other publishers followed suit. We’d worked with many early brands on other products, so adding something like the duck wasn’t too tricky. This wasn’t the first ‘out of the ordinary’ product we’d pitched, thankfully.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

Lovely – they look fantastic so I can see why brands are all too happy to get involved. Design-wise, what are the first steps in giving iconic characters the Tubbz treatment?
The goal of Tubbz was to add as much detail as possible. The generic rubber duck and subsequent novelty versions are still very basic. Our artists do a fantastic job of sculpting the characters’ facial features, but adding costumes and putting the duck in a character’s iconic pose can help the transformation.

To achieve this, we’ll start with mood boards and sketches. Some characters, like Batman, are straightforward enough. We know the duck will be wearing a mini bat suit; it’s simply a choice of which one.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

However, franchises such as Friends, where the main characters could be wearing something new every week, are a little trickier. This is where mood boards and sketches help decide the most iconic look of the person we’re trying to duckify.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

‘Duckify’ – early contender for word of the year. Now, have there been any particularly tough nuts to crack in terms of characters? Who’s toughest to duckify?
Animals can be hard to translate. Humans into ducks are much more straightforward than another animal into a duck. We have managed it in the past with Crash and Spyro, but we can hit a wall where it just doesn’t work.

Bruce the Shark is a prime example. A Great White shark with a beak was never going to work – this is why we introduced the duck in a suit. After all, they are cosplaying ducks, and this seemed to be the only way to transform him into a Tubbz. He ended up being one of the best.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

Fascinating – and a smart solution! Now, I’m always impressed by the press shots of new ranges that show the Tubbz in the brand’s environment. Do you think we’ll ever see the brand expand into animation or bring this world to life in ways outside of the core collectibles? Now you mentioned Bruce the Shark, I just want to see a Tubbz Jaws remake, basically!
The team have a lot of fun creating the scenic renders, and I can’t think of anything better than a Tubbz animated series or movie! Jaws would be absolutely amazing. Can we make this happen, please?

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

Let’s put it out there and see what happens! Looking ahead to this year, what are some of the brands we can look forward to seeing get the Tubbz treatment?
That is top secret information, I’m afraid. I can tell you that some new brands are coming to Tubbz in 2022, and one duck, in particular, will be our biggest yet! We also have some music-based Tubbz planned so watch this space.

We’ll keep an eye out. Finally, and I imagine this is choosing your favourite child, but if you could only save one Tubbz from a burning building, who are you picking?
It’s tough to have a favourite when I see new ones developing all the time. As the brand grows, the Tubbz keep getting better and better. A few planned for this year have really pushed the boundaries. For now, though – Bruce the Shark is top!

A good choice. Karl, this has been fun. Thanks again and good luck with all the new Tubbz launches this year.

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