Wrapped in a thick blanket, its familiar scent imparting added security, little hands shelter wide eyes from the flickering screen. Peeping through the small cracks between fingers, a sigh of relief is issued when it’s revealed that the shadowy figure rising from the moonlit pumpkin patch is only Snoopy. But the tiny viewer’s heart continues to beat quickly, not out of a sense of fear but rather that of victory; the horror at hand having been confronted and overcome. And the memory of that feeling remains, a triumphant bit of nostalgia that one can carry into adulthood. For that is the power of a good thrill, a piece of frightful fun for all ages, which is exactly what has been harvested and bottled up to create the Scared Silly Dunny Series. And masterminding our controlled descent in adorable darkness are the husband-and-wife team of Jenn & Tony Bot, a duo also referred to as The Bots, but who are they and by what pedigree do they bring their delightful monstrosities to Kidrobot?

The Frighteners: Jenn & Tony Bot

Hailing from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, The Bots’ work is “often characterized”, as they freely admit, “by its vibrant colors, original characters, and the grumpiest of monsters”. Perhaps best known for their handmade original pieces, which frequently employ Kidrobot’s rabbit-eared Dunny form as a base, they fear that “it is easy to label our art based on its texture, weight, and even medium”, as their signature style decorates the sculpture with “nothing but hand mixed polymer clay”, but they prefer to emphasize their “work as character driven. We set out to be storytellers”, they explain, “to express a feeling or mood through our pieces that often reflect our lives during the time of its creation”. Since their art toy beginnings in 2010 through to today, which by their count is over 500 unique works later, “we approach every piece’s story first”, they admit, adding that if the story “doesn’t make sense or have a quality that brings the piece to life, [then] it simply won’t get made.” And while handmade works like those pictured above “will always be our bread and butter”, the duo state, “we thoroughly enjoy making production figures, because not only do they reach a much vaster audience but simply because we get the satisfaction of owning them too”.
While The Bots have enjoyed several of their designs becoming factory produced pieces over the years, the above-pictured trio were their first along these lines with Kidrobot, released as part of the Designer Toy Awards Dunny Mini Series earlier this year. “Designing for the DTA series was a pretty big challenge”, they admit, as the “lack of a theme for the series, while extremely freeing, ultimately proved to be a pretty big hurdle”, one that resulted in “a massive explosion of new work: 20 designs in 2 weeks. And then just that fast we tossed out all 20 designs, went back to the drawing board, and started to focus on the idea of what had been and hadn’t been successful for us in the past”. As such, “we reviewed our most popular designs, chose three that we and our collectors loved, and submitted accordingly”, The Bots state, adding that they are “extremely happy with the end result and feel that all three pieces represented our portfolio well”. But this wasn’t the duo’s first partnership with Kidrobot. “One could assume we had been on Kidrobot’s radar for some time”, the duo ponder aloud, and while “we have never had a chance to meet any of the team in person, we were put into contact with Frank shortly after he took over as creative director and immediately started submitting designs”, which ultimately led to their first publicly displayed collaboration with the brand, The Amazing Alumit handmade series.
Modeled after the classic stage magician’s appearance, The Amazing Alumit debuted at Kidrobot’s 2016 DesignerCon booth, each specially made piece coming with a random hat-trick accessory ranging from a traditional rabbit to one of several grumpy monsters. Limited to ten 3-inch tall and five 5-inch tall pieces, each made unique by their accompanying top hat’s contents, this “ultimately served as a marketing strategy to set the stage for our upcoming releases”, the duo admits. “Being that all of the designs for Scared Silly had already been submitted and approved at the time, we looked at the project as a way to drop breadcrumbs for what the future holds”, The Bots state, “and introduce us as Kidrobot artists”. With The Amazing Alumit included as part of the Scared Silly Dunny Series, the grayscale production version pictured below, The Bots muse that, “if you wanted to, you could almost view the customs as a pre-AP release. A treat for some collectors that didn’t know what they were technically getting their hands on.”

The Frightening: the Scared Silly Dunny Series

“When we first started working on the series, we had decided very early on that thematically we wanted to portray the essence of the season and not just do a literal representation of images often related to Halloween”, Jenn & Tony Bot admit. “Ultimately it was a perfect fit for us, as we are both big fans of not just Halloween but everything that is associated with that time of year. Horror films, ghost hunting, and pumpkin chucking are all things that we find hilariously awesome in some twisted way.”

As for the designs, the duo state that they “wanted to build a world where the characters played off of one another and could tell an overarching story” while simultaneously allowing “the Dunnys to have qualities that expose our [own] personalities a bit. We wanted to incorporate design elements directly linked to our memories, fears, and morbid curiosities.” And when it came to naming their mini-series, “the title for the series came to us very early in the process and it never changed as the designs seemed to naturally keep falling into place with the story we were telling”, the artists reminisce. “Like most of our work, the designs are silly and fun, morbid and weird, and just screamed ‘scared silly’ to us.”

Arya Afraid of the Dark

According to the Bots, “Arya Afraid of the Dark is the little kid that we all once were. Cursed with a fear of the dark and an imagination that runs a mile a minute, we saw the design as a companion piece to some of the more eerie characters in the series. Ultimately, what monster creeps in her mind is for you to choose, but we had a specific idea when we placed her in the series.”

Cyrus

“We are huge into cinema and really wanted to work in a decent amount of horror tropes into the series”, Jenn & Tony Boy admit. “Cyrus was directly inspired with that in mind and is essentially an amalgamation of every creepy gravedigger. The beauty of the piece is that the story is ultimately left up to the collector. Is he a gravedigger, a grave robber, or a murderer?”

G.M.D.

G.M.D., or Genetically Modified Dunny, was the first piece we created for the series”, said The Bots. “Inspired by a recent news article the two of us had read about the dangers of genetically modified fruit, the piece is more of a joke on societal issues than anything else.” And, when asked, the duo concede that the “resemblance to the poison apple from Snow White [and the Seven Dwarfs] was completely intentional. We are huge Disney fans and would argue that the influence the films and parks have had on us is responsible for the two of us being artists. The piece itself served as a good platform to work another bit of us directly into the series in a clever way”. As an added tidbit, they also divulge that “the produce label on his bum does, in fact, reflect the actual numerical code that one would find on a genetically modified piece of fruit in their supermarket.”

Lunch Hour

“When making the series, we went out of our way to explore the idea of curious people and morbid jobs”, The Bots state. “Lunch Hour, inspired by a creepy image of an undertaker we found, was the result of us asking, ‘What does an embalmer do during his lunch hour?’. And while the answer is probably a mundane one, we let our imaginations run wild and perceived that he probably eats his lunch alongside his new best friend.”

The Littlest Lovebug

“One thing that we wanted to do in the series was to place a design in it that was obnoxiously cute”, said The Bots before adding that they “also wanted to place a piece in it that was directly linked to our lives on a personal level. The Littlest Lovebug is as cute as they come and was inspired by our daughter. It is our interpretation of her and her very first Halloween costume.”

You Crack Me Up

Regarding this design, The Bots said that “You Crack Me Up was the final piece we designed for the series. We were looking for something that came off as creepy cute that also paid homage to classic horror films. The porcelain doll aspect fulfilled the creepy, but the character was ultimately built around the dress which was inspired by the twins in The Shining.”

Aromatherapy

“When we started brainstorming for the series, one of the first tasks we did was come up with a list of words, ideas, and objects that we wanted to incorporate”, Jenn & Tony Bot explained. “One item that was at the top of our list was the corpse flower and Aromatherapy was specifically designed around this strange plant. This gave us the opportunity to work in a grumpy monster dealing with a seemingly unfortunate circumstance, which is our favorite type of story to tell. A monster who loves gardening, but can only keep ‘dead’ things alive.”

Pumpkin Puker

“Every year, our local zoo has a HallZOOween event where they give animals pumpkins to play with or, in some cases, eat”, explain The Bots. “One particular year we were quite entertained by a gorilla who continually devoured a pumpkin only to vomit said pumpkin back up and start the process all over again. It was a hell of a show, one we will never forget, and it directly inspired what could be considered the mascot of the entire series. To add to the entertainment value of the piece, the culprit in question was the now infamous Harambe. Consider this a gift in his memory!” Regarding the pumpkin aspect, the duo informs that the “Dunny is actually removable. When we came up with the design, we discussed whether we wanted it to be a new body sculpt or a prop, and eventually decided that it would be a cool addition to the series to have a prop that was interchangeable amongst all the other characters. While we realize that these are all ultimately pieces of art, we certainly don’t feel as if that fact should be a deterrent to creating fun art, so we included a piece that you can play with and did so with probably the most iconic Halloween image: a pumpkin.”

The Boobirds

“When we made the decision to heavily concentrate on the idea of the season and not direct Halloween images, we knew Cabbage Night could serve as some decent inspiration”, admit The Bots, before explaining that in “the area we live, the night before Halloween, referred to as Cabbage Night, is a night often associated with smashing pumpkins, egging cars, and TPing houses. Also, in the area we live, football is king, the mooks run wild, and you can place where a stranger grew up by simply asking what high school they attended. The Boobirds was our underhanded revenge piece and allowed us to take a fun poke at our alma mater.”

Lady Fox

Lady Fox, or more specifically the Fox sisters, were historically exposed as frauds who conducted seances in the 19th century”, according to The Bots. “The piece itself, whose dress was inspired by them, was another instance of building the story around the prop. One thing that we knew we wanted to incorporate in the series was some form of glow-in-the-dark and we had long since had a design in our sketchbooks for a burning Dunny. The inspirational history behind the Fox sisters paired with our desire to include some sort of glowing, burning Dunny seemed like a perfect match to bring this character to life.” And regarding the prop for this design, The Bots admit that they consciously were “pushing the boundaries of what we could and couldn’t get away with when designing the series. A few of the ‘props’ that we managed to get approved were submitted under the assumption that we would probably get an email detailing why they couldn’t be produced. Ultimately, the emails never came and the only resistance we encountered was a discussion about whether some of the designs we wanted to do would fit in the blind boxes. In the end, we know we got away with murder, but it’s a Halloween series and murder just seems appropriate, don’t you think?”

Grim Reaper Grampy

“One of Tony’s oldest living relatives bides his time by traveling the world, exclaiming ‘Death can’t catch me as long as it can’t find me!’ Inspired by this notion”, proclaim The Bots, “Grim Reaper Grampy shows that no matter how fast you run, death is always lurking close behind. Of all the designs in the series, this one probably went through the largest round of revisions. Grampy‘s eyebrows, his grim reaper companion, and even his tighty whities were pulled from other Dunny designs that we eventually rejected, but we are really happy with the way he turned out!”

Which Witch is Which

“One thing we wanted to do in the series was incorporate some sort of trick that pushed the boundaries of what a Dunny can do”, according to Jenn & Tony Bot. “We love simulating action and movement with our pieces to tell a bigger story and the witch served as the perfect opportunity to do this. Our idea… to make the witch fly! After we figured out how to get her off the ground, we used the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus as our inspiration. The color of their dresses is a homage to the film, while the attitude and sculpt represent a more traditional idea of what a witch stereotypically looks like.” Originally designed to have a “spider hanging from the tip of the hat”, The Bots admit that “it was ultimately deemed too fragile for production. This is the only artistic compromise that we had to make with the entire series and, honestly, we ended up liking the new look better than the first version!”
“All variants, including the case exclusive, were chosen by us”, state the husband-and-wife team, elaborating that every color choice in the series was made to “directly enhance the story. We did our best to choose a color palette that was rich with bright colors of the season but also filled with the dark undertones that can be associated with it. Some colors represent time for us, some colors feed from other pieces, but they are all deliberately placed to tell a much larger story.”

The Frightened?

While it’s hard to believe that anyone could be truly frightened by The Bots’ Scared Silly Dunny Series, the project does hold some eerie behind-the-scenes synchronicity within it. “We actually didn’t choose to do the Halloween series, but rather were invited [by Kidrobot] to helm the project”, Jenn & Tony Bot admit. “On top of that, we met each other five days before Halloween in 2001 and also were engaged years later around the same time of year. The project just felt perfect and resulted in a ton of ideas and lots of reminiscing.”

Click Here to Purchase The Bots’ Scared Silly Dunny Series from Kidrobot, or
Click Here to Find the Nearest Kidrobot Retailer Near You.

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