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Bringing life to action figures - Fallbrook man designs innovative tools to bring real-life movements to toys

Many individuals have turned to the ocean for inspiration, but one Fallbrook man’s aquatic experience led him to bring revolution to a commonplace toy, creating a unique product that will soon be sweeping the nation.

Mike Bellon, founder of Action Sports Toys, LLC, was inspired while surfing to create a toy that would allow children to mimic his moves on the water.

“I was riding a wave at Mission Beach when I decided I wanted to be innovative. I looked at electronics and computers, but I thought that toys would be the perfect outlet for me to focus on. I wanted to make a surfer that would ride the waves and could be controlled by wires,” said Bellon, a licensed general contractor, who renovated and remodeled custom homes for a living.

However, Bellon’s original concept for creating a miniature surfer wouldn’t come to fruition. Instead, Bellon turned to focusing on the plastic action figure in order to create a new, fun toy that children of all ages would enjoy. His goal was to put action into action figures.

“Action figures don’t really do anything,” said Bellon. “They are in a stiff, static state.”

To put more movement into his new figurine prototype, Bellon disassembled a 12-inch action figure and placed springs in between the joints and wires inside the plastic limbs. While the prototype had more movement, it was easily broken.

Bellon returned to his prototype with a plan to discover a method that would allow users to move the figurine with 360 degree control, allowing the user to imitate a professional athlete’s moves precisely.

Bellon was particularly drawn to make his prototype be able to simulate a professional skateboarder’s moves. It was then that he discovered where the controls for his toy would have to be placed to allow for all around movement.

“In order to allow the figure to flip and spin a skateboard, I had to control it straight from through the top of the toy,” explained Bellon. “From here, I have the most control.”

With this slight modification, Bellon’s figure could do skater tricks that couldn’t be easily done with toys before.

“I could do a shove-it, an ollie, fakie and basic skate tricks because of a simple mechanism that works internally in a circle,” stated Bellon. “It’s basically an internal puppetry mechanism. The cover for the mechanism became the controller.”

Bellon then obtained a patent for his toy, which has an internal mechanism allowing for arm and leg movements through a control placed at the top of the toy’s shoulders.

“It’s the first patent on a toy since GI Joe,” proclaimed Bellon.

In 2003, Bellon was featured on the TV show American Inventor for his idea, and was ranked in the top 25 inventors. Bellon met the producers of American Inventor in Atlanta, Ga., and was told by Proctor and Gamble representatives he had a “home run” product. However, Bellon discovered that he would have to sign over the rights and patent of his toy to the show.

“It wasn’t very inventor friendly,” he reflected.

Bellon returned to Fallbrook, and once again began working on perfecting his product by using high quality materials to make the Actions Sports Toys as realistic as possible. The authenticity of the toys has attracted the endorsement of professional skaters, such as Steve Caballero, Bucky Lasek and Ryan Sheckler.

“I enjoy authenticity,” said Bellon. “Even the pants and shirt that I use [on the toys] are the same real skaters would use. I didn’t use cost as a factor in building my toys; I build them for authenticity and playability.”

Because of his dedication to creating the best toy possible, Bellon even halted production on his toys because he had discovered a better skateboard model that would allow the figure to effectively perform a kick-flip. The choice would have cost him a significant amount of money to go back and correct, but a friend reminded Bellon his reasons for his work.

Bellon reminisced, “My friend asked me, ‘Are you in this for the money, or to create the best action figure ever?’”

Bellon has not only developed a product that has garnered that attention of some of the largest toy retailers, but has also developed a strong business plan to spread the word of his Action Sports Toys.

“We have ten representatives for all 50 states, and representatives working individual accounts,” said Bellon, who said his representatives are currently negotiating contracts with Toys ‘R’ Us, K Mart, Target, The Learning Express and Walmart.

Action Sports Toys representatives are also working on contracts internationally, and aspire to have the products in Australia, Canada and Latin American countries, such as Ecuador and Venezuela.

Action Sports Toys are currently found in select Tilly’s and Sun Diego Shops, and locally at JJ’s Beach and Board Shop in Fallbrook.

Action Sports Toys, LLC, is partnering with the public relations firm that allowed Zu Zu Pets to become the most popular Christmas gift for 2009, and has negotiated with Skull Candy to allow for a 200-day tour alongside top skateboarding events to promote their toys.

Bellon’s strong business plan has allowed him to prepare for a national television campaign, as well as several non-profit endeavors to expose his product to his demographic.

“I learned everything I needed to by reading books, and studying what works in business,” said Bellon. “I did what successful professionals have done. I used the full business structures they set up, established the same business relations they did, and followed their business patterns.”

Bellon believes the work model he developed as a general contractor prepared him for the hard work that came with Action Sports Toys.

“I just went out and did it,” said Bellon. “My lifetime of working hard to achieve my goals translated into my work in the toy business.”

Bellon is aware that his accomplishments may not have been met if it had not been for the support of his family and friends.

“My Dad, Richard, my grandparents, and friends, have personally invested in this. My mom passed away when I was 15, and as a young man, I learned that life is short, with only so much time,” said Bellon. “I’ve always felt that Mom was watching, so I wanted to do something big that she would be proud of.”

Bellon plans on naming one of the future actions sports figurine – a female doll with all the playability of its male counterpart – after his mother, Carol Ann.

For Bellon, the greatest achievement he has obtained is the praise children have had for his toys.

“The biggest moment for me is when I get feedback from kids,” he said. “When I hear kids say that this is the ‘sickest’toy they’ve ever seen, that’s what keeps me going. I did it for the kids.”

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