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Product Design Manager Mason Fiske is joined by friends for Star Wars Day, 2018

Employee Spotlight: Mason Fiske

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Lucasfilm’s Mason Fiske helps build the stuff that dreams are made of…

First, can you tell us your current title and summarize your day-to-day responsibilities?

My official title is Product Design Manager, but when asked out in the world what I do I enjoy telling people simply that I design Star Wars toys – which gets a great reaction but it is indeed a main part of what I do! Overall, I am currently responsible for developing and bringing to life a variety of consumer products including toys, plush, pins, and collectibles for all of our Lucasfilm properties (primarily Star Wars) for our global Disney Parks and Stores. Every day is a little bit different, but a typical day could include sketching and presenting new product concepts, testing a prototype, reviewing sculpts and artwork, and discussing which character’s lightsaber we should make next.

How does your role fit within your larger team/department?

I am a part of our very small, extremely talented Lucasfilm Product Development team who are all responsible for the creating the amazing products sold around the world for our vertical and licensing business. If you have purchased a Star Wars product of any kind, someone on our team played a major part in creating that!

When did you start at the company, and in what role?

I started in 2015 as a Designer on this very same team, focused solely on our licensed toy business. At first, I played a major support role during the resurgence of the brand when The Force Awakens was about to hit theaters. As we had fans clamoring for any product they could get their hands on, we were there to make that happen for them.

What were your first impressions of Lucasfilm?

For someone who grew up with an architect as a dad, the design of our Presidio office itself was the first thing that really wowed and surprised me. When you walk in, the design, the décor, and the details make you feel like this a true creative environment where a lot of care and attention are put forth (on top of the incredible views of the Golden Gate). It also exudes quite a welcoming and homey feel, which I quickly learned reflects the mentality and people inside. There is a true underlying sense of camaraderie and family here which makes going to work an absolute pleasure on top of the all the amazing content this company creates.

Did you have a familiarity with the company or its productions before you started? Were you a fan?

It’s hard to say that you can’t be familiar with the company considering its relevance within pop culture. But since I was young, I’ve always had major affinity for sci-fi space films in general. The idea of traversing the universe and discovering new worlds has always mesmerized me, and Lucasfilm/ILM, not just the Star Wars franchise itself, has been a part of creating so many of those great films. I’ll have to admit that I grew up right smack in between the original trilogy and the prequels though so my favorite properties as a kid were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Don’t judge!

Could you summarize your background before joining the company? Where did you go to school? What early jobs did you have? What inspired you to get involved in this industry?

For the majority of my career, I have been working within the toy and game industry, although I spent some brief time developing military protective gear. I went to college in Boston at the Wentworth Institute of Technology where I studied Industrial Design and part of the graduation requirement was to complete two internships. One of those internships I was fortunate enough to get hired at was Hasbro, where I also worked immediately upon graduating. There I had my first experience developing toys and games for such iconic brands as Transformers, GI Joe, and Star Trek, and later on at another job for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob! Heading into college though, toy design was not on my immediate radar as an actual career as it seemed so farfetched at the time that people really do this for a living. Looking back though, I can say that that initial internship was the determinative point of where I am today, as I quickly realized how much fun a job like this can be while being able to bring joy to so many others at the same time.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The most enjoyable moments come when I am able see people interact with the products I worked on, especially for the first time. The reaction, the thrill, the passion that one exudes as they unbox, reveal, play with and display it proudly brings me a true moment of gratification that all the effort and attention to detail put into that item was worth it. It also reminds me that what I do can impact people in such unique ways. There is such an emotional connection to the products people buy, especially toys, that even the smallest creative decision can make the biggest difference.

Are there any types of skills or attributes (beyond the normal qualifications) that you think are important for someone in your role or one like it?

When developing any product, especially for a tv/film property, infusing story is one of the most important factors to consider in creating a truly compelling product for any fan. Our team views our products as an extension of our films and, whether it may be as something simple as a t-shirt or as complex as a pinball machine, we all put so much thought and effort into making sure the right story is being told within each item. It is a core reason and testament to the brand’s success over the last 40+ years.

Do you have a favorite memory (or memories) of your time on the job? Any stand-out accomplishments or cool opportunities?

In 2019, we as a company were fortunate enough to attend a preview of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge before it opened to the public. Just by chance, we had planned an extended family vacation to Walt Disney World during this same time and I was able to bring my 9-year-old nephew to the preview with me. For a young boy who was just becoming obsessed with Star Wars, the reaction he had when a real-life stormtrooper stopped and talked to him, and when we got to pilot the Millennium Falcon (3 times!) together were moments of sheer excitement that both he and I will never forget. It’s these types of experiences where you step back and are reminded why this job is so special — it brings that same happiness for people of all ages around the world every single day.

Do you have a favorite Lucasfilm movie or production (show, game, etc.), and why?

This might be an obscure answer but my all-time favorite production is LucasArts’ game, Rogue Squadron for Nintendo 64. I had watched the original films many times, but this was the first Star Wars game I ever owned and it truly brought the universe to life for me. Being able to fly around the worlds and complete the missions that previously I could only watch on screen was a mind-bending experience as a kid, especially with those amazing ‘3D’ graphics! When I first heard about the new Patty Jenkins film, chills ran up and down my spine. I can’t wait!

Do you have a favorite character from a Lucasfilm movie or production, and why?

Hands down R2-D2. I feel that if there were to be a human version of that little droid, it would be me! I’m always up for an adventure, am quite resourceful with a tool box that seems to grow by the day, can be quite sarcastic at times, and will continually put my friends and family before anything else.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to join Lucasfilm?

I live by the motto that honest hard work pays off. If it’s your dream to work here, no matter the role, put as much time and effort as you can into showcasing your talents while staying true to who you are.

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