COCKEYSVILLE, MD — David Gonzales is hoping that his new series of vendible figurines will generate the same kind of success in the bulk vending marketplace that his best-selling series Homies has enjoyed. Like Homies, the new series offers the same brand of over-the-top humor that made the Homies line a winner in bulk vending, only this time Gonzales is looking at a decidedly different subject.
The series, called Trailer Park, is launching with a 12-piece set of figurines that takes a satirical look at a very specific slice of rural American life. Although there are no guarantees for successful products in bulk vending, Gonzales’s timing could not have been better. What has been dubbed “blue collar,” “redneck” and “trailer trash” culture seems to be booming in traditional mainstream media outlets. Television shows like Larry the Cable Guy, My Names Is Earl and The Blue Collar Comedy Tour are certified hits. Add to that the fact that the Internet is now featuring hundreds of websites dedicated to the hairstyle fashion statement known as the “mullet,” trailer-park lifestyles and filling in the blanks in comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s famous tagline, “You Might Be A Redneck If….”
Appreciation for things related to trailer parks seems to have broken out of cult status and hipster irony. Once objects of socio-economic scorn, suburban and rural populations are now embracing their inner “redneck” through broad, often self-deprecating humor. Given such an environment, the market would seem ripe for a series that includes characters named Catfish Clem, Flea Market Fred and Kegger Ken.
“I took them to New York for the licensing show and I didn’t get any complaints,” said Gonzales. “People were cracking up. I’d get a corporate guy in a suit in New York and he’d start laughing and say, ‘You must know my cousin in Nebraska!’ I used to get the exact same thing with Homies.”
According to Gonzales, his hometown in the San Francisco Bay area provided all the inspiration he needed for both Homies and the Trailer Park series. “The area we grew up in is a really a diverse area, so I had friends who were homies and low riders, and I had friends who were bikers,” he explained. “And then we had guys in the area that some would call white trash, and I got to know all these people.”
For Gonzales, the vendible figurines are an extension of his talent as a cartoonist, which precisely mixes satire with realistic details. Yes, there are stereotypes, he admits, but the stereotypes are in service to the satire. “[In Homies,] the Hispanic kids saw the satire, but they also saw a lot of truth in it. Someone once said nobody else could have done it unless they came up the way I did,” Gonzales relayed. “They couldn’t pull it off successfully. I satirized it, but I did it with sensitivity. There were some stereotyping, but that’s what a lot of cartooning is about. Trailer Park is meant to be entertaining and funny. I’m trying to do it without having people raging mad at me. If hippies were still around, I’d be doing a line of hippies. That would be awesome.”
Homies, bulk vending operators will recall, never stepped over the line and depicted criminal behavior in any of its multiple releases. That same satirical yet safe principle, explained Gonzales, will also guide Trailer Park through what he hopes will be multiple releases of the series. Of course, with Homies, some people seemed to miss the satirical elements. Many bought the figurines solely for what they viewed as their low-rider authenticity. Other groups, which seemed determined to find offense in the line, organized protests against stereotyping. In the end, both drove sales, making Homies among the most successful bulk vending properties of all time.
As with Homies, Gonzales has launched a Trailer Park website accessible through the Homies site – homies.tv – that provides a detailed profile for each character. In fact, Gonzales explained, the profiles came before the actual drawing of the characters. “I created these little stories, then I got the images,” he explained. “I’m just grasping what other people have as images when they hear the words ‘trailer park.’”
While it is still too soon to tell if Trailer Park will be a Homies-sized hit, A&A Global Industries, which sells the line, has reported encouraging results from initial tests in the field. In the meantime, life is good for Gonzales. Hollywood, he said, has finally gotten serious about Homies and its offshoot line, Mijos.
“Homies are at a more advanced stage; we’ve been shopping them in Hollywood and we have some major interest by studios,” said Gonzales. “We’ve had a lot of interest for years, and we’re finalizing some deals. Now, the big goal here with Trailer Park is to create another entertainment property.”