I spend a disproportionate amount of my income on Mattel toys. As a result, many of my Rants are aimed at Mattel. I don’t like that. I want to spread it around, so to speak. Last night, Noisy gave me a revelation. I don’t have a lot to rant about on other companies because they’re not doing as good a job tempting me with their product as Mattel does. That, he said, is a rant unto itself…
I know that toy companies sure aren’t perfect, and I don’t expect them to be. But, what I do expect is for them to think and try. So here are a few pointers to help out those companies that are a little confused. If they’ll follow a few of these suggestions, they’re bound to get featured in my column more often than they do now.
1. Just because you lost the best sculptors in the industry, doesn’t mean we’ll feel sorry for you and keep buying bad toys for a decade. Way back when the Four Horsemen left McFarlane and there was a big fuss, I remember wondering what was going to happen next. The Four Horsemen have gone on to be a rampaging success at Mattel while McFarlane Toys got… well, left in the dust. What used to be a decently articulated and fairly original line of toys with unique concepts turned into a glut of pre-posed statues that do nothing but sit around the shelves of Toys R Us, waiting for clearance that never seems to come. Now, it’s been ten years and you seem to have something good with Halo and Playmakers (the articulation is back), but can you apply that to a toyline that will recapture your once strong comic fanbase? We’re still out here and we’d like to know. There’s still time. The Four Horsemen don’t have all of my money… yet.
2. Just because you were on top in the 1990’s, doesn’t mean we want that same crap now. NECA did a great job with Ninja Turtles figures based on the original designs. Playmates must have thought so too. Spying another company making a mint off of what used to be their cash cow, Playmates decided to do what a lot of toy companies are doing these days. They revisited a line we all remember as kids to cash in on all that nifty nostalgia. And Playmates went all-out retro. Or should I say repro, because they just reproduced the original first wave of Ninja Turtles figures. Everything was the exact same, even the boxes they came in.
Word of advice Playmates. If I wanted to “play” with toys I bought twenty years ago, I would dig them out of the box they are stored in. See, I’m a fan and I have the old ones. The reason this whole retro trend in toys is popular is because those old toys with their bad articulation and laughable likenesses are being updated into better sculpted, well-articulated collectibles. Something that you might want to keep in mind for the next great Turtle revival in 2025. And I’ll be kind and not mention Star Trek this week.
3. Don’t let your Japanese “sister” company take your product and do it better. Hi Hasbro, how’s it going? Pretty good, you say? That Transformers Animated series sure was popular. Not only was the cartoon fun, but the toy line had some great figures. Good sculpts on both the robot and vehicle modes. Great likenesses. The scale was a little wonky, but it was still workable if you bought the various classes. Oh wait, you cancelled that show and toy line so you could put out a mediocre-at-best movie. You know, you wouldn’t want kids or grandmas or whoever the hell you think is buying your toys to get confused and accidentally pick up the wrong Optimus. Christmas would be ruined! But now the movie’s gone, and there’s no cartoon either. Guess you can spend all that free time gearing up for the next movie. It’s only two or three years away.
Meanwhile, Takara looked at that animated show and seemed to think it could work over in Japan, same for the toys. Well, almost. See, the folks over at Takara looked at those animated figures and thought they looked a little cheap. Or, at least, a little too plasticy. So they did what they always do, made American Transformers fans jealous by creating a superior product. Instead of that dull plastic look, the Japanese fans get to buy their figures with a glorious glossy metal shine. Not only do the figures look better, but I’ll bet they do a few smart repaints that you never got around to for us. So, where we didn’t get a complete set of jets, they probably will. Hmmm, smart repaints. If only Hasbro had the technology to do something similar.
There you have it. Three simple suggestions for three toy companies to get more face time in my weekly column and give Mattel a breather now and again. And, yes, Mr. Rant will be checking on your progress. Good luck.