Mr. Rant to Toy Companies: “Do Better!”

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.

13 thoughts on “Mr. Rant to Toy Companies: “Do Better!”

  1. I’m with you on points one and two, but not so much three. The “plasticy” look of the TFA line seemed (to me, at least) to be a good approximation of the cartoon’s look. I don’t see the metallic repaints being all that hot, given that my goal is to assemble a set of figures that look like the characters in the show. And I’m much happier paying Hasbro’s price for the US releases than the wildly inflated Japanese release prices.

    Beyond that, it seems kind of cheap to say that the Japanese release “probably will” include a full set of jet clones. Maybe they will, but there’s no real reason to say one way or the other, unless you’ve heard something I haven’t.

    Personally, I hate the movie TF stuff, but I think Hasbro did a great job on the TFA line, and I appreciate that they’re still managing to trickle out new product, like the TRU exclusive Arcee and Ratchet. Yeah, I’m disappointed that I won’t be getting the Constructicons, Omega Supreme, or a full clone army, but I think it’s a solid line, and one I’ve really enjoyed playing with and displaying.

  2. Completely disagree on TFA. Cartoon cancellation was Cartoon Network’s call, and it wasn’t so much canceled, as not renewed for a 4th season.

    Hasbro also take a shit ton of crap cause Takara toys are “better”. With TFA the Hasbro paint jobs are much more show accurate than Takara’s random metallic paint. Also, if a Takara toy has twice as much paint, or better plastic, it also costs twice as much. In Japan, Transformers is a much more adult oriented brand. The can make the toys a little better, but they have to charge more. Because it’s primarily adult collectors they can still move toys. Let’s see Hasbro through some extra paint apps on that TFA Voyager prime and then charge $40 for him at TRU. It can’t be done.

    While what properties interest a particular collector enough to continue to purchase, over the years it has become clear to me that Hasbro is the best at what it does. They also seems to care the most about the fans, whether it be kids or collectors, and manage to get both demographics to buy the same toy line. Mattel may make a “Collector” toy line, that appeals to me and I will pay lots of money for, even though its hard to find or way overpriced. But Hasbro is the best at making me want to buy toys. As pointed out above, even after the shows cancellation and its toys have generally stopped selling to kids, I can walk into TRU and buy an Arcee. A pink Arcee. That turns into a car. A CAR. If that isn’t fanwank love, I don’t know what is 😛

    1. “Also, if a Takara toy has twice as much paint, or better plastic, it also costs twice as much.”

      Actually, I think you’re talking about the import price cost, which is, in fact, double. If you went to Japan and bought it there, you’ll probably find yourself spending just about as much as here.
      The problem here is the States is that we only look for the quick buck, as a company. Everywhere else, it’s the “long run”. This is why our economy is falling and why it can’t be fixed. Now prove me wrong.
      But, as a toy collector, I collect randomly. Everything and anything, as long as there is an interest.

      1. I’m pretty sure they are still more expensive in Japan. I know importing adds a bit of cost, but I do not believe they are equal to US retail.

        I’m not 100% sure if this is retail as I cant read the site to know if its amazon or 3rd party seller price, but lists Henkei Ironhide at 3,000 Yen ($33.40 in USD). Chrome and 1 more paint app, plastic quality should be similar if not the same. We paid $13 retail, they are paying $33. Granted that is retail, I could be wrong. If anyone who has knowledge of Japanese domestic prices, please chime in.

        Also a lot of Takara is “better” instances is aesthetics as opposed to materials. For the most part I have liked every classic better than its henkei counterpart. Chrome does not excite me. As far as TFA I def prefer the US release. Accurate colors to the animation is 1000x more preferable to ugly random metallic coloring to me.

  3. Agreed on all points.
    I loved the TF Classics line, but the Henkei version was better everytime and I think it’s safe to expect the same with TFAs. The twice the cost thing is only if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are cheaper ways to get stuff nowadays then paying double prices at BBTS for imports.
    Having said that, the only thing Takara can do to really annoy me with TFA is new characters via repaint. Bulkhead is already Ironhide and I find myself wondering what he’d look like in those colors.

  4. It never fails–I remember when ROTF Leader Prime came out, there were a good amount of fans who said, “It’s an awesome figure, but I’m not going to buy it; I’ll wait for the better Takara version.”

    I don’t know if it’s true, but I read somewhere (in regards to lines like Universe and possibly Animated) that Hasbro has to budget themselves with each Transformer they design; it costs a lot to go from prototype to finished product, so by the time paint comes up, they have to do a “sub-par” job because more paint apps than what is in the budget would push the toy outside of it’s price point (Deluxe, Voyager, etc.)

    On the other hand, Takara doesn’t release it’s versions for months later, and in that time they can just look at a completed toy and decide how to make it look better. Since they don’t have to build it from the ground up, they can spend more money on paint and detailing.

    Plus, as someone said before me, the Japanese versions may look better but you’re gonna pay for it. I remember a discussion when Henkei Dinobot pictures was released. I said, “For the price of ONE Henkei figure I can get THREE Universe figures.”

    The same conversation comes up when discussing Power Rangers. Older fans complain when Bandai of America brings over a Megazord but removes the die-cast metal, electronics, or redesigns it to make it smaller and more affordable to American consumers. They don’t stop to realize that the only people complaining are the adult fans who A) know a “superior Japanese version” exists, B) can afford to pay twice as much for what is essentially the same toy.

    1. Not particularly. I feel I get way more value out of my 13 dollar dlx transformer than any DCUC, and they are way easier to find. Plus the vast difference between series/movies and sublines within those makes it easy to only collect favorites. I couldn’t imagine being a completest of transformers as a whole.

      1. I concur. It helps to set limits like, “no repaints” or no”x subline”
        Or, only buy the huge one if it goes on sale/clearance(unless it really is just that cool)
        Absolute Complete-ism would be the job of a formerly rich fool.

  5. if i may toss in my hat…

    i’m a marvel legends fan… hasbro can bite me. they janked up icons, they janked up legends, they gave me unleashed 360 (pass) they’re giving me MU (pass) and a diarhea of movie figs (pass) in a scale that would make them compatible w/ star wars, but not my marvel guys. TB set the bar, hasbro ran right into it.

    on a completley different note… ok, i know jakks pacific aren’t known for the best likenesses in the world (despite being the company that pioneered the real scan techology!), w/ with no accessories, you’d think the stregnth of the UFC line would be the likenesses, since that’s all they’re really selling… instead, we’re getting a softer feeling architecture to the articulation (vs their wwe stuff), we getting awful liknesses on heads that are too huge, and often, no neck present, which we NNED for chokes!! they gave us the lat shoulder so we can do chokes, but haven’t included neck 1 yet in the line… not exactly a knock out of the park.

    matty is killing me w/ the wrestling stuff too… they made a few key improvements over the jakks figs… but not enough to cover the mistakes… the lack of accessories is unforgivable in the wrestling toy business… the “elite” hips lack a decent range of motion, making a huge load of wrestling poses impossible, the faces are as janked as anything jakks every unloaded, tattoes are the only paint ap on the figs… and they’re already bogged down on “gimmick” figs when the core simple fig is what kids want… let THEM create the action! dicks…

    1. I remember how much stuff those old figures came with– why, Vault and Noisy bought some just for the accessories– and so they could customize wrestling figures of themselves. 🙂 Then they hit them with fake tiny folded chairs. And all was right with the world.

  6. I hope that Hasbro is reading this post.

    It’s not that I don’t like their product. I love my Transformers animated toys. I bought them all at SRP before they all went 60% off here (faceplam).

    What I hate is that I need to second guess them everytime something comes out. Will they have a more accurate repaint? Will Takara release it again with better accessories? Am I going to have to pay twice as much down the road to get the best product?

    I guess this is more of a problem for me since I’m in the Philippines where we get both the American and Japanese releases with only $2 to $8 dollars difference (at least when they are first released) depending on the size. Case in point; the Buster Prime. I got my Leader Class when it first arrived and then we hear that the Takara version has a great looking gun and better paint applications. Now if I want the better product, I have now spent 2 times the money. And great figure or not, it’s hard to sell that big bot.

    While I don’t agree that all the Henkei versions were better than the US ones (I’m not really a fan of the chrome), I was definitely tempted by Astrotrain, and those exclusive Seekers. Which brings me to another point. @Grenadier, may be right. Hasbro does have to shell out for the design, while Takara can ride their coat tails, but what about the constant re-paints that Hasbro is producing? A boxset of Seekers would only mean 1 or 2 designs, which would maximize profits. Why haven’t they done that? The TFU twins mold was made into sunstreaker, sideswipe, the Takara red alert, and the upcoming exclusive punch/counterpunch. You’re telling me they couldn’t recoup their expense after that?

    If Takara has ideas that would make for a better product, shouldn’t they be introduced to the whole line? Isn’t giving the consumer the best product and service you can what brand loyalty is built on? I buy more Hasbro than Mattel product, but even I can say that I envy the MOTU and DCU collectors sometimes.

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