Scott Neitlich, Mattel’s Associate Brand Manager for its collector-oriented lines, was kind enough to sit down with Hagop (my tag team partner from the Fwoosh) and me for a catch-up session following the Mattel Collectors Preview.
This is the second part of the interview – I wanted to title the article “Toy Guru Announces Jitsu” but then common sense prevailed. Part one of the interview is here.
H: Let’s go over what’s in store this year for Masters of the Universe.
TG: The line is composed of 12 monthly figures, 4 quarterly figures (although there might only be 3 this year) but ideally 4 standard 6” quarterly figures, and then 4 over-sized figures which could range from $30-$60 depending on how big they are. So Battlecat was the first, Tytus will be the second, and then Gy-Gor will be the third.
H: And what are their price points?
TG: Battlecat was $30, Tytus will be $40 and Gy-Gor will be $30.
H: And the 4th quarter over-sized figure is yet to be revealed?
TG: Correct. We’ll have it at San Diego.
R: how soon did you guys know you were going to be able to pull off something like Tytus?
TG: Well we definitely took a risk, because Battle Cat hasn’t even gone on sale yet .But based on the fact that we’ve been selling every figure out so quickly and we knew Tytus was a hugely demanded figure, so it was planned quite a while ago. But we were like, “I hope this works!”
H: MOTU isn’t like DC where there are 4000+ characters-
TG: Which is actually why we’re able to plan the line out through 2016. I know every figure, not off the top of my head, that we’ve got planned.
H: Have you considered doing any totally new characters?
TG: Mo-Larr! Eternian dentist! (laughter) We’ve tossed it around, but this really is about Masters of the Universe Classics. And we’re going to concentrate on Princess of Power, New Adventures, Original Series, 2002, Mini Comics; there’s so many characters fans want. Sure there’s a lot of designers that say I want to come out with…I don’t know…”Mummy Man”…I almost said Mumm-Ra! (laughter). But right now it’s about doing everyone that’s existed, before we explore new characters.
R: Can you tell us a little more about Tytus? Is he going to be rotocast?
TG: Yes. That’s one of the ways we were able to afford him. So he’s not as articulated. But he does have, elbow, knee, foot, wrist-
CB: Breast articulation? (at this point we were joined by Eric “Cornboy” Mayse of the Four Horsemen)
TG: Stop putting words in my mouth CB!
CB: Now that would be a good articulation point.
TG: We’re talking about Tytus’ articulation.
R: So he doesn’t have a bicep swivel?
R: What kind of hips does he have?
CB: I don’t know. Let’s look. (Cornboy retrieves Tytus from the showroom floor and brings him back over) Just a T crotch. With roto-molding you have to go with a little less articulation. He still has some [shoulder] movement, but he doesn’t have full ball joint movement.
TG: He’s got a waist twist, removable armor…
CB: His capture hammer-he captures other figures with that.
H: Is there an ab crunch?
TG: No ab crunch. They’re a bit more expensive to do at 12”. If we did full articulation on him you’d be looking at a $100 figure.
R: You said before you’ve got the line planned out through 2016. Do the sales figures determine the production numbers?
TG: Yes. A big thing this year was there were a lot more subscribers in 2010 than there were in ’09. But it’s hard to tell how many more fans are there outside of the subscribers, because there are so many more in 2010.
R: And then you’ve re-released He Man and Skeletor, so there might be a lot of people just jumping on.
TG: Yes. Obviously we have a channel to re-release figures and we’ll do that with figures that sell out very fast. We’ll bring them back in a couple months or couple years and I think eventually people will be able to get a complete collection. You may not be able to get it immediately, but if you hang in there everyone will be back around. Except for maybe the Comic Con ones. I don’t think we’ll bring back He-Ro.
R: We’ve got MOTU vs. DCUC 2-packs…
TG: Yes! Exclusive to Toys R Us.
H: And the price?
TG: $29.99. They’ll be on an endcap with the Retro Action. It’ll be a big display at first, and they’ll move them to aisle afterwards.
R: So those are going to come with the comic book pack in.
TG: Yes. It’s in there.
R: How many comics did they actually do?
TG: There were two one-shots and then a 4 issue mini-series. But the mini-series didn’t have Superman. So one of the one shots is in one pack and one is in the other pack.
H: If this were to do well, is it something that could continue even though there are no other comics?
TG: Yes. There’s definitely some natural pairings between Masters and DC. I mean…Hawkman/Stratos- we’ve seen these lists online and we were like, “We’ve already thought of all those!” We put a big list together of natural pairings that would work, and if it does succeed, this would be a good way of getting some really natural repaints out there. It’s definitely not a line that’s going to have any tooling applied to it. So, you know, fans were saying like, “Why didn’t you do Dr. Destiny with Skeletor?” Well, we don’t have a Dr. Destiny. So, it’s a way of getting characters out there for kids and doing some fan-demanded repaints. They’re in the comic book colors. And if they do ok, yeah- it could be a very exciting way of doing some MOTU figures at retail.
H: Speaking of repaints in 2-packs, the Superman/Bizarro set-
TG: Yes, that will probably be later in 2010.
H: What’s the color like on their costumes?
TG: It is a lighter blue. They’re both in the lighter blue. But then also, even though this one actually has a photo, it’s much like the Golden Age Hawks 2-pack; it depends on how many 2-packs Wal Mart wants. It has nothing to do with the character selection, it’s just “we want four for the year” or “we want two for the year”. But that one [Superman/Bizarro] is actually far enough along that it would actually get released somehow, since it actually has been painted.
R: Going back to DCU and MOTU 2-packs, did you guys have to jump through any special hoops to be able to pair those two brands together?
TG: You know, we pitched it to DC/Warner Brothers just like we do anything else and we showed them the comic book and they got really excited right away. We thought there might be some resistance to it, but DC loved it at first sight. They thought it was a great idea and said, “Why didn’t we do this a year ago? Let’s do it.”
R: Do any other pairings of brands jump out to you as opportunities?
TG: There could be, but nothing I can comment on until we talk to licensors. Major Matt Mason and Dino-Riders! (laughing)
H: So, Ghostbusters-
R: Wait-let’s talk about Mo-Larr.
TG: The most loved/hated figure of the year.
R: So where did the idea come from to do that?
TG: I’ve known Seth Green and Matthew Senreich from Robot Chicken from conventions, and they’re obviously big toy fans. And we kind of get together at conventions, they’re in L.A., and I wind up seeing them sometimes and we always talk about how it would be fun to do some kind of Robot Chicken/Mattel thing. I don’t know who first brought it up, but their original Mo-Larr sketch closed with an ‘island shot’ that said, you know, “Mo-Larr—comes with everything you see here!” (Watch the Mo-Larr sketch on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStZqMdqr9k&feature=related) And we were like, “We should do that! Yeah, but we could never do that. Maybe we could do that?” And it just came out of us shooting ideas back and forth. It really just became kind of a challenge to ourselves. Also, I didn’t want it to take the place of a Masters figure, so we did it in addition to—you know we’re still doing a Masters Comic Con figure, but this will be another, an additional Masters Comic Con figure. It’ll be a two pack with Skeletor with the missing tooth. It’s great, we love it. It’s hilarious. I can’t wait till I get him and have him battle Beast Man and tie him up with floss.
R: Was that the 2-pack you were going to show at the art show?
TG: We wanted to reveal it at the art show, but we still had to tie up some issues. Actually, we weren’t going to reveal Optik. We were going to wait for here [Toy Fair]. But because we couldn’t show Mo-Larr, we were like-we’ve got to get a headline-so Optik was close enough to being done, even though the eye wasn’t finished, so we just thought we’ll show him and explain that the eye is not done. So there you go, there’s the whole scoop.
H: And you have yet to announce the other SDCC Masters figure.
TG: We have not.
R: Any hints?
TG: Hmm……It’ll be a Masters figure. No, I can’t give any hints yet. But I think it’s one of my favorite figures we’ve done so far. And it will have a very significant difference between the Comic Con one and the one released on Matty. So people may want both.
H: And will Mo-Larr be on Matty?
TG: Yes. Mo-Larr will be on Matty. He won’t have any changes though. He, I think, may also be available on CartoonNetwork.com. We’re still working that out.
R: Can you just go over the Masters schedule?
TG: Sure- Moss Man is March, Evil-Lyn is April, Optik is May, She-Ra is June, Count Marzo is July, Whiplash is August.
R: And Keldor?
TG: Keldor will be one of the quarterly [figures]. He’s our Skeletor refresh the way Battle Armor He-Man was our He-Man refresh. But right now, the September figure is looking like he’s probably on time but if he’s not, Keldor might have to wind up being the September figure. So far everything is fine, but until we are positive that we’re at least going to get through September, we want to wait before we announce a release date [for Keldor].
R: That’s a big hitter for me, because a couple of years ago, Mattel did the Keldor San Diego figure-
TG: Yes, I was in line to buy that.
R: I got in the wrong line so I ended up with two Batmen instead of Batman and Keldor. So that’s a big one for me. And I guess I’m going to ask you about Jitsu now, because I always ask you about Jitsu.
TG: No plans yet, but he’s…he’s…I told you, we’ve got the line worked out to 2016.
R: So he is in the lineup at some point?
TG: I can confirm that eventually we will get to Jitsu. Pretty much everyone, we will hit by then. The only ones left over by 2017 would be maybe some of like, the human New Adventures characters. Like maybe one or two that didn’t make it before 2017.
R: Well, we’ve got our headline for this interview. “Toy Guru Announces Jitsu…”
TG: ..By 2016! You will get a Jitsu.
H: With Ghostbusters, it seems like the enthusiasm ebbs and flows as release dates get pushed back and there are big gaps of time with no product.
TG: I think by Peter we should get to the point where there’s one every other month. There was a little bit of a build up because we wanted to get them out as quick as we could. But there’s more approvals ‘cause there’s likeness issues, as opposed to Masters where there’s no real Jitsu. But I think by Peter we should be caught up.
R: One of the Facebook updates was that Peter Venkman was going to be April, was that the 12”?
TG: The 12” Peter, yes.
R: So, in May it’ll be the 6” Venkman?
TG: First it’ll be Walter, then Peter will be next, then lab coat Ray.
H: And is there an un-slimed Peter on the way?
TG: Eventually, yes. With a different head.
R: Can I ask you just a couple more character questions? VeeBee wants to know about Liberty Belle and Cyclone and some of the other JSA characters.
TG: We’re definitely excited to get to more JSA, yes. Bill [Benecke, Lead Designer] is a huge JSA fan too.
R: And how about Jonah Hex?
TG: He’s definitely in the list of characters we’ll get to. Especially with the movie on the line.
H: Is there anything you can tell us about Legion of Superheroes? People are dying for some Legion.
TG: Read the article in Toy Fare Magazine.
H: We did. So it’s just a matter of…what?
TG: Just…lining everything up. Legion’s going to be big.
At this point, Toy Guru and the Four Horsemen were whisked off by greater powers. Big thanks to Toy Guru and Cornboy for sitting down with us!