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SDCC2008 – Toy Guru Interview – Part 1

mattel.gifFriend of Fwoosh Toy Guru, AKA Scott Neitlich, Associate Brand Manager at Mattel took a portion of his Sunday afternoon at SCDD 2008 to sit down with faithful Fwoosh Staffers Samuron and VeeBee to talk about all of the exciting action figure projects he is working on. Included within is talk of Masters of the Universe and the DC Universe, as well as the new Mattel Collector website, Matty Collector. Join us in several parts over the next few days as we spend some time with man at the controls. You will get some interesting tidbits about the various lines, character choices as well as some surprises. Enjoy!

Fwoosh: Scott, thanks so much for sitting down with us here on the last day of Comic Con 2008. Just to start off, how did the convention go for you guys overall this year?

Scott Neitlich: It has absolutely been the best Comic Con we have had. We have already sold out of the Lightning McQueen Cars exclusive as of this morning, and we are very close to selling out of Greyskull. There will be a few available for order at , we set aside a few and they will go up on Monday at 11 am Pacific time when the site goes live. There have been lots of big things for us this year, especially that we were so excited to launch and while only the store is going to go live on Monday, there is so much in store for the site as a whole- there’s going to be libraries and archives, release calendars for retail so you will know when DC Classics wave three will be out, when wave four will be out- dates. It is all going to be there, everything collectors have been asking for. You know, we have been working on this project for about two years now. 

Fwoosh: Wow!

SN: Yeah, I have been a part of it and Jim Murphy gets a lot of credit on this one. Past Matty, Masters of the Universe has been a dream project of mine and to be able to launch it as a collector-oriented line is just huge. Obviously the big Mattel booth was making no secret about how excited we are about this.

Fwoosh: The Greyskull statue is pretty awesome. I know the fans have been waiting a long time for Matty Collector but after everything we have seen of it so far, it appears it will be well worth the wait.

SN: Yeah, that is obviously the hope. We heard the concerns, we just wanted to do it right and I think most people should be pleased.

Fwoosh: Well, speaking of Masters and it’s exclusive execution through Matty Collector, what was the driving force behind that choice?

SN: A big part of it was really that there is a big build up right now for the possible film, which is in script development, but without any current entertainment, without a new cartoon it is kind of hard to get retailers on board. If we went to Target and said "Hey we have Masters of the Universe!" the response from them would be less than enthusiastic as there is nothing else attached to it. So, because of this, this is going to be an absolutely collector driven line. We will be doing obscure characters- we will be doing Trapjaw and He-Man and Skeletor but we will also be doing Green Goddess, we are going to try to get to He-Ro, troopers, Eternian Soldiers. Characters that would never sell at retail. That was really the whole point, we wanted to do the line that fans have always wanted and really right now, it would never work through the normal retail, you know- logistically.

With our DC Universe line, while it is the same scale and articulation, at retail there is constant tie-ins. There are comic books, movies and cartoons- there is no current He-Man entertainment so this was the way to do it.

Fwoosh: So character selection is wide open? Are there any restrictions?

SN: The only limitations are on the Filmation only characters. Characters that were created by Filmation wont be in the line, but if they appeared in the 2002 series they can. So for example, we can do someone like Count Marzo who was in the Filmation series but did make an appearance in the ’02 show- we can do him, just the more recent version. Unfortunately, someone like Shadow Weaver who was created for the She-Ra cartoon by Filmation, unfortunately we don’t have access to her or characters of that nature; but, there are still SO MANY that we do. If they had a toy in the 1980s, we are doing them and this already close to two-hundred characters.

Fwoosh: Being a site exclusive I saw that there is a limit of three per figure per person. Is that being done to make sure everyone that wants a figure can get one?

SN: We may go up on that. We wanted to get fan reaction to the limit and it sounds like a lot of people are wanting to order more so they can combine orders to save on shipping- especially overseas. So we want to do what is right for the fans, so if fans are saying more along the lines of ten or twenty, we might consider that. We just don’t want dealers ordering 1000 of them but we are flexible. Nothing is set in stone and the first Masters figure won’t go on sale until October. He-Man will be October 31st, Beastman will be November 15th and then a new figure will be available the 15th of every month after that. There will be a shorter gap between the first two but after that, a new figure once a month and if ten figures per person works out better, we will make the adjustments.

Fwoosh: So will you be adjusting the production runs on the figures depending on sales and demand?

SN: Yeah, and honestly right now we have no idea how well these are going to sell. It looks like we are selling through our Greyskulls, but we made less of him than we will the regular figures. We have to see how it goes- if we sell out of a figure in two days, yeah, we will go back into production. If a figure is hanging around on the site for five months, probably not.

Fwoosh: Will there be a pre-order period for each figure or maybe a subscription service?

SN: There won’t be a pre-order for the first figure, but once we hit 2009, past the October, November, December figures, we are looking to start up a program where you can buy say, a years worth and on the 15th of each month a new figure will be sent to you automatically. There is probably not going to be any kind of discount for that, but you can put in an order for a years worth on January 1st and know that each month on about the 17th a new figure will show up in your mailbox.

Fwoosh (Ron’s shameless plug for Jitsu): So you mentioned some character release dates, when is Jitsu coming out?

SN: [laughs] Unfortunately, I can’t release any information past, what? I think we announced Mer-Man.

Fwoosh: Zodak was out there too, but without a date.

SN: Yeah, but believe me they are all on the way and Jitsu is a big one. Zodak and Stratos and Mer-Man are some of my favorites.

Fwoosh (VB): Yeah, Mer-Man is my favorite and the fact that you guys got both heads- the card back art version and the 80s toy version is very nice touch.

SN: Yeah, that was a fun little detail to include.

Fwoosh: Where did the idea of this whole relaunch come from? Did it come from the Eric Treadaway He-Man that you guys put out for display in the case last year?

SN: You know, it is funny- it really was a serendipity thing. There were a few of us at Mattel, just a few months before that, that had pitched something fairly similar to it to the Vice President of Mattel. We wanted to do a collector-oriented line with great sculpts and have it be super-articulated. He was a little skeptical, he said "Well, I am not sure, maybe yes". Then the Horsemen brought us this figure without even being asked, and it was the exact visual that we needed and when we brought that visual into the VP, he understood what we were wanting to do, it all just clicked. I think the great love for the Masters property from both sides independently just brought it into the same room and then it was like, done.

Fwoosh: As the 2002 line kind of ran it’s course, even with striking new designs, this new Classics line, with it’s throwback style seems to the the pinnacle of what those collectors in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties are looking for.

SN: Oh yeah, I grew up playing with the 80s line and I am sure you guys did too.

Fwoosh: Oh yeah.

SN: This is it, this is my dream line done in the way I have always wanted it. If I had to only work on one line, it would be this. However, I am very fortunate to spend a good amount of my time working on the DC Universe properties as well. Since He-Man is a little smaller I can work it in at different times, at night, whenever.


*Check back soon for round two of the interview where we will delve into the DC Universe and maybe find out Scott’s most wanted figure for DCUC. Thanks for reading and thanks again to Toy Guru.

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