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SDCC2008 – Toy Guru Interview – Finale

mattel.gifWe have come to the last installment of the Mattel’s resident Toy Guru Scott Neitlich. I suppose the die-hard DC Infinite Heroes fans have been waiting long enough for us to finally get to this. Read on as we get the story for what we can expect from the line in 2009 and we will try to tie up any final loose ends. Enjoy!

Fwoosh: Finally, how is the Infinite Heroes line doing so far?

Scott Neitlich: Really well, we are very excited about it. We are going to be adding articulation in 2009.

Fwoosh: Really?

SN: We will be adding ball joints to the elbows, the knees, maybe the hips and will be adding wrist and ankle joints in 2009. With the first wave, there were a lot of contractual and licensor issues getting these out the door but now that we finally got it, and like the six inch line, there were some production bumps and hills to climb, but we’re really looking in 2009 to blow it out. So if fans kind of stick with it in 2008, in ’09 you are going to see a huge increase in articulation, we are looking at doing vehicles, play sets, the whole thing.

Fwoosh: So the focus with DCIH is really collector as well?

SN: Yeah, these are all collector lines. Our only DC line that is aimed specifically at kids right now is The Brave and the Bold. One of the things you will notice about that line is that there are pegs in the arms and legs for snap on weapons. This line is certainly a kids line, we are giving you three collector lines, you know?

Fwoosh: Sometimes if a show strikes a chord with the fans they will start dipping in…

SN: Oh, I know. I can already hear stuff like "When are we going to get figures without the holes in the arms", but right now collectors are going to have to be patient with us on that one.

Fwoosh: Well, and again with the Infinite Heroes, the packaging on that line is just amazing.

SN: Oh yeah it is, that is all [packaging designer] Frank Varela, he gets the credit on that. The hand thing is so cool.

Fwoosh: So is DCIH all about getting the most massive collection possible on the shelf as fast as possible?

SN: Yeah, it is all about building an army, you get your Gotham SWAT, Hawkmen- it is all tied into the huge cross-over events. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis- that theme is going to last through the end of 2009, it will be the "Crisis" series. Then in 2010 we will have a new direction for the line, still at the same scale, but a new theme to get more people on board. The way it works is that 2008- think of DCIH as kind of a story- so ’08 is chapter one, you are just starting and you get some main characters. Then, by the middle of 2009 people will really start to get the possibilities of this line, we are getting all of these characters right from the story lines. It will really hit it’s peak at Comic Con 2009, we told people to hold onto those Anti-Monitor points, we have some really cool surprises, we have a good plan. 

Fwoosh: So how closely are you working with DC for the story aspect of things? Crisis now, and something else in the future? Do you know what they are working on?

SN: Yeah, we ask them and right now we are working on the 2010 line as we always works a year in advance, 2009 is already being tooled and sculpted. We work with DC and ask who is going to be really big in the comics in 2010? Will anyone have a major moment? We want to make sure they are on the shelf. We also work closely with DC Direct to try not to overlap too much. There are actually a few figures on our DCUC 2009 list that we submitted to DC since they have the final say and they said that they would like it if we didn’t do this character and this character and this character because DC Direct is doing that. So we compromise and remove character A if we can add character B, that kind of thing. There is some give and take but they are great partners and we love working with them.

Fwoosh: Any plans on letting the Horsemen participate on DCIH at all?

SN: Not at the moment. The main reason is that they are so busy with all the Masters and DCU line that we have "maxed them out" in some aspects, it is totally a bandwidth issue. There is only some much time in a day. The original, the first forty DCIH figures were sculpted by one team, we brought in a new team internally at Mattel to start doing the 2009 product. Not that the sculpts are in any way bad-

Fwoosh: That Starfire is beautiful.

SN: Yeah, but the sculpts in 2009 are even better. Like I said, we are adding articulation in ’09- they are at an 8 POA now, they are going to more at like an 11+ POA in 2009. So if the fans get on board they are really going to be happy. There is also a little bit of a surprise coming, if the fans really pay attention to the sculpting in 2008 and ’09, they might be able to find out just who designed the characters.

Fwoosh: Really?

SN: I can’t say anything else but I think some clever fans will be able to put it together.

Fwoosh: Well that is certainly an interesting little tidbit. So to kind of close this out- is there a typical day for you at work?

SN: Well, my day is usually about 8 to 7 at Mattel and the past few months has been a little different since I have been working on Comic Con but it tends to be this: come in in the morning and spend a couple of hours answering emails. We work with Asia a lot and Hong Kong’s night is our day so I am working with demand planning, answering emails from retail partners with questions, we usually always have some kind of internal show going on too. This is where we are presenting toys to retailers or licensing partners so in addition to my day to day duties there is always a show where we are presenting to customers. So I answer emails, I am talking with the Horsemen, going to meetings with design. One of the really nice things about Mattel is that everyone that works on the team- from marketing, design and packaging- we all sit together. So I just have to walk around my cube to packaging. Or on the other side to design. Or I will yell across something like: "Hey! What is going on the Booster Gold sculpt? Have we gotten approval yet?" and they will answer: "Yeah, we got it!". It is a really fun place to work, especially if you are passionate about toys. Then by the end of the day at 6 or 7 I am wrapping up and I will go on and spend a few hours on the boards until about 11 o’clock at night.

Fwoosh: Sounds like it is all in.

SN: Yeah, my wife wishes I would spend more time with her. I need to find that whole work-home balance. [laughs]

Fwoosh: Well any time you need help with polls or opinions, let us know. We love it when you pop in.

SN: Trust me, I will. DCUC especially has quite the large following at The Fwoosh. I love reading and I wish I could post more.

Fwoosh: Well, I think another Top Ten is in order soon and we are going to restructure it more to mine into the C-Z list characters.

SN: Those are the ones we want to know about. Of course we are getting to Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter, just not all at once. We want to know the obscure guys that people want- the Kamandis, the Jonah Hex, Gentlemen Ghost levels.

Fwoosh: Oh, series seven- who is coming with the base?

SN: Flash. And the base will be like the ones we will be selling at Matty Collector but I think it will have his name on it.

Fwoosh: And bigger waves?

SN: Seven figures in a wave, six with C&C parts, the anchor with a base.

Fwoosh: Does more characters mean that we will get more vertical expansion with the C&C figures?

SN: The most we will get to is ten inches. Atom Smasher is about nine inches. Grundy actually came out bigger than we anticipated, it would have been better if he was closer to seven or eight inches. We really wanted the big-big characters to really stand out like Atom Smasher and Giganta someone that should really tower but we can get over ten just based on the packaging design. Grundy is a great figure, I just wish he was about half of an inch smaller because it skews Atom Smasher a bit. But then again, Grundy has been huge, there are times when he is giant. Hey- he is a great figure.

Fwoosh: Well Scott, thanks for taking the time with us, we really appreciate it and we know you are busy.

SN: I am more than happy to. We are really grateful for the relationship the we have been able to form with you guys, it benefits everyone.

Fwoosh: Well we hope to see you around the Fwoosh and at NYCC and SDCC next year!

SN: Oh you will and thanks so much guys!

Fwoosh: Thanks, Scott. Keep up the great work!


We would like to thank Scott for taking the time to geek out with us at SDCC. We appreciate everything he and Mattel are doing for DC fans. Keep up the great work! Also, thank you for reading, hopefully we can make these conversations more of a regular thing in the future!

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