Written by on December 20, 2012 in Ask Randy, News, Uncategorized - No comments

Randy here!

I hope all is going well with your Christmas and Holiday preparations. I am, as usual, decidedly unprepared- through no fault of my own!

But onto news… and the end of a toy era.

On Dec. 17th, Mattel released, through MattyCollector.com, the last of the Justice League Universe 3 packs: Firefly, Dr. Destiny and Toyman.

From MattyCollector.com:

“The epic 11-year Justice League Unlimited line wraps up with three of the most fan-demanded figures ever. This terrible trio includes the first Toyman figure, and never has a sweater vest been so incredibly creepy. The first ever Firefly figure in the Mattel JLU line also lands in this 3-pack, and you don’t need a Materioptikon to know that the final figure rounding out this threesome is the evil Dr. Destiny. Complete your collection with these three villains, all sculpted in distinctive JLU style!”

Since it debut in 2003 (not quite sure how they get 11 years), the line has gone through name changes, became a Target-exclusive line, added figures from other shows including Batman-The Animated Series, Batman Beyond as well figures of characters that never appears in any of the DC Animated Universe!

There have been numerous problems over the years. Distribution problems to retail stores. Delivery issues through MattyCollector, as well as increased prices for the figures and high shipping costs. And the Hal Jordan Green Lantern debacle in 2005, that I consider to be on equal or worse than Playmates’ Star Trek “1701″ figure insanity. Who thought it was  good idea to make only 100 figures of a classic, iconic Justice League character, destroy the molds and promise never to release it?! Granted in 2009, Mattel did try to make amends by selling a SDCC exclusive “Green Lantern Origins” that you could swap heads to make the figure.  But still…

All that being said, I have to credit Mattel for keeping a line going with that had not cartoon tie-in to go with it since 2006, a rare and bold marketing move in the market today. They seriously went above-and-beyond what they had to do for collectors.

Along with that, I have figures of characters I seriously never imagined being released:
Zatanna. Huntress. Galatea. Volcana. Deadshot. Lobo. Giganta. Lashina.
“Old” Bruce Wayne! Amanda Waller! Batgirl! Livewire!

The Justice Lords-all of them and the robot versions!
The Super Friends’ Apache Chief, Black Vulcan and Samurai!
The Question! The Gray Ghost!

That’s a whole lotta DC characters to get made into DCAU figures, no matter what the problems were getting there.

So thanks, Mattel and I’ll miss you, JLU Animated Line. -sniffle-

Course, if anyone has any of the JLU 3-Packs with the Gray Ghost lying about, looking to donate to a good home and finish off the last of the figures I crave, I’d love to take it off your hands…

We stay with Mattel and their recently released Back to the Future Part II Hover Board… and with some problems.

Now, collectors and fans can be a nit-picky lot, myself included. We want the perfect details, the best paint-ops and, seemingly, singular perfection in our plastic replicas. This is especially true with something licensed from a favorite tv show or movie.  Sometimes we get more than zealous about it. Now compound that by a license that has seen little produced for it over TWENTY YEARS!

Companies usually try to do their best against the multiple variables, looking to create something that’s “close enough” or at least “adequate” for release.  And we are usually not in any position of power when it comes to the development of toys, forcing us to make due with what they’ve made.

BUT… when you have someone who is not only a fan, a collector, but in a position of power AND one of the people who helped create the original that you are basing your piece of off, shouldn’t you give them a little more say in it? Let alone, make them unhappy?

Apparently, not really, as far as Mattel is concerned, as witnessed by this piece written by Screenwriter and Producer of Back to the Future Trilogy Bob Gale!

“Last week, I received the first of my hoverboards. I had seen the review on “Beyond the Marquee” a few days earlier, so my expectations were lowered. Nevertheless, I was disappointed. Jon and Steve’s review was spot on, and my issues are basically the same as theirs. The plastic stand is poorly designed and damn near impossible to make work. And although it was indicated that the board would somehow glide across certain smooth surfaces (like carpet), mine certainly didn’t. I too thought the sounds the board makes were underwhelming. But I would have forgiven all of these things if they had just gotten the lenticular quality of the movie board correct. This, in my opinion, is the product’s biggest problem. It’s supposed to be a prop replica so, at a $120 pre-sale price, it should look perfect. But it misses that mark. It’s not a disaster–far from it: the colors, dimensions, weight are great with a solid build quality, and the box graphics are a lot of fun (even though it’s missing the sticker that says “warning: does not work on water!”). And if it was $70, I’d give it an A. But at almost twice that price ($130 now), it is, at best, only a B. And dammit, I expected an A.

I emailed Mattel, expressed my opinion and told them I planned to go public with it. Scott Neitlich was a total pro and responded immediately. He told me that despite many attempts, they were unable to satisfactorily recreate the lenticular surface and chose to go with the photographed version. That may be true, although I am puzzled how we were able to do something 23 years ago in the movie (admittedly at a much higher cost) that Mattel could not do today. I honestly don’t know why Mattel didn’t tell me, or Universal, that they were having this problem when it developed, nor why they didn’t ask us to help them solve it. And I really don’t understand why they didn’t get in front of this issue when they made this compromise instead of choosing to disappoint their customers at delivery time. But no one likes to own mistakes or compromises, especially in corporations. So it is what it is.

I put myself out there to promote this, so now I want to publicly stand here with egg on my face and apologize. This product, at this price, falls short of the top notch standards that you and I have come to expect for something that carries the Back to the Future brand. To those of you who bought one because of my endorsement and are upset with the product, I’m very, very sorry. Please accept my apology. I share your disappointment, and you have permission to put my photo on a dart board and throw sharp objects at it.”

(Full letter is here. RANDY)

Smooth move, Mattel.
Disappointing fans is one thing.
Disappointed fans who are the creators of what you are making and can actually help you with your production problems is a whole new low.
Or as Biff Tannen might say, “That’s about as funny as a screen door on a battleship.”

I’m going to cut out here as I realized that I have a whole ‘nother column’s worth of stuff to put together… so that’s what I’m going to do. That should go up in the next day or so.

But I’ll leave you something a little non-toy related: The Kickstarter for WyrdCon4 in 2013.

What is WyrdCon?

“Wyrd Con is an Interactive Storytelling Convention.  Interactive Storytelling is a concept where the audience and actors are both part of the performance. Participatory events are ran throughout the conference to encourage both exploration and immersive play, including, but not limited to, Live Action Role Playing (LARP), Alternate Reality Games (ARG), Live Simulations and innovative Transmedia experiences.”

I know many of the people involved in running not only the convention but many of the games involved. I even c0-created the system for one of the games that was played there. (Let’s just say it takes place “a long time ago…” and we shouldn’t mention it to Disney or their lawyers, OK?) What’s great is that the atmosphere of the people involved is open and inclusive. They want you to experience as much of range of games, event and films as possible, to open up your imagination.

It was a blast for me-and I only went for one day!
And all I “got” was some free swag, cool pendant/con pass (take THAT, SDCC!), great foam weapons for sale, run bounties at a cantina for the local Vigo, , watch a staged lightsaber combat, talk to gaming industry pros, have cocktails with vampires, werewolves and a “rabbit” girl, get sucked to another dimension, get my ass handed to me by the physical incarnation of Wrath and nearly die in character.

That and a lot of cool new people I met.
Take a look. Drop some cash. Maybe I’ll see you there…

Besides, where else can you walk around a hotel, dressed like a biker werewolf and demonstrably armed to the teeth with Nerf and NOT get hassled?

Be seeing you!

About the Author

Randy has been writing about reporting on toys for AFTimes since 1995 and shows no sign of stopping! He's been in all aspects of toys and collecting from retail clerk to toy company adviser, as well as been a toy expert for CNN. He's met Comic Artists to Adult film stars to Navy SEALS, during his time, as well as covered events from SDCC to American International Toy Fair. He also loves movies, so don't be surprised if that comes up too-as well as some movie reviews!

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