Hey there, Xenozoic fans! After posting a blog about the Cadillacs & Dinosaurs toy line a month ago I received some feedback from creator Mark Schultz. I had a couple specific questions I was hoping Mark would elaborate on and he kindly obliged. Although there are lots of other interesting topics we could talk about, like him being the writer on the Sunday Prince Valiant strip or his new book: The Stuff of Life we’re going to focus again on an old line of action figures.
DAN: Regarding the Cadillacs & Dinosaurs toy line, was there a second wave planned? If so, who would we have seen?
MARK: My memory is a bit hazy about this. As I remember, Scharnhorst, my lead villain, was to be introduced if there was a second wave. That’s the only specific figure I can remember that was spoken of but not produced. There was a “Jack’s garage” play set and a “Nitro Special” toy gun that were both designed and mocked together (we saw photos), but neither went into production. I’m guessing a Grith figure would have been part of a second wave, too.
DAN: The Hannah figure is terribly off model. Did you get to see any of the early models before they were actually produced?
MARK: Yes, we saw the original sculpted model and we were not happy. The fact is, we had to argue hard for the Hannah figure. Tyco Toys was not interested in creating a female character figure. Their argument was that research showed that boys ages 6 to 12—their target consumers—were not interested in toy lines featuring anything related to girls. The perceived female figures as potentially ruinous to an action figure line. Remember—this was before action figures were recognized as collectibles–and Tyco always seemed behind the curve, anyway.
I can’t remember why, but Tyco eventually conceded to our point that Hannah was too integral to the story to be ignored. But they did what they could to undermine her femininity, giving her a very butch haircut and a pretty masculine build–nothing like my Hannah or the C&D animation character. I’m guessing they thought they could slip her past the boys by putting her in drag.
Regardless, fighting for her looks was not a battle that I felt was worth fighting, beyond voicing initial displeasure. There were so many creative battles going on, with both the TV show and the merchandising—I had to pick and choose what was worth the effort.
DAN: I’ve always been fascinated by the story about Todd McFarlane asking you about your experience with the C&D toys. Would you tell us about that?
MARK: Todd had been told by a mutual acquaintance that Xenozoic Tales was being developed for TV animation and merchandising–specifically the action figure line. He was in negotiations to develop his Spawn comic for animation and etc., and was mad as hell that the company that would be producing the TV show wanted a chunk of merchandising control and money—as is standard. He wanted to know how we had handled merchandising rights and I told him that we had indeed given up a percentage of the merchandising money. That’s the only way, in my opinion, that C&D would have ever been produced. It was a typical industry deal.
But Todd was incensed by what he saw as an unfair demand. He wanted to maintain complete control of the merchandising and he told me that he was planning to create his own toy company to keep that control. Of course Todd had much, much deeper resources in the way of personal finances than I ever did, but even so, I didn’t think for a minute that he could pull that off. But, lo and behold, he made it happen and changed the action figure business forever.
DAN: If you had any other thoughts regarding the toys I’d be grateful to hear them.
MARK: Working with Tyco turned out to be a disappointment. They were not a major player on the action figure market—their stock and trade had always been slot cars, remote control vehicles and model railroad trains—but were making noise that they wanted to be able to compete with Mattel, etc., in the action figure niche. They’d had some success with their Crash Test Dummies and Dino Rider series and were telling us that they believed the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs line would help them establish themselves. But, as with so many entertainment/merchandising deals, they were all sizzle and no steak. They produced the C&D line on the cheap, recycling the dinosaurs and their harnesses from the Dino Riders series. Actually, those dinosaurs had also been used for the Smithsonian dinosaurs series—so C&D was their third go-around! Talk about milking your molds…
Their initial design for the Cadillac reduced the auto to a generic convertible. They had to pass that by GM for approval—GM sat on them and made them redesign it as a model that actually looked like the ’53 Coupe DeVille on which it was based. I’m sure Tyco wasn’t pleased about that—I bet that their initial design was a cold retread of something they already had on hand for a remote control toy. But, thanks to GM, we got a one cool toy out of the line.
Everything else in the line was completely uninspired. Tyco obviously wasn’t seriously prepared to use C&D for a major push into competition with the big action figure producers. My guess is that we had mid-level champions at Tyco who were enthusiastic about the possibilities, but real financial support from the upstairs money people never happened.
In the end, the toys didn’t get an honest chance to succeed or fail, as they were released too late to be properly coordinated with the debut and promotion of the animated series. I’m not sure to this day what all went wrong with something so fundamentally important—Saturday morning TV animations are really nothing but commercials for the merchandise—but nothing fell together right and the toy line was not ready until months after the show premiered. I think that the C&D franchise was probably doomed before it debuted, because of that.
DAN: Mark, thank you very much for taking time to fill us in on some of the Cadillacs & Dinosaurs action figure back story!