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 Post subject: How do lines get decided on???
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 8:43 am 
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I read ToyGuru's recent posts about JLU and was really happy with what he said he hopes will happen, but his answers also made me wonder, how do the desicions get made and who has what say?

Is this how it works:

1. Mattel designers ask WB if they can do a selection of characters. WB say yes or no.

2. They then do mock ups of those characters WB said yes to, and show them to retailers.

3. The retailers pick which of the characters they would want to see in assortments, and turn down those they don't want to see.

4. Mattel then goes ahead and makes the characters the retailers ask for and just shelve the ones they turned down.

If this is how it works, does this mean that Mattel may have some really nice sculpts of figures the fans would love, but are unable to put them into production because they have been turned down by the retailers?

I would like to think that if this is the case, Mattel would consider selling these "snubbed" characters through online outlets or through their website to fans and collectors, and bypass the big stores who turned them down.

Am I right in my assumption of the desicion process or is there more to it than that? I'm just interested in how things work behind the scenes, as it helps to understand why things work out the way they do with this line.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 11:50 pm 
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Anyone????


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:31 am 
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You've got it pretty much right... This is the process from start to finish but, mind you, this is really simplified and rough based on how I understand it to work at Hasbro with Lucasfilm, Mattel and DC/WB might do things a little differently/different order but I've tried to adjust to the DC lines... I'm sure that Superfriend and Otter would probably have a much better explanation and more insight and Cornboy certainly would...

1. Mattel/4HM come up with a list of the figures they want to do and they submit those to WB/DC for approval, WB/DC says yes or no and suggests some of their own.

2. Mattel/4HM then to concept drawings and/or turn-arounds of the approved characters and submit those to WB/DC for approval, WB/DC suggests changes or approve the concepts as is.

3. At this point the big buyers (Wal-Mart, Target, TRU, etc) would see the artwork and rough assortment/wave lists for an established line or they would see rough mock-ups for new lines. This is where a line is made or broken. Generally if more than 2 of them don't buy into a line it doesn't happen.

4. After some back-and-forth discussion with the big buyers Mattel/4HM would adjust assortments/waves and begin working on sculpts. Despite what Mattel may have said in the Q&A a few weeks back, this is where the retailers really can make or break a line. Mattel could never go on record officially saying that retailers dictate assortments and case packs, but, honestly, if the retailers don't think a specific item or mix will sell though in a timely manner they aren't going to order it, Mattel then has to decide to alter the assortment or mix or lose the sale. Retailers also like to have specific price points -- a $5 product that a kid can buy on their own, a $10 product, a $20 "gift" item, etc. JLU has the $5 and $10 price points at the moment with the $20 6-packs at Target. The Batman has a $7-8 price point for basic figures, a $12 point for deluxe figures, a $20-$30 point for Batmobiles. DCUC only has the $10 point right now. Retailers really like to stick within those points that's why we don't see the odd sized vehicles like the "vintage" days when any price point was game if the product was good.

5. Sculpts get approved by WB/DC, then approvals for paint and packaging and the castings get sent to China to create the tooling and paint masks. At some point during this time the smaller buyers would see the sculpts for the first waves and artwork for further waves and packaging and press photos would be made from the paint masters.

6. Test shots are made when the molds are ready to make sure if they're working properly and the pieces fit together properly. For this the factories use whatever color plastic of the same type that will be used in the actual production, that's why the wild colored protos show up on eBay.

7. After the test shots are approved or tweaked another small run is done exactly as they would be done in production (proper plastic colors and fully painted) along with test packaging for further approvals (the packaging may still be rough at this point like the JLU figures AFI featured using TMX Elmo packaging for the backer card and insert).

8. Once everything is approved then the factories gear up to do complete production runs. The cases for the big retailers are received by them in Asia and shipped directly to their warehouses while product for the smaller accounts would be shipped to Mattel's warehouses for distribution.

As for the suggestion of selling "snubbed" product directly to the consumer, it's not really that simple. Even if Mattel had a store set up like Hasbro there still has to be enough fan demand to warrant product development costs and a production run. Mattel is a huge company with huge overhead and the powers-that-be there have to answer to the board of directors and the shareholders so they would have to be certain that they could make a profit (or at worst not lose money). A web/mail-order exclusive is going to have far fewer customers for a lot of reasons -- too much trouble to order, no credit card, regular customers not knowing about the "special" item -- even if the piece is sold at normal retail pricing the shipping and handling charges would almost double the cost of a single figure (and that's not taking into account that most manufacturers don't offer items to buyers outside of the US). Using Toy Fare's Faker, Snake Teela and Mattel's own Moss Man as examples those were nothing more than repaints in new packaging, even the SDCC exclusive Keldor and She-Ra were repaints with a few new parts in fancy packages. Now the con exclusives are a bit of a different beast because they are made for the fans, but they're also to build interest in the line with people who may just "discover" the line at the con and they're made for the press/publicity that they generate, so those still do a "job" even it they don't necessarily make money. I've been told by Hasbro that a minimum production run for an action figure is 10,000 and I know that there was a wave of Star Wars that the big retailers all passed on in '98 that became known as the "Fan Club 4". The Star Wars Fan Club had a run of 10,000 pieces of each made but it still took them about two years to sell through that minimum run via mail-order and we're talking Star Wars at the height of interest.

I hope all of that made some sort of sense, because a lot of the processes overlap and trying to break it down step-by-step isn't that easy...


Last edited by Jim_Abell on Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:51 am 
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Fantastic post, Glenn. I think Otter & Superfriend should add in their two cents with the experiences they've had and it should be stickied at the top of the forum.

Peace,

Chip

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 4:51 am 
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Thanks Jim for posting that breakdown. It makes things much clearer and hopefully shows that its not all down to Mattel when we may not get the figures we want. Despite being the ones to produce the stuff, they are still just another cog in a very big wheel.

:D


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:07 am 
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elvis8batman wrote:
Thanks Jim for posting that breakdown. It makes things much clearer and hopefully shows that its not all down to Mattel when we may not get the figures we want. Despite being the ones to produce the stuff, they are still just another cog in a very big wheel.

:D


Well, like I said that may not be exactly how Mattel approaches things, that's just my understanding of how Hasbro goes about things with Star Wars.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 9:43 am 
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Wow. Thank you very much for the post Jim. I'm sure it took a while to write up, but it is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for taking the time, and for the explanation itself. Even if it's not exactly how Mattel does it, it's very interesting to see an overall "guide" as to how this works.

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