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I’m one of those people that once I get an idea in my head, it sits there gnawing away at me until I do something about it (I’m also fairly lazy, so the gnawing can last for years). So after my post about Flickr, I decided to go grab a bunch of old photos that I took in 2002 and do a few tests.

Now, these photos were taken with my first digital camera and I wasn’t that familiar with it at the time, so the quality isn’t great. Back in 2002 I had planned on updating all of ToyOtter’s figure archives with new photos and information, but a hellacious commute and tons of freelance pretty much killed that idea.

But I digress. Here is my first Flickr test: all three of Hasbro/Kenner’s lines based on the Warner Bros. DC Comic’s Cartoons: Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, and Superman: The Animated Series. These are by no means complete or comprehensive and contain a lot less information than my old archives. And I couldn’t figure out how to rearrange them chronologically in the order they were released. but the cool thing about Flickr is that I can go back at any time and modify these how I please. So sometime in the future this may be how all of our figure archives are made.

Leave me some comments and tell me what you think!

Batman: The Animated Series

 

The New Batman Adventures

 

Superman: The Animated Series
 

 

 


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Well, I had planned for this to be the second installment of Rejected!  But when I looked up the company making these, I found out that they apparently were released, maybe as a Canadian exclusive.

Anyway, what these are, are "Starbles"! Most aptly described as a cross between marbles and pogs, Starbles did not take the nation by storm and have barely been heard from since. I got this set from a vendor about 9 years ago and was told it was an unproduced production sample. Housed in a non-descript black case lined with foam, these 12 Star Wars Starbles are apparently the entire set, and are just pogs suspended inside a very large marble- one side has a character photo, the other side the Star Wars logo. All from the original trilogy, too.

I tried looking up the manufacturer, Marble Vision, but there is no info about them online. As there are absolutely none of these on eBay, and barely a mention or pictures anywhere on the web, I’m guessing that fans did not rush out seeking their own set of Starbles. More’s the pity, as I would have liked to see further sets such as Godzilla ’98 Starbles, and Wild Wild West Starbles. Ah, Starbles… we barely knew ye.

 


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As a designer, I’m always thankful that I have at my fingertips some of the greatest tools ever developed for both sheer flexibility and ease of use in making me look good: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter, and my trusty Wacom tablet. Up until now I also have relied heavily on what I consider my secret weapon: Google Images. For some reason, many old school artists still don’t realize the wealth of reference and resources that are available at your fingertips with Google Images. If I need to find a picture of hands, or crowds, or even vintage Soviet Propaganda posters for inspiration it is all just a few keystrokes away.

But recently I’ve found an even better resource: Flickr. Much in the same fashion that YouTube has become a repository for almost any kind of video you may need to find, Flickr users have been diligently uploaded entire glarries that are targeted to very specific collections. Whereas you may need to search Google Images multiple times for that perfect shot, Flickr probably has many version of what you need all in one place. And the accidental discoveries are even more mind blowing. Where else can you find such groupings of Vintage Advertising, Rock Posters, or whole toy collections? Not to mention being able to upload your own galleries for all to see.

Heck, I’m almost tempted to convert all my old ToyOtter Archives to Flickr Galleries…It’d be a whole lot easier to keep them current (if maybe not as informative or involved). Hmmm…
 


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Most collectors don’t realize that outside of the online communities there is a giant world of books about toys. I hope to highlight some of these books from time to time, since for the most part they are not readily noticable at your local bookstore.

Today we’re going to look at Mastering the Universe: He-Man and the Rise and Fall of a Billion-Dollar Idea. This book was written by long-time Mattel employee Roger Sweet. While sadly offering not a single picture (most likely because the book already tempts the wrath of Mattel), Mastering the Universe offers a rare glimpse into the cut throat world of toy design. You wouldn’t think it, but Mattel is apparently one of the most politically charged places to work, where everyone steals your ideas or is constantly jockeying for position while clueless executives pass good ideas by and rise to the top based on their warddrobes and ability to stab each other in the back. Just like life!

Seriously, though, Sweet comes off as having a major axe to grind. Which is why I enjoyed the book immensely. I’ve worked in similar situations and I’ve seen how easy it is for people to not only claim your ideas, but for people to actually think they worked on it because they worked on other aspects of the project or even were just in the room when it was presented! It’s not often that you get an unvarnished look at the interactions of a major toy line, especially one where multiple parties claim credit for the creation of the concept. 

If we take Sweet at his word (and honestly, there is no reason not to), he was a designer who figured out what kids might want and how that should stand out from the other toy lines, but didn’t stand up for all of his work and let others claim they did the work. Until now, where it has obviously gnawed at him all these years. Still, there is no reason why he should be lying and the book (while somewhat repetitive in places) has a number of interesting nuggets for the fans of He-man: the original prototypes were 9" tall bulked out Big Jim figures; the line went from $400 million in sales to $7 million in ONE YEAR; and that He-Man was originally going to have three universes- fantasy, modern military, and space adventure!

All in all, I highly recommend this book since it’s pretty cheap and does have a few nifty things like a checklist where Sweet tells trivia about every figure, vehicle, and playset in the line. And if anyone has any suggestions for future reviews, send them along!


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This will be an ongoing feature here at Ottertorials: ideas and concepts that never made it off the drawing board.

While many collectors are aware of certain toys and figures that never make it into production (especially concerning Star Wars toys) most people don’t realize that for every toy made, there are dozens if not hundreds of concepts generated and pitched only to be discarded. These discards literally could fill many books and often turn up online in many artists portfolios if you know where to look. From time to time I’m going to feature concepts that I think need further recognition.

Today we’ll look at one of my favorite unmade concepts: army builder fast food toys. In 2001 Burger King was going to make a big splash with their promotion for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. For various behind the scenes reasons, the company pitching these toys needed a big win at Burger King, and saw LOTR as their opportunity to deliver a "never been done before" promotion. You see, how the process is usually done at a QSR (Quick Serve Restaurant, aka fast food) is that 2 or more companies are told what the license is going to be and then they both present their best ideas to Burger King in hopes of landing the program. This process is slightly different at every QSR (for example, at McDonald’s no matter who won the creative pitch, both companies would share manufacturing, which is where the money is) but at Burger King it was winner take all. If you don’t win, you don’t get the bucks for that month.

Ultimately, the pitch that won was for a 19 figure set, all with lights or sounds (or both) on bases that formed a giant ring with the "One Ring of Power" at the center. Once all were connected they would trigger each figure in successive order. The logistics behind this were insane and the cost was such that the company took a hit in its usual profit margin to deliver it. This is one reason why you won’t see such a complex set again, since Burger King didn’t pay much more for it than a normal promotion.

Anyway, on the way to hitting on the final "big idea" some of the artists pitched making sets of "Army Men" in internal meetings. These figures would be about 2.5" tall and come in a bag containing four figures: one painted "hero" figure, and three secondary figures all molded in one color plastic. The plan was to have up to 15-20 different bags of figures, letting kids and collectors build massive armies of Elves, Orcs, and Dwarves to play with and display. Unfortunately, this is just the sort of idea that usually gets killed early on. While it would be a big hit in stores, it doesn’t have the "wow factor" to get past the non-collector execs at a QSR. To them, it can’t be a simple idea- it has to dazzle everyone on paper. And thus, you’ll likely never see this concept produced for any license. Here is some of the art produced for that failed pitch:

 

Pictures cannot be used without express written permission. All images © 2001 Alcone Marketing, New Line Cinema, and Burger King.  


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I hope everyone is enjoying the blogs so far; we’ve been a bit slow getting up to speed, but there are some neat things coming that should make everyone happy (or at least slightly bemused).

I had planned to have a few more cool items up in this blog at this point, but at a recent corporate retreat my company went on I stepped wrong off a 2 inch curb on the way to the campfire and broke my ankle. Let me tell you, the nearly 2 hour ride back to Dallas was loads of painful fun. If by fun I mean pain. And I do.

So…maybe more coming today/tomorrow depending on how easily I can hobble around and scan some things. In the meantime, why not watch an appropos sports highlight? (and yes, I’m loving this YouTube embedding thing!)

 

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Maybe. Wal-mart has called out Toys R Us before the heavy Holiday shopping has even begun:

Wal-Mart lowers prices on more than 100 toys

I think maybe Wal-Mart knows that TRU is move vunerable now than ever, and maybe they can prevent the upswing it needs to give new CEO Gerald Storch the leverage he needs to keep the turnaround going and stave off the sale of the chain for its land. And as I look at the TRU out my office window and see a generally empty parking lot that 6 years ago used to be much fuller, I wonder if three years from now  Wal-Mart and Target will be the only game in town for toys?

 -Jason

And not to end on a downer note, here’s a tip to Mr. Storch: If you want kids to go to your store, ditch the lame Giraffe Costume and get a catchy jingle. Like this:

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This is pretty amazing…and about as close to a "real life DareDevil" that we’ll ever see. Check it out below!

 

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I would imagine that way back when Stan Lee & Bill Everett conceived the character they thought that this level of "echo location" was purely in the science fiction realm (And DD didn’t even get his radar sense for a number of years). But apparently, it’s not at all. I wonder if schools that taught these skills to blind children at an early age wouldn’t be a good thing?

Going back to the DareDevil thing: even the most fantastic writer probably would have thought that having Matt Murdock be a video game champ was too much of a stretch even for the comics!

 
-Jason


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Not much of a post, but I saw this headline today and was wondering how many other comic readers had the same thought I did?

Unusual Meteorite Found In Kansas.

 

-Jason


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Ottertorials 2006 October