Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Toy Collection

Here are some rough video shots of the 200X NECA Snake Men, MOTUC and vintage POP aspects of my toy room:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Missing POP Characters!


Many of my fellow Princess of Power fans over in the SHADOW WEAVERS REALM (SWR) Facebook fan group have discussed with one another the matter of scarcity of Princess of Power, as well as New Adventures characters, in the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. Matty made a smart move by "absorbing" POP and NA into the MOTUC line, but unfortunately, the line has been very MOTU heavy since its inception. The argument from Matty is that there's simply more MOTU characters than there are POP or NA. But that argument is starting to lose weight now that there are only around 33 MOTU characters and variants remaining to get a release. POP and 200X characters have averaged 1-2 releases a year, while NA characters average 1 release a year. The rest of the year is populated with mostly MOTU characters. Now that the rights have been obtained for Filmation and Jetlag characters, competition for a monthly slot might even become more fierce...

The folks over at SWR, including myself, have speculated that the reasoning for such a MOTU-heavy distribution ratio is that MATTEL is playing it safe with characters that it knows will secure subscriptions. The developing fear is that by the time MOTUC winds down for a close, many POP and NA characters will not get a release, whilst most if not all of the core MOTU characters will have been released. I myself suspect that getting ALL the core MOTU characters released in MOTUC is the primary goal, and that the rest of the characters are considered "extra gravy" to fill the holes. Although I and my fellow Weavers intend to support the line into the indefinite future - we do hope that Matty will make some efforts to even out the distribution of characters, so that more POP and NA characters get a release in a given year.


Princess of Power Classics!

I am an avid Princess of Power (POP) fan - as can be seen in previous posts on this blog. Princess of Power is a spin-off of the legendary Masters of the Universe (MOTU) brand, engineered by Mattel. As Masters of the Universe starred He-Man, being an action figure toy line for boys, Mattel wanted to recreate the success of MOTU in the girls' market - thus Princess of Power starred He-Man's twin sister She-Ra. Though not as successful and expansive as MOTU, POP still established itself as an action figure/doll icon - it's rare to have a toy line of this nature, and even rarer for such a toy line to etch a place for itself in entertainment & merchandising history.

In 2008, Mattel made plans to continue it's MOTU relaunch by releasing new action figures via an exclusive online outlet. At this point, the MOTU relaunch toy line, known to fans as the 200X line, had been canceled in the retail market due to poor sales. Licensing privileges were given to NECA, who continued releases for the 200X line in the form of "Staction Figures", non-articulated action figure-sized statues that could be displayed with other 200X action figures. The staction figures proved successful through smaller niche online markets, and Mattel made decisions to revitalize the 200X line with this new online distribution method.

Having worked closely with the Four Horsemen toy sculptors for the 200X line, Matty was pleased with concept sculpts for this new online outlet, but was even more pleased with sculpts that were closer in style to the vintage MOTU toy line. The idea of taking original toy designs and refreshing them with contemporary action figure mechanics had already proved successful in Hasbro's Transformers Classics toy line, and it made since for Matty to do the same for MOTU. And thus, the Masters of the Universe Classics line was born.

Originally, there were only going to be a handful of figures released, just to commemorate the brand (similar to the Masters of the Universe Commemorative Series - which re-released a few of the original characters in their original sculpts). The MOTUC line started with King Grayskull, a "classicized" version of a character that had been introduced in the 200X cartoon series. Buzz around the figures soon erupted, and the line eventually grew beyond the 6 or so figures that were originally planned.

Quickly establishing an infrastructure to create, build, package, promote and distribute the figures, Matty was poised to carry the line for a fairly long stretch. It was soon decided to expand MOTUC beyond just the core characters - the absorption of the POP characters, as well as another MOTU spin-off line simply titled He-Man (known to most fans as New Adventures of He-Man {NA}), assured a massive inventory of characters for the MOTUC toy line. With the absorption of the spin-off series, and the release of 1-3 toys a month, many fans have speculated that MOTUC could last until 2017 or longer. But there's been concern that the line could potentially not make it that long...

Typically, a specific toy line has a 3-5 year life span. Toy companies often bring a toy line to a close, or reboot it if it's popular enough - Transformers and Power Rangers are chief examples of this. So it is understandable why collectors have anxiety levels that are continually mounting up.

And fans of Princess of Power have much anxiety, as the line is now in its third year, and going into its fourth with only 6 toys that are based on vintage Princess of Power characters: Adora, She-Ra, Bow, Catra, Bubble Power She-Ra and Swiftwind. Though there are 4 more toys coming in February 2012 in the Star Sisters 3-Pack: Starla, Tallstar, Jewelstar and Glory Bird, POP fans wonder what the rest of 2012 has in store - who will the next POP figure be?

As I am a member of the MOTUC/POP Facebook fan group SHADOW WEAVERS REALM, I'm taking part in a sort of petition to bring awareness to the gross shortage POP characters in the MOTUC toy line. Perhaps more fans can rally to this message, and get Matty to shift its ratios, which seem to be more focused on getting core MOTU characters released, rather than a more balanced distribution that brings POP and NA more into the fold.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers 3 Ruined My Day

I was so baffled at the ending of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that I was in denial that it was over. My better half was ready to go, and I wanted to sit through the credits to see if there was something else - an epilogue - that would bring me some kind of closure. Well, there was a disagreement, a bit of an argument - yes I was an asshole about it. Ultimately, I won't know if there was or wasn't an epilogue until somebody tells me or when I buy the DVD. The only explanation I have for the rushed and very final feeling of the movie's story is that Michael Bay is bringing his Bay-verse movie series to a true ending. Hopefully, this isn't too spoilerish for anyone reading, I intend to remain as vague as possible about the actual story elements of the film itself.

I knew what I was going into when I insisted on going to watch Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I was going for the ride, the adrenaline rush if you will - and to see how it all was going to end. I'm a diehard Transformers fan that presently has a love/hate relationship with the franchise. Despite the fact that I'm not 100% happy with the direction of the franchise, I continue to support it. And at the risk of exposing myself as a hypocrite, I paid to watch all three Michael Bay films in theaters, and bought the first two films on DVD. As a fan and completionist, I will likely buy this third film on DVD as well...

TF3 succeeds as a summer blockbuster popcorn flick. If you can suspend expectations and belief, you will enjoy the chases, explosions and jaw dropping action scenes that these films are known for. Predictably, TF3 fails in the area of story. The story is painfully derivative of the first two - there's nothing new to offer here, no story advancement. The titular characters continue to take a back seat to all of the human fluff, leaving very little sympathy for when one gets killed. There are funny moments that allow you to enjoy the characters, granted, but little character development that allows you to totally commit to them. Spike, or Sam as he's known in the movies, is more often a cocky pain in the ass than a protagonist that you want to root for. The villains, though ominous, are predictably expendable. I walked out of the movie wondering what had just happened - it didn't really end satisfactorily - unless this ending is supposed to tell us that Transformers 4 will be a total reboot for the film series, which I totally welcome under a new director and writing team.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lackluster Summer Blockbuster Numbers

Why is the 2011 Summer Blockbuster season seeming so lackluster in ticket sales thus far? Typically, we look to the action/fantasy/sci-fi/super hero films to show us what big numbers a movie can really make - romances, dramas and comedies don't usually reach the stratospheric numbers of the tailored "Summer Blockbuster" movies. Many critics are looking at the 2011 movies and asking why the box office figures aren't where they "should" be. Is it because the movies suck, or that they're marketing campaigns didn't reach audiences? Is it because the films were too ambiguous, or that there's too many of the same type of film - 3 super hero movies so far with 3 more to go (Captain America, Conan, Cowboys & Aliens). Or is it something else that people just don't want to talk about - the economy?

I’ve seen all three comic book movies of the summer thus far: Thor, X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern. Out of all of them, I felt that X-Men: First Class was the most grounded and well paced. The super sci-fi/fantasy elements of both Green Lantern and Thor are strong departures from what we know – Batman, Spiderman and Iron Man were all earth-based with human villains. Even the early Christopher Reeve Superman movies, which still present a standard today, rooted the titular hero in a very earth-based movie series with mostly human villains. The otherworldly element of massive alien clouds of fear coming to suck your souls out may be a bit of a stretch, as well as the almost ambiguous invasion of Asgardians and Frost Giants. I am biased to this material due to my familiarity with the genre. But for fresh audiences, it’s likely that Green Lantern and Thor gave the audience too much to digest too soon and too quickly.

BUT, despite my bias, it is obvious that the studios have learned from their mistakes - the relatively low quality of a Daredevil or a Catwoman or Elektra is not present here. These new comic book films are far more enjoyable and palatable than these 3 previous entries. Unfortunately, it's possible that with the run-away success of the new Batman films, as well as Spider-Man and the sneak hit Iron Man, the numbers may be skewed. Not EVERY comic book movie is going to make a billion dollars, so perhaps that expectation bar is being held too high.

I think that the studios need to take into consideration that with ticket prices continually going up, they are likely to see some drop off in movie goers. I think economic issues are definitely a primary decision maker as to whether or not people will go to the movies, which can be a relatively expensive venture, or wait until the film is available on DVD, or various online purchase options. This is likely to be where the true success of these films needs to be measured.

Perhaps we'll need to wait and see what Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2 do in numbers before we know for sure if ticket sales are indeed plummeting.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Collecting the She-Ra Toy Line

I consider myself a toy collector, in particular an action figure collector. Due to trying to be more responsible with my budget, AND the simple fact that I've simply run out of space to display figures, I've slowed down on collecting. I will admit that I've reached a sort of saturation point in some areas, and just have no interest in collecting right now >>cough<< Transformers >>cough<<. Being a 30-something shiek-geek, I have a focus on figures based on 1980s properties - in particular: Masters of the Universe MOTU (which started it all), Transformers, Thundercats, Princess of Power, DC Comics figures and Voltron. One of the boldest collecting moves I made in recent years was to collect the principle vintage Princess of Power toy line. My goal was to collect a bulk of the line, whilst shaving off some of the more erroneous product like variants and accessories.

The Princess of Power Toy Line:
My collecting efforts actually started back in 1985 when my mother "smuggled" the She-Ra action figure to me. Being that She-Ra was a "doll", my father would not have been too thrilled with seeing me comb She-Ra's hair with her little pink comb. But I had gone to the theater to see "Secret of the Sword", the animated movie that depicted He-Man searching for his long-lost twin sister She-Ra. My He-Man collection was already unrivaled by any other toy line I was collecting at the time, and it only made sense to have his sister as part of that collection.

Unfortunately, She-Ra was the only figure I would get out of the POP line...until I was in my 30s. Now in my 30s, collecting figures was going a bit slow - I did have some focus on Transformers, but each year would produce product that I became less interested in. And then, Mattel decided to release revamped figures based on their vintage MOTU toy line - MOTU Classics. When I discovered that Mattel planned to incorporate the MOTU spin-offs Princess of Power (POP) and New Adventures of He-Man (NA) into this new MOTUC toy line, I became even more intrigued (by this point, I had a good-sized collection of the rebooted 200X MOTU toy line, and wasn't really motivated to collect yet another reboot of He-Man figures).

The idea of being able to collect POP figures that were designed for contemporary audiences was exciting! Waiting for Mattel to release these figures (about 1 to 3 a year spread out randomly over several months) was a bit much for me to tolerate. SO, I decided to satiate my thirst by going and collecting the vintage line...

Purchased She-Ra's Dress to complete my old childhood figure.

1/02 - 24/2010:
Purchased MOTU Classics Adora, POP Frosta, POP Sweetbee, POP Mermista, and POP Castaspella

2/7 - 15/2010:
Purchased POP Bow and POP Double Trouble

3/3 - 31/2010:
Purchased POP Swiftwind, POP Catra, POP Entrapta, POP Peekablue, MOTU Hordak, POP Clawdeen, POP Angella, POP Glimmer

Puchased POP Perfuma

Purchased MOTU Classics She-Ra

Purchased POP Crystal Castle

Purchased MOTU Horde Troopers x2

Nielsen Ratings Suck!

There have been a high number of shows cancelled this year, some of them being replaced by cheaper reality shows. Could the escalating number of cancelled shows be tied into money more than it is falling ratings? There can be no debate that the Nielsen Ratings system is terribly archaic. Implemented in the 1950s as a marketing tool to track how audiences responded to programming, the Nielsen Ratings system used a sample of the population to gauge what would air on television - what would last a season, what would last several seasons. Flash forward to the 2000s, and there are more people in the population, and there are now several ways to watch television - "recordable" cable boxes, smart phones, iPads, iTunes, iTV, Hulu, Netflix and internet download are only SOME of the ways to do it. The problem is: most of these are not counted in the Neilsen Ratings system.

As more and more people gravitate towards "non-traditional" methods of watching their television, and Neilsen not keeping up, how accurate is the decision making when it comes to dropping the axe on a lot of the programs that are being canned? Is it possible that a drop in ratings is actually a reflection of the changing behaviors of today's audience? With so much to do, and so many shows for our viewing pleasure, the on-demand trend has become the cornerstone of most people's viewing habits. Remember the days when you had to rush home in the hopes of catching your favorite program from the beginning? That's no longer an issue nowadays - you don't have to wait for a rerun, you can just head to your most convenient on-demand outlet and watch it there, set your DVR to record it, find the episode for download on the internet, or wait for it to show up on DVD if you're patient enough.

The Neilsen Rating system has fundamentally changed very little sense its inception - a select group of about 25,000 households are chosen based on region and key demographics. This small group determines what the rest of the country of about 3 million people gets to watch. With today's information technology, do we really need to be tied down by this old system to make such decisions?

Why not utilize tracking systems that report on the number of internet downloads, program streaming sessions, DVR episode recordings, etc. to more accurately determine which programs deserve the chopping block?

What are your thoughts on this?

Next time: I'll touch on the more conspiracy theory-oriented idea that perhaps a lot of shows were cancelled due to budget.