How Mattel Can Fix MOTUC

Full disclosure: I'm not the biggest Mattel fan. And I'm even less a fan of their Masters of the Universe Classics (aka MOTUC) line. I used to collect Mattel's various DC lines, and I bought the Ghostbusters II set on sale at Toys Я Us, but I only own one MOTUC figure (Optikk). I did collect Mattel's first He-Man revamp line, known by most as Mo2K or 200X, but I sold them all off after Mattel made it infuriating to try to collect that line (this is a practice that would end up synonymous with the name Mattel).

However, I have watched the current MOTUC saga unfold through other sites, and it's been quite interesting to see, from an outsider's perspective, how much fans of a property will take from a company in order to keep getting the toys they want. I personally made a choice to stop giving Mattel my money after their horrendous handling of the DC subscription service, but that doesn't mean I don't have snarky opinions to share about how Mattel could better handle their other properties. So here it is: an outsider's outline for how Mattel should fix MOTUC:

  1. Sever all ties with Digital River
  2. Digital River is Matty's customer service provider, and they are, by all accounts, completely awful to deal with in every single way. You'd be hard-pressed to find even the staunchest Matty apologist who would have anything nice to say in defense of DR. Fans at this point know that if you want to get anywhere with a customer service issue, you have to bypass the standard system and go straight to the escalation department, since the lower levels of DR seem purely devoted to mishandling the issue until the frustrated customer gives up. It would be a tremendous show of good faith if Matty found itself a new company to handle its numerous customer service issues. No matter who they chose, they couldn't be worse than DR. Unless, of course, Mattel is actually pleased with how difficult DR makes customer service, because they want customers to get frustrated and give up...but that's just silly.

  3. Stop blaming fans when you screw up
  4. When MOTUC quality control issues pop up, Mattel will usually issue a response through Scott Neitlich, who will basically say it's not a big deal and fans should stop bitching about it. He will often say that a particular QC issue affected "a very small number" of figures, and that the issue has been resolved (as if by Matty acknowledging it occurred they had somehow "resolved" it, even though fixing the figure means going through DR's labyrinthine exchange process). Here's the thing though: Mattel loves telling us how limited MOTUC is, and how they're produced in small numbers to begin with. When you produce in small numbers, any "small" issue is a big issue. And there have been several issues that have actually affected every single figure in a release (Roboto and King Hsss's shoulders for example). Mattel even likes to tout its figures as "handmade" and "hand-painted", as if this means something other than an underpaid Chinese factory worker toiling away on an assembly line. If the figures were truly "handmade" and "hand-painted" in such small numbers, you would expect there to be more care and concern into getting each figure right. Instead, this line has had issue after issue, from missing accessories to switched body parts to cracking plastic, and each time one gets acknowledged, you'll always find that subtle, passive aggressive attitude from Mattel that says it's really the fans' fault for making such a big deal about it.

    Here's the thing: when you make figures in small numbers, each QC concern is going to be a large issue. If Mattel acknowledged such problems and committed to fixing them, like a good company would, it would go over much better than passing the blame around to different factories and then coming down on fans for even caring if a figure doesn't have all its accessories or isn't assembled correctly. Hey Matty, if your factories continue to get figures wrong, how about changing factories?

  5. Stop making figures nobody freaking wants
  6. I'm not talking about Mattel taking a chance on new characters like Demo-Man or Draego-Man. I'm not even talking about delving into She-Ra or "Preternia" or New Adventures of He-Man or any of those somewhat obscure aspects of MOTU lore. I'm not even referring to little "inside jokes" like Fearless Photog or Wonder-Bread He-Man or Mo-Larr. I think these are fun little touches that help make the line unique and aid in its longevity. What I'm talking about are just plain garbage figures that absolutely nobody wants. The most egregious example of this is the Star Sisters. Mattel loves putting the survival of the line solely on the fans' shoulders, and has basically said that the line will die if they don't get enough people "subscribed" (i.e. committed to buying every single figure released in the line). Matty also loves talking about how much time, money and effort goes into creating each new figure, and how sometimes figures get delayed or changed or altered because of cost concerns. Why then, when you lock people into a line in which each figure is supposedly the result of lots of tender loving care from design to execution, would you ever release something like the Star Sisters? Basically, this three-figure set put subscribers on the hook for about $80 to own garish figures of characters that even the most die hard fans of She-Ra: Princess of Power could barely remember. These were not important characters, and they certainly didn't deserve their own three pack, and fans certainly shouldn't have been forced to buy them.

    And then there's the upcoming "Mighty Spector", which is based on ToyGuru's entry into the "Design a Master" contest when he was a kid. Thanks to Neitlich's egotistical vanity project, fans are basically being forced to purchase a figure of a character they have never heard of, based on the failed design of a child. Making people sign up for a subscription service and then shoving pricey figures they don't want down their throats is insulting. These toys aren't cheap, and this isn't a mass market line; there should be no "filler" figures.

  7. Decide what type of toyline you're actually making
  8. So far these gripes haven't really been anything new, as I'm sure plenty of MOTUC fans or former fans feel the same way about a lot of these issues. This last one, however, is a bit more of a personal peeve of mine. I know some people feel the same way I do, but it's not as ubiquitous as, say, the universally accepted ineptitude of Digital River. The final issue for me is the way Mattel touts this as an "adult collector" line (even branding the figures as such right on every package), but then they do things that make no sense for a line aimed at adults. The most blatant example of this is the softening of sharp edges to make them "child safe" (as seen on Catra's claw glove and on the upcoming Draego-Man's sword). If you consider your line an adult-oriented line to the point that you slap "adult collector" on every package, why would you need to adhere to child safety standards? Your figures aren't for sale at Toys Я Us or Walmart. Fans have to go to your website and either subscribe to buy every figure (which no kid has the money to do) or sit through the "white screen of death" to try and order each individual toy on the day it comes out (which no kid has the patience for). These toys aren't cheap, so I can't imagine any parents shelling out $20 + mystery tax charge & shipping for figures from a 1980s property that their kids have no interest in. These aren't kids' toys, you even say so on your package (which should absolve you of any legal obligations if someone pokes themselves in the eye), so stop dumbing them down for kids.

    It's almost as if you're having a laugh at your fans' expense when you slap "adult collector" on the package of such a kid-friendly line. And speaking of packaging, some "adult collectors" like to keep their toys in the package. Why then has Matty chosen a packaging style that typically hides the entire head of the figure? The toys look dreadful in the packaging, and you only have to look at any SDCC Mattel exclusive to see that Matty clearly cares about its packaging. So why do they just shove the figures in there haphazardly, often obscuring some of the most important bits of the toy? This problem actually seems to be getting worse with recent releases: check out Snout Spout, Draego-Man and Kobra Khan in their packages. The heads are almost entirely obscured! Why even put such a blatant "adult collector" label on your figures if you don't give a crap about the presentation of the figures and you go out of your way to soften up the detail so kids don't hurt themselves?

In conclusion, this may seem like little more than a fanboy rant. However, keep in mind that I'm not a fanboy. I don't have any investment in MOTUC, I don't have a subscription, and I don't collect the line. This is purely an outsider's perspective on how Mattel has been treating its MOTUC fanbase, and the absurdity of it all has only increased as the line has continued. I know there are still those holdouts who are willing to take whatever abuse Mattel can think of as long as they still get their precious MOTUC figures, but the number seems to be dwindling as the debacles pile up. Of course, I don't expect Matty to take any responsibility when they inevitably decide to cancel the line; I'm sure they'll blame the fans for not supporting the line hard enough. Personally I'm surprised it's lasted as long as it has.

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18 Responses to How Mattel Can Fix MOTUC

  1. thanks- personally, i would never subscribe to Matty- mainly because of their passive/aggressive attitude about the whole thing. it's unprofessional. But everyone seems to put up with it. They sign up for a bullshit deal, then cry when (big surprise) it doesn't work out... WHY?

    • monkey boy says:

      because they care about the toys. Matty hangs the subscription over its customers' heads, and tells them if they don't sign up for ALL the figures, the chances are they'll get NO figures, because there won't be enough to go around or they'll have to cancel the line because it isn't financially viable anymore. It's total BS, but mattel holds all the cards, and they know they have enough die-hard fans to drag the whole process on a little longer. they'll eventually alienate everyone, and then blame the fans when they're "forced" to cancel the line due to "lack of interest".

  2. AmericanHyena says:

    I agree with you about everything except the Star Sisters. Saying that *nobody* wants them is really just your opinion. I am happy to have them and know quite a few collectors who are too. And while making them part of the subscription probably stings some, that's just the nature of the beast when it comes to subscriptions. I think Snout Spout is goofy as Hell but I'm glad others got him. In short, complaining about character selection (characters that aren't made up for the line anyway) is all just your opinion versus my opinion versus his opinion versus her opinion. Everyone knew going in that they're trying to hit EVERY character and so far they're keeping that promise.

    • monkey boy says:

      what you say is true to a point. however, i feel like the star sisters are still extremely limited in their appeal, way more than even snout spout (who, honestly, i kinda still want). for example, if they weren't part of the sub, i think they wouldn't even come close to selling enough to justify making them. that's just my conjecture, i'll concede, and there's someone who's going to like every character of course, but why release them as a hugely expensive 3 piece set?

      also, mighty spector. mighty. spector. that is all.

      • AmericanHyena says:

        That is, I fully concede, a terrible design and the only shining spot on it is that you were only obligated if you got the Anniversary sub.

        Actually I think Star Sisters are probably less painful to swallow as a three pack, but I agree they probably could have waited until the end of the line.

  3. PrfktTear says:

    You're on point with most of what you said.

    Even after having finally opened them I'm still scratching my head over the Star Sisters. To say nobody wanted them would be foolish, but its a really hard sell. That would have been a 2014 or 2015 pack, presuming the line lasts that long. I've learned to live with them because, well, I really don't have any other choice, but it wasn't even on my radar. I'll give 'em a pass on Spector though because its not part of the Club Eternia Sub. That said I think I'd rather have Songster or someone from the minicomics.

    • monkey boy says:

      spector isn't part of the sub? the blogs and discussions i've seen all seem to indicate that if you got a sub, you're buying a spector...

      • AmericanHyena says:

        The secondary sub. There's a separate sub that just obligates you to the six Anniversary original figures (Photog, Draego-Man, Spektor, the new contest winner and two others).

        And honestly, if you didn't suspect the potential for some real clunkers in THAT subscription, I'd call you REAL optimistic.

  4. Professor says:

    I don't buy into the whole Mattel thing. I'm not a fan of anything they have to offer really. I just don't understand how fans keep putting themselves in this position. I truly believe that good customer service is a dead ideal in this country. Fans need to stand up together and tell Mattel that its behavior is unacceptable. If that doesn't work stop supporting Mattel with your hard earned money if they won't treat you right. "But then we won't get out toys" you say. Not necessarily.

    I don't know exactly how licensing works but Mattel doesn't own the rights to these characters. Fans need to make clear arguments to those holding the rights to their beloved characters and tell them to strip Mattel of the license. Again I'm not sure of how this might play out legally but if Mattel is abusing fans of say Ghostbusters make the argument that Mattel should no longer have a license to produce Ghostbuster merchandise. I'm sure Mattel would fear the idea of losing a license which would undermine their profits as a company. If fans can unite on this front then Mattel may yet try to get its act together.

    • yo go re says:

      But when it comes to MotU, Mattel DOES own the characters - which is why the insanely high prices are even more insulting...

    • monkey boy says:

      yeah, with ghostbusters and outside licenses the worry is that no other company will take a risk on the license (which doesn't make a WHOLE lot of sense, since NECA made some ghost figures and had been trying to secure the rights to the human characters for some time). it's a relatively obscure license (unless GB3 happens which is highly unlikely) so if mattel ends the line there really isn't much chance for ghostbusters figures from anyone else. toy companies have to be able to turn a profit and its getting harder and harder to do so, especially if you're not one of the big two (hasbro and mattel). smaller companies have to ensure that the license has a fan base that will support it.

      as for MOTU, it's like hasbro with transformers and GI Joe, a totally in house property. if mattel doesn't make them, they'd have to license them out to someone else to do it, which COULD happen, but then if someone did a better job (which it's hard to imagine how another company would do worse than matty) it would make matty look bad, and they probably wouldn't appreciate that.

      • Professor says:

        Oh well... It was just a thought. It just makes me sick how these companies can treat their paying customers with so little respect. It's just like Walmart. The Walmart in my area is constantly treating their customers badly but yet it is really the only store in town so people are forced to go there.

  5. MOTU fan says:

    I found about this line recently from an unhappy subscriber . Were I live each figure is $55 and not all characters are carried by toy stores. I own 5 so far that got from ebay but in general find 30% of the characters with severe design fails in and hope there will ever be a re-issues. ex: giants articulation, clawfull head, randor outfit, hiss waist, facelessone head, grizzlor fur, snout spout trunk, systers colors, sorceress wings , the spector and many more

  6. Brett Dale says:

    It appears that it's not only back to the future fans are beeped off with Mattel and Scott Neitlich.

    The promotion of their prop replica hoverboard hasn't been straight up. Scott Neitlich Telling people they have to be in early, telling people if not enough people order it wont go into production. Then extending the order by a week. Also hinting in every interview that the 2015 version might hover, then saying at matty collector he is just joking, but he continues to say this in interviews along with Joe Bell Mattel's electrical engineer.

    If it was 1989 i would buy a prop replica hoverboard, but in 2012 its just a big piece of plastic crap.

  7. Nick says:

    Well, I recently just sold my enitre collection. Just for the reasons mentioned above. The Star Sisters combined witth the lack of customer service, and not to mention they are pushing new product every month. I collected these guys because Im a eighties kid, most of us are. But Im done, a little sad to say but oh well. Im more of a statue and bust guy myself, I say let Mattle have Neca make those statues agian, or maybe have DC Direct (or Sideshow) have a shot MOTUC since their doing a comic agian.

  8. Tallstar says:

    I don't have a sub but just buy my figs on ebay. Because of how badly
    Matty treats its customers with QC issues and making figs most fans
    don't want as filler, I can pick most of them up for on average half
    the price I would have had to pay for my
    collection had I bought the same figs
    directly from Matty.

    • monkey boy says:

      that's the way to go. even if there's a guy you really want enough who's out of your typical price rang, you can usually justify dropping a lot of money on a single figure you really want more than you can justify paying even more for a bunch of other figures you'll be stuck with. i've been pretty lucky to get most of the MOTUC figures i've wanted for about the same as I would have if i'd bought them direct from matty, and in some cases much less. i wanted a snout spout a while back, until i heard all the reports of cracking on his trunk, but when i heard about the extra stock showing up at big lots i crossed my fingers and wouldn't you know it, snout spout was all they had. for $10, i'm much more likely to forgive whatever potential trunk cracking may develop than i'd be if i'd bought him direct for almost four times that.

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