Here are the questions to Playmates Toys and their answers from April/May, 2003. The questions appear in bold type:
When can we expect to hear tentative line-ups for waves 15+? Are Playmates planning on releasing any variants of medium-obscure characters such as Frink next year? What is the likely variant:new character ratio for waves 15+?
We cannot release future waves of figures until we receive final approval of the '04 line plan from Fox. Since Toy Fair is now moved up to October, we will probably wait to make the big announcement for the complete '04 year at Toy Fair.
I can tell you that their will be more variants in upcoming waves in '04. Many of the figures planned for '04 come from the poll conducted on SCS. However, there are many figures that polled high which we cannot proceed with due to legal issues. We have to start doing more variants as we are running out of recognizable new characters. Some of the characters we are doing in '03 are not very recognizable to the average Simpsons collector and they are passing on them.
We are seeing this in the retail sales reports. I've received many complaint letters and read many negative comments on SCS on why we continue to do Homer and Bart variants. The bottom line is the Homer and Bart variants continue to sell better than some of the not so recognizable new characters (eg. Uter, Marvin Monroe...) While we hope re-issuing the very recognizable characters from earlier waves will draw in additional collectors, it is yet to be seen whether enough new collectors will jump on board to continue with new waves of re-issued figures.
What is the status of the 300th Episode set? Many collectors were very dissatisfied with the concept drawing that was shown at Toy Fair. Is the set going to cancelled or reworked in response to the criticisms? Also, why was a Skinner in his underwear figure set to be included in the set when that character never appeared like that in the episode?
The 300th episode set has been officially dropped from the line. Judging from the comments, many people were disappointed with the storyline of the episode itself. This combined with the fact stated above that many people felt the playset theme and character selection (lots of variants) were rather weak led to it being dropped. Playmates did not have the opportunity to pick the playset theme, or what figures we could proceed with doing. We could not get the rights to proceed with Tony Hawk or Blink 182, so we were stuck doing family and regular character variants. But, judging from some of your comments, you were happy that we did not get the rights to Tony or Blink.
Skinner in his underwear was based on the early reference received from Fox, but must have been edited out of the episode. It is better to drop the item before we ship thousands of sets to retail only to have them become shelf warmers and leave a bad Simpsons taste with retailers.
Many collectors were very pleased with the Bart's Treehouse prototype, particularly since its look was very unique compared to the standard "L" shape of the regular series environments. Will we see more unique designs in future series (ie. a Town Square set)?
We are always looking for ways to do things a bit differently to add some excitement. We are trying to add more detail in the playsets as they are much more visually appealing. Whenever the theme warrants and we can still fit the set in our standard sized package, we will try to do something unique for each set.
What are the basis for figure choices that aren't necessarily from the list of the fans most wanted figures? ( Vittorio, Freddy Quimby, Ms. Botz etc. ) There seems to be one 'unique' choice in each wave. Is this intentional? Are these figures Playmates internal choices based on planned themes, or strictly Fox imposed? Have any figures been submitted by Playmates to Fox that Fox did not approve you to produce? ( That is to say have they prohibited you from making a character you requested? )
As stated in the answers to question #1, a lot of the figures planned came from polls and suggestions from collectors. Vittorio was chosen because he is the mob boss and since we did Fat Tony, Legs and Louie it seemed like a natural to include him to complete the mob characters.
Freddy Quimby came as a suggestion/favor asked for by Fox. Ms. Botz is a celebrity character voiced by Penny Marshall who has somewhat of a different look. I believe Penny went to Fox asking if we could do her character and it's not very often celebrities make these requests. As it turns out Ms. Botz and Stephan Hawking were good selections and received great press. TV Guide, which has over 1 million readers, featured both figures in one of their issues which is great publicity for the Simpsons line.
Are there plans for a seasonal exclusive this year like the Christmas or New Years Eve sets? If not, then might be such a set be planned for the future?
Playmates: Except for TOH IV, we are not planning a seasonal exclusive for '03. In '04 there is a planned seasonal exclusive of which the theme centers around an event that only happens once every four years.
Are you going to be able to maintain the one celebrity per wave standard? It seems that the licensing rights ( previous and upcoming ) may have been acquired only because of personal friendships/relationships with the particular celebs to the creators/writers of the show. Has the list run out? Without naming names, is the inability to acquire rights more often a money issue or a flat out denial from the celeb? Finally, are any more Phil Hartman characters (ie. Lyle Lanley) planned?
Yes, we are going to try and maintain our one celebrity per wave standard offering. Occasionally we do receive special requests from Fox, Groening's people and Gracie Films to do characters that we many not otherwise do. We try to pick celebrity voiced characters that we feel will appeal to collectors. After saying that, I am sure many of you are probably thinking "Brad Goodman?" While Goodman was not one of the characters we wanted to do, when Jackie Mason disc'd us on Rabbi Krustofski, we were caught in a bind since we had just launched the celebrity figure segment a series earlier and going out in series two with only one figure would have been very weak. The voice rights for Brad were granted and he was our only choice.
The list of celebrity figures has not run out. Our problem is getting the celebrities to jump on board in a timely matter and turn over their voice rights so we can do more characters. In many cases, I am sure money is a big issue on obtaining celebrity rights. However, I am not sure if the issue is with the celebrities themselves or their agents. When making contact with any celebrity, you have to go through their agent and if he or she doesn't see a big pay day for themselves, chances are they will turn the offer down without consulting the celebrity.
At this time, we are not allowed to do anymore Phil Hartman voiced characters in Simpsons.
How many Stonecutter mailaways does Playmates plan on doing?
This will all depend on how well the Stonecutter figures do as mail-in incentive figures.
How many characters do you plan to re-release and will these re-releases be continually offered (ie. the same figures produced several times over the next few years). Or are you planning to produce a larger number of re-releases, smaller or the same as regular first time re-released figures?
The number of re-released figures will depend on how well the re-released figures do in '03. Initially the quantity shipped into market will be pretty low. If these sell out in a short amount of time we will go back and produce more of the same sets before we roll out new re-issued figure sets.
There have been some recent complaints about the lack of lines key characters have on certain playsets. Has Playmates considered adding more lines and decreasing the figure-compatibility number? If each figure had five or six lines instead of one or two, it add to the fun of some of the sets.
We have considered cutting down the number of figures that are compatible with each playset. The problems we have are two-fold: First, making sure all the figures from new waves are compatible with at least one playset. Second, making figures compatible with environments that make some sort of logical sense. We are at the point where it doesn't make sense for a lot of figures to work in certain playsets. (Eg. Number 1 and Luann Van Houten working in Bart's Treehouse?) But we feel it is more important for the figures to be compatible with at least one set when they become available.
What is Playmates' stance on WoS episodic-themed sets? It doesn't seem consistent. Have any episode-specific Simpson products sold well? It would be great for us collectors who want all the Stonecutters, Pin Pals, pajama Simpsons, Kamp Krusty kids, etc. at once. But unless it's a two-pack (Radioactive, High School) or holiday themed, Playmates has spread them out over waves or mail-aways. It seems encouraging though to see the new Halloween set finally represent one episode.
We were hoping everybody would overwhelmingly support the idea of doing themed playsets and having only the 6 figures from each wave be compatible with the sets. This would take care of the inquiry in question 9 and would open the door to literally hundreds more figures and playsets that we could do. Based on the comments I've seen on SCS, there does not seem to be a positive consensus in proceeding in this way. As of now, we are planning to do at least one episodic themed set in '04, and continue doing non-episodic themed playsets as we have been doing. This being said, some figures might have to go speechless until an appropriate playset theme is chosen that makes sense for the figures to talk in.
Another issue I want to comment on is the scale issue, specially the children. When the line was originally launched back in '00 the decision was made to upsize the children bigger than they appear on the show due to a potential price value issue. What adult would be willing to pay the same price for a tiny Simpsons figure when they can purchase another Simpsons figure twice the size for the same price? At that time we thought the World of Springfield segment was going to be a true toy line and appeal mainly to kids versus being a true collectible line. Now we all know WOS turned out to be a true collector line and we have struggled sizing some of the figures (especially the children) correctly. Another issue is dealing with the licensor as they have a tendency to scale the children as they appear in the show instead being consistent with the set scale in the beginning. If we could do it all over and would have known World of Springfield was going to be a true collector line, the size of the figures would be in scale with how the characters appear in the show. For this, we at Playmates apologize.
Thanks to Playmates Toys for answering our questions! See you next month!
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