Here are the questions to Playmates Toys and their answers from September/October, 2002. The questions appear in bold type:

If the Collectors Club goes through, what type of product are you planning on releasing through the Club? Would you consider an exclusive playset for that club?

The idea of supporting a Simpsons collector club is still being discussed. Due to recent slowdown in sales at retail further discussions about the club have been put on hold until after we have our Fall previews with all retailers. As far as product goes, we would probably look at a combination of talking and non talking figures. The one that makes the most sense to offer to the club is a non-talking Rabbi Krustofski. We could look at doing a exclusive playset after getting order results from a figure. The minimum order quantities and price for a playset are going to be higher due to the higher development and tooling costs.

What are the current plans for exclusives in 2003? What retailers will you continue to work with and which ones are getting dropped? Will we continue to see the Treehouse of Horror sets every year?

We are cutting back on our exclusives for ’03. As of right now, we only have four exclusives planned for the year. We will continue the Tree House of Horror series as long as Toys R Us is willing to purchase the sets.

Can you tell us about the 300th Episode set? What figures will it come with (the Simpsons family or other characters?) and what will the environment itself portray? Will it have special packaging?

The current plan is to do figures of the Simpsons family members dressed in different themes as seen in the 300th episode. As far as the environment goes, I would rather wait and tell you when we have something approved by Fox.
Yes, we will develop a very special 300th episode commemorative package for the set.

Preliminary reports indicate that Main Street is selling very well. Based on this, would you consider releasing more deluxe playsets so we can get larger Springfield locations in addition to the regular environments?

Unfortunately, due to the dock strike, I don’t believe even a quarter of the playsets have made it to TRU’s shelves yet. Doing larger playsets have been brought up in the past. A problem we have is finding a retailer who will take the risk on a high priced, big boxed item like Main Street. These big boxed sets take up a lot of valuable space that retailers are less willing to give up for just one item. However, if Main Street is successful, we will have a story to tell other retailers and take a more serious look at doing additional big, deluxe playsets. The question I have for you is what are you willing to spend to get these larger playsets and how many of these deluxe playsets would you like to see released per year?
On another note, how would you feel if Playmates were to launch a smaller say 2.5” – 3.0” scale World of Springfield figures? By doing so, we could develop more highly detailed playsets. For example, instead of doing the living room and kitchen as separate playsets, we could do the entire Simpsons house. We would still incorporate character phrases into the sets so you can hear your favorite character when he or she is plugged onto various ports inside the house.

Are slow sales the cause of plans to scale back the WoS line in 2003? Is the Simpsons line still strong for Playmates or are you focusing on new areas such as the Ninja Turtles line? What are the future plans for WoS in 2004 and beyond?

The slow down in the sales of Simpsons has caused us to scale back the line in ’03. Up until the middle of this past year, it seemed we could not keep the shelves stocked with Simpsons figs. and playsets. We proceeded to introduce many new segments (Blocko, Episodic Mini’s, Faces of Springfield 9”, Bongo etc.) hoping that one of these segments would catch on and become as popular as the WOS 5” Intelli-Tronic figs. and playsets. When the slowdown hit many of the above mentioned segments did not sell well and we were forced to stop development of all future waves on some of these new segments.
Yes, the Simpsons line is still strong for Playmates. While ’03 probably may not be as strong ’02, the line is still very important to Playmates. As long as you the consumer continue to purchase our figures and playsets, Simpsons will continue to be an important part of Playmates line throughout ’03 and beyond.

With the reworking of playset schedules and slowing sales at retail, are you considering more playset features, accessories, more lines or perhaps an extra pack-in figure to raise the appeal of these sets?

At this time we are not considering adding more phrases or accessories into the playsets. By doing so we would have to increase the price point which is one of the reasons we feel sales of the playsets have decreased.

Has any decision been made on re-releasing the core figures in 2003? If there are plans for a re-release, what is the projected timeline? Is it being considered as a separate "line" requiring separate retail orders or would figures be included in upcoming waves? Would these done like the Vivid-style 4 or 5 packs or single carded figures?

We have given this topic a lot of thought and we want to thank you the collector and supporter of the Simpsons brand for your thoughts in helping us make our decision. Yes, we are planning on re-issuing the core figures in 2003. While we understand not everybody will be happy about our decision, we feel that for the longevity of the brand the core figures have to be made available to give new collectors the opportunity to purchase the core family members as they most commonly appear in the TV show. In March ’03 we are planning to re-release two of the original characters just as they were originally launched (no changes) in the newly revised ’03 package look along with the 6 new figures planned for the March release. We will short ship what we think are the 2 less popular new figures included in the series and include two of the original figures. The two original figures will be short, short shipped because if nobody is interested in the re-issues, we will not have flooded the market with these two figures. This being said, some case packs will not include an original figure and will just include 2 each of the 6 new figures.
At the reset of the fall plan-o-gram in June, we will have a read to see how well these two original figures sold through at retail. If the sell through rate is successful, we will proceed to offer two packs of the original characters in the revised new look packaging for ’03, with newly sculpted heads and different facial expressions than the originals.

We are proceeding with the re-issue in this fashion for two reasons: 1) Some stores have set plan-o-grams which are already set for Spring ’03 and they will not support our coming out of the gate with a separate two pack sku. 2) By offering only two original figures we will not flood the market with the original characters. If we re-launched with many of the originals and they do not sell through many retailers will probably walk away from the brand immediately. By re-issuing with two figures, we will get a good read on how successful the re-launch will be, and how many of future re-issued two packs we should plan per wave.

As I stated above, we truly do appreciate the time and your thoughts about re-issuing the core characters. We look forward to your responses (both positive and negative) on our plan above. We would also like to hear your opinion on what two series 1 figures you would like to see in the initial re-issue. And we would like to hear your opinion on what two of the series 12 figures you feel we should short ship to make room for the original characters.

The planned series 12 figures include:
Mr. Plow Homer
Don Vittorio
Mr. Largo
Luann Van Houten
Number One

At some point, would the line continue with carded figures only? Also, in this scenario, would you continue without the Intellitronic voice component at all, still include chips for backward compatibility or future use, or attempt more exclusive playsets like Moe's Tavern where the price can be set to compensate for lower production numbers?

We can’t really answer this question. Like you, we would like to see us do all the World of Springfield characters differently themed playsets. However, their will probably come a point when retailers will quit carrying the line due to declining sales. I would expect this to happen before we proceed with just introducing non-talking carded figures.

What celebrities are being considered for the WoS line? What are the chances that we will see bands and musicians that have appeared on the Simpsons, such as The Ramones, The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers etc. represented in the WOS line?

The chances of seeing bands and musicians that have appeared on the Simpsons are very slim. Getting the look and voice rights to bands and singers are much more difficult than dealing with one celebrity and their agent.

In the same vein as high-price-point playsets (like Main Street), what are Playmates thoughts on figure 4-packs? High-demand figures might paired with lower demand figures resulting in an better sell-through at retail locations.

While 4 packs and other multi figure packs sound like a good idea, getting retailers to carry the multi-packs is another issue. It is very difficult to get retailers to list another 5” Simpsons figure sku. Retailers would tell us they will either carry the 5” figures individually, or the 4-pack. Not both.

Thanks to Playmates Toys for answering our questions! See you next month!

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