Magazine:
Here are the questions and answers from August, 2001:

Will the Treehouse of Horror sets continue every year?

Set #3 is on the line list for next year, and has great characters I’m excited about. As long as we think the product is great, and TRU is happy with the sell-through, it may stay a tradition. The Simpsons have “owned” Halloween for years and Fox airs all their great specials for that whole month. That’s where the idea came from – and I think they’re some of the greatest sets ever done. Year four TBD.

Will they still be an annual exclusive release for Toys 'R Us, or might we see Treehouse of Horror figures more often and/or incorporated into the mass release line?

As long as they want it, we’ll let them “own” that piece of the brand they started in partnership with us every year. A Talking Good/Evil Krusty doll is about to hit stores as a Spencer/Diamond exclusive – it carries the TOH logo, to explain where the doll came from, but we’re not likely to do individual action figures for a while.

Will Toys 'R Us continue to get additional exclusives such as more Christmas sets

As a partner who carries all of our line, we’ll offer them exclusive opportunities when together we can think of product opportunities that make sense, complement the line and allow for a quantity that makes business sense. I’m not sure Christmas will be a strong enough theme to repeat.

or, according to a recent rumor, a Pimply Teen variant in TRU employee clothes?

I don’t know where this proposal or rumor got started, but I know it will not be approved by the licensor.

Some of the exclusives, such as the Toyfare Glow-in-the-dark Homer, Pin Pal Burns, and Treehouse of Horror seem to have become some of the scarcest and most expensive items in the line. Will Playmates take steps to increase the quantity made of future exclusives, such as requiring a higher minimum order, encouraging the outlets to reorder sold-out product, or rereleasing exclusive figures perhaps with minor changes, or will quantity always be dictated by the retailer?

We have an MOQ to make each product make business sense for us as a manufacturer. After that, all quantities ordered and distribution are up to the buyer, who is really taking the risk. Then, on the next wave of similar exclusives the quantity can be adjusted to everyone’s comfort level (as they all have been). We can’t force any re-orders, or raise MOQs too greatly, and we wouldn’t make a deco change and re-release someone else’s exclusive.

Will the recent complaints about ToyFare change Playmates' policies on Simpsons exclusives at all?

We’ve worked with them over the last three figures to modify ordering rules with each release. They’ve answered our inquiries into the complaints. We really can’t control distribution any closer than that. We are proceeding with all exclusives we’ve already contracted for through 2001: Boxing Homer, Pin Pal Moe and Convention Comic Book Guy. No decisions have been made and no agreements are in place for any exclusives in 2002.

Will the Town Square be able to voice all WoS figures?

No. It will work with about 30, similar to current playsets.

If not, in light of the growing popularity of the WoS line (with fans AND retailers), when can we expect a playset that will voice all figures, large-scale or otherwise?

Main Street may materialize as an exclusive or we may try to sell it in again at NYTF2002. Stay tuned.

With the announcement of the new "celebrity" assortments, are you considering producing figures of celebrities who appeared as themselves (Leonard Nimoy, Ron Howard, etc.), or are you primarily interested in ones who played “Springfield” characters as we have seen so far?

We’re interested in all, and we’ve prioritized them for Fox legal to do the hard work. We, and the creator, want to start with characters most integral to the overall world.

Would likeness buyouts make these more expensive and therefore less likely than just licensing a voice?

The issue is the same, just a matter of whether they’d allow it or not. Some celebs are anti-commercial. Some celebs were promised their appearance in the show wouldn’t be taken into merchandising – so that will be honored by studio management. Some would just get a kick out of it (which is probably why they were on the show in the first place). I expect it to snowball once we do the first few. I think everyone will have fun with it. Behind the scenes: Bryant Gumble is a big fan of the toy line, and has taken to calling to get new releases. We’ve asked him to mention the celeb figure opportunity to anyone he knows who’s been on the show. (It helps to have friends in high places…)

Can you tell us more about why the Aztec Theater playset was not approved? There is some speculation due to the lack of gun accessories so far that FOX or Gracie Films are not approving items related to guns or violence for this line. Is that true and is the McBain action movie theme what killed this product? When you said "re-invented" do you mean that this playset may still come out in a somewhat different form, such as a Space Mutants movie premiere? Who was the figure planned to be packaged with this and will it be released on the card instead?

The figure was McBain in a tux (never sculpted) at a movie premiere at the theater. But as the blueprint of the theater was submitted for approval, everyone focused on the McBain character and changed the concept to him on an action movie set. Due to the late date of the redirection, we skipped ahead to one of the other ideas we had in the works – either the Simpsons Kitchen, Krusty Burger, Springfield DMV or Springfield Elementary Cafeteria. For the rest of 2002 we have a lot of stronger environments and figures in the works. We’ll revisit the theater someday because we’re looking for a playset that lots of different figures can interact in. Not sure who the figure should be or what the theme is…

We are growing concerned that FOX and Gracie Films are shooting down too many good ideas for this line. We are not sure they understand the adult action figure collectors' market and our desire for the most complete and accurate line possible. Could you give us a summary of what ideas or types of ideas they will not approve and if possible why? We have started a petition to send them to get Moe's Tavern approved (http://www.simpsonscollectors.com/news.asp?id=73) and would like to know what other items they need to be persuaded into approving.

It’s a constant process. We work with them, keeping them up to date on the feedback we get as we go along, sometimes getting help from some insiders who are really connected to the toy collecting community. Keep the buzz going and we may get some things out someday. (We’ll revisit Moe’s with them again soon…) The Moe’s petition might help.

Collectors were pleased to see variants of the hard-to-find Smithers and Marge on tap for 2002. However we are concerned that a very important character, Lisa, is being overlooked. A Simpsons Archive poll placed Lisa as the 4th most popular character in the show (www.snpp.com/guides/favchars.html). Considering this plus her first figure's rarity and her ability to talk in many sets, when can we expect another Lisa variant (besides the Christmas exclusive) and what costumes is Playmates considering (Sunday Best, Hockey, Beach Clothes, etc.)? We are also curious about variants of the scarce Grampa figure (he placed in the top 20 most popular characters).

We’re looking at a Sunday Best Grampa and Lisa – it would make sense to complete the family in that theme. No release date or distribution plan is set yet.

About how many units of each World of Springfield figure are being produced now and how much has the amount increased since year one?

Probably about 60,000 of each figure are being released in recent waves, which is higher than the lower-weighted figures in the first two waves (but less than Wave I Homer and Bart).

Are you happy with current sales and do they bode well for the future?

Each wave keeps getting stronger, and I’m glad the newness hasn’t worn off for the collecting community. I, as a fan, am happy with the strength of next year’s line-up and the great characters to come. (The good ideas just keep coming.) I think that means another strong year if everyone likes ‘em the way I do.

Which retailers have recently signed on or increased orders and which ones have cut orders or stopped carrying the line altogether?

WalMart who tested the line once but never got a strong enough evaluation, is looking at picking up the main SKUs again – after a change in the boy’s buying staff. Kmart, who had mediocre results with the first few waves (they got late in the release cycle) has admitted they’re “probably missing something.” They’re looking at stocking a few lines of action figure collectibles, we just have to convince them we’re among the top four collector lines. Help us let them know!!!

What portion of the market do sales to independent online retailers represent?

Probably less than 10%, though I’m answering off-the-cuff.

Will we see any sort of mail-away offer where proofs-of-purchases and/or store receipts can be sent in for exclusive figures, toys, or accessories?

Perhaps. The biggest problem is the expense to process and ship the exclusives.

What is the state of international distribution on the WoS line? Are there plans to introduce the WoS line in places that have not received it yet like the United Kingdom, or to continue distribution in Canada who has only received Wave 1? To how many countries is WoS currently being distributed?

I can’t find this out with more extensive research through our HK office. I do know some international, non-English speaking markets are ordering figures without resistors (as the environments/chips aren’t going to be produced with the voice-over actors from other languages). These include figures previously shipped in environments (Marge, Apu, etc.) A problem with the environments in English speaking international markets is the cost. They are expensive enough here - but international distribution, through many layers, adds more to the cost than it would be worth to consumers…

And that's it for August...

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