Here are the questions and answers from July, 2001:

This month, Jeff sent me two files - a word document answering our questions, and an Excel spreadsheet laying out all the current plans for 2002. I re-entered the Excel info to format it a little more convienently. Answers to our questions and the planned line up follow.

Here's the planned line up for the Simpsons figures and playsets through Wave 10, and including the new celebrity figures. The ones marked TBD are still in the approval stages:

Series 8 - shipping March 2002
- Kearney
- Uter
- Sherri and Terri
- Superintendent Chalmers
- Ripped Willie
- Daredevil Bart

Series 9 - shipping June 2002
- Nick Riviera
- Herman
- Busted Krusty
- Prison Bob
- High School Homer (TBD)
- High School Marge (TBD)

Series 10 - shipping Sept. 2002
- Marvin Monroe
- Mother Skinner
- Disco Stu
- Rod and Todd Flanders
- Duffman
- Bart variant (TBD)

Environment Asst. D (they are using letters rather than matching them to the series) - shipping March 2002
- Springfield DMV with Selma
- School Cafeteria with Lunchlady Doris

Environment Asst. E - shipping June 2002
- Police Station with Eddie
- Springfield Retirement Castle with Jaspar

Environment Asst. F - shipping Sept. 2002
- Burns Manor with Maid Smithers
- Town Square with Jebediah Springfield

Celebrity Series Series 1 - shipping Feb. 2002
- Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
- Danny DeVito as Herb Powell
- Joe Montegna as Fat Tony

Celebrity Series Series 2 - shipping Sept. 2002
- Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz

Celebrity 2 pack #1 - shipping March 2002
- Colonel Homer and Lurleen Lumpkin (Beverly D'Angelo)
Celebrity 2 pack #2 - shipping Sept. 2002

Simpsons 10" figures
- Homer shipping Feb 2002
- Burns shipping Feb 2002
- Krusty shipping June 2002
- Barney shipping June 2002
- Apu shipping Oct. 2002
- Grampa shipping Oct. 2002

Simpsons Block Figure Asst.
- Homer, Marge, Lisa shipping Jan. 2002
- Bart, Grampa, Apu shipping Jan. 2002
- Burns, Smithers, Carl shipping Jan. 2002
- Barney, Moe, Lenny shipping June 2002
- Krusty, Sideshow Bob, Milhouse shipping June 2002
- CBG, Pimple Faced Teen, Flanders shipping June 2002
- Skinner, Willie, Otto shipping Nov. 2002
- Wiggum, Mayor, Snake shipping Nov. 2002
- Captain McCallister, Hans Moleman, Kent Brockman shipping Nov. 2002

NOTES - Still subject to change, but Fox has approved these and they are developing everything that releases prior to June, right now. The single Celebrity figures are intended to work with some playsets, and the Celebrity two packs will have their own base, similar to Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy. I asked Jeff a follow up question on the 'Block' assortments. He replied "The Simpsons-characters incarnated in Blocko-World style. Pop-off arms, legs and heads. Some add-on accessory and fashion pieces. Similar to all the block-type figures very popular in action figure collecting now..."

On top of all that, here's the answers to the ten questions posed to Jeff Trojan, VP of Boys Toys at Playmates. The answers are in italics:

1 - Have any additional figures, playsets or exclusives been approved for 2002 beyond the wave 7 announcement for December/January?

Please see the attached list for the year. Subject to change, but Fox has approved these and we are developing everything that releases prior to June, right now.

2 - Can you give us an update on which celebrity-voiced figures we can expect to see next year as well as which celebrities have signed on for future figures? Will these figures continue to be included in regular waves like Sideshow Bob or will they strictly come in a special assortment? If the latter, will they still interact with standard assortment playsets and vice versa? If some celebrities do not sign on, will you consider making their figures with imitation voices or as non-talking releases?

You’ll see on the line list, we’ve signed Joe Montegna, Phil Hartman(‘s estate), Beverly D’Angelo, and Danny DeVito. We are working with Gracie Films for approvals and Fox for all the legal legwork on many more. These are planned as separate assortments (for the retailers who want to expand their lines beyond the World of Springfield assortments). The 2-packs will have their own Intelli-Tronic Environment base. The single figures will have phrases in some of the regular WOS Intelli-Tronic Environments. There are no plans for non-talking characters or imitation voices.

3 - You said that you decide which figures to make based on the popularity of the characters. What type of surveys, recommendations, or other research do you use to determine the popularity? Which of these factors are high priority: frequency of appearance on the show, amount of good quotes, an interesting or unique visual look, compatibility in playsets, popularity with fans, fan petitions, or others? Some characters like Bleeding Gums Murphy, Sideshow Mel, and Mascot Homer do not seem more popular than, say, Dr. Nick, Disco Stu, Mr. Plow Homer, or Astronaut Homer, so why were they made first?

All the factors you mention take a part in the decision, as well as licensor and creator subjective input. I’d say interesting/diverse looks and frequency in the show (or proximity to the characters: Homer’s cronies, Bart’s friends, Lisa’s associates…) as well as good quotes were important for the first 5 waves (which were all planned internally). For later waves, we’re hearing lots of phone and web feedback, and reading more in the pubs. The timing is then adjusted to fit the release dates of environments as much as possible. (There’s a school related wave, and a police/prison wave next year…)

4 - Now that the Simpsons family kitchen is coming, can we expect to see other "add-ons" to previous playset locations, such as the cooler area of the Kwik-E-Mart with a shot of Frostillicus in one cooler and non-alcoholic beer in another, the break room at the power plant with a water cooler and snack machine, the school yard, the dining room, etc.? Will playsets like these ever be designed to link up together so we can build a larger display area of a single Springfield location?

Other areas will be planned if they make sense for the number of characters we need to hear quoted – or a cool “comes with” character. The house makes sense again, because of all the family and visitor quotes. The Lunch Room is great because of all the LLD requests – and all the kids and adults who speak at the school. Actually, fewer main characters (in our plans anyway) would work at a second Power Plant Location. (But maybe Burn’s Office would be fun…) We’re getting pressed for locations where everyone in town could interact. There are no plans to link them up.

5 - There are some supporting and background characters that have had few or even no lines of dialogue on the show. Will Playmates still consider producing these figures for WoS?

Maybe way down the line – but I can’t think of who you mean right now…

6 - Many collectors have wondered why some of the colors of the figures do not match those seen on the show. For example, Grampa's shirt is blue instead of pinkish-orange, Moe's apron is white instead of dark blue, and Willie's shirt is white instead of dark gray. Is there some reason Playmates did not match the colors of these figures to those seen on the show? Can we expect more accurate colors in future figures or potential repainted rereleases of these figures?

We use the color specs chosen by Fox Merchandising. They make their “style guide” choices to be consistent among all licensees (I assume). Sometimes things change a lot over the course of the shows. I do know that there is even inconsistency in the “style guide” specs from the first time the brand was marketed ten years ago. When we asked to do alternate outfits, like Bart’s blue shirt – we were told Bart’s shirt wasn’t blue (ever?). Obviously in the first licensed products it was. I even caught a Homer crack about it on the show: Bart runs downstairs and all the family is ready to go… Homer says “Why don’t you wear your blue shirt?” Bart says “I don’t have a blue shirt…”

7 - What factors does Playmates use to decide which figures are made as exclusives and which go into the standard line? What might be the reasons certain figures would be denied as exclusives?

We don’t want to do exclusives we think would be strong enough for the main line. We like exclusives (with lower quantities) to involve little or no new sculpture and tooling. We offer them only to retailers and promotional partners who fully support the rest of the line.

8 - Are there any Simpsons characters, locations, or toys in general which Playmates has so far voluntarily ruled out for production, due to being too controversial, too difficult to manufacture, too unsafe, too expensive to secure the rights, etc.?

The licensor has shot down a few, like Moe’s. So far Playmates has only turned down the X-Files Simpsons because the cost of likeness buyouts requested by the actors’ agents made the project unrealistic.

9 - Many collectors have felt that Playmates' choices in accessories were not very well thought out. Have you considered offering an accessories pack that could include some that were missed, such as Ralph's Leprechaun, Bobo for Mr. Burns, and Bart's Soul for Milhouse, among others. On the same note, have you ever considered animal sets, which could include Mr. Teeney, Jub-Jub, Stampy, etc.

Many times we’re getting character approvals, reference, and sometimes contractual clearance for new voiceover actors so close to the turnover date new accessories are an afterthought. We’re hoping Jub-Jub comes with Selma. Thought of Ralph’s leprechaun, but couldn’t get reference in time (the keys were made up to go with that same episode). There are no plans to do separate accessory packs – but some more 2-packs may be planned in the future.

10 - There have been a number of figures that have been put off because of voice licensing issues. However, since the figure itself does not contain the voice, but rather the playset, would it be possible to release these figures without a compatible playset? Once the rights were finally secured, the voices could be added to the playsets. Collectors desire many of these figures whether or not it is ever possible to get the voices - would this be a viable alternative?

We pay our voice-over royalties (a portion of which go to the voice talent, unless an upfront buyout is requested) on each figure character included, which means we pay speaking talent on Environments and Figures. This was a complex negotiation based on the fact that the resistor in the foot is part of the electronic system needed to cause the Intelli-Tronic speech and the rationale that consumers would buy more or less of various SKUs (figure or environment) based on the character inside. We could have argued to pay multiple actors for the environment and none for the figures, but it seemed counter intuitive. Until we create a different assortment, we won’t explore the rights for non-interactive figures to ship within these assortments.

There was so much info this time, I didn't add my comments...head still spinning...


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