During the Fall Mass Market Toy Expo, staffer blueduck37 sat down with Playmates exec Pat Linden to discuss the state of the WoS line and ask some questions from our message boards. Here's some notes from that meeting.
1. What is the current status of the WoS line? Have the loss of certain Target stores and the higher prices at TRU affected the line? How much longer does Playmates foresee the line going?
The WoS line has seen a slowdown, but it is continuing. It is what they called a "mature brand". The line is solid through the end of 2004. Beyond that remains to be seen. Toys R Us is on board for '04. Playmates isn't happy with the high prices and the issue was brought up to TRU. Unfortunately, TRU isn't budging in that department, but they are the main supporters of the WoS line and have the right to charge what they want. Target has moved away from collector lines, but (as is the case now) select locations will still carry the line; these are the same locations that are carrying other collector-based lines like The Muppets and Masters of the Universe. So Target is still on board, albeit in a limited capacity. Playmates was hoping to bring on new collectors with the rerelease program, but that hasn't worked out like they expected. They are aware of their core collector customer base and that is was the line is being geared toward now.
2. What is the status of the Collector's Club?
They still plan to start the Club and hoped to have had it up and running by now. There is a lot of legal red tape to cut through before they can start it up. Twentieth Century Fox, Gracie Films, Matt Groening, etc. all need to approve aspects relating to liscensing and merchandising and there are issues surrounding the Club that need to be resolved. When they are, the Club will proceed.
3. What exclusives are planned for 2004?
There will be about the same numbers of exclusives next year as there were this year. Toys R Us will of course be doing another THOH set for Halloween. The Stonecutter environment is also set to be an exclusive, possibly to TRU as well. There may be another TRU.com exclusive and also maybe a New Force/Diamond exclusive. More details will likely be revealed after the February Toy Fair.
4. Many collectors have praised recent exclusives like THOH 4 and the Be-Sharps set. Will we see anymore uniquely styled sets as regular releases similar to Bart's Treehouse?
Maybe. They like to be original with the sets however possible, but the sales numbers for Bart's Treehouse were disappointing. They feel some consumers though it looked smaller and maybe steered away from it. They have tried to add unique looks to upcoming sets like the Town Square and the School Playground.
5. What is the status of the rerelease dioramas? Will they continue?
They are soliciting orders for new dioramas in 2004, but the future of this sub-line is still up in the air. Sales numbers haven't been great and that will be the deciding factor. If they show improvement, they will continue forward with these.
6. Will there be more mail-aways?
Yes. The Stonecutters have started with Series 14 and that will be the new group. The Be-Sharps have done okay and they expect that more orders will come in as the 12/31/03 deadline approaches.
7. Playmates mentioned at Toy Fair plans to create a child-focused Simpsons toy line. What is the status of this? Are there any secondary lines planned for 2004?
In 2004, you will see the continued sales of the Screamers and the Voice-Response figures. Beyond that nothing is planned. They do still want to create a Simpsons line (starting in 2005) that appeals to kids, but there are difficulties. Kids like toys lines that have good vs. evil aspects and The Simpsons lacks that, so there it is hard to make a Simpsons product that kids will want.
8. Who decides the poses/expressions of the figures? There have been some complaints of static-looking facial expressions. Any chance of more expressive sculpts?
Fox gives Playmates artwork for all planned characters and is very restrictive on any changes from that art. So that is why you don't see unique sculpts for the original characters. However, in the variants they have more leeway to make more expressive sculpts.
9. Any more thought on releasing "voiceless" figures for odd characters like Sam and Larry?
Possibly. They would be willing to do this, but only as a last resort. Fox is an issue here too as they really want to push the voice technology. If they did do it, it would have to be released through a very collector-focused market like Spencers Gifts or maybe ToyFare magazine.
10. Has Playmates every considered doing an exclusive figure pack-in or mail-away offer with one of Fox Video's many Simpsons DVD or VHS releases similar to what has been done in the UK?
It's been discussed, but nothing is planned. They have been trying alternate promotion tactics like an advertisement packed in with the Hit And Run videogame.
11. Any plans for another large-scale playset?
It's been talked about and hasn't been ruled out. However, it's a very high-risk venture and hard to get a retailer to commit to a high priced item that takes up that much shelf space. Also, while the sales for Main Street were good, there are still some sets sitting in stores. So it's iffy.
12. A highly requested set is the Legitimate Businessman's Social Club. Any plans for it?
Nothing in 2004 or the immediate future. If WoS continues in '05 and beyond, it might happen.
13. Will there be any more figures voiced by Phil Hartman?
Possibly. There are issues with the liscensor, so it's extremely iffy.
14. There were rumors/talks at Toy Fair of an exclusive set dealing with an event that occurs every four years. Any updates? Is this related to the Season 15-based environment that was teased at the San Diego Comic Con?
He couldn't give any details as it's still pending approval.
15. Is there any interest in a WoS sub-line with deluxe accessories (ie. Arnie Pie with helicopter, Very Tall Man in his VW Bug)?
Not really. They believe that Simpsons is a character-based line and creating larger accessories isn't a huge priority. Also, the vehicles (Family Car, School Bus) didn't sell very well, so they don't believe that a project like this would do any better.
Thanks to Playmates for taking the time to talk to us.
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