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Thread: How did the original line drop from 400 million in sales to 7 million in one year?

  1. #26
    Let's get Crita in MOTUC! The All American's Avatar
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    I just got a copy of Roger Sweet's "Mastering the Universe" book for my birthday, finished it in a day, and thought it added some interesting insight to this topic. Roger Sweet blamed marketing mainly for the first death of Masters of the Universe, but there were several factors.

    So, apparently, according to the book, boy's toy lines were always very volatile. Mattel had been unsuccessful at making its own popular boy's toys line, and we’re itching to beat out Hasbro and Kenner. The head of Mattel at the time was especially eager to succeed in boy’s toys after turning down George Lucas' Star Wars offer in 1976, that eventually went to Kenner. Then, the videogame crash (which I don't know too much about) of 1983 sunk Mattel's Intellivision, and therefore left a huge 350+ million dollar debt, and it also hurt Mattel's relations with retailers, primarily Toys'R'Us who now were stuck with Mattel products they couldn't sell.

    When Masters came out, it quickly became a sensation in the course of a few years, and Mattel basically got too greedy. With the success of Masters, Mattel couldn't say no to retailers wanting to fill demand, and in turn, Mattel marketing kept pushing the line farther than it should have went, like a balloon being inflated too far/quickly and popping. As pointed out earlier in this thread, in 1985 and 1986, the market was glutted with Masters figures. Sales rose up to 400 million in 1986. With the glut, even though still popular, retailers had to discount the excess MOTU figures to make any money. By the time 1987 came along, Mattel was in a bind. They oversold the product in prior years (to make up for previous losses such as Intellivision). Too fast, too soon. New figures had a hard time making it to retailers because toy stores were already up to their knees in MOTU, and they couldn’t justify ordering more, and parents were also probably tired of buying He-Man products for their kids (there was an interesting side story about the Slime Pit slime being sold and ticking off parents due to costs/requirement to buy extra figures that toy stores offered). Roger Sweet also mentioned that other Mattel products such as Captain Power and Bravestarr came out too soon (before being properly tested with consumers), and more unwanted Mattel products were stuffed in the market.

    Sweet offered other contributing factors to the fall of MOTU, like the financial crash in the fall of 1987, new toyline concepts such as Transformers and TMNT emerging, and changes at the top of Mattel. The guy who took over Mattel in ‘87 wanted to stabilize Mattel, so he choose to change the business mentality/process and just rely on the core brands – Barbie and Hot Wheels. MOTU got the axe because Mattel had to cut their losses, and I almost feel MOTU was the scapegoat for something it shouldn’t have been.

    So, I think with all of the factors considered, we saw the drop from 400 million to 7 million, and eventual first death of MOTU. Because of MOTU’s meteoric rise and fall (and some other crash and burn lines), I wonder if that’s why toy companies seem to be so lacking in creative new brands nowadays. Roger Sweet also mentioned that when the 1989 line came out, he heard Mattel wanted to keep Masters as a core brand, but they wanted it stable, so He-Man was toned down (also to cut costs on plastic), and therefore the creativity and impressiveness of the original line went out the window.

  2. #27
    Heroic Warrior Piccolo Daimaoh's Avatar
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    Wow. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you, All American for shedding some light on the subject. I was 8 years old in the spring of 1987 and I remember the Snakemen being the next big thing after the Horde and then just being gone completely. Even though there was still so many other lines out there in 1987/88 you could feel the hole MOTU left behind.
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  3. #28
    Heroic Warrior
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    Honestly, I think just about 90% of everything listed so far here contributed in ways, some more than others, but all happening at just the right (or wrong) time.

  4. #29
    Heroic Warrior BuzzOff1981's Avatar
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    I can remember as a child being slightly disappointed by a few of the last figures. Clamp Champ did nothing for me, and some of the main characters that strayed from the standard buck like Blast Attak and Snake Face felt odd to me, like they didn't quite fit in with the rest of the guys, but I still got them. I also remember being disappointed by the movie figures. I loved the movie as a child, but all three of the figures didn't appeal to me at all. I remember having my heart set on getting Saurod, but then when I held the package in my hand and looked at the figure, I surprisingly passed on him. I also remember just a few years later my mom told me a new He-man cartoon was going to be on, and I could not wait to see it. I thought there'd be new figures and that the line would continue. When I saw that first episode of New Adventures, I thought, "this isn't He-Man." I don't think my interest would have waned at all if the line had continued to produce figures that had the look and feel and general mythos of the originals. Through my life I never truly lost an interest in MOTU.

  5. #30
    For Hordak. To the death. lorde trooper's Avatar
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    Had all of the figures, came along NA and i didnt like the new look of characters, i didnt like the size of the figures, less detail and so on, just didnt feel like motu, as mentioned eariler i too wish Mattel went ahead with He-Ro and Eldor, slower run of figures, i look around and see how batman and spiderman have survived over the years and think why couldnt he-man had done that.
    Evil Army of the Horde!!

  6. #31
    Heroic Warrior Krueger's Avatar
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    Just makes you realise how the movie came out far too late. Mattel should have struck whilst the iron was hot. A movie when MOTU was at its peak could have been huge.

  7. #32
    Let's get Crita in MOTUC! The All American's Avatar
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    Thanks to the new Mark Ellis interview:


    "I believe that Mattel circled the firing squad and killed it. When we launched the line, we sold it to retailers in carefully crafted assortments. We knew that when somebody got interested in the line they usually first bought He Man or Skeletor. After that, there was a progression over time of how they expanded their set of figures. What Mattel management did was to change that assortment to whatever they had in inventory. It was, plain and simple, a move to improve the profitability of the company as a whole. The problem with that is that retail shelves started to fill up with toys that would normally be purchased in the third or fourth tier. Therefore, not only were there relatively few He Mans and Skeletors, but the ratios of shipping the other characters were all wrong (actually they were in exactly the wrong order). The factories had more inventory of the slower movers, so those now got shipped the most. With their shelves filling up and people not able to find the tier one characters, retailers decided that the line was slowing down and stopped ordering. That is how the death spiral starts."

  8. #33
    Heroic Warrior Torak's Avatar
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    Kids growing up doesn't make sense. MOTU was part of the Big 3 with Transformers and GI Joe and those two lines never stopped, in fact they are still going strong today. There was no reason why Masters couldn't have lasted to this day. Big muscle figures were huge in the 1990's. Fantasy is huge right now. No reason why MOTU couldn't ride these trends had it never stopped.

    It was mismanagement on part of Mattel, that is what killed the vintage, NA and 200x. That is what will kill classics one day. Why are the figures so hard to buy for new collectors? Mattel goes out of their way to make it impossible for causal collectors to get any of these figures? Meanwhile, I can go to any collectors store or on-line and get any ultra high end toy that I want without paying over retail cost. Mattel thinks their figures are like Hot Toys/ SideShow, but they are not they are just reusing parts with only a few new pieces and new colors to make figures.

    I have a feeling that if a new He-Man movie was to come out, it will be after people have moved on from the current fantasy trend and it will bomb and Mattel will just blame the MOTU for not being trendy or the fans for not supporting it instead of themselves for not knowing the market.

  9. #34
    Evil Master of Laceration mikescab's Avatar
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    I have to agree with you Torak. From what I gather, Mattel's greed got the best of them which ultimately, was one factor that lead to the line's demise. I can only speak for myself and express why, even as an 8 year-old boy at the time, moved on from Master's to other things, mainly NES and TMNT. First off, let me begin by saying the reason why I loved this line back in the day was the barbarian/fantasy aspect and appeal of the figures. This is partially due to my Dad's love for Vallejo and Frazetta art work. The box art and cross sell art along with the grittier and edgier look of the DC minis, as compared to the Filmation cartoon, fascinated me as a kid. This is the He Man I fondly remember. Sure I enjoyed the Filmation cartoon but after the second season it got too goofy even for a boy my age. It was too dumb-down. Kids are smarter than that in my opinion.
    I also feel the direction of the toy line took an odd turn veering off its "classic look" path, so to speak and became too gimmicky. I remember walking down the toy aisle of a KMart and looking at Snout Spout and the odd looking Snake Men and wondering to myself, "why are they changing the look of the toys, these don't look like He Man." I noticed this change right away when seeing the Horde figures in stores. But I still bought Leech and Mantenna. On that note I do enjoy the MOTUC interpretations of all the figures previously mentioned. HA!
    Anyhow, by the time the last wave came out which went back to the classic look, MOTU was pretty much dead in my area. I also thought the movie was horrible and remember being disappointed while sitting in the theater, tears in my popcorn, yelling at the screen, (in my head), this isn't how He Man is supposed to be, where's Mer Man, Trap Jaw and Tri-Kops! Then there is She-Ra which sent MOTU to the back burner as per Mattel. No disrespect to She Ravers, love you all, but my daughter and I cannot sit through one episode without being completely annoyed by the constant She-Ra theme playing after every other scene. But strangely enough, it is catchy. Interesting to note and very recently, my 12 year daughter was very upset when she learned Mattel and CN canned the 200X cartoon and said they were fools for doing so, she loves it, ha! I'm glad to know it still does appeal to some kiddos. As far as the 200X line, don't get me started. I once walked into a Toysrus during Christmas and I counted 64 SB He mans and skellys and 2 trap jaws and 2 trikes and mekaneck and ram man ended up being unsuspecting chase figures which proved to me that they were already killing the lien. But that's another story for a different forum.
    Mike Scabs

  10. #35
    Heroic Warrior King Criss79's Avatar
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    If the motu movie in 1987 was done differently I believe it could have invigorated new fans.The premise of the movie was so off ..it may not have played a part in decline of sales but it definitely didn't help.
    Last edited by King Criss79; March 4, 2013 at 12:38am.

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