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For the most part, all of the figures in Year 1 needed to use a lot of shared parts. Luckily, the first six gave us all the main body types: human, reptile and beasty (these were the names used on vintage design material; reptile referred to Skeletor’s body type, not Whiplash’s). I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, the huge use of shared parts in the vintage line was really what lead to MOTUC’s success. If we didn’t have the shared parts model, the tooling would have killed this line faster than Dragstor on a slow day.
Unlike the 200X line, which had almost all 100% sculpts from character to character, Classics was completely dependent on the use of shared parts and it really was amazing how diverse we could be using only the same bodies. From Hordak to Beastman… very different characters in Year 1 but all using basic body buck structures.
And it wasn’t just the body bucks that were reusable, but very smartly, the Horsemen built in a shared part strategy for even smaller parts like gloves, boots, loin cloths and add-on neck pieces (i.e., Mer-Man or Stinkor). This really gave us the opportunity to be very diverse while still keeping our tooling budget down in a first year that was very much still trial and error.
At this time, in 2009, we still didn’t know how successful the MOTUC could be. Obviously looking back, we really blew through A LOT of core characters in the first year and Year 1 (fall 2008 through 2009) was not at all diverse compared to later years that introduced New Adventures, Princess of Power, concept art and other factions from the MOTU world.
But…we did want to spend our tooling wisely and when it came to a 100% tooled figure, it is way easier to get that approved by management when all of the new tooling is reusable. Such was the case of a brand-new female buck.
If we had gone with another fully tooled figure like, oh, say Ram Man, it wouldn’t have worked out so well since Ram Man doesn’t have as many parts that can be shared. But by putting a huge amount of our tooling budget behind a new female buck, it not only diversified what had been an all-male cast but now we had a fully reusable female body buck to give us most of the MOTU chicks, warrior goddesses, witches and barbarianesses (I think I just made that word up).
We first hinted about Teela (well, actually announced her) in a Q & A on a fan site. It is one of the first and almost only times we did this. But we were just starting up our Q & As with fan sites at this time (a project I am very proud to have spearheaded for Mattel -- as a collector myself, I wanted Mattel to interact with collectors the way I always wished toy companies would, and now that I was in a marketing position it was a major priority for me). So by strategically leaking Teela as the “first female” through a Q & A, we really added some needed gravitas to the Q & As, ensuring they would be a nice flow of answers to fans (even though most of the time PR’s answers are a bit bland. Oh well. We do try).
So while Teela was revealed in name very early on, she wasn’t shown until NYCC, which in 2009 was in March or April (it would be later moved to October). This was our first year with a large booth at NYCC and we wanted to have some very sweet reveals and fan panels.
I actually did not see Teela until the Horsemen brought her unpainted early sculpt to the Mattel booth and we set her up in the display case. She was literally right off the design table. And in fact, she was so early in design, being in the middle of her sculpting stage that the Horsemen were actually able to take fan comments into consideration and adjusted her sculpt based on feedback from the show. This is a very rare occurrence and a lot of stars have to align for us to actually be in a position to make adjustments to a “reveal” beyond paint or deco. But this was not only our first female and the introduction of what was meant to be the all encompassing female buck, but it was Teela to boot!
We thought a lot about who should be the first female and the one to introduce this buck. She-Ra of course came up, as did Adora (due to never having had a figure before) and finally we also thought about Evil-Lyn (who was really Teela with a new head and accessories). In the end we went with Teela because at the time we were looking into offering more than one figure per month (based on fan requests) and we knew if we did Teela, we could do Goddess as a simple repaint (along with Zodak) as a non-tool, deco-only test of a second figure (to see if the market could support multiple figures in one month).
All of this was thought out very much in advance. Much like with Zodac/Zodak, we tooled the Goddess staff with Teela so that we had it ready to go should we want to pull the trigger on offering multiple figures a month. It made sense to test this out with deco-only figures, and Zodak and Goddess worked perfectly for this experiment because we could tool their unique weapons with another figure and then offer a deco-only execution (which logistically is WAY easier compared to any tooling). I’ll get more into this when I cover Goddess and Zodak in an upcoming blog.
But back to Teela. So we showed her off at NYCC and fans did have a lot of comments on her. In particular, many felt her butt was a little too flat for the beefy female warrior and the Horsemen were willing to do a re-sculpt to accommodate. This is not something we can usually do, but because Teela was so early on and we wanted to have her in NY to show this new line’s potential (to break out into female figures, not just males with new heads, and armor and part swaps) so the stars aligned and the perfect storm (or anti-storm) occurred where we actually were in the rare position of making sculpt changes to a reveal. Something that almost never works out. In fact, in my six years at Mattel, I can’t think of a single other example where we were able to do this. Oh wait, scratch that… it worked for Firestorm’s head in DCUC Wave 2 as well. But that was also an example where the Horsemen were willing to do a re-sculpt and the version showed at a con was very early due to the PR need.
Like most early figures in any line, Teela was an experiment and was therefore destined to be a test. The original concept for the female buck was that a hidden ball joint in the center of the waist would allow for a huge amount of articulation. Unfortunately, the thin material needed on the tunic was not available to us (due to another toymaker owning the patent on this material for dresses) which meant the Horsemen’s innovative female buck that was meant to have MORE articulation compared to the males actually had the reverse effect, and the female buck wound up being less articulated, loosing waist articulation entirely.
Additionally, due logistical issues, the dress/tunic wound up being cast in a much harder plastic compared with what the Horsemen had intended. This further hindered poor Teela’s articulations. A great example of the intent being there, but due to quite a few factors -- from communication to patent issues -- Teela just didn’t have the articulation level she was meant to have.
But that didn’t really take away from the fact that we really went to town loading her up with a ton of accessories. This included her vintage staff and shield, her snake armor with an alt head needed to hold the armor (a detail missing from the 200X series and figure that as a fan I was always bitter about) and her 200X sword. Another great way of getting 200X weapons into the line but not doing a 200X figure. The Horsemen “Classic-ized” the 200X sword perfectly, letting it fit in well with the rest of the line.
Many fans and customers have pointed out that the vintage Teela’s armor and weapons were actually a bit more red. This was a design choice made by the Horsemen for this particular figure, but I do think offering a more vintage red version of the accessories and head gear might be a cool weapon pak or alternate Teela figure one day. I do love the vintage colors, but I also love the color choices the Horsemen went with. These are usually the type of details we leave entirely to them, and they are so good at it.
Teela’s final accessory was Zoar in her/his classic mini-comic and cross-sell deco. (I say “his” because in the original mini-comics, Zoar was a male, not the Sorceress in disguise.) We knew that one day we would be getting to the Sorceress figure (actually, we knew it would be early 2012), so the Zoar that came with Teela was always meant to be a placeholder knowing fans would also want the Filmation/Classic toy-colored Zoar and we reserved this for the Sorceress, who I still think was a more appropriate figure to pack Classics-color Zoar with.
But by tooling the bird buck with Teela, it gave us a much needed sidekick tool that wound up being reused quite a lot -- from Skreech to the eagle that came with the Wonder Twins (a VERY rare case of a MOTUC item being used in another line).
Fans very quickly asked about the armor and perch that Zoar needed for display. We really wanted to offer these, but due to the alt head and snake armor, it just got too costly. So we had to wait for Evil-Lyn’s release the following spring to tool up the armor and perch, which let us release the cross-sell colors version in a weapon pak. This was a fantastic example of rewarding long-term customers with accessories that worked together -- something we would later do with Demo-Man’s alt Skeletor head and the orb holder that will come with Temple of Darkness Sorceress. I am a completest collector myself and I do think it is really cool that collectors who buy everything tend to get rewarded later on with parts and accessories released with later figures that are cross-compatible with older releases. This is very deliberate and something we like to do to keep the line collectable.
Despite some logistical flaws in her outfit that did indeed hinder her articulation, Teela really came out great. I personally love that she has the alt head and snake armor. I got Teela very early on in the vintage days (in a Zoar/Teela 2-pack) and I always played with her in the snake armor. Having new snake armor for the first time since 1982 was a real thrill. I remember sitting on an SDCC panel in 2007 with the creators of the 200X series and a fan asked why Teela did not have her snake armor and the creators shrugged and looked at me. I quickly jumped on the mike and explained what the snake armor was and expressed that it is something we wanted to get to if we did a new Teela figure. Upper management was in the room at this panel and this was the first time I think they saw me as an expert on the MOTU brand and one of the reasons I was allowed to brand manage it. It has always been very important to management to have the most passionate people possible running the brands and this was the moment that I believe convinced management I was the right person to manage Classics. In a panel of professionals from both the toy and animation industry, I was the only one on the panel with a working knowledge of Teela’s vintage accessories (along with a lot more MOTU lore, mind you). But being able to demonstrate this live at a panel was a key moment for my career. Funny, the serendipitous way things often work!
Eventually, we were able to correct a lot of the issues with the female buck by introducing an all-new buck in 2011 with Bubble Power She-Ra. But for the first few years of the brand, Teela’s 100% tool would form the backbone of the female presence. I actually think it is a good thing that we had relatively few females in the first few years simply because now more females going forward can take advantage of the new buck we introduced. I’d love to get to a 2.0 on Teela one day, but for now our warrior goddess stands proud, ready to defend Eternia against the forces of Evil (and maybe get a smooch or two from He-Man on the side).
Until next time.
(AKA Toy Guru)
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I'm interested in seeing a pic of everyone in upper management.
I remember when Teela came out...there were fans who wanted her with a Beyonce butt (I guess Kim Kardashian wasn't so famous yet).
I was so sure that she would have had the blonde painted head, since Classics was giving us the original versions of characters.
I personally think that the 1.0 female has a WAY better lower half - I hate the 2.0 thighs. do we have a 2.5 hybrid? is Marlena one? I think all females going fwd should be 2.5
How about a Green Goddess 2.0 that doesn't have crotch rot?
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Another cool entry.
Teela for me (along with Mer-Man) is my favourite MOTUC figure hands down. Beautiful face sculpt (really puts the BG Teela face to shame), great detailing on her dress and super weapons and snake armour.
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I always love reading these. Thanks Scott!
Hurry up, please. Red weapons this time.I’d love to get to a 2.0 on Teela one day
Although, Goddess 2.0 is needed more to actually correct the current defective one.
wow he's working fast to kill the SDCC and Stinkor mess
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This was a good read. I agree that Teela's butt looks the same to me. I wasn't one of the people asking for butt changes...I was the one afraid her outfit would be rigid plastic and not able to move...which it was.
I'm curious about this company that holds the patents to the type of material they wanted. Mattel does know they own the Polly Pocket brand that does "rubber" dresses, right? Right? They even did "rubber" dresses for the Giganta figures in JLU.
I agree with most that the Battleground Teela thighs aren't fantastic. Scar marks and lack of articulation aside, they ONLY work with the Battleground Teela crotch and NOT the new, Bubble Power She-Ra crotch. This is why Tallstar, Jewelstar, Starla and Sorceress have outfit problems around their crotch. IF Mattel uses BG Teela legs, they need to make a new crotch that can accommodate them properly. No more "dumpy crotch" as some people call it. This problem really ruined the 4H's sculpt on Jewelstar and Tallstar, especially.
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I really love Teela. I was able to get her DOS, and she continues to be one of my very favorite MOTUC figures.
Has there been anything posted as to why they can't use the 1.0 or 1.5 (BG Teela) crotch piece with the 2.0 (BP She-ra) legs? Would seem like a no-brainer to me, unless they are purposely sculpted to fit together a certain way (which would be strange for a line that prides itself on multiple parts-swapping).
Another great blog. Thanks Toy Guru!!
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damn, I can't find anything to rip into him about this time around... Maybe next blog.
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I like Teela a lot, but for the reason not mentioned in TG's blog - the fact that the snake armour head gives us the sorceress Teela from the second series of minicomics.
Unfortunately the Teela buck is very unsymmetrical. Look from the back and you'll see what I mean. The male figures are too.
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Thanks for the re-post. I wouldn't see these if it wasn't for this and the main page news entries.
Point of order; it was Jeremy Padawer (200X brand manager) and He-Man.Org that started the Q&A. IIRC that was the first time that a toy company spoke openly to the collector community outside of magazine articles. Scott just reignited it and spread the love well after Hasbro had been doing for years before him. That doesn't diminish what Scott has done to re-open communication, but he wasn't upon virgin territory is all I'm trying to say...we were just starting up our Q & As with fan sites at this time (a project I am very proud to have spearheaded for Mattel -- as a collector myself, I wanted Mattel to interact with collectors the way I always wished toy companies would, and now that I was in a marketing position it was a major priority for me).
"pics or it didn't happen" As I recall, the suggestion was talked about but never implemented. In general I would welcome more pictures with these blog. Perhaps a quote or two from the 4HM mouths and other designers could really make these entries sparkle!We wanted to have Teela in NY to show this new line’s potential going forward with future female figures.
She was so early in design, being in the middle of her sculpting stage that the Horsemen were willing to re-sculpt her to accommodate fan feedback. In particular, many felt her butt was a little too flat for the beefy female warrior.
which begs the question, why not show early sculpts to get customer feedback? Mattel couldn't make everybody happy, but the majority would certainly be pleased. It would be a good PR move and instill a greater sense of brand loyalty and be another trailblazing industry first Mattel could lay claim to.This is a very rare occurrence, and is not something we can usually do beyond a deco change. In my six years at Mattel the only other time this happened was for Firestorm’s head in DCUC Wave 2l. But that was also an example where the Horsemen were willing to do a re-sculpt and the version showed at a con was very early due to the PR need.
The 2008 SDCC exclusive JLU Giganta used a very soft, rubber like material for her dress. I've been told this is material in question that the 4HM WANTED to use. What exactly happened between July 2008 and Oct 2009? Seams like enough lead time to reconsider the type of articulation all together. It should certainly been enough time to test more flexible plastics then what was ultimately used. Why was such a drastically hard plastic was used. We're missing a large chunk of this particular story.Like most early figures in any line, Teela was an experiment. The original concept for the female buck was that a hidden ball joint in the center of the waist would allow for a huge amount of articulation. She was meant to have MORE articulation then the male figures! Unfortunately, the thin material needed on the tunic was not available to us due to another toymaker owning the patent on this material for dresses. Because of logistical issues, the dress/tunic wound up being cast in a much harder plastic compared with what the Horsemen had intended. Which meant the Horsemen’s innovative female buck wound up being less articulated, loosing waist articulation entirely. A great example of the intent being there, but due to quite a few factors from communication to patent issues -- Teela just didn’t have the articulation level she was meant to have
Made her worth every dollar. The unfortunate side effect is that many other figures make you feel like your being gypped! instituting the "rule of at least two" was a good idea in the weapons department. Spy Monkey certainly makes up for that! To paraphrase another 80's icon, You take the good, you take the bad there you have MOTUCBut that didn’t really take away from the fact that we really went to town loading her up with a ton of accessories.
Correction. Teela has a vintage variation. I still have both my childhood bright red and darker burgundy Snake Armor.Many fans and customers have pointed out that the vintage Teela’s armor and weapons were actually a bit more red. This was a design choice made by the Horsemen for this particular figure.
Yup that's an evil genius mentality. infuriating at times...but understandably so...I just want to know when is Zodac gonna gets his due?collectors who buy everything tend to get rewarded later on with parts and accessories released with later figures that are cross-compatible with older releases. This is very deliberate and something we like to do to keep the line collectable.
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Thanks for posting fball13z, I really like reading these blogs by TG. Teela is an amazing figure, and one of my tops
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