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Thread: Interview - Janice Varney-Hamlin-former Mattel Director of WW Marketing Fashion Dolls

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    Interview - Janice Varney-Hamlin-former Mattel Director of WW Marketing Fashion Dolls



    Interview with Janice Varney-Hamlin, Former Mattel Director of Worldwide Marketing Fashion Dolls

    Interview with Janice Varney-Hamlin
    By Danielle Gelehrter
    March 29, 2015


    Over the years, we’ve heard from many of the people behind the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toyline. We’ve also heard from many of the people who worked on the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, comics, and movie, but we’ve very rarely heard from the major forces responsible for the Princess of Power toyline. Fortunately for She-Ra and He-Man fans, Janice Varney-Hamlin graciously agreed to the following interview. Janice is a veteran Senior marketing, brand and business development executive. She is the executive Vice President of Varney Consulting and has worked as a Franchise Manager and Developer for the Disney ABC Television Group, Vice President of Retail Development and Product Development at Time-Warner, and of course as Director of Worldwide Marketing – Fashion Dolls for Mattel. Janice was one of the main masterminds behind the Princess of Power toyline during her tenure at Mattel in the 1980s.

    What was your position at Mattel?

    My position at Mattel during this time frame was Director of Worldwide Marketing Fashion Dolls. I was responsible for Barbie and other fashion doll categories.

    Can you describe what your job entailed?

    In my job I had worldwide P&L responsibility for Fashion Dolls, building brand plans, developing and implementing growth strategies based on consumer insights and marketing A&U. I was also responsible for advertising, promotion and PR across the brands. At that time, Mattel had a matrix management system so teams reported into their discipline managers and into the category manager, of which I was one. For example, engineers reported into VP of Engineering, but also supported the marketing category manager on category teams.

    How were you involved in the Princess of Power brand, specifically?

    I created the doll line, She-Ra, Princess of Power, developed the position, worked on every aspect of the program. It was based on the inspiration and hugely popular He-Man. The collection was born as a strategy in creating a flanker brand for Barbie. After looking at the fashion doll market, I noticed that when competitive fashion dolls entered the fashion doll arena the entire fashion doll category expanded. And when they left the category, Barbie business gobbled up those excess dollars. So flanker brands as they were called then, were constructed and introduced to grow the industry. Barbie sales had flattened out at the time, so introducing a competitive fashion doll line that we owned should expand the size of the entire category and allow the Barbie business to grow. In order to do that, the fashion doll line Mattel introduced had to address a play pattern upon which Barbie could not deliver…action adventure and of course with fashion and beauty. Another was family, mom with children, which the Heart Family addressed.


    Initially, She-Ra design concepts started out in the Boys Products department, but She-Ra was later taken over by the Girls Products department. Can you talk about the changes that were implemented once Girls Products took over?


    That is not exactly accurate. One of the first lines that I worked on at Mattel was a female fashion action line, but it did not get placement at retail so it was dropped. When we opted to reintroduce the idea, we decided to link the collection to the extremely successful line, He-Man, to give it credibility and get retail placement. The boys toy executive fought to have it in their line since we were leveraging their brand, but after the first look of the doll, no articulation, no hair, no fashion, not attractive at all, the collection was put back in the girls line. The line was not called She-Ra then, we renamed the female character, added hair, beautiful costumes and appropriate girl relatable features to make it a meaningful brand.

    But, She-Ra definitely came from the girl’s category as we were looking at inventor concepts already. As a matter of fact, the boys category fought us all the way and was convinced that the ebbing of He-Man sales was directly linked to the introduction of She-Ra, Princess of Power.

    So, She-Ra looked different and had a different name when the boys dept. worked on it. Do you recall what she was called then or what she looked like?

    She was a 3 or 5 inch scale and battle worthy. I cannot remember what her name was though.

    Can you recall the names of other people involved with She-Ra and what their involvement was?

    Myself and Cathy Larsen were instrumental in breaking the product line and the category together. Eventually, after moving on to other businesses, other managers inherited it.

    The She-Ra Princess of Power cartoon series from Filmation was very popular. How closely did Mattel work with Filmation on She-Ra?

    Mattel approached HB to develop the She-Ra animated series. Mattel, Cathy, and myself, actually created the storylines for the books being published by then, Western Publishing. We wanted to mirror those stories in the television series. However, if we did not have an enemy more notorious in animation, She-Ra would not seem as powerful, so we followed Filmation’s lead on this element. Villains were led by Hordak, and Catra was the evil version of the female action leader and worked for Hordak. Catra was beautiful, but had the ability to scratch her (She-Ra).

    Were there any characters you remember that didn’t make it into production in the toy line?

    Yes, there were about 30 characters developed, but only those that tested well in consumer research were introduced.

    I know it was 30 years ago, but do you recall any of the characters that "didn't make it?"


    I really can't remember the ones who did not make it.

    Do you have any funny or interesting memories about working on the brand?

    Yes.

    We decided that we wanted to do a live action traveling event for retails in which She-Ra would show up to battle Catra. I was interviewing some very beautiful models in my office at Mattel in El Segundo to play these roles. We asked them to get in costume and write some lines that we role as part of the play. So the real life Catra and She-Ra and several versions of them, were in and out of my office. Each time I opened my office door I would find five guys hanging out in the hallway or suspiciously walking by the office to check out the talent. Pretty funny.

    We would sit in my office and come up with characters, names, and features inspired by Greek Mythology. Some of those were pretty fun to work on. You can find a list of the characters on Wikipedia.

    Thank you so much to Janice for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to reminisce a bit about her vital impact on the Princess of Power brand!
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    Heroic Warrior Lich Leech's Avatar
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    Neat, I love these interviews. I wonder if there was any truth to the idea that She-Ra was cannibalizing MOTU sales. Maybe somewhat, but probably not a lot.
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    Thank you again for your tireless work with doing these Interviews and research to the MOTU/POP Histories, Danielle!

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    Thank you for doing this. I was so excited when I saw this thread from the main page, that I raced to sign in and comment. :P Just about to read this goodness.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lich Leech View Post
    Neat, I love these interviews. I wonder if there was any truth to the idea that She-Ra was cannibalizing MOTU sales. Maybe somewhat, but probably not a lot.
    I know that once She-Ra came along, I was far more interested in POP than MOTU at that point. Before between my brother and I we got everything MOTU, afterward he got MOTU and I got POP, so there was at least half of the MOTU coming into our house. The only MOTU stuff I got after POP came out was a Hordak, Mantenna, the Sorceress, Modulok, Grizzlor, and the Fright Zone -- and all of those were needed (in my mind) for She-Ra.

    I do wish there was someone to find the concepts of the unproduced characters she referred to.

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    TWIGGET ENTHUSIAST! Swifty's Avatar
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    This is really great stuff Danielle! I am dying to know who those dropped characters were. I hope we can one day we can dig deep enough to find that type of information out!
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    Me too, Swifty.

    Although this comment makes me smile for all the wrong reasons:

    As a matter of fact, the boys category fought us all the way and was convinced that the ebbing of He-Man sales was directly linked to the introduction of She-Ra, Princess of Power.
    So apparently even the boys in the high-rises had to blame She-Ra for He-Man's downfall Now I know where the fanbase got that attitude from.

    Thanks for the interview! Really nice to hear from the people who were there.

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    Let's get Crita in MOTUC! The All American's Avatar
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    Thank you for doing this interview!

    I grew up with a huge POP fan (my sister), so I have a great love for this kind of stuff.


    Quote Originally Posted by headache79 View Post
    I do wish there was someone to find the concepts of the unproduced characters she referred to.
    Yes! As fans, this long lost information would be great to find out. Maybe "The Power & Honor Foundation" will be able to uncover something?

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    Great interview.

    Does anyone know what this refers to: "You can find a list of the characters on Wikipedia". Is that a list of the characters in She-Ra, a list of Greek mythological characters or a list of the characters from She-Ra together with the Greek mythological character on which they were based? If it's the latter, I can't seem to find that on wikipedia.

    It's odd that the boys category simply didn't make their own version of She-Ra (and whoever else they wanted), unless they weren't allowed to. A "She-Ra" that had the same aesthetic as Teela, Evil-Lyn and Sorceress would have been pretty cool. The She-Ra proto-type with the sculpted/attached tiara certainly seemed to be closer to Teela than the final She-Ra figure.

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    Illumina & Cat please! Darkspecter's Avatar
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    Oh man, I would LOVE it if we could find the characters that weren't produced because "they didn't test well." So much of PoP is a mystery. I wish all the info could be uncovered like it has been for MOTU. I wonder if she or Cathy have anything from their days working on PoP?

    EDIT: I'm also very confused when it comes to the look of the PoP characters that came first. From reading this interview, I'm under the impression that she and Cathy created She-Ra and their looks, then Filmation had a different idea, they listened, and decided to go with that for the cartoon? Maybe? Anyone?
    Last edited by Darkspecter; March 31, 2015 at 10:04pm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkspecter View Post
    Oh man, I would LOVE it if we could find the characters that weren't produced because "they didn't test well." So much of PoP is a mystery. I wish all the info could be uncovered like it has been for MOTU. I wonder if she or Cathy have anything from their days working on PoP?
    I asked Janice if she kept anything and, alas, she did not. She said she has two She-Ra magazines in storage and that's all.

    I once had a private conversation with former Mattel design executive & Senior VP of marketing Judy Shackelford (who worked on POP) and she also mentioned that she didn't keep anything. Bummer.

    Hopefully some of that stuff will turn up one day.
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    TWIGGET ENTHUSIAST! Swifty's Avatar
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    I'm assuming a lot of the dropped characters were from the cartoon who just didn't lend themselves well to the style of the line, like Madame Razz and Shadow Weaver perhaps. That's what I really want to find out.
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    Thank you for doing this interview, Ms. Gelehrter! It's always great to get more insight into the history of POP.

    Unfortunately, I think I'm more confused than ever, and am left with more questions.

    Many of us were under the impression that POP evolved directly out of MOTU as an answer to the lack of female presence in the line, as well as there being a significant number of girls that were buying product. Teela and Evil-Lyn just weren't enough, and so Mattel proceeded to work with Filmation (who also believed there should be a female He-Man) to develop this new "faction" of female warriors. Ultimately, the development that's been shown to us seems to point in the direction that POP started off as being a sub faction in MOTU (similar to how POG was going to be). The Horde was already being developed as a third faction of evil, so it made since to pit them against this fourth faction of heroic warrior maidens. Filmation developed the story, and the look of the characters went back and forth between Mattel and Filmation. At some point, the "Barbie People" got involved and broke the female faction off into a separate line. This is presumably where POP changed in design, style and theme.

    Ms. Varney-Hamlin states that POP was created as an answer to extend Mattel, and Barbie, into other girls' markets. I suspect that the history of POP as we know it IS accurate, as well as this former Mattel Director's account.

    Here's my theory: In the interest of expanding options in the girls' market, Ms. Varney-Hamlin saw an opportunity to take the female faction being developed in MOTU and create an entire toy line around it. BECAUSE Barbie is Mattel's flagship, and needed help at the time, it made sense to transfer the POP faction to the girls department. Though all the development for POP had been done in the Mattel/Filmation R&D, the Fashion Dolls Department did a "soft reboot" to ensure that the product was more girl-oriented. THIS would explain the disparate nature of the cartoon in comparison to the toys, mini comics and books that were being made for the POP toy line.

    It just never made since how She-Ra and all the POP characters looked so different from their cartoon and Style Guide appearances. And why were Catra and Entrapta the only villains? WHY did you have to buy two separate toy lines to represent the cartoon? Why were there the two disparate tones of a go get 'em warrior maiden vs the posh princess n' friends with the one jealous friend?

    Clearly the Dolls Department was of a culture that just felt that what was developed for POP by the boys team just wouldn't work at all in the girls market. This is unfortunate to a degree - POP probably should've remained in MOTU so that BOTH He-Man and She-Ra characters could've enjoyed longer success, but this is hindsight...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkspecter View Post
    I wonder if she or Cathy have anything from their days working on PoP?
    I don't think that she does. Cathy Larson was part of the interviews on The Star Sisters etc., and it it didn't sound like she kept anything from her days of working on PoP. I'll include that interview, as well as other pertinent comments, so folks can compare what was said all in one place.

    Cathy Larson on POP aka History of The Star Sisters - Part 4

    Cathy Larson was hired by Mattel in 1973. Through hard work and dedication, she climbed the corporate ladder and eventually secured the coveted Assistant Product Manager position, thereby making her one of the most influential employees to work on the Princess of Power toy line. She was also the Marketing Assistant on The Star Sisters extension line that was planned for release in 1987. In the early 90s, Cathy would go on to become Vice President of Marketing for Arco Toys, a Hong Kong-based division of parent company Mattel, which was acquired in 1986 and served as a letter of credit business offering low-priced, non-promoted toys primarily to U.S. retailers. The Arco Toys Division officially closed in 2000.

    I started at Mattel right out of high school and realized very quickly that I wanted to work in Marketing because Mattel was a Marketing company and the bosses always had so much fun creating and advertising toy lines. But without a degree, it took me nine years and many different jobs to finally prove myself. I finally got the Assistant Product Manager job and worked for the Director of Dolls. She-Ra was the first project I really got to take a lead in.

    What were some of the difficulties / "hiccups" experienced by Design and/or Marketing on the Princess of Power line?

    Mattel would bring their major customers into their (then) Hawthorne, Calif offices for presentations of the new She-Ra line. This was always stressful for the Designers and Marketers because we often had to show prototypes which could be quite rough. If too rough, especially on such an innovative line ("action figures for girls") the presentation didn't go well. If the presentation didn't go well often enough, the line could get dropped before it even got a shot. One presentation to Toys R Us, we had very rough epoxy sculpts, which were very fragile. Of course, minutes before the presentation, they were dropped and many arms and legs broke off the dolls. Horrors! But the amazing design team came in and fixed them and they were presented last that day.

    The Powers of Grayskull extension line for Masters of the Universe (He-Ro, Eldor et al.) was planned for release the same year as The Star Sisters. Was there any/much communication between the Girls' and Boys' departments with regard to potential crossovers, story scenarios, synchronized product releases and so on?

    Not really. The boys department were worried that having girls toys associated with their line might make it too sissy for their target market. Different retail buyers... Different kids... Different advertising venues... No real reason to cross-over.

    Do you know if the prototype Star Sisters figures featured in the Italian and American Mattel Toys catalogs still exist, and do you recall which employee(s) sculpted them and came up with their names?

    I don't know about prototypes. They were were often quite fragile and I would be surprised if they still existed. Aldo Favilli was Mattel's head of sculpting during my time on She-Ra. He would not have sculpted them himself as he had many free-lance sculptors across the country. Aldo was a soft spoken older Italian Man, tall and slender, and with the most beautiful hands. One of my favorite people at Mattel. I can see the woman who worked on names but I'm afraid I can't pull her name up from my memory banks. She came up with fabulous She-Ra names like "Castaspella". Perfect, right? By the way, She-Ra's alter ego was "Adora". I wanted to name her Dorian (which is my daughter's name) but my boss wouldn't let me so I settled on "Adora".

    Were any characters planned beyond Starla, Jewelstar, Tallstar and Glory Bird?

    Probably not.

    I'm interested to know if there were any abandoned features and/or accessories? What were they?

    Designers and Marketers would brainstorm tons of features and accessories and only a handful would make it into the line. So there are probably a lot of sketches of "abandoned" features and/or accessories. I know Mattel would hang onto these for years for proprietary reasons (maybe forever). Have you contacted them to see if they still have them? They might share them with you.


    At one time, "Lee's Action Figure News & Toy Review" magazine reported that the dolls would have come with a mini-comic entitled "Beyond the Azure Star Caverns" and Mattel had plans for a Star Caverns playset, although no evidence has ever surfaced to back up these claims. Any truth to these rumors?

    Sounds feasible but I honestly don't remember the details. If the line had started to slow down, a playset would have been the first to come out of the plans. Very expensive to tool and very hard to sell to the trade.

    Do you recall if The Star Sisters got far enough along in the process to have packaging ("proof cards", etc.) designed for them? If so, could you describe what it would have looked like? The 1987 Mattel Toys catalog mentions "four color window box packaging", so I'm curious to know if perhaps it would have been similar to what was released in Mexico for the first series Princess of Power figures, as opposed to the standard blister card style.

    Sorry, don't remember. But, more than likely, the packaging was blister cards.

    Were there any additional story scenarios for The Star Sisters beyond what fans' know from the final issue of the She-Ra, Princess of Power magazine?

    Probably not.

    The Star Sisters appear for all of one minute in a single episode of the She-Ra, Princess of Power animated series, although they look very different from the prototype dolls. Had the extension line received the necessary retailer support and been successful, would there have been any plans for a spin-off series based on this line? Or would The Star Sisters have simply made more appearances on the main series?

    If successful, a spinoff most certainly would have been considered.

    I am curious to hear your thoughts on what you believe the factors were that led to the demise of this extension line for Princess of Power.

    The demise was a simple and common reason... we shipped too many dolls and they started to back up on the shelves. Once that happens, the retailers start to mark them down... and once that happens, it's quite impossible to continue because they just won't buy any more.
    PRINCESS OF POWER SECRETS REVEALED - PART 1

    ...via Jon Seisa

    "Chris McAdam relayed to me that the original Princess of Power She-Ra was first developed not in her group in Girls' Toys (before I got there in 1985) but in the NBC Group (New Business Concepts), a special separate blue sky design team headed by Susannah Rosenthal, at the time, and located in an isolated location. It was the doll designer Justine Dantzer who created She-Ra. Justine is one of the 3 Dantzer sisters who are all known doll/toy designers in the industry. I knew Justine, briefly through a mutual friend, but more so her sister Elonne; I didn’t know Marlene Dantzer, personally, though saw all of them at parties and industry functions.

    Originally, Justine proposed the idea of a female superhero named She-Ra as an antithesis to He-Man for the Masters of the Universe product line; because her observation was that the line lacked a female character, and thus this would add an interesting twist. The aesthetical look and play accessories, and even a castle were created and constructed for She-Ra for Justine’s initial prototype prelim creation and presentation. It had a more masculine and rugged quality to it (than the later Princess of Power line) due to its original placement in boys toys.

    As strategies formed and coalesced, the idea emerged to place it in Girls Toys to empower girls. Chris McAdam was part of that evolution after it was handed over to the Girl’s Toy Design Group. The objective was to “feminize” and “soften” the aesthetics for girl play. Chris was able to get the talents of Kitty Black (Perkins) on the project (click HERE for biography), who at the time was a new emergent designer in fashion dolls at Mattel (who later became one of the top celebrity designers on Barbie). Kitty created the clever flashy and sassy action fashions with some sort of transformation feature. Noreen Porter was used to create the wonderful illustrations of the dolls for their sculpts with more feminine proportions and prettier faces, and also their superhero accessories."

    Of Noreen Porter, Jon had this to say:

    "We were fortunate to have in the POP design group a fabulous and highly talented in-house veteran doll designer/illustrator named Noreen Porter who worked on the main POP line... and specifically on the Bubble Carriage, Spinerella, Catra and She-Ra. Her illustrations where highly technical anatomically correct depictions and were incredible masterpieces (done in pencil with perfect highlights and shadows), The sculptors could literally use her illustrations to sculpt directly from. I understand that eventually Noreen went into medical illustration, a perfect field for her, IMHO, due to her meticulous attention to illustrative details."
    Last edited by Tallstar; April 1, 2015 at 05:50am.
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    I'm glad Ms. Janice Varney-Hamlin took the time to do this interview, and I'm glad our resident good witch, P Dread, brought it to us.

    Sadly, though, I often find these interviews depressing. Finding out that a brand that you've loved for most of your life was created with the mindset that it would merely be a sacrificial lamb to feed and further bloat the Barbie beast is kinda disgusting.

    She-Ra seems like one of those cases where the brand was fairly successful despite all of the original creators' efforts to make it terrible. Thank God for Filmation and thank God that Mattel "followed Filmation's lead on this element". If not, I don't think anyone would know who She-Ra was.

    Quote Originally Posted by mykan View Post
    This is unfortunate to a degree - POP probably should've remained in MOTU so that BOTH He-Man and She-Ra characters could've enjoyed longer success, but this is hindsight...
    This is perhaps the greatest tragedy in all of toydom.

    I still to this day don't understand what Mattel was trying to do with its PoP toy line. Even after it's explained to me by someone who has first hand knowledge, it doesn't make sense to me on any level. Had PoP been properly interwoven into Motu.... oh what could have been....

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    Here's something to think about: Would there even have been a She-Ra, Princess of Power toy line and a separate cartoon if Janice and Cathy didn't put the wheels in motion to create a new fashion-action brand? Piecing together the sequence events in these interviews, it seems as though the "boys department" only became interested in expanding MOTU with a line of females after hearing that the "girls department" wanted to do it. And if "PoP" had remained in the boys category, with the rugged prototype as the approved design, would it have led to Princess of Power as we know it today? I don't think so. The names and designs would probably be very different. Would the separate PoP Filmation cartoon exist? I dunno.

    Anyhoo...I still love classic toy PoP regardless of what the motivations were behind the creation of it.
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    Heroic Warrior mykan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallstar View Post
    Here's something to think about: Would there even have been a She-Ra, Princess of Power toy line and a separate cartoon if Janice and Cathy didn't put the wheels in motion to create a new fashion-action brand? Piecing together the sequence events in these interviews, it seems as though the "boys department" only became interested in expanding MOTU with a line of females after hearing that the "girls department" wanted to do it. And if "PoP" had remained in the boys category, with the rugged prototype as the approved design, would it have led to Princess of Power as we know it today? I don't think so. The names and designs would probably be very different. Would the separate PoP Filmation cartoon exist? I dunno.
    The question is: Did Cathy and Janice indeed create She-Ra from scratch, or was there a proto She-Ra in development in the Boys Department - that was then transferred to Dolls? From these interviews, it's clear that the Princess of Power toy line was indeed a product of the Girls Department. But it makes sense that "She-Ra" was in development for the MOTU brand since the Horde became so deeply rooted in her origin. IF She-Ra was exclusively a girls dept creation, I doubt the Horde would have been involved, and the marketing for POP would have been more consistent in the promotion of girls play. The Horde simply didn't lend itself to girls play, and the cartoon was a stark contrast to the POP toy line.

    Perhaps She-Ra would've looked different, and I doubt there would have been a separate cartoon series if she remained in MOTU. But the basic elements for the character would've been there - she would've been He-Man's long lost twin sister, who was a former member of the Evil Horde. Why do I believe this? Across every body of fiction involving She-Ra's origin, she is He-Man's sister who was abducted by the Horde - so this was most likely a part of her creation from the very beginning...

    Honestly, I think that leaving He-Man's sister in MOTU would've been best for both He-Man and She-Ra or "He-Ra".... Season 3 of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe may have been retitled "Masters of the Universe" now that He-Man's sister was joining him. The Horde would become a prominent enemy that fought against He-Man, his sister and Skeletor. Episodes would probably alternate between groups of characters - instead of episodes featuring a generic villain of the week in place of Skeletor, Hordak would take the roll. Thundercats did a good job of adding new factions of characters, so having POP and MOTU characters in one cartoon would've worked. MOTU would likely have enjoyed a longer run, since the toy line would receive FULL attention from its primary marketing tool (the cartoon), and the multi media marketing and merchandising would have been consistent in theme. And He-Man's sister would enjoy success in a toy line that wasn't too niche, and appealed to girls that already enjoyed MOTU, and boys that simply wanted to add more characters from the cartoon to their collection.
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    Judging based on what was said in the interviews, it seems like the prototype figure developed via the Boys Department could have simply been used as a jumping-off-point for developing a new figure style, as the objectives were to feminize the body proportions, faces etc. for the Princess of Power line. However, the Crystal Castle prototype with the bird's-beak entrance shown in the U-Matics video definitely *appears* to have originated mostly from the Boys Department. There's an old book from 1990 that references that prototype castle; it was tested with mothers and little girls and apparently they didn't like bird's beak action feature, so Mattel altered it to look like more of a traditional castle.

    Anyhow, if the hands of time were turned back and Mattel kept "whatever her name was" in the Boys Category/MOTU cartoon, I'm not sure that we would have gotten a robust line of female figures or that "She-Ra" would have been iconic or as iconic. You have to consider that there were only 3 female figures made in the 6 years that Mattel was producing MOTU figures (many of which were highly successful years). So, would retail have supported and taken on large line-up of female figures in the boys aisle?

    Sure, girls made up almost 1/3 of the viewership for the Filmation MOTU cartoon, but according to Mattel's Candice Irving the percentage of MOTU toy sales attributed to girls was about 10%. 10% is a good percentage to show potential for growth, but the Girls Department likely didn't think that was enough to convince retailers to do an entire collection in the boys aisle when they were analyzing the market (probably in late 1983, according to my calculations).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallstar View Post
    but according to Mattel's Candice Irving the percentage of MOTU toy sales attributed to girls was about 10%. 10% is a good percentage to show potential for growth, but the Girls Department likely didn't think that was enough to convince retailers to do an entire collection in the boys aisle when they were analyzing the market (probably in late 1983, according to my calculations).
    Hmm, according to Mattel director of marketing Mark Ellis, that number was significantly higher:

    "We were really wrong about the purchases of the line. Girls loved Masters of the Universe and we were blown away when the first purchase study came back and said 30 - 40% of the purchases were for girls. That result set the girls side of Mattel in motion and they developed and launched the She-Ra line. "

    http://www.he-man.org/resources/archive.php?id=1018

    I believe Mark on the percentages since he was in the thick of the vintage MOTU era and would have had direct access to those numbers.

    In his book (as I recall), Roger Sweet says the numbers were actually almost half and half! I don't have the book in front of me so I can't access the exact quote, but he also claimed to have developed something akin to the She-Ra idea early on. I think she may have been He-Man's wife in Sweet's version, but I'd have to double-check the book. I remember he said something about developing a He-Man family or somesuch.

    In any case, I do think the number was quite a bit higher than 10% of girls buying the line, which creates even greater justification for Mattel launching a spin-off line and cartoon.

    I suspect, like with MOTU, it was all a very collaborative process with various people throwing their ideas into the mix. I'm sure BOTH the Boys and Girls departments AND Filmation were all working on something akin to She-Ra. They probably merged a variety of these ideas.


    Incidentally, I remember being quite disappointed that She-Ra and friends weren't PART of the MOTU line back then. After watching SotS, I fully expected those characters to start showing up as part of the line. I guess I wanted everything to be under one umbrella. Luckily, MOTUC has rectified that.
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    ^ Here's where I get the 10% from.

    "She-Ra and her associates, who sell for about $6 to $8 each, are not exclusively the domain of girls, said Candace Irving, a Mattel marketing manager. "We have found that girls buy about 10% of the boy-oriented Masters of the Universe toys, and we expect boys will account for a significant percentage of Princess of Power sales, though we don't expect it to reach 10%."
    http://articles.latimes.com/1985-11-...e-patch-kids/2

    Over the years I've seen different percentages quoted for MOTU (girl) toy line sales in various articles etc., and I get the impression that sometimes the viewership percentage for the Filmation MOTU cartoon is mixed up with MOTU toy line sales. The reason I lean toward the 10% figure, is because it's a solid enough of a percentage to be the impetus for creating the separate PoP toy line, but not soooo astronomically high so as to question: "Why the hell didn't the MOTU line have more females?!"

    - - - Updated - - -

    I was going through the files on my computer and I found this second source. (New York Magazine) This one says "between 10 and 15%."

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    Thanks for this! So interesting!

    Dying to know about these unknown/unproduced characters. Maybe that girl in the bubble carriage was one?

    Ohhh the possibilities! Surely someone will have them somewhere at mattel or not?

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    Good stuff with the article, Tallstar. The 10-15% mentioned in the article is not necessarily the final end all be all tally. The 30-40% that Danielle is quoting is possible as a final resulting number. I know in my marketing experience, I have to provide performance numbers within a given promotion period, and often have to revisit those numbers 90 days to even a year later to determine long term growth.

    I'd say that the 30-40% of MOTU sales to girls was the perfect motivator for increasing the number of female characters in the MOTU toy line. These female characters would be included in a "Great Rebellion" sub faction, countering the new Evil Horde sub faction (this mirrors the development plans for the later POG era). As the characters and story developed between Mattel and Filmation for MOTU's Season 3, it's very likely that the GR faction would have been composed of She-Ra, Bow, Glimmer, Angella and Kowl; reflecting the Evil Horde's Hordak, Catra, Leech, Mantenna and Grizzlor (these are the characters that appeared in the origin movie for both factions). This would inject 4 NEW female figures into the line - since they were part of a sub faction, parents and kids would be able to pick and chose which figures were purchased. If the increase in female figs proved successful, more would come in following years...

    Despite plans being worked on in the Boys Dept, the issue here falls to Mattel's #1 PRIORITY - whatever had to be done to increase Barbie $$ would be done. So handing She-Ra over to the Girls Department was an inarguable move. Based on this interview, the most driving aspect of Janice's comments is the flanker brands created for Barbie. These statements give me the impression that the ultimate goal for POP was to create future dollar opportunities for the Barbie, not to create a new female icon. Yes, Janice and her team created the expansive POP line and brand around the She-Ra character, but the She-Ra character was planned for MOTU first as an answer to the Evil Horde and lack of female presence. Whether she had her own show/toy line or not, she would STILL have achieved an iconic status, she was the FEMALE He-Man. The female action figure simply has limited potential - it's too boyish for girls, and too girly for boys. Leaving She-Ra as a more Teela-esque figure would have attracted that 30-40% of girls, and would have been OK for boys to collect. The cartoon would have maintained a focus on MOTU, whilst expanding with new characters, thus keeping the brand fresh and progressive. She-Ra would've gotten more exposure and would have been more accepted - more on par with Teela and Sorceress.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Dreadful View Post

    In his book (as I recall), Roger Sweet says the numbers were actually almost half and half! I don't have the book in front of me so I can't access the exact quote, but he also claimed to have developed something akin to the She-Ra idea early on. I think she may have been He-Man's wife in Sweet's version, but I'd have to double-check the book. I remember he said something about developing a He-Man family or somesuch.
    Sweet's notes from this stage are in The Power and Honor Foundation vol 1.- The idea was to give He-Man a female counterpart called 'She' and they would have a son called 'He-Boy'. Thankfully this idea got no further than the notes!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mosquitor View Post
    Sweet's notes from this stage are in The Power and Honor Foundation vol 1.- The idea was to give He-Man a female counterpart called 'She' and they would have a son called 'He-Boy'. Thankfully this idea got no further than the notes!
    I know right?

    I worked on the Catalog & the guys used Sweet's book, Mastering the Universe: He-Man the Rise and Fall of a Billion Dollar Idea, as one of the reference sources. The part about "She" in particular is on page 128 of Sweet's book - "He-Man can be part of the ultimate super-hero family consisting of his mate 'She,' the ultimate dynamite super-heroine. Amazing in proportions, tremendously powerful, gorgeous & sexy with tan skin and billowing blond hair, making Barbie look wimpy."

    Sweet discusses his perspective on the origins of She-Ra from pgs. 128-130.

    The bit about Jill Barad also comes from Sweet's book. He quotes her remarks from the March 1990 issue of Harper's Bazzar. She claims her sister gave her the idea for She-Ra. Who knows though.

    I was wrong about the "half and half" thing with Sweet. He actually says "girls accounted for a whopping 38% of the sales of all Masters figures," which is very much in line with what Mark Ellis said in his interview. Tallstar's articles deepen the mystery though. Very interesting. Hmm. Mykan's analysis of the percentages might be the answer.
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    Council Elder Tallstar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mykan View Post
    Good stuff with the article, Tallstar. The 10-15% mentioned in the article is not necessarily the final end all be all tally. The 30-40% that Danielle is quoting is possible as a final resulting number. I know in my marketing experience, I have to provide performance numbers within a given promotion period, and often have to revisit those numbers 90 days to even a year later to determine long term growth.
    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Dreadful View Post

    I was wrong about the "half and half" thing with Sweet. He actually says "girls accounted for a whopping 38% of the sales of all Masters figures," which is very much in line with what Mark Ellis said in his interview. Tallstar's articles deepen the mystery though. Very interesting. Hmm. Mykan's analysis of the percentages might be the answer.
    It's possible. One thing that is confusing to me though, is the part where Mark Ellis cites the 30 to 40% as being the catalyst for putting the Girls Department on course to create the Princess of Power line. He seems to be referencing sales on the 1982 line-up of MOTU toys (the first year), as it would make sense for the first "Purchase Study" to evaluate 1982 sales, but the version of preliminary design that eventually became known as "New Business Concepts" (the department working on prototype "She-Ra" and Crystal Castle) didn't even exist/wasn't formed until at least around the time of the crash/collapse of Mattel's Intellivison in 1983 and possibly even a little bit later into early 1984.

    Also, in the past, when I've seen a percentage quoted (for "girls sales") in articles, books and so on, often times it's paired up with the approx 1/3 female audience for Filmation MOTU as being another one of the driving factors for putting the Girl's Department into gear on the Princess of Power line. But Filmation MOTU didn't start airing until like September, 1983.

    When I was putting together the interviews on The Star Sisters etc. and finally posted them, I prefaced by saying that some of the information contained could change as new information was discovered etc. This part of Chris McAdam's recollection doesn't appear to be accurate:

    "Originally, Justine proposed the idea of a female superhero named She-Ra as an antithesis to He-Man for the Masters of the Universe product line; because her observation was that the line lacked a female character, and thus this would add an interesting twist."
    Teela already existed before "New Business Concepts" was formed. Ray Wagner, Mattel's president at the time, was responsible for the creation of the new version of the aforementioned department and Susannah Rosenthal was then promoted to VP and headed up NBC. One biography for Susannah states that she was promoted in the "mid-80s".

    Anyhow, it could be that the 30 - 40% is accurate for 1982, but perhaps that number became 10 to 15% in a later year? That's not to say the the female market buying MOTU toys stopped growing/shrank, but maybe the MOTU cartoon had the effect of creating a bigger influx of boys buying the toys, driving down the percentage for the girls. In other words, the percentage of toy sales attributed to girls went down, but the audience was still growing because it was a "smaller percentage of a significantly larger amount of $$$". Or another possibility is that the percentage is for the overall action figure category and not necessarily attributed to MOTU, specifically.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by mykan View Post
    Despite plans being worked on in the Boys Dept, the issue here falls to Mattel's #1 PRIORITY - whatever had to be done to increase Barbie $$ would be done. So handing She-Ra over to the Girls Department was an inarguable move. Based on this interview, the most driving aspect of Janice's comments is the flanker brands created for Barbie. These statements give me the impression that the ultimate goal for POP was to create future dollar opportunities for the Barbie, not to create a new female icon.
    I wouldn't say it was an "inarguable" move. If you will recall, Mattel passed on the opportunity to make Star Wars action figures and then became desperate to come up with something in this boys category that would be on the same level or better. So, that was definitely a priority as well, and a strong argument could have been made for keeping "She-Ra" in MOTU. Moreover, just because Princess of Power was created with the intention of growing the industry, and eventually creating "future dollar opportunities for Barbie", doesn't mean that the people working on the brand weren't invested in doing a good job and hoping to create an icon. A lot was put behind the toy line in an effort to try to make She-Ra iconic. I would say that the "first action figure line for girls" narrative Mattel was trying to create, charity live-action appearances etc., and the fact that She-Ra was headlining her own brand/cartoon significantly contributed to She-Ra's iconic status.
    Last edited by Tallstar; April 4, 2015 at 08:21am.
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