Adultcollector.org asked former MOTU Classics brand manager Scott "Toy Guru" Neilich to share his thoughts about Super7's new Snake Mountain playset and other topics.
Q1: What was your reaction when you learned that Super7 would be offering a Snake Mountain playset in the Classics toyline? Your thoughts on the logistics, price point, and other elements of this project? Preorder yours here.
A: When we designed Snake Mountain, it was meant to go on sale in 2015/2016. Prices and raw material have gone up A LOT since then so my reaction to seeing it was happening now with Super7 was basically, "Wow, how much is this going to cost now?". Then I saw how much it cost. I was not surprised, but it is a high price point. I didn't know if we were going to sell this at 2016 prices, but I wish Super7 nothing but luck and I hope this gets made!
Q2. What would you tell MOTU collectors who are on the fence about whether to buy the new Classics Snake Mountain playset?
A: This will be the one and only chance you will likely ever have to get this.
Q3. What was your reaction to seeing Four Horsemen Studios' prototype? What are your impressions of the playset's design?
A: When I first saw Snake Mountain back when I was at Mattel, it was very impressive. I know we went back and forth a lot on how much of a vintage take vs Filmation, and ways to incorporate both. As I recall, there was a lot more talk about how we would do Snake Mountain vs. Castle Grayskull. Grayskull was very straightforward, Snake Mountain took more thought and design work due to the multiple versions that were iconic.
Q4. Now that Super7 has reached this point in offering a Classics Snake Mountain playset, what memories does this bring back of the work you and others put into planning, producing, and marketing the Classics Castle Grayskull playset?
A: The MOTUC Grayskull playset is definitely one of the things I am most proud of (that and "finishing" the vintage figs in the MOTUC line). I actually have it next to me right now in my office with Swiftwind and an NX-01 Enterprise on top of the towers (The Talon Fighter is in another room). Doing this at Mattel was a great but frustrating experience. Mostly due to the lack of resources we had to promote and design it. We were essentially marketing it as a "dare". Management allowed us to move forward and gave very limited resources because she did not think we would ever make the min. When we did and I got to send that email it was a great feeling. I wish we had the resources like Hasbro did for the Barge where 3D walkthroughs were possible. All we had was a cardboard model Terry and I made, my cell phone camera, and an empty cubical.
Q5. Could you describe any discussions that took place in Mattel regarding the possibility of a Snake Mountain playset being made? Do you recall any work being performed during your tenure as brand manager to conceptualize, prototype, or pitch a Classics Snake Mountain playset?
A: Oh I was part of the Snake Mountain development team. After the Talon Fighter next up was a Slime Pit and then Snake Mountain. I was the one who pitched these and got them into development. The toy Super7 is offering is the one I worked on until I left Mattel. The model did not come in until I left though (I was doing costing and concept work). Recall that the toy industry works 2-3 years ahead. So, most of what Super7 offered in the first year, and everything Mattel offered in their final year, were all toys I worked on to some degree.
Q6. At one point, Super7 was in talks to bring its new vintage-scale MOTU figures to a large retail chain, but the deal fell through, partially because of the volume involved. Do you believe MOTU Classics will be given a retail release in the future by Super7 or possibly Mattel? In a past interview you laid out your vision for bringing Classics to retail following the release of a big Hollywood movie, and Noah Centineo recently confirmed his role in an upcoming Masters of the Universe movie.
A: Well, my plan was always to bring MOTUC to retail as a flanking line to a movie line. This is why I insisted that every figure have at least two accessories so that when we released them at retail, we could lose one to keep the online release special. This is also why there were some odd pack outs in Classics. She-Ra, for example, was not packed out with her more Filmation head because we were saving that for retail (which never happened). But to answer your question, yes, I do think MOTUC could work at retail, but (IMHO) it would need a movie or major entertainment to flank it.
Q7. What are your thoughts about the new She-Ra cartoon series on Netflix?
A: I like it! Where are the toys?
Q8. Your thoughts about the '87 movie figures Super7 recently pre-ordered for the Classics line? Brian Flynn indicated in a recent episode of the Roast Gooble Dinner podcast that those figures didn't sell as well as the Filmation variant Classics figures.
A: The 87 movie was always something I knew we could never do at Mattel do to licensing and logistics issues. I was thrilled to see that Super7 found a work around by making them based on concept art and for the fans who wanted them, yeah! As far as Filmation selling better, this is no different then the Classics line. Any figure in Classics that was in the vintage line always sold better then anything else (i.e. Snout Spout and Clamp Champ would outsell movie Skeletor I'll bet). I'm sure this is partially why MOTUC figures are not pouring out of Super7 the way Filmation is. We already did ALL the majors in Classics. This is why we planned the Filmation line (which Super7 put out). It was designed as a way for Mattel to sell all the major characters again. Classics would have dropped to a few releases and convention slots with Filmation being the bulk of the 2016/2017 line. I think trying to do both Classics and Filmation with a very limited bank of characters for Classics can be challenging.
Q9. Are you planning to attend this year's Power-Con convention?
A: I'd be happy to attend, but I no longer live in Los Angeles so there may be "logistics". I'll call Digital River and see if they can resolve to get me there.
Q10. What have you been up to since you moved on from Mattel, or more recently?
A: After spending time at a few smaller companies and learning virtually EVERYTHING about the toy industry (JAKKS, Jada, Loot Crate, and Entertainment Earth) I took all my learnings and moved to beautiful Greensboro North Carolina. 300,000 people, 5 comic shops and a water park. Not to mention Toys & Co, McCay's Books, Bog Gardens and a dinosaur museum! Here I formed my own company, Spector Creative (spectorcreative.com) where I offer branding, retail, and content solutions for companies looking for creative needs without adding expensive head count.
Q11. Any other comments you'd like to add?
A: If you love MOTUC or Filmation style, support it. Companies will only make toys as long as there are customers buying them. And try to be easy on the brand managers. A big reason Mattel walked away from Mattycollector and MOTUC was because no one wanted the job due to all of the negativity from fans, and I honestly think this resulted in a net loss of figures for collectors. Just food for thought. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. It may stop feeding you. ;-)