It is no secret that toy collecting has had lifelong implications for many adults regularly adding little plastic humans, creatures, and vehicles to their toy collections. While some collectors fall into collecting as adults, there is no shortage of those of us who had those life-altering experiences with toys as children. Those experiences, as well as the sheer joy and vivid memories we made with our childhood toys have kept us coming back to the toy aisle in search of the latest action figure, dinosaur, or other hot item we need in order to collect them all.
It is no surprise that major toy corporations, including Hasbro, Mattel, Playmates, NECA, and Mezco (among many others) rely on the serious, longtime collector to sell toys. While NECA, Mezco, and companies such as Bandai, Tamashii Nations, Gentle Giant, Kotobukiya, and Hot Toys have almost always catered exclusively to adults, it is the huge, global corporations that are increasingly taking notice of our existence.
In 2009, Playmates launched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 25th Anniversary line of toys that took the exact figures many of us owned in the late 1980s and early 1990s and repackaged them in nearly identical, classic packaging. In 2019, Hasbro launched the Star Wars Retro Collection, featuring vintage figures on reproduction packaging from 1978. They continued the collection in 2020, and also launched the Ghostbusters Kenner Classics line that incorporated the same formula. Of course, Hasbro has also been offering 3.75” figures in Kenner-style packaging off and on since 2004, and even for some of their 6” releases since 2017. In 2019, Mattel’s Jurassic World Legacy Collection John Hammond took packaging cues from Kenner’s original Jurassic Park line. NECA continually pumps out Ninja Turtles based on the original films and cartoon series that are always a guaranteed retail success. The existence of these products is solely due to those of us who have been in the game long enough to have grown up with these original toy lines. These companies capitalize on our nostalgia, bringing us back to where we all started. And funnily enough, it is those recreated toys that most of us are often the most excited about.
Perhaps one of the most surprising trends is for major toy companies to rely on Kickstarter, or Kickstarter-like initiatives, to fund products that are simply too costly to offer in stores. The idea behind Kickstarter is for startup companies and small proprietors looking to “kickstart” their business to offer a product directly to the customer. The customer pledges a certain amount of money for the products they desire and then the proprietor goes to work using the funds to make the product a reality. If the proprietor is successful, they will deliver a finished product to the customer after a period of time. If they are unsuccessful, they are not obligated to refund the customer since this money is often used for R&D, production, and marketing. This year, McFarlane Toys launched a Kickstarter project to fund an updated version of the original SPAWN action figure from 1995. The campaign obliterated any and all expectation, raising $3.4 million dollars from over 23K backers eager to pay $40 for the updated figure.
In 2018, Hasbro launched HasLab. The idea behind HasLab was to offer the serious toy collector an opportunity to back the R&D, production, and shipment of high-end toys that would simply be impossible to produce for the retail level. These are items not made for little Jimmy or young Sue to unwrap on their birthdays. They target an entirely different demographic of the most ardent toy collectors not afraid to pay hundreds of dollars upfront for an item they might not receive for years. The first HasLab product was the Star Wars The Vintage Collection Jabba’s Sail Barge. For years, collectors had consistently asked Hasbro to make the Sail Barge. Time and time again, Hasbro insisted it would not be popular enough to justify the creation of such a large vehicle. That is, until 2018 when the Sail Barge hit its threshold of backers before its campaign deadline expired. At that point, each Barge order was processed for $500 plus tax, and Hasbro went to work on finally making that product a reality. As the proud owner of one of these Sail Barges, I can attest to the money being fully worth the investment, as it is likely the crown jewel of any Star Wars 3.75” collector’s collection. According to Adam Pawlus of 16bit.com and GalacticHunter.com, around 10K Sail Barges were likely produced. While this may seem like a large number, it is very low compared to the usual runs that toys need to be produced so that they can meet manufacturer quotas and satisfy global markets. Its high price and limited production will ensure that the Sail Barge is a desirable, highly-collectible product for decades to come. Since then, HasLab has successfully funded the Transformers: War for Cybertron Unicron. A Sesame Street full-scale Cookie Monster was not successfully funded, and another Star Wars The Vintage Collection campaign has been announced for later this year.
With all of the aforementioned in mind, I turn to Mattel Creations. According to its official website:
75 YEARS AGO A TEAM OF CREATIVE VISIONARIES LAUNCHED MATTEL CREATIONS™.
Their garage was a vibrant hive of invention that connected with culture to create revolutionary toys, elevated by great design. And, together, they created the future of play.
Mattel is now one of the largest creative businesses on the planet, but at its heart remains a passion for invention and artistry. To honor this legacy, we’re relaunching Mattel Creations as a destination for highly collectible Mattel toys curated by artists, designers and engineers, worldwide, who find unique inspiration in our brands and who are themselves, muses to pop culture. It’s a whole new way to play. And it’s going to be awesome.
-Richard Dickson, President and COO
As alluded to in this mission statement, Mattel Creations products are not destined for the toy aisle. They are meant to be high-end, quality products for the discriminating toy buyer looking to add something new, exciting, and expensive to their collections. Two items, both of which are currently sold out, feature on the Mattel Creations site. They include the 1:10 Hot Wheels R/C Cybertruck, which retails at $400, and the much more cost-effective 1:64 $20 version. Surely, these items are only the very beginnings of what will be possible through Mattel Creations.
This leads me to Mattel’s Jurassic World toy line. Recently, online toy store Entertainment Earth pre-sold what was intended to be this year’s Jurassic World San Diego Comic-Con exclusive: the Jurassic Park Barbasol Dennis Nedry 3.75” figure. Very obviously intended for the collector contingent of Mattel’s Jurassic World audience, the preorder sold out in one hour. Mattel’s social media accounts were quick to point out that the incredibly popular figure would also see some sort of release via Mattel Creations, with an Instagram post later detailing a July 23rd release.
Given what we know about Mattel Creations, we can expect that an allotment of stock may be made available on their website. After all, Mattel Creations is like Matty Collector- the former website Mattel once ran intended to produce collector-oriented items with lower production runs directly to consumers. But why stop there?
Here is where things get really fun. After over two years of non-stop toys in the Jurassic World line, Mattel has become keenly aware of its serious collectors who will go to great lengths to add every item necessary to complete their collections. These are the collectors who attend the trade shows, run websites, manage podcasts, and write articles that deal greatly with these toys. Mattel knows how passionate these fans are, and for a time, they engaged with them regularly following the 2018 line launch. If the convention exclusive Nedry is offered through the Mattel Creations site, certainly that will not be the last we see of Jurassic World on that site.
Given its mission statement, opportunity is ripe for great possibility with Jurassic World through Mattel Creations. Hasbro gave Star Wars collectors the Sail Barge and Unicron. What will Mattel give Jurassic World collectors? Will they use Mattel Creations to simply offer high-cost Jurassic items, or might they use it to crowdfund something new? And if so, what? Could it be that grand Visitor Center playset we have all been clamoring for, featuring a highly-detailed and interactive command center, electrified fencing, and a Jurassic Park gate? Imagine light-up torches on that gate, or fencing that lights up and makes buzzing sounds when a dinosaur gets too close to it. What would an interactive lab look like in such a playset, especially when it comes complete with a Dr. Henry Wu figure? We could speculate all day about other possibilities, such as a raptor paddock, a Jurassic World Innovation Center, or a Gyrosphere station. Or, perhaps Mattel Creations could deliver a grand expansion for the Amber Collection. Surely such a site, selling $400 Cybertruck, would also be able to deliver a high-end, fully detailed, Amber Collection scale Tyrannosaurus Rex. Or a Triceratops. Or Stegosaurus. Of course, we want the main line to continue at retail for as long as possible. But if higher-end items that are simply impossible to offer through Mattel’s retail partners can only be achieved through Mattel Creations, then why not?
Serious, lifelong, and passionate toy collectors willing to spare no expense are all among us. We pass them in the toy aisle. We interact with them on social media. We watch their videos on YouTube. Mattel knows they are there, eagerly awaiting the day that the Jungle Explorer finally finds its way into the line, or when the $300 Legacy Collection Visitor Center (the be-all, end-all of Jurassic Park playsets), becomes a reality. With Mattel Creations, the possibilities are endless, and the future can be as bright as our toy-centric imaginations allow. I hope Mattel feels the same way.
As of this article’s publishing, MattelCreations.com has been updated with a countdown timer, teasing “Full Platform Access” in less than 60 days. Whatever their intentions are for this new website, we’ll find out soon enough!