Mattel’s Quality Control Problem – A Blip or a Bust?

By November 10, 2019 Feature

Throughout my 23+ years studying the toy industry, I have attained an intimate knowledge of the various issues faced by major toy companies and the products they create. Having begun seriously collecting toys 23 years ago, I quickly discovered the art of selecting the best sample available on the shelf. In other words, standing in the toy aisle for five minutes studying two of the same exact figure, determining which sample has the least amount of quality control issues. As a kid, this probably was not a big deal. But as an adult, I admittedly feel a little stranger performing such inspections. Granted, when it comes down to it, the QC disparity between two figures (especially when there are plenty to choose from on the pegs) is quite minimal and often comes down to something as simple as which figure has eyebrows that look a little cleaner. Quality control in the toy industry is not something well-studied in a scientific sense. It is more of an onlooker’s interpretation of whether or not something looks right or looks off. However, after having collected for so long, worked in the industry itself at one point, and connected with many collectors online over the years, I have a good semblance of what good and bad QC looks like.

To most people who do not collect toys, quality control simply means that something works. It is a vacuum cleaner that functions as advertised, or a mixer that does its job in the kitchen. When it comes to toys, someone buying a single toy or purchasing a gift might associate the QC with whether or not it also functions. To a toy collector, however, it means not only proper functionality of the toy, but also the details of the paint. They say the devil is in the details, and as toy collectors, we are doomed to seeing that devil every time we pick up a new toy. Anyone who has been in this hobby for any appreciable amount of time understands what QC means and how the principles of good and poor QC should be applied. For example, when you are dealing with a mass-producing major toy corporation such as Hasbro, Mattel, or Funko, you anticipate that QC standards will be a bit more relaxed since the objective of such companies is to sell you a cheaply manufactured toy as inexpensively as possible. On the contrary, if you are collecting Hot Toys, Tamashii Nations, or Mezco figures, you expect nothing short of the amount of money you are paying for your toy.

In April 2018, Mattel delighted children and longtime toy collectors when they released their Jurassic World toy line. It gave them something that was absent from toy shelves since the late 90s, which was quality Jurassic Park toys that maintained a consistent scale and offered a multitude of products to bring the toy line to life. In fact, delighted is putting our sentiments down too lightly. Most fans were overjoyed by the sheer amount of awesome product Mattel was throwing our way. In the year and a half since its debut, a constant drip of Jurassic World toys has continued. Many of them have been available in stores, and for some of us, we have had to work a bit harder (and spend a bit more money) to import them from other countries. At the same time, the quality control issues that were there at the line’s beginning have continued to persist without any signs of improvement.

The point of this article is to highlight some of these ongoing quality control concerns. Again, Mattel has done wonders for fans and collectors, and it has been clear since the beginning that they have a team of passionate, enthusiastic professionals at the helm of their creative team. Nevertheless, given our adoration for the line, we would be remiss at neglecting the ongoing QC issues, as well as ignoring the opportunity to request these issues be looked into in order to benefit all Mattel’s Jurassic World customers.


 

Sloppy Eyes – We See You.

 

They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and when we connect with someone, we study their face. When we buy a toy, we are also first drawn to their eyes and their faces. One constant with Mattel’s Jurassic World line has been the difficulty in finding flawlessly painted eyes. In fact, through both my own evaluation of these toys and my conversations with other collectors, it almost seems as if you are more likely to find dinosaurs with misprinted eyes than with acceptable ones. To test this theory, I went to a local Walmart that was jam packed with an earlier 2019 wave of Attack Pack figures. I counted eight Velociraptor Delta figures in all. Of them, three of them had what I would call “acceptable” eyes, though they were far from perfect. (I could not see the other side of their heads because of the packaging.) The other five samples had eyes that would render them unbuyable to me as a toy collector. A couple of them were especially bad, with the eyes only being painted onto about 50% of the eyeball. This same pattern can easily be noticed from buying dinosaurs online. We are currently at a point in which quite a few of these more recent dinosaurs are unavailable in stores, so our only option to get them is by ordering from online stores such as Amazon, Entertainment Earth, Walmart, and Target. The unfortunate reality of buying these toys online is that the eyes are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get. Aside from myself, I regularly speak to a number of Jurassic World collectors and monitor discussions and social media posts to ascertain the bigger picture. This is a very well-documented issue that Mattel has been made aware of time and time again. Sadly, the eye issue has been around since day one, and it seems to have gotten worse, without any signs of Mattel intervening with their factories to address the issue.

 

Action Features – Working for You?

 

Despite what we may think of the action features many of Mattel’s Jurassic World toys have, we must take a look at their reliability. In my own experience, I have had fairly consistent luck with action features on these toys. If a dinosaur is supposed to roar, it roars. If it is supposed to whip its tail or bite down on a rival dinosaur, it does that. However, even these features are a bit inconsistent. Some Roarivores sound louder than others. I do not mean Baryonyx versus Ankylosaurus. I mean Baryonyx versus Baryonyx. You might find them on the shelf at the same time and notice this. In terms of the Dual Attacks, sometimes the features work better on some than others. The earlier Mega Dual Attack Suchomimus figure had a very flimsy bite. Thankfully, Mattel corrected this on later figures. But even then, some of them have stronger bites or weaker tail strikes than others. The same is true on other species across Dual Attack. Sometimes Dual Attack dinosaurs make clicking sounds when you activate an attack feature, and sometimes Savage Strike dinosaurs are more reliable than others. Earlier Stygimolochs had heads that would get stuck in the down position, though this seems to have mostly been corrected on more recent releases. For the Thrash ‘N Throw T-Rex, mine stopped roaring in the upward position after the first month or so. While I am not sure what the accuracy rate is for these as a whole, I know from having seen the same happen to others that it is likely a larger problem than expected. Coupled with that dinosaur’s inability to stand up after a few months, it should not be surprising that this is my least favorite T-Rex in the line. Another recent example has been the Dual Attack Battle at Big Rock Allosaurus. There have been multiple reports, including my own, of numerous samples that have mouths that get stuck when closed. Additionally, I recently came across a Bite ‘N Fight T-Rex that had a head that would get stuck as it looked to its side. Have a conversation with any collector who has been collecting this line from the beginning, and you are likely to hear some stories of problematic action features.

 

Inability to Stand – We Don’t Stan Standing!

 

One of the things Mattel has maintained from the beginning is that they designed their Jurassic World line so that every dinosaur figure could stand. While this may have been the case during the design and development phase, it has simply not been true in practice. Perhaps dinosaurs like Ceratosaurus, Metriacanthosaurus, Spinosaurus, and Thrash ‘N Throw T-Rex stood without issue in a controlled environment where they were tested, but in our collections, we have witnessed the contrary. These dinosaur species (as well as several others) simply will not stand for more than a few hours after removing them from the packaging. The problem seems to be the center of gravity on some of the figures, while on others, it is pliable plastic that flexes over time or during warmer seasons. On others, such as the Spinosaurus, it is loose joints that cause the problem. While part of me can sort of forgive these issues on $8 Attack Pack figures, it is harder to let that go on more expensive ones like the Thrash ‘N Throw T-Rex, the Action Attack Suchomimus, and elusive figures such as the Spinosaurus. Being able to stand is one of the most fundamental functions of any dinosaur toy, and if it cannot do that, then the design of those items needs to be looked at before they are repainted, repackaged, or retooled.


 

This is not a comprehensive list of QC concerns, as we have also seen things such as loose joints, excessive glue, misaligned body parts, tails that do not snap into torsos properly, and other non-eye related paint issues due to poor application and rubbing from lack of packaging protection. However, for the purposes of this article, we have chosen to focus on the most widespread and pressing concerns.

Once again, a little perspective is required in discussing quality control on Mattel’s Jurassic World toy line. This a humongous line of dinosaurs and related product, and they are produced by one of the biggest players in the toy industry. Like with other similar companies, the goal is to keep manufacturing costs down and profits up. This is done by manufacturing product cheaply and selling it in bulk to retailers at a low cost. The goal is not collector-quality toys such as with Hot Toys or S.H. Figuarts. (However, given recent images of eye issues on $30 Velociraptors in the Amber Collection, a line Mattel says is aimed at collectors, an argument can be made to the contrary.) At the same time, Mattel’s target audience, the kids, also notice these flaws. For those of us who collected Kenner’s Jurassic Park line 26 years ago as children, we remember a time when quality control was generally superior to how it is now. If a flaw was present, we would see it. This was not just a Kenner situation, as there was more consistency with toy production from various companies back then. I assume this was largely due to lower manufacturing costs at the time.

Poor QC is also not just a Mattel Jurassic World issue. Again, every toy corporation making toys on a grand scale has them. However, when most of the dinosaur toys in your toy line have misprinted eyes than acceptably printed ones, a conversation is warranted. I have long maintained that the longevity of any brand is built on its biggest fans and longtime supporters. When those fans voice concerns, it is because we care. We want to see the brands we love continue to improve, evolve, endure, and flourish. We want to see discourse and a respectful, productive relationship between collector and company. Mattel has gotten many things right with its Jurassic World toy line, ushering in a new golden age for fans of the Jurassic franchise. By fixing poor quality control issues, Mattel will reaffirm its dedication to the Jurassic World line and to its audience. And it will continue to produce the type of Jurassic World toy line that fans and collectors expect and deserve.

Thank you to the many community members who provided images for this article. We couldn’t of illustrated the wide-spread nature of these quality issues without the examples you provided from your Jurassic collections.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Gooper Blooper says:

    I’ve had pretty good luck with my toys overall, I’d say. I’ve had a handful of issues ranging from minor quibbles I don’t really care about to a single severe problem that Mattel was happy to correct. The big issue was an Indominus that had its’ arm snap off five minutes after I unboxed it, but I contacted Mattel and got a free replacement Indominus. Most of the other problems have been stuff like my Action Attack Suchomimus’ bite function breaking and the end of my Indoraptor’s tail breaking off, but I was keeping them in a box and other figures mingling with them caused the injuries, I’m sure.

    I also have been able to get figures that are notoriously hard to stand to stand without much issue, but it’s because I’m willing to put them in weird poses. Legacy Spino, Savage Strike Pachy, Cerato. I’ve also had pretty good luck with paint apps.

    One lesser-seen issue I did run into is that I have a Battle Damage Herrerasaurus that can’t move its’ neck up and down like it should. The joint is clearly there, but it just doesn’t work.

  • Genozoic says:

    A great summation of issues I’ve encountered as well! In addition I’ve had my Albertosaurus’ jaw slide off, but that’s easily fixed. I’m always wary of “sloppy eyes”.

    On a contrary and possibly atypical note my experience with Kenner’s quality control for JP toys wasn’t as great at times. I remember my mom having to return a Dennis Nedry for a broken arm feature (joint clip broken in package), a dilophosaurus that didn’t spit, and a Red T.rex that got stuck on it’s roar. Heck, my second Red T.rex eventually did the same, though it lasted a whole lot longer before giving in to endlessly roaring (aka past the point for returns).

    • Gooper Blooper says:

      Oh, that happened to my Red Rex as well, I forgot all about that. Yeah, Kenner weren’t the gods of toys or anything, they made mistakes just like anyone else.

      I’ve also had the Alberto thing happen. Honestly I thought it was kinda cool since it was easy to fix and would stay on as long as you didn’t deliberately try to get it off. It’s like a really really extreme Dino Damage feature.

      I’ve been pretty lucky with eye paint apps. There are a few derpy eyes here and there but I haven’t gotten any super bad ones where the paint isn’t even on the eye or anything like that.

  • Pedro says:

    Even in Mexico, quality control is bad with the figures, but Mattel must also switch to another type of plastic to prevent the limbs from bending over the weight of the figure and falling. You should also fix the big feet and the lack of texture and scales on many figures.

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