Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mattel Carries On as Overlord of the DC Universe

Surprise to anyone? I didn't think so. You don't announce a strategic shifting of your core line from retail availability to internet exclusivity unless you prepared to continue this model for years to come. This also serves as a slap on the back for those who felt pressured to sign up for Mattel's "Club Infinite Earths", lest they never get another DCUC figure again. Do you re-assert your mega-hold on such a wide license if you feel the market is not there to continue to pump out characters for that license? Nope. Call it shenanigans...call it a very polite ruse...call it whatever you like. The fact is that if you want your DC action figure fix, you are going to be heading over to Mattycollector and kneel before the feet of their ultra-smug mascot for a long time to come. Here's the announcement...

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP), with DC Entertainment, announced today that it has extended its successful relationship with leading worldwide toy manufacturer, Mattel, Inc. The new multi-year agreement allows Mattel to continue as master toy licensee for the complete universe of DC Comics characters. Under the terms of this strategic alliance, Mattel is granted unprecedented access to the complete breadth and scope of the DC Comics vault of characters, which includes more than a thousand world-famous DC Comics Super Heroes and DC Comics Super Villains, such as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Joker. Further, the agreement includes popular characters such as The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam!, Green Arrow and Hawkman.

"We have developed an incredibly successful partnership with Mattel and we are very excited about taking the relationship to new levels," said Brad Globe, President, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. "Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have an unrivaled slate of content support across all key platforms essential to our global consumer products business which is anchored by our alliance with Mattel."

"The DC Comics Super Heroes enjoy a worldwide fan base that keeps the demand high for consistently imaginative new product," said Karen McTier, Executive Vice President, Domestic Licensing and Worldwide Marketing at Warner Bros. Consumer Products. "The extension of the Mattel agreement ensures that these fans will continue to be amazed by our DC Comics Super Hero offerings for many years to come."

As part of the ongoing relationship, Mattel is set to develop toy lines for two of Warner Bros.' most highly anticipated theatrical releases: on July 20, 2012, The Dark Knight Rises, and on June 14, 2013, Man of Steel. Future television-based collaborations include Warner Bros. Animation's upcoming television series, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, along with their ongoing product support for Young Justice, also from Warner Bros. Animation. Both animated series are exclusive to Cartoon Network and will be the tentpole programming for "DC Nation," the new multiplatform, branded block of original programming and exclusive content, featuring DC Comics' library of legendary character properties, which will debut in 2012. A special Green Lantern: The Animated Series hour-long movie event airs Friday, November 11 at 7 p.m. on Cartoon Network. In addition to the rights to existing DC Comics characters, animation and motion pictures, the extension includes Mattel's rights to produce toys based on future DC Comics films and animation projects that are developed and produced during the term of the agreement.

"Mattel has been a longtime, valuable partner to the DC Comics creative team," stated Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment. "We look forward to working with Mattel and the Warner Bros. Consumer Products team to bring new DC Comics Super Hero toys to life for our fans around the world."

Mattel supports the universe of DC Comics characters across all of its portfolio of core brands, including Hot Wheels®, Matchbox®, Barbie®, Mattel Games and Fisher-Price®, where the DC Super Friends products featuring the Imaginext®, Shake ‘n Go®, GeoTrax® and HeroWorld™ lines have introduced the DC Comics characters to an increasingly vast audience. The addition of the new Little People® product line that features DC Comics characters will expand consumer appeal even further. Mattel continues to bring the talents of its world-class sculptors, designers and developers to create product lines that target kids, collectors and pop culture enthusiasts. In combination with their deep knowledge of kids and expertise in kid-targeted marketing, product and content development, Mattel has developed DC Comics Super Heroes sections in the toy aisle designed to attract a new generation of kids to the universe of DC Comics characters for the first time, while fueling the flames of collectors' and fans' passion for these popular characters. In 2012, Mattel will partner with Diamond Comic Distributors to help extend its presence globally with exclusive European distribution rights for the DC Comics 6" action figure line. With the broad scope of category rights granted, Mattel is uniquely positioned to leverage this rich portfolio across many different categories.

"We are thrilled to further our long-standing partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and support the extensive DC Comics portfolio's franchise development," said Tim Kilpin, Executive Vice President of Mattel Brands. "The DC Comics characters are rich in story and we look forward to bringing these popular characters to life through innovative product design."

During its 10-year relationship with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Mattel has created and delivered a number of successful toy lines that bring the fun, action-packed heroism and excitement of DC Comics' characters to life, including top-of-the-line action figures, vehicles and role play accessories across all DC Comics brands, including the 2005 release of Batman Begins, the 2008 release of The Dark Knight and the 2011 release of Green Lantern, along with a collection of heroes and villains from the popular animated series Batman: The Brave and The Bold and Young Justice, as well as the Batman and Superman family of DC Comics Super Heroes action figure lines.

Now some will say that DC Direct are still pumping out excellent figures, allowing for SOME level of choice at the pegs. Those on hand at New York Comic Con noted the superior sculpting in their Arkham City Video Game themed line, as well as excellent use of body mass and scale, which is something Mattel can not compete with if they just keep reusing their core DCUC body for every male hero figure in their own line of the same name. It was unclear if DC Direct would beef up their production with further figure announcements. Some time back, we reported their slow, sad demise as WB began restructuring and seemingly handed over all decision making to Mattel. Though the boys only showed a few new additions to their lineups at NYCC, we are happy to report that there is some fight in that crew yet. Whispered intel from the show floor included news of a line of 3 and 3 quarter inch Green Lantern themed action figures Geoff Johns is absolutely in love with and is pushing for with all his might. Could DC Direct find their nitch in this scale? I'd say yes! Mattel is obviously done with that range with the last of their Infinite Heroes figures found swinging on pegs at clearance prices. DC Direct could very easily engineer the perfect small scale body type and give Marvel Universe a run for their money. Cross your fingers that this comes to pass! If the failures of Infinite Heroes have taught us anything, it is that articulation and price point is key. If WB will allow DCD to whip up the perfect body with their signature sculpting and paint applications in play and give the green light to sell to major retailers allowing for a sweet price point (which should be around $8 as they own the license), there is no telling how expansive the line could get and for how long it may thrive with our full support. Of course, this is all dependent on crossed fingers and plans currently in play staying in play (which seems to change with a shifting of the wind lately)..so we hope for the best.

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