One-on-one with Bandai's Ben 10 Brand Manager, David Schmidt.
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For six strong years Bandai has found success in the adventures of Ben Tennyson, an average boy gifted with extraordinary transforming alien powers. From its 2005 debut as simply Ben 10 to its present day incarnation as Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, the animated (and live action) series has spawned a slew of imaginative toys. From collectible 4" action figures to feature-packed role play items, Ben 10 fans have it all.
As Ben Tennyson and the show have matured, so has Bandai's extensive toy line; with tons of new character figures, new pack-in incentives and greater gadgets. To see what exciting new toys fans can expect in 2011, we went to David Schmidt, Bandai's Ben 10 Brand Manager. Read on as Mr. Schmidt takes on more questions than Ben 10 has alien identities!
Figures.com: The Ben 10 display at Toy Fair included tons of great toys. What can we expect to see this year in the different Ben 10 lines?
David Schmidt: You can expect many never before seen aliens (Clockwork, Eatle, Articguana) along with Ben in his Plumber Uniform, Ultimate Wildmutt, Ultimate Kevin, and Waybig in the 4” line. There is a first ever DVD with over 40 minutes of special content and exclusive 4” figures (Azmuth, X-Ray Ben, and Diamondhead). We have two new versions of the Ultimatrix (Revolution and Ultimate) and the Chest Badge Ultimatrix, which includes 14 alien voices. There is a great new 2-in-1 vehicle (Mark 10 and Cruiser) that can be smashed and reassembled. Our Alien Arms put the power of three aliens (Ultimate Humungousaur, Ultimate Echo Echo, and Waterhazard) in your hand. Last but not least, we have the Plumber Tech Kit, which is a piece of alien technology that revolves around a power core that drives lights and sound in four pieces that can be assembled in a myriad of ways to create tools and weapons that Ben and team will use on the show to protect the earth from harm.
What’s the one Ben 10 toy that every kid (and collector) is going to want in 2011?
What’s the most innovative toy or lineup in Ben 10?The Plumber Tech Kit. (pictured above)
How hands-on is Cartoon Network in the toy process? Has a writer or director ever asked for a specific toy to be made?The Plumber Tech Kit. It comes as an unassuming briefcase that has four separate pieces that are all connected to a power core. Each piece is a “tech” device with a unique function activated when that part alone is plugged into the power core and the others are removed. There are four individual functions with sound and or lights, or you can plug all the parts together and get a fifth function - the Mega Blaster.
Cartoon Network is incredibly supportive in helping to brainstorm ideas for our line and their involvement is invaluable.
The new 7 inch vinyl Hyperaliens look amazing! Were these influenced by Bandai’s work in vinyl Godzilla figures? How did these come to be and what can we expect in this exciting new line?
The 4 inch line of Ben 10 figures seems to evolve all the time with its great lineup of characters and figures that get better and better with regards to sculpt and articulation. Where will this line go in 2011?That is correct. As you know Bandai has a rich history with Godzilla and the vinyl figures we produce for the collector market are pretty incredible. So much so, we wanted to bring some of those qualities (amazing detail and vibrant paint operations) to the Ben 10 line since so many of the characters have great skins and alien textures in kaleidoscopic colors. Look for Ultimate Aggregor and Vulkanus in the near future and some more Ultimate Aliens as well.
For fall 2011 the characters will continue to be richly detailed and chunky, and always a great value. In addition, the 4” Ultimate Alien characters will contain a mini-figure that will work with the Revolution Ultimatrix.
In recent years the 4 inch figures have also included a pack-in for use with the various Omnitrix roleplay toys. What can you tell us about the new mini-figures and how they work with the upcoming Revolution Ultimatrix?
The 4 inch figures are revered by both kids and more grown up collectors. Do you consider the collectors as well when planning out this line? In the past there have been quite a few collector friendly figures like “Ultra Ben” and the different Gwens; do you plan on making more of the civilian characters from the show? The Grandpa Max in the upcoming Ultimate Alien Vehicles lineup is highly anticipated!As mentioned above, select 4” figures will contain a mini-figure that can be collected to use with the Revolution Ultimatrix. These mini-figures are easy to swap out and place on the spinning top that comes with the Revolution Ultimatrix. You can collect them all and battle with your friends.
Will we ever see a Waybig in the 4 inch line? How about Julie (with and without “Ship” power armor)?We always think of our fans whenever we set out to create a new toy or introduce a new character, but you never know which ones fans are going to like best until it happens. I can tell you that some of those collector favorites will be in the new line because we realize there are a lot of fans out there who are discovering the original characters from the older episodes on Cartoon Network and DVD, so we’re bringing back those favorites for the new fans to add to their collection.
Waybig you’ll be seeing in the 4” and 6” line. Julie is a character we’ve discussed, but haven’t determined if she’ll become part of the line.
The Ben 10 show moves at such a quick pace that often aliens appear and are replaced before a toy can be made. When planning new figures do you consider previous characters (or versions of them) or try to stick with current ones? If an episode or alien is really iconic, might you revisit it? One of the most powerful and fun episodes in the entire Ben 10 series was Ben 10,000 in which we saw a glimpse of future versions of the heroes. These would make great figures!
Last year there was a brief line of 4 inch Ben 10 figures released only in the UK but not here in the States (including a single-carded Grandpa Max, Ben in soccer uniform, and Alien Force-era Gwen). Will these figures ever be brought back over the pond?That question will most likely be answered in 2012.
There is talk of putting together a figure pack of some of these characters for an exclusive. Check your local retailers in the fall.
Your display at Toy Fair was great (Check out our photo gallery HERE!). Would you consider attending other conventions like San Diego Comic-Con? If so, could there be a Ben 10 exclusive?
Some very cool variants of single-carded figures have been included in multipacks and with vehicles, like the metallic Kevin Levin, translucent green Ben, translucent DNAlien, etc. Will these ever see release in the regular lineup or will they stay exclusive to their sets?As much as we love all the Comic-Cons and would love to participate because of the amazing fans, it’s not something that Bandai has committed itself to this year.
We want these figures to remain as an exclusive you can get only with a certain vehicle or specialty pack, so they are always a part of that particular play pattern.
2010’s Comic Packs were a cool new way to bring back classic figures and introduce new ones. Did these meet expectations and will we be seeing more in 2011?
Can you tell us more about the exclusive 4 inch figure two-packs? Rumors have been swirling about figures of never before made characters like Azimuth and a mid-transformation Ben capturing the cool black and green “x-ray” sequence from the show. These sound amazing!The comic packs were amazing to make and DC Comics did an incredible job with them, but when we talked about how to deliver a story along with the exclusive figures in the pack we decided there was no better way than to use the episodes them self, so we have a DVD included now instead of a comic. But we didn’t stop there. Cartoon Network created never before released content about the exclusive characters that you can only see on the DVD and D3 the publisher of Ben 10 Cosmic Destruction gave us trailers and behind the scenes making of the video game. Fans are going to love this new direction as each assortment will have a new DVD with new content specific to the characters in the 2 pack.
Azmuth and X-Ray Ben will be part of the new DVD two packs.
In 2011 will we see more toys based on any of the live action Ben 10 TV movies?
The transforming AlterAliens figures were really unique. Will this line continue in 2011?Not at this time.
Other than the small and large scale figures and roleplay toys, Ben 10 has always had a tremendous wealth of mini figures and sets including the Alien Creation line and various rocks and powders. How can kids collect their favorite aliens in new ways this year?The AlterAliens have been a huge success in Europe and Latin America, so all new assortments should fans want to collect them will be in those markets.
The HyperAliens are certainly a new way, but 2012 when we get ready for the newest series is where you’ll see those aliens in new ways.
Special thanks to David Schmidt for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview! Keep the awesome Ben 10 toys coming!
For tons of 2011 Ben 10: Ultimate Alien toy photos, check out our Toy Fair gallery HERE!
Interview by: Scott Rubin and Jeff Saylor