World Wrestling Entertainment shakes up Matty's house...
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The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been represented in the toy aisle by JAKKS Pacific for quite a while, and so it came as a shock to many when their license ended this year and it was announced that none other than Mattel would be taking over. What does this mean for toy collectors? You’re about to find out.
When Mattel decided to take on the WWE license, three main focus points were determined. 1) Wrestling figures should have better accuracy. This was the main concern of collectors, and a point of contention with current figures. 2) Any line of new figures must have significant depth. This wouldn’t be just a handful of the most high profile wrestlers. Mattel is committed to this mandate, with no fewer than 72 Basic figures lined up for the first year alone! 3) Since WWE fans have already been collecting figures for years, Mattel will continue, and even improve upon, the "Superstar Scale."
Mattel’s WWE package will include Basic and "Elite" figures, a line of figures targeted toward kids, ring play sets, and championship belts from the different WWE brands. A very real attempt is being made at providing both young fans and hardcore collectors with the products they'll love, coming from Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown, ECW, and Pay-Per-View events. Many kids watch WWE and love their Superstars. They’re on TV every week, and to them they’re very real. Kids know all the signature moves, and so Mattel is working to bring those to life in kid-friendly figures. Kids also like to imagine that they are the Superstars, and so there will be fun role play toys as well. Mattel is also concerned with international growth, especially as WWE expands into other markets around the world.
January 1st, 2010 will see the release of the first wave of Mattel WWE Basic figures. There will be six figures in each wave, and one wave will debut each month (at least for the first year)! In addition, there will be 2-Packs of Basic figures every other month matching up classic and current rivalries and partnerships. These amazing figures have an average of 18 points of articulation and feature incredibly life-like sculpts thanks to state of the art digital scanning technology performed by Gentle Giant Studios in Burbank, California.
Equally as important, scaling between the figures is correct! Mattel is committed to the true Superstar Scale (approximately seven inch) as evidenced by the huge height difference between the figures of Rey Mysterio (shortest) and the Big Show (tallest). Included in the initial Basic figure series will be Batista, Big Show, Evan Bourne, John Cena, Kofi Kingston, and Triple H. The Basic figures will retail for approximately $9.99.
To add to the collectability of the Basic figures, the first 1,000 basic figures of each WWE Superstar will come packed out with a "1 of 1,000" commemorative figure scale championship belts decked out in die-cast metal and real leather. These limited editions are sure to go fast when they hit shelves, so keep an eye out for them. Also, each Basic figure will come with a display stand that includes the name of the wrestler.
Mixed in with the Basic waves of current WWE Superstars, Mattel will be releasing both Pay-Per-View event-specific waves every other month, and "Wrestlemania Heritage" waves. Some of the first figures in this line include John Cena and Batista from Wrestlemania 21, Stone Cold Steve Austin from Wrestlemania 24, and Randy Orton from Wrestlemania 24. What all of this adds up to is variety, detail, accuracy, and depth – young fan favorites mixed with classic wrestlers and unique characters. Mattel's goal with the Basic figures is for the collectors to transition easily and happily into the new line.
The deluxe version of the Basic figures is the new "Elite Collection." These are in the exact same scale with the same amazing detail, but with even more of what collectors want. Elite figures average 28 points of articulation. They also have authentic ring attire in the form of additional clothing and accessories including soft goods, jewelry, and more. Some of the Superstars appearing in this line will include CM Punk, Edge, MVP, Rey Mysterio, and Undertaker. Elite Collection figures will retail for approximately $14.99.
The artists at Mattel have come up with a very innovative and stylish packaging theme for the WWE product line. Every single WWE product shares certain specific elements. First is the "chevron" shape, trapezoidal with a wider top and thin waist. Second is the color black. All packaging is primarily black with elements in red and yellow. Each product also has some very cool things going on, including detailed character art on the top right corner of each Basic figure card (which will also help in flipping through the pegs), and great windows on the Elite figure packages. The back of the Basic cards have cross-sells for the other figures in the same wave, the 2-Packs a story of the rivalry or partnership depicted, and the Elites bios and a "did you know" fact.
Next up is a brand new line of "Entrance Greats" celebrating the most fantastic and over the top Superstar arrivals. These will include Triple H in his Germanic "King of Kings" outfit, Rey Mysterio in his Aztec bird costume, and Shawn Michaels in the fancy white jumpsuit he wore when he famously rappelled from the ceiling at Wrestlemania 22. All of the accessories are removable, and underneath is a Basic body. Each figure stands on a substantial display base that plays the entrance music for the Superstar! These will be more limited than regular figures, so don’t pass them up. Entrance Greats will retail for approximately $21.99.
So, now you’ve got plenty of awesome WWE Superstars, but where do they wrestle? In Mattel's new line of WWE Superstar Rings, of course! Sharing the same components, the three Rings (RAW, SMACKDOWN, and ECW) are differentiated by colors and decos: the skirt running around the outside has the appropriate logo, and each Ring has different colored ropes. Mattel is including a lot of really fun features in these, making them great play sets. There's "ring action" (the springy give of the mat), taught ropes with firm corner posts that keep the tension thanks to Pro-Tension technology, and great authentic-looking turnbuckles that serve a second purpose in hiding the unsightly rope knots. The Basic Rings come in special "Try Me" packages through which you can feel the "Pro-Tension" technology of the mat. The WWE Superstar Rings will retail for $14.99.
Mattel is firmly committed to satisfying both the collectors and the younger wrestling fans, and nowhere is that more evident in the final line, the FlexForce Action Figures. Capturing the WWE Superstars’ signature moves, these figures combine fun action features with awesome sculpts and decos similar to the Basic line, all in the exact same scale. With somewhat less articulation, each FlexForce figure comes partially pre-posed to take advantage of one of three different action features: the hook throw, leg flip, and body slam. They also have gripping hands allowing them to grab hold of other wrestlers, accessories, or rings. Some of the upcoming figures in this selection include Fist Poundin' John Cena and Undertaker, Flip Kickin' Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio, and Hook Throwin' CM Punk and Shawn Michaels. These figures still look great, and will fit in seamlessly with your Basic and even Elite Superstars! Each FlexForce figure comes in an innovative "Try Me" package and is targeted for kids, ages 6 and up (11). They will retail for $9.99.
While the FlexForce guys are fun beating up on each other, their true potential is unlocked with the rest of the line. Also available will be figure and accessory packs that pair a WWE Superstar with a variety of his "tools of the trade" in the FlexForce Action Figure with Accessories assortment. Some of these include a huge speaker with stand (Undertaker), tables, ladders, ring steps (Matt Hardy), and more. The large items have sculpted base points from which the FlexForce figures can launch, jump, and smash!
The ultimate action accessory is the FlexForce Breakdown Brawl Ring, a Raw wrestling ring fully stocked for fun. The ringposts have the same base points for the FlexForce figures, and there are even unlocking mechanisms underneath to allow figures to smash through the mat itself, recreating some of the most striking moments in WWE wrestling history. Each FlexForce Action Figure with Accessories will retail for $14.99, while the awesome Breakdown Brawl Ring will be $19.99.
Moving into the world of role-play toys, young WWE fans have a lot to look forward to, starting with WWE Superstar Match-Ups. These new items include a basic figure with unique deco and a role-play item. Three of the initial variety will include Triple H in Degeneration X outfit packed with DX elbow pads, Rey Mysterio with mask, and Shawn Michaels in Degeneration X outfit packed with DX wrist wraps. Each Superstar Match-Up will retail for $16.99.
If your little wrestling fan likes to be heard and not just seen, there's the lineup of "Tough Talkers." Each article of clothing for the hands or wrists (including CM Punk's wraps, John Cena's wrist bands, and Undertaker's sleeves) has two built in motion-activated hand effects. First, strap them on and punch for a cool impact sound. Even better, recreate the signature hand motion of your favorite WWE Superstar and the Tough Talker plays that wrestler's catch phrase. With these you truly can "become your favorite Superstar". Each Tough Talker will retail for $12.99.
For the announcer in all of us is the real working WWE Ring Action Megaphone. This sturdy red electronic device really works, amplifying your voice. It also has built-in phrases from WWE matches, Superstar announcements, and both cheering and booing effects, all accessible from an easy to use dial. The Ring Action Megaphone will retail for $19.99.
Another series of collectibles Mattel is proud to bring back to the WWE license is its line of Championship Belts. The basic series has three items, a WWE Heavyweight Championship belt, a WWE Champion belt, and for the first time ever an ECW Champion belt. Each one is ultra-detailed and exactly in scale with each other. The heavy-duty belts are plastic with simulated leather, and come in open boxes so you can feel the texture of the large metallic-finish medallions.
Also coming out in the initial releases will be the deluxe Ultimate WWE Championship Belt, an even more detailed version of the WWE Championship belt. This one has flashing lights and six buttons that play short WWE Superstar sound clips. Pick your favorite and lock it in, then spin the centerpiece for a longer clip and light show. The Championship Belts will retail for approximately $14.99, while the Ultimate WWE Championship Belt will be $24.99.
As stated earlier, in bringing the WWE to life there were three goals the Mattel Design Team focused on from the very beginning. 1) Have realistic detail. 2) Present accurate anatomy. 3) Create and continue a real Superstar Scale. To achieve these goals, the Mattel team began by gathering comprehensive technical data on the WWE wrestlers, breaking them down into categories of height and body types – 3 overall categories and many subcategories including incremental height differences and types of attire. Further differentiations in height were achieved by differing leg lengths with the same body type.
Next came the creation of a massive bank of tooling for all of those different parts, which could be mixed and matched in various parts groups. In this way Mattel could create hundreds of unique bodies by combining different parts without ever duplicating the same figure, and that says nothing of the head sculpts! For that, the WWE stars came in for digital scanning at Gentle Giant, creating perfect representations. The digital effects programs Z Brush and Maya were then used for combining the bodies and scanned heads into prototypes, which are outputted via "digital printing" into 3D scaled copies.\
These one of a kind prototypes are touched up and then sent to China for the creation of the tooling patterns. olds are cut and/or cast, and production can begin. One more innovation involved in the actual production is a new form of sonic welding used on some of the joints. Especially apparent on the shoulders, this technique closes seams perfectly without binding the articulation within, creating much more realistic-looking, but still fully functional joints. On the paint side, artist-made deco sheets are used to create the paint masters, which in turn are the basis for the final production line. Finally, the packaging team came up with the stylish design, and voila, the Mattel WWE line is ready for fans everywhere!
Mattel will focus on getting a wide range of Superstars out to the fans during the first year of WWE figures, and so there won’t be a great number of variants and that sort of thing. But, as the line goes forward, anything is possible. Almost all of the WWE products will be under $20; keeping costs down was another major concern for Mattel, and they've done an amazing job at creating a wide-ranging line of excellent toys that won’t break the bank. In the future, Mattel will look at connecting WWE with some of their other brands, including games and Hot Wheels. Plans are already in the works for something big at San Diego Comic-Con 2010... More to come soon!
January of 2010 will bring Mattel's WWE products to stores near you. Prepare for the "fandemonium!"
for tons of all-new images of Mattel's WWE toy line!
- Scott Rubin