MOTUC Director’s Commentary – Man-At-Arms

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#8 Man-At-Arms originally posted 03.14.2012

[box style=”doc”]Man-at-Arms was the last of the “first 6” (although Mer-Man was sculpted first). Originally, the direction from management was to release the MOTUC figures as $40 two- packs pairing an A-list figure with a less well-known character. At the last minute, we changed things up and took as risk by releasing them as singles. And, man, am I glad we did that. The customers and fans have more than risen to the occasion and supported every figure we have released. Every first run has essentially sold out. It is really only a handful of figures’ second runs that have stuck around. Long live MOTUC!

Oh, before I get into MAA in particular, since this story is in the format of a weekly(ish) blog, I thought I’d respond to some of the feedback this blog has been generating. For the most part, it has been VERY positive. In fact, I think one of the only negative comments I saw was a few forum members upset that I was spending time writing these instead of fixing production issues or working with Digital River to make continued improvements in customer service.

So to put these fans at peace, I am currently writing this blog on the plane on my way to NYTF. I currently have my laptop but no access to email on this flight so there really isn’t much I can do to work on either of these issues right now. I hope this is an acceptable use of my time! 😉

All kidding aside, it is thrilling to know our customers have enjoyed this blog so much. I have no idea how long I can keep this up, but I would like in the long run to get an entry out for every figure and beast. etc. I’m not sure if I will be able to keep this up on a weekly basis, but, hey, stick around and you’ll find out. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time and I’m glad to finally take the time. My biggest fear is actually running out of things to say. Now that the “how the line was started” and “how the bios were written” has been done, I’m pretty much down to writing about the figures themselves and I’m just hoping to have enough content to keep filling these posts! Time will tell.

Okay, back to Man-at-Arms. While he was originally planned as one of the first two-packs, if memory serves, he wound up getting delayed and shipped after Mer-Man. So while he was originally going to introduce the concept of a second head, Mer-Man has the actual honor of being the first release to have this feature.

We knew second heads was a feature we wanted to add on some select figures. This is why Terry and I held up the release of He-Man for two months specifically so his armor and head could be removable. Although not every figure would have a second head, it was very important to us that all figures could have interchangeable heads and armor to allow for the maximum customization for the customer.

MAA was kind of a no brainer for a second head. While management was very clear that the anime hyper-detail redesigned heads from the 2002 line were “retired, one snuck out on Whiplash, and Marzo had a bit too much anime in his hair for management, but there was no time to change him without delaying product. So those two kinda snuck in.

But all other figures would only get a second head if there was essentially a “compelling reason to add one.” And yes, I know for a lot of 200X fans, a 200X head IS a compelling reason. But management was very clear they wanted Classics to be a new style and while we could do arms and armor from the 2002 line in Classics style, heads all needed to remain Classics. 2002 heads were and are currently retired. (Maybe they will come out of retirement one day? Hey, you never know!)

I digress (again.).

Since the vintage MAA has no facial hair but so many other appearances in media gave Duncan a trademark mustache, he was a clear candidate for the rare second head. We definitely did not want to go overboard on the second heads, both to keep costs under control (heads cost way more in terms of time it take to sculpt and deco) but more importantly, we wanted the inclusion of a second head to be novel. If we overdid it, this feature would loose its pizzazz!

But adding a second head to MAA was actually not easy. He needed a huge amount of armor to be accurate to the vintage toy. Chest armor, shoulder armor, ankle armor and wrist armor. On top of that, the Horsemen wanted to add in a few extra accessories beyond the vintage mace.

Looking back, I honestly have no ides how we green-lit this figure. He was way more expensive compared to any other figure we had done to date due to the second head, all the armor, accessories and the huge amount of deco all of these items needed.

One issue that comes up a lot in the boards is the “rubbery” material his mace is made of. I totally get this and hear the customers/fans. But allow me to explain…

In order to afford new figures, most of the “new” tooling needs to be ganged together into one tool. In the case of MAA, the mace needed to be in the same tool as the armor. It was more important that the armor be a little flexible in order to fit properly on the figure. This is why the more flexible plastic was used on this tool. The mace, having to be included in this tool, needed to use the exact same plastic as the armor.

We did look into moving the mace into a second tool but that put MAA way over cost. So in the end, it is not like we thought, “how can we make this mace all rubbery!” but rather this was just part of the logistical fun of translating a sculpt and a character into a toy. Sometimes sacrifices, or rather considerations, have to be made. Yes, it would have been cool to tool the mace in a separate tool, but it just was not possible. So that is the whole story. (The same applies to other figures with similar issues like Catra. Her sword was in the same tool as the whip and we could either have a very stiff whip or a loose sword. Really, there isn’t always an ideal solution.)

But, man, even with a rubbery mace, MAA was still (and is) a real kick-*** figure. The Horsemen threw in a few other accessories, including a knife and gun (taken from the vintage Castle Grayskull weapon rack) and the first ever “secret accessory,” He-Man’s 2002 sword.

Okay, so here is some background on the sword. In the original pitch for the 2002 line, the Horsemen had the idea that Skeletor was now in control of the original Power Sword, having captured both halves (vintage fans may recall that in the vintage line the “Power Sword” was split in two and the combined sword could open the Jaw Bridge of Castle Grayskull).

In the Horsemen’s pitch, since Skeletor had captured the Power Sword (both the light and dark halves) in order for Adam to fight evil, Man-at-Arms worked with the Sorceress to create an electronic version of the sword (a tech version) that could artificially harmonize with the orb of power, allowing Adam to channel the energy and become He-Man.

That was why 200X had a new design for the Power Sword.

In fact, if you look at 200X Skeletor and examine his swords, you will see that not only are they in the “shape” (the hilt) of the vintage power sword (but with added 200X hyper-detail, etc.) but one half is a light half with a sun and one half is a dark half with (I believe) a skull.

This pitch idea was eventually dropped and the vintage sword just became double swords that Skeletor/Keldor carried and the replacement electronic sword became He-Man’s standard Power Sword.

Fast-forward to the Classics line. This pitch idea was actually the perfect example of how we wanted to incorporate some of the “best ideas” from previous stories into the new collector line (even if those ideas got cut). Including the “electronic Power Sword” with MAA was not only a way to please 200X fans who wanted this version of He-Man, but the story behind it (as noted in MAA’s bio) was a great nod to the Horsemen’s original concept for the 200X swords.

Like all “new” concepts introduced into the bios, this would also have its combination of fans and dissenters. But hey, it did its job. Making it a “mystery accessory” gave customers and fans something to talk about (always a goal of the bios and accessories) and it gave fans a new way to display their figures by letting He-Man have his choice in Power Weapons. (And we even re-released the electronic sword in true 200X colors in a later weapons pak! Who says we don’t go the extra mile when we can? ?)

Man-at-Arms is still one of my favorite figures in the Classics line. His armor and bulk really make him battle ready. And since I had him as a child, it was very cool to get this updated version which included a lot of details that the vintage cross-sell included but did not show up on the figure (such as the extra deco on the belt, and the fur included in the armor at the sleeves).

At the end of the day, MAA really represented what Classics was all about. A legit reason to add a second head, a crap-load of accessories, a mystery accessory and a ton of armor. Plus, with other variants such as a helmet-less head, armor cannon, snake head, underwater armor and other variations, fans can be sure that MAA will be back for other releases ensuring that this key member of the Masters continues to dominate toy shelves for years to come!

Until next time!

Scott[/box]

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