MOTUC Director’s Commentary – Webstor

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#13 Webstor originally posted 04.18.2012

[box style=”doc”]After we rounded the bend of Tri-Klops, we were pretty much out of original eight figures with low tooling options so it was time to start thinking long term (but still within the restriction of limited tooling). Luckily, the vintage line (which Classics is based on) is infamous for shared parts. Heck, it even went so far as to share heads between characters like Mer-Man and Stinkor. This factor worked out very well for Classics, letting us really save on new parts while simultaneously staying true to the vintage line.

Once we got to Hordak and Tri-Klops, we wanted to take a hard look at which other figures in the vintage line could be designed with minimal tooling. The list was actually quite long. We weren’t ready this early to start hitting New Adventures or even POP. We wanted to really wait and cement the first year first with core MOTU to solidify our customer base. Well, actually, originally Adora was supposed to be the December 2009 figure, getting just a little hint of POP in there in Year 1. But the Mer-Man fiasco that delayed him a month threw a lot of plans out the window and pushed our first POP figure into early 2010.

Back to shared parts.

Looking at vintage figures only, I looked at how deep and extensive we could get with minimal tooling. Two of the figures that popped out very quickly were Scareglow and Spikor. Others in this pool included Champ Clamp, Ninjor, Webstor, Fisto, Jistsu, and a handful of others (please no flaming if your favorite figure is not on this list, I am doing this off memory).

Part of the strategy of Classics really goes back to the release calendar. I am often asked how we choose which characters to release when. While I went into this in detail in a previous blog, honestly, a lot of it comes down to art form. I really consider the MOTUC rollout to be something of an art. Knowing exactly which character to release each year to ensure a robust selection between genders, teams, vintage lines and other media, is a delicate procedure (and to make sure we have enough good characters to keep the line going and not run out of steam too quickly). It was not done in haste or in any way without knowing the gravity of how much this rollout was going to affect our fan base.

As a collector myself, I completely know that the choices I was making would have a huge effect on so many people… from the Horsemen and Mattel designers, to the end consumer and long-time fans. Putting certain figures out early and holding back on others was a delicate balance. I can tell you having to hold off on Spikor, a personal favorite of mine who was in fact relatively low in new tooling, was actually painful as I really wanted to get to him early. But now that he has wound up being a core vintage villain in the 2012 line, I am glad we held off on him.

So instead of Spikor…

…the next figure in the line wound up being another favorite of mine, Webstor! (Whom this blog is supposed to be about and I haven’t even started talking about him yet!)

Webstor was a great Year 1 figure because he was basically a new head, a new weapon, armor and backpack. This was a great way of showing management that this line needed very little tooling for a lot of variety (at least in Year 1). I LOVED Webstor as a child (the toy, not the TV series — oh, well actually, I loved the TV series too, but that is not relevant). I didn’t own every vintage figure. It is interesting viewing the full vintage line and seeing how most of my figures were actually from the middle years, 1984 and 1985. I had big gaps in the 1982 line (never had Mer-Man, Beast Man, Evil-Lyn, Zodac and others) and I never had a lot of the 1986/1987 figures. I think the last figures I had were Scareglow and Snakeface (the latter being the only Snake Man I ever owned as a child). But Webstor fell right into the middle of the vintage line’s glory years and he was a huge favorite of mine.

When it came time to updating him for the Classics line there were a lot of factors we considered. Webstor never had a 200X figure but he did have a kick-butt staction that NECA put out. Webstor also played a key role in the 200X series and has the distinct honor of being one of the few characters to actually die on the show – on screen, no less!

In 200X, Webstor was updated with additional arms and eyes, and was a bit bulkier. While Classics was most definitely going to be closer to the vintage figure, Webstor was a great early figure who took just the right approach to blending some 200X elements while still preserving the vintage aesthetic.

Namely, I am referring to his multiple arms.

This was completely an addition from the Horsemen and I don’t recall us specifically asking for them. But I have to say, the method they used to execute them was perfect. The extra arms were attached directly to the backpack on ball joints that allowed them to be displayed both in an aggressive attack position all out, OR they could be very conveniently tucked back so that when looking at him straight-on, you could still recreate the vintage “profile” (if you will).

I tended to look at this as “what the vintage line would have done had they had more tooling and resources.” I mean, Webstor is a human spider warrior, after all. It makes total sense that he would have eight legs. And the fact that the legs were sculpted and articulated in such a way, allowed him to be displayed in multiple ways.

The head was also part of Webstor that borrowed just enough from 200X without going full-on into the 200X style (with exaggerated features and details). The Horsemen sculpted extra eyes on his face (vs. the vintage figure), but they did so in just the right way that, much like the extra arms, it still looked very vintage. This was not a full-on 200X head sculpt (like Whiplash had), but rather a perfect blend (in my opinion) of 200X and vintage. And that was really sweet. Webstor also had the really cool grappling hook with string that ran through the backpack.

Now, I simply can’t have a Webstor blog entry without addressing one of the major “issues.”

Back before Toy Fare magazine went the big A-way, we were running print ads in almost every issue for upcoming figures. This was not only a great way to promote the line, but it provided additional copy space for more facts about figures that didn’t make it into the bios (in particular, I remember we named Carnivus’ sword in the print ad, but not in his bio).

I wrote all of the print ads from He-Man to the final one (which I can’t remember who was last off the top of my head). It was a blast coming up with the headlines and they were relatively easy to put together since we used backgrounds from the 200X series with a cross-sell image of the toy. In Webstor’s print ad, I made the mistake of saying the backpack with grapple hook worked “just like you remember it.” This wording (logically) gave customers the impression that the hook would have the action feature of the vintage toy, letting Webstor climb automatically.

I’ve tried to explain this one away, but really, fans and customers had every right to make this conclusion. Despite making it clear that MOTUC would not have mechanical action features (due to cost issues and tooling), thanks to my print ad copy everyone was assuming this action feature was in place. What I meant by this phrase was Webstor would work “like you remembered in your imagination,” not that he would literally have the action feature. It was clearly a poor choice of words on my part and I do apologize to all the customers who were disappointed by the lack of action feature and the misleading print ad. This one was my fault and I take full responsibility.

Despite my very poor choice in words, the reason the action feature was not possible was due to the extra arms. We simply could not include both the ball joints AND the mechanism inside the backpack. And in the end, Classics was about highly detailed, fully articulated interpretations of the vintage line. Not about including action features. We do try to include homages to the action features using things like swappable parts (Tall Star) or added articulation (Tri-Klops’ visor) but for figures needing all new tooling to create the vintage action feature, that really just wasn’t in the cards. We did look into it for Webstor, and in the end just could not include articulation AND an action feature. So based on the creative direction of the line, we choose to go with the articulations. Yes, due to my poorly worded print ad, a few fans were disappointed that he only “worked in your imagination” but that is really what these toys are all about.

Webstor really did come out great.

The hook and rope added awesome new ways to display him by letting him dangle from shelves and off ledges. We also made sure to include his vintage gun and when packing him out, we recreated the very unique pack out with his armor packed off and showing his bare chest. This was a great example of one of my little touches. I have always been very insistent that the pack-outs and cross-sells mimic the vintage figures whenever possible (something we didn’t start until around the time of Webstor). Packaging and management couldn’t understand why I wanted the armor packed out off the figure and really pushed back on this but I stood my ground and I think this was the right choice. Classics was all about paying tribute to the vintage line and if we could do that through packs out as well, it was worth it.

Fans also asked about the “rubbery” feel of his grappling hook. This was very similar to Man-At-Arms where the accessories and the armor needed to live in the same tool. If we did a separate tool for the hook it would have dramatically driven up the cost of Webstor. Additionally, when we ran the armor and hook at a harder density, it was almost impossible to get the armor on and off. Due to the nature of the backpack hook up, when harder plastic was used it took a lot of pressure to push the backpack in. I still remember the agony I had with the prototype, trying to push and push the backpack into the front armor and it just wasn’t working. Finally, I gave up after my thumb turned red and bruised. Luckily for the final product, the armor (and therefore weapons) used a softer, more rubbery plastic.

The last thing to note on Webstor was his bio.

This was very heavily influenced by the UK comics, which gave Webstor an expanded background. Much of this info was conveniently summarized on Wikipedia and when writing the bios we used pretty much anything we could find online. I think a lot of fans were caught off guard by his bio with the heavy UK comic influence. But it’s a perfect example of picking the best parts of every line and adding them into Classics where possible. Everything was on the table and it was cool to shine a light on any vintage material that was specific to a character.

Webstor still to this day is one of my favorite figures, and although I am a huge Spikor fan, too (also having owned Spikor as a kid), I’m glad we went with Webstor first. Both were originally competing for the same slot but I guess Spider beats Spikey Guy (what my 2-year-old calls Spikor). He was a favorite in the vintage days and the new MOTUC version is still one of my favorites in the entire line.

SdN
(AKA Toy Guru)[/box]

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