Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review: Masters of the Universe 200x

The other day, for reasons I can't really remember, I ended up getting out my box of 200x Masters of the Universe figures. Getting this out is no easy task, so it must have been a really great reason, despite my forgetfulness. Being quite heavy, the box normally lives under a pile of other boxes of toys in the cupboard under the stairs. So to get at it means shifting a load of other stuff first.

I say all this only so you appreciate the amount of effort it took to write this review. Although I forgot to take any photos before sticking everything back in the box. Please forgive me, just this once.

200x, aka 'the hyper-detail series', is over 10 years old now, which amazes and astonishes. I remember when it first hit the shelves. I saw He-Man in Forbidden Planet and thought what an absolutely terrible figure it was. While there were fans at the time, I think we can now all agree that the 200x He-Man toy looks terrible.

Thankfully, some of the variants were a hell of a lot better. Ice Armour He-Man, for example, and of course Snake Armour He-Man. Sadly, all the rest were pretty terrible, existed in the 000s and a lot of blame can be placed on their existence for the line ending when it did.

While He-Man (and to an extent Skeletor) were pretty bad, the rest of the figures were universally brilliant. They all featured their action features from the 80s, which I thought was pretty cool even if it did cost in articulation and the like.

Stratos's flapping wings, however, were definitely terrible.

All the designs were updated from their 80s counterparts, increasing the detailing (hyper detail!) and, well, generally making them look a lot cooler.

Part of the problem for Mattel, however, was that each figure had a completely unique sculpt. Whereas in the 80s there was heavy parts reuse between figures to reduce costs, they couldn't do this now. This meant that these things were pretty darn pricey for Mattel to make. Reuse of moulds had to be achieved somehow. Children had to rebuy figures they already owned!

Near the end of the line a whole bunch of repaints appeared on shelves. Some, such as the 'snake armour' ones weren't too bad. Stupidly they didn't look the same as the snake armour versions in the cartoon, but at least Mattel added in some extra accessories so it wasn't too bad buying these things over again.

But then things went crazy. Disco Skeletor crazy. I have no idea what Mattel were thinking when they told the factory to make Skeletor in those colours. I don't think Mattel had any idea what they were thinking either. It looks terrible. Really, horribly bad. Never has a toy been produced in such a horrendous assortment of colours.

In many ways the line was over before it began, a bit like the new ThunderCats line. There were lots of places to place blame, but I think the main ones were a lack of 'push' for the cartoon on Cartoon Network in the US and the Smash Blade disaster.

Obviously without the cartoon being shown 'properly' by Cartoon Network, advertising for the toys was always going to be limited (a bit like new-ThunderCats). The Smash Blade disaster, however, was all Mattel's fault as they packed 000s of He-Man and Skeletor variants in each box of toys sent to retailers and very few of the other characters. It makes sense that all fans of the show would want the main character, but Mattel took it a tad too far and children ended up being annoyed they couldn't get anyone else. Stores couldn't order in more toys because their shelves were clogged with He-Man figures.

Mattel attempted to inject some life into the line with the introduction of the Snake Men, but by now it was too late and it was all over. The US never even got the much-demanded Snake Armour He-Man, much to their annoyance.

Things, bizarrely were a little different here in the UK. Here the show found an audience. Woolworths (ask your parents, kids) actually imported a load of figures from the US to keep up with demand. Snake Armour He-Man was released here, which was great from my point of view as I bought up a bunch to trade with US fans.

The line was dead. NECA released a number of 'staction' figures of 'missing' characters (6" statues designed to fit in with the other toys), but they soon fizzled out.

These days there seems to be a lot of dislike for the 200x series. Whilst popular with some, many have decided that the 'hyper detail' was too much. Personally, I think it still is a really well made line and (almost) all the toys look fantastic. My only complaint is with the vehicles. Back in the 80s, since every figure was based around the same body, everyone fit in every vehicle. Unfortunately with 200x, due to the unique sculpt of each figure, the only figures who'd fit in the vehicles were He-Man and Skeletor - a big problem when it comes to playing with the toys.

It took a good while before Masters returned to plastic form. The Classics line - figures aimed at collectors, and based a lot more on their 80s look than 200x - started well and built up a huge following. But even that is now in trouble. Is Classics about to follow 200x into history? The rumoured film has never made an appearance and action figures in general aren't doing too well as the cost of plastic rises and children turn to video games more and more. Is this the final curtain for He-Man?

Only time will tell.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

News: Lovefilm & Saban

I can see a lot of people being excited about all the Power Rangers being available on Lovefilm. Not so sure that anyone will be glad to see Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, in any format ever..


LOVEFiLM, an Amazon company, has today announced a content deal with Saban Brands which brings 20 years’ worth of episodes of the much-loved TV series Power Rangers to the LOVEFiLM Instant streaming service.

The iconic Power Rangers franchise first aired on TV screens in 1993 and is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. The new deal will enable LOVEFiLM members to view the very first episodes of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers right through to the most recent Super Samurai season, which will be available to watch in HD.

The Saban Brands content deal, which will also make the live-action Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation available to stream, is the most recent in a series of new deals for LOVEFiLM. It builds on the already extensive collection of children’s content available to stream, including titles from the likes of Aardman, Marvel and DHX Media.

Chris Bird, Director, Film Strategy at LOVEFiLM, said:

“We already have a fantastic range of kids content on offer for our younger TV and film fans. Power Rangers – celebrating 20 years this year – has a huge global following and is popular across the generations. This deal with Saban Brands will bring the series to a whole new audience of children and will also ensure that grown-ups can catch up and reminisce on their favourite episodes instantly.”

Frederic Soulie, Vice President of Distribution at Saban Brands, said:

“We are delighted to partner with LOVEFiLM as we celebrate 20 years of Power Rangers this year.
Power Rangers continues to delight fans of all ages around the world. In the UK, kids and grown-ups alike will be able to enjoy past episodes, re-live some of the exciting entertainment, and watch the two most recent series’, Power Rangers Samurai and Super Samurai through LOVEFiLM Instant.”

LOVEFiLM Instant is available on PC, Mac or via Nintendo Wii and Wii U, Sony Playstation®3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire, Apple iPad® and a growing number of Internet-connected TV sets and Blu-ray players, giving members immediate access to a huge range of films and TV shows from as little as £4.99 a month.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Review: WereBears

Lots of small boys have teddies. But having a teddy is not something a boy can admit to, for there is a good chance teasing will ensue. It was for this reason that, in 1983, WereBears were created. By day there were regular cuddly bears, but by night they became the fearsome WereBears!

I didn't have a WereBear when I was small, though I did have a WereBear comic and the song from the advert remains stuck in my brain.

As a regular teddy bear, the WereBears are - as you might expect - exactly the same as a regular teddy. Soft and cuddly with nothing to indicate the horrors beneath. Turn the head inside out, do the same with the paws and you have a really quite fearsome beast. Evil eyes, claws and plenty of long, pointy teeth (except for 'Gums' who came toothless. It's no surprise he was the least popular with boys). The teeth are plastic, but soft and thus WereBear can still be cuddled without fear of injury.

One thing I noticed, having one in hand after only 30 years of waiting, is that WereBears are machine washable (the first thing you look for as a parent). No 'surface wash only' with these guys. No that I've actually attempted to shove it in the washing machine, but the option is there, apparently.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

My Collection: Daleks (update)

So a few weeks ago I got all my daleks out and took a photo. At the time I mentioned that I'd drawn the line at buying the ear-muff dalek because that was a ridiculous variant.

It was on offer, okay!

I also mentioned that I was sure I had more daleks somewhere in the house. Turns out I do - I've just found The Chase set in a box in my guest/spare/toy room. Expect another update at some point!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Review: Power Rangers Samurai Morphin Vehicle

We're at the tail end of Power Rangers (Super) Samurai now. We've grown to know Jayden, Kevin, Mia, Mike, Emily and Antonio. For the first time we watched Rangers morph in HD. We've learnt Jayden's secret. Red Ranger and Deker have had their duel. And we've never had an answer to to what the point of Bulk and Spike's presence actually was.

Soon it will be time for Megaforce, but before then Channel 5 is whizzing through the whole of Samurai once more, the children's swimming lessons are still arranged around it, and there's still time for a few more toys...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Review: Ben 10 Omniverse Shocksquatch

We're not caught up on Omniverse, the latest Ben 10 series, in our house. To be honest, we've barely watched any Ultimate Alien since they haven't released a DVD boxset of that yet.

...goes to check...

Hmm, seems we haven't even had a R2 release of the final volume. We've done the original series and Alien Force to death, however and have a box crammed full of figures. So in a way it was a bit annoying when Shocksquatch came along because he won't fit in the box! On the other hand, new toy! And one that doesn't require batteries!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Review: MOTUC Granamyr

There are two versions of Granamyr in Masters of the Universe lore. One is red with wings and appeared in the Filmation cartoon. The other is green, appeared in the Masters of the Universe mini-comics and (in The Dragon's Gift, at least) doesn't have wings.

There was a vote at SDCC 2012 as to which version would appear in the Masters Classics line. The winner - which was no surprise really - was for the Filmation one, hence the big red dragon that appeared on my doorstep the other week.