March 17, 2011

When commentaries get too long - a roboplastic rebuttal

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 4:35 pm

I am now a victim of the Roboplastic Podcastalypse.

Since getting my first (classic 160 gig) iPod over the Christmas holidays, I have diligently placed 600 CDs onto this shiny piece of McShiny to take with me on the road. Then I discovered podcasts, and currently listen to little more than the ongoing opinions of Mr. Dan Savage. But there are toy(pod)casts out there and I am beginning to seek them out (and if you have recommendations, please leave them in a comment for me.) Which brings me back to the Roboplastic Apocalypse (sometimes referred to as “that site with all those old toy robot ads.” So with some help (because he’s not yet been sucked into the vortex that is the iTunes store) I finally upload all 25 (to date) podcasticas.

Today was podcast one through three.

I’ve already threatened Steve with running commentaries with respect to select (possible all) podcasts, and I was in the middle of putting a second one up on his site, when it dawned on me. Hey, I have a website too (hello beautiful fairplaythings!) And since the unexpected and unexplained hiatus that is the ongoing collectible of the day, why not put my comments on my site and make Steve come to me. Sounded good in my head anyway.

For those who want to hear the podcast to understand what I am talking about, where Steve ponders the success and failings of the Shogun Warriors, it’s episode two here.

I always get a little indignant when people talk about the wonder of Japanese engineering being key to the success of the Transformers, because the toy line is really the bastard child of east and west. Takara tried to market diaclone toys in North America to limited success, but it was the genius of mother Hasbro that created the characters (and allegiance) that led to thousands of young robotronians uprising in their suburban homes and demanding they get their Megatron and their Optimus Prime too!

I was thinking about this in terms of Steve’s comments about Shogun Warriors, particularly with respect to Godzilla. The commercial for the thunder lizard implies that Mattel did envision him as a possible villain, even if they were not prepared to create a symbol for his chest. Really, if Hasbro did anything, it was give us the battle of good versus evil, and much better names than Mazinger, Combattler, and Daigan. And I wonder too if the Shogun would have been even more popular if someone had done tech specs for the guys.

Certainly the line could have been helped in the imagination of children with a cartoon. And for us children of the eighties, wasn’t there a cartoon for everything? I mean Robotixeven had one, a construction toy where you would think heroes and villains wouldn’t apply. And yet the original toy packaging came to reflect the battles of the Protectons and Terrakors.

But the seventies was a different place and a different time. Where there were laws against directly marketing to children in the form of 22 minute advertisements with mini-advertisements embedded in the programming. Steve talks about the links between popular toys and movies (and live action television), and my understanding is that the use of such likenesses as Buck Rogers, Star Wars, and the Six Million Dollar Man was fair game because their target audience wasn’t completely intended to be 7-12 years old. (Clearly it was a time before grown men outnumbered children in the toy isles of a Toys ‘r Us.) Certainly, comic books (Micronauts, GIJoe, even ROM) were seen as key marketing methods to encourage the success of a toy line because the door to cartoons was closed.

So I would maintain that Mattel couldn’t go down the path of having a cartoon directly. The company probably benefitted from the existence of Godzilla as a cartoon, but there were probably enough differences that their legal team could explain there was insufficient links (and this may explain why the toy Godzilla looked so different than what was expected, even given the technology of the day). I would imagine that the introduction of Force Fiveat the end of the Shogun Warrior line was not coincidental, and may even have hurried the toyline off the shelves if Mattel had been leaning on getting out of the toyline anyway.

In any event, while I’m not sure if Ronald Reagen deserves an airport named in his honour, let it be said there should be at least three cartoon studios rechristened in his name.

Coming back to the end of the line for Shogun Warriors, a four year toy run may seem insignificant, but we are spoiled by the popularity of so many “branding” holdovers from the 1980s. There are not a lot of unified toy lines that last four years. I agree with wikipedia’s hypothesis that the end of the toy line came about because of declining demand meeting improved safety concerns, although I expect other factors were involved as well. I’m sure the issue of licensing came up, and Mattel may have looked at the extra cost for safety changes and the declining sales numbers for the line, and decided it wasn’t worth it to continue to pursue the licensing agreement.

Anyway, just a few thoughts on a great podcast. I’m encouraged to hear about the toys of my youth, properties I think need a little love. And now I need to get back to the collectible of the day. Stay tuned!


I would be remiss if I didn’t add a comment here about the passing of Michael Gough. It’s sad to see him go. He will always be Alfred to me.

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