Scott Neitlich of Mattel Talks Toys
Review by Drew Bittner
Date: 30 June 2009
Working for Mattel, one of the largest toy companies on the planet, his work includes toy lines such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, DC Direct, Justice League Unlimited, and Disney-Pixar's CARS.
SFRevu talked with Scott recently about the process of getting toys made and what we can look forward to seeing from Mattel this summer... and beyond.
First off, thanks for taking time to do this interview, Scott! We know it was a busy season, with San Diego Comic-Con especially.
Mattel is one of the leading toy manufacturers in the world, but I'm betting people don't know much of what goes on behind the scenes. How is a typical action figure developed? What process do you go through to bring a toy from conception to the retailer's shelf?
Scott: The first step is to ID what toy lines we are going to produce in a particular year and then what individual characters will make the best figures. There is a different process for each line, but essentially it involves design and marketing working closely with our licensing partners.
From there, we create "B-sheet" proposals and review these with our design, marketing and package teams, as well as the licensor. Once all parties have given their input on character selection, it is off to sculpting with each team and our licensors approving each sculpt and package. The entire process takes about 14 months from concept to shelf.
SFRevu: Mattel recently launched MattyCollector.com. What can you tell us about this site, and what does it offer toy collectors?
Scott: MattyCollector.com is designed to be THE place to find the latest info, sneak peaks and exclusive toys for all of your favorite Mattel action figure collector lines.
Right now the store, news section, and Facebook blog are up. In the next few months we are working to provide additional content, such as product archives of past, present and future offerings for key lines like DCUC [DC Universe Classics] and MOTU [Masters of the Universe], as well as a few other initiatives. Stay tuned!
SFRevu: The principal lines available via the site include Masters of the Universe, Justice League Unlimited, DC Universe and Disney Cars(tm). These are all licensed properties, so let me ask: how does Mattel work with the licensors to develop these toys?
Scott: We have a very close working relationship with all our key licensors and are in regular contact to discuss new toy concepts and figure selection.
Once we have their approval, our designers begin sculpting the figures, and our packaging team begins working on the look of the exterior package. It takes about 14 months to go from a proposed concept to toy shelf.
SFRevu: Masters of the Universe and Justice League Unlimited are both affiliated with cartoon programs that are no longer in production. What is it about the toys that makes them successful absent that sort of media tie-in?
Scott: Honestly, it is the huge fan following that keeps both of these lines going, even though there is no new entertainment. Without fan support, we would not be able to continue to produce these lines. It truly is in your hands!
SFRevu: Mattel has a considerable presence not only at the New York Toy Fair but also at San Diego Comic Con and other shows.
I can imagine you get lots of feedback and face time with the fans, but tell me how this experience helps you and Mattel. Do you have a personal favorite anecdote about meeting fans or attending these shows?
Scott: We do love going to the shows as it gives us some great one-on-one time with the fans. Some of my favorite moments include participating with the fan panels. It is such a wonderful time when we can reveal new figures and show off all of our hard work to eager fans in the audience. We love hearing all the ooohs and ahhhs as we show new slides!
SFRevu: What has you the most excited, in terms of upcoming releases? Can you tease any products coming up in 2009? And... can you share what was exclusive at this year's SDCC?
Scott: At SDCC we debuted new toys for Ghostbusters, DC Universe Classics, Infinite Heroes, Brave and the Bold, JLU, MOTUC, Cars, Toy Story, Hot Wheels, Scene it?, James Cameron's upcoming epic action-adventure Avatar, and our amazing new Mindflex game that will blow you away.
SFRevu: How did you get into this business, and what advice would you give someone interested in working for Mattel?
Scott: I started with Mattel in the packaging department and eventually moved into marketing. I came to Mattel with a professional portfolio and a direct interest in a specific position.
My best advice for someone wanting to work for Mattel is to both have a professional resume and portfolio as well as a targeted position you are interested in. All the time, I have fans asking to work at Mattel but they have no direction or specifics about what they want to do. The best thing is to check out "careers" on Mattel.com and apply for a specific position that your background and experience makes you qualified for!
SFRevu: And lastly, where should fans go for more news and info about Mattel's upcoming products?
Scott: The best place is MattyCollector.com!
SFRevu: Excellent! Thanks for giving us a look behind the scenes at Mattel, Scott! We'll be visiting MattyCollector.com regularly--it is THE place to go for everything on the toy lines Scott listed above, with more to come. Check it out! And for those of you on Facebook, MattyCollector has photo albums with pictures of their upcoming toys--give them a look!