Mattel's Ryan Mansour Talks DC Superheroes

by Jay Cochran
January 19, 2007
We had a chance to ask Ryan Mansour from Mattel's Entertainment Marketing Group a few questions about their 6" DC Superhero line of figures.

TNI - First, if you could just tell our readers a little about yourself? What exactly you do on the DCSH line, how did you come to be involved with this line, and what other lines have you worked on or do you work on now?

Ryan Mansour - I was the brand manager on the line for the second half of 2005 through 2006. I first started with managing the Batman line, and as Mattel started to develop a collector targeted strategy for the line, I was placed in charge with developing the line.

TNI - Can you run us through the process of how a figure in a line like this gets made from start to finish? How do you choose the characters, and what is the process to get from concept to the actual figure found on the store shelf?

Ryan Mansour - We first get approval on the line strategy from our companyís management. For instance, we decide what target market a line should pursue. After that has been determined, we design a line that fits within the agreed strategy and get Rough Concept Approval. Usually, this process takes a few months. The next step, which takes several months, is to determine the financials of a particular item or assortment in order to make sure they hit the target margins. After we determine we can produce a line to hit the financial targets, we give approval to the plant to start making the tools. After the tools have been cut, we do a series of tests for quality and design/engineering give their approval along the way. Once they are comfortable with the samples, we go into production. Once we start production, it takes about 3 months for them to show up on shelf.

TNI - I know right now the license Mattel has from DC/Warner Bros. is limited to characters from the Batman/Superman universe, and we have heard that Mattel has tried pursuing the license to do other DC Universe characters but was unsuccessful. Can you tell the readers if this has changed or if Mattel is still pursuing the license to do other characters?

Ryan Mansour - Mattel will continue to try until successful.

TNI - Also touching a bit more on the above question, what determines if a character is part of the Superman/Batman universe or not? Some characters like Robin or Lex Luthor are obvious but others are not, for instance Power Girl who now has been established as the cousin of Superman on an alternate Earth. Would this be a character that Mattel could do even though she isn't a regular in the Superman titles? Does DC give you a list up front of the characters you can and can't do, or do you approach them on a character to character basis?

Ryan Mansour - Correct. However, if we want to do a figure, we try to negotiate with WB/DC.

TNI - If there is a list, can you tell us which characters are on that list?

Ryan Mansour - The list changes because it is dependent on DCís agreements with the talent. Usually, that is the limitor as to whether we can produce a figure.

TNI - How much articulation a figure has often seems to be debated with figures like these. How do you determine how much articulation a figure should have in this particular line? Is there a max or min amount? Have you found that having more articulation is something only older collectors are interested in, or does having more or less articulation play a major factor in the marketing to younger kids as well?

Ryan Mansour - We try to put in as much as we can afford and that will not sacrifice the structure of the figures.

TNI - With a line that Mattel hopes will appeal to young kids and also to the older collector (ages 20's to mid 30's), how do you balance that when making the figures? Five to ten years ago, a large toy company like Mattel probably never considered that older adults would be buying these toys for themselves. Now that superhero movies and TV shows are constantly topping the charts and increasing numbers of adult collectors are out hunting for figures, how do you balance what will appeal to them opposed to the young kid? Has Mattel gotten to a point where they do that, or do they still mostly look at what the kid wants?

Ryan Mansour - We target kids and collectors equally. With that said, it is always easier to clear a mix issue with Batman and Superman. However, we have a good idea of how elastic the collector demand is, and we try to make enough figures to satisfy that demand.

TNI - We have had several readers ask about the DC Superheroes 12" line. Will this line continue to expand? Will we see any other characters besides Batman and Superman made?

Ryan Mansour - The line will continue and we hope to expand to other characters in late 2007.

TNI - Build-a-figure has become very popular in another well-known superhero line on the shelves. We have heard rumors that we could see figures like that done for DC Superheroes. Is this true? If so, any idea what characters we could see and when we might start seeing them?

Ryan Mansour - We will not pursue in 2007 but have not ruled out the execution.

TNI - Many of our international readers have expressed frustration at not being able to obtain the Target exclusive 2-packs that were released with the exclusive Clark Kent figure and Batgirl. Are there any plans to release those two packs internationally, or will figures like Kent and Batgirl eventually be released on single cards?

Ryan Mansour - Each international market determines what items they will offer to their retailers. If an exclusive is not in an international market, it probably will not make it down the road. I have always suggested to collectors to make their demands known to their local Mattel office.

TNI - And on the exclusive note, are there any more exclusives for this line in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

Ryan Mansour - We will continue the programs that have worked in the past. We will also do some more collector targeted items at TRU.

TNI - There have been several figures shown at conventions like Two-Face, Casandra Batgirl, Supergirl in blue, and Parasite. Can you break down the waves these figures are slated to be released in, and are there any waves beyond wave 4 you can tell us more about?

Ryan Mansour - New York Toy Fair will be the first time we announce our wave mixes.

Well, there you have it. We will have to wait for Toy Fair to find out more, but we have learned that there appears to be a new assortment of DCSH figures hitting shelves now. That assortment is reported to include Superman, Bizarro, Doomsday, Supergirl (blue outfit), Steel and Parasite. These new figures now appear to come packaged with individual dioramas. Shown below are prototype images of several of the newer figures shown at last summer's San Diego Comic Con. If you want to find out more about the latest figures hitting shelves now, head over and join the discussion about them on our FORUMS. Thanks again to Ryan and the folks at Mattel for taking the time to answer our questions.
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