There is a lot of anger among fans about King Hssss’s reversed shoulders. I was part of a Roast Gooble podcast the other day in which this topic was discussed at length (it’ll be posted later this week), but I think it was Val “JVS3” Staples who most accurately described my own feeling on the matter: fatigue. I just can’t muster the indignation this time. Part of it is because I managed to correct the problem, but part of it is just being tired of the drama surrounding this line of toys.
I’m tired of the QC mistakes, of course.
I’m also tired of the discussions about the mistakes, the price, the subscription, the Mattycollector website, the character selection, and the 200X/MOTUC arguments, all of which have been so negative in tone (on He-Man.org, here, and elsewhere) that it’s made me consider quitting PGPoA so I can enjoy my hobby in peace. Or at least dropping the news and figure reviews and focusing on articles about vintage lines, childhood memories, interviews and so forth.
Finally, I’m tired of Mattel’s responses; this one was OK, but they should have just left it at that, perhaps with a later check-in to say they were taking steps to make sure this truly never happened again. But this is just bad public relations. I think Scott Neitlich may be burnt out himself by all this, and I won’t hold it against him if he’s feeling a bit defensive, but I’ll often write a reply like that–to a comment or a post–and then just delete or edit it, having expended my frustration in the writing of the note.
It’s incumbent upon Neitlich and Bill Benecke to make clear to the higher-ups that QC needs to be a priority on this line. Bring the Four Horsemen in, too, since they’re the foolproof check on the design. Had the Horsemen been allowed to check figures before they went to production, we would have been spared the first He-Man’s reversed shoulders, Roboto’s reversed shoulders, Hssss’s reversed shoulders, and we would have gotten Prince Adam’s sword sheath.
While collectors are handling the outrage side of things for this round of Shouldergate, I’ve been more interested in finding out exactly how this is happening. My questions include:
- At what stage of development are the “L” and “R” stamped on the shoulders?
- Who does it? Not the specific person by name, but rather, what their role/job is.
- Is it done by a Mattel employee, or someone in an overseas factory?
- Is it done by someone familiar with the product?
- Is there time between the stamping of the “L” and “R” to review a sample for quality control and make corrections if necessary?
To gain some insight on these questions, I contacted Joe Amaro, Director of Product Development for Jazwares. (Check out Joe’s awesome customs here.) Of course, Joe can’t speak for Mattel and can only speak for his own experiences. I want to thank Joe for taking the time to answer my questions.
So many people are involved at various stages that sometimes it is difficult to control the entire process. We see only one figure, where the production people and the factories see thousands!
Any figure that has multiple joints you run the risk of flipping the parts. It’s an easy mistake that happens all the time to all toy companies. Especially with parts that look very similar. This is usually with biceps, shoulders, calves, knees and sometimes feet. It usually does not make the product defective, it’s more of a cosmetic thing. It usually happens during production/assembly of the figures, but it can happen at various stages of pre-production as well.
When a sculpt is completed and approved, the next step is to make what is called a tooling model or tooling pattern. This is the sculpt with all the joints separated from where the metal tools are made from. Tools are the steel molds from which the various plastic parts are made from. Sometimes if the parts are not labeled correctly at this stage you can end up with “reversed” parts. Even before that, sometimes when a cast of the sculpt is made, to make the the tooling model, the parts can get switched around.
If the parts are reversed during production/assembly it is a very easy fix, because the parts are not meant to fit this way. However, if the “switch” happens early on in the process, in pre-production, then the fix becomes more difficult. Mainly because the parts are engineered to fit together, even if they are reversed. In order to fix this you will need to retool certain parts.
I didn’t think Scott’s response was bad, he told the truth. He said they made a mistake internally and unfortunately they can’t easily fix it like they have other stuff. The April figures are already made and shipped. He fights for the fans all the time, as he is fan. I can tell you that being a fan in the toy industry is a double-edged sword. It is a constant battle over what we want as a fan and what we can be done for the better of the company. We’re trying to make two sets of people happy, both with two very different concerns. I bet you if it was up to him he would fix it right away, but it’s not that easy.
One thing is for sure, they do listen to the fans. Particularity Scott, he’s a big nerd too. I think involving the 4H more would help a ton. No one knows these figures and this line better than them!