One of the most talked-about toy lines of this year is Diamond Select’s Battle Beasts. There’s been a lot of speculation about this line, how it came to be and where it’s going, but the buzz is growing: a new comic book from IDW based on the property is already in stores.
I got in touch with Zach Oat, Marketing Supervisor at Diamond Select Toys, to find out more about what the future holds for Battle Beasts.
1.) Let’s start with the obvious: what led Diamond Select to pick up the Battle Beasts trademark, and were you concerned about the fact that you would not have the rights to the original toy designs?
We were brainstorming new concepts for toy lines, and we started thinking about similar toy lines that had experienced success in the past. Battle Beasts came up, so we did a little research and saw that the trademark was actually available. It’s such a great name, and it went well with our Minimates mini-figures, so we acquired it. The name was what we thought had the most value; we already had a lot of ideas for what we could do with the fighting animals concept, and the original toy line was known more for its gimmicks than for its characters and storylines, so we weren’t too worried about not having the rights to them.
2.) Battle Beasts were in development at DST for a while. What sort of discussions were going on behind the scenes?
Our main concern was that we not release the toy line in a vacuum; launching a toy line with no media tie-in is a risky proposition, especially in these shaky economic times. We wanted to take the time to develop a backstory that would really sell the concept, and to find a partner who could knock it out of the park. IDW ultimately became that partner, and they’re a great fit for the line, given their experience with other toy-based titles like Transformers. The existence of a comic book showed retailers the line would have some promotional support, and now the line is going to launch at both specialty and Toys “R” Us this fall.
There was also some question of how we wanted the product to look — the promotional Alligator Minimates we gave out in 2010 featured a decent amount of sculpting, but we’ve really stepped up the detail on our figures since then, and the new Beasts are incredibly intricate, as fans will see at this year’s Comic-Con. Our designer Mark Wong worked hand-in-hand with IDW’s artist Valerio Schiti to develop the look of all of these characters, and the toys really reflect that.
3.) Fans were really impressed by the larger prototype sculpts seen at SDCC 2010. Is there still any chance of those seeing production at some point?
Those were created to gauge response from retailers, and while the response wasn’t bad, it ultimately wasn’t the route we wanted to take with the line. Those sculpts took more of a cute, almost super-deformed approach, and we wanted the tone of the line to be serious, at least at first. If the Minimates do well, we may look at different product categories down the road, and I wouldn’t rule anything out. Our unofficial motto at DST is “Never say never.”
4.) Who is the target market(s) for Battle Beasts – i.e., primarily existing Minimates collectors, or are you trying to bring in new (perhaps younger) fans?
Minimate fans are the best. They’re incredibly loyal, and while most only follow one or two of our half-dozen Minimates lines, there are plenty who love anything made in that 2-inch format. Some prefer the blockier figures, which is not what Battle Beasts will be at all, but I think our innovative use of the Minimates body in the line has won a lot of them over — not to mention IDW’s really great comic book.
But yes, we’re also hoping that the line will appeal to younger fans. The name and the concept are tailor-made for kids, and we’re going to be emphasizing the interchangeable nature of Minimates, as well. Plus, we’re hoping that the Battle Beasts name will resonate with children of the 1980s, many of whom have children of their own now.
5.) How will DST’s approach to the Battle Beasts line differ from other Minimates lines DST has released, such as Minimates MAX?
A key component of the MAX line was providing each of the characters with costume changes; many of our Minimates come with bonus clothing parts. But Battle Beasts will place more of a focus on interchangability of body parts between figures; with the detailed animal sculpts, you’ll be able to mix and match heads and limbs to create hybrids. There will also be a collecting component, where you can gather bonus accessories to build a powerful suit of armor. And because the sculpts are so detailed and distinctive, we’re going to make many of the beasts available in different color schemes, so you can choose the look you like best, and even display multiple creatures from the same species.