Does Mattel Hate Geeks? Ctd

Following up on yesterday’s post, a few responses from the comments:


Stories like this make me very thankful for the always awesome guys (and girls) at Hunter PR who handle Hasbro’s PR stuff at Toy Fair and various other conventions. I have literally NEVER had a bad experience with them, and they treat even us small potato folks with respect and courtesy.

I think many collectors make comparisons between Hasbro and Mattel, and while Hasbro has certainly made its share of missteps, I think it’s demonstrably clear the company values the fans of its brands (particularly the homegrown ones, G.I. Joe and Transformers, but also Star Wars and Marvel). Mattel inevitably suffers by this comparison, which baffles me, since they’ve made it clear they want to establish a TF/GIJ-like media franchise in Masters of the Universe.


While I’ve never interacted with Mattel’s press, I’ve talked to many of them at conventions I’ve been through. While they do keep a slight bit of secrecy on some things, they tend to be very friendly and willing to answer questions.

I even once had the opportunity to speak to Scott himself a few years back when DCUC 2 was first announced at Wizard World Chicago— I think that was 2007? Different times back then, but very friendly and willing to chat to anyone.

I think, though, Mattel reps may get annoyed by the “collector community” at times, or at least the most passionate and loud people. How many times can you get asked about Ambush Bug until you snap?

I don’t know how much Paul’s article was addressing Scott Neitlich himself. It sounds Paul’s beef was more with the official PR people. But I’m not going to deny that the geek small press can be incredibly nitpicky, standoffish, and, yes, annoying – I remember the now-defunct Toy Bender’s (now The Robot’s Pajamas) recaps of the Star Wars Q&As, which typically highlighted one incredibly nerdy question each week. And I’ve experienced for myself the elbowing for position that goes on during the photo-taking at such events, with geeks fighting for position like bridesmaids at a bouquet toss.

While I’ve had my criticisms of Scott, I’ve always found him to be very outgoing and helpful in person. We had a great chat at NYCC last year.


 Mattel treats geek sites this way because they can and the geek sites will cover its products anyway. The solution would be for anyone who feels slighted to simply stop giving coverage to Mattel products. There are lots of other toy companies out there that are much more deserving of coverage and would love to get the kind of press that Mattel gets. If the press starts dropping off, Mattel might change its tune. Even if it doesn’t, it wouldn’t deserve our interest anyway.

It’s absolutely true that smaller toy companies deserve more press, and Mattel knows they can put in the least amount of effort possible and still get coverage. I think any good PR person can tell you, though, that a little extra effort can do wonders for publicity; but for whatever reason (lack of a marketing budget or otherwise), Mattel doesn’t engage in that effort.

Michael Crawford:

I think it is also possible that the people doing cons like SDCC and the people doing the traditional Toy Fair are NOT the same groups out of marketing at this point. The treatement of smaller press at SDCC is far, far better, and I think it’s because that marketing group gets it. The folks doing Toy Fair are likely to be the old school group that still thinks this whole internet thing is a flash in the pan.


It makes perfect sense that fan press should be swarming Toy Fair. Much of Hasbro’s and Mattel’s and Lego’s and so many other maker’s product is being bought up by Gen X and Gen Y, and if I were a retailer I’d watch very closely which products the fans lose their minds over and buy that. It might only be a few more years that these generations continue to plunk their money into toys, so get ’em while you can.

Definitely some truth there. And even if the older folks stop buying, their kids might start. Now that I think of it, it’s perhaps the biggest mistake Mattel has made with the MOTU brand. While they marketed the Millennium line and cartoon toward children, I’m not sure they’ve ever really made (and then nurtured) the connection Hasbro clearly has: happy adult fans pass that love on to the next generation.

Julius Marx:

I know it’s most likely futile responding here as I don’t get the sense myself or any of the AFi staff are well regarded over here, but there is actually a rational explanation of what happened to Paul and David… and when I have some spare time I’ll post it. I don’t think it will make things “better” but it will at least fill in some pieces. It’s not the conspiracy everyone is making it out to be.

First off, I want to state I’m saddened Julius feels uncomfortable here at PGPoA, though I do understand why he might feel that way. I’ve always tried to maintain as objective and civil a discussion as possible (at which I do fail sometimes – I’m only human).

I would be more than happy to get another side to this story, and welcome any information Julius or anyone else, particularly at Mattel, would like to offer.

Newton Gimmick:

I like Paul and all, but am I the only one the felt like his article was condescending to “geek” press? He basically made out like he was a big deal and runs an official website and that he shouldn’t have to spend time with the “amateurs” and their “crappy cell phone cameras”. I was more offended by his wording than anything in his story about Mattel, oddly enough. And while I wasn’t at Toy Fair, I know that not all the sites that were there were crappy fly-by-night blogs.

I think NG is right to point out that the tone of Paul’s article does come off a bit condescending toward the collector press; it’s something I should have mentioned in my post yesterday. I’m not sure it was Paul’s intention, and I prefer to give him (and yes, to an admittedly lesser extent, Mattel) the benefit of the doubt, but the post does suffer from a sense of entitlement and bitterness that somewhat undercuts what would otherwise be a fairly effective indictment of Mattel’s behavior toward its collector fan base.


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  1. very useful info

  2. domu

    Paul Nicholasi /Nomad has business ties with Geoff Beckett and Shocker Toys.
    That alone should give any company pause in granting him press access.

    • If this is true, I was unaware of it. Do you have any evidence to point to? Not saying you're wrong, but I didn't want to let this assertion sit unchallenged.

    • domu

      Paul has had a long relationship with Geoff, dating back to before it shut down. Paul gave Geoff his own forum back then, even though the only product Shocker had produced to that point were a few Shockinis. Paul's name is on the packaging of some of those Shockinis as designer or something.

      The Shocker Toys thread over at the Fwoosh covers it, starting around page 40 or so.
      Paul paid for the production of the Tick figures that came out last year. He had "his team" working on packaging for the Anime Spotlight line. He seemed to have varying degrees of influence on the company depending on how he wanted to present himself from week to week. It started out as being just a fan who wanted to make an exclusive for his blog. Then he started making promises about making sure all Shocker product would get pushed out on a tight schedule. He tried to act on behalf of Geoff in dealing with the Tony Robles situation. As facts started coming to light and it became more evident that nothing other than the Tick figure would be coming out, Paul started to stress that he was only working for Geoff as a freelance contractor.

      Here are a few quick quotes:
      "I oversaw new packaging for the newer Shockinis because I wanted to see something different on the pegs and my girl at the time was hot to have her name on packaging"

      "Well don't hold me against them. I just had some money to invest and wanted to make a Mucus Tick, then was talking about other things i could have them make."

      "Yea I just funded the project because I love the Tick and lately, toy projects are a safer investment than the stock market! Shocker is fulfilling all orders. Tick and Mucus Tick are definitely in stock, so if you want them asap, go get em at shocker."

      "I never said how much I payed to get MT (Mucus Tick) made and I never would. It's not top secret, but its not very professional either. "

      "Seriously if anyone has a problem in the future and can't get an email back from Shocker, please tell me. I'll handle it."

      "Since my Mucus Tick project i've been doing some small freelance jobs with Shocker in product development mostly..and mostly on the Anime line."

      "I came on board to help turn things around. That's what I aim to do."
      "I've got my crew working on packaging as we speak and I don't intend for that work to go to waste."

      "1st order of business is getting everything already behind schedule out as soon as is humanly possible. There's practically a lineup now of things waiting to come in or ship out, as it should be. Diamond backing us up will go a long way to help with that. "

      "Yes, everything is late. That's why I came on."

      "I'm not making excuses for the way things have gone down, but if you look at the life of the company, its improving, and that's why I jumped in to help. They want it to get better. So, to that end, we are focused on getting the product promised out the door and into your hands."

      That certainly sounds like Geoff and Paul work together, doesn't it? Lots of "us" and "we" in there.
      Is Paul currently working for Geoff? I don't know. But he has worked on and off with Geoff for years and years, up to last year at least.

      Is someone that involved in the workings of a company that claims to be the third biggest superhero action figure producer, behind only Mattel and Hasbro, a person you would share your company's plans with? Why would anyone want to share current and future product details with someone who has a vested, capital interest in a direct competitor?

  3. -That said, I do completely echo Paul's comments about the desire to cover the toys being challenged by the desire not to cover the company/people. IAT was primarily born out of having fun (and my inability to sit still) not an attempt to be some serious toy journalist or to even garner the respect of my peers, but there are times I get the feeling that journalism in our little community could amount to more if the company/coverage dynamic were more mutual & respectful instead of being adversarial & dismissive or preferential & sycophantic depending on which sites you frequent or companies you follow.

    • TheGAR

      Noisy, you bring up a great point. The journalism aspect.

      I think there is most definitely an expectation bred into people that when they see the words "review" or "coverage" that in some way what they are getting is unbiased information, or in the case of a review, a somewhat serious critique of what the product- be it a toy, a movie, a restaurant, etc. – and that the standard practice of objectively looking at the product is being followed. While that is an assumption from the public about objectivity (and I know it's kind of dumb to assume that to be true on the internet!), if you're going to put the words "Review" or "First Look at" in a post's title, you've got to be honest with the folks reading it and giving you those extra page hits…

      I noticed you guys got criticized very hard for the "Save The DCUC Sub" program, but then after the whole Ghostbusters Sub thing, you stopped doing a lot of Mattel coverage and moved on to other companies (thanks so much for the Onell and Outer Space Men looks BTW!)- you IAT guys seemed to give a "we got burned by Matty" vibe since the DCUC Sub thing. Maybe I'm reading too much into the coverage.

      When internet toy coverage started it was a breath of fresh air from the Lee's / Tomart's "Just the facts m'am" approach, or the later "25pgs of straight up advertising" ToyFare/Wizard stuff. People weren't afraid to say "this sucks" or "this is great" and there was no money or freebies involved. Folks were honest with their audience and often used and promoted journalistic integrity. At a certain point over the last 5-7 years, we've seen site after site get tons of free product for review, their reviews all being "it's great!" and tons of pretty product photos, and little dissenting opinion. And it is worth it to note the intense rise of "shadow" marketing, and companies like Sony setting up or backing sites that *seem independent on the surface* but are acutally paid adverts for the products they sell. Also PR/Marketing guys who post in forums, comments sections, etc. We've seen it before with little toy companies, to hilarious effect. It's not outside expectation to assume giants like Mattel haven't done the same thing, especially on their own forums.

      Anyway, it's important to note that regardless of being naive about things, when the words "review" or "independent" show up on websites, there IS an expectation to be non-biased on the part of the reader; when a site has a forum or comments, it's expected to allow freedom-to-disagree, not just deleting posts that you personally disagree with (we're not talking trolls here, just differing opinions, that's a whole other topic, how folks who have differing opinions and share them are now instantly labeled "trolls.") A review is an opinion, by nature; but when the company you're reviewing gives you free stuff, and puts pressure on the writer to write a glowing review, and implies the freebies stop when an overly critical review is posted, that is just not right. There is an expectation from the audience, who completely uses the words "review" and "unbiased" as an inseparable pair.

      Anyway I wanted to say "thanks" to you and the other IAT guys for keeping it honest, and staying away from the "Matty does nothing wrong / fans are stupid because they don't know the intricacies of manufacturing" type posts.

  4. I'm always uber-late on the drama anymore. Some quick points before I bury my head back in the review-writing sand…

    -I agree with Newt about the tone. IAT kinda came up fast and I've gotten grief from a few site owners (who shall remain nameless) about any attention or success we were getting. Paul isn't one of those nameless folks, but Newt's comments did serve as a reminder that there is geek-on-geek hate in our little play realm too.

    -I'd also like to hear Julius weigh in on the matter, the "insider" status is more than just a nickname and I've always appreciated that in the past. That said, I mean short of my not understanding Toy Fair etiquette I don't know how much Julius can change my perception of the story as Paul told it. I mean, I don't think it's a conspiracy. I think the folks involved just seemed rude rather than intentionally trying to screw anybody.

  5. dayraven

    none of paul's personality quirks should divert the attention from one simple fact. he is PRESS, this event was for retailers and PRESS. if they made appointments, keep them. the one doing the changing is always in the wrong and thus in the position to make concessions, but they need the press, big and small alike. regardless of paul's tenure on the TF circuit, they made and appointment, and then failed to keep it. they owe him coverage.

    as for julius… i didn't even know there was beef here, so i guess i'm the noob here, right? (i'm not, by any stretch, but sure, let's go w/ that…) but i guess the grand question i would ask is, are you a mattel employee jules? why are you weighing in to explain this, were you personally involved? i mean, mike crawford wasn't involved, and he weighed in, but he was clearly speculating like the rest of us were… why is julius on authority on this? i don't get it.

  6. I think a lot of the issue comes down to what Mattel is. DCUC and MotU are really just small lines produced by a subdivision of a corporation which makes most of its money producing dolls. Mattel exists to make Barbies and, to a lesser degree, Hot Wheels. Action figures are just a little added revenue.

    That doesn't mean fans are wrong to be pissed at the service we're getting – we're still giving them money and all that – but I think it's important to keep things in perspective. It's not surprising that Mattel's reluctant to invest a lot in the success of what amounts to a small portion of their business.

  7. Valo487

    I think for every two screaming assholes ranting about Mattel, one would scream regardless but the other became one after several years of getting Matteled.

  8. Is fandom a negative thing?
    I don't think so, in general.
    But there's definitely a negative aspect to it, both inside the fandom and when viewed from the outside.
    It is easy for people to dismiss fans as a group because of the extremists – the same way people dismiss entire political parties or religions based on one "nutjob".

    It's the fan who equates a poorly executed MOTU figure to the Holocaust. The type of person who would cancel their entire subscription over a two day shipping delay. The guy who can't grasp how mass production costs work when presented with factual information of any type; see also: rules of running a business, how budgets limit the work you can do, etc
    I'd bet there's a special place in ToyGuru (or the Horsemen's) minds for that one criticism that was completely over the top that just bothered them on a base human level.

    And that's why the fans can't be taken seriously. A good deal of us are normal functioning human beings who just happen to like toys; but what people see is that foaming-at-the-mouth guy who can't hold down a job living in a relative's basement or attic that smells like raw sewage in a convention line – polite to your face (if he can talk to REAL LIVE SCARY HUMANS!) but Rush Limbaugh behind a computer screen.

    "And if I had my way…I'd have all of them shot!"
    – Pink Floyd The Wall

  9. TheGAR

    If Julius feels uncomfortable, maybe it's because they antagonize folks? Maybe the AFI guys aren't paying attention to the whole picture? The timing and tone of some articles give them a clear bias, that favors a company -which has a lot of upset customers- either on the day of, or right after, bad news for them, many times; the way the forum is; the edits/replies to comments; the save the DCUC campaign; the comp toys and posts about them; the Antimonitor contest; the press releases… it's your website, do what you want. This site is a breath of honesty around that type of stuff and seems to attract a much more laid back crowd- a lot of that has to do with telling the truth, even if it hurts which is why I keep coming back.

    • Dark Angel

      True regarding this site – and IMO we all owe Poe some gratitude for that. Thanks, Poe!!!

    • nerdbot

      I completely agree. (And as Dark Angel says: Thanks, Poe!) I drifted away from looking at AFI a long time ago, and never really thought about why. TheGAR puts a finger on it precisely.

      They're up front about where they're coming from at least – it's right there in their name: Action Figure Insider. Maybe they're a bit too insider for my liking. I prefer reasonable and objective outsiders.

  10. George

    Although I don't think my opinion or assessment can be valid or fair ; I have always thought (well since 2007 when I started collecting action figures) that Hasbro was much more kind to their fan based than Scott ever was, maybe it's a matter of their job experience, but David Vonner and Jesse Falcone always seemed like "geeks" to me and treated fans as such equals. Not in an over caring way but, corrective towards ideas and misconceptions. And although Scott seems like a nice guy on video, he doesn't seem to do his job right, making very contradictory statements which riles up the public more than staying quiet. This is just based on youtube videos of such said people.

  11. Valo487

    I’m interested to hear what Julius has to say, but I have my doubts as to whether or not there can be a rational explanation for unintentional ineptness at best or deliberate dishonesty at worst.

  12. Dark Angel

    Fine, I'll say it:
    I am a geek. I love toys. I like to read about them and, occasionally, I like to talk about them. My geek cred is undisputable. But…

    …geeks can be exasperating. Some fandoms are un-fucking-bearable. I come to this site specifically because it is substantially less…heavy…on the "geek", and even here I have had to endure people FREAKINGTHEFUCKOUT at me over little to nothing. If Mattel doesn't want or like dealing with that, I am completely sympathetic to that. But…

    …they still have an obligation to behave professionally.

    • Well, I still think that if you're going to make money off a geek property, that's a kitchen whose heat you've made a decision to take. Which is a tortured way of saying you've got to accept the fact that you have to engage with those fandoms, to some degree (but not totally, because that will probably end in tears).

    • Dark Angel

      …that is a true (if tortured) statement, and we are in agreement.

    • Ridureyu

      Iagree that some fandoms are completely unbearable – and the old joke that if a company were to give its fans free money, they would complain about how the bills are folded is absolutely true. Mattel does still need to act professionally, but fans need to respond at least somewhat like mature adults, or risk losing a lot of the fan/company communication that they treasure. I've seen lots of fan-company relationships break down when, although they started well, the screaming assholes managed to ruin it for everybody else.

      Although I don't think that in Mattel's case, it's necessarily the fault of the fans.

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