I had the pleasure yesterday of talking to Eric "Corn Boy" Mayse of the Four Horsemen live from the San Diego Comic Con. He was on-site for the revealing of the new Masters of the Universe line from Mattel.
First a little history, The Four Horsemen are a group of sculptors and artists that first worked together at McFarlane Toys and later set out on their own. Mattel liked their work and hired them to work on the new MOTU line to come out in 2002.
I asked Eric how he first got started in the action figure industry and what his favorite toys growing up were. Eric's first love was comic books, so he collected action figures based on popular comics, including Mego. He is also a fan of Japanese and other Asian-inspired toys and had fun playing with the Micronauts.
Eric ventured to New Jersey to go to the Kubert Cartoon School to hone his comic book illustration skills. While there, a friend told him there was a company across town that made "dolls and trucks" and they wanted to see his portfolio. He found out in the interview that they were McFarlane Toys, and they had just come out with their first Spawn series. Eric was flabbergasted to work with them. And before he left with the other three horsemen, he had worked on CyGor 1 & 2, Movie Maniacs, Chucky & Bride of Chucky, Austin Powers, the first KISS Figures, and The Crow. He mentioned that Eric Treadaway had the distinction of working on half of allMcFarlane's sculpts when they departed. His favorite figure he worked on was the Manga Freak because of the freedom he could take with extra arms and non-traditional look.
I wanted to know Eric's take on the state of the industry, he told me that with the MOTU line they are reinforcing the playability of the figures. They want extreme detail, but the articulation could not be sacrificed. One of the mistakes the industry may be making is the over attention to detail that prevents the figure from being a toy. "Call it what it is, if it's a statue, call it a statue. If it's a figure, it should be able to be played with." Eric pointed out that at the Comic Con they were selling cold cast statues of the He-Man character, and not making any bones about it. The He-Man action figures will be toys.
Hoping to get some dirt on the future of the line, Eric told me that there are currently three series, and Teela (as well as Orko) will be in the third installment. The first release will have He-Man, Man-At-Arm, Stratos, Skeletor, Beastman and Mer-Man. They are also planning on future lines having new characters to add to the MOTU, uh, universe.
Playsets? There is a planned Castle Greyskull playset that will interact with the character recognition chips that come in the MOTU figures' feet. Will they talk like Playmates' Simpson line? Or will they make the playset light up and react when the figure is placed on a receptor? Eric tells us at this time those features are still in the works, however there will be an interactive element to these action figures. I asked him about his thoughts on talking action figures, and he's excited about any feature that makes toys more play-able.
Speaking of playsets, we wanted to know if the vehicles will be all new, or re-casts ala Star Wars. "Everything is new, we wanted to start from scratch on everything," Eric stated, however he wanted to make it clear "while we were coming up with the new designs, we wanted it to clearly be He-Man. We didn't want to stray from the look and feel. I think we successfully updated the series."
I asked him about the possible TV series. At this time, he reports, there is nothing set in stone, but the talks are underway, as is the possibility of related video games, trading card games and all sorts of merchandising.
After getting all the info we could regarding the new MOTU line, we talked more about the current action figure industry. He's very impressed with Lego's Bionicle line and the Toy Biz X-Men: Evolution series. Eric wants to see toys take the natural progression towards better detail, but doesn't want the desigers to lose site of the fact that they are still toys. (July 20, 2001)