Saturday, February 13, 2016

Toy mash-ups - are companies 'jumping the shark'

Anyone who has been to my house, or followed this blog, will know that I like toys and buy far more than the average child-free almost-40 year old.

Toy mash-ups have become a thing in the past few years, mainly because big companies like Hasbro and Mattel own a number of lines and the easiest way of developing new products is to take two things that work and wang them together. I'm not talking about branded versions of popular toys like Minions Monopoly, or even the licensed Lego sets that are produced featuring Lego versions of film and comic heroes. I'm talking about taking two toys and merging them.

Sometimes these work. I own a Star Wars Transformer that transforms from Boba Fett to his spaceship, Slave 1, and back. I also own several Mr Potato Heads dressed up as well-known film characters, including Darth Tater, Optimash Prime and Spider-Spud. (I'm not really sure these actually match the definition I put in the previous paragraph, but it seems right to refer to Mr Potato Head toys as mash-ups!) Hot Wheels have recently produced car versions of Star Wars characters and Marvel characters. These work better than you think.

But then you get things which take two franchises and mash them together and it just seems redonkulous. Today, I have seen some toys that I think show toy manufacturers have 'jumped the shark'. I give you... DC Comics versions of Thomas the Tank Engine toys.

In a 4 pack

In a 9 pack

And something to stick them in

This is WEIRD. Firstly, are really little kids - the primary target for Thomas - going to want DC Comics branded characters? Will they know who Green Lantern or The Flash are? Fisher Price have had a series of small-person suitable figures for a while, but will little kids get the cross-over?

Secondly, will this upset the Thomas purists and put them off? I occasionally visit a model railways forum and the moaning on there about how Thomas has been developed since going into American ownership is only going to get worse. Adults buy toys, and grandparents are the ones I think would be most likely to buy Thomas toys. I'm not sure these will appeal to that demographic.

Thirdly, is this even a mash-up that makes sense? In the Thomas series we know the good engines are the steam engines and the diesels are the bad guys, kind of. But here we have a Green Lantern diesel versus a Sinestro steam engine. The Batman-themed four-pack are all steam engines, but two are done up as the Riddler and the Joker. This makes it very confusing by ignoring the natural fault-lines that currently exist in the Thomas universe.

I don't know, maybe this will be a massive hit and children will be pestering their parents for them. There possibly is a link between the kind of people who like railways and comic book nerds. This could be the toy line of the year. But I have serious doubts.

On the other hand, this car from Playmobil is golden.

Playmobil Porsche 911
I quite like Playmobil, but I don't recall them going into licensing much before. They certainly don't so it as much as Lego, who also have Porsches available. This costs £30 and I honestly think it's probably the best value of the new toys I have seen come onto shelves in 2016. The lights work. It will be a solid, play-resistant model and it looks very, very good.

It also comes with a Porsche garage interior and a mechanic. From the looks of the box you can swap bumpers, spoiler and wheel trims to customise it if you so want. The garage bit will also make a nice backdrop if you wanted to display it.

Reverse of the box
Playmobil doesn't have the following the Lego or Star Wars figures both have. But I imagine the fact this is a Porsche will make it a highly desirable toy well after it goes out of production. It could turn out to be highly collectible and I am seriously weighing up whether to buy one.

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