AVATAR Toys And Action Figures Why Did They Fail?

Filmmaker James Cameron has topped himself. The sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar” has passed the global box office gross of “Titanic,” the previous world-wide record holder at $1.843 billion. So how can Mattel have failed to provide a product worthy of the film?

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  1. DESTRO's Avatar DESTRO says

    Filmmaker James Cameron has topped himself. The sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar” has passed the global box office gross of “Titanic,” the previous world-wide record holder at $1.843 billion. So how can Mattel have failed to provide a product worthy of the film?

    Looking back at the pre-movie hype, a lot of people did not know what to expect of the film. I know I had no clue what it was going into the movie, and I came out amazed at how good the film was. So my question is did Mattel go to conservative with the investment in tooling up the line?

    IMO the action figures of the "Na'vi" are done well, and they fit into what I feel are a high standard. They could have been done of slightly bigger scale, but they look good for the scale chosen for the movie line.

    With that said, the major issue I had was with the "Play Sets" that Mattel created for the action figures. The main characters in the movie were not only the humans and Na Vi, but the creatures of the planet.

    In the movie the Banshee were super articulated flying kings of the sky. Then you go and buy one of the toys and you get this stiff model that sits on a stand and has just about Zero articulation.

    The Thanator is one of the few figures that has articulation but the design, size class, and how it moves in toy form is just not where it could have been.

    If the creatures were redone, at a larger scale and better designs, I really think Mattel could have given Transformers a run for it's money. But as it stands, the AVATAR line looks to be mostly on hold and on sale at Family Dollar.

    This could have been one of the best toy lines of all time with the star power to back up better investment in design, and size class. I really hope Mattel goes back and takes a second look, at what they have, before its to late. My guess is....... that ship has sailed.

  2. ludovicotek's Avatar ludovicotek says

    Honestly, I think that it really comes down more to the characters. You mentioned that the Avatar line, if done differently, could have given Transformers a run for its money. The thing about Transformers is that there are almost countless really cool characters with distinct personalities and character traits. Other properties, like GI Joe, Star Wars and Marvel Universe, have a plethora of really cool characters. In the case of Star Wars, a character that was on screen for a total of 3 seconds gets an action figure, but at least they look cool. I really enjoyed the Avatar movie, but I just don't think that there are that many cool characters. IMO the best character in the entire film was Col. Quaritch, and he was the villain of the movie. Neytiri was a close second. Jake was pretty bland. And all the characters are either human or N'avi. Even if they are different characters, visually, there's not much distinction between them.

    I also think that due to Avatar being a film and focusing on the Jake Sully's introduction into the world of Pandora there was not enough room to develop other characters. If they had made an animated series where they introduce and develop more characters and areas of Pandora it would definitely help as well.

    I ended up buying the Jake and Neytiri figures and they were surprisingly better than I thought they would be. At first I thought the sculpts and articulation were kind of lacking. But after after holding them in hand and playing around with them I thought Mattel did a great job with them. Not really sure why more people didn't give them more of a chance. I guess we got used to Joes and the Avatar stuff just paled by comparison.

  3. Ash from Carolina's Avatar Ash from Carolina says

    I'm going to have to blame things like GI Joe, Star Wars, and Marvel Universe.

    A few decades ago the Avatar stuff would have looked great. The sculpting standards and articulation just where not that high in the 80's and 90's. So Avatar might have made for a great 80's toys line.

    Today though people are expecting something almost like the 6" action figures when it comes to 4" action figures. Hasbro seems like it's constantly attempting to pick up it's game with better sculpting. Things that were top of the line for them only a few years ago look dated now because they seem on this strange mission to always get just a little bit better with their toys. Yes some bad figures still here and there but for the most part it's almost like articulated 4" statues.

    The 4" Mattel stuff compared to the 4" Hasbro stuff just looks cheap and outdated. They end up looking like some sort of knock off brand you'd find at some place like Family Dollar or Big Lots. Which is kind of odd that the same company that makes such great looking larger figures just falls apart when figures go down to 4".

    While a wildly popular movie could draw some interest toward a toy brand if those toys don't stand out compared to everything else on the shelves then people are going to pass. People just don't want to pay the same price for cheap looking toys as they would for better looking toys somewhere else on the shelves.

  4. uberlad's Avatar uberlad says

    Don't forget how highly priced the 4 inch scale Avatar figures were. I know they had the computer pack in thingamajiggy that I ignored, but I don't think it justified a $10 price tag in a down economy.

    The figures themselves were the best Mattel has done at the 4 inch scale, but they still weren't up to Hasbro quality, and most Hasbro figures could be had for 3 or 4 dollars cheaper.

    The vehicles were cool, and they had potential (once again, if they were more reasonably priced).

    I didn't pick up any of the creatures (wasn't a fan), so I don't want to comment on those.

    The ultimate failing, however, was with the source material. I know tons of people paid to see the movie, but I think it was more out of novelty for the 3D experience. I'm hoping that's it, because I thought the movie as a whole was terrible. The characters weren't memorable and the story was cliche and about forty five minutes too long.

  5. Saint Phe's Avatar Saint Phe says

    Ludovicotek nailed it. They all just look too much alike and, in my opinion, really boring. Uberlad also made some excellent points.

    Beyond that, I just think that Mattel is really struggling. They can't get the hang of producing quality product for a reasonable price. Here's the best example of that: compare the new Tytus from the Mattel MOTUC line with the new Galactus from Hasbro. Or the Infinite Heroes line to Marvel Universe.

  6. behindthemask's Avatar behindthemask says

    I haven't picked any of the figures up but I did pick up an Amp suit and was impressed with the quality, the articulation in the arms, the weapons and size is perfect for my marvel universe figures, and fairly reasonable cost me under $20. The na'vi people look good but jake in the wheelchair and a few others like the sgt look like cheap jurassic park style figures, the helicopter looks cool same with the flyings animals, but like the original poster mentioned the articulation looks like shit, for being the biggest 3d movie of all time it's 3d figures suck for the most part unless your willing to shell out big bucks for the statues

  7. DrewBlank has no avatar! DrewBlank says

    I bought the Avatar line as a collector and a parent. As a parent, the price point was a little high on the figures and the vehicles, especially since the vehicles were being purchased in a blind box with a no way to see inside. The Jake and Viperwolf set likely cost Mattel a lot of money to make, but my son was disappointed when he opened the medium-sized box and found one figure and two small wolves. The AMP suits were a huge hit with the kids, but not worth anywhere near $25, especially the second suit that came without a gun and with no new accessories.

    As a collector, the scale is abominable. The Thanator is scaled to the six inch figures, the Dire Horse is scaled to the 4" Na'vi, and the Viperwolves came in a package with a 4" Jake and are scaled to the 6" Jake. I can forgive the Banhshee being Leonopteryx off-scale because of their wingspan,but their still fitted for the small Na'vi.

    The RDA vehicles are all scaled for 3 3/4", but on the Na've side only the Thanator, the Viperwolves and the Movie Master Jake Sullys and Neytiri are in that scale. The only workable play patterns are "Jake and Neytiri battle the RDA on their honeymoon" or "Na'vi ride their horses on a humanless world and laugh deep belly laughs at Jake as he falls off of things."

    As for my kids, I gave them complete access to the Avatar toys after I added them to my web page. My son used the AMP suits and Grinder for his clonetroopers, and the Banshees as dragons. My daughter gathered up the female figures and they ate at Strawberry Shortcakes cafe. Even having see the movie they don't care about these toys at all.

  8. Snowflakian's Avatar Snowflakian says

    A good chunk of the reason they didn't do well over the film is quite simple.

    The movie itself is a spectacle for 3D. Something visually stunning to experience.
    This doesn't translate to toys. Toys need to be of memorable properties that kids want to experience over and over again. Not something for a visual spectacle like Avatar, that's really just a generic movie of smurfette's creation. For that matter really though, no movie only original lines tend to survive. Look at ID4, and the plenthora of brand new IP lines that have had no staying power for this reason. As opposed to something like star wars that didn't need an effects extravaganza to sell itself. Star wars has stuck around because of the characters themselves being memorable and everlasting.

  9. JKahn913's Avatar JKahn913 says

    The only appeal of the movie was the 3-D. Otherwise, it's unremarkable, and nothing kids would want to buy.

  10. 1337W422102's Avatar 1337W422102 says

    The figures were generic and more boring than the movie. The only remotely interesting thing to come out of that line was the mech suit. I was thinking of picking up some of the humans for generic civilians, but they were too damn overpriced.

  11. MechViperPrime has no avatar! MechViperPrime says

    I think everybody has hit on it, the price, i never seen them needing to be restock at much as the other toylines

  12. Shin Densetsu's Avatar Shin Densetsu says

    This is a line that had the potential to do good because the movie kicked ass, something it shared with another failure in toy aisles; the 2009 Star Trek line. Unfortunately, the toys looked cheap and Mattel banked on their 3D gimmick with the i-Tags or whatever they were called. It seems like those tags increased the price as opposed to the figures, because the figures had bland paint apps.

    Did I want toys from the movie? Hell yes, just not the ones that were eventually released. The RDA had some kick ass equipment that would not only look good with my Joes, but looked good by themselves.

    I heard that there will be sequels and hopefully Mattel steps their game up. As it stands, the only toys I would buy from the current line are the Movie Masters. The creatures had potential but the toys ended up looking like those cheap vinyl animal toys at TRU near the educational toys section.

  13. Prozak has no avatar! Prozak says

    I think uberland nailed it. The film was simply a 3D visual extravaganza. The story itself was just "okay" and thats it. For kids to want to buy toys they need to really love the characters and the characters just didn't have that cool factor. I think the fact that they were expensive and the quality was not up to the price just compounded the problem but was not the primary reason.

  14. brianregan09's Avatar brianregan09 says

    Yeah for a 3D film the characters were pretty one dimensional apart from Jake Sulley i can't actually 1 other character and there in lies the problem

  15. ad1976 has no avatar! ad1976 says

    Here are some of my thoughts, some original, some not...

    1. Yeah, I thought it was strange that you couldn't actually see the vehicle. You didn't know what you were getting (and I think us older collector's knew better than to trust the packaging artwork)

    2. The figures were not edge looking enough, or intimating. One figure was that 2nd character; the interpretor. I mean, who cared enough about him to complete the line?

    3. The articulation seemed lazy. With GI Joe/MU/etc., there's no excuse not to include multiple leg/arm joints.

    4. Unlike Joes/Marvel/Star Wars/DC the mythos has not had time to sink in. The line came out well before the film. The "nostalgia" factor has had not time to kick in.

  16. Shin Densetsu's Avatar Shin Densetsu says

    Normally movies with stellar ticket sales usually have high sales for their associated toylines. Transformers(2007) being a good example. Yet, compared to Avatar, and [i]Star Trek[/b], the Transformers movie figures were of much much higher quality. Most of the main line did not look cheap whereas the 2 aforementioned movie lines did.

    I'm of the opinion that if the toys were made a whole lot better, they would have flown off of shelves. Let's hope for the sequel(s), that if Mattel has the license, they won't put all their eggs in the i-tag basket.

  17. brianregan09's Avatar brianregan09 says

    Am in the minority that doesn't want a sequel of this i mean i loved the original and i think the release of a sequel will ruin the 1st one somehow if you guys get what i mean

  18. trebleshot's Avatar trebleshot says

    I'd agree there shouldn't be a sequel, at least not with any returning characters. Jake's story is done, as far as I'm concerned, and any attempt to return to it will only come off as a retread. The story itself was cliche enough (though there were a few twists to it here and there).

    As for the toy line, I never really had any desire to own the toys. There are some movies I walk out of thinking "I want toys of this and that and that other thing." ROTF is a good example. After seeing the twins on-screen, I've been collecting every toy version of them that I can. Before seeing the movie, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to bother picking up the 2 deluxe versions, let alone anything else.

    Avatar was the opposite. Every time I looked at the toys, even once they were on clearance, I still thought "Meh" and looked at all the TF's, Joes, MU and IM2 toys I wanted.

    Should a sequel become a reality, I hope the new figures for that film are drastically improved and have an appeal beyond being plastic versions of plastic characters.

  19. nomad1632's Avatar nomad1632 says

    I blame mattel their product is crap compared to hasbro. their figures in the 3.75 lines look like items you can get at a dollar store, and they reuse the same bodies so much that their boring as in their dc lines.

  20. behindthemask's Avatar behindthemask says

    The sideshow statues of the Na'vi and AMP Suit are awesome but pricey$$, they are prime examples of what could of been achieved, a large ampsuit suitable for a marvel icons sized figure would of been dope and had it priced around the same as the giant starwars vehicles $100+ would of sold and if they made some 12" scale figures with a scenic backdrop display *cardboard-cutout type. Also they could of even released some crazy realistic heads and tails and I could of made 1 out of a marvel universe or legends figure.

  21. Pyroclasm has no avatar! Pyroclasm says

    From what I've seen, most movie lines appear to fail. They are flash in the pan attempts to quickly capitalize on movie-goers' desire to have a piece of the movie. Because they are attempting to jump on the movie merchandising bandwagon, they tend to be of so-so quality. The same can be said of video game tie-ins. Just think about the various other movie lines that came out, and how many successes can you think of? Star Wars, GI Joe or Transformers, Batman? They have a built-in fan base. They're successful long before any of their recent movies. Even bad to mediocre movies don't seem to phase them.

    Think about all the recent failures: Last Airbender, A-Team, Percy Jackson, Prince of Persia, etc. With the exception of a few toy companies like Hasbro, they don't seem to give their movie products much consideration. Get the crap out quick so they can get them sold. They are relying on fans of the movies and speculators. Of course, Hasbro has a vested interest in the quality of their Transformer and GI Joe lines, so it's no surprise that their movie figures rival the standard versions.

    In the case of Jim Cameron's Avatar, I loved it. Saw it twice in the theater (3D and regular). Was eagerly looking for the figures. Then I saw how cheap-looking they were, and how nothing was in proper scale to each other, so I basically gave up on the line.
    Like it was said earlier:
    1) They looked like knockoffs--poor paint apps, bland details, little articulation, cheap looking plastic. The big figures weren't as bad looking, but they did look like they skimped on the paint and articulation.
    2) Scale was all over the place. The humans were too small compared to other action figures in this scale, and they made N'avi the same height as these tiny humans. The 6" N'avi were closer in scale to be used with the small humans, but they also made humans at this scale. This made the small N'avi and large humans somewhat useless.
    3) The vehicles and creatures weren't to scale with each other, let alone with the figures they were supposed to be used with. On top of that, they were also plagued with simplified details and overall "cheap" look. They were barely "The Corps" quality.
    4) With all the issues with quality, the final nail in the coffin was their high price point. The vehicles which could work with some of my Joes couldn't compare with Joe vehicles, yet were like $10 or more higher. Only until these guys hit clearance did I get one of the Amp suits. At clearance their price more closely matched what you were getting.

    I think that in order to get better Avatar figures, another company, preferably Hasbro, would need to take on the license. Perhaps then we can get beautiful articulated figures that better represented the grace of the N'avi.

  22. Ash from Carolina's Avatar Ash from Carolina says

    The Avatar story does seem too self contained for a very good play pattern.

    Most of the really important stuff happened during the movie and then the bad old humans got sent away so it was all happily ever after.

    Transformers always seemed like there was a bigger universe but we were only getting part of it. Even kids could see how the GI Joe movie was setting up for Cobra Commander and Destro to escape. Always some new super villain out to stop the super heroes. Star Wars always had that feeling of some many worlds out there where so much could be happening with the Empire and Rebels.

    Just feels like the events in the Avatar movie are it though for Pandora. No more bad guys to deal with just the Na'vi going about their every day lives.

  23. Paxtin's Avatar Paxtin says

    I think some are reading far too much into trying to connect the fiction with the reason for the unsuccessful toy line. Especially since, despite the misgivings of the more cynical, the film actually was a major success.

    Also, I don't think most kids are cynical enough to judge things for character development or story predictability. I know a lot of geeks like to pretend that when we were kids we all were as informed and critical as we are now, but in actualtiy we were not. We were kids. Crazy spectacles are what got us to buy toys in the first place. If it looked like a fun cool toy, we wanted it.

    And that's really the reason the Avatar toys failed. In contrast to the blockbuster film, the toys themselves had no visual punch to them. They all looked very mediocre. Like Pyroclasm said, it was just a quick cheap cash in toy line. Which is a shame becase given how hyped up the movie itself was, you'd think they'd have put a little more effort into the toy line. Like Destro was saying, it seems like Mattel was unsure of how well this was going to do and didn't want to take a major chance on it.

    I also agree that the other major problem was the price point. Especially when mixed with the overall lackluster quality, this is enough to set any toy line up for failure.
    So bassically there you have it. No matter how successful the subject matter for your toy line is, if you over charge for cheap quality, no one is going to want it.

  24. Shin Densetsu's Avatar Shin Densetsu says

    Originally Posted by Paxtin View Post
    So bassically there you have it. No matter how successful the subject matter for your toy line is, if you over charge for cheap quality, no one is going to want it.
    Agreed, and that's the thing, with me, I will buy the toys so long as they are cool irregardless of it the movie sucks or not. Star Trek and Avatar were great, and after watching the movies, I had incentive to buy the toys but they were lacking. Bad.

    With petroleum costs and what not making it more expensive for manufacturers to make toys, there is no excuse for a lot of the movie toylines coming out sub-par.

  25. ludovicotek's Avatar ludovicotek says

    Originally Posted by Paxtin View Post
    Also, I don't think most kids are cynical enough to judge things for character development or story predictability. I know a lot of geeks like to pretend that when we were kids we all were as informed and critical as we are now, but in actualtiy we were not. We were kids. Crazy spectacles are what got us to buy toys in the first place. If it looked like a fun cool toy, we wanted it.
    While I agree with you about the spectacle I still think that character is very important to everyone, especially kids. I remember when I was a kid and loved Wolverine because he smoked cigars and did all the shit that other superheroes wouldn't do. I was never conscience of why I liked him, but I damn well recognized that he was different and unique. Avatar didn't really have any characters that are vastly different from anything we have experienced before. And that's saying something for a movie that featured giant blue cat people.

    Originally Posted by Paxtin View Post
    And that's really the reason the Avatar toys failed. In contrast to the blockbuster film, the toys themselves had no visual punch to them. They all looked very mediocre.
    True dat

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