When Mattel launched the brawny superhero He-Man in 1982, he was an immediate hit. Four years later, on the peak of its recognition, gross sales of the sword-and-sorcery toy line soared to $400 million within the U.S.
Now, practically 4 many years after their first look, He-Man and the remainder of the Masters of the Universe are trying to conquer the toy aisles once more.
But Mattel is attempting to revive a dormant franchise for a new technology of shoppers — ones who count on content material that displays their world. To assist, the toymaker has teamed up with Netflix to produce two new animated sequence to go alongside with two toy strains which have already hit retailers’ cabinets.
And Mattel is increasing the Masters of the Universe’s roster of muscled heroes with the introduction of Sun-Man, a Black character created in 1985 by a New Jersey mom who wished to create a function mannequin for her son.
Yla Eason began Olmec Toys in 1985 to make Sun-Man and different multicultural toys.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times“The intention was to give constructive Black presentation in creativeness and creativity,” she stated.Credit…Olmec Toys, through Yla Eason
“My son said he couldn’t be a superhero because he was Black. He was 3,” stated Yla Eason, an assistant professor of professional observe at Rutgers University.
So she began her personal firm, Olmec Toys, to make Sun-Man and different toys for Black, Hispanic and Native American kids. “The intention was to give positive Black presentation in imagination and creativity,” she stated.
That idea resonates extra powerfully at this time, stated Ed Duncan, a senior vp at Mattel who’s overseeing Sun-Man’s official introduction into the lineup.
“Reintroducing a Black hero for today’s kids not only feels good, it feels important,” he stated in an electronic mail. “Sun-Man is such an aspirational character, from his aesthetic design to his character traits and powers.”
In the 2 Netflix sequence — “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” (developed by Kevin Smith, who created raunchy movies like “Clerks” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”), and “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” (aimed toward youthful audiences) — some characters have been reimagined as Black.
Children want to see themselves represented on the earth round them, stated Rob David, the vp of inventive content material for Mattel Television and an government producer for the 2 animated sequence. “The TV screen is a window and also a mirror,” he stated.
Ed Duncan, the Mattel government who’s overseeing Sun-Man’s official introduction into the Masters of the Universe toy line.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times
The Masters of the Universe revival is a part of a bigger growth technique underneath Mattel’s chief government, Ynon Kreiz, to mud off getting old franchises. “We have a treasure trove of brands, some that were shelved for whatever reason,” stated Richard Dickson, the president and chief working officer of Mattel. Brands which can be lined up for growth embrace the Magic eight Ball, the Major Matt Mason motion determine and the cardboard recreation Uno.
Expanding its mental properties might make Mattel extra worthwhile at a time when the toy trade is booming. After tumbling four p.c in 2019, U.S. toy gross sales jumped 16 p.c to $25.1 billion final yr, in accordance to the NPD Group, a analysis agency. Mattel reported a 40 p.c improve in internet gross sales in its most up-to-date quarter in contrast with the identical interval in 2020.
“Ynon Kreiz changed a lot about the business,” stated Gerrick Johnson, an fairness analysis analyst for BMO Capital Markets. “He looked at the profitability of the licenses.” Pulling a model like Masters of the Universe out of the vault is a good technique, he stated, as a result of Mattel can flip round and promote licenses for a vary of merchandise, like bedsheets and backpacks.
Beyond toys and the sequence — and a long-gestating film undertaking — Mattel is lining up partnerships in publishing and in softgoods, which embrace clothes and bedding, stated Mr. Dickson, who declined to present extra particulars.
Adults who grew up with the unique He-Man and stored the model alive on fan web sites and conventions like Power-Con, which begins Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., are enthusiastic about his comeback, however cautious of overkill at mainstream retailers.
“I’m worried about there being too much and crowding the market,” stated Danny Eardley, the lead writer of “The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.” “Poor performance could signal to Mattel that there is not enough interest.”
But Mr. Dickson needs to allay these fears. “It’s obvious that we let the property go dormant over time,” he stated. But “we are strategic about every toy that we put out.”