Sunday, May 31, 2015

The quality of new Mego style dolls needs to be improved across the toy industry... here's why!

This is a Figures Toy Company produced doll from 2015. The left leg was made with an incorrect part causing the knee to bend the wrong way. Additionally, the doll's right hand does not stay attached.
As an avid collector of Mego dolls I couldn't be happier that toy companies such as Biff Bang Pow, Diamond Select, Mattel and Figures Toy Company have continued to produce dolls in the Mego style. To some degree, all of these companies have used original Mego parts that were recast in order to give the dolls an authentic Mego look. This attention to detail is very much appreciated. As a puppeteer and puppet maker who has spent many hours using a sewing machine, I'm also quite impressed with the quality of the costumes that are being made today.
However, it seems more and more that toy companies are simply trying to make a doll look good at first glance with hopes that the collector who buys it will never open the package, as the basic dolls themselves are all too often very poorly made. For me this really takes the fun out of collecting new Mego style dolls as more and more I find myself wondering if I'm buying junk, or if I'm getting a well made doll.
Any toy, whether it's a nostalgic collectable or not, should be made to endure having a child play with it without breaking. These are toys after all, so first and foremost they should be made with children in mind. Simply adding a term such as "adult collector" to the packaging as Mattel did for their Retro Action series does not excuse a company from making an inferior product. When you simply take a product out of the package and it falls apart, or you find a backwards limb, how much dedication is the toy company really placing on consumer satisfaction?
I'm posting this because of something that happened to me recently involving one of my favourite childhood TV shows... so yes this is sacred ground! I'm talking about the Classic Batman TV series from 1966 and the collection of dolls currently being produced by Figures Toy Company (FTC). But before I get to that it's relevant to explain some background history. FTC is the same company that owns Classic TV Toys (CTVT) which produced the very poorly made series of Happy Days dolls back in 2004 as well as several series of reissued Mego dolls. Like the Classic Batman TV series, Happy Days is another of my most favourite childhood TV shows, so again we're on sacred ground. As such what I am about to discuss in regards to the Classic Batman dolls marks the second occasion that CTVT/FTC has messed with characters that I cherish by offering poorly made Mego-style dolls.
In the last few years the CTVT company resurfaced under their new name Figures Toy Company producing many awesome Mego-style doll collections, but this recent discovery has me wondering if their quality control has really improved since 2004....
Above are the 2015 series 1 Batman and Robin dolls in a limited edition two-pack set that had a production run of 500 units worldwide. I think this set is really awesome and am glad to have this item in my collection.

My plan was to never open this two-pack set because it's a limited edition, but when it arrived (purchased from e-bay) I noticed that Robin's right hand had fallen off and was loose inside the package! I found that to be quite disappointing because it certainly wouldn't look very good on display with one loose hand laying at Robin's feet. As I was so excited about this two-pack set I had decided it was worth going a little beyond my usual budget for these types of collectables to acquire it. At slightly more than $80 it was a considerable purchase. So to discover that one of the dolls was essentially broken when originally packaged was quite a disappointment.

Unfortunately, my disappointment wouldn't end there as I noticed that Robin had a rather oddly shaped knee. Since I needed to fix Robin's hand anyways, I opened the package and found that my assumption about the knee was correct. Figures Toy Company made this Robin doll with half of a backwards leg so that the left knee bends forwards instead of backwards! The left leg was made using the top half of a right leg with the bottom half of the left leg and a left foot. I'm not sure how someone could put this doll's leg together, let alone put the costume on the doll and package it, without noticing that something was wrong! Think about this... how many people or production assembly stages would this messed up doll have to go through to end up being packaged this way? Yet, it was packaged anyway!!! That's some pretty poor quality control!!!

This isn't the 1970's after all. These new doll's aren't being sold for $1.29 at neighbourhood corner stores next to dime rack toys the way Mego dolls were. All things considered, I don't think it's too outrageous to expect that the quality of a Mego-style doll produced in 2015 (or any time in the last 30 years!) would far outshine that of an original Mego, but remarkably that doesn't seem to be the case.

Here is the Figure Toy Company Robin doll that was made with two upper right leg pieces, with one placed backwards on the left, causing the left knee to bend forwards. The hands and feet have to be removed in order to take off the costume.

Maybe this isn't a manufacturing mistake.
Maybe this is the scarce "limited edition forward leg bending" Robin doll?
Randomly packaged ...whenever they goof up and don't do anything about it.

I'm afraid that the disappointment didn't end with the Robin doll however, as both of Batman's hands also fell off! The hands had not been attached, they were just snugly fit onto the ends of the arms. So naturally I tried to force the hands for Batman and Robin back into position onto the ball joints at the end of their arms, but the hands simply would not stay attached. The pieces will not snap together.

It's also worth mentioning that Batman's belt does not stay fastened around the doll's waist very well. The belt is too short to pull a notch through the loop that would hook onto the notch, and keep the belt in place (as shown above). Instead the belt is just resting in place, held on because it's made out of rubber which "sticks" to itself, but can easily fall off. The belts for both characters, like the hands and feet, are made out of rubber which I find to be quite cheep. I'm not sure why FTC decided to go that route with the rubber pieces. This makes the dolls incompatible with other Mego style dolls as they can't swap boots, gloves or jumpsuit costumes which, in my view, diminishes the play value and customizing options for the dolls.

In fact there is really no need to incorporate rubber hands and feet onto a Mego style doll as doing so contradicts with the goal of making dolls in the Mego style... Mego never used this technique for their 8 inch dolls! It's also well known to collectors of these types of dolls, especially G.I.Joe and Big Jim collectors, that rubber parts don't age well. In 15 to 20 years from now will these Batman doll's rubber hands crumble off and turn to powder? Will they be too brittle to touch? As these dolls are mainly being produced as collector items then why on earth use rubber parts? Using materials that don't age well contradicts the very concept of what a collectors item is!!! If an item has turned to powder you can't very well collect it any more.

In any case, the poor quality of the basic doll is quite frustrating as the fabric costumes really are quite amazing! I still think it's awesome that Figures Toy Company is even producing this series, as I've always wanted dolls based on the Batman TV series. But after all of the above quality issues, my enthusiasm has been depleted leaving me quite bummed out about the collection. This totally feels like a replay of the poor quality that was seen from this company when they reissued Happy Days and other Mego dolls in 2004. Although I'm a huge Happy Days fan and had always wanted an expanded collection of Happy Days Mego dolls I didn't bother collecting the CTVT series as the dolls were so cheaply made.

It's also reminiscent of the disappointment with the floppy midsection and legs on Mattel's Retro Action dolls back in 2010, which ultimately contributed to the slow sales and early demise of that collection. Mattel did fix the midsection issue in time for series 3 but did nothing to fix the floppy legs which were attached with thin waistband style elastic!?! This from the producer of He-Man action figures which every toy enthusiast can tell you used a thick black elastic to attach the legs. This begs the question: If offering a quality product is the goal then why not use this same well established method for the Retro Action series?

Batman and Two-Face from Mattel's short lived Retro Action DC Super Heroes series, 2010
It goes without saying that a toy company in 2015 should be able to produce toys that don't have hands falling off when you take the product out of the package! And certainly, a production process should be designed to remove dolls with backward legs from even getting to the packaging stage. Such a lack of quality control is quite inexcusable, especially as these dolls cost $35 or more per figure in CAN funds. The limited edition sets are even more pricey.

I also found a you tube video recently, posted by Kryptosmaster, in which a collector was reviewing the Battlestar Galactica Mego-style dolls that were produced by Biff Bang Pow in 2012. During the video he opens a package to remove the doll and an arm falls off. His astonishment is evident and rightfully so. Such a lack of quality is pathetic. You can watch the video here:

All this leaves me to conclude that unfortunately, this crappy level of quality for new Mego-style dolls is the best that toy companies are offering, which is both a shame and a scam.

But perhaps part of the problem lies with Mego collectors. It's well known that many Mego fans will buy a known, inferior, poorly made Mego-style doll and then swap the head and costume over to an original Mego doll body in order to "repair it". As such, many collectors have settled for these inferior products as they expect to do some amount of work on a doll even before it is purchased. The absurdity of this seems to be lost on the Mego collecting community. If you spend $30 on a new toy it shouldn't have to be repaired! Plus, it requires dis-assembling two dolls just to make one... and one of those dolls was an original Mego from the 1970s which they don't make anymore! More importantly, if collectors stop buying these poorly made items, it will force companies who want their business to make better products!

However, as I can't change the habits of such Mego collectors who are free to spend their money however they want, I can at the very least comment on the current status quo in the toy industry regarding the poor quality of newly made Mego-style dolls... and hope that somebody out there is listening!

So I decided to express myself a little..... with apologies to Adam West and Burt Ward who don't deserve to have their characters treated this way at all!  (Click on the image to see a larger version.)


A message for ANY toy company that makes Mego-style dolls

Please, for the love of all things Mego....stop making poor quality dolls that fall apart and/or have backwards limbs!!!! If you don't stop making inferior products, mark my words, you WILL kill the market for Mego dolls!

As a collector I guarantee you of that! It already happened to Mattel, it can happen to you. I refuse to collect poor quality Mego-style dolls no matter what characters they depict. For 15 years I've seen epic failure after epic failure! Enough with this useless, faulty, junk already! I'd rather you not make anything at all than diminish the Mego legacy with your inferior products.

Collecting Mego dolls is supposed to be a fun hobby, not a frustrating disappointment.

Text and photos copyright Mike Artelle, 2015
Originally posted May 2015
Last updated May 2016