TOY FAIR 2020: Are You There, Todd? It’s Me, Jonathan


By Jonathan Alexandratos

McFarlane Toys’ slogan is, “It’s an attitude.”  If this is a quasi-personification of their business, I’d like to know more about what that “attitude” is.  Let’s use their Toy Fair presence to find out.

At Toy Fair 2019, McFarlane Toys told me to “Look forward to 2020.”  So I did.  I overlooked some of their self-proclaimed mediocre offerings a year ago because I hoped this year would be better.  In 2019, the “attitude” was optimism.  It was my 13-year-old self saying, yeah, next year, NEXT year, I’ll work up the courage to date, and I’ll date often, you’ll see.

It didn’t happen.  Not for me, and not for McFarlane.

McFarlane is turning its attention toward Cyberpunk 2077, a game that will hopefully be popular enough to fill orders for these action figures.  There is apparently also a female character.  She’s not getting a toy.  The attitude here feels like early-20s me, who thought pick-up artists were cool and everything could be solved by reading David Foster Wallace.  Seriously I am big-time ashamed of early-20s me.  Don’t be early-20s me.  Mid-to-late-20s me had to unlearn a lot of toxic behavior.

There are some incoming Fortnite toys that look cool.  I don’t play the game, but I’d buy that green army man figure, and maybe one of the dragons.  Carmen Bryant, who showed me around, noted, “Todd likes making dragons.”  I think that’s an attitude?  Maybe like, me in high school hitting the Sharpie-as-nail-polish thing a little too hard?  I kinda miss those days.  Maybe that’s why I’m buying the dragons.

Here’s another dragon.  This one’s more 1996 Hot Topic, attitude-wise.  Solid articulation, dark AF, and ready for either a Game of Thrones episode or a Tenacious D video.

But the real draw of McFarlane 2020 is their DC license.  Personally, I thought Mattel was hitting its stride, producing probably the best Alfred we’ve ever had before ditching the DC Multiverse figures.  Total respect to anyone who loves these new ones, though.  I bought the Harley Quinn, and was a little underwhelmed by the instability in her knee joints.  However, this Wonder Woman looks great.  I only hope the paint apps will be more consistent than their current line.  My Target had many a smudged Batman on their pegs.  Clearly the figure has potential, we just need it produced with care.

This blue cape variant of Animated Series Batman will be a Walmart exclusive.

This assortment is due in spring 2020.  Azrael looks like the best of the line.  The rest of them feel like figures we’ve bought before.  Is that an attitude?  Maybe something like my English 102 essay, which was just a lightly reworked version of an English 101 essay?  Is there a single word for that?  Maybe in German?

Okay that Johnny Cage IS everything.  The jacket is sculpted plastic, but it looks good enough to be cloth.  Plus, Johnny comes with a mini action figure OF HIMSELF.  That’s the perfect way to capture Cage’s essence.  I’m actually here for all their Mortal Kombat figures.  There’s a Mortal Kombat Spawn in there, too.  It’s all great.  That’s just, like, the it’s-a-beautiful-day-to-rip-out-a-spine attitude.

I loosely follow My Hero Academia, but McFarlane says these figures are doing well for them.  I liked the girl with the interchangeable helmet/hair set.  The flight stand is included.  But I won’t know which attitude these are until I’ve read the Manga.

There were a couple of random items that weren’t exactly my bag, but probably are someone’s.  The Doom stuff just looks too close to Halo, but then I’m not terribly attached to either property.  A friend of mine is into Warhammer, though, and will find the paintable greyscale figure to be a must.

Five Nights at Freddy’s is, according to Carmen Bryant, McFarlane’s biggest seller.  It’s also their cheapest product.  The one set I own came from a Five Below.  They are quality, though, and owning one makes me feel like I’m part of a trend.  Their attitude: avocado toast.

Okay so here’s the thing: Todd’s doing a Kickstarter.  See, he wants to make a Spawn figure that reboots the O.G. packaging and look, but with a modern sculpt.  This, the company says, will help McFarlane skirt the need to find a retailer.  Honestly, I don’t know why this is a thing.  That figure would surely do just fine.  Todd McFarlane owns a mid-size toy company.  They can make this figure without me paying for it in advance.  The move feels, frankly, unnecessary and in bad form.  If this is an attitude, it’s those guys who put egg salad on GoFundMe.

When I asked about McFarlane’s Star Trek license, they said it was dead.  They said they weren’t even sure if they still had it.  When I asked about any new Harry Potter figures, I was told there would be no more in 2020.  Instead, there will be what you saw above.  Some of it’s great.  Some of it is…questionable.  But it all feels like a haphazard collision of properties, and I can’t trust McFarlane to keep any of these around into 2021, given how their corporate attention span darts from property to property.  I don’t like this uncertainty.  I don’t like feeling that my collection depends on the whims of a single creator.

In a way, the slogan does sum this up well.  As much as we can speculate, “It’s an attitude” doesn’t ever let you in on what “it” is or the type of “attitude” we’re meant to embrace.  If anything, it’s a flashy front that sounds exciting while secretly hoping you won’t pull back the curtain far enough to reveal the cluttered reality hiding behind the illusion of magic.


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One comment

  1. “it all feels like a haphazard collision of properties, and I can’t trust McFarlane to keep any of these around into 2021, given how their corporate attention span darts from property to property”

    Well damn if that aint just some straight up gospel. AMEN!

    And yes….MickyF needs to get a hard clue on how to do articulation. These are big time licenses but an armature product.

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