Toys ….suck today!

So, when I enter a Wal-mart or Target, the first place I go is the Toy aisles .

For the last few years, I’ve noticed that the aisles and shelves seem to be a bit thin. It’s quite common to find many pegs and spots just empty of product. We all know that Target stock is always scarce. Yet, now I see this at Walmarts. Why is this?

  1. Today’s toys are very rarely supported by an active TV shows or Comic Books. Yes, every freakin movie gets some kind of toy tie-in but half the time, I don’t think they do any target research to see if kids even want these toys. TV shows and Comic books allow for continued story telling and allows the property to stay in the kids minds for years. With the exception of Star Wars (which is an anomaly), no movie has support a toy line successfully more than 6 months after the movie is released. In the 80s, we had great toy lines He-man and Masters of the Universe and G.I. Joe- TV shows. The 80s and 90s gave great Marvel and DC superhero toys – Comic Books. In the 90s, Batman: The Animated Series supported a figure line – TV show. Good Star Trek can give you a nice collector toy line, i.e. the 90s Playmates line – TV show. But today, we only have Star Wars – weak sequel movies – Jurassic Park / World toys – movie – and toys for the remake of Space Jam..
  2. Today’s toys are just too damn expensive. The average action figure price is $9.99. And if you go for the larger 6 inch figures, those go for $19.99 or more. What kid is spending their allowance on this? What parent is spending this to give their child the toy when asked? Honestly, they are not! These toy lines are supported solely on adult collectors. This is why that many of these big box stores are now putting toys in two spots in the stores. Some go in the Toy Aisle and some go in another section for collectibles. Can action figures be cheaper? I would exclaim why not! Hot Wheels have been less than .99 cents for 30 years. Not only do kids love cars, but you can buy dozens of these cars for only a few dollars more than an action figure. Even many nice car toys in the 1:64 scale can price from 3.99 to 7.99. Today, they have the RE-RELEASE of He-man and Masters of the Universe figures. Walmart price is $14.99. They were only $4.99 in 1982. And I remember that was expensive because Star Wars and G.I.Joe were about $2.99. Again, these aren’t toys, but adult collectibles.
  3. Today toys companies are run by morons. Outside of a few long term favorites like Hot Wheels, Barbie and the anomaly that is Star Wars, what action figure toy has been on the shelves for so long? None. What action play toy has been a staple of the Toy Aisle? None. Why hasn’t any toy company actually invested in creating a toy line that will stand the test of time? This is what Mattel did with He-man in the late 70s and early 80s. It was to be a competitor of Star Wars. Instead, these companies lazily rely on movie properties. They are willing to pay millions of dollars for licensing instead of creating a strong IP internally. Take Hasbro for example. They own the G.I.Joe brand solely. Yet, this company has constantly failed on making this toy line successful. It has always been plagued by short supply with the releases in 2007 and again in 2020. Why weren’t these figures filling pegs? Every figure sold would put full profit into their pocket. Instead, they continue to pump out Star Wars figures and pay the 50% to Lucasfilm. The same folks that run these companies clearly don’t research their market.
  4. Today toys can’t compete with video games. Bullshit, I say. I disagree with this statement that I constantly hear when I discuss these very topics. I see kids in the toy aisles wanting toys — like Legos, Action Figures, Nerf Guns and Barbie dolls. Children don’t invest all their time in just video games. Yet, you need to give them a good toy for a good price and they will sell. And the gravy on the steak would be the adult collectors who would buy them too. Yet, first these companies need to MAKE TOYS. Fill those pegs and work on distribution and market research.

Okay. Thats today’s thought on Toys. I could discuss this and these topics for hours.

To all those that want good toys…. Good hunting!

Snake-Eyes Solo Movie….no thank you!

Again, Hollywood has no clue. Yet, I still blame Hasbro too. Because Hasbro could oversee and control the out come as they “own” the property.

I’ve never understood the motives of film writers and producers that have (literally) the easiest job when it comes to adapting a iconic 80s property. The backstory is there. The characters are there. Heck, the fans and viewership is already there! All you have to do is come up with a great story! How hard is that?

But noooo. Producers and writers have to come in and F*#k it all up. Why? I truly believe its because they have absolutely no clue about the actual source material. Either this is complete ignorance or simply a matter of no respect. Because its all about the money.

Thus, if these producers (or Hasbro) had any clue, they would not be moving forward with a Snake-Eyes solo movie. Snake-Eyes is a product of G.I. Joe. G.I. Joe is a team. G.I. Joe, in definition, is a group of diverse characters with unique skill sets that work together to defeat Cobra, a terrorist organization determined to rule the world. Snake-Eyes excels when he’s fighting alongside Duke, Scarlett, Roadblock and Tunnel Rat.

Honestly, Snake-Eyes is a bad-ass character and he’s freaking awesome. But I don’t want to see him in a movie by himself. He needs his supportive cast. And if you bring even one of those characters, or a member of Cobra (i.e. Storm Shadow) then it’s a G.I. Joe movie. Why not just make that one?

There’s over 200 stories in the form of comic books. Its okay to use those as the basis for a good story – a great story. Yo Joe!

It’s not the size ….

So I spent most the day writing but my spoils of the day’s progress was only a page and a half.

Granted I was working on a script vs prose. Yet I think screenwriting is just as hard. Writing a scene has to be blocked out, rehearsed, reviewed and then rewritten. Every detail is critical. Writing a novel or even a prose short story lends for some embellishments. The script, on the other hand, can’t relish in this outcome.

The script is in every sense a poem. It’s poetry for the camera and filmmaker. The writer must convey a voice for the story. The words create the tone and substance. Scripts just like any other written form has an identity and can be very unique. Not to say, I’ve read very dry scripts and I’ve read very descriptive ones. Neither was done incorrectly. Yet if there’s something added that doesn’t resonate reasonably in the scene then it shouldn’t be on the page.

So, 1.5 pages today …. tomorrow will be a day for more until that magic 120 is reached!

You Must Believe.

As a writer, I struggled for so many years and worried over so many stories on whether the details were realistic. Could the events happening in the story really happen? Would the characters really do this? Does the law of physics allow this object to move like that? Which one is better: fission or fusion? Can a horse jump that high?

When you’re writing science fiction, the science really makes me stress. I’m not a scientist and I’m not the smartest crayon either. But I do have an interest in learning. Science intrigues me and fascinates. I’m not so good on the math or the equations but I can usually grasp the basics. I want the details to be realistic yet not embarrass myself either. And it can’t just be techno-babble either. I feel when I do that it does sound a bit too Star Treky.

Like, I stated it took a long time to overcome the hurdle. My own grounded mind kept my stories plagued with believability. When you read a story, or watch a movie, you sometimes have to suspend your disbelief. This is true and exists as the author and creator of the work. Before I completely learned this, I just started writing fantasy or science-fantasy. This allowed me to make it up. I’ve returned to writing science fiction but I’ve decided I’ll research it the best I can, but in the end, it is my tale.

Hint: the writer just has to believe the story. It doesn’t always have to make sense. It doesn’t have to meet some set of rules or laws. It just has to be fun. It just has to entertain. So if you believe a man can fly or a ship can travel between the stars, it’s not important that you explain it. Just tell the story!

(This theory is why I think some films and books fail. Something that I think George Lucas may have lost. More to come on that….)

World’s Finest: analysis.

So, I wrote how history was different in the mid 90s and we had the awesome luck to have a Superman and Batman movie in 1995 with Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton. The geek world would have truly rejoiced if that had happened nearly 25 years ago.

Yet, I also want to point out that the movie back then would have been completely different than what we finally got in 2016. It would have been a positive and heroic journey – a team-up in every sense of the term. Back then, we wanted movies that inspired. Movies to look up to. We wanted reassurance that the world is still great – where good defeated evil. Our super-heroes were symbols of hope and perfection. They were role-models. We wished we could be like them. Superman was super because he didn’t represent the stereotypes but instead represented righteousness. The character taught us morals and ethics. Then, this changed….

Somehow, the studio (publisher too) in charge of our favorite characters (more specifically my favorite character: Superman) needed to be part of the modern status quo. He/Them is/are flawed. Superman needed to have inner demons. He needed to question everything and everyone around him. Johnathan Kent thought him he couldn’t trust anyone so why would anyone trust him, and vice versa. We got a Superman in the post 9/11 world (you know, where parents sue the Kents because Clark could have endangered lives when he actually saved them. No one blames the tire. Or the guys at the garage for putting faulty tires on the bus. The parents should be thankful instead they call him out. It’s not a positive scene anyway you look at it.) This is a world where Superman should be feared. A Superman with all due respect was not super. This disappointed fans. They even tried to force feed us hope stating his S was Kryptonian for the very word. (Not just a family crest but a perfect time for some moral lessons). Superman wasn’t there to save kittens from trees and stop jewel thieves. Instead he was running from his destiny. How’s that sending a message of hope? Oh well.

Batman was now introduced not as a dark, lone vigilante but an aging cynical man that feared Superman. Not only fear him, but to blame him for the rain of destruction on Metropolis or more specifically the Wayne Building in Metropolos (say what? That’s convenient). The entire point of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman was for everyone (not just the characters in the film but the audience) to fear Superman. Why? Is it just the time we’re in today or does someone think that he’s more interesting as flawed, unpredictable, scary, powerful alien. In Superman II (1980), Superman battled General Zod (and his henchman). That Metropolis had its citizens cheering Superman, supporting the fight even though it was causing millions in property damage. Heck, they even tried to take on Zod when they thought Zod had killed him. In the new version, citizens of Metropolis are blaming Superman for bringing evil to our planet. They blame him for wrecking the city – they demand justice. They are inconvenienced. They have no loyalty. Everyone seems out for themselves. It’s a world where they demand security but forgot that it takes people to risk their lives for it. They forget how Superman is there to unite – to save them. Now, it’s politics and pointing fingers. We can’t just have simple heroes anymore. No. We must be skeptical. We must reject the ideology. We have lost faith in truth, justice and the American way!

The 1980s (filmatically) was an era of hope and positive community. The movies were fun. They made us laugh. They made us cry. They were great movies because we’re still talking about them to this day. I just feel like the post 2010 movies are more about dividing and trying to direct blame at our faults than working together to over come them. Maybe its just me but I felt we’ve definitely lost something not only in society, our culture, but our pop-culture too. I’m curious if anyone in 20 plus years will be still talking about Man of Steel or Justice League. They may be it wont be the same….

1989.

If you had the privilege of living in 1989, then you experienced the very first massive Block Buster summer. Being a kid, it was geek overload. And it was a historic event that should be talked about more often.

First, this was the summer of sequels: Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade, Back to the Future II, Star Trek V, Lethal Weapon II, License to Kill (Bond 16), Karate Kid III, Friday the 13th VIII, and Nightmare on Elm Street 5! That’s a lot of sequels for any year.

Not to mention, we got great movies like: Batman, Dead Poets Society, When Harry Met Sally, The Abyss, and yes, Weekend at Bernies! That’s not even the entire list. Just my favorites.

There was no internet. No social media. The only way to get a heads up on things was to read Starlog magazine or Variety. Sometimes you could watch TV and catch an episode of Entertainment Tonight. Lastly, word of mouth – maybe you had a friend that had a cousin who’s roommate was working as a grip on the film production. Sometimes, when I think back to that time, I’m surprised I found out about anything.

It was Starlog magazine and comic fanzine called Comic Scene where I first heard of the film Batman. Seeing that first image of Michael Keaton in the batsuit in front of the Batmobile, I was mesmerized. I remember just staring at it for hours (literally). I was just so happy and excited at the same time. This definitely was not the old TV series. I just wanted to talk about it so I drove to the local comic book store. (And in a small town, I don’t remember too many folks that were geeks like me).

I remember that the casting was not accepted by fans. Many really were worried that although it looked dark, it was going to be another campy version of Batman (the casting of Michael Keaton – who was considered a comedic actor). Now that I think about it. It wasn’t that much different than today. We still voiced opinions. We still griped. We still complained. Yet, the only difference was: it was you and 4 of your friends not a sea of millions of digital voices. I do recall that I was quite positive the movie was going to be everything we could want. It was going to be just as good as Superman (1978) – which was my favorite super-hero film of all time – then and now. (I understand that up till 1989, there wasn’t many of them. But still…)

That was a summer of sounds too. It felt like no matter where you went you heard the song On Our Own by Bobby Brown or Batdance by Prince. I know it sounds odd when I say, when I hear those songs even today, I’m transported back to 1989. My body is connected to that year. Even crazier, I feel like I can perceive the year, smell it, touch it. It’s hard to explain. Yet, I see specific moments – as if part of me is still there.

If the 1980s had to end on a bang, I would say it did. Technically, it was more like an explosion – a death start-like explosion!

(More 80s to come….)

“I’ll have a Ham & Cheese and a Savings Account, please.”

As I’ve stated before, I have a odd fascination for television commercials. I look at them artistically and creatively. And do they make sense….

So, there’s this kid and he’s trying to kick a football through the goal posts. He just can’t muster the strength to get the ball up and over. His father runs over and kneels before him and gives him some motivational advice. He reaches up and puts his hand on the boys chest and says, “free. free, free, free.” The child understands this and returns to his efforts. Years later, he’s about to kick the field goal to win his high school championship. He kicks. He scores. He looks to the stands and finds his father, tears in his eyes. He waves and repeats, “free. free, free, free.” Ofcourse this has to make sense. Maybe its some weird language I don’t understand. Then the story fades to be an advert for a Tax Service that is free. Free, free. Free. (Huh?)

A car pulls up to pick up a dog with a bowling bag in its mouth. The car is driven by another dog. This dog decides its funny to stop and as the dog with the bowling bag tries to get in, the doge driving pumps the gas to move forward. It’s an age old trick we play on ptentional passangers for a ride. We cut to a slide that stars, “Dog tested, dog approved.” (Do dogs drive Subarus?)

A man walks into a bank and orders a venti Carmel Macchiato. He takes a sip and reads his morning paper. People sit at tables. Some are chatting. Some are tapping on tablets and computers – most likely enjoying the free WiFi. The counter is stocked with deliscious fruits and sandwiches. Another gentleman orders a ham and cheese and opens a savings account. No this isn’t a strange world. It’s CapitalOne believe that we need to go to a bank to get our morning cup of joe.. (uh, okay.)

I’ll keep watching and I’ll keeping questioning them….

The President’s On…Oh no!

I’m old but not that …old. But I do remember a time when the President addressed the nation that your whole night of TV watching was ruined!

I don’t recall what kind of refrigerator or stove we had as I was growing up. But I do recall the television. I know that both the refrigerator and stove were vital for keeping me alive — with being key to food storage and preparation. That was kind of important. Yet, the television raised me. I’m surprised I didn’t call it Papa Television. It watched over me after school and on Saturdays. It was responsible for teaching me important life lessons — and informing me what cool new toys to want. Oh, and breakfast cereal. So, it was partly responsible for keeping me alive as how would I’ve known about Cookie Crisp and Honey Nut Bunch?

The television was a 1977 19 inch color Zenith with a dual dial. It wasn’t one of those TVs stuck into a furniture cabinet. We had a TV stand. Yet, like most TVs of the time, it was molded in a wood-grain plastic to appear more furniture like. It didn’t even have coaxial connectors. I remember we had to have UHF to VHF (transformer) adapter to use cable. The top dial had 13 VHF cable channels and the bottom dial had the 14 -83 UHF channels using it with an antenna. I find it odd that in the 70s and 80s TVs were referred to in advertisements as “color” (or “B&W”). This sounds absurd today because who’d want a 65 inch LED “Black and White” television? Yet back then, color in your TV was a premium and added a $100. I’m pretty sure my mother bought the TV from SEARS. Yet, I do remember we had the tuner replaced twice (yes kids, spinning the dial was indeed bad for the tuner). And I know we had a tube replaced too. It’s no lie. There were shops and people that actually repaired televisions. I think to fix a TV today is just buy a new one!

Papa Television was a key member of my family. He was responsible for entertaining me with Knight Rider, Dukes of Hazzard and Sunday Night Movies! These were all broadcast on the big THREE networks — ABC, CBS and NBC. Those were the only channels that aired new shows. We had a few other affiliates to enjoy but they only played old movies or reruns of I Love Lucy or F Troop. The worst thing that could happen to a kid — or me — was the night the President decided to address the nation.

Click. Click. Click. All the channels had the President! “Noooo! He’s on all channels!” For a kid, it just sucked. I remember sitting watching him, whispering, “hurry up.” Sitting there, I asked my mother, “is he done yet?” She was very patient and say “not yet.” Tapping fingers. Twitching feet. Hoping any second, he’d say, “Good night and God Bless America!” Wait! Did he just say it! He did. “God Bless America!” Now back to Six Million Dollar Man….