Welcome to the Legion!

Toy Fair 2017 hadn’t even officially opened yet, but Universal Brand Development brought an array of their upcoming products to their Metropolitan Pavilion showroom on Friday in hopes of attracting interest in their fall offerings.

Partnered with Mattel, Universal has created a line of car-and-action-figure packs to promote their Fast and Furious film property.  The action figures stand at approximately two inches tall, and they can fit inside appropriately-scaled vehicles, which do “stunts” much like the cars in the beloved franchise.  Smaller, die-cast cars are also available, along with an R/C car from the forthcoming installment The Fate of the Furious.  The action figure, however, includes no female characters, despite women being central to the Fast and Furious films.  When asked about this, a representative said, “We want to get the stars out there first, and then build the family around them.  We have plans to make everybody.”  Sure, but it’s worth mentioning that the first name on the IMDB page for The Fate of the Furious is Charlize TheronMichelle Rodriguez comes up third on the page for The Fast and the FuriousJordana Brewster occupies that spot for Fast Five.  With women clearly playing main roles in the films, why isn’t Universal/Mattel creating toys representing them?
Far more encouraging was Universal’s toy line for Spirit, a soon-to-drop Netflix series based on the 1990s film of the same name.  Being a story about a young girl and her bond with her horse, toys offer two-packs of the main characters and their respective steeds.
The series seems to have a diverse cast, and that was represented in the toys shown.  Universal has partnered with Just Play for the main waves of these toys, and, excitingly, with longtime toymaker Breyer for premium collectors’ editions of the central horse in the series.
Presumably, Universal has been encouraged to further their relationship with Just Play after producing a successful line-up of toys for their film Trolls.  The pair have a new series of Trolls toys planned for the fall, the best of which highlighting the play value of the wacky Troll hair we’ve come to love.  Fashion items are planned to represent the original Troll dolls, surely making more nostalgia buying hard to resist.
Rebooting another old classic, Voltron toys are back in full force, if a bit scarce in toy stores nowadays.  With consumers young and old eager to “build the Voltron” by buying all five toy lions that make up the massive bot, Playmates is struggling to meet demand.  “It’s a good problem to have,” said one representative, who assured me that it will become easier to find these rare robo-lions as demand recedes.  With the show’s central female character, Pidge Gunderson, in charge, some things are worth waiting for.
Toys for Despicable Me 3 are also incoming for the fall, which basically means we’ll have lots more yellow Minions on the pegs for yet another season.  If it keeps the Fart Blaster on shelves, frankly, I’m all for it.  In addition, there was a meager offering from Funko Pop for the new reboot of The Mummy.  Though the film itself might raise some questions (namely, “Is this going to be a massive tire fire?”), the four Pops shown did achieve gender parity, which is more than the Fast and Furious toys can say.
Jonathan Alexandratos writes plays and academic essays about toys and grief.  Find him @jalexan on Twitter, now with Kung Fu Grip!  

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Jonathan Alexandratos

Jonathan Alexandratos is a New York City-based playwright and essayist. His most recent play, We See What Happen, was created with Nashville Repertory Theatre, and is the immigration story of Jonathan's grandmother, as told by superhero action figures. Jonathan's book of academic essays on action figures, Articulating the Action Figure: Essays on the Toys and Their Messages, is due out in May from McFarland.