Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

“I Came Here For An Argument, Not Abuse”

pc-3-2-01The PopCulteer
March 2, 2018

It’s a slightly more distracted than normal PopCulteer this week as I prepare to hit the road next week on my way to ToyLanta.  I’ll be telling you more about that all next week, but today I’ve got a funny/disturbing anecdote about one person’s reaction to one of my recent posts. Before we get to that, I need to give you a little context.

During PopCult’s coverage of Toy Fair last month, I wrote a piece that speculated about the end of the Monster High toy line. I clearly used words like “seems” and “appears,” because Mattel did not put out any official notice that the line was done.

They wouldn’t. Why would they put the entire toy industry on notice that they were abandoning a product line that just a few short years ago was nearly as big as Barbie? The writing was on the wall, but they certainly weren’t going to call attention to it.

pc-3-2-02A little more digging on my part showed me that last year Mattel had “demoted” Monster High from being a core brand to just being one of the many low-prioirity lines that they offer their customers.  Product that was intended for release in 2017 was instead slowed down in the production pipeline, spread out over an extended release period, and offered to retailers as “2018/2019” product lines.

They sent out solicitation for these last few dolls last summer, and they’re starting to filter into the few remaining retailers who carry the line now. There are still a few stragglers finishing up what was announced last year, but after that, the line is essentially defunct. They no longer advertise the line on television, but old product is still available at deep discount retailers, and the last few new items have yet to completely disappear from Target and Walmart. Despite these moves Mattel has a few very good reasons for not verifying the line’s cancellation.

First is that they have partnerships with other companies that still produce Monster High-branded books, educational software, websites and programming for their YouTube channel. They don’t want to leave their partners high-and-dry by saying that the line was cancelled.

Another factor is that Universal Pictures holds an option to produce a live-action Monster High movie. There has been a director as well as scriptwriters attached to this project since 2015, and the initial release date was to have been in October, 2016. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but the project is not officially dead, and in the event that Universal decides to put the movie into production, Mattel wants to be able to support it with new toys. It’s highly unlikely that the movie will be made at this point, but why would they kill any possible chance of it happening?

pc-3-2-03There’s also the matter of trademarks and intellectual property. It’s entirely possible that Mattel will continue producing low numbers of their budget-line five-dollar figures and listing them in their general mechandise catalog simply to keep the trademark alive. This way they can say they’re still selling Monster High toys, even if nobody’s buying them. It protects the trademark for future use.

The reason I’m bothering to explain all this is because I had an email exchange with one very devoted Monster High fan. He claimed that he owned a large, independent Monster High retailer in the UK, and he provided links to a real online store. Because of the ease with which any loon on the internet can claim to be someone that they’re not, I will refrain from naming the store. The person who contacted me was certainly not acting in a professional capacity…or manner, and I would hate to falsely associate an online crank with a legitimate business. I seriously doubt that this person was really as he presented himself.

pc-3-2-04In fact, he seemed to be a graduate of the Basil Fawlty School of Charm and Good Behavior. He started out insulting me, calling me a liar, saying that I was just writing “Fake News” to get more readers, and demanded that I produce a statement from Mattel to confirm that the line was cancelled.

He began in a rude manner and asked for something that, as I explained above, does not exist. I calmly and politely replied and explained the situation, and he accused me of “patronising” him. From the nature of his initial request, I assumed that he had no knowledge of how the toy industry works, so if I came across patronizing to him, it was not intended. For someone who claimed to be a retailer, he became awfully flustered when I told him that he should know whether or not he’d ordered any new product since last summer.

After my second email response, he started saying that I was bullying him, then he’d tell me to leave him alone, and ask one more question which invited a reply. More than once he suggested that this blog should be shut down. After a couple of emails filled with simple-minded insults alternating with accusations that I was bullying him, I finally told him to enjoy having the last word and placed his email address in my spam filter. For all I know he’s still sending me angry emails demanding that I stop bothering him.

What was all the more remarkable about this exchange was that, if I were indeed just fishing for more readers (and naturally, I do like it when people read my blog), I would not have bothered writing about a pop culture property that is near extinction. There are plenty of topics floating around out there that are “clickbait.” Monster High has not been one of them for about three years now.  I wrote about Monster High because I admire the passion of the fans and the cleverness of the customizers and felt that they deserved to know what was really going on with their favorite toy line. I went back and re-read my post just to make sure that I was properly respectful of the fandom and the toy line.

It sucks when a toy line that you love gets cancelled. I remember when Hasbro pulled the plug on the 12″ GI Joe in 1976, and again on the revival around fourteen years ago. I’ve also learned that, if the fandom is strong enough, beloved toy lines can be revived after a few years have passed. I believe that in five or ten years, when nostalgia kicks in, Mattel will decide to give Monster High another shot, regardless of whether or not a movie gets made. For now, retailers just won’t order any Monster High product so there’s no point in making any.

The way the game has been played for the last few decades is that, retailers get really excited about a hot toy, then they order way too many, then they get stuck with overstock, and then they blame the toy for not selling and won’t order any new ones. This is what happened with the GI Joe revival, when Hasbro made a brilliant line to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of GI Joe. The figures did not sell fast enough for the retailers so they dumped them all at deep discounts and let Hasbro know that they were not interested any more 12″ GI Joe product. Hasbro made a couple of abbreviated efforts to keep GI Joe in his original size, but eventually reverted to smaller scales and let the Official GI Joe Collectors Club handle the 12″ stuff.  You can’t sell toys if the retailers won’t order them.

pc-3-2-05That’s part of what happened with Monster High. Once the line peaked retailers kept ordering, and when subsequent sales fell short, they quickly jumped ship. There was also the redesign of the figures, but that was a “Hail Mary” by Mattel, to try and save the line after the retailers already began to sour on it. The success of dolls based on the movie, Frozen, soared like a rocket and overtook Monster High, and now those dolls are in a steep sales decline.

This email exchange reminded me of my old “Arguing with Idiots on The Internet” piece, but the sad part, the really heart-rending fact in all this is that not one other person bothered to respond to my original post. It attracted about as many readers as my other posts about Toy Fair, but only one person bothered to get in touch with me over it. And he was much more upset than willing to listen to reason. I think the vast majority of Monster High fans who read my piece simply saw it as a confirmation of what they’d suspected, or expected, over the last couple of years.

Next week I’m heading to Atlanta for ToyLanta, which grew out of JoeLanta, which was a toy show devoted to the 12″ GI Joe. Most of the people at the convention will be fans of the original GI Joe. Many of them have daughters who loved Monster High. Hopefully they can share the experience of a favorite toy line falling by the wayside and give them some hope that it may someday come back.

14 Comments

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    Shame you had to deal with such an idiot, Rudy. Bigger shame that you didn’t get a more positive response to your article. While I’ve never really been a Monster High fan, I think it’s always a shame when a toy line that’s been popular for quite a number of years falls by the wayside like this. I hope you have a good time at ToyLanta, and as you said, I hope that the daughters of those longtime Joe fans who might be into Monster High can have some fun and garner some hope.

  2. Scarlett

    I’m really glad that you have written this piece. I have 3 daughters and the two oldest, 13 and 9, have grown up with Monster High. I was shocked and very CONFUSED to see the reboot, especially the accompanying movie that has somber, serious tones, lots of quiet quiet parts w/no background music.. it was just very odd for a child’s movie. The new dolls were not exciting and the loss of the poseable joints were a shame. When I tried to find more on the brand’s decline, this was the only reputable source I could find other than a few Reddit threads. I very much appreciate that you have taken the time to inform the fans of what’s going on with such a beloved brand. Now hopefully My Little Pony keeps going strong and doesn’t suffer the same fate.

  3. Trisha

    I know I’m late in the game for posting, but as a Monster High mom, my now teenage girls simply grew out of dolls, sadly. Although, I think Monster High kept them playing dolls longer than normal. I loved playing with Barbies and if Monster High was around when I was younger, I would have gone nuts and bought as many as I could, just like I did for my girls. It was a very creative and fun line and even the older movies were entertaining to watch. I’m a sentimental person and can honestly say I am sad and bummed that this won’t continue for my newest daughter, but a lot of things eventually end. At least she can play with her big sisters dolls I spent thousands on when she’s old enough. Lol!

    By the way, your blog was the only thing to pop up in the Google search when I was looking for a possible new Monster High movie… for my teenagers, not myself….just kidding it was for myself. Thanks for your blog!

  4. GrimReaperNZ

    everyone knows the good toys come and go as time goes on the good ones always come back its simple as that

  5. Leesa

    I really enjoyed this article. It’s encouraging that Mattel is working to keep their trademark. I am one adult who is very sad they stopped making them. There are actually many adult collectors that are interested in them as well. It would be wonderful if they would consider making a more sophisticated line geared toward adult collectors. Even Barbie had a Bob Mackie line and those dolls were in the hundred(s) dollar range. Thanks for the update!

  6. Max

    Thank you both for your original article and for this update, I’m really sorry that person was so rude to you!!!! It’s staggering how awful people will be to one another when the anonymity of the internet protects them. You are still the first source that comes up when looking for info even in July! I live in the UK and one of my easiest ways to see new toys is by going straight to the toy section when a new Argos catalogue comes out. Since Argos are like a warehouse rather than a store, they tend to have more of a range than actual toy shops (though those seem to be dying out at least in the Midlands where I live) & I was stunned to find no Monster High whatsoever in the latest Argos catalogue. I searched their website & only 1 product appeared, some MH-branded something-or-other that certainly wasn’t a doll!!! I’m absolutely gutted. I guess I’m an “adult collector” but I play with them same as I play with my Transformers, Schleich figurines & all my action figures (people think I’m weird for playing with toys at 21 but it helps me with creative writing, social exhaustion & stress so I try not to mind) & since I’ve loved horror forever the idea of Monster dolls at all is delightful to me. Thank you for saying about the possibility of a revival, that gives me hope! Leesa’s comment about Mattel making a line especially for adult collectors is such a great idea, I hope that happens!!!! Best wishes to you, I’m glad I found your blog 🙂

  7. Eve

    I have a massive MH collection both in and out of box..
    Of course every is before the crap reboot.
    I have said before that how Mattel released dolls and the movies etc that would have supported new characters was completely upside down and just plain screwy.. If disney and such can time the release of product with the movies then nattel should have easily done so.
    From my point of view it was so disturbing how they squandered the opportunity and then of course the cheap reboot was destined to fail..
    They lost alot of money on that gamble.
    My kid was growing out of them altho we still love them so much I am not certain I would have even cared.. The movies and books are rich with ideas and material. Oh well.

  8. Bonnie Justham

    I started buying MH dolls in their beginning. My grand daughter was about five at the time and she loved them. When I would take her shopping and we would hit the toy isles she would always by pass the baby dolls and the Barbies and the princess’s and start putting MH dolls in my cart. We had many years of good times playing with them and she loved dressing them because it was easy for her to change their shoes and their clothes because their arms and legs moved. She had a few Barbies too, (Given to her by her other Grandma) but they very seldom made it into play. Have you ever tried to get a Barbie to sit like a lady at a table with her friends and have a tea party, not with her legs sticking straight out, she can’t. Barbie can’t ride a horse properly or a bicycle and what can she do with that one permanently bent arm? Also makes her very hard to dress. Yes we have had some great times with our MH Ghouls and Mansters. Even her Elf on the Shelf (Bumper) will miss meeting the New Ghoul in the house,when he shows up on Thanksgiving. He is and older elf and he loves the Ghouls to fuss over him. We will miss the creative mines at Mattel, and the looking forward to what they would create next. We loved our MH dolls just the way they were. Kylie and Grandma BJ

  9. Joanna

    Tx for your info regarding monster high dolls, I discovered them 4 years ago & started buying them at thrift stores with the intention of repainting their faces. I always look for them whenever I’m in a store that carries toys but recently noticed the stock at Walmart was diminishing and found the dolls were completely gone! After reading your blog I now understand why they have been hard to find, I agree the reboot was a disappointment & didn’t bother to buy any of them I didn’t care for the new faces or the inability to bend the arms & legs. I loved the dolls & will continue my search for them at thrift stores. Your blog is great tx again.

  10. Racheal

    Late to the party, but glad I came anyway! This was very encouraging to hear, in all honesty. I got into monster high late in life, still early twenties, last year of two of the production; I was nervous about collecting, since I thought my friends would make fun of me, but turns out all three of us loved monster high! We started collecting right away, and it was always fun getting excited over new designs and characters we loved and scouring shelves for merch. The movies were charming, even if obviously catering to younger viewers, and were definitely more appealing to me as opposed to the soft and sweet Disney types–I even went out of my way to hunt down rarer dolls, such as 13 Wishes Catty Noir. None are in the box now, though, since I don’t intend to sell them at all, but in the wake of the sudden change in Mattel’s designing (not a fan of the reboot, I haven’t felt disappointment like that in a long time) I got interested in doll customizing, so even old, used, broken dolls will hopefully get a second chance at life. In any regard, the idea they know their trademark has value and they want to keep it gives me hope, though I would be even if someone had bought it out and relaunched the brand while staying true to the original concept. I’ll be scanning my local Walmart for any signs of the “late” dolls as well, but right now, there are no EAH or MH dolls on the shelf at all, even in discount sections. Fingers crossed.

  11. Zoey I

    My daughter is 3 years old and is absolutely hooked on Monster High so yes I agree it should be directed at a much younger audience. she watches boo York all the time it’s musical girll toddlers love that stuff. Other really good one we’re Scaris, Why do ghouls fall in love, escape skull shores. Great scarier reef. Monster High is not done you guys are just getting started. Revive Monster High that’s what you should do and give it another chance at a younger audience that can actually grow with it my niece was 9 when she got hooked on Monster high and she is 12 now so she’s pretty much grown out of it. However my 3 year old always wants a new doll and she is absolutely going bananas over monster high girls clawdeen, Cleo, draculaura, ghoulia, Abby, operetta, robeccal, Laguna,toralei even thou she is always being bad. And the boy Clawed, Deuce,Heath and Seth Ptolemy. Wht is discrediting is the constant switch of definition and animation in the characters as well as constant switch of actors playing the voices. Fix this and monster high will be on its way back to glory. Even I watch it and I’m a mom in my 20s. Hear me out listen and do

  12. D.Adams

    Thank you. My daughter and I loved playing with MH. But as she grew older, they were put away. We still wander down the toy aisle, and noticed that the MH dolls became, cheaper, didn’t have the same makeup as the earlier ones. Then they were just, gone. Now we know what happened. Thank you again for digging deeper into this. They were unique, and different, and so NOT Barbie (although we did take a few of the boy dolls and cut their hair, gave them ink, or scars.) Have a great weekend!

  13. L

    The petition to bring back the OLD Monster High Dolls.

    http://chng.it/GBgqLj8t9r

  14. cartoongal

    its a few years later and i am just verifying what i figured. im glad that you have been writing about MH. im a 45 year old collector with no kids. i initially got into monster high because the original character designs were done by canadian comic artist glen hanson. they were like having glen hanson dolls and i loved them. i still do. i HATE the revamp. face and clothes far too simplified. it was like they didnt like how creepy they were, they had to make them more pretty. boo hiss. i guess it makes sense if they were trying to capture a younger market. but im currently scouring ebay for all the ones ive missed over the years. i didnt know about the potential live action movie. i hope in a few years they do Do something with it. i sure do miss MH. i even liked the cartoons, their theme song an earworm i could rarely get out of my head.

    so yeah, a few years late with my comment but grateful this is still here. thank you.

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