Wilykit, WilyKat, and the Storm Charger: An Interview with Brehan Maul on Bandai's ThunderCats Toys!

ThunderCats Week rolls on here at MTV Geek like the ThunderTank tearing through a Lizardman platoon! While the animated series is a huge hit, and the driving force behind the ThunderCats' resurgence in popularity, the mulitple toy lines by Bandai America Inc. have strengthened fan's interest along with that of newcomers to Lion-O and his band of rebel warriors. We first saw this line at Toy Fair, and then scored our first taste at San Diego Comic-Con. Now with the lines in stores, we're chomping at the bit for any news on upcoming releases and thankfully had the chance to chat with Brehan Maul, Sr. Director of Marketing (Boys Brands), at Bandai America Incorporated about the future of the ThunderCats in the toy aisle... along with some exclusive news!

MTV Geek: Now that the ThunderCats line has started hitting shelves, and fans seem to be responding with overwhelming positivity, has Bandai started planning further waves of figures and accessories beyond those initially announced?

Brehan Maul: The initial response to the launch has been phenomenal, both from a sales perspective and a fan perspective. We definitely benefited from the fact that the show was so iconic and many consumers grew up with the classic series. This early success opens up the possibility to explore the deep and rich character base within the world of ThunderCats. We work very closely with Warner Bothers to ensure we represent the extensive diversity found in the show, within our toy line. While we can’t commit to too much detail on the coming waves of figures, you can rest assured that we plan to showcase as many different characters as we feel the market can handle. The ThunderCats universe is rich with possibilities and Bandai plans to explore all of it.

Geek: The articulation on the 6 inch and Classic lines is amazing and, no offense, are well beyond anything you guys normally do with Power Rangers and other lines. Was Bandai Japan looked to with their Sigma lines and the like when developing the new articulation models?

Maul: Bandai prides itself on providing the highest quality products across all our lines and ThunderCats was no exception. Knowing how intense the love for the classic ThunderCats series is we had to make sure we were delivering a product that goes above and beyond what the collectors expectation would be, and we believe we’ve done that! In the development of the line we use all of our internal resources including guidance from Bandai Japan. Right now we are working very closely with our overseas counterparts on an additional collector piece that we hope will showcase Bandai’s unique capabilities. More to come on that.

Geek: What's been the most challenging aspect of bringing the toys to stores?

Maul: One of the biggest challenges we faced and continue to face is figure-to-figure sizing with in each scale of the line. Panthro is huge, Cheetara slim, Snarf is tiny and Mumm-Ra is monstrous. The huge size differences from character-to-character is a dramatic aspect to the series but a particular challenge when we try to stay as close to the true scale seen in the animation. We believe that we’ve executed exceedingly well to this point but it just gets trickier as we go along and introduce some of the characters that are extremely large or small. In fact, (spoiler alert) when we release WilyKit and WilyKat in the 6” collector scale we will be offering them together in one package to ensure the collector gets the value they deserve. In addition, there are a few characters like Mumm-Ra’s final form that are so big we will be releasing them in an entirely different scale just so that when placed next to the rest of your 4” collection it all aligns with the figure-to-figure sizing featured in the series. Certainly a challenge but one that the team at Bandai strives to overcome.

Geek: It seems like Mumm-Ra's hot-rod carcophogus tank, as seen in last week's episode, was custom designed to be a toy. How close has Bandai been with the development of the series? Have you guys gotten the chance to help influence any of the designs?

Maul: The team here at Bandai cheered with excitement when we saw Mumm-Ra’s Storm Charger blaze onto the TV screen last week. We have that high-powered vehicle of evil planned to launch in early 2012 as a counterpoint to the ThunderTank. Bandai works hand-in-hand with Warner Brothers to identify great toy concepts early in the production of the show and we certainly share ideas back and forth to ensure we are delivering toys based on what the show promises. The team at Warner Brothers just gets it, they know what can work as a toy and encourage our involvement in the process. It’s a great partnership that is only getting stronger.

Geek: Warner Bros. gave MTV Geek an early exclusive promo for this week's episode of ThunderCats, and there was a surprising amount footage featuring some SilverHawk and TigerShark-related characters. Does Bandai have the rights to make toys based on any characters featured in the animated series?

Maul: When Warner Brothers initially mentioned that they were considering bringing back and incorporating the SilverHawks and TigerSharks the whole team at Bandai was very excited and it immediately got our wheels turning. Almost anything that appears in the show we are able to create as a toy, so the idea of integrating these unique characters into the show, again expands the overall universe to pull from. More to come on our plan for the ever-expanding toy line.

Geek: What's the best place for fans to get news on your ThunderCats line online?

Maul: As always, bandai.com/thundercats has all the latest information on our line.

Toy Fair 2011: Brehan Maul On Bandai's ThunderCats

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Stay tuned to MTV Geek! for all your Bandai and ThunderCats coverage!

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