Power Rangers Samurai is the latest incarnation of the long-running franchise to make it's way to the U.S. Upon noticing the massive section the multi-colored heroes are taking up in our frequented action figure aisles, we started to wonder what goes into bringing this undying phenomenon from the TV screen to the shelves; so, we went straight to the source: Darth Brehan Maul, Senior Director of Marketing, Boys, for Bandai America Incorporated. Read on as we talk toys, and get a few hints about next year's line!
MTV Geek: The Power Rangers have been around for decades with lots of the same themes (color-coded Rangers, Megazords, etc.). What do you think helps Power Rangers Samurai stand out from the previous incarnations?
Brehan Maul: Power Rangers is a phenomenon spanning nearly 20 years. Though the formula may be similar from year-to-year, each season has its own unique personality that makes it special for kids worldwide. Power Rangers Samurai has seen great success in both ratings and toy sales. The cast is relatable, the action is exciting and the toys are pulled right from the show. The Samurai theme works so well from a toy perspective - every kid understands the core elements because they see them in every episode. Some fans have sent us videos of themselves or their kids emulating the Ranger Morph sequence from the show perfectly using our Samuraiser Morpher. It's awesome to see the passion out there for the show and the toys.
Geek: With the shows being previously released in Japan, does that help Bandai America know what characters and roleplay items fans here are going to be clamoring for?
Maul: Having that insight certainly helps, but every region is different. It's important for us to understand the North American market and what will resonate with the fan base here. Play patterns are different and we tailor our line for our fans. That said, there are some elements that are brand new editions to the U.S version of the show. The idea starts as a toy concept and we work closely with our partner Saban Brands to integrate it into the show. The 12 inch Shogun Mode Ranger is a perfect, and awesome example of how we work in collaboration to add original elements into the show and the toy line that don't appear in the Japanese version.
Geek: Is there an active working relationship with Bandai Japan when developing a new Power Rangers line?
Maul: Absolutely, our amazing R&D team here works very closely with our Japanese counterparts to ensure we develop the highest quality toys. The Japanese team has great insight into the existing Japanese toy line and our team utilizes this knowledge to develop a line that delivers on what the show promises.
Geek: What's been the most challenging piece to develop for the toyline? We're guessing it's an action feature...
Maul: Surprisingly no, we work with some of the best sculptors in the world and they can often nail figures pretty easily. Our ZordBuilder Collection is probably the most complicated, since it allows fans to take our Megazords, Zord Vehicles, Cycles and other SKUs and combine them to create true-to-show combinations or their own unique designs. It takes a great deal of planning and coordination to ensure that they all work together seamlessly.
Geek: The entire line is really age diverse. Have you ever talked about developing a collector-based line like your ThunderCats Classics?
Maul: Our core fans remain boys 4-11, but with a 20 year legacy Power Ranger fans can range from 5 to 50. We are certainly growing the collector side of the business, especially with the 20th anniversary season on the horizon for 2013. We are selective with how we are rolling out the strategy but you can find some awesome collector items out there now. In fact, our Power Rangers 6 inch Shinkenger action figure exhibits ultimate detail and the highest articulation in the Power Rangers line. It's available through Toys R Us and Amazon in a limited quantity.
Geek: What would you say is the "crown jewel" of the toy in the line?
Maul: Wow putting me on the spot. In 2011, it has to be the Samurai Megazord. It's an awesome toy with multiple play patterns - not to mention it just looks so cool.
Geek: Any hints as to what we can expect from future releases?
Maul: 2012 will be "Super". What's great is that many of the toys from the 2011 Samurai season will combine with the 2012 items, upping the play value and collectability. We have a new morpher that attaches to the Spin Sword, a new Deluxe Battle Gear item that will attach to the Mega Blade, not to mention all-new Mega Zords and Zords that will allow fans to create the ultimate Megazord combination of 3 different Megazords and 4 Zord vehicles. If fans liked the Samurai series from 2011, and we know they did, they will love 2012 and the product line.
As an added bonus, here's Brehan Maul giving us the lowdown on Bandai's ThunderCats line during Toy Fair:
Stay tuned to MTV Geek! for all your Bandai coverage from Power Rangers to ThunderCats!