Toy Stories Chapter 13: Tyco RC Feature Vehicles

by Paul Fish | 15 Jun 2021

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

Closing out the Mattel years of my Toy Stories, imagine a world of vehicles performing amazing feats of derring-do! Toy Stories Chapter 13: Tyco RC Feature Vehicles! Kudos to the brilliant creative minds behind my 3 favorite RC toys: Joseph MollVladimir Leonovcarmen ezziodavid bowen and many others!

Shell Shocker!: I had just taken over as GM of the Tyco RC group, and we were in a jam. Half of the team had just moved from Philly to LA, and most of their time had been allocated to packing up. Consequently, the fall line was missing its TV driver. Joe Moll led a brainstorm that yielded the innovative concept of a ball that transformed into RC vehicle, but mechanically it was not quite yet viable, and I felt that visually and thematically it still needed more. In the last minute, our mechanical genius, Vlad Leonov, came up with the rotating panel transformation that delivered transformation, propulsion and a multi-terrain bonus! Designer Dave Bowen then gave it an Alien-like monster look, and then he added the tail for balance. At the fall toy show, our Prez Matt B complained to me that he had not yet seen our TV driver yet. After the first presentation, he came out saying “Wow, that’s a cool toy.” It sure was. A great first joint effort by the newly formed team, and it won Boys Toy of the Year at the following year’s TIA TOTY’s at New York Toy Fair. Alas, I was not there for the ceremony to accept the award, as my twin girls decided to be born a bit earlier than expected. It’s OK, I forgive them…sort of.

Terrain Twister!: This all-surface RC was already in production by the time I came on board, so I'll let Vlad Leonov pitch in on how it came into the line:

"I created prototype of the Terrain Twister long time ago. Nobody in TYCO upper management liked it, so it was in my office on a shelf literary for more than 10 years.

One day Joe Moll came to me and asked me if I have anything to fill a gap in line of concept toys for a child test. I showed him a Terrain Twister.

To everybody’s surprise kids were playing just with this toy. That is how Terrain Twister got its second chance. Many talented engineers and designers got involved to make it look as it is now."

We then had a big argument with management over the media plan. Our President said that sales in early fall wouldn’t justify a September flight. I argued that we would be advertising early to get re-orders for a big late push. We got the media, it worked, and Terrain Twister was the #1 feature RC that year. So popular, in fact, that when I went to Hong Kong Toy Fair the following January, Chinese companies had already knocked it off and were pitching it (to me! Weird!), often even keeping the name. 

NSECT! We knew following up our hit Shell Shocker was going to be tough, so I asked Vlad Leonov for something robotic, which was coming trend. He showed me a cool bug-walking mechanism that was creepily lifelike. I loved It! But it needed more….Just then, Ken Ong sent into my office an RC car driven with the aid of a camera with can of silly string pointed right at me. What a scary feeling! Who was doing this?! We added the camera and silly string to the walking mechanism and the first NSECT was born. Later, we cost-reduced out the camera, and kid-testing told us they preferred darts over silly string. That was fine with me, and Carmen Ezzio did a fantastic job presenting at NYTF, firing the darts so that they would hit and stick on the news camera lens! We added the pincers in front because I always wanted a robot that could bring me a Diet Coke, and I KNEW I wasn’t alone on that!

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