McFarlane Toys has come a long way from its first appearance at Toy Fair in 1994. At that time, Todd McFarlane founded the company just six weeks before the annual trade show and all he had to show was six foam core cutouts of the figures he hoped to make.
23 years later and McFarlane Toys is still a big name in the industry, but its true growth is being built now, you could say.
Action Figures Still a Key Part
There is no doubt that action figures still play a large part in McFarlane Toys, but one has to wonder if perhaps the future resides elsewhere (more on that in a moment). During our tour of the McFarlane Toys booth at Toy Fair 2017, we got a chance to talk with Todd McFarlane himself about the wide breadth of licenses his company is currently handling. “It’s not the most we’ve ever had at one time,” said the comic icon, “but we’re trying to be choosy in what we work on.”
Gaming is playing a big part in the company’s lineup this year with new figures coming from Borderlands 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Gears of War and Titanfall 2.
The biggest gaming push the company may be making comes in the form of Destiny. Besides the already announced action figures, also on display was the massive 48-inch replica of the infamous Gjallarhorn from the game. While this item was an impressive sight to behold, it is definitely presenting some issues for the veteran toy maker. “We have to figure out how to package it,” said McFarlane. “I’d love to box it as is, but retailers won’t be thrilled with a 4-foot long box on their shelves. On the other hand, if we have the buyers do some of the assembly, it somehow doesn’t feel as impressive when you walk out of the store with it. We have to figure some things out on it still.”
Hopefully, they do figure these hurdles out. McFarlane feels if the Gjallarhorn is a success, it could lead to many other exciting items. “There sure are a lot of weapons out there in these games aren’t there,” he said with a smile.
In addition to the gaming properties that McFarlane is already so well-known for, the company will be adding new anime and movie lines this year. From Japan, we will see figures from Naruto, One Punch Man, Tokyo Ghoul and Attack on Titan. While on the film front we’ll see Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth. And for good measure… a new Commando Spawn. We can’t forget the character that started the whole company.
And from the popular Walking Dead toy line, expect to see a whole lot of Negan this year, along with a new version of his bat, Lucielle, called the “Take it like a champ” edition.
The Future is Being Built at McFarlane Toys
“For the first time ever last year, I had a product on my hands that I couldn’t produce fast enough. I actually had to stop producing some of our other items to meet demand,” said McFarlane. What was the item? What couldn’t this company for massively detailed figures not produce in numbers that would meet demand?
Construction sets. More specifically, Five Nights at Freddy’s construction sets.
With the success of last years sets, more are on the way for the popular game along with new licensed sets from Rick and Morty, Steven Universe and South Park. The last one will focus both on classic sets as well as sets specific to the upcoming Fractured But Whole game.
Construction sets may seem like an odd direction for this company to go, but it seems it was a sound business decision. “When we make an action figure we’re in that store aisle fighting for shelf space against names like Star Wars, Batman, Power Rangers and so on. By the time the stores finish with those lines, there’s not a whole lot of room left,” said McFarlane. “But over in the construction aisle, there’s only two real names: LEGO and Mega Bloks. That leaves an opportunity for us to be the third big name in a hot toy area.”
“I love action figures, don’t get me wrong, but there isn’t a whole lot of chance for us to become the third big name there, so why not go after the one we can,” mused McFarlane.
It looks like this could be a big year for McFarlane Toys, and for the man the company is named for. Leading up to Toy Fair it was announced that BBC America is developing a Sam & Twitch series based on the detectives from Spawn. And rumors continue to circulate that a new Spawn film could be in the works. We did ask him about the status of the film, but he merely smiled and told us “there are talks happening,” but he left it there.
For a company 23 years into its life, it seems McFarlane Toys isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.