On a very special Toy Stories, we discuss the creation of one of my very favorite brands EVER!
Toy Stories Chapter 8: Max Steel!
We were challenged with creating a Boys Barbie. Easy, right? At the same time, our international team was asking for something to compete with Hasbro’s 12” Action Man. So, we did focus group testing with kids in Europe, but our concept was getting killed! Research guru Bennett Wolk then blithely suggested that we say the character is bionic, and BOOM, kids suddenly loved it! So, Rob Hudnut researched Nanotechnology, , and wrote up a back-story, and we worked with Sony on a TV series to air on UPN. Alton Takeyasu created a design consistency posing the question, “What if Nike made gear for secret agents.” We sculpted Max to appeal to moms, with a more handsome face, like the bastard lovechild of John Reale & Mark Eskridge, a more chiseled physique, and a much bigger, um, “package” than Action Man. Many of the Europeans still wanted us to brand it as the Mattel 70’s brand Big Jim, which didn’t really resonate here in the US,so we addressed that by creating a Nike-esque symbol that represented a thumbs up, but also looked like a “B’” harkening back to Big Jim. We went through a lot iterations on the final name, and even when we finally settled on Max Steel, someone still claimed that there was a porn star of that same name. So, I had to research that! (thankfully, there wasn’t!). We then created a villain whose face came off to reveal a robotic endoskeleton, with the coolest toy version of him being Exploding Head Psycho! We then successfully begged the Barbie group to let us modify their Porsche with transforming weaponry, and also created a Jet that transformed into a luge, because we were all still buzzing from the Winter Olympics, so luges were COOL! Result: We were #1 in Latin America 10+ years running, so Misión Cumplida, Max! And, MAN, this was a seriously fun brand to create and work on!!