Saturday, February 19, 2011

And The Poppy Goes To...

Some of you know that I used to be heavy into working in the action figure, toys and collectibles industry. God I miss it. TERRIBLY.

Why am I not still DOING it?

A lot of reasons, not the least of which is being tied to where we live for the time being. Our house is unsellable at the moment without taking a major loss on it, Bennett receives unreal services in the county/state in which he lives, etc., etc.

For some reason known only to those who still do this, there are a select few people who are just marvelously wonderful who have never forgotten me, who are still in the business in some way, still connected to it. This flatters and honors me in a way I cannot describe to you.

As I struggle with all that I have over the past couple of years, these occasional nuggets that come up are so completely nourishing to my soul that they invigorate me and remind me of a time when my life wasn't so consumed by all this other...disability stuff.

Ahhh...the 'good ole days'.

When my life spent online was mostly talking about toys and having fun.

Of course, it was also spent occasionally getting ripped a new one by a few people who simply hated me and held me single-handedly responsible for the lack of a Sal Manilla in their Muppets action figure collection or the fact that their Micronauts figures fell apart when they looked at them the wrong way (I do feel rather guilty about that one admittedly even though I did get baited-and-switched at the factory).

Only certain people will even know what the hell I am talking about.

One such person who would is Michael W. Crawford, who has been reviewing toys and collectibles at his website Captain Toy: Michael's Review of the Week for long as I can remember. He's been doing his own 'Best of the Year' reviews for a long time. Around 4 years ago, he started something called the 'Poppies', and it is, essentially, his version of the Academy Awards of the Toy Industry.

This is where people IN the actual industry nominate and vote on the best of the best of what toys and collectibles came out in the year that was. And this past year, though I am not even a part of the industry anymore (well I am, but just BARELY), he sent me a note and allowed me to participate. I was very honored by that, and did so with great relish.


So, if you are a toy geek, you've probably already taken a look at Michael's Picks for the Best and the Worst of 2010, or the People's Picks for the Best of 2010 and lastly, of course, the Official 2010 Poppies Awards.

There are a few quotes that Michael, who I often simply call 'Dubya' because I like to, chose to include from my ballot (that also show in those sections that many of my picks did not even win...DAMMIT), but it was fun and I wanted to thank him for including me. It felt good and I needed it. Personally. Professionally.

All around a good thing.

Interesting to note in going back and re-reading some of Dubya's older Picks's regarding Palisades 2001 we barely get mentioned, but that was to be expected, as a lot of our stuff had only just started to get out there in the action figure world, and by 'our stuff' I mean stuff that I was involved with making for the company. Prior to that Palisades was working with mostly out-sourcing their Development and importing their product lines, when I came into the picture all Development became an in-house thing.

In 2001 we showed some stuff at Toy Fair, and he mentioned that in his review, that he was excited to see where Palisades would be headed the following year.

In 2002, we hit his 'Best of' list pretty good, snagging 9 total awards, and taking second place for Best Overall Company and first place for Best Overall Line...going from not even being mentioned much to THAT in 12 months is something I will always remember, but I love what he wrote, because it, to me, sums up what that group of people really personified at Palisades.

The silver medal goes to Palisades. A small, young company known originally known for video game licenses, they turned the corner this year with the Muppets. Sure, the figures are terrific, but that's not what sets them apart from all others - it's their heart. The level of customer service and responsiveness to the fan base is unparalleled, and it's clear that they love their jobs, their products, and the licenses.

In 2003 he names Palisades Toys Best Overall Company and The Muppets the Best Overall Line, as do the People's Choice counterpart awards. We cleaned up that year in some other categories too, and that was our best year by far. In 2004 we did OK, but you could see us starting to slip a little.

In 2005 we took quite a few third place medals in 'Best of' Categories, and a couple third place and even a couple of 'FIRST PLACE' in 'Worst Of' of the third places was for Worst Company Overall...and the two First Places both related to Blind Packaging, something that 'Dubya' to this day cannot STAND and continues to blast even in the 2010 Picks's when he names LEGO as his Best Block Line (even though MiniMates does NOT do blind-packaging my friend...put THAT in yer pipe and smoke it!).

Even 'Dubya' was bummed by Palisades showing in his Pick's that year:

'Sadly, Palisades was missing in many of the bests, and ended up with a couple worsts. That saddens me, because this was a company that in the past was at the top of their game.'

Anyway, those 2005 results were not surprising...that was the year of the End of Palisades. We were struggling, HARD, just to stay alive. Smaller retailers, our main selling resource, were dropping like flies in a sealed car in the summertime. We fought to maintain ANY kind of momentum by selling more Direct to Consumer product, and even after I 'officially' resigned in March 2005 for personal reasons (staying connected part-time on a consulting basis), we continued to fight all the way through December. In the end, we lost. But we tried like you would not believe.

Anyway, thanks was great fun. Made me miss the industry even more than I already do. Would love to be working on action figures again some day.




  1. I've said this to you before and I'll say it again. It's practically criminal that you are not currently working in the toy industry. With today's telecommuting technology there's no reason why a person in Ohio couldn't still work for one of "the Big 2" or even the next tier down. So much of development is now dealing with people in other states and other countries now anyway. What you did at Palisades set the gold standard for action figure lines. And it was your personality, your passion and your blood sweat and tears that you poured into each figure, playset and accessory that rocketed you to the top.

    I do hope that some day there will be someone in some company that will look up in a meeting and say "Ya know who we could use right now on this project...?" And then you get a call... and the all of their competition had better beware.

  2. This year I opted out of being a poppy judge - I'm just too doggone busy and have cut my collecting down so much anyways.

    But I remember those Palisades reviews so well. Man I miss those days. It was an UNREAL freakin' team going on there.

  3. It's interesting to see the perspective of that old company, now 5 years gone by, and from a summary of a third party review. Funny thing is, 2004 was, by far, our best year in terms of revenue and overall mood, but 2003 is when we apparently cleaned up the Crawford awards. Guess he saw the future before we did.

    I'll always be proud of what we made there, product and community (long before there was such a thing as a social network...).

    As for your role in the industry, well, we tried with MVP, and you never know what could come down the road...


  4. I think that picture of the gang still proves I look GOOD. I mean, seriously, I am HOT...

  5. damn you Lilly!!! Where's my Sal figure!!!!



    those times were awesome...but all things must pass....

  6. Daniel:
    Well, I don't know about 'criminal', but thanks a ton for that vote of confidence, I appreciate it very much.
    And you weren't supposed to tell anybody I cried into each action figure! :)

    I miss them too, a ton. Miss the reviews, miss your photo shoots brutha. Them were good times.

    Well, true in that 2004 financially was the best year, but consider that the result of that was due to a lot of the success of 2003 and its spillover.

    In late 2004 though we just had some shifts in focus that I think occurred near the end of the year and since the review gets written in early 2005 it affects that.

    Factory X was a major part of that and MWC didn't really review prop replica's that much, Muppets was sort of winding down with Sesame Street only on the horizon and not yet really out there except for I think we had shown the one Super Grover figure...we were making a lot less in action figures/toys and these are primarily action figure/toys awards.

    We were also announcing/canceling a bunch of stuff by the end of 2004 a little more often, which was starting to raise a couple of eyebrows, once the small guys started to drop off the planet bit by bit.

    I do agree that some of our best achievements other than the products were in community/social network in the pre-Facebook era. Can you imagine how much access we would have to the fan base TODAY with the tools that are out there now? Unreal. in the world did that not happen? I still am trying to figure that out. And I can't. But in a year that goes down as probably one of the shittiest in my entire life, it was the one bright thing in it. Can't tell you how great it was to be a small part of it.

    Any post that generates a comment from you is to me? A touchdown. And yes, as you well know all of us in the office could not keep our hands off you and are extremely grateful that you kept the company's Great Secret all these years regarding the real reason Palisades went out of busioness. You sued the company for sexual harassment because we all kept hitting on you and took the whole thing down!

    Stryder Wolfe:
    Yeah...shelves across the world are crying...


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