Category Archives: Financial

Pixar’s Brad Bird on Fostering Workplace Innovation

Gigaom sums up a McKinsey Quarterly feature on Brad Bird’s management style & thoughts at Pixar.

Steve Jobs hired him, says Bird, because after three successes (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2) he was worried Pixar might struggle to stay innovative. Jobs told him: “The only thing we’re afraid of is complacency—feeling like we have it all figured out,”“…We want you to come shake things up.” Bird explains to McKinsey how he did it — and why, for “imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.”

The summary is available at GigaOM.

If you prefer to read the original article with interactive features, follow this McKinsey Quarter link – registration required (free).

For fans of Pixar, there is a great documentary airing on Starz this month, THE PIXAR STORY.

The producer of the film also worked on this official book published a year ago, “To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios.”

There is also a new book I just bought but haven’t read yet, “The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company.”

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Filed under Apple, Computing, Design, Disney Pixar, Film, Financial, Marketing, Media, Retail, TV

Mac’s: 66% Market Share – Facts Not Spin

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. NPD’s report that Apple Mac’s market share of $1,000+ personal computer is 66% is not really subject to interpretation – except apparently for the last dying gasp of PC fans.

Here’s how this works.

Of the people who had and were willing to spend $1,000 on a personal computer, 66% looked, shopped and choose a Mac. It’s as simply as that.

You can dig further down but extrapolate that generally, the more well-heed your customers are, the better off you are (as a seller) – whether you’re selling cars, refrigerators or computers. For the company selling products, it generally means you have higher margins or better yet, have created a brand of higher value.

In other words, the market share of Windows OS personal computers in the $1,000+ group has slipped from 98% to 34% in 7 years. That is not a good trend.

Why is that? Part of the reason is that Microsoft has poisoned its own name. They traded short term profits (1992 to 2002) for long term branding. By neglecting Windows and placing their NAME large & square in FRONT of every virus report, every global trojan and the poor customer choice of blaming the hardware manufacturer who then blamed Microsoft for the user woes – what are they left with?

A brand that is perceived as a commodity that’s just built in – it’s the OS assigned to you at work much like the OS on the fax machine or the copier. It’s just there. Now, in the beginning of the desktop technology age (1985 to 1995), Microsoft’s brand held esteem as the leading edge of technology and why not buy the brand I’m using at work, right? Why not get my opportunity to own the leading edge also? But Microsoft frittered that away through arrogance, later neglect and now apparently cluelessness – what does the name Microsoft now mean to the average personal computing consumer?

It is the OS you get when you buy a $499 computer. It’s useable, it’s passable but that’s all it’s worth. How can we tell? What percentage of PC users paid for the full Vista upgrade? Versus what percentage of Mac users paid for the full retail upgrade?

And of course, now this stat. Which basically can be summed up as such: If I have or am willing to spend more than $1,000 on a personal computer, I’m 66% more likely to buy a Mac. That’s what the numbers say in black & white. Not many ways to spin it.

Whether you think Macs are over-priced does not matter in this equation because there are literally thousands of PC’s choices that are readily available – it’s not as though there is limited competition in the $1,000+ PC category – the bottom line is those can afford or are willing to spend more than $1,000 on a computer will 2 to 1 buy a Mac now after considering a PC.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with selling to the masses at the low end – there is certainly money to be made, the audience is large – the margins are much lower but it’s a living.

But PC fans & MS still think it’s 1995 – it’s not for Microsoft’s real reality. Face the facts, they are simply the low priced OS of “choice” for those who don’t wish to spend $1,000 on a personal computer. Microsoft should stop having pretensions otherwise, that is the problem. Somehow, because Bill Gates is worth $50 BILLION dollars, that means his company brand should carry high esteem and brand worth but it’s exactly like Wal-Mart. There are dozens of Wal-Mart billionaires also and like WM, the store – they are profitable but everytime WM tries to go upscale or even slightly upmarket, they get pushed back to their new natural order (with WM, it’s the George apparel line).

It is exactly the same with Microsoft now. They occupy the low tier of brand value for consumers now – hence why MSN, the ISP could not defeat AOL (after MS spent $4 BILLION dollars!), why WIN mobile phones sell so poorly after 8 years in the marketplace, nor could they “revolutionalize” the watch industry … not the home networking industry and why after 18 months, they have “shipped/sold” as many Zunes that Apple sells in 1 WEEK.

When given a CHOICE, consumers do not choose Microsoft unless price is the sole factor.

This is also why MSN Search is such a colossal failure – even when FREE and a switch is 2-seconds away, MSN or LIVE Search is still such a failure and LOSING market share after plowing $6 bilion in R&D & marketing.

Consumers didn’t randomly arrive at their mistrust and assignment of MS products and technology to the low tier/price as the sole factor in decision making – this is a hard fought battle of amazing neglect on Microsoft’s part. From blithely ignoring and blaming users for viruses and trojans, their solution after 6 YEARS and hundreds of millions of infections? – send us $100 for virus patches … to the case of the Xbox 360, instead of building consumer goodwill by actively acknowledging build & over-heating issues, again, their solution is to try and ignore the problem – again, poisoning their own well for a short term gain … triumphing 10-million console sales but not accounting for the 10-30% returned and non functional units … and after a year, they have lost 30% of the market to the Wii and slipping behind sales of the PS3 – the pattern repeats itself. They still have a fan base but beyond that?

This is a company that has literally and figuratively failed in EVERY consumer venture since 1995. The company has been propped up by enterprise sales so unlike most companies that can spend some $50 BILLION over the past ten years on divisions that has accounted for ZERO profit, they just keep plugging along as if showing up and saying we’re #1 is enough for everyone to fold up and go home. It doesn’t work that way in the consumer market. Microsoft should do two things – a) either just concentrate on the enterprise market or b) acknowledge that they are a lowly consumer brand and accept that fact and just sell on pricing. They have spent too long on poisoning their own name for anything loftier and even if you want to go upscale and upmarket – their recent attempts are just as feeble and ill-conceived such as the Zune or Vista – both positioned as if they’re cool and better than anyone else. They simply aren’t because it’s from Microsoft – a brand that consumers mistrust and associated with poor working technology. It can be fixed but first they have to get off their arrogant horse and realize they are riding an ass and not a horse – no one is fooled.

Buying Yahoo and/or causing further complications (such as requiring users to have a LIVE name to access anything) is only going to further sink their cause.

They are rapidly losing the highest margin customers to Apple. Those with more than $1,000 to spend on a computer are buying Macs 2 to 1.

We know in all computer sales, while PC sales have slowed to a few % points growth, Apple is galloping at 35% – of course, Apple is starting from a smaller base but growth is growth and apparently with each sale, Apple is obviously adding in revenue at $1k per machine while MS only adds $50 per machine in OEM Vista sales.

So, Microsoft is losing market share in the below $1,000 personal computer category – even to Linux in the below $500 category – and what is their response to forces pushing them in from all sides?

To buy Yahoo?

What happens if Google builds an internet desktop that doesn’t require Windows – knowing Google, it will be bundled for FREE with a $300 personal computer … leaving Microsoft with no high end margin sales (or very much diminished if Apple continues to add 35% growth every year) and Google gives away a free OS?

Windows 7 available in 3 years selling for $169 will resolve this?

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Filed under Advertising, Apple, Apple Mac, Computing, Design, Financial, Gadgets, Internet, Marketing, Media, Retail

Wall-E World: The Disney Pixar Thinkway Action Figure Toys

It is a Wall-E world we’ll soon be living in it … you might’ve heard of a company named Disney and a company named Pixar … apparently, they are releasing a film on June 27, 2008 and I suppose if you’re the kind of film-goer who likes plot, well written characters, humor, drama, pathos, dialogue, editing and dazzling animation … you might like this film. It’s probably no LAND BEFORE TIME XXXXVIII though (just kidding 🙂 )

Then there are the toys.

A few of the basic toys have hit the shelves – they look pretty cute.

The most basic series is this one (called B1 Action Figures?) – with Wall-E about an inch tall with 11 figures sold separately.

This is the back of the card, Your choices include: Eve, Wall-E, M-O & The Captain – I’m guessing the others are in wave 2.

The detailing was decent but for some of the smaller figures, was a bit spendy at $5.99 each (WM might be less?) – maybe there will be a multi-pack coming that’s more reasonable.

The next size up are the “Movie Scenes” where Eve is about 2″ tall (she’s the white floating robot).

These were a better value – with three different choices, I grabbed the one with the lunch cooler. Nice sculpts and a better value at $6.99.

The next size up are the 6″ inches ones … while the card is kind of dull, they do feature a lot of interactivity, Eve’s eyes can change expressions, she can blast a boulder and store stuff – pretty cool.

There will be 7 different figures on cards for this size … as you can sort of see in the blue panel on the back of the cards – the U-Repair Wall-E seems cool as he comes disassembled for you to assemble, there is also a Dancing Wall-E, a Cube & Stack Wall-E … they were smart to short-pack the Captain (the fat dude) – otherwise, pegwarmer … (sorry dude). ;-(

There also seems to be a bunch of $24.99 Wall-E’s – this one interacts with Eve and if he “hears” a loud noise in your house, he reacts … There’s another one you can plug your iPod into called iDance Wall-E … There is also a Talking Eve.

The $189 fully programmable version looks something like this called the ULTIMATE WALL-E:

From the Disney/Pixar Press release:

“Based on the title character from this summer’s highly anticipated Disney*Pixar theatrical release, the Ultimate WALL·E is an advanced robot that truly brings the character to life. Designed and developed through a close collaboration between Disney, Pixar animators and Thinkway, the Ultimate WALL·E features 10 motors, giving it a high level of movement and animation. The remote control makes it easy for kids to program WALL·E’s movements. An innovative touch programming system lets kids direct WALL·E simply by making patterns on the remote’s touch pad. With voice activation and a follow-me mode, WALL·E can follow the sound of a human voice and detect someone entering a room. He also has several emotional states and an easy system for programming thousands of combinations of movements with the remote. Numerous sensors allow him to detect and respond to his environment, including infrared sensors that allow him to detect obstacles and steer around them, sonic ears that detect sound direction, and touch sensors. The Ultimate WALL·E is also MP3 compatible and features built-in speakers. USB cables and rechargeable batteries are included. The Ultimate WALL·E will debut this fall at ToysRUs and http://www.disneyshopping.com; SRP $189.99″

The teaser trailer, trailer & even a short sneak peak can be found at the Apple QT site:

The official Disney site is here.

Thinkway Toys who is working with Pixar/Disney on these (also on Nemo, Cars & Buzz LIghtyear) doesn’t really have any info up yet – probably so they don’t give away any spoilers and the fact the first wave just hit the stores.

About the only disappointing thing is that the short in front of WALL-E is nora CARS related one but, Presto is a five-minute short about Alec, a magician’s rabbit who becomes increasingly disgruntled as a hat trick involving him makes his master famous. When the magician goes out to dinner one night, he leaves Alec locked in a cage, gazing longingly at a carrot just out of reach.”

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Filed under Advertising, Checklist, collecting, Computing, Disney Pixar, Film, Financial, Gadgets, Marketing, Retail, Toys, TV

Review: Grand Theft Auto IV – Liberty Call

Sailors understand the phrase, “liberty call.” It means you are finally touching land and you have a few hours, a few days to spend all your money on souvenirs, salads and antiquing … at least that’s what it says on the official Navy website.

The Grand Theft Auto IV game is completely different. You get to be the you you want to be if you had no inhibitions or deal with that stupid law & order thing they keeping talking about … Unfortunately, I am stuck in Club Penguin and wonder if the grass is indeed …um, the kind of greener grass you mow …

So, JackDaddy spent just a few hours/days playing the game to let us know. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to worry about alloting time to find CARS in any retail stores (inside joke) so he can devote all his time to properly being a gangsta gangster in Liberty City … take it away JackDaddy … (a perfect character name by the way).
LIBERTY CITY – HAVE YOU BEEN THERE YET?

For those who don’t know and for those who think they don’t/shouldn’t care, April 29th was a big, big day for home entertainment.

At 1 minute past zero in the morning, retailers and onlinepurchasing systems around the planet went into overdrive.

After 2 years of hype, advertising and some text bookmarketing stops and starts, Rockstar North realised a life time ambition.

(MET: I realized the UK still hates the letter Z … “realized.” 🙂 )

I am of course referring to Grand Theft Auto 4 – Liberty City.

So what’s the big deal?

Grand Theft Auto 4 – Liberty City (GTA4) is estimated to have cost $100 million to produce, market and release, a fact alone worth taking notice of! Incredibly it is now officially the fastest and biggest selling home entertainment retail item of all time!

GTA4 sold approximately 3.6 million units on its opening day with a retail value of approximately $310 million globally.

It sold 6 million units globally with an estimated retail value of more than $500 million in the first week.

No VINYL, AUDIO CASSETTE, VIDEO CASSETTE, DVD, CD or GAME has ever sold anything like that before!

That’s the Beatles, Star Wars, Super Mario, and others, smashed off the charts!

The figures are still rising, with most retailers reporting that strong sales are continuing and some even running out of product!

Sony refuse to admit it, but retailers are also saying thatthey have sold more Playstation 3’s in this quarter than they did in the PS3 launch month quarter and if sales continue, possibly more than they did for Christmas! This would more than confirm the belief that most gamers have delayed their PS3purchase until the release of GTA4! Only Nintendo and Mario have sold a console like this before, but the figures were peanuts compared to this.

But that surely could just be a result of hype and clever advertising?

Is it really that special?

The simple answer is – ABSO ’BLOODY’ LUTELY!

I have essentially spent a whole week in Liberty City, so before I tell you all why, let me tell you what is wrong with it. I assure you all I will not give too much away.

Despite the release of Vice City stories on XBOX & PS2 afew years ago, GTA4 has essentially had to follow up what many describe as the greatest video game of all time, Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas. This was a revolutionary game and arguably was the main player game wise that helped to bridge the gap between geeks/teenagers and the adult market with free time at home. For those who played it, you will know what made it great. I have caned the life out of both GTA San Andreas and GTA4 in my spare time, but am somehow left fonder of GTA San Andreas in many ways.

(MET: I have no idea what the last sentence meant in American English but I believe he likes virtual macking, jacking and hoin’ … 🙂 of course, hey, who doesn’t?)

It is hard to say why, but I suppose it is probably has to be a combination of factors. GTA San Andreas was so innovative and groundbreaking at the time, every turn had a new never before in a video game surprise. The sheer exploratory side of the game was incredible. The humour was at times genius and missions (overall) were a joy. Playing it was like eating a slice of deprived 90s urban America, and getting the runs as a result, with references to all our favourite black gangsta movies, rappers and personalities from recent times. It was naughty, nostalgic and a massive virtual playing field where you could just do whatever you wanted without consequence. Customisation of your character and Car also made your copy of the game unique.

(MET: In Club Penguin, I planted a tulip on my ice floe).

GTA San Andreas was warm, a friend even!

So GTA4 isn’t then?

It’s an entirely different game, part of a new era!

The down side of this? In GTA4, you can’t………………

1 – Fly a plane.

2 – Gang fight like in San Andreas

(You could literally fill up a van with your homeys and go round to you enemies and take them out.)

3 – Parachute jump

4 – Jet pack around

5 – Play as many in game games like the casino/with characters/danceoffs

6 – Make money as easily

7 – Get a hair cut/tattoo

8 – Buy as many clothes

9 – Customise your Car

10 – Buy property

11 – Go into a nightclub

(even though one of the radio DJs is house music legend François K)

Due to the above, its ground breaking innovation and the fact that GTA San Andreas has such a brilliant story and setting, I will always be very fond of it, maybe more so than GTA4. GTA San Andreas had many, many flaws/glitches and bad points, having me throwing my controller across the room! Remember the ‘learn to fly Carl’ missions anyone? Oh my god!

Fondness is fondness, I am fond of ex girlfriends, but they are not better than others!

GTA4 is a darker, grittier experience. You can tell that the franchise has grown up a lot, and is taking its self much more seriously as mainstream medium. The silliness is gone, the next gen engines have been explored and it reeks of real life. It’s a virtual realm, but a believable one!

Rockstar are clearly saying – “hello adults, don’t watch that DVD, play this!”

So is GTA4 over rated then? NO!

If anything, recent reviews and exposure leave it looking somewhat under rated. This is probably deliberate; maybe because Rockstar know what they have got and are letting their consumers do the talking for them (look what I am doing?)

I have now completed it twice as a story and have nearly went through all the mini missions within the game. For those who do not know, that’s a hell of a lot of game play, basically everyday for long periods of time during the last two weeks

In total, the games main story mode contains 87 missions, some very brief, a few very long with most others around the 5 – 10 minutemark. In addition, the game also contains –

9 x Assassin missions

10 x drug run missions

40 x car steal missions

9 x races

50 x police car missions

36 x other random missions involving characters

200 pigeons to shoot (replacing the ridiculous clams from San Andreas)*

50 stunt jumps to perform.

(MET: *Yes, clams is correct – not a typo).

Its retail price? £44.99 or $29.99!

(MET: If you were paid in £’s and then flew to the US but here in the US, it’s $59.99 … and of course, ours is the NTSC version).

This is undoubtedly the bargain of gaming history. GTA4 contains the equivalent of at least 4 – 6 games if you consider the length andcontent of games already released and available for PS3 and XBOX360.

IT’S MASSIVE!

In fact, in my opinion, you would be getting value for money if you bought a PS3 and a copy of GTA4, just to be able to play GTA4. You would get a blue ray DVD player for free and an online compatible gaming console too?!

The game is just wild!

Rockstar have made the playing field more condensed, but San Andreas did have huge waste lands of space with nothing to do.

Liberty City doesn’t.

For those who don’t know, it’s based on New York.

You play an illegal immigrant and experience his struggles as he arrives off the boat from Eastern Europe and moves in with his cousin in Brooker.

(MET: Location: Liberty City, broken up into five areas: Brooklyn is Broker; Manhattan is Algonquin; Queens is Dukes; The Bronx is Bohan & New Jersey is Alderney)


The story mode prompts you from there and 87 missions later reaches conclusion.

There is an alternative ending scenario, but is not much different.

The graphics, architecture and physics are exciting, dazzling and true media innovation.

Detail has obviously figured to be paramount in planning and it is staggering just how much there is.

Simply driving around is breath taking, with every Car having different handling, acceleration, braking and cornering features. All the vehicles are beautiful, with well over 400 to drive/ride/fly/steer.

When Rockstar released the less popular but mildly superior videogame version of the 1970s classic gangland movie ‘The Warriors’ not long after GTA San Andreas a few years ago, it left players begging the question, “why can’t GTA be like this?” Rockstar seemed to have learnt from that and have almost injected the GTA franchise with the Warriors strengths, most noticeable when your character is running, jumping, fighting and climbing.

One of the focal points of GTA4 is its new cover and targeting system, this is essentially up there with the best of games now, where as San Andreas had terrible targeting and weapons accuracy, it was a poor part of the game and looked as though they had to do it rather than wanted to. GTA4 pulls this off perfectly, with all objects in game becoming usable ascover which you can duck up and down from or blind fire from while avoiding incoming bullets. The weapons are slightly limited, but are all awesome. Enemies are much more intelligent, they too will duck and cover and try to kill you more assertively, whereas in previous GTA instalments, they stood still and were easily avoided.

There is just so much you can do in this game, with shootouts, chases, races, and missions to make your eyes pop out in astonishment.

(MET: Penguins?)

My favourite level in story mode was the Bank Robbery. Without giving too much away, this is very much like the bank robbery scene from the film Heat with De Niro and Pacino. It took me 40 minutes to get through this level.

The Assassin missions were another joy. Merely answering the phone and then going to take people out was almost like a game all to itself.** There are hundreds of similar things to do like this, like vigilante mode or most wanted mode in a cop car. You can also just go for a drive and cause mayhem with whomever you choose. My Brother particularly finds joy in causing endless road blocks which he then explodes. I had fun while on top of abuilding merely phoning the cops and shooting them.

**(MET: remind me never to call JackDaddy 😉 )

YES, YOU CAN PHONE PEOPLE!

The biggest change from San Andreas is the Multimedia capability in GTA4.

You can use the in-game internet and your mobile phone, which becomes part of your progress success. You can also access the Police computers from any police vehicle and use their information to your gain.

While online, you can read blogs, email certain people, arrange dates and even send a job application! Virtual reality with a sick sense of humour!

Your phone is equipped with a camera; you can send/receive text messages and can phone certain characters. You can also phone random numbers dotted around the game, some of which are very amusing!

You can go out with friends/dates an do a variety of activities, like bowling, pool, darts, food etc.

The Music is excellent, with loads of different radio stations to listen to, some hosted by very some very famous people indeed.

The humour is there but it’s not as slapstick as San Andreas, which is a little sad, and there are lots of liberal agenda antiestablishment skits and references. GTA4 gives you a panoramic look at the not so different world of our own in your living room. It’s ironic, sarcastic, brutally honest and always down right vicious!

(MET: Welcome to Brooklyn!)



All in all it is an incredible gaming experience, and is the ultimate time killer.

There isn’t a two player option which is a little disappointing, but there is a 16 player online mode you can play via the network. My Brother and I happily exchanged the controller throughout missions and mini games though.

In closing, I would say that the franchise is gearing up for Expansion packs, maybe like the Sims, where every 6 – 12 months they release something new to accompany the game. This would be welcomed in Liberty City, where many of the buildings look empty and dormant, almost demanding to become involved. More clothing and activity outlets/venues would have been better; you can’t really customise your character that well or do a lot with in game characters. My Brother and I are salivating at the prospect of playing GTA San Andreas revisited!

Who knows?

One thing we all know or will know is that Rockstar Games have changed history as we know it with Grand Theft Auto 4 Liberty City.

If you haven’t already – BUY IT!

(PS3 & Xbox360)

Need a PS3 or XBox360?

BTW, there are five non-violent things you can do in GTA4 😉

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Filed under Advertising, Computing, Design, Film, Financial, Internet, Marketing, Media, mobile, Retail, TV, video, Video Games

Microsoft to Open Retail Stores: Bullet Proof Glass Industry Rejoices!

Appropriately, a web site called Fudzilla is reporting that Microsoft is going to open retail stores.

It’s time for shareholders to weep a little more.

Everytime, Microsoft has a brainstormin’ meeting, it’s more money down the drain:

Let’s buy Yahoo! ($45 BILLION)

Let’s launch a DAP/MP3 Player! (3% marketshare) ($1 BILLION)

XBox – The Xbox division is @$16 BILLION in the hole after 8 years.

MSN – $1.1 BILLION in R&D & a marketing blitz is all we need to get MSN going ($700 million – 2002), 2005 & 2007).

MSN is down to 8.4% (Google at 70%). Nice use of $2 BILLION dollars. Most people lose 50% of their market share in 2 years by not spending any money on a product, only MS can spend $2 BILLION for the same result.

Let’s spend 6 years and $6 BILLION on creating Vista … and of course …
“Microsoft is planning to promote the launch with a $500 million marketing campaign”

The list goes on and on – why? The simple fact is that when consumers have a choice, they do not choose Microsoft. This isn’t some whim. Microsoft worked hard to destroy their credibility as the leading edge of technology from 1995. After that, they simply thought they had everyone else locked down and out and could just rest so they offered products such as OSes riddled with hundreds of thousands of different infections … or me-too products such as PDA’s, watches, Talking Barney’s, video consoles, MP3 player, home networking or MSN and both an ISP & as search … all failures in the sense that they offered nothing new and they are ALL are losing money or losing market share.

In fact, they have become the “dollar-store” of technology. They are only worth buying if it’s rock bottom $399 pricing – why PC makers margins are all falling because of association with MS OS … why bother paying for even a $999 machine when it’s just going to run as well/poorly as a $399 machine?

Hey, if the shareholders don’t care, why should we?

Now, another meeting and another “brilliant” idea without mentioning you-know-who in the meeting.

It is almost laughable how clueless they are.

It would be like the IRS opening retail stores. Come. Mingle. Hang out.

Though this is a good plan for the bullet proof glass industry. You know Microsoft, they’re not just going to open 1 store at a time, that’s no way to spend money fast, if the budget isn’t a $1 BILLION, why bother so I’m sure they’ll sign 20-year leases at 100 locations.

Photo Courtesy of Pacific Bulletproof.com (where I go for my bullet proofing 😉 )

“Sir, I can’t help you, it’s a hardware issue – reformat the drive and then come back … yes, this is bulletproof glass, why do you ask? Have a nice MSN/Live Day!”

So, how exactly are you going to find employees to staff this place?

Who here would like to stand at a desk and answer questions about why ME, 2000, NT, XP or Vista is not functioning correctly?

Who thinks there might just be a few slightly annoyed to raging Windows customers?

Will they be taking red-button-of-death XBox returns and softly announce they’ll get another in 4-6 weeks?

Will they answer why Microsft Plays4Sure WMA is not the same as Zune WMA?

Can they point us to where the Apple store is in the mall?

Microsoft doesn’t really get that consumers don’t really like them. They don’t seem to notice that when consumers have a choice, they don’t buy MS. The OS issue is a heated one but let’s look at some more neutral markets. Look at the home networking gear they tried to sell. While there are some known brands, there are plenty of detractors for #1 & #2 but MS couldn’t even crack that market – why? Because MS poisoned the brand name. The average consumer took a look and decided – NO MORE IN MY HOUSE, DO NOT WANT.

Or using MSN search. It’s 100% FREE and takes 2 seconds to type and bookmark but now down to 8% market share? What does that tell you? That either their search results are poor or that consumers don’t believe their ‘technology’ is any good – either way, bad, bad news for MS.

That is why their retail stores will be a miserable failure as branding because they rank somewhere near the IRS. How often will you step into an IRS store to hang out?

AND at the IRS store, you know if you complain too much, they’ll audit you but aren’t you just going to go into the MS to vent and unload?

Yea, good luck finding employees.

(on the corporate side, they’re doing fine, IT guys made a choice and now are stuck with MS so whatever but when you’re spending your own cash, MS – DO NOT WANT).

Yet again, it proves that they are clueless about their place in the consumer’s mindset.

MS will build a 100 retail palaces because they think they are the king … but MS is really like those local cable ads where the guy wears a crown selling the very ordinary at a huge markup.

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Disney Pixar CARS 2: Confirmed – Coming in 2012

mcq-mater.jpg

Clipped from the Disney, Inc. Press Release:

CARS 2 (Domestic Release Date: Summer 2012, Disney Digital 3-D™)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Brad Lewis

All the world’s a racetrack as racing superstar Lightning McQueen zooms back into action, with his best friend Mater in tow, to take on the globe’s fastest and finest in this thrilling high-octane new installment of the “Cars” saga. Mater and McQueen will need their passports as they find themselves in a new world of intrigue, thrills and fast-paced comedic escapades around the globe. “Cars 2” is being directed by Brad Lewis, producer of the Oscar®-winning film “Ratatouille.”

This storyline makes perfect sense as the only reason some considered the CARS film a little underwhelming at the box office was it didn’t do “Finding Nemo” like numbers overseas – mainly because it was very U.S.-centric but that won’t be a problem here with this storyline.

The other presumed corporate synergy syncing with 2011 originally was also that was the announced debut of CARLAND at Anaheim’s California Adventures but recently, there were rumors that construction was slow and delayed so they will still sync it with the CARS 2 release, only now in 2012.

Of course, it will be interesting to see if Mattel can sustain the first EVER runaway licensed diecast line from original to sequel … 6 years is a LONG time in diecast land … even for most adults, that’s a lot of time – not to mention kids …

AND maybe we’ll have hover cars and CARS by then …

Other Pixar announcements from the same Press Release includes:

2009:

UP (Domestic Release Date: May 29th, 2009, Disney Digital 3-D™)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Pete Docter
Co-Director: Bob Peterson
Producer: Jonas Rivera
Writer: Bob Peterson
Voice Talent: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, Jordan Nagai

From the Academy Award®-nominated team of director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”) and co-director Bob Peterson comes “Up,” a comedic adventure taking off (and lifting spirits) in summer 2009. Carl Fredricksen spent his entire life dreaming of exploring the globe and experiencing life to its fullest. But at age 78, life seems to have passed him by, until a twist of fate (and a persistent 8-year old Wilderness Explorer named Russell) gives him a new lease on life. “Up” takes audiences on a thrilling journey where the unlikely pair encounter wild terrain, unexpected villains and jungle creatures. When seeking adventure next summer – look “Up.”

TOY STORY in 3-D (Domestic Release Date: October 2nd, 2009)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: John Lasseter
Producers: Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold
Composer: Randy Newman
Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger

Originally released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1995, “Toy Story” was the first feature film from Pixar Animation Studios and director John Lasseter. The film went on to receive Oscar® nominations for Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Original Screenplay, and earned Lasseter a Special Achievement Award (Oscar®) “for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film.” The 3-D version of this landmark film is being personally overseen by Lasseter with his acclaimed team of technical wizards handling all the necessary steps in the conversion process

2010:

TOY STORY 2 in 3-D (Domestic Release Date: February 12th, 2010)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: John Lasseter
Co-Directors: Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon
Producers: Helene Plotkin, Karen Robert Jackson
Composer: Randy Newman
Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger

Originally released in 1999, “Toy Story 2” went on to become one of the most popular animated features of all time. The film picks up as Andy is heading off to Cowboy Camp and the toys are left to their own devices. When an obsessive toy collector named Al McWhiggin (owner of Al’s Toy Barn) kidnaps Woody, and Woody learns that he’s a highly valued collectable from a 1950s TV show called “Woody’s Roundup,” the stage is set for a daring rescue attempt by the gang from Andy’s room. The film introduced such other memorable characters from “Woody’s Roundup” as Jessie the cowgirl, Bullseye the horse, and the Prospector.

TOY STORY 3 (Domestic Release Date: June 18th, 2010, Disney Digital 3-D™)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Lee Unkrich
Producer: Darla K. Anderson
Writer: Michael Arndt
Composer: Randy Newman
Voice Talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger, Ned Beatty

The creators of the beloved “Toy Story” films re-open the toy box and bring moviegoers back to the delightful world of Woody, Buzz and our favorite gang of toy characters in “Toy Story 3.” Lee Unkrich (co-director of “Toy Story 2” and “Finding Nemo”) directs this highly anticipated film, and Michael Arndt, the Academy Award®-winning screenwriter of “Little Miss Sunshine,” brings his unique talents and comedic sensibilities to the proceedings.

2011:

NEWT (Domestic Release Date: Summer 2011, Disney Digital 3-D™)
Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Gary Rydstrom
Producer: Richard Hollander
Writers: Gary Rydstrom, Leslie Caveny

What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can’t stand each other? That’s the problem facing Newt and Brooke, heroes of ”newt,” the Pixar film by seven-time Academy Award® winner for sound Gary Rydstrom, and director of Pixar’s Oscar nominated short, “Lifted.” Newt and Brooke embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science.

Other Disney animation announcements can be found here (via AIN’T IT COOL NEWS)

Thanks for the heads up, Mike!

Our original posts on the rumors of CARS 2 are here & here.

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Disney Stores: Rewind & Back V2.0

If you didn’t know the THE DISNEY STORES are NOT actually owned by the Walt Disney, Inc. but rather by a company that sells clothing for toddlers & kids called, “A Children’s Place, ” you can save your brain cells in tucking away this fact as they are selling it BACK to Walt Disney, Inc.*

The deal is not finalized yet but Walt Disney, Inc has announced they want to buy them back. You think we go go through fad phases but so does corporate America. In 1987, when they launched The Disney Stores, it seemed brilliant – what better way to capture ALL the profit margins and of course, where most stores might only carry a limited amount of merchandise, what’s better than your own store to sell everything? It was a huge success at first – encouraging Warner Bros. to get in the act with the Warner Bros. Studio Stores (closed in 2001) but while the WB cartoons are beloved, Disney pretty much has the market from 1-month old to … well, I’m surprised they haven’t licensed coffins … the problem that they got caught up in thinking the huge profits from the store could be duplicated hundreds of times – the first were huge because they were at travel shopping destinations but pretty soon you go from Times Square (nice) to Beverly Center (still pretty good) to being next to Walgreen’s (um, not so special anymore) in Butane, Iowa.

And suddenly, they were questioning why they were running a retail business so they sold it off to a company that would ‘license’ it from them … only now, the cycle has returned, everyone sees how great Apple’s retail stores are – how they serve to reinforce the brand and image – and how much money they make so everyone is back on that bandwagon. Sony, Nintendo, Samsung and Dell have all opened stores … the Samsung in NYC is just bizarre. In order not to annoy anyone, Samsung does not actually sell anything – you can look and they will point you to a retailer. A short concise description of this is – WRONG!

Open a museum with a gift shop but not not open a gift shop that is a museum.

Anyway, back to the Disney Stores being Disney stores pretty soon – maybe we’ll see more 1:55 diecast CARS …

*If you live in the UK & Europe – ignore this as the Disney Stores there have always been owned by Disney and will continue to do so.

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Marvel Iron Man Action Figures Checklist: The Iron Age is Here

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I admit I was never a huge fan of Iron Man but the movie trailer looks good and they were smart to get Robert Downey Jr. That guy might’ve had a lot of personal problems but he can flat out act.*

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I know the back story and while they are sticking to the gist of how Tony Stark came to be Iron Man, it might be a spoiler to give away his relations and connection to the other metal characters so without saying much more about who is what to the story, you can just take a look at the cool action figures they are producing for the film:

Mark I – the “protoype” and just excellent cool …

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The refined Mark II (and in my eyes, much duller …)

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The “normal” Iron Man – there are at least 4 versions …

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The two different candy red & yellow versions are a ‘snap-on armour’ version and a ‘launching repulsor’ version.

There are two exclusives, the Target one is a Silver & Red Iron Man: Iron Man – Silver Centurion & the Wal-Mart is Black & Silver with a launching Gatling Blast: Iron Man -Stealth Operations Suit (aka: War Machine).

There are two cool Iron Monger’s …

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The top Iron Monger is the ‘Super Fist Smash’ version and the bottom one has a removeable headpice/cockpit.

And Titanium Man … also nice design – with double concussion blasters …

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That’s Wave 1 of the 6″ scale. The movie opens May 2, 2008 – here are a couple trailers posted on YouTube … the official website runs pretty slowly.

Some cool figures from years past …

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And one of my all-time favs … The Hulk Buster …

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* Robert Downey Jr. is like Johnny Depp, he needs characters in a film that’s larger than life and out of step with the rest of the characters to really fully get into a role – otherwise, he just seems like the annoying guy … obviously he’s done a lot of great work but if you want to see acting, check him out in CHAPLIN or RESTORATION – both flawed movies but both really gives you an idea of what acting really is. Playing Charlie Chaplin is a hard and a gutsy role – who doesn’t recognize Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” character and all the imitators but he never conveys he’s imitating anyone, he seems like he’s the Little Tramp and same with RESTORATION, you can see the difference in acting ability – as cute and perfect as Meg Ryan was in romantic comedies in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, you can see how outclassed she is by Robert Downey Jr. He’s asked to play a strange character and you believe everything his character says and does on screen while Meg is just trying to act like she’s a person of the 17th century.

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Mattel Pixar Disney Cars: Motor Speedway of the South Non-News Update (Now With Date Prediction :-) )

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Since we still get questions about the forthcoming Motor Speedway of the South set, here’s a recap of where we stand. Let me know if there any other questions.

What is the “Motor Speedway of the South” Set?

This seems to be the current official name of the 36 Piston Cup Race Set. It will be a giant box that includes all of the Piston Cup racers seen in the movie, CARS. Yes, this will include the Piston Cup Racers already out including:

Lightning McQueen
Chick Hicks
Dale Jr.
Gasprin
The King
Leak Less
Nitrorade
No Stall
RPM
Octane Gain
Tow Cap
Vinyl Toupee

So, the set will include 24 “new” Piston Cup racers and 12 “old” ones.

(Official Sneak Photos here).

When is the set coming?

There is no official word by Mattel but that would be like Apple announcing when the next iPod will come out or which Ivy League university Jessica Simpson will be attending so as official as it gets, one of the moderators on the OFFICIAL Mattel Hot Wheel Forum had this to say:

“It is temporary planned for release here on the site sometime at the end of Spring/beginning of Summer. When we get the rest of the information, I will let you know…

Thanks,

HWC Chris”

Additional post by Mattel Admin on Hot Wheels Board:

So that could mean as early as end of April or by early June.

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Is it absolutely positively going to come out during those three months (April, May or June 2008?)

Likely, yes – absolute guarantee? No. Why?

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Until it’s on the shore and ship shape, why take chances?

Where Can I Buy One?

ONLY at: HotWheelsCollectors Club

And more specifically, RED LINE Club members are given 24-hours priority online to buy one.

But when will it go on sale?

Again, in the next three months most likely AND Mattel will give us fair warning – either 7 or 10 days notice. So, it’s not a sneaky surprise.

Is this RED LINE CLUB an exclusive club?

Anyone who lives in the U.S., and has a credit card with a credit line of $29 – you can sign up. And of course, you’ll need internet access.

Do you have to live in the U.S.?

Technically no but you MUST have a U.S. mailing address (military FPO should be fine).

International out of luck?

Directly yes. If you can find someone with a U.S. mailing address and a U.S. credit card, you’re obviously okay. Using an international credit card is iffy as Mattel might insist that the billing and shipping addresses match. You can also try and buy a U.S. prepaid credit card (or you can send a friend/relative money to buy a prepaid credit card).

What’s the Mattel Red Line Club, how is it different than the Hot Wheels Collector’s Club?

Bigger shrimp at the parties … okay, just kidding … The Hot Wheels Collector’s Club is FREE. Sign up to get emails and you can join in some of the forums.

The RED LINE Club is $25 a year + ($4 shipping).

The two big differences are:

You get a “free” Hot Wheel special limited edition diecast car AND
You get a 24-hour priority window to buy things at the Mattel store.

The car this year is quite nice and even if you want zero Hot Wheels in your house, you can pretty much sell it on Ebay for $15-$30 dollars, essentially making your membership free … (each color was limited and in order of signups – they are on the last batch – purple).

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What is this priority window thing you speak of?

Every so often, they announce an “exclusive car” such as this one coming up on April 8th:

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As you can see, when I took the screensnap, there was a little over 10 days left – it usually goes on sale at 9 AM Pacific Time of whatever day. So at some point in the next three months, the counter will go up for “Motor Speedway of the South” and you’ll have 7-12 days before it gets to zero and goes on sale.

RED LINE CLUB (RLC) members get 24-hours where only they get to decide if they want to buy something. AFTER 24 hours, if there is any inventory left, it will go on sale to ANYONE who is the regular Hot Wheels Collector’s Club member (aka: general public).

Are there on occasion Hot Wheel cars left over after 24 hours that others can buy? Yes.

Do I think the Motor Speedway of the South set will last more than 24-hours?

UM, NO.

It’s NOT going to be a cheap set but I doubt it will last much longer then 4-6 hours.

How much will it cost?

Mattel priced the 27-CAR 2006 Factory Set (also a RLC exclusive set) at @$5.51 per car and really, every CAR was available elsewhere at $149 (there was some packaging differences) or about $200 after shipping + tax + RLC membership … since this is 36 CARS, if you presume based on the same cost scheme, it will be @198 + shipping + tax or @$250 … (+ the RLC membership) though now with the recent price bump by Mattel for retailers, I think we might be looking at $249 + tax + shipping (+ the RLC membership) putting the final cost probably closer or over $300+ … but that’s just a guess. That might be too scary for Mattel to try and sell so they might fiddle with the numbers until it’s closer to $260-$275 “out the door,” (not counting RLC membership costs) so perhaps $229 or $239 + shipping + tax.

I’m getting my economic stimulus relief check so I’ll be loaded, can I buy four?

Each RLC member is generally entitled to buy only ONE of whatever during the priority window so if you want more than one, you will need a second PAID membership and another email address – your shipping address is okay, you are allowed 5 memberships at the same mailing address.

To recap:

If you want to buy a second membership, that’s another $29 + a DIFFERENT email address (same shipping as membership #1 is fine).

If you want a third membership, that’s another $29 + a DIFFERENT email address (same shipping as membership #1 is fine).

After FIVE memberships, you will need a new credit card and a new shipping address but if you’re willing to spend $1,400 buying 5 sets, you can hire someone who can help you buy more sets.

So, of course, on ordering day, you’ll have to buy, log off and then log back on.

Can I just wait until eBay?

If you’re the gambling type, good luck! This will be an interesting freaknomics test – how much premium can a $300+ dollar item fetch hours or days afters it goes on sale at Mattel? Consider that you’ll be paying for “his/her” shipping + shipping to you so why not just buy it yourself as a RLC member.

Should I sign up now on the RLC?

In theory, membership to the RLC is limited to 22,000 members, that’s how many of the Hot Wheels car Mattel has readied for 2008.

DIRECT FROM MATTEL:

First 4,000 to join or renew: Boss Hoss in chrome with red stripes!
Next 5,000 to join or renew: Boss Hoss in Spectraflame® red with white stripes.
Next 6,000 to join or renew: Boss Hoss in Spectraflame® ice blue with black stripes.
Next 7,000 to join or renew: Boss Hoss in Spectraflame® purple with white stripes.

They are on purple so we know there are already 15,000+ memberships sold – leaving less than 7,000 memberships left. Will Mattel turn away the 7,001st person? I can’t imagine they would on some oddball principle (aka: Mattel turning down money?) but do you want to test out the theory if you’re 100% sure you’re willing to pay $275 to $300 for the Motor Speedway of the South set?

As I noted, the car is really nice this year and people are willing to buy it on eBay for 50-100% of the cost of a RLC club membership so why not?

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How many will be available?

The rumored number is 2,000 … even if the RLC is maxed at 22,000 members, clearly most are Hot Wheels fanboys* so they might not care … of course, I’m sure there are hundreds of eBay powersellers with a dozen memberships … so if you’re going to buy this, take the day off or book a conference room with a fiber optic broadband when this goes on sale to get in the queue.

*If you’re a noob to the HWC Club or the RLC forums, note, there are a majority of Hot Wheels citizens there who think of CARS as johnny-come-lately and that we’re horning in on their club … there was an undercurrent of resentment when the Factory set was offered last year but some are coming around …

Also

As part of your RLC membership, you also get the “badge” and a poster which I forgotten all about until I just got this the other day.

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As you can see next to it, it came in not just a tube but a giant box with foam peanuts via UPS so a $2 box, a $1 tube, $.50 worth of peanuts and $5 UPS shipping to mail me a slightly wrinkled poster of er, questionable value – no wonder RLC membership costs $30 … I guess I do appreciate Mattel going back to press to mail me this poster but honestly, I’d much prefer a coupon.

See ya’ll in the cyber line …

Final Predication

I’m going to say it’s going to go on sale May 20, 2008. Why? First, it’s a $300 item and you want to do it after tax season and this year, a bunch of people will also get the economic stimulus check by then. Second, if you want to sell an item for $300, you want to do it after payday – people feel flush and rich. If you have a “higher” priced item, you never want to ask people to buy it a few days BEFORE the paycheck arrives and a lot of people pay rent/mortgage on the 1st so middle of the month is generally better. It’s a Tuesday and everything from the RLC goes on sale Tuesday. So, my guess is previews will go up before the 8th and the countdown will begin 10-12 days beforehand. Again, good luck!

The original post and individual photos.

Singles?

Will they be (re)-released as singles? Here are some things to weigh and consider. Of course, $250-$300 for a bunch of CARS you will presumably only get to look at and not even get to play with is a lot of money – I totally understand if you are unable or unwilling to make a financial commitment this large (or you live overseas), that’s a choice you’ve made – it’s just a bunch of CARS, no biggie but you’re thinking, maybe I do want them but I’m just not willing to spend $250-$300 or about $6-8 a CAR all at once … keep in mind 12 of the CARS are already out and while Gaspirin & Tow Cap are a little more work, presumably you have the other 12 already. Now, all you need is the other 24.

My feeling is that Mattel is not going to walk away from you – we have already seen Gift Packs with Piston Cup racers not out yet (from Toyfair) so if the set is $300, that’s about $8 a CAR, conveniently about the same price as a “launcher.” And while there are only 5-6 molds for all the Piston Cup racers, there is no way Mattel is going to only paint 2,000 Mood Springs, Mattel is clearly going to re-release most if not all as launchers or in Gift Packs.

BUT and note that it’s in caps, that does NOT mean you might see them all in 2008 or even in 2009 … and while the line is assured in 2008 and probably most of 2009, ONE NEVER KNOWS. NOT EVEN MATTEL …

No one knows what will be out in 2009 … maybe the line is so slow they are back to the 14 townies … or as Mattel has hinted, that there will be exclusives in the set available no where else BUT AGAIN …

What Mattel considers “NEW” and “EXCLUSIVE” are not necessarily the dictionary definition – now, it might actually be but it might be like seeing Ghostlight Ramone on a WOC card with the snipe NEW. Technically, it is new and Marketing-wise, it is NEW but in the strictest dictionary sense, no. Or the WAL MART Exclusives … appearing in Sam’s Club (same company, different division) a few months later – again, technically at Sam’s Club, you had to buy an entire box to get some of the WM CARS but to the average person, exclusive means ‘exclusive’ as in the actual definition of UNIQUE and UNAVAILABLE elsewhere BUT Mattel has their own dictionary.

So, they say the Motor Speedway set will contain exclusives – but how exclusive?

I believe it will be exclusive as in packaging or maybe it will not appear until 2009 in a box set or some other configuration … however, the caveat to keep in mind is that Mattel INTENDS to release them in another configuration but will it actually be guaranteed on the store shelves? Impossible to predict – so while Mac iCar might be out on a single blister card, maybe it’s 2010 before it appears … so how does this affect whether you buy the Motor Speedway set in 2008? Will you open the set?

So, while the odds are pretty good ALL the Piston Cup racers will eventually appear in Gift Packs, Launchers, Box Sets or even as singles – when and IF is another question.

Mattel gets your money either way:

You either buy the Motor Speedway set and never open it to maintain its maximum value and buy the various re-releases in order to open & play with them …

OR

You buy them individually at $8+ (as Gift Packs, Launchers, Box Sets, etc …) eventually.

Mattel does not lose money either, it’s just whether you pay them $300 upfront and continue to buy them to open or whether you buy them in smaller gulps.

APRIL 18, 2008 UPDATE HERE.

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Mattel Pixar Disney Cars: Spring 2008 at Target

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At the lamest in stocking toys Target nearest to me … hanging on the pegs like your average pegwarmer, Dinoco Mia & Tia and regular Mia & Tia … I didn’t even staged this … as you can see, barely any regular solo CARS on the shelf … no Mater, no McQ, no Sally, No Lizzy … but both sets of Mia & Tia Movie Moments … of course, there is still Woody & Buzz and Sally & Crusin McQ MM if you need those … but some normalcy.

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Look like another two weeks before Chuki hits the shelf (along with Lightning Ramone for those interested) but otherwise, a time of stillness in the kingdom of CARS.

Though Mattel might wait until the Speedway of the South set release (late April?) to re-launch, re-stock, re-vise the sealed cases and re-energize the CARS market?

The test will be be … has the ‘mo’ been lost?

Will it be April madness?

Will it be like, “everytime I try and walk away, they pull me back in, woohaa,” (okay, I might be mixing movie quotes 🙂

And ‘CaseStalker,’ the Leak Less on the pegs looks clear, bright eyed (though not bushy tailed – now, that would be a variant! 🙂 )

So, see you all in a couple fortnights!

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