Like most of the nation, my family went to see Avatar the first week it opened. Per my fifteen-year-old’s “seeing Avatar was a life changing experience” recommendation, we pre-ordered tickets for the Imax theater. Even though, we tried to get to the theater early, only five seats in the third row were available. Not a big fan of 3D glasses or the third row, surprisingly, I was not uncomfortable for one second during the movie. Totally captivated by the movie experience, for over two and a half hours, I was lost in the world that James Cameron created. Only for one fleeting second. I thought outside that realm. My epiphany: Toys are a perfect pairing with the movie. Finally, a movie that isn’t made for a toy line. Avatar action figures and the ensuing play patterns are made for this movie.
James Cameron’s Avatar Na’vi Neytiri Action Figure Currently the top selling Avatar action figure on Amazon.
James Cameron’s Avatar Na’vi Leonopteryx Collectible Figure
James Cameron’s Avatar Na’vi Dire Horse Creature
When I first heard about the Avatar toy line that Mattel was developing, I cringed a little thinking of yet another movie being made to sell toys and adding the “all important” web connection. But, after experiencing the movie, I feel that a toy line was a natural extension of the movie. The story of the Na’vi is open-ended which leads to hours of creative play. The land of Pandora is a perfect play environment. Imagine the perfect playset: a tree! Better yet: a child’s backyard!
More importantly, Avatar action figures lead to creative play. The beautiful and strong Na’vi female, Princess Neytiri. The peaceful horse-like creatures, the Direhorse. The strong family oriented Omaticaya clan. Wait a second – those are all girl play patterns. What do we have here? Repeating the successful Mattel Princess of Power line from the Masters of the Universe action figure line, do we have an action figure line for girls?
James Cameron in his interview with Oprah Winfrey explained that at first the movie had a male audience but, as word spread, Avatar now has a 50-50 ratio, male to female viewers. Oprah praised James Cameron for creating an action movie that connects to women.
That is why it surprised me when I read the LA Times article titled “Avatar takes Mattel into uncharted toy territory”. Talking with Hero Complex, Jason Horowitz, the marketing director for Mattel, explains,
“We tried to make the toys highly detailed and authentic because, regardless of the age of the boy or adult that goes to see this film, they are going to be blown away by the world of Pandora. We put a lot of time and effort in making sure the Na’vi figures look exactly like the characters in the film. The creatures look exactly like the creatures in the film. So if there’s a younger boy who doesn’t even see the film — he may just see the trailers and hear about the film and go and collect it — the toys will be appealing. That goes for the older boy that does go see the film and the [adult] collectors.”
The boy? The boy? Wait a second, what? Guess things haven’t changed since I worked at Mattel, years and years ago. Who says that girls won’t be buying the Avatar action figures?* It’s got all the important girl play patterns: strong, independent Princess (with long hair), caring, vigilant male character to save the day, gentle, beautiful horses that all the characters (physically and mentally) bond with, loving mother and father. And the perfect playset: the great outdoors!
*Note above that the Princess Neytiri action figure is currently the top sales rank for Avatar toys on Amazon.