More Mattel Madness: Major Matt Mason

major-matt-masonHaving not grown up in the 1960′s, I’ve never heard of Major Matt Mason and would never have assumed it was a beloved action figure along the lines of the original G.I. Joe. Major Mason was an astronaut who lived and worked on the moon, first appearing in 1966, just in time to capitalize on the Space Race frenzy.

Mattel is pulling the old Mason doll out of the bottom of their toy chest, developing it into a movie as a vehicle for Tom Hanks. I’m sure Hanks would fondly remember playing with his Major Matt Mason doll seeing as he brought one along to a development meeting, but I’m wondering why Mattel would make a movie around a toy that many have never heard of, and those that have probably forgot about until they read that it’s going to be made into a movie.

G.I. Joe I can understand. It got it’s start in the 60′s, carried over into the 70′s, and saw a huge resurgence in the 80′s. And now those kids from the 80′s are in their 30′s and presumably have the most disposable income to blow on a nostalgic movie. Major Matt Mason disappeared in the 70′s and hasn’t been seen since. The kids who loved that toy are now in their 50′s and represent a much smaller demographic, as far as spending money on movies goes.

The most likely solution to bridge those age groups is to update the Major Matt Mason universe, bringing it into the 21st century. But then wouldn’t that kill all those childhood memories attached to the forgotten space dude? It seems like it would turn into something along the lines of Thunderbirds, and no one wants that. What made that special was that in the original show they were marionettes. It was different and interesting. What made the movie crap was that it was unmemorable and schmaltzy. Making Major Matt Mason a modern astronaut would seem to do the same thing.

I will admit that it sounds like an immensely better idea than Stretch Armstrong since at least Major Matt Mason has a story and not just rubbery limbs.

2 comments to More Mattel Madness: Major Matt Mason

  • toy designer

    As a toy designer I would say that beyond the historical marketing hype that surrounds toys today.If you take the toy itself it was ahead of its time and reflected ideas about space that were very subtle,and went beyond the shoot em up kill aliens 50s and 60s astronaut.Seeing the Earth from the moon changed the way we view ourselves as one planet. One of the astronauts was an African American. The Major Matt book Introduced a woman astronaut, although the plot does have some dated concepts .The figure iself had clever Patented joints that looked like they were part of the space suit. What set Matt apart from other space toys was he had alien freinds as well,it said it on the boxes. Matt was more like the short lived contemporary Star Trek TOS, that addressed how do you deal with aliens outside your world .Captain laser, his giant friend, was one of the first toys to have LED like lights.The batteries were disquised as a back pack .The Crawler walked by itself and had a working winch. It could be placed sidways to become a crane for the space station.The space station was modular (like legos and could be made into different configurations)The toys themselves were very clever for a pre-computer chip age.The star seeker had features you would associate with lego mindstorms today. Yes major matt had a laser cannon and some of the stop the aliens feel ,but it was not a typical toy at the time.If the movie addesses some of the complex issues of today with a positve feeling similar to watching astronauts on the moon was in the 60s,that could be great.If it is a typical movie directed by Mattel’s marketing department, without input from toy designers,engineers,artists and good writers it will be cheeseball city on top af a giant turd.I hope Mattel understands the innovations of the original toy and don’t screw it up.

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