A few months back, TrekMovie reported on the return of the Mego Toys Corporation – known to Star Trek fans as creators of the very first Star Trek action figures back in the 1970s. Before going out of business in the early ‘80s, Mego produced figures and playsets based on characters and settings from Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The first wave of new Mego 8-inch figures was released in the summer and sold exclusively at Target stores, and the second wave is due at the end of this month. Both include Star Trek figures, with more expected to come in future waves. As Mego President Marty Abrams himself has stated, “Star Trek is one of the key, driving brands for this whole Mego resurgence.”
Abrams is responsible for those first Trek figures more than 40 years ago and is leading the current Mego revival. He recently spoke to TrekMovie about his company’s long association with the franchise.
Rise and Fall of Mego and Star Trek
Was it a difficult process to acquire the Star Trek license originally in 1974?
Not only wasn’t it difficult, it was a slam dunk. In the ‘70s, Paramount did not have a licensing department, they outsourced it with an agent. He (the agent) was shocked by the level of response to what we did. He was so happy that we took the license, all he charged us was $5,000 advance against a 5% royalty at that time. It was extraordinarily easy. Financially it was not a burden, and because of that we threw all our marketing clout behind it, and that’s why it became so extraordinarily successful for us.
What kind of involvement did Gene Roddenberry have with you and Mego?
I did get to meet him several times because I was spending a lot of time at Paramount. He was a major supporter of ours, because of the three-dimensional world we created for him.
You were able to get William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy to help promote the original Trek line with toy store appearances, can you talk about that and how it came about?
They didn’t do it for me, they did it for Paramount…Paramount brought in a woman named Dawn Steel to run the licensing and merchandising side of their business, and she was just a dynamo. They were doing it for her because she was a driving force for Star Trek. Leonard always remembered (those appearances); quite candidly, I’m not sure Shatner remembers it. I talked (recently) to his people, and he has no recollection of the Mego presentation.
MEGO made a big push with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, but it didn’t really achieve the success of your TOS line. Why do you think the line didn’t succeed?
The great success of Star Wars drove (Paramount) to make a feature. At that time, Roddenberry had remarkable influence and control over what they were going to do. They made a highly intellectual, spiritual movie versus an action film. They didn’t realize what they were doing, but that put a stake in the heart of the franchise in terms of merchandising. If they would have put out an action film, they would have had some competitive level against Star Wars. But what they put out as a feature was no alternative to Star Wars. It became all Star Wars, no Star Trek.
Mego’s return with Star Trek in 2018
The resurrection of MEGO was a bit of a surprise to fans, can you talk about how you were able to bring it back?
Over the years, people have come to me to bring back Mego, but they all wanted to do it on the collector’s side, where we’d sell a few thousand pieces. I rejected it. We went to Target to see if they would buy the items as mass products and they jumped all over the idea. So, you have a collectible product line that can be priced at mass. (Editor’s note: The current, standard size 8-inch Mego figures are retailing for between $12.99 – $14.99)
Flash forward to 2018. Did the studio welcome the idea of doing business with MEGO again?
Yes, they were very excited about it, they’ve been very cooperative and strategically important for us. It’s not Paramount anymore. We’re working with CBS now, they run the licensing side of it.
Can you outline what you have planned for the new Mego Star Trek line? Any plans to go beyond TOS? Do you have a license for other Trek shows and movies?
That’s on the table. We have the rights to all of that, with the exception of the new series (Star Trek: Discovery). We’re going to take it all the way through. We want to complete the Original Series and the movies with Kirk and Spock. And then we’ll look to Picard – both (TNG) television and film, then Janeway, maybe Deep Space Nine down the road. We have to pick the best characters that people want to collect, and we’re open to a lot of discussion on that.
It’s fair to say that the original Gorn and Mugato figures used some cost-cutting measures, is the goal for the new line to make sculpts and costumes more accurate?
The Gorn and Mugato, they were in one or two episodes, they were not major characters. We knew we were not going to sell a lot of them. I was very young, and my staff were my age or younger, so I allowed them to take some license. We weren’t doing it for collectors, at that time, who knew every moment (of the series). We were all goofballs in those days, we could not have that high discipline of, ‘Oh my god, we have to do the actual character.’
You mentioned that you had recently reached out to Shatner’s people. Have you solicited the help of any of the original stars of Star Trek to help with promotion of the new line?
I’d like to make figures of themselves, the real persons, so I can package Shatner as Shatner & Shatner as Kirk, simultaneously. That’s some of the things we’re thinking about. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to get to Bill. Whether we’ll have an opportunity or not, I do not know. We have not yet set up a meeting to speak to him.
No one’s ever done it. There are millions of Kirk figures out there, and what you want is a contemporary Shatner figure to go along with that. We felt collectors would love that.
Are there plans to produce items other than figures, such as role-play toys or playsets?
Not at this point. The action figures are for now going to be it, because we have so many brands. We’ve come up with 60 items this year, it’ll be probably 120 next year. Once we establish the brands, once there’s a larger collector base out there, we will then go back and redo the marketing strategy. The bridge of the Enterprise (‘70s playset) was a very uniquely Mego item and a unique item unto itself. Yes, we will do that, but not in the next 16 months.
New Star Trek figures available now at Target
The first wave of new Mego Star Trek figures included Sulu, Chekov and a Mirror Universe Kirk and Spock 2-pack. The second wave officially hits store shelves on September 30 and will include a standalone Spock and a new, more screen-accurate rendition of the Gorn. All new Mego figures are available exclusively at Target, available both in stores and online at Target.com.