When NBC cancelled the classic Star Trek television series in 1969, nobody could have predicted that syndicated repeats would generate enough interest to create one of science fiction’s current tentpoles.
Executives raised fears well before the series even debuted that the topic would be too sophisticated to be a hit. Despite this, the Star Trek crew worked tirelessly to turn the programme into a massive phenomenon.
Fortunately, fan base support from the 1970s enabled the original actors to reconvene in a series of movies that catapulted the series to fame.
Fans now have access to a wealth of Star Trek media. New Star Trek shows have debuted over the years. The films then transitioned from one generation to the next, culminating in a reinvented series.
Star Trek has also had a lot of success with literature, comic books, and computer games. Above all, various toy companies have taken on the task of developing various toy ranges for the brand.
So although Star Trek has gone on to new casts and eras, fans of the original series still enjoy collecting the toys from the show.
These toys are in high demand due to their affection for the main cast that started it all. So, which company held the main licensing rights for Star Trek toys through the years?
The Success Of Playmates Toys
Playmates Toys is an American toy company situated in Costa Mesa, California, and is a division under Playmates Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong, China.
Between 1992 and 2009, the firm, which was founded in 1966, manufactured a significant number of licenced Star Trek figurines, vehicles, and play items.
In the fall of 1992, Playmates debuted its Star Trek line with the production of a range of figurines modeled on Star Trek The Next Generation. Almost the entire crew of the USS Enterprise-D was present.
A type 2 phaser plus communicator were made for role-playing, and a shuttlecraft was made for the figures. The Enterprise-D was also made into a model.
In the fall of 1993, a huge influx of TNG figurines, gadgets, and vehicles were released, along with an unique boxed set featuring all 7 of the classic series’ principal crew members.
In contrast to their predecessors Ertl Company and Galoob, Playmates was credited in the 2018 Star Trek show of the documentary on The Toys That Made Us and is the first manufacturer to truly and effectively find their target market by appealing to both hardcore fans yearning for accuracy, as well as children.
Playmates aimed for detailed authentic products with play elements, supported considerably by the fact that the company’s primary figurine designer Steve Varner was an avid Star Trek enthusiast.
Deep Space Nine premiered in 1994, and was followed by new Playmates TNG figures and a line of toys for Star Trek Generations, a feature film. In 1995, more TOS, TNG, and DS9 merchandise emerged, as well as Voyager figures.
Deep Space Nine Crossroads of Time was released in 1995 by Playmates’ video game division, Playmates Interactive Entertainment, for various entertainment consoles.
The Decline Of Playmates Toys
When Art Asylum first started out as a design firm, they created Playmates’ 9 Alien Combat Series figures. Nonetheless, by 1998, the popularity of the licence had begun to wane.
By 1999, Playmates’ product line had shrunk to the point where its restricted launches were only available to the general public through individual shops.
Aronian himself attributed the lack of success of the lines to their blunder in trying to put forward the limited edition and stores exclusive releases, particularly the 1996 1701 Series – a business practise euphemistically referred to as market discrimination and despised by fans, and Star Trek fans in particular.
Playmates finally realised they had miscalculated the fervour of Star Trek enthusiasts, and they were faced with rapidly dropping sales as they abruptly ceased collecting.
To no effect, Playmates created increased runs of its 1701 Series but they had already lost too much trade. Playmates’ Star Trek products were formally cancelled on September 17, 1999.
Bandai distributed the company’s 1990s products throughout Europe. Playmates announced in January 2008 that they would be releasing a line of toys for the next Star Trek movie.
In April 2009, a new line of figurines, vehicles, and role-playing goods was introduced.
A second batch was supposed to be out in late 2009, however it was pushed out to the springtime of 2010 before being scrapped altogether.
Playmates’ Star Trek licensing ended at the end of 2009 due to lacklustre sales. The studio had also shown interest in securing a toy licence for the movie’s followup, but nothing came of it.
The Renewal Of Playmates Toys
Fast forward to 2022 – ViacomCBS Consumer Products has awarded Playmates Toys the licensing rights to all Star Trek properties for figurines, toys and spaceships, role play, and other toy categories.
In 2022, Playmates will debut its new Star Trek toy line, after Star Trek’s foray into children’s programming with the debut of Star Trek: Prodigy, the very first Star Trek show aimed at younger viewers.
Playmates will offer to the Star Trek Universe its commitment to brand design, genuine portraiture sculpture, and innovative new products to its upcoming Star Trek collections, among other things.
Playmates Toys has a lot of experience creating Star Trek figurines and playsets; in truth, they came to define and elevate the items’ status.
The knowledge and innovation they intend to add to figures, ships, and other items will improve overall playtime for both children and collectors.
From 1992 through 1999, Playmates was the master toy licensee for Star Trek, releasing award-winning action figures and inventive accessories based on the movies and classic TV series.
In 2009, the firm also issued an official J.J. Abrams figure and accessories. While the company suffered a decline last decade, Playmates is predicted to once again be successful in reviving it’s famous toy lines owing to its new licensure in 2022.