With Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 under our collective belt, here’s the 5th installment of our ongoing series:
The year is now 1978, and “Star Wars” has gripped the imaginations of children throughout the world. The licensing explosion, advanced exponentially by Mego’s merchandising efforts, is in full swing. Before Mego blasted onto the scene in 1972, Disney was one of the few companies to fully capitalize on licensed merchandise.
I discuss this in the “Introduction to Mego” chapter of World’s Greatest Toys! Hereâ€™s a snippet from the book (page 6, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:
Mego made its most significant contributions to the world of toys when it established itself as a leading manufacturer of licensed dolls and action figures. By the time Mego secured its first character license, the practice existed for nearly forty years. Herman â€œKayâ€ Kamen created the licensing business as we know it when, in 1932, he was hired by Walt Disney as the merchandise licensing representative for Walt Disney Enterprises. In the 1970s, Disney was the largest licensor in the world, with Licensing Corporation of America (LCA), through whom Mego would acquire many licenses, following closely behind.
At that time, it was typical for a licensor to take five percent off the top, as well as a percentage of sales. Mego routinely avoided that paradigm and as they grew larger, they were granted licenses for very little, if any, advance against royalties. With astonishingly successful licenses such as Cher and Planet of the Apes, Mego became the premier manufacturer of licensed toys by the mid-1970s. In 1981, for example, Mego bought the rights to â€œThe Dukes of Hazzardâ€ television show (from LCA, incidentally) for a pittance of $2,500.
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How appropriate Mike Armes and his little brother embraced the two companies that dominated the licensing world during the ’70s, as evidenced by this Armes family photo from Christmas 1978:
(Above: Mike wearing his “Star Wars” pajamas, right, while his little brother, sporting Disney wearables, proudly displays his Gabriel Lone Ranger toys)
Did you catch the Mego goodness in the background? It’s Mego WGSH vehicles galore, with a loose Spidercar and a MIB Batmobile!
Later that morning, Mike and his brother gather ’round the latest gift, a pristine Mattel “Shogun Warrior” Mazinga:
Once again, there’s plenty of Mego eye-candy in the background (and foreground!), including:
(Above: The aforementioned MIB Batmobile, and a sweet little Sesame Street vehicle)
And then there’s this pair of Mego WGSH goodies:
(Above: The drool-worthy MIB Mego Wayne Foundation and a case-fresh Â©1976 Superman card. Wow!)
But wait! What’s that in the foreground, buried beneath the wrapping paper?! Why, it’s Mattel’s Pulsar, the “Ultimate Man of Adventure!”
Very cool stuff. Mike’s family photos capture so much of the toy goodness available to us in the 1970s. We’re really lucky to have his memories and photos.
Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!
I have more great blogs lined up for the near future, including at least one more “Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular” entries. Until then, Iâ€™ll see you on the boards!
Blog Credits and legal stuff: Images published by Benjamin Holcomb, Mike Armes, Mike Armes, Sr., Jeri Lyn Armes and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.