Last Sunday, I finished out the weekend sitting in my recliner, sipping a cup of coffee, wondering where the time had gone, and what the next day would bring.
Monday morning, I found out, bright and early.
PACIFIC RIM UPRISING- everywhere!
I’d vaguely recalled hearing of the movie. I’d seen the first one, and I will freely admit I enjoyed it. Of course, I tend to be very easy to please with movies of that type. If it’s lots of flash and action and giant stomping robot things and monsters- I love it. I guess that goes back to my childhood love of Ultraman. I don’t get too hung up in acting or plot holes or any of those other things. (Unless they’re really, really bad. Like Mannequin Skywalker… but digress I do…)
The new epic in the Pacific Rim movie series was brought to my attention, though, from a direction I was not expecting.
My friend Lincoln Wright, of Paint on Plastic fame, had posted a video unboxing of a Bandai kit from the Pacific Rim Uprising movie. It was a special “metallic” version being sold exclusively by GeekJack.net, a site that seemed to appear overnight. I watched Linc’s video, and quite enjoyed it.
Not long after that, ModelMaking Guru posted his unboxing of another kit from the franchise, also from GeekJack.net. And then ZakuAurelius posted his unboxing. I went to Youtube, and quickly found at least half a dozen similar unboxings.
Then the movie trailers arrived- Youtube and my Facebook feed had them everywhere.
Of course, as I mentioned, my childhood affection rooted in Ultraman loved all of this. A giant stompy robot and monster movie! What’s not to love? And toys to go along with it? The only way it could be better is if they were handing out free cheese grits with bacon in it!
A few days after the initial onslaught, the build reviews begin to appear. Both ModelMaking Guru and ZakuAurelius posted their results, and both were favorable. It’s no surprise, really… Bandai has built a few giant stompy robot kits in the past, so they have some experience.
And I’ll admit- I bit on it hook, line, and sinker. I’m usually not one to get too hyped up about marketing, but this was the “perfect storm” of motivations- a subject I like, from a company I like, in a kit form I like- and for an affordable price. Count me in!
I did decide against the “metallic” version being offered in the videos, though not because of any mark against those kits. I simply knew I’d want to paint it, and weather it, and generally make a right proper mess of it. So that nice finish would be useless.
A quick swim in a large South American river turned up a pre-order for the non-metallic version of the kit, so as quickly as you can say “cha-ching”, I was in on the fun.
Now I have no doubt the kit will be fun. It’s Bandai. I’ve built their stuff, and quite like it. (To the point of embarrassingly fan boi behaviour…. 🙂 )
So I don’t think any of this is disingenuous. The movie company does what they do to make money. Bandai does too. GeekJack, I’m sure, hopes to turn a profit. They want to get their product in front of the audience. And I’m all for that. People are employed, taxes are paid, the wheels turn. And models get built.
But what really fascinated me – and encouraged yet discouraged me at the same time – is how movies like this can promote the hobby of building models.
Sure, they may be snap fit, pre-colored, and simple to build. Many old school modelers will simply chuckle, scratch their butt, and ignore it all. Yet the fact is, “traditional” model making is dying out. I’ve seen the numbers. And while Gunpla seems to be rolling along fine, most other genres are decidedly old in their fan base. Go to any model show in the Western world, and most of what you’ll see are middle aged to older men, shuffling around, arguing about FS colors, and looking for the nearest bathroom. There aren’t many replacement consumers wandering the show floor.
Seeing this convergence of movie and model media brought together in such a rapid and dramatic fashion proves once again that what is needed is a focus on the new builders, the new consumers. The fresh eyes that are excited about the process of building something.
But the traditional ways won’t cut the sprue, so to speak.
Most traditional model companies have gotten lazy. The audience in the 1960s and 70s who built their products as a kid now have enough disposable income to keep things floating. But with rare exception, none reach out to the younger audience in any meaningful way. And even the ones who do really only make half-hearted attempts to make a nod to the youngsters. (Ever see Revel do an all out Star Wars blitz like this? Me neither… yet the opportunity is there in SPADES.)
Of course, Bandai is certainly an example of reaching new audiences with a modeling product, and doing so in a financially successful way. For decades.
I suppose I must conclude this ramble somewhere.
The point of it all is, Pacific Rim Uprising shows that enthusiasm for a model product can come from out of nowhere to grab the target audience by the heart and wallet- if the model companies would only seek those opportunities. But it takes more than just offering a few kits as a make-and-take at model shows void of young people. (Although I have seen Airfix going to a greater effort at outreach than most others, so they are to be recognized and commended. Yet more could certainly be done.)
Building scale models is fun. And profitable. But if the traditional model companies don’t really examine their marketing efforts, they’ll find themselves without an audience.
Because face it… the guys who build planes and tanks and ships are dying off. Yet the market for giant stompy robots keeps growing.
Print that in your magazine. You might find you’ll still be publishing in 25 years if you do.