NECA MOTU MINISTATUES
The 2002 MOTU toys released by Mattel gained a dedicated following of fans, but not everyone who witnessed the relaunch of the Masters Of The Universe thought the toys were as good as they could have been. I have written here about the designs. They were typified by exaggerated features and a comic book appearance. The styling appealed to some fans but alienated others, and ultimately the line ended perhaps sooner than Mattel had originally hoped.
All was not lost, however, because Mattel licensed the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) to produce MOTU figures. NECA is an American toy manufacturer that produces collectable figures from various sources such as films and video games. While NECA usually create products under licence, the MOTU situation was unusual, even though licensing the MOTU brand actually goes right back to the vintage line.
NECA picked up the line when Mattel decided to drop it. The idea was to manufacture the toys that Mattel had not yet produced, so that fans could continue collecting, but Mattel would not allow NECA to manufacture articulated figures. As a result, NECA created non-articulated ministatues, designed by the Four Horsemen. The intention may have been to continue where Mattel finished, but there is a significant difference in style between Mattel's 2002 creations and NECA's.
The NECA figures have considerably more detail than the vintage figures, but they do not (for the most part) share the over-done styling of the Mattel relaunch toys. They may sit well alongside the 2002 figures, but they are equally well-placed sitting next to the vintage toys and the Classics. Look at the He-Man mini-statue on the right. He has some modern features but they are sensibly styled, and he is more recognisable as He-Man than Mattel's version. The NECA figures are what the Mattel figures should have looked like, and it seems the Four Horsemen were given the freedom to create memorable versions of the characters without the manga appearance.
The figures actually help to introduce a new word to the world of collecting. Staction came to mean a cross between a statue and an action figure. Most references to the NECA products use the word ministatue though. I am of the opinion that the NECA ministatues helped to preserve interest in the Masters, and therefore they can be seen as the forerunners of the Classics. Not everyone will agree with my perception that there is a big difference between the Mattel and NECA figures, but there must be for me to generally dislike the Mattel toys (with a few exceptions) and to like the NECA ministatues (also with a few exceptions).
Six series of ministatues were produced by NECA with three figures per wave. There were also additional figures released as exclusives through selected sellers. As far as I can tell, the following list is complete, but if you know of any other figures, please e-mail me so I can update the list. Kobra Khan and Faker were going to be released as an exclusive villains two-pack, but sadly the release was cancelled.
Ministatues were not the only Masters Of The Universe items produced by NECA. They also made a selection of busts and fifteen inch statues. Some examples are shown below. Like the ministatues, these were designed by the Four Horsemen. I believe some of these were also released as exclusives through selected sellers.