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Mattel Disney Pixar CARS Diecasts: From Concept to Prototype to First Shot to Approved

This may not apply to every Mattel product line or every toy company as smaller companies are more flexible but this is the general process. For purposes of simplicity, I’ll just cover the CARS diecast process but since diecasts are the most complicated in the CARS lineup as they cover the most characters, here is that process.

In the case of CARS, characters are presented to Disney/Pixar for diecast creation. As it’s an evergreen lineup with nearly 1,000 releases, it’s a matter of figuring what’s left to release. If it’s for a new film (or short), of course, then it’s kind of a given what will get released but on the other hand, Mattel is usually restricted to the major characters as they’re the only ones that have been finalized, approved and locked in (in the trailer or early design) – because it’s nearly a 2-year process from concept to shelf.

18-24 months out.

Once the characters are approved, Pixar/Disney Toons Animation, etc … supplies the official screenshot.


Mattel creates prototypes out of plastic & resin. – either hand carved or now with some parts coming from a 3D printer. These are hand painted with all the final details. Here’s Antonio Veloce Eccellente made entirely of plastic & resin. He weighs about 2 ounces, it’s weird picking this up.

They hands-on artistry extends to the base (either craved or 3D printed) – so again, everything gets approved at once. The wheels comes from the parts bin and there’s a tiny metal axel. It’s screwed together versus rivets in production.

Rust-eze bottom

If they are super busy, Mattel will occasionally farm out these out to sculptors in Hong Kong/China who will work off the screenshot … presumably that is why Brent Mustangberger is the abomination that he is – as a diecast, the sculptor did a perfect fine job in reproducing him from the solo screenshot …

Brent Mustangburger 2But totally out of context … unlike a US auto fan who knows why it’s called a pony car and not a Vista Cruiser … of course, that doesn’t really explain everyone else who approved it along the way.

But anyway, now with a prototype, the client signs off and approves it, now we’re about 24-18 months away from shipment to stores. Mattel begins production planning – obviously repaints and variants are considered as a cost savings in producing them around the same time. In the case of Antonio, approving the green version, Costanzo is relatively straightforward. For most major character versions, they also create a new prototype but for more minor characters like Pitty’s, they might just present the graphic sheet as to what the next release might look like.



Then a “first shot” is created for final approval before full time production can begin. Whatever color plastic is laying around is used to inject into the mold so colors are all over the board. Of course, the metal that makes it a diecast is injected into another mold. This of course, also allows Mattel to see in final 3D form that everything is copacetic. It’s assembled and sent to the client (Mattel, Disney, & Pixar) for signoff.


Though nowadays, I think only Mattel & Disney signs off on the “first shots.”


AND if it comes in a box set, the entire box set is mocked up (using whatever cardboard is laying around) to get approval from the client and Mattel.  Singles or card art is also sent (without the bubble) for approval also. Since the overall card design was already approved and the screenshot was approved, card approval is pretty straightforward but lawyers need to check if all the legalese is there (if it’s based on a trademark license design like the GM Hummer or the Chrysler Jeep) plus if there are small parts, they need the consumer parts warning snipe.

Sarge's Boot Camp Proto BoxSince SARGE was already approved back in 2006, he’s placed just for position.


The FINAL RELEASE of Sarge Boot Camp.


Or in the case of the Wally Hauler, Walmart has to sign off on it and they had a slight issue with their trademark words in the original first attempt …

WM Incorrect
So that had to be fixed before final production could begin.


So, with most CARS characters, production is planned out for up to 2 years away so as the transition of each year’s theme/motif is about to change, certain diecasts fall by the wayside – and are often forgotten as either the group just presume it got released or someone has to remember to reschedule as the 1-2 year schedule is a moving target and has to be “re-planned.”

So, even with prototype or with a first shot meaning it’s ready for production, some CARS are forgotten …


At some point, someone might remember it’s been forgotten as we have actually gotten some “lost” CARS such as Nature Drive McQueen or Mildred Bylane but it took nearly 4 years for the 2 “lost” Final Lap CARS to make it back to the production schedule.

There are many other lost CARS (including El Materdor never released in the US).


So, now you know. There is a process and a plan but then it can easily veer off course and when it does, it takes a while to figure the process drove off the side of the mountain and is laying in a ditch saying “help me, little help! Little help!”

You can see our last post on the topic.


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