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Mattel Disney Pixar CARS: SDCC Lightning Storm – Behind the Scenes

From Martin Arriola, another fun Behind the Scenes peek at the creation of a toy, one of our favorites, the SDCC Comic Con exclusive Lightning Storm McQueen … he has one up sale, signed if you prefer + ORIGINAL ART! Check it out on eBay HERE.
The story behind the diecast …

“I was once again placed into mid management after one of the biggest layoffs/reorg’s I’d experienced in my 32 yrs at Mattel. My new Design VP put me in charge of three Brands, one of them was DPCars. The movie had come and gone two years prior, the Line was dead at retail with zero support or product. I was still in the middle of finishing up the Pixar Ratatouille line all by myself and couldn’t really immerse myself into Cars for several months. Once I did I was surprised/happy to see just how product rich the Line was and the first thing I had to do was understand the backbone of the Line which was of course the die cast characters.”
I pretty much memorized “The Art of Cars” book which basically was my design bible so one of my first deep dives into Cars die cast was my SDCC exclusive. I still remember coming back from a very successful product approval meeting up in Emeryville Pixar headquarters where I had pitched my teams product concepts to John Lasseter who I already from working with him on “A Bug’s Life” and the Ratatouille line which took several years off my lifespan. That’s a whole other story.
Lasseter loved everything so were on a van heading back to the airport, everybody happy especially Marketing, when the head Marketing guy say’s “we should showcase Cars at SDCC” which was about 6 months away, when I said hell yes……..then my VP says no, Cars isn’t a fit for SDCC. I really wanted to showcase the Line at SDCC and was happy that Marketing was totally into doing so as well.
Marketing now wanted a SDCC Exclusive so now I have extra work. UGH……The great news was I was told I had a bigger budget, more money so I could kinda do a deluxe version of whatever. I think we already had a Lightning Storm McQueen in the works so we just started looking into a blue colored vacuum metalized blue McQ, Hot Wheels calls that finish spectra flame, shiny like chrome. BTW, the Hot Wheels peeps hate me now because I doing great numbers but I’m cutting into their “wheels category” so it’s hates. Internal hates, the worst kind………
Who cares I find out I even have extra money for a display case. The inept packaging guy totally drops the ball at the last minute so now I have to design a case as well. Crap, not much time. I didn’t want to same old square case everybody else uses so I got some thick plastic mylar sheets and started cutting and taping together a case that had curved front face so you wouldn’t have to be looking through a corner of an ordinary square case. I liked it, had my model maker generate a cleaner/nicer version and sold it into Marketing.
Everything is looking awesome as I start seeing samples coming from my HK counterparts and have all approvals I need. The DPCars line is now on fire, new awesome looking die characters at retail but now something else is happening, stolen DPCars die cast being sold on eBay. Someone tells me that my SDCC exclusive is offered on eBay and I haven’t even seen one complete yet. I let Mattel security know and they start an investigation, again, another story altogether.”

“As the DPCars started to really get hot with awesome sales numbers that were totally unexpected, something else also got hot. Literally, hot….. as in stolen hot, Cars die-cast sku’s. Being in the bitness all my adult life I knew counterfeit merch was around because I saw it all the time. Also known as knock offs, my very favorite fake pirate product for sale was a Spiderman figure playing third base with an actual glove. Spidey doesn’t need a glove. What the hell?…… in the cheesiest packaging I’ve ever seen. But stolen real merch was a different thing because the product was legit/authentic Mattel merch but was being stolen at the factory.”
“So I’m waiting for my very first complete sample to arrive so I can visually approve the entire product as a whole when out of nowhere somebody sends me an email showing my very first DPCars SDCC Exclusive for already sale on eBay! Oh no you didnnnn’ttt!!!!!!!!  Totally unbelievable so I immediately send it to our Mattel Security dept who starts an investigation through our security arm in Hong Kong. Turns out that they end up catching this guy who had contacts within the factory and was smuggling out stolen merch DPCars during the night shift. Holy Overtime Batman! He was the same guy who was setting up to start selling hundreds of stolen copies of the famous and very expensive and collectable Speedway of the South which I don’t even have! His entire apt was full of everything need including packaging with the hologram that came with it.”
It was kinda a backhanded compliment to yours truly on accounts that meant that my very first DPCars SDCC concept was worth stealing, after all, who steals crappy stuff?
“SDCC is drawing near, the Cars world is great and after a Cars team meeting I meet with my so called Marketing counterpart and we start talking price for the exclusive. I say, $25 as I look at the other Mattel SDCC comps and she says $15…..I said that’s way too cheap, at least $20 forget the $5 change, it looks awesome, $20, sober up! …………Her answer was, “oh no, I’m not getting stuck with them”. The morons gave it away for $15 and we sold them out in two days. They were fighting in the lines at our both because we ran out. Months prior we even started a special SDCC run where two readers of T5AD took preorders from other T5AD readers who obviously couldn’t go to SDCC. One flew from New Jersey, ole SlicePie and another drove from Colorado, ole Nascarbroncofan. I made special arrangements so they would have master cartons set aside just for them so I made sure they had enough for everyone who prepaid. I autographed all of them there at SDCC.”
It turned out to be great first DPCars SDCC intro, the Cars display case looked awesome because I went behind my so called marketing counterpart and made sure we had EVERY NEW CARS SCULPT PROTOTYPES in our display case/booth. She didn’t want me to show them but I knew we need NEW NEWS, not just the same old tired releases.

I won that battle and even had help redesigning our entire display case from the most knowledgeable DPCars guy on the planet, the writer of T5AD! The best thing …
You can set the wayback machine to when we were TWO A DAY.  🙂
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26 February 2020 Mattel Disney Pixar Diecast CARS 8 Comments


  • AcuraNSX says:

    Once I was taken off DPCars I stopped going to SDCC. I used to go when I had Designed/Developed product that was shown there as I worked on countless Lines in my 32 years there. Mattel used to be really good about paying for it’s designers to attend but then It started to get really political so if you weren’t in the right club the Company wouldn’t pay.
    I had a saying “if Mattel ain’t paying, I ain’t staying”. Why should I drive all the way down to San Diego, wait for in hours in line for one day on my own dime? Not happening. When I had the Cars Line I worked that Mattel booth from when it opened to when it closed starting Weds for Pro night opening. Again, politics ruined everything that used to fun and creative.

    • Real Gone says:


      That’s too bad that it all went that direction with the politics and all, but what you said makes perfect sense. Heck, I’m not too far from Chicago and although I would like to go to C2E2 I just am not willing to spend the time or the cash do to so. Maybe someday but I also have 2 kids in college as well!

  • AcuraNSX says:

    What was really funny is that I wrote that comment before your shout out to me was posted so I obliviously didn’t see it which is why I jokingly wrote mine. Then once mine posted I saw yours so it was a LOL moment here.
    That’s another thing I missed after being taken off the Line I built, the interaction I had with here on this blog with T5AD Car collectors.
    I even still remember getting called on the carpet by my management for my posting here on T5AD (too much they said) even though I did on my own time because I was way too busy at work and it didn’t even matter to them that my posts were actually bringing Cars collectors to the retail shelves to actually by Cars product. Typical corporate politics, which why my rule became “A wise learns more from his enemies, than a fool from his friends”.

    • Real Gone says:

      That whole corporate mentality perplexes me. I’ve never understood thinking like that, especially when there is a direct benefit as you described.

      And it is funny that the posts aren’t necessarily released in order-I had wondered if that was the case but I did like your good-natured comment! It made me laugh.

      Do you still go to Comic Cons?

  • AcuraNSX says:

    Hey Real Gone,
    How about me, what am I, chopped liver over here? Just kidding, and you are correct as Met is the most knowledgeable guy on the planet when it comes to DPCars. He’s forgotten more about Cars than I’ll ever know which is why I befriended him when I managed the Line, I remember many late night phone calls asking for his advise during what he named “The Golden Age of Cars”. Back in the was my DPCars war time Consolaeri.

    • Real Gone says:

      Hello AcuraNSX,
      I did leave a comment below the one to Metroxing for you first. So, I definitely want to give credit where credit is due! It is very cool to hear that he was able to give you advice when needed.

      Have a great day!

  • Real Gone says:

    Metroxing, I also wanted to say thanks to you as well. I know I’m late to the game, but I am enjoying Take5aday immensely! I had collected about 65 or so Cars back in 2006-2007 and then never looked at the line again until I walked by a display at Walmart and saw Dr. Damage in 2019. I loved it! Then I bought a two pack of Tailgate and Pushover. I was blown away. So cool. My next purchase was the Thunder Hollow 5 pack. That was it-I was off to the races!

    So that is how I got back into the world of Cars and collecting them, and I just wanted to thank you for all your hard work on your blog. It is a wonderful resource and a lot of fun too.

    (MET: Thanks for reading! And yea, it’s just hard to resist the quality of the diecasts, in this day and age where it would’ve been easy to cut a lot of corners, Mattel and its designers have done an amazing job, thanks for reading!)

  • Real Gone says:

    Thank you Mr. Arriola for sharing your story. Wow LSMQ turned out nice! I also wanted to say how wonderful it is that you have a career that you are passionate about. That shines through in your writing as you give us a look into the other side of the toys we all love so much.

    All the best to you!

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