Q&A: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Toys on Demand, and Black Robots

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 22, 2017

1. What are your thoughts now that you can 3D print droids directly from Disneystore.com?

DisneyStore.com, via Shapeways, now lets you print droid statues on demand in a variety of materials. It's certainly interesting, but so far I don't see it as a game-changer.

I've picked up a handful of Transformers accessories via Trent Troop's Shapeways shop and the designs are excellent. The materials aren't the best, and the output is a little rough, but they fit in figure hands and the designs I've purchased are reasonably great.

Right now I see this as a gimmick - but a cool one. "Make a statue that's uniquely you" is an interesting slacker spin on Color Me Mine, Build a Bear, and other similarly mass-produced-but-assembled-at-the-last-mile concepts. I don't think this is going to get in the way of what Kotobukiya and Gentle Giant are doing yet, mostly because the print-outs - while good - still look like print-outs. The whole made-in-China thing generally leads to smooth, cheaper, and more professional looking output. We also haven't seen a lot in the way of complex articulated products as of yet - an action figure isn't something they can crank out well, and obviously some materials are impossible or close to impossible to achieve in this format. I doubt you're going to see a vac-metal shiny R2-D2 or C-3PO made-on-demand any time soon.

It's great for accessories and perfectly OK - but not great - for statues right now. I've had the opportunity to examine higher-end industrial-grade print-outs from a few places, and I'd say the best of the best is very good - for a print-out. The capabilities will no doubt improve over time, and when they do I've got cause for alarm. Right now our entire hobby exists because of the balance between supply and demand - unlimited access to action figures or any product would be a game-changer, not just for stores and how products are sold/packaged/manufactured, but for you. In theory, a product could be made forever with no concerns about supply, or tooling wearing out, or anything like that. When supply reaches infinity, collectibility ends. It's worth what it costs to manufacture and/or deliver, no more and no less. I also assume piracy will be a concern, especially as there still seem to be issues with "third party" products. If trademarks are not infringed upon, if the 3-D file is changed slightly, where could this go legally? Can it be stopped?

The closest analog - tee-hee- would be music. MP3s generate revenue, but streaming has devalued digital music a great deal - as has piracy, as has YouTube. To make money, you have to deliver a professionally packaged product with some sort of built-in collectibility. A CD can be this, but so can limited edition fancy color vinyl records.


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2. Since The Force Awakens line launched, there have been no new figures in the basic 3 3/4 line from the previous movies or The Clone Wars. With new movies coming every year now, I agree that the main line should be focused on figures from the current movie and TV series, but it would be nice to still see something from the older movies. An idea that I've been thinking of is something like the upcoming Saw Gererra four pack; a special set of mostly new figures that won't be taking valuable slots in the basic single carded line. Maybe once a year a three or four pack for the prequels and one for the original trilogy. It would be nice to get at least one figure a year from each of the previous movies! What kind of ideas do you have about how Hasbro could still offer something new in the basic figure line from the previous films?

I hear some handsome devil pushed for a bunch of The Clone Wars astromech droids last year. Just throwing that out there.

We've had some repacks - especially in 2015 - but there haven't been any new sculpts from previous eras. This sort of thing isn't too unusual in long-lived franchises, as Playmates Toys took a couple of years off from "classic" Star Trek and instead focused on the then-current TV shows at first in the 1990s. Most promotions-driven toy companies do follow the lead of the licensor's marketing plan, which means you only get things like Batman 1966 because Warner/Fox/whoever is pushing a Blu-Ray and syndication package. With Nintendo, Jakks Pacific is largely doing recent items from blockbuster games, without digging too deep. Star Wars is and will always be something of an outlier - we got toys for 21 straight years off of only 5 "new" movies and a couple of TV shows (and of course the old movies) in the mix. This is weird, we're very fortunate.

We know there's a 40th Anniversary coming up for Star Wars and we don't know what's in it. For whatever reason Hasbro has been focusing its general audience line (3 3/4-inch) to the latest and greatest, and is bizarrely resting it 6 months out of the year. This is probably the problem, and I assume the answer might be Disney wanting to let Star Wars die down so they can do another ridiculous launch for new toys in September. In short - it's on purpose.

I assume The Clone Wars will be uncommon for a very long time. With the anniversary of Star Wars approaching, I expect some stuff - but based on last year's offerings in the Spring, not 3 3/4-inch stuff - from classic movies this year, soon. Hasbro has cranked out a few 6-inch figures here and there.

If I were Hasbro, I'd do something similar to what they're doing now. You may disagree, but I see Rogue One as having lots of untapped potential - there aren't a ton of Imperials I'd want to buy, but there are a few. The Rebels and aliens unavailable to us are amazing, though - I love the blue Rebel Pilots. I love the space monkey. I'll take Two Tubes' egg brother. And odds are that Rogue One will be put to bed before Hasbro gets to some of these significant characters from that film.

Unpopular as it may be to say this, I'm wagering 3 3/4-inch for "classic" (pre-Disney) properties are going to be tied up and vaulted until Disney goes more than 12 months without a new movie. I'd say if Hasbro could do some sort of line-up beyond the Spring - like literally one wave in the summer that mixes old stuff and new stuff - we'd get something cool. But, as I'm fond of saying, step back and look at the last few years. Since the transition to The Vintage Collection in 2010, most of what we've received are remakes and repacks - 100%-new characters and costumes, the whole never-before-made-as-a-toy thing is pretty sparse. Boxed sets are a bigger risk than single figures, although they do benefit from lower costs (packaging is expensive) and they can usually stick you with one or two figures you've already bought.

I don't think it's realistic to expect one figure a year from the previous movies, and/or TV shows. The reason for this is that there are now 8 theatrical movies, 3 TV-adjacent movies, 4 TV series, and countless games and whatever. Last year, we got a Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper that are debatably from multiple sources - Vader, at least. Asking Hasbro to do a token figure each year from previous movies is just unrealistic and hard to maintain. We've had several years with no The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones product, and I would argue I'd like to go more than a year with no more 3 3/4-inch Revenge of the Sith remakes or repacks.

We didn't get one new figure per movie per year in The Vintage Collection or The Black Series - we got a lot of really boring remakes with a few nifty new figures salted in to keep those of us with more picky tastes happy. Now we're getting new movie lines with mostly new figures, which, given the alternative, I find to be more acceptable. Last year's Rogue One offerings - being new - are more exciting than characters I could buy on eBay right now (or already own.)

If I were King and Ruling Tyrant I'd probably request Hasbro put out a "Greatest Hits" assortment each year with whatever the market might need - Rey, Boba Fett, Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and so on. We still don't have a Resistance Outfit General Leia. We're missing nearly every awesome thing in Maz Kanata's castle save for Maz herself.... and Sidon and Quiggold I'm hoping that the revival of Fan's Choice for 3 3/4-inch figures - which Hasbro promised is coming - will change things to be more to your liking, but let's be honest here. If Jaina Solo can somehow hijack the election at the 11th hour, and Hasbro knows this, and decides to make her anyway? You're probably going to be getting a lot of martyr ex-Expanded Universe characters getting a lot more love than collectors would honestly give them, and not one blessed new alien from the Cantina or Jabba's Palace. I expect a dry spell for your request, so just clutch your favorite classic figures a little closer to your breast. At least they can't take those away from you.



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3. I have yet to see Rogue One (I know, heresy!), anyway my question has to do with C2-B5. Did the droid have a big part of the movie or was it a blink and miss? It just seems weird to me that there would be a couple of 3 inch figures, a six inch, a statue and a sixth scale figure from Sideshow for this droid. I like droids as much as you or the next person but this seemed like overkill to me.

...you haven't seen it? What are you doing that's so important that you'd read a column like this one and not see that movie first, like, twice?

I think I saw C2-B5 but I might be misremembering - it's near the end of the movie, and it's basically blink-and-you'll-miss-it. The reason some of these things get made as toys is because it's expedient to do so. If all of these companies can take their R2-D2 mold, paint it black, and sell tens of thousands of figures, why wouldn't they? Disney doesn't give licensors full access to everything in the movie - they see certain things and can decide what they do or don't want to make with suggestions from the corporate overlords. If Disney showed you Black R2-D2, and you needed to cut a corner or three, you'd make a black R2-D2 toy. I would. Now I'd be more disturbed if all of them were brand-new molds, but if they're repaints of existing figures it's just good sensible business practices.

This sort of thing is not without precedent - see the previous question. Sometimes we only get cameo figures like this in the pre-release zone of the movie because Hasbro doesn't know any better - they're not aware that it isn't important, so we get a figure of it. And Constable Zuvio... and R2-D2 with his rockets, and pantsless Geonosians, and Prune Face, and really - would you have picked General Madine as a year one Return of the Jedi figure in 1983 if you knew each and every awesome design and costume in that movie?

All companies do their very best given the information available to them. Keep in mind when vehicles are developed, you can still change CG models and alter their appearance in the movie drastically. Hasbro does the best they can with the designs they have at about 1 1/2-years before the movie sees release - you can see multiple examples of this in Attack of the Clones, when numerous creatures and alien figures were modeled after the maquettes in the artbooks nearly exactly. Same pose, same expressions, and so forth - because this was the information they had at hand at the time.

If you make toys from these movies, you're at the mercy of your licensing contact to be forthright and generous with information. Given the general obfuscation in movie marketing - and Rogue One's trailer being different from the final product - you can see that there's a tremendous gamble in trying to get a movie toy line made prior to release. I totally get why so many took the bait of an easy repaint, and frankly I'm surprised Hasbro doesn't give us a droid redeco every 2-3 waves just because it's low hanging fruit.



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I've had people write in asking if I'd write about certain things - old video games has come up - now that I'm doing a Patreon thing. To that I say, sure! Make a request. Comics, games, toys, whatever - if it's in an area of limited expertise, I will gladly spit out something I hope you'll find amusing if we can fit it in the context of fundraising. (Hey, if I can get the world to buy me lunch once a week I've done something right.) I've been queuing up impressions of games I've played and some I haven't from the NES Classic on Tumblr for fun. Metroid's up, Mega Man 2, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Double Dragon II are on the way. The latter of which I have not actually played until immediately before I sat down to write about it, so that was a fun, new experience.

Toy Fair is weeks away and, as always, I take requests for coverage between here for Star Wars and 16bit.com for whatever else. I can't get everything - I am there for work - but I do like to see what covers both bases that I give back to you, the people. We do know more Rogue One is on deck, but so far it doesn't seem like a lot. It might even be less than you think it is. I'm hoping to see a 6-inch Bodhi Rook, but I won't hold my breath. There's also a rumor I've been told - and since I have no idea if it's true, why not share it? - that Thrawn might be coming to SDCC for the 6-inch line. I've got no source, it just popped in my IMs and hey - it'd be nice!

I do not have high hopes for the future of big vehicles in the near term, but Hasbro is always working on big-ticket items because those things tend to make the news. Well, sometimes. People make a fuss about Fortress Maximus, and maybe if Hasbro had been a bit snappier and less secretive demoing how the AT-ACT worked we'd have seen that achieve some more success. If anything, I think we're going to probably see some more classic stuff, some more Rebels stuff, and a whole lot of silence because Hasbro is probably biting their fingernails to finish their Episode 8 packaging. Think about it - it's coming in 11 months, the toys are coming in 8 months, and we don't even know the title yet. It wouldn't stun me if it hasn't even been decided yet. The only movie to date that had toys released without the title on the packaging was The Phantom Menace, which merely said Episode I instead. The first packaged samples showed up about seven or eight months before their on-shelf debut... which may mean Hasbro will have to put a cop-out "Episode 8" on the boxes if this isn't the best-kept secret of our day.

At this point, I almost wish they'd just throw it at the end of the credits for the previous movie. "R2-D2 and C-3PO will be back... in LUKE WHO'S TALKING NOW!" No? Well, I like it.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.