Welcome back to Q&A! Toy Fair is over and we've got a full mailbag loaded with vehicles, The Clone Wars, and other goodies you will (or will not) see in the coming year. Read on!
1. I was disappointed to not see any new fighter pods in any Toy Fair coverage… is this line dead with the new wave hitting now?
As far as I know the line is not dead, but Hasbro didn't show everything they're doing in the showroom. My guess is they either forgot or wanted to focus the media elsewhere.
2. Are the 2013 clone wars figures repaints or different enough to warrant purchasing?
If you can find them, absolutely. The new sculpt figures are unique, but I don't know if any deco differences are significant enough to warrant you caring one way or another for the reissues. It is unknown exactly how and where these will get dumped, though, so keep your eyes peeled and save me a set if you find them.
It's not entirely sure how this line will shake out, as it appears the new R2-D2 and Captain Rex will be in the new Mission Packs later this year... unless Hasbro goofed. The new Obi-Wan Kenobi and 501st Jetpack trooper? Well, we don't know yet. I'm not putting anything past possible SDCC exclusives in 2013 or 2014, though.
3. Kmart exclusive scanning crew set? Haven't seen pictures. Are we finally getting the damn scanning box, Adam?
According to the reports out there, that seems to be the idea! I haven't seen the pictures either. Which is great news, although I don't know what I'm going to do with my half-boxes from 2009 now.
4. So the Clone Wars line is officially kaput and it's only future, if any, is in "realistic" versions, which have been previewed with boring repeat characters like Mace Windu. Now that we're able to look back on the Clone Wars line in summation, I was wondering what your thoughts on it were.
Did Hasbro make a mistake back in 2008 by going with the animated style for the line instead of starting off with a more realistic sculpting style that established fans were used to? Are they making a mistake now by abandoning the line with plenty of cheap repaints to be mined with still another season to go and syndication starting to take hold? Or was it just a fun sub-line with about as many characters produced as the original Kenner run and we should be grateful we what we got and they quit before it got worse?
As I was snowed out of Hasbro's media day I wasn't able to ask and confirm this - some of the pictures making it out show new mold R2-D2 and Captain Rex figures in upcoming Mission Series 2-packs. This may mean the molds will make it out to the USA, although it could also be a screw-up.
At this point I think it's a safe bet that collectors will turn up their nose at any prequel figure in almost any format, an exception being the new 6-inch line. So you're bored with Mace Windu, I find it somewhat interesting, but not superbly exciting as opposed to, oh, say something more different.
Since 2010 Hasbro's increasingly mercurial nature hints at a company that is unable to decide on a direction for its boys' brands. We're seeing things disappear from store shelves, get dumped in strange channels, and questionable line planning result in collectors being unable to purchase toys without a lot of leg work, digital or otherwise. With that in mind I wouldn't call "animated" a "mistake" so much as it was a good idea at the time. I still think it's a good idea - the new 5-jointed "Saga Legends" format seems like it might be ideal for the cartoon designs.
While this may sound oddly optimistic, if the line is really done and not being held back for exclusives or another relaunch, it's been a decent run. 5 years, 4 of which had some great (if hard-to-find) releases, ain't bad for a TV show on cable which people keep telling me is underperforming as a TV program. I think it's full of squandered opportunities, but this resulted in some characters climbing on eBay. This is bad, because Hasbro doesn't profit from eBay. This could be good long-term as it makes the subline desirable and may create new collectors who will come back to the line down the road, focusing on this TV show, as they become adults.
So what were the missed opportunities? Astromech repaints, Battle Droid repaints, Clone repaints, and just shipping more of the "Season 3" Ahsoka figure. I find it funny that this much-hated character is now hot stuff, even though Hasbro has made several toys of her so far. Compared to, say, the 1985 Droids line I would call the current Clone Wars range a good selection of product. In the grand scheme of things I wish they just stuck with the "realistic" format so fans wouldn't feel a loss right now... but all good things must come to an end. After 2800 or whatever movie-style figures, it's impossible to remember it fondly. At least with The Clone Wars, we may have a chance to remember it as something other than an impenetrable nigh-unknowable mega-series that is beyond normal human comprehension.
I'm more or less satisfied with what we got, but I feel under slightly different direction it could have gone better. Hasbro and Lucasfilm not producing more Mandalorians, ARC Troopers, Rako Hardeen, and countless other cool characters just shows that they lost interest in this line pretty early on. I'm sure there were other issues at work here, but I don't think there's a soul in this hobby who wouldn't armchair quarterback the 2012 case mixes and say "Oh, Hasbro's tanking this line on purpose." (That or the bean counters made it this way.) I expect other characters to eventually get some realistic presence in plastic, but not many. Huyang and Bo-Katan may be to this generation of kids what Vlix was to me as a child... and with any luck that means someone else will write columns like this one so I can call it quits someday.
5. Looking at the new "slim" style realistic clone trooper and comparing it to the "stylized" cartoon troopers, they are remarkably similar. Do you think this might be an attempt from Hasbro to get people wouldn’t consider them because of the "stylized" sculpting, to take a second look at the cartoon troopers and integrate them into their collections?
I don't believe so... the cartoon troopers seem stylized and very skinny now, with thin builds and especially skinny legs. Looking at the 2012 The Clone Wars figures, it seemed Hasbro was on a path to significantly thinner figures with simpler, more toy-ish designs. Note the lack of articulation on many figures with improved sculpting and better proportions. If anything it seemed The Clone Wars was evolving into the 2013 Saga Legends line, which I can honestly say has me more excited than The Black Series right now.
I'm back! You may not know this, but for my day job I go to a lot of trade shows and conventions for meetings with various companies and people, which means I work 12-ish hours standing up, talking, and then staying up posting stuff and writing for you guys... so Q&A and Galactic Hunter Video Theater went on hiatus a bit there. But we're back for now, at least until San Diego.
We're clearly in a transitional year. Jedi Force seems to be doing business as usual, as does Fighter Pods, but the main part of the line seems suspect. After a huge surge in vehicle momentum in 2007 and 2008, we're seeing only 4 new movie/TV vehicle molds in 2013 and none of them are 100% new. All of the big Hasbro exclusives are going to Amazon, who is positioning itself as the Walmart of the internet. And there's no sign of any mini-rigs/Class I vehicles beyond what you can buy right now.
Doom and gloom or no, I can honestly say I'm at a point in my toy collecting career where I can say less is more. Of course, I'd also like to see something genuinely new. Here are some ramblings.
The Black Series (6-Inch): Hasbro's biggest opportunity to bring in new fans and bring back old fans. Offering any convention exclusive seems premature as it may alienate people looking to collect them all before they get a chance to buy their first figure. The quality seems to be there and given how stale 3 3/4-inch has been, this is probably necessary to keep the creative team from slicing open their wrists when tasked to find another way to do a 3 3/4-inch Biggs Darklighter.
The Black Series (3 3/4-Inch): I will be amazed if this range survives 12 months. Giving it the same name as the 6-inch line is confusing and shows a lack of understanding of how people shop in the digital age. If I punch in "Darth Vader Black Series action figure" into Google, I might get two different products some day. The selection is still weak, the dropped build-a-droids (even as separate full-price releases) is depressing, and this may be the single most disappointing batch of 3 3/4-inch figures we'll get in a historical context. If the 10+ points of articulation range survives 2013, which I doubt, it's going to need something to keep it fresh.
Saga Legends (3 3/4-Inch): A new name would be helpful. A new figure would be nice too. I adore the concept of simple figures with superior sculpting and low price points, and I'm actually more excited about this segment than anything else in Hasbro's showroom. Figures that can stand, sit, and hold their accessories? I'm in! Since the character selection was undoubtedly picked due to the now-cancelled reissues of the prequel sequels, it instead just seems uninspired. Having said that, I want an Attack of the Clones Obi-Wan Kenobi in this assortment for my new Jedi Starfighter. I assume this could be the future of the line if it succeeds, as the pricing isn't insane. There's a ton of opportunity in this format, particularly if Hasbro avoids characters who have been in constant rotation since 2007 and considers something a little more diverse or obvious. Wouldn't you shell out for the original 12 Kenner figures done up in the $5.99 style? I would. I'd also buy a squad of Stormtroopers.
A postscript: I'd love to see all the original 1978-1984 figures done in this style. I would also like to see about 50-100 prequel figures done in this style. (Anakins, Obi-Wans, Jedi High Council, etc. Bring it on!) I feel the only real shortcoming on this range is the packaging... it's too bad Hasbro used it for "premium" figures because I think Vintage cardbacks would actually do a bang-up job of selling these figures a lot more easily than Revenge of the Sith MK II.
Vehicles (3 3/4-Inch): Arguably still better than what we got in 2011, which was a huge launch of undesirable vehicles (11 repacks followed by assortments of old stuff with 1 new vehicle mixed in) proved Hasbro was not too interested in keeping things as they were. Now all we have shown are new $19.99 Class II vehicles, which are a lot of fun despite being smaller. They feel like older Kenner toys, save for the spring-loaded projectiles... Kenner in the 1980s never used those in Star Wars. The exclusive vehicles look like they should be good, but I'm really curious what $19.99 will get me in the coming months. I'm curious to see what a new smaller Landspeeder, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, or Naboo Fighter might look like. Oh, and if Hasbro did a miniature A-Wing I would probably soil myself with glee. I would go absolutely bonkers for a mini A-Wing and a matching Saga Legends pilot. Doubly so if it's in McQuarrie Concept Blue.
Since 2010 it's been tough to tell if Hasbro is getting what it wants out of Star Wars or not. I know we're seeing a lot of sales and supposedly it's the top licensed property in action figures most of the time, but Skylanders and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are taking a big bite out of the action figure market now. It's obvious Hasbro is nervous and trying something new because they "failed" before, but it's certainly not for lack of buyer interest. Most of 2012 was the same dozen or so figures which looked a lot like things already out in the marketplace, and the line's future will likely be dictated by just how excited this new stuff makes the people that don't read this column or follow collector web sites. This is the biggest grab for new blood we've seen in ages, and I hope it works. And if it doesn't, I hope Hasbro eschews the "collectible" angle and just goes back to making toys for kids again... at least those should be fun.
Oh, one last thing. I haven't purchased any as of writing this but I've been gawking over Hasbro's new 3 3/4-inch $6 Marvel figures at the store. $6 translucent blue Spider-Man feels more like a designer import figure than a Hasbro toy, and I'm probably going to buy him and one of the new Iron Man figures to see how they feel. I got a freebie Assemblers Iron Patriot (thank you Mr. Sullenger!) to futz with and while neat, the $10 arm-swapper lacks oomph but has incredible collector presentation. I can't imagine any child will see a dismembered Iron Man in a box and beg mom and dad to buy it over the one which doesn't look like he got drawn and quartered. It's beautiful packaging but I bet it's going to backfire.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.