Q&A: Finding Star Wars Figures, Also Picking, Selecting

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, December 16, 2018

1. I feel the online shopping vs. brick and mortar is a "Love Hate" relationship. On the one hand, the idea of driving around and finding NOTHING is frustrating BUT when you finally do find something, the "thrill" of finding it in the wild is a great feeling. On the other, buying it online removed the "thrill of the hunt" but saves me time, maybe I spend 10% more, but my time & gas is worth more than a 10% savings. PLUS, it keeps small business, like EE, in business vs. buying at a Walmart or Target. I dont feel like that the concept of buying at a store will ever go away completely, but with Episode IX wrapping up in 2019 and nothing really on the horizon for new movies (taking into consideration the Disney PLUS streaming service and now knowing what is there to come) will Star Wars begun to be phased out at Walmart/Target, circa 1985-1995 and completely be online or will there always be a small presence in the isle?

Piggy backing on that, Entertainment Earth and other online stores have consistently been stepping up to grab exclusives that Walmart/Target dont want or back out of I understand you can not reveal trade secrets, but does Hasbro go to EE, does EE go to Hasbro and ask if they have anything or does Walmart/Target approach EE and Say, "Yeah we bought it, we dont want it, do you?

The thrill of the hunt is kind of crap. Ultimately none of us want to go to a store and not get what we want - we want the toy. That's why we're in the store. We each have unique goals, ranging from getting it cheapest to getting it first to just plain getting it. I've mostly switched over to buying online (yes at Entertainment Earth, yes I work there) and I get stuff before the mass market most of the time. Pre-ordering when the items go up makes a big difference, but not everything shows up first all of the time. I'm of the mindset of the whole Force Friday phenomenon being out of gas - at least after this next movie - and hopefully things actually go back to a real hunt, if it's the route this is going to go. "Come here at midnight for your figures, maybe" isn't exactly good hunting when the person who lines up at 4 PM gets everything and leaves. (Fun fact, I missed out on a Toys R Us exclusive in 2016 because some dude bought all of many figures - sans cart - and was walking them all to the register in a badly-stacked Jenga tower. He fell, and so did the figures. That's sort of worth the price of admission.)

Due to the nature of the toy as a thing, it needs and demands impulse purchases so bad uncles can buy them on the way to birthday parties. Online has advantages if you're OK with paying shipping instead of tax, and are also OK with the possibility that maybe you'll get it before a store and maybe you won't. Lately for me, it's worked out pretty well - especially in the last 5 years. I, of course, also appreciate your business because you buying things at online stores helps keep people like me employed. And if you hate my guts, well, there you go.

I don't think Star Wars will be phased out without bad corporate input. Hasbro did a marvelous job in movie-free 2006, 2007, and most of 2008 - and when The Clone Wars picked up, we got a top-notch line for collectors from 2008 to about 2012. In 2013 it kind of got monotonous. Also the team changed. Funny how that happens. There's still a big market for Star Wars, but in what form? LEGO is hot. Lightsabers are hot. 3 3/4-inch action figures have been getting weird assortments that don't seem to be clicking, regardless of the price point or target audience. 6-inch is doing fine. Will you still see Star Wars? I'd count on it. It just doesn't mean you'll get what you want.

As to question numero dos, it varies. Some of the items offered were developed for an account - like Toys R Us - and even had the Toys R Us stickers on them. They had to go somewhere and we were happy to give them a home. Some items were not slated to be produced in North America, and someone (maybe me, who knows) asked about them so they could get made and shipped here. Some sold out. Some didn't. Bistan and the Shoretrooper wasn't going to be produced anywhere in the world, supposedly, and now it exists. It's also still in stock. Hasbro knows its market pretty well and the 3 3/4-inch world isn't what it was 10 or 20 years ago. I ask for all kinds of things. Do you see a Vlix in this collection? I still don't.



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2. Are there plans you know of for any more 3 3/4 droids from SOLO? The packaging for the kessel mine playset seems to show a few we haven't seen yet, such as the short, gonk-like droids.

At this point I am unaware of any plans for more 3 3/4-inch Solo movie figures of any strain that have been made official. (There have been rumblings of things that didn't all make it out, but we don't even know what one of those is yet.) To my knowledge there are no known additional droids, which is a pity, because that was a beautiful movie for character designs and costumes.

To preemptively answer the follow-up, at this time it may not be prudent to do them as an online exclusive due to the very significant costs of making a new mold. I don't think we've talked about it here because I'm not in a position to be able to share every piece of information to illustrate this, but you may have noticed a lot of exclusives are rereleases (new production in new packaging), repaints (existing tooling toy with new color and new packaging), or shared-tooling items (think Veers+Tarkin+Piett+Thrawn, Novastar/Moonracer, 12-inch Marvel Legends Spider-Man/Deadpool.) Many toys are developed with reuse in mind, but not all are - so sometimes, you can budget in those extra accessories or heads or other parts at the time the original toy is engineered at whatever company is making the toy.

Sometimes, you can't - the item may be secret, the full extent of the line may not be known yet, or maybe someone in an office in a licensing office in Glendale or whereever didn't approve a thing. It happens.

For this reason, we sometimes see things that are a bit easier to execute - like the Concept Art Boba Fett, Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "toy deco" Brainstorm, and of course all of my wonderful babies - the astromech droids. I know most of you basically know this, but sometimes things like deadlines, edition sizes, approvals, or other factors limit what you can do - and sometimes that factor is something like "the movie window is over." While that's something we long-time Star Wars collectors see as absurd, it's very much a part of how Marvel does their things - after about a year, the movie development is over and it's time for the next thing. (There are exceptions. See MCU 10th Anniversary, Star Wars 40th Anniversary.)

So in short, given how the line is running today, it's not terribly likely we're going to see more Kessel Droids, just like we're still not seeing aliens from Maz' castle on Takodana, or those awesome blue Rebel Pilots from Yavin IV in Rogue One, or Luke's island-dwelling friends, or Porg-B-Que. It doesn't mean it'll never happen - with Avatar 2 in 2020, it's very possible that the Star Wars merch world will turn back in time to fill in some gaps, or (confidential to Hasbro) some themed waves would be most welcome.

While you can accuse Star Wars fans of being impatient, well, we're able to wait. We waited 16 years between trilogies. We waited 20 years for a Tarkin figure. 21 years for a Bantha. I've wanted a Vlix since 1985 and I've been making a fuss over it since finding out it actually existed way back in 1990. There's a big wide future out there for Hasbro to mine for stuff, depending on their needs, the needs of the market, and the desires of whoever approves things at Lucasfilm. I'm really hoping Disney and Lucasfilm let Hasbro kind of spin their wheels and go crazy for a year, given the last time Hasbro was making toys from a seemingly rudderless entertainment property we got the years 2006 and 2007. And we got Foul Moudama, General Veers, Darth Revan, more Cantina aliens, more droids, more heroes, more pilots, more villains, and a bunch of concept figures. Here's hoping it's not too late to see something like that again.




3. Since you are short on questions, I'll throw this your way. Do you know how Hasbro selects which figures, especially the obscure ones, get selected? While I'm basically looking forward to the new, improved skiff guard, I'd be happier if the character being made was totally new to plastic, like Yotts Oren or Vedain. Hasbro did something similar with Dutch Vander during the early Black series era, resculpting an obscure figure the original of which was cheap on eBay. And Vizam. I can believe that they are trying to tap into some Vintage nostalgia with Yak Face, but the others strike me as lost opportunities.

Don't hold your breath for obscure humans. While Hasbro has yet to confirm this to my face, rumblings from people who have spoken to people indicate that Hasbro (and mostly Disney and Lucasfilm) are very hesitant to make a figure of anybody where they don't have the likeness rights of some random human or stunt person. They own a rubber mask completely. They may not own some random dude, even if they got clearance to be in the movie For this reason, they sidestep a lot of the lesser people in the movies in favor of aliens, droids, and troopers - there's no question there.

Also, Hasbro hasn't been selecting a lot of classic figures lately. Since the Disney takeover, new-to-figure "classic" characters of any kind have been in short supply save for a couple of aliens and droids. I doubt you'd see a figure like Dutch Vander in the current regime, although after the new movies stop for a while and maybe after we see some turnover on the brand (and licensing/approval teams) that could change.

Under the previous administration, characters would usually be on a list brainstormed by Hasbro employees (which sometimes gets influenced by fans.)

Now while we have no complete confirmation of this, consider that the last time we saw a Tonnika sister as a toy was in Action Fleet over 20 years ago. Consider the last minor (as in, no dialogue) background named Imperial figure may have been from over 10 years ago. We haven't received any new-to-plastic Rebel pilots in quite a while, and correct me if I'm wrong but I think our last new-to-figures Rebel was Toryn Farr a few years ago.

In the late 1990s and mid-late 2000s, it seemed anything was possible. We got pilots, dignitaries, bartenders, aliens, droids, comic people, even realistic interpretations of characters from the Ewoks and Droids cartoons like Kneesaa and BL-17. That era seemed to come to a close with the end of the 3 3/4-inch carded The Black Series line, and I assume it may be possible that we'll see more in The Vintage Collection but Hasbro's decision to rerun "greatest hits" has proven to be a turn-off for many fans who expected new original trilogy (and adjacent) faces. Things change, but right now the new movies remain the driving force for toys and word on the street is Disney and Lucasfilm - not Hasbro - are calling more of the shots as to which faces wind up in assortments. Again - I have never been able to get this confirmed by a Hasbro employee. It has been whispered nearby, however.



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We are out of questions. Please send in yours, or I will take off for Christmas!

I went around over the weekend and while Mimban Stormtroopers have yet to hit Vintage Walmart Pegs, I did find Vintage G1 Transformers Minibots - $8 Bumblebee, Swerve, Outback, and Tailgate with the Encore 2008 deco from Japan, on cards. It was a treat. I ripped open Swerve like I would have as a kid, and I like the enhanced facial details with the retro packaging. Hasbro has a lot more going on for G1 Transformers, which is nice to see after they did quite a lot with Star Wars (vehicles) and G.I. Joe (comic packs, figures, vehicles.)

It hasn't been a great season of Star Wars, but that's the year. Resistance slowly plods along, and the silence regarding the new movie is deafening. We've got a lot of stuff on tap for 2019 in terms of entertainment, with toys remaining mostly a mystery.

From the sound of things - and also what I see - Hasbro has been expanding its offerings beyond the usual stuff, and that's great. Little biting monsters, animals that scurry when you yell at them, new blind-box collectible mini-figures, and products for children. The future of toys relies on kids, and the future of collecting demands you have new people to buy this stuff to keep demand alive as we get old and... less alive. Some things might get to be worth more through the centuries as important parts of our culture and mythology, like rare comic books. I don't know if people are going to place the same value on action figures or baseball cards, as many collectibles do tend to peak and just wither away as that audience fails to recruit new fans. Star Wars has been good at getting new eyeballs, but the product offerings are so intense very few fans really know just how much stuff is out there to grab. I assume there will always be interest in the classics.

I'm hopeful next year will be good - a few things that worried me are looking better for Star Wars, although I assume the current method of promoting the franchise will likely leave it in a lurch come 2020 as Avatar wheels in and the trilogy - and indeed the saga - probably goes on ice for a while. I'm still somewhat hopeful something weird will happen and keep Kylo Ren around for a future trilogy, as a hero or a villain, so we can kick the whole thing off again in 15 years. Of course, a little vacation back to classic movie land (classic being defined as "buying toys for movies we've seen instead of ones we have not") would be wonderful.

--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.