Q&A: Metal Star Wars Ships, Missing Figures, Disney Diversions, and Yo Joe!

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 3, 2015

1. Follow-up question to the missing SL figures (SL19 Darth Maul, SL20 501st Trooper and SL21 Mace Windu)

Is the Maul the same one that was released in Canada (but not in the USA) and the same in the current digital pack?

Is the 501st the same as the one from the earlier Mission 2pack?

Is Mace the same as the carded one from earlier?

In other words, is there anything new about these three 'missing' figures?

Unfortunately this is an easy one - nope! All I can say is "they don't exist" because we have no physical copy to examine and say "Yup, this is it!" I haven't seen a final packaged sample. If Hasbro decided to use a new and different mold - which I would consider to be unlikely - we don't know this and may never know this. As such, all you can do is assume - straight-up repacks (with the usual batch variation) would be the best logical guess. If you're doing a display of orange-carded Rebels figures, I'd suggest only sticking to what does exist - because really, you can't do anything else. Once a figure doesn't come out, it can't be part of your collection and since we never saw them, there can be nothing "new" about them.



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2. I am going to Star Wars Weekends at Disney World soon and want to try and get as many of the distinct droid factory parts as I can. My ultimate goal is to just have one of every piece. I think I know the rules for how to accomplish this, but I am wondering the following:
If I already have every BAD piece released by Hasbro previously, do I already have some of these Disney pieces? For example, can I skip the parts that comprise R7-Z0 from the legacy collection if I already have him?

According to reports on the ground so far, the Disneyland (and so far only the Disneyland) bins have been switched out to the new parts. In there, there are 11 new domes plus new legs and body parts. 100% of the bodies are new molds - they only have the upper leg holes as the lower leg holes have been filled in. 100% of the legs are new - the new "reversible" legs can work for left or right, and lack the wires of the previous releases.

As such, as mine are still en route, there are only a couple of parts that might be recycled - the R2-D2 dome, the blue R4 dome, and some of the central legs. Because there may be small paint applications on the central leg, I can't tell for sure until I get these in hand. Because of things like batch variation and very intentional new shades of blue, I cant be sure about the droid domes either just yet. But everything else? That's definitely new. No matter what, to get one of each part, you're going to buy a minimum of 9 droids, potentially 10 if you want the domes to match a certain body type. Meaning that even if the blue isn't remotely different, you're pretty much buying the whole set anyway and I'd say bump up your purchase from 9 or 10 to the full set of 11 just to ensure your bases are covered.




3. Have you seen the new Hotwheels Star Wars ships in person yet? I'm wondering how they will compare to Hasbro's Titanium set. I see they are already on sale online. Do they seem like a similar scale to you? Does that mean Hasbro lost the license to do little metal ships?

When I saw the prototypes in person (as of my writing this, I haven't seen the final packaged toys) they were comparable in scale and sculpt to the Hasbro line. The deco seemed a little lighter, and they seem to be trying to develop and market them more as a "toy" than as a "collectible" with flight stands you can wear on your finger like a ring. They seemed more simplistic but that was just the prototypes - Hasbro aped Galoob's molds from the 1990s, which had cool things like landing gear and in some cases, opening canopies.

As far as I know Hasbro lost no license to do anything - but there's a recurring phenomenon which I first heard from one Frank Supoit called "slicensing" in which an IP holder divides up the licensing pie into increasingly specific categories. From 1977 to the early 1990s, Kenner had the exclusive rights to sell licensed Star Wars toys. And then Kenner stopped paying for the license, and Lucasfilm offered it up to Galoob and other firms - as time went on this means LEGO and other firms could make a case for their brand of toy or collectible being different. Sometimes it really was - a LEGO toy does compete for a Hasbro toy for kid dollars, but they're fundamentally different kinds of toys. On the other hand, Kotobukiya's prepainted model kits were often just statues that you had to snap together - by following the letter of the law, they were indeed kits with assembly required. On the other hand, it's hard to tell how they aren't very similar to what Gentle Giant produces.

I don't doubt there's some vague wording in the Mattel and Hasbro agreements regarding vehicles. Of course, if we go another 1-2 years without another round of Titanium then perhaps Hasbro will have exited this market - or perhaps Mattel used the whole die-cast metal car and die-cast Elite collectible space to wedge open the door to small collectible vehicles. As Hasbro refuses to talk about The Force Awakens or Rogue One toys in any form right now (and therefore nobody else should be confirming anything), we won't know for sure until we do (or don't) see something new out of Hasbro in die-cast metal.




As many of you know, my day job is in the toy biz so I'm in the unenviable position of knowing what some adult fans want (super-articulated 3 3/4-inch figures) and getting a good look at what they're getting (less of that). Part of the reason I know this is because I like to watch a lot of other hobbies - I'm interested in all kinds of stuff, mostly nerdy stuff, but toys are a great example. This interview at The Joe Report with Derryl DePriest says a lot about the state of that franchise, particularly from the lens of 12-inch G.I. Joe collecting. Toy collectors have "joked" that this audience has died off in the pat decade, but the truth is that it has - if not literally, certainly in terms of sales. All lines have their ups and downs, but Joe has the added bonus of being the oldest action figure line with any collector interest. As such, it serves as a canary in the coal mine or the Ghost of Christmas Future for something that is a relatively new hobby. Older collectors grow up, die, fade away, and sometimes a new generation comes up - and sometimes not. (Look at He-Man.)

The 1:6 scale action figure - the 12-inch G.I. Joe - saw a radical transformation at the hand of non-Hasbro military figures being the apple of collector eyes. Dragon Models, 21st Century Toys, and Cotswald Collectibles helped to fill the void and, well, the market wasn't there for Hasbro for too much longer, either. Hasbro kept making some pretty stellar stuff - I, for one, loved their 12-inch Adventure Team toys in the early 2000s and bought several - but we saw the same thing happen in Star Wars. 12-inch was dead. Heck, for Star Wars 12-inch died in 1980, too - its time had come, and gone. It is possible that the 3 3/4-inch figure is next to go, until it comes back as a higher-priced collector-only nitpicky format.

We've seen some formats come and go, enjoying brief returns and then vanishing again. ToyFare magazine helped to popularize Mego again in the 1990s, and it felt that numerous toymakers were interested in producing Mego-esque toys for collectors but kids weren't the slightest bit interested. Similarly, 1:6 scale cloth outfit figures don't interest kids today - and like that interview said, the $10 12-inch figures are crazy popular. (Trust me... they sell well.) 3 3/4-inch figures are gradually evaporating after seemingly being more common than hydrogen in 2008-2009, and unless they have a big kid surge this year with the new Star Wars movie I wouldn't get your hopes up for a bright future for this format in a big way.

We're lucky enough to have a franchise with a stronger media presence, bolstered by 6 movies to get us to Star Wars' early 40s in 2020 and potentially more beyond that. How it will keep toys or collectibles going, though, is anybody's guess. In the 1990s we lived in an era where it seemed like non-sports trading cards and fancy holographic comic book covers could be the new normal, and now we're in an era where trading cards are less an essential part of a collector's life and quite expensive. Similarly, comic books are more and more expensive and a popular one is lucky to crack 10,000 copies - Star Wars is, unsurprisingly, doing quite well right now. Trading cards aren't bought by every child for a quarter a pack anymore - they got better paper, better production, and as such a smaller market of adults.

I'm hoping Disney keeps Star Wars and Marvel going for a while, but trends end and it's hard to say if a new media megafranchise can or will last forever without a break - or a few breaks. It's not like Marvel didn't have a few problems, including the indignity of being bought out (pr merged, depending on how you look at it) by its toy licensee Toy Biz around 1998.

G.I. Joe is about 51... Star Wars is 38. Transformers is 31. Star Wars and Joe had great 30th anniversaries and then things started to get a little weird within a couple of years. Transformers may avoid this trap, but 12-inch high-end Joe toys from Hasbro were pretty good business in the 1990s, as were 12-inch Star Wars items for a good while. Trends ebb. Fads fade. If you aren't reinventing your toy line you risk falling behind, even LEGO had to fundamentally transform its model of business in the late 1990s to embrace licensing to avoid getting bought out by a competitor. It worked out well for them, eventually.

Anything could happen and it's important to remember that the evolution of the 3 3/4-inch figure and its historical place as the go-to toy or collectible is something that can change. Marvel saw the driving force of its business move away from comics to (arguably) licensing to (again, arguably) movies and licensing. Star Trek has survived numerous toy line change-ups, and even the Star Wars Expanded Universe managed to go through a massive continuity restructuring that resulting in a clean slate. Just because something has been a certain way doesn't mean that it can't change, especially seeing as how there's likely to be a lot more Star Wars ahead of us than there was behind us.

--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.



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