Q&A: More Indiana Jones, Limited Articulation Figures, and Star Wars Galactic Heroes

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 26, 2017

This week in Q&A - Cheap stuff! 6-inch figures are fun when they cost less money. Also Galactic Heroes and the communication issues of doom. Also Indiana Jones, because apparently we live to be disappointed.

And send in your questions for next week. Read on!

1. A while back you posted a couple of reviews, I think, of limited articulation dollar store SW figures. They were like scaled down versions of the 12inch "shampoo bottle figures" with 3 pts of articulation. I finally ran across some at my local Big Lots & was wondering of there was some place with more info on them. They don't seem to have a name & aside from the pic on the back I don't know what figures were made. Do you know of a web site or something? Thanks.

I don't think they have an official name - Hasbro hasn't done anything to actually promote them - but I've been calling them Value 6-Inch Action Figures over on our review site. There was one wave from Mexico, Australia, and overseas from 2015 - this had Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, a First Order Stormtrooper, a First Order Flametrooper, and Finn. In 2016, we saw a wave with a reissued Darth Vader (new box), Han Solo, Jedi Luke Skywalker, and Kanan Jarrus. Later in 2016, that wave shipped with Rey and Darth Maul as new entries. As far as I know, that's the entire line so far - if anyone has seen others, please let us know! To date I've seen them at Family Dollar and Dollar General chains for $6-$7 each.

As far as I know, Hasbro isn't selling these to any online accounts - if you want them, you have to find them or have someone to track them down for you. I've never seen the 2015 set in a store myself (I got mine from eBay), and I've only seen Rey/Maul at one Big Lots! store one time. I think they're nifty and weird, and since they're the same size as The Black Series it would be great to have seen some other, new faces in this scale. Bespin Han Solo, for example, or maybe even a Dengar - someone who doesn't need a ton of articulation.



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2. I am a collector of the Galactic Heroes line. Over the last year or so we were shown images of Maz's castle playset with Finn, Resistance Base playset with Admiral Akbar, The Phantom with Hera, and an AT-AT with driver. None of these were shown at this year's Toy Fair; do you know if they are still on their way?

I have ambiguous news for you. Due to the nature of what I do for a living, I can't confirm anything that hasn't been confirmed more or less to the public just yet - things like on-sale dates are included. I can say that at least some of the items just haven't gone up for pre-order yet, and some I genuinely haven't heard anything. This isn't good or bad - Hasbro very rarely (basically never) announces when an item won't be made - it just quietly disappears from listings. For example, there was a MicroMachines Kylo Ren head playset that went up for pre-order for a short period of time in 2016 - it never came out, and I don't believe I saw a photo of it.

When it comes to the Playskool-adjacent lines, Hasbro frequently shows an item and it takes a long time to get made - or it enters a situation where people aren't completely sure if it came out or not. This happened with Rescue Bots Blurr a couple of years ago - some were made, it existed, but it wasn't properly solicited for pre-order. Some people found them, but very few units seemed to get out and I still don't know quite what happened there.

So my non-answer to you: there's a lot on the way, stand by for more, but don't be too shocked if some items may have been delayed with no announcement. I'm guessing (and this is really a guess) we're going to see a bunch of stuff pop up in September to tie in to the sequel's sequel.




3. I read last week your ideas on Indy merch and the limited avenues due to its not as toyetic subject matter and characters. I agree and while Hasbro messed up on their end on quality and proper distribution both as Kenner and Hasbro maybe since as far back as 84/85 kenner didnt renew and Ljn got the nod any chance that Funko or jakks doing a small set or even Disneys own brand doin something like a electronic indy or a small set of stoic figures like the popular price point starwars figs sets? I cant imagine Disney not trying to cash in on some kind of toys even if its a disaster. Let me know your thoughts on that? I could see a limited 31 inch 48 inch indy figure comiin from jakks if they go in on a license or a scale sized ark to double as a toychest hmmmmmmm. Maybe im hoping and wishing too hard but i see dads and moms snaggin these for themselves, lol!

I don't think Indiana Jones isn't toyetic - it just doesn't grab kids at a young enough age. Things like Transformers and Star Wars and Power Rangers are more colorful, and packed with easy-to-grasp concepts of good and evil. There's a world in each one and you generally get a pretty clear cut understanding of who the bad guys are within the context of the series. There are distinctive looks that are easy to grasp, and in many cases they look significantly different. "White guys in Hugo Boss uniforms with English accents" or "Robots with purple face stickers" or "Weird aliens" are easy to grasp and consistent. Indiana Jones doesn't give you quite the same level of entry. Rather than "Guy who drives around in space car with giant dog" it's "College professor who knows everything looking for things that other people don't understand, and sometimes his sidekick is a friend and sometimes he's a villain." On every level, Indy's more complex and has an increased focus on romance - kids hate kissing.

While you say you could see Indy coming from Jakks, this also shows why a lot of us aren't in the business - because as a collector, I'd agree with you. Do one big Indiana Jones, and move on - it should be a hit, right? That's not how it always works - sometimes those big guys, even from kid properties, don't do all that well. Darth Vader's endlessly recognizable helmet and near-eternal presence on the toy aisle means that any human being who was a child from 1978-1984ish and 1993ish-today was most likely subjected to Darth Vader on the toy aisle at least once. Many of those kids now are all old enough to have kids of their own. Indiana Jones had toys in a big way - or as big as it got - in 1982 with Kenner and a very brief, but widely distributed set of MicroMachines in the 1990s in addition to the biggest line yet in 2008 from Hasbro. Other than that, he's been mostly theme park merchandise with a couple of flashes in the pan for the two good sequels. The lines came and went quickly, and due to their very nature they're a bit of a tough sell - Nazis are horrible people that humanity detests for good reason, and as such they don't make great action figures. By his very nature, Indiana Jones could expand to endless scenarios all over the planet Earth focusing on multiple eras of human history, but the toy lines don't go this route and kids don't like being tricked into learning things. Or kissing. Or historical adventures, generally speaking, but there are exceptions.

Hasbro did a pretty good job on quality - wave 3, especially - and you seem to be under the mistaken impression I mean only Hasbro when I say Indiana Jones didn't do great last time. Some companies - including maybe one and/or more you mentioned - explicitly did not take Indiana Jones when offered (when asked by me about it). Gentle Giant's line had low runs and fared poorly at the time. LEGO did adequately, but they were mondo clearance fodder. I bought some nice, cheap stuff on sale and even at Goodwill later.

Funko has done a pair of Indiana Jones Pop! figures for Disney and for Comic-Con, I would not expect a full line at this point in time. As cool as Indiana Jones is, he's a guy in a brown jacket and a hat - so unless kids are already clamoring for him, the line is likely going to be dead on arrival. Dads and moms are the main audience, and believe it or not the common non-collector doesn't scrutinize things like paint as much as we do - they see a figure and buy it if they want it. To some extent, they did for the last movie... Indy tended to sell well, but not his companions. Once you took off his hat and jacket, he was a little less popular.

On a semi-related note, I was talking with some people over the last few days and one thing that has been a recurring (delusion or pattern) point of discussion from me is how franchises seem to suffer in their 30s. Star Wars had a good 30th birthday line, but by the time it was 35? 2013 was when things started to really nosedive - collectors jumped ship, new-to-toy characters were reduced significantly, and at least from where I sit as the Q&A guy you fellows stopped caring and started quitting. (I also saw numbers at work that showed interesting changes and an end to "one of everything" or "more than one of everything" buying.) G.I. Joe's 30th salute was a big deal for the 12-inch fans, but it was basically dead by 40. In 2009 was the 35th birthday and it had a movie - but without the movie, it was struggling more than a little. He-Man turned 35 this year, just like 3 3/4-inch G.I. Joe, and both seem to be on the decline. Transformers turns 35 in two years, and given how great the line has been for its 30th anniversary and even this year, I hope Hasbro has taken notes to keep it going. One important thing I've noticed is that Hasbro reinvents Transformers every few years with a big fresh start, keeping kids interested while maintaining the illusion that it's a new thing - even though it's now part of a big movie franchise. (And Micronauts, don't get me started about Micronauts. Or Mego-style figures. Or really anything that was popular in the 1970s beyond Jedi and Sith.)

That's sort of a tangent, but you might see where I'm going - when a big franchise gets between 30 and 40, things can start to sag a bit. I don't believe Indiana Jones would do well without a morbid series of things lining up like a) a new, good movie that b) hits stores and is basically perfect/cheap while also c) Harrison Ford dies to generate press and a sudden surge of sympathy collecting. Leonard Nimoy's death did move a lot of Spock stuff. Carrie Fisher's didn't quite seem to move a ton of Leia stuff beyond a couple of figures, you could still find General Leias at Walmart without too much trouble. Heck, I saw a bunch a couple of weeks ago for $6 a pop.

Indiana Jones isn't being ignored as a collectible out of suit-based ignorance or a series of bad decisions. Many have tried to make something out of the man with the hat and the whip, and the numbers you have to move of a licensed character item at most companies is massive. Like five, maybe six digits for some of the more popular SKUs if not even higher. With some of the big popular lines struggling a bit now, with Marvel Legends hitting $6 or so at many big retailers, I doubt something with narrower focus - that has failed to bring a collector audience, but makes for a great toy audience - will necessarily succeed. But don't feel bad for Dr. Jones, he's in good company. James Bond is something of a dud for toys as well.




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One of the queries I've had pop up is if collectors as a group are important or not to how this line progresses. They were a lot more important - back in the 1990s, we as a group were louder and bought more stuff. There were variations, and people furiously catalogued them and tracked them down. Collectors would not only grab a figure to keep in the package and one to open, but multiples - frequently. Speculators and dealers were also lumped under "collectors," as "collector" meant "not a child" to a lot of folks, and those guys would buy dozens of things. When the modern line in 1995 was only a couple dozen products, it was a lot easier. There were also fewer competing products - high-end collectibles were rarely a thing - and kids bought the same stuff as the collectors, most of the time. This was pretty much the case until 1999, except for some items from Icons, Galoob, Illusive Originals (I think it was), Screamin', and other companies that you don't remember. In the "off season," we're doing a lot of heavy lifting when Lucasfilm isn't big on the marketing and Hasbro doesn't have a new movie from which to work.

Unless you've got a big house or a storage space, you probably can't afford to collect everything. Space isn't cheap, with repacks being less and less important. Back in the 1990s, people were going bonkers for holographic stickers, or comma variants, or stickered choke hazard warnings. You could easily end up with over six different R5-D4 figures in 1996 and 1997, the grand irony being that collectors of that era hated that first rocket-firing "Attack" R5-D4 figure.

For a time, the adult fan - that is to say, the person making the purchase outside the boys age 4-11 demo - really did do a lot to support Star Wars, thanks in part to rampant speculation and fear of high secondary market prices. And the fact everything was new once. This didn't last forever, and the line changed. Collectors still buy stuff, but today's 24 year old that buys a few 6-inch figures isn't the same kind of fan as the 24 year old in 1997 who was buying 3 3/4-inch figures. The original Star Wars Generation has largely grown up and moved on, with collectors having to scale back how much they buy - quantity, variety, variations - just as a matter of being able to keep from drowning in this stuff. I'm still drowning in this stuff. Back in 1997 people were going bonkers to get their hands on a $5 Yak Face. By 1999, it was on clearance for as low as $2, and they were no longer interested.

With multiple lines competing for dollars today, it's a different market. You could treat adults as a single community from 1995-1998, as we'd all buy Kenner figures. Today? Sideshow. Medicom. LEGO. 3 (or more) flavors of Hasbro figures. Funko. Gentle Giant. It goes on and on - they're making different products for each and every kind of collector, which means lower runs and less unification on what we as a group want. We're not all the same person, and we never were - we just had fewer options 20 years ago. That meant the Kenner line, the default, achieved great success by merely existing first and being fairly prolific. But you knew that - you didn't think people bought the super-muscular 1995 line because they loved the sculpting and articulation and likenesses, did you? People were starving for Star Wars, and that was virtually the only game in town. Micro was Micro, and JusToys Bend-Em's are... well, they sucked. And if you forgot about those, good on you.

As a community, we offer the fandom a lot. When we're the majority of the audience, what we say carries more weight. We post a lot of articles and promote stuff on social media and YouTube... but we could stand to be a little more inclusive on some forums and collector circles.

The easy thing to forget is that not every customer reads fan sites or forums - sometimes they just go to the store or Hasbro.com for news. If that customer doesn't see an item, that customer may not have the interest/time/patience to use Google to see if an item really existed. They just want something right that moment. When we're a sliver of the interested pile - and we are, by my guesstimates the hardcore collector is in the lower thousands these days - we're not as important as those passive fans with spending money. Millions of people see the new movies, and of them many are potential customers for products for themselves, for kids, for nieces, for nephews. Back in the 1990s, when we screamed out for Grand Moff Tarkin getting a release before some new Ewoks? That happened. And for a good long time, he sold really well - we stepped up to the plate to buy the first-ever Peter Cushing action figure. When we did the first Fan's Choice poll, we got the first Duro figure - we didn't quite step up to the plate as much. Maybe Hasbro made too many, maybe too many of us left in a huff after being offered Ric Olies for too long - but we've seen things directly specifically at us change a lot over the years. Their numbers certainly decreased in terms of production while our number similarly receded.

Collectors - the collector media, in particular - offer a lot to Hasbro, but you do hear some whispers and eye-rolls at events about some product that not only seems collector-unfriendly, but somewhat deaf to the needs of the market at large. (Star Wars Command, for example.) We still go, smile, and take pictures - but the lack of newness in the shadow of Disney's new movies and a genuine lack of anything aimed at the original three movies that's new has pushed a lot of collectors away. I like the new movies so far, and I'm sure you do too - but Hasbro doesn't seem to want to push for older stuff right now. There are some exceptions in 6-inch, which is great, but that's pushing away from the reason this column exists in the first place and why so many of us are a part of this hobby. It's good stuff, to be sure, but it looks like the day where we may not be able to expect any new 3 3/4-inch figures from the original trilogy may be here, or may have passed a year or two ago and nobody bothered to tell us. When that group fails to be engaged, I assume we'll see a few more of the big collector sites collapse completely or merge as the line doesn't inspire new sites because how the heck can you start a new site with 22 years of thousands of figures in your spare time these days?

New "classic" characters keep me loyal - I'll keep collecting because I love those original movies. But it has been a couple of years since the last honest-to-goodness completely new original trilogy figure came out for any scale, and if we start getting movies we don't like, I doubt any of us will feel obligated to stick around for much longer. Although if we get more droids and aliens from The Force Awakens, I'll be pretty happy.

And since we weren't on the topic, I do not want to find out the secret origin of Han Solo's name, as is now a talking/plot point from a recent Bob Iger jibjab. I've got other stuff to do, give me another scene of aliens gambling. I don't want to know if Han Solo was an alias. I just know Han Solo is cool. I don't want to know where Yoda came from - ever - if George Lucas went 37 years without telling us. It's not like we knew the score with Tom Bombadil - that sort of mystery is important, and some stories don't necessarily need a new beginning. (But I'd probably watch Han and Chewie screwing around smuggling junk all day long.)

--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.