Q&A: New Big Vehicles, Not Enough New Product, Vintage, and More

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 17, 2010
What happened to the giant vehicle assortment of 2009? Why does Hasbro hate you and refuses to release new product, ever? And what's the deal with all these repacks in vintage lately? All this plus more are in today's Q&A!

1. The $60 deluxe-sized vehicles seemed doomed from the start by leading off with the ARC fighter at double the price as we knew it, but probably more so due to wrong place wrong time caused by the economic downturn, which obviously couldn't have been forecasted by Hasbro. I'm assuming the new Slave I from the ultimate battle pack would have been a deluxe vehicle had sales been better for that size; do you feel we've seen the last of these types of vehicles being sold on their own?

You assume correctly, TJ! The new Slave I was indeed developed for that assortment, and depending on who you want to believe it would have been based on the Empire Strikes Back deco. But hey, why worry about what could be-- this is what it is.

I wouldn't blame the ARC-170 completely on the demise of this assortment, but I would absolutely blame the price point. Charging $70 for a vehicle that was $30 in 2005 (with reasonably cheap subsequent repaints) left a bad taste in buyers' mouths, and the Y-Wing Bomber seemed to to adequately. However, if you compare these big ships to the $100 items like a Turbo Tank or AT-AT, it doesn't fare well. Don't get me wrong, the Y-Wing is a nice toy, but that's a nice toy for no more than $55.

I doubt we've seen the last of vehicles this size, but I think we have seen the last of this size as a non-exclusive. I'd be stunned if we don't see another Gunship repaint or a newly tooled one before 2013.

2. What's is your opinion on "soft goods" on STAR WARS figures? Personally, I think (most of the time) they stink. Gimme the old days (early 2000s) where Darth Vader's cape and Jedi robes were sculpted and looked like they were supposed to. The recent bunch of figures with these lame soft goods look like crap. The only time they have worked is when they were just "part" of an outfit (i.e. Hoth Rebel Trooper) or the rare case of the still so awesome Hermi Odle. Okay, figure can't usually fit in a ship with a molded cape or robe--but they just looked much better. If you go way back to the vintage stuff, there are exceptions--the original vinyl cape Jawa looks like crap (unless you are selling one!) and the Vader, Obi-Wan, Lando all have crappy looking "capes". The '83 Luke Jedi was awesome, 'til you to put the cloth Jedi "robe" on him, then it was peeyousa! I must admit that I wouldn't ever gripe about this topic again if Hasbro would make an Expanded Universe Chewbacca (in Big Yank Overalls).

It varies-- when they work, they're great, and when they suck, they're terrible. Recent figures like the 2010 mega-articulated Clone Wars Mace Windu and the revised Kit Fisto use cloth well and it helps in the look of the figure while not preventing them from sitting in their Jedi Starfighters. The just-released Shaak Ti is pretty great with her cloth garments. On the other hand, the 2010 Vintage Anakin Skywalker's cloth robes are still a little bulky and don't hang on the figure quite right.

The success of the cloth element really boils down to this: what are you doing with your figures? If yours remain carded or on shelves, you're probably mostly concerned with how they look-- but if you're a kid, and kids make up a big part of the audience still, a figure that can't sit in his ship is a piece of junk. If you buy Hasbro product, you're a toy collector, so the product needs to be a toy first and foremost-- otherwise you're buying "collectible figures," and really, that's just sad.

There's nothing wrong with the cloth elements when Hasbro does them right. For whatever reason, the stretchy cloth cloak on the 2007 Saesee Tiin worked perfectly for that figure, but nearly every other outer robe that Hasbro stamped out is less than fully great. There's nothing more important than a figure that plays well for kids, and right now, that's going to mean cloth. Those vintage vinyl capes had to come off for vehicle unless you wanted creases in them, so for the time being (and barring a breakthrough in plastics) this is as good as it's going to get. I would like to see Hasbro try another all-plastic Darth Vader some day just to see how far plastic cape technology has come since 2003, but it's pretty unlikely this will ever happen.

3. Any chance the Shocktrooper or super articulated 501st Clone Trooper would be released down the line with removable helmets as either as Legends or TVC?

While it's extremely likely, nothing has been announced yet. With that newly released all-white mold with the mega-articulated hips, I'd be stunned if we don't see this figure repainted in 212nd, 501st, or other squadrons in the next year. Hasbro needs case filler and clones are basically freebies in development costs.

4. As a 39 yr old, married w 2 kid collector, I must admit my collecting habits have changed. But to be honest and I may be in the minority here; over a given year there's not much attracting my attention anymore. I very rarely buy anything out of my own pocket. If I get giftcards for my birthday or Christmas then I will grab some items that may have caught my eye. I guess my question is: Who is more to blame for this lack of product? Lucasfilm or Hasbro? Lucasfilm is doing nothing but the Clone wars animated series. In the last 2 years I may have bought a few carded figures, the BMF and a bunch of Comic Packs. I abhor reissues and repacks at this point. I like many was saddened by the demise of Comic packs since these seemed to be the only outlet for NEW figures. The expanded Universe stuff is a trove yet to be mined. I have zero interest in the Clone Wars animated line. I am of course waiting until December to purchase the new AT/AT since it's obvious from past big ticket releases that TRU or Walmart will have it at half off then.

The problem here is you. "Lack of product" doesn't mean "lack of stuff I want to buy." While 2010 may not be the busiest season for new figures, Hasbro is cranking out more vehicles, Galactic Heroes, lightsabers, and other stuff than we usually get and a potential Star Wars customer still has dozens of items from which to choose. Heck, in the past week Target put out a mix of movie and animated items to the tune of $330 or more, so there's stuff out there. If you don't want to buy the AT-AT because you're cheap and don't like the new figures for some reason or another... well, too bad. Why are you complaining to me that you're too cheap to buy something good? In 2005 the entire line shifted away from Trilogy with a tiny handful of exceptions, and 1999 was pretty much the same way with The Phantom Menace, so a lack of movie stuff isn't abnormal-- but we're getting a good amount of stuff this year.

This year the discriminating Expanded Universe fan had at least 7 new comic packs, 2 Force Unleashed 5-packs, a wave of 6 new Expanded Universe figures, and what I would call pretty hard to complain about. Remember when Hasbro told us we wouldn't be getting any comic or game figures in a year? We got at least 30 in 2010, which is more than the number of total figures we got in 1997. And that's just so far-- we still have eight MORE Expanded Universe figures coming as Entertainment Earth exclusives this Fall. A total of no fewer than 38 non-movie non-cartoon figures are hitting this year. All you need to do is some quick counting to realize there is absolutely no lack of product right now, although there is a preposterously low number of movie-based basic figures in 2010. I won't argue with you there, two waves in ten months is just plain crappy.

After over 1,600 figures, there's bound to be a drop-off. The "new blood" is the TV show line, which is actually where people seem to be focusing their secondary market spending these days too. If you're done, well, you've had a nice run-- good for you for being choosy about what you bring home. I see massive sections of toys at the Toys "R" Us and Star Wars in nearly every retailer I visit, but granted, I usually only visit retailers that sell Star Wars toys. There are more movie figures on deck, plus exclusive packs, but after 15 years what the heck do you expect? Hasbro gets to Ewoks and Cantina Aliens every now and again, sometimes to their own detriment.

With the comic packs gone we'll undoubtedly see new tooling show up in other avenues-- exclusive sets, more basic figures, or something-- so don't fret too much. And frankly, if there's nothing you want, that's great! You can save your money for your kids' college funds, or whatever surprises Hasbro has yet to announce for 2011. If you're in this for the long haul, and I know you are, a slow period is a blessing. (For you. Not for Hasbro's taking of your money.)

5. I understand the fact that Hasbro needs to put GH type figures into the line to balance the costs for new figures. But, when the TVC line was announded, it was called a collector-oriented line. Of course, that led many collectors to believe we'd really see a line of figures that had a number of new or updated figures that appealed to collectors. It seems to me that when collectors said they wanted the vintage style cards, Hasbro assumed that collectors would buy the same old figures again, if they were put on vintage cards. Was there some kind of miscommunication there? In your opinion, what gets a collector to buy Star Wars action figures? When I look at some of the offerings in the first four waves of the TVC line, it sees that there are a number of figures that are basically the same figures we've seen over the last few years, just on a vintage card. Do you think that collectors are buying the TVC line for the cards or for the figures?

Absolutely-- but despite what Hasbro says it's not all collectors buying vintage. Since June I have seen thousands of vintage figures in dozens of stores, but I only see kids rifling through them or walking to the register with one. (Myself excluded.) I almost tried to talk a parent out of buying the new General Grievous the other week but then I remembered that I'm old and that's creepy.

Right now evidence shows that the best-selling Vintage figures are indeed old figures on new cardbacks-- Darth Vader and Boba Fett are packed out highly in every case and they sell. You can't argue with that. I mean, you can try, but generally speaking numbers aren't good at raising their voice and screaming.

Collectors are very fickle-- and I've heard simply being bored and wanting to spend money as a motivator for picking something up. The packaging looks cool, the figure is nice, so a non-collector might see Boba Fett and go "that's awesome, I'm going to hang one up on the wall at work" and drop the eight dollars. It's not all collectors buying Vintage, but we still like to think it's all us. Every line is subject to the whims of the toy store aisle, and kids can still drive purchases in this line when it comes to popular characters like General Grievous even if we hate the sculpt and wish Hasbro would crush the mold which birthed it. (But that's just me.)


I remain a fan of the ongoing The Clone Wars figures both because of and in spite of what's on the show. For example, if you watched the show a few weeks ago, Padme goes to Mandalore for a dinner with the Dutchess Satine. There are drink smugglers and the two characters go into a Mandalorian school to investigate the school lunch program. Now, I don't care what context you put that in, it's just going to sound stupid, but on the other hand it's pretty funny because you have to assume some writer is scratching his head somewhere going "Do you know what would really piss off fans?" And his co-writers would say "No, what?" He'd respond "Let's go back to Mandalore... but let's not have any of the warriors in it. Oh, and let's have the strong female characters running around. Do we have any buildings that look like schools? Let's use those. And if you thought animating senate proceedings was fun, let's have them look into-- get this-- school lunches!"

Now I'm exaggerating slightly-- this all came out of a smuggling thing-- but when you get right down to it, it's interesting that you had an episode that minimized involvement of the key words in the title, specifically "war," "clone," and "star." A lot of animation people are known for a sick sense of humor, putting in jokes for adults and trying avant garde weirdness aimed at a very specific group of people but, on the whole, exist to torment the audience. I'd like to think that the events in "Corruption" were made on a dare, or maybe I assume that everyone in any walk of life is a fan of Neil Hamburger and applies his teachings to their own work. (For the confused: look up and purchase the album "Hot February Night." You're welcome.)

If they can work in increasingly mundane and inane stuff, I'm sold. There was one episode of Family Guy where I'd say a solid 70% of it was devoted to jokes around the song "Surfin' Bird," whose only shortcoming was-- I felt-- not making it 100%. I'd like to see an entire episode devoted to a character-- any character-- arguing with Hondo Ohnaka on the subject of if his helmet is or is not fashionable. 22 minutes of "What do you mean, you don't like my hat? It's a nice hat." "I'm not saying it isn't a nice hat, but--" "Look, I killed a man to take this hat. Let me assure you, my friend, that this hat is second to none in the galaxy!" "Hey, it's a nice hat." "You're just saying that to shut me up, aren't you?" We can make this happen. Senate proceedings offer nothing fun in animation, but fights over helmets? Always funny. Let's do this, Lucasfilm Animation.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.