Q&A: Post-SDCC, New Star Wars Head Sculpts, and Slow Summer

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 28, 2019

This week in Q&A - New head sculpts for classic figures! It's an exciting time to be alive. And Announcements are slow these days - don't blame me, I didn't do it!

Be sure you send in your questions for next time. Our mail bag is empty. Read on!

1. What do you think of the decision for the new Han and Luke figures to have a softer, separate plastic piece of hair. The sculpts look good but as a collector and someone in the business of selling toys what do you think of the development? We have had separate hair pieces often with female figures with long hair in the past with varying degrees of soft or harder plastic. A few male figures (Winter Soldier in the Marvel 3.75) have had separate hair pieces.

As someone in toy toy business, it's almost inconsequential - Hasbro has been giving 3 3/4-inch action figures separately molded hair pieces for years and nobody seemed to notice. Specific features like deco and articulation don't amount to much from the business side of things - I noticed it more and more during the 3 3/4-inch The Black Series, but it was never something that was brought up as a selling point. On the other hand, the "hyper real" face paint was brought up a lot in fan and business capacities - and I would argue is a much more significant addition to Hasbro's Marvel and Star Wars toys.

Considering Hasbro has been trying to improve the heads - they've heard complaints about uneven eyes and other flubs - this is a good thing. As long as the pieces fit, a separately molded piece of hair ensures better color matching and a reduction in badly painted hairlines. It also probably adds to the cost a bit. That part, I admit, I don't like - it's a shame we went from $6.99 (and $7.99) figures with massive accessories, coins, droid parts, and other extras from 2006-2009 to just a figure - sometimes with no accessories - for about $12.99. So at least the figures are getting improved, and as long as Hasbro makes a few new ones a year that's going to matter.



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2. I realize you probably get tired of angry/whiny email. I am sorry.


Marvel Comics announced a Kylo Ren origin story by Charles Soule.

IDW hypes 2 stories, including a post-TLJ arc in SWA.

Hasbro promotes (but shows little of) two lines no asked for, a helmet, & a diorama of items no one can buy. Why the disconnect?

Marvel comics can announce new stuff but Hasbro can’t or won’t Why? Can you even say?

Why are existing ST characters (Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando, the droids) considered forbidden to reveal ahead of a silly event like Triple Force Friday?

Does Hasbro really have no other PT/OT/RO/CW 3.75 and Black Series figures coming out in 2019?

I can’t believe how Hasbro keeps going to these shows and giving fans *nothing* to get us excited or energize the line.

What gives?

Hasbro isn't always the one who makes the call on what gets announced. Lucasfilm has a lot of veto power, and Hasbro is stuck with a saucer full of secrets and a giant booth to fill - along with an hour of panel time to fill while being unable to say anything other than hint, wink, and ultimately not share much of anything. As someone who did a panel at a convention this year, I'm amazed they left the panel without all having panic attacks. It's one thing to try to give a book report without having read the book, but to be made to give the report without referencing the book? I've never been happier that I couldn't get a job at Hasbro.

If you look at The Force Awakens launch, it's all the same sort of secrecy. And look how that worked out. I hate saying "wait for clearance," but when it comes to New Movie Characters I can't deny what history has brought us. Markdowns. Redundant exclusives. It pays to wait now, except for classic characters. Those will sell quickly.

Star Wars has gone from being one of the most successful indie brands in the world to being just one more toy in Disney's toybox. While Lucas-era Star Wars had its problems, there was a little less red tape and fewer gatekeepers along the way from what I see. Today Disney wants to keep things secret to the point of ridiculousness, hiding most of the Episode IX stuff and having to leapfrong to 2020 to give us previews of some things. That's bananas.

There are more gatekeepers and a lot more people worried about their jobs at a lot more companies - so you get more secrecy, some of which is unnecessary, some of which is a result of poor communication or strange planning - and some is just marketing strategy. I have zero understanding as to why Hasbro doesn't/won't/can't reveal toys of things in trailers we've seen. I should see the action figure of The Mandalorian by now, right? And maybe the new Rey figure I assume we're going to get? It's seemingly some weird sort of tradition, one no doubt here thanks to how fans really cracked open the reveals for Episode I eight months early and other figures do have a habit of leaking. In the last year we've seen numerous examples of Hasbro being able to keep a secret - a number of exclusive Transformers only leaked because they showed up at a store before Hasbro announced them. That's very hard to do.

I can't talk about what Hasbro didn't announce so it's tough to dance around some of these. Don't blame Hasbro on the reveals - blame Disney or Lucasfilm. They're still operating under the notion that it's better for fans to find out about most of these things when they go to the store, or maybe just a tiny bit before the launch. Everything for the new movie line (and this is key - the new movie line) is under embargo. It doesn't make sense, but I assume this is due to the layers of management. Nobody is raising their hand going "Hey, we showed that guy, let's show him off." The red Sith Trooper at SDCC is part of that whole thing - they're slow-dripping reveals, this is how they like it. It's intentional.

I do agree the panel is a little pointless, but as I have now done a panel of my own, I can let you in on a secret - when we schedule the panels, we don't always know what we can show. I spent about five months pitching companies on letting me show toys in my panel, and some of those reveals came a month to a week before I presented them. I had to sign up for the time slot months earlier. Hasbro may not have known what they could (or couldn't) show, and because we're in a new movie era Disney and Lucasfilm are being overly protective of their secrets. Dagobah Luke isn't exactly big news, but it's also entirely possible 2020 might not be a big deal yet.

You will also recall that the current Hasbro/Lucasfilm (and Disney, and Marvel) deals were set for expiration after 2020. I have heard zero official, public word that the contract was renewed. I'm not saying it wasn't - I'm saying I haven't seen official final word that it was. Hasbro expects to renew but so did all those guys in Logan's Run and that didn't work out too well for them, did it?

The line - sadly - is what it is. The awesome collector line we got from 2006-2012 (plus or minus 2013-2015) was amazing. We got so many comic, concept, cartoon, and movie characters. It was insane what $7 could get you, and we'd still complain about it. Hasbro shoved a moisture vaporator and a coin in with Luke. You could get an alien and a drum and some extra stuff packed in. Today, $12.99 gets you a repaint of the build-a-droid parts you got in 2008, which were basically freebies, missing key paint applications.





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The grass is greener, etc. Hasbro revealed a massive exclusive slate - for Transformers! In the last week we've seen shared exclusives (3, about $140), Walgreens (1, about $20), Target (3, about $150), Amazon (3, about $170), HasLab (1, $575), and Walmart (4, about $110) all hitting between July and October. Unicron doesn't make it out until 2021, but if it gets made, payment is due in August - that's a grand total of $1100 before tax and shipping, and that isn't even including Studio Series or Masterpiece toys. A good Force Friday launch may not be quite that big - so while we are sitting here waiting for something for Star Wars, at least be glad you didn't have a surprise $1170 to order or not order. Also that's not including non-exclusives. That's a lot.

Toys R Us is a curious thing that keeps coming up - we're still in the "denial" phase of its death. "But they're coming back!" you say. "But they're opening two stores!" you say.

As I am known to do, I talked to a few toy companies at Comic-Con and I was informed that the new toy stores have not yet reached out to order product for the holidays. To give you an example of how things go, LEGO tends to ask for full year orders around Toy Fair and the big guys probably already placed a lot of their Q4 orders. (I have!)

The Toys R Us you loved in the USA is still dead and buried. Their sweetheart discounts were rescinded. Their relationships ended. The shelves are mostly gone, the deals were mostly dissolved, and you can't support an exclusive with just two retail locations and a new web site. Well, I suppose you can, but you might get stuck with some of it.  It still might be a pretty good toy store and the biggest one around, but it'll be different.  It's always different.

With a store in Texas and another in New Jersey, I would say you should expect something closer to a bigger version of those pop-up seasonal Toys R Us-branded stores you ignored. Maybe they'll have new stuff - but they won't restock a lot, and the general thought of the toy industry is holiday shoppers don't tend to always know what's new. So a lot of old product returning to shelves could be likely and possible.

--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, and we're down to 2 questions per week until we get overloaded with questions to re-expand back to 3 or more.



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