So, is it time to expect that Z-95 Headhunter? I'm gonna say probably not. What's up with Canada getting an exclusive Yoda variation? And should we wait for vintage updates of certain figures, or is there already a great alternative to be had? All this and Shuttles in this week's Q&A!
1. Given the inclusion of the Z-95 Headhunter during Season 4, what do you think of the chances of getting this vehicle in toy form someday?
I wish! I'd put the odds at close to zero.
Hasbro's treatment of The Clone Wars this year ensures that, if they stay true to their word, only about 19 figures will be in circulation. So they don't seem to be doing much there.
Hasbro has done a poor job of getting new vehicles in circulation-- I still get emails telling me that Mandalorian Transports do not exist in American packaging which is a total lie because I have one. But it does speak to the point that some vehicles are in short supply, and while I have personally seen a lot of AV-7 Mobile Cannons and Jedi Turbo Speeders, I can't say I've seen a lot of Mando ships and I can certainly say you haven't (as a group, not you in particular Anush). For early 2012, Hasbro went surprisingly bullish with vehicles, 7 midsize non-exclusive ships are in circulation and 0 of them are new craft. (Repaints, and a nicely retooled ATT, sure.) Three more vehicles are on deck, and of them 2 are different-- but none of them are completely new.
Just the other day I made a post to Twitter to the effect that the key to happiness in this hobby is to manage your expectations, and this was in light to multiple pages of angry fans from another action figure line whipping themselves into an unrealistic frenzy of what they think their brand managers should do for them. Thankfully, most of you guys aren't quite that intense-- and in this case, as much as I hate to say it, we should probably start managing our expectations for The Clone Wars now.
The show has been great at giving Hasbro a chance to do movie vehicles, and in the midsize, large, or Beef Supreme sizes we haven't had a heck of a lot of TV-based vehicles that exists mostly due to their inclusion in the show. The Republic Fighter Tank is probably the closest in spirit to the Z-95 Headhunter (existed in existing Expanded Universe materials and got made into a toy eventually) but given Hasbro's distribution of new mold vehicles (and new mold toys from other lines) I wouldn't expect to ever see it. And that's assuming Hasbro actually made one. (Zing!) But on the whole, I would say you should lower your Clone Wars expectations to about 1984 levels. (That is, 20ish new figures a year and a handful of vehicles.)
2. Those lucky Canadians! They get the TVC Yoda on a Return of the Jedi card. Will those of us in the U.S. be so lucky? I don’t recall seeing Yoda listed as a carry-forward figure in any of the known case assortments. And, speaking of those (sometimes) lucky international collectors, are we ever going to see the release of the Mandalorian gunship in the U.S., or is that going to strictly be an international exclusive?
Wow, speak of the devil! The Mando ship did indeed get release in America, although it seems that it would be mathematically impossible for the item to have received its full distribution yet. (I got a US boxed one from a US retailer who gets stuff from Hasbro's US distribution centers, so it got made, it exists, and I would have to assume more may be out there.) It's not an international exclusive, but it's certainly more common, as of today, in international markets.
It is my assumption that the Canadian Yoda on Return of the Jedi packaging was a mistake-- if you recall, Hasbro originally showed the figure on this cardback in 2010 and most fans freaked out. Hasbro delayed the figure and changed the package, releasing it in 2011. It's possible that Hasbro Canada didn't get the memo and didn't update their template with the new logo and photo. So for the time being, this seems to be an international exclusive. Seeing how angry fans got that they were even contemplating releasing it on the "wrong" cardback in 2010, I have to say that the whole thing makes me laugh. Hasbro releases the item as originally intended, people get upset. They change it, people get upset. They release the original in Canada, and people are going to be upset if they can't get it.
3. I heard that Disney may release more Build-A-Droid astromechs during Star Wars Weekends next month [editor's note: they're out as of today]. I'm a huge fan of the ability to easily customize a droid to fit a scene or star fighter socket, and I was curious to see if you had any additional information about Disney's arrangement or any other plans Hasbro had for the mold. I vaguely recall the mention of an updated Jawa Droid Factory being mentioned in the past as well...has that idea grown into what Disney is doing? Also when will Hasbro realize that if they won't include a pack-in that we as collectors like (such as B.A.D.), that we'd rather have better articulation and lower prices than a junk drawer full of dice and unwanted playing cards. They keep citing "the rising cost of plastic" as the reason they're cutting back, yet I have enough Galactic Battle dice to fill a sandcrawler. What possesses them to include such worthless junk with their figures?
Why the Galactic Battle Game? Two words: market testing. Some marketer got paid a lot of money to test the game with kids and supposedly that's why these things happen. The odd thing, if you ask me, is that the game has been sidelined since the late 2011 package redesign where the cards were placed behind the figures and the entire gimmick was basically buried, and it's still sort of in the background in 2012. I don't know, and I don't get it either. I like the stands though, I could take or leave the cards. The die though, man, I've thrown so many of those out. The game itself is a marketing thing-- it's on-package as a selling point to attract kids to ask mom to buy it, much like how G.I. Joe incorporated blinking LEDs on its packaging briefly, how Transformers has a "try me" on its larger toys, so it, like the packaging, is both "worthless junk" and also the thing which may be necessary to make the sale. In theory, anyway, you can use statistics to prove anything and the suits love this stuff. I really have no idea how kids really react to the game stuff, of they keep it, and frankly, neither do any of us unless we have kids. (Kids who aren't like us, too.)
Hasbro charges what Hasbro wants to charge for things. Remember, Qui-Gon Jinn on a Movie Heroes cardback is the same as the Vintage figure, except the Movie Heroes one is $1-$2 cheaper plus includes all the game stuff and a newly-tooled rocket launcher accessory. Does it make sense? No. It doesn't have to. Hasbro does what it wants, it doesn't necessarily follow what we outsiders would see as logical. It's a fan tax, sorta, and their could be some sort of minimum manufacturing issues, but I sort of doubt it. The recent price hike of old (2010) G.I. Joe figures at Target to $10.99, which is well outside my comfort zone, shows that pricing isn't consistent nor is it logical across Hasbro's brands at the retailers who, as Hasbro is fond of saying, ultimately do set the prices.
The Jawa factory sounds like a rumor or a pipe dream, a lot of rumors start because fans remember something from the original line and assume Hasbro will want to update it. Playsets are so, so, so out of vogue right now that the only way they'd ever do a Droid Factory is to integrate it into a vehicle like the Sandcrawler, which is another fan-sourced rumor that's pretty ridiculous for today's marketplace. Of course, that doesn't mean it isn't doable: the MTT for Q3 2012 is also pretty hard to figure out.
Also, you cite "what fans want" which is something that none of us really know. We sort of do-- we all want things to be cheaper and easily available (for us, once we have it screw everybody else)-- but other than that, I can't say all fans want the same characters or execution. Do we want more articulation? How about video game figures? Or Ewoks? After the first three years of the modern line from 1995-1998, fan opinions started to diverge wildly after most vintage figures were updated and we got the likes of Wedge, Slave Leia, and Tarkin. I think most adult fans would indeed prefer droid parts-- even extra ones-- to another game die, but obviously Hasbro is now starting to perceive Star Wars Vintage as more of a collector line and everything else is primarily for kids. I think. I could be wrong here, but it seems that's how they're doing things, although it is sort of odd that the "kiddie" lines are much tougher to get.
As to costs it's not just "the rising cost of plastic" but also the rising Chinese minimum wage-- I keep bringing this up not to be xenophobic, but it's true-- they're actually starting to get paid better wages, which, as a commie pinko, makes me happy. I want people to get paid fairly. But as a toy collector, I also know a lot of the manufacturing is starting to shift to Vietnam (look at the new Transformers) and that means other kinds of costs, like setting up the factories, training, hiring, and so forth. There may be a day in the future where figures get cheaper again, but that's going to assume fans rebel against the Fan Tax that is vintage packaging (they won't) or that Hasbro buckles to cost pressure and makes a cheaper, less-articulated product (which we're seeing more of). While many of us will pay $9 for an action figure, it's a tough sell for families considering a LEGO set with 4 figures is about $13. A G.I. Joe figure at $11 has no hope on the mass market.
4. When do you think we will get a Chewbacca in The Vintage Collection? And a Princess Leia from A New Hope? Also do you you expect new versions of Bossk and IG-88? What about a new shiny C-3PO? Sorry for all the questions but these are the Vintage Collection figures I'm really hanging out for.
2004, my good man! With Vintage, I suggest you not get hung up on "current" molds. Truth is, Hasbro already put out its best-articulated Chewbacca figure in 2004, on a Vintage cardback, as part of the original Original Trilogy Collection. I saw just Chewie for about $14, and a lot with Leia, Yoda, and Chewbacca for about $27. So as usual, I suggest you monitor eBay for a couple of months to pick up a lot/set/collection to save, and remember that these figures were (a frankly preposterous) $9.99 in 2004.
The Princess Leia from Star Wars came out on a Vintage cardback in 2004 as well, and to date is the best-articulated Leia from the original film. C-3PO was released with shiny vac-metal on an Empire Strikes Back cardback in 2004 as well, so to date Hasbro hasn't yet released him with the original film's logo. (Nor R2-D2, for that matter.)
So in your case, I'd say why wait? Go get the existing ones. They're fundamentally the same, plus many of the 2004 releases are in clamshell cases which are taped shut, meaning you can pop off the clamshell easily if that's how you'd prefer to display them. (You know, ruined.) The secondary market is often quite cheap for older toys, so if you're willing to do a little hunting or waiting, you can get what you want without Hasbro having to release tens of thousands of units (at, most likely, a higher SRP). Also, you're helping your fellow collector: remember, fans like you sometimes move on, or get on hard times, so helping them out is good toy collector karma. (If the price is right. If not, let 'em choke on it.)
5. if I were to go for an Imperial Shuttle for my collection, which would be the best one to go for? As far as I know there are two versions (Saga and TVC?) You mentioned that a rerelease or new mold were probably never going to happen, so I figured there was no point in waiting to hunt an old one down.
Ah, the Shuttle question! I've got both and I honestly can't tell the difference EXCEPT! my 2006 one seems to have slightly worse labels pre-applied. That's really the only difference. As you have neither, so be warned! It's the 1983 mold, complete with oversized and useless 1983 foot pegs. Modern figures can't use them-- the only change to the mold that I can see is the electronics were gutted. It still has a 1983 copyright. And it kind of sucks in that sense, but as a display piece on a shelf, it's probably just as good as a new one. It looks like it goes for as little as $100 shipped, which isn't too shabby. If memory serves the 2002 Saga (FAO, later shared exclusive blue box) was $120 and the 2006 Target Saga Collection black/silver box one was a maddeningly cheap $60.
I'm on a plane today! Work stuff. (You know the drill.) I actually have to leave my basement. It's just not a good idea, man, the birds will get to me like in that Birdemic documentary. Sadly, I am not going to Orlando, as I am under the impression you should be seeing buckets of astromech droids by now. (Confidential to everyone: buy sets and start putting them on eBay. I'd probably buy one.)
So I need to get to Orlando, apparently. Astromechs, man.
I love to stumble upon comments about me being irrelevant and having nothing to offer on forums out there. I don't argue that it's true, but like the beloved cockroach, I'm still here. I wrote the first Star Wars collecting Q&A column in 1999 or so, and I'm still here. People hate FOTD, yet I've done over 1,800 of them. A few of you wrote in words of support (thank you) but no worries-- I'm not fishing for compliments so much as I am amused that people would rather talk about some guy writing about toys than the toys themselves. If my writing a mix of facts, data, and opinions makes someone mad enough that they have to write in and tell me rather than just ignore me, I think I'm doing something right. I mean, you're still reading, right? (Right?)
And if you're still reading, the new movie God Bless America was fantastic. Mwah. Loved it. Keep your eyes peeled for Tom Kenny, TV's Frank, and the always delightful Morgan Murphy.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.