Q&A: Star Wars Deco Changes, Molds Old, and DVD

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 31, 2020

This week in Q&A - Finding old molds! Believe it or not, these things aren't meant to last forever. And photo real deco - is it good? Well, sometimes. Mostly. Let's also talk home video discs - is there still money in them thar hills?

Be sure you send in your questions for next time. Read on!

1. For at least 10 years I've been hearing how hard it is for Hasbro to find old factory molds... don't you think at this point they'd have developed a better archive system?

It seems strange to repeatedly lose the most expensive piece of the process.

American companies working in China do not own the factories - they work with partner factories, and usually those production runs are pretty short in the cosmic sense. None of these items are developed with the idea of multiple years of runs - usually it's 1-2 years tops, and once orders stop coming in the tools have little value other than as an anchor for the ships at sea.

This isn't unique to Hasbro - other factories and other toy manufacturers go through the same problems. You'll note that companies that keep some tools around forever - like Mattel's Hot Wheels line - manufacture in other countries and often do own the factory. Like bounty hunting, toy manufacturing can be a complicated profession. Some are kept in circulation because Hasbro plans on reusing them time and again, but things can go wrong. Tools can be damaged or lost, or destroyed in a fire. The Robin Dragster from Batman: The Animated Series is one such toy, where a limited number were produced before the factory had an accident that resulted in the loss of the tool - and a dud was turned into a grail overnight.

The storage and care of tons (literal tons) of steel is also expensive, so while the investment in creating a new tool is no small purchase it may be cheaper than storing and organizing car-sized toy molds for decades.



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2. The new photo-real re-release TVC wave with Luke (Bespin), Han (Bespin), and General Lando got me excited when I first learned about it, but now I've seen some production samples, and Han looks good (when the face printing is centered right), the Lando looks ok, though that Lando head has a strange chin shape/defect I noticed on the first release, and the Luke just looks not at all like Mark Hamill. BUT, Hasbro also recently released that all-new TVC Han (Stormtrooper) head that looks AMAZING, as well as 3 new TVC Luke heads that also all look GREAT. And the TVC Lando (Skiff Guard) head recently re-released with photo-real printing isn't all-new, but its SO much better than the General Lando head.

So, my question is just: Why would Hasbro not just sculpt new heads for these 3 human figures to go along with their photo-real printing? When they have done that, it pretty much always looks just like the actor (example: TVC Cara Dune...that head sculpt/deco is WOW!!!...maybe best-looking 3.75" Star Wars figure EVER). So why expend all the effort to re-release photo-real deco on really not good Luke and Lando heads. Hasbro can (and has) done SOOO much better. Why not always do much better now that they can? I rarely complain about Hasbro myself, but this just doesn't make sense to me.

Budgets usually - Hasbro decided from the word "go" that the current iteration of The Vintage Collection would be heavy on reruns, no doubt because it could bet against duds piling up at retail. Minimal costs come from a new paint mask, while a new tool for a new head (or heads) costs tens of thousands of dollars plus a lot of work in getting licensor approvals. Merely slapping some make-up on an old head is much easier and cheaper.

So far new 3 3/4-inch heads in this line have been mostly tied to exclusive products, like the 3 Lukes for San Diego Comic-Con last year as well as the Stormtrooper Han Solo for Target. I don't currently know the run sizes for the waves versus that of the exclusives, but some of the hubbub I've heard (and seen) with main line product makes me think those repaint waves may also be produced in much shorter numbers. If that's true - and I don't know that it is - Hasbro has zero incentive to invest in new tooling, if the intent was to make a short "last chance" kind of a run. But, again, I don't know for a fact if that is the intent - it's jut a guess.




3. I have a non-toy question this time: Normally it would be a no-brainer that Lucasfilm/Disney would release a series such as the final season of "The Clone Wars" or "The Mandalorian" on Blu-ray, but I have heard absolutely nothing about this. I know that some streaming shows get released on Blu-ray/DVD, but probably not the majority. Given that this is Star Wars, I think it would be insane of them to NOT release them for sale. However, it wouldn't surprise me if the House of Mouse wants to suck everyone dry of money, and keeps these online-only, thus forcing people to keep up, or renew, their Disney + subscriptions. That would be quite evil, in my opinion. I certainly want to add these to my Blu-ray collection, as does most of the Star Wars fandom, I would think. Have you heard that these will definitely be available on Blu-ray? Given that the first season of "The Mandalorian" was over last year, I would think we'd have had a home video release of it by now. Or maybe they are just trying to get tons of people to continue to subscribe to Disney +, and they are just waiting longer than usual to make it available for sale? This "Disney Gallery" series seems like it's something that should have just been included as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray set, so I'm wondering if they plan to release it for sale at all.

It's possible - it's still a market. We saw CBS release its All Access Trek on the format, plus Disney's reign has had recent 4K releases of the Star Wars movies and DVDs for Resistance. Presumably, like Netflix did with Stranger Things, Disney will want to tap into the market of fans who may not sign up with a streaming service and sell those episodes on a home video format - but I would assume that would tie in with a "Force Friday/Mandalorian Monday/Star Wars Saturday" kind of thing.

Given the nature of retail lately I would assume such a product would likely be a big box exclusive down the road, as it's an offline kind of customer. (I'd buy it.) Admittedly my main concern is that some future day Disney will scrub Disney+ from the earth and a lot of shows will disappear - hence why I still buy vinyl LPs and new NES cartridges of indie-developed games.

It's likely that, with theme parks closing up and movie windows closing, Disney will have to reinvigorate its product pillars. They could also put exclusive figures with the Blu-Rays to sell more to collectors, which, honestly, I would love. I mean, what better fit is there for Carbonized editions than a high barrier of entry to a product that you could probably miss and not cry about? Home video releases are, likely, inevitable just to keep another stream of revenue.



The new packaging for The Black Series has been revealed - and it's a lot like Transformers these days. One side is angled, and the others are flat. The angled spines line up to make a mural of sorts, which should look kind of cool if you're the kind of person that displays things in packaging. (I am not.) The figures themselves look great, and Hasbro is certainly taking fan requests and fan demand seriously when it comes to reissues and character selection. Mando is a huge hit, and I hope Hasbro makes other armored Mandalorians based on the show's blink-and-you-miss-them warriors because let's face it - we want a distraction and armored guys and gals that look sort of like Boba Fett will scratch that itch nicely.

For those who missed them, the reissues of Rebels figures are indeed said to include the "photo real" face deco updates, or so is what they said. If you're happy with your existing figures, you're all set - but if you missed Ezra, he's a lot cheaper than he would be online these days. The slow-growing endless appetite for Ahsoka Tano stuff continues to be fed too, which is - I hope - ultimately good for us all. With new legions of fans having new heroes, hopefully we'll see fans want to get their friends, enemies, and randos who were in line for lunch with them. There's probably a massive demand for a collector-driven The Clone Wars 6-inch line, and before you say "nuh-uh" let me remind you that it started in 2008. If you put that on the timeline of the original trilogy, that would be like 1990 or 1991 - right around when the Thrawn books came out and everybody suddenly remembered they loved Star Wars again.

If you are in a city that is not on fire and you are taking proper safety precautions, we have had word of many clearances of new and newish toys - even The Retro Collection at Walmart is $5.00 in some spots, which is baffling, given nobody can seem to find it at full price in a lot of places. The Retro thing is baffling given Walmart is only just starting to ship its Toy Fair pre-orders. I mean, good for you if you can find them, but demand is still through the roof and my business hat finds this vexing. There's no reason to devalue good stuff that sells well early, and I hope it doesn't hurt the chances fore more figures in the future at this or another retailer.

--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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