Q&A: Star Wars Hasbro License, Force Friday, and The Future of Original Obscurity

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 16, 2015

1. I purchased Mosep Binneed this week and hadn't realised until the moment he was revealed that it was a figure I didn't know I really really wanted! I would be hard pushed to point him out during the film and it's made me realise we have been more than fortunate for all the blink and you'll miss them characters that Hasbro have made for us over the years. So my question is in this new era of less figures being released and considering Disney want to release a new film and potentially two shows a year (plus comics, books and games) do you think it's only natural that these types of characters will never be realised in plastic again?


By the time you come to answer this we may know more via leaks/ press releases but if the 3.75 line continues as it is with 5poa and 'collector sa' who do you think the vehicles will be aimed at? Children or collectors? It is unlikely Hasbro would produce two variations of the same vehicle (but not unknown, the Jedi starfighter and Slave 1 for example) one cheap and affordable and another fully detailed and to scale. If a character is included with the vehicle, I'm thinking small scale deluxe, will they be sa/ 5poa/ statue?

I got these two questions in an email together, but I think they go together well.

Every collector is different - some have an "all or nothing" mindset when it comes to articulation, or figures, or what have you. Mosep is probably the best example I have for "articulation doesn't matter" on some collector figures. Most adult fans who buy Mosep are doing so for a diorama, to keep packaged, or out of some sense of obligation so their opinions don't actually matter. (Hey, if you're going to buy it regardless, your preferences are meaningless.) Now, if you had a 5-jointed Mosep for $6 or a 14-jointed Mosep for $13, odds are the $6 one would serve the same function. Even if he can't sit, he's going to probably spend his plastic life standing around behind a bar. A figure like Darth Vader has good reasons to kneel or grip the lightsaber with both hands, but Mosep? Just make it cheap, sell it cheap, and collectors who really want a Mosep will buy it regardless. That's what Saga Legends and the new Mission Series has, to some extent, shown us - you want a Jedi Temple Guard? OK, here it is. And you bought it, so there we are.

It is possible (but not likely) that any figure who is made from the original trilogy for the first time ever will never be reissued or remade. Depending on the market needs for gift sets, I wouldn't hold your breath for another Mosep ever again - the stock out now is probably it, and what you're describing has already happened. It's also one of the reasons I dump on the 3 3/4-inch Black Series line. We've had over 40 figures, and of them about 10 are new. Or "new" - Clone and droid repaints are included in the mix, and some of the new tooling was devoted to re-re-redoing Darth Vader and bringing 1990s figures into the modern era. I do not believe you'll see another Commander Thorn, Mosep, Darth Plagueis (unless he's in a new movie), and so on - Hasbro pays a lot of lip service to collectors, but seeing only one new Cantina alien over roughly 3 years speaks volumes. When you see a new classic alien or officer, snag it - it's unlikely people are suddenly going to develop a taste for the character after 30-40 years.

If you look at Marvel, be sure to watch the Toy Biz to Hasbro to Disney transitions. It started off as what we collectors would consider "normal" - mostly core characters, with a slow expansion to villains and minor characters, the Spider-Variant explosion, only to collapse upon its own weight to being mostly core characters. Iron Man 3 toy prototypes for The Mandarin and a comic armored Pepper Potts were made, but not released. Guardians of the Galaxy bypassed 3 3/4-inch entirely. The comic 3 3/4-inch line is now mostly just retreads of existing characters, and new waves are uncommon. With an unlimited supply of new movies and TV characters, Hasbro may not have the slots/resources/desire to do more Cantina aliens. (Also keep in mind that in a really good year, we'd get maybe 3 or 4 new ones anyway.) The volume of the franchise means that once important things may be swept under the rug, simply because Hasbro can't (or shouldn't) release 300 figures per year anymore.

With vehicles, well, we can't say yet. But we can look at history, and history shows us that Hasbro may do two scales but not necessarily two quality levels. The smaller Jedi Starfighters were an economic move - it was cheaper to make new tools in China and stamp out new, smaller, less-plastic-intensive vehicles than it was to keep using and maintaining the existing heavier, more gimmick-intensive models. This wasn't a "collector" move. All the vehicles we've seen since this transition have been "kid" vehicles, by most definitions, with some turning out to be pretty simple and great (AT-DP) and some just turning out to be pretty great (Inquisitor's TIE Advanced). Since we've seen a 6-inch TIE Fighter, I assume a 3 3/4-inch TIE Fighter isn't out of the question. Hasbro gave us 3 3/4-inch and 6-inch versions of the Speeder Bike and Jabba the Hutt in a pretty short window - so it isn't unthinkable. We also don't know what the post-release plans for Star Wars are, as in, will Hasbro stuff it back in the closet until the next movie like we often see with Marvel?

As to what those final vehicles will look like, what features they will have (or won't have), and so on - we're going to have to wait and see. With MicroMachines back on deck, it's possible that we're already seeing multiple similar sizes of vehicles in the small end of things. We know they're doing MicroMachines now. We know they're doing "Black Series" Titanium. We know Mattel is doing die-cast metal vehicles that are roughly the same size. But it would seem unlikely that Hasbro would want to release (hypothetically speaking) two competing TIE Fighters that work with the same size of action figure. It's problematic to compete with yourself except in only the most popular characters (or for this argument, vehicles) and you can see where that kind of thinking can take you with Transformers in a movie year. Where you can get something like 13 different transforming movie Grimlock toys in one year alone, many from the same molds, some barely different from one another. Hasbro rarely (not "never") has competing action figure-scaled vehicles on the market at the same time, but I don't think I can name an instance where two new different 3 3/4-inch scale vehicles of the same ship are introduced at the exact same time. The closest thing to an exception I can name are the serendipitous dual Boba Fett Slave I vehicles in the Vintage and mini sizes a couple of years ago, one being a long-planned pretool of an existing mold and the other being a quickie repaint of a current mold.



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2. I'm very frustrated that we are less than a month from "Force Friday" and we have no idea what will be available for sale. If they don't release this info. beforehand, how are we as collectors going to know what is out and which stores have which exclusives? How are we to plan for that day, both logistically and monetarily? I am actually off that day, but still would like to have a "game plan" in advance, to know how to proceed. Do you agree? Why is Disney/Hasbro being THIS tight with this information? It's not like the movie is in two weeks, and they don't want "spoilers" out there that close to the movie. The movie's not until December, and they're releasing toys in early September - this is just ludicrous!

Why? Most likely a) because they can, and b) because J.J. Abrams. As toy announcements go, rarely do Abrams films get much advance scrutiny beyond very vague or obvious things - look at Star Trek. Cloverfield didn't get a toy until much later. Super8 merch wasn't shown until after the movie had been out for a while. It's possible he has his hands in the planning stages for this kind of roll-out, because some people believe it's good to keep stuff secret until the last minute.

How can you plan for it? You don't. They don't care about you - they care about you being in a line at midnight to generate free press on the news and on the web and in the papers, showing the world who doesn't give a hoot how popular Star Wars is and perhaps encouraging the non-collectors to check it out the next time they're out to buy muffins, wax paper, or round things in general.

History says Hasbro and Lucasfilm don't care about spoilers. See: 1999's The Phantom Menace "Funeral for Qui-Gon" track on the soundtrack. ("Funeral for a Friend" or "Jedi Funeral" would've worked nicely.) See: 2002's decapitation-enabled Jango Fett. Revenge of the Sith fared better because the biggest spoiler of all was well-known back in 1977. We were just going through the motions.

If you look at the line - especially since 2006 - Hasbro puts zero consideration into the collector class as a group who may buy one of everything. It can't be a huge group - I can't tell you how or why I know this, but well, maybe you can guess - and I have very rarely heard the notion of "could a kid buy this whole line on a meager allowance?" come up as a consideration beyond the planning of 1982 G.I. Joe. (Maybe it has, I've never heard it.) 2006 and 2007 Star Wars each had about 250-350 figures, including exclusives and gift sets. Prices were $5-$7 each on the whole. So you're either good for it, or you'll say "screw it." If 1999 and 2002 and 2005 are any indication - especially given the amount of sealed, mint, and unsold product sitting at my local record shops for pennies on the dollar - these launches are more bad than good when it comes to long-term value. But it's great for Hasbro's and the retailer's initial bottom line.

Some (who are wrong) have pointed out that this is kind of like the old days. The reduction in marketing blitzes shows how things used to be - you saw a movie, you walked into a store, and maybe you saw something. Back with the first The Lord of the Rings we got toys in roughly September for a December movie, and I don't recall how far in advance we actually saw images of the figures. They're trying something different. I wish I could say I appreciate it, but given they have a panel at Comic-Con (hard to get) and massive amounts of booth space devoted to it with an eager press and tons of paying fans (again, hard to get) it is - as we've been saying here, repeatedly, to the point where I'm sick of talking about it - it seems like a big waste of everybody's time.

...but it also means patient fans will be able to get September 4 product for pennies on the dollar in 1-5 years. If you feel like being patient, you're going to save a fortune.




3. Quick three part question. 1) How long does Habro have the Star Wars licence for? Someone on here said till 2020 which makes sense since that covers all 6 new films. 2) Assuming they lose it, Who would you like to see take it over? I think seeing what another company could be the much needed refresh that the toyline needs in terms of design and possibly costs. 3) What defunct toy company of yesteryear would you have liked to have seen have gotten ahold of Star Wars? It seems like a lot of the great 80's and 90's ones have either gone under or been bought out.

As of the last time I checked - fairly recently - it was indeed 2020. That should get us through the trilogy and (at the current scheduling) 3 spin-offs, plus I assume 1 or 2 more TV productions. (Don't count Rebels out yet, kids.)

If Hasbro loses it, you have to remember that the only reason we're still getting 3 3/4-inch figures in the quantities we are - and those ain't great - is because of the legacy. Someone in 1995, be it a bean counter who wanted to reuse old vehicle designs or a fan-driven approach, decided to bring back the then-largely defunct 3 3/4-inch scale. Today very few successful lines exist in that size - so if Mattel got it, odds are it would be pushed as a collector scale with collector price points. (See: Matty Collector.) I would love to get a crack at it, but the way Funko is going I think they may be a viable candidate as they seem to be doing and trying more with action figures and vinyl figures than anybody other than maybe NECA these days. Given that Hasbro has done a good job with 6-inch (not perfect, but at least the joints don't shatter) I can't name a company who I'd think would do better. With 3 3/4-inch, same thing - the format is something of an anachronism, so the fact that it's still going is something of a miracle. If Hasbro decided to jump ship in 2020, I'd hope that we'd see a group of business-minded fans start a new firm and run with it. I also want to work for said firm. Based on today's toy marketplace I don't know if I've seen anything that really shows they could do a good, mass-market, kid-friendly line to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in toy sales with a diverse line across multiple sizes and formats.

So probably Funko, with a few more years of experience, would be great. Their paint jobs are getting better and their Legacy figures are doing well, but still improving.

What defunct company? I assume you're fishing for Mego. I don't like Mego figures as a thing I would collect. I'd love to work on a line of them, but no. Playmates ca. Star Trek 1993 would have made an awesome line - and supposedly proposed one, according to reports in the 1990s to which no prototypes have surfaced, so I'm dubious now - so there's really no one company that I'd like to see do it. What I'd love to see is some sort of "alternate universe" toy line in which every company style was represented. I'd love to see what a 1990s McFarlane Boba Fett would look like. Or a Barbie Leia. Or a G.I. Joe 1985-style Hoth Luke. There are so many neat formats out there that seeing alternate visions of Star Wars toys could be a lot of fun - a nightmare to market, of course, but why settle for Kenner's faux-He-Man Luke from 1995 when Mattel could really design a He-Man Luke?

...but going back to your second question, if I was to be totally self-serving, I would love to get to see if I could coordinate "retro" Star Wars via Bif Bang Pow!. I do some consulting with them and seeing a handful of "vintage" (1978-1985) figures would be a lot of fun. Specifically Vlix, Tarkin, and a few more based on the limited line plans we've seen and read about. I wouldn't want to reinvent the wheel - just crank out items based on prototypes we've really seen out of Kenner over the years. (Vehicle - White Witch. Vehicle - Blockade Runner. Vlix, because I will not be done collecting until I get a 3 3/4-inch one.)




Hey, D23! That's a thing. It's sort of good and bad - on one hand, you get to see a company roll out news to an interested, paying audience well in advance of the transaction so that they have something to look forward to, much in the same way Hasbro didn't do Comic-Con this year. Odds are this will continue until/unless Disney buys Hasbro, which they probably won't consider until after 2020.

We haven't seen much, and it's not really possible to judge a movie's look from a single still. Having said that, you can usually get an idea from those carefully selected images. For The Force Awakens, the picture was a shot of the cast in normal clothes doing a script read - a great way to say both "this is legit" and "we're not telling you anything." For Rogue One, we get to see a bunch of young people in black/grey uniforms which is the sort of boring nonsense we got in the first G.I. Joe movie. Also, many recent video games. Because it's just a single still, hopefully the fun stuff will make up for it - fancy robots, cool aliens, maybe something in blue or green.

Of course, this may not matter. Toy trends change, and even if these movies are top-tier toy commercials all that might really matter is if it can sell kids pilots or X-Wings or pre-TIE Fighters or whatever they put in the movie. Or, you know, selling the same figures with snap-on vests or hats or whatever.

--Adam Pawlus

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