Q&A: Star Wars HasLabs and True Legends of Toy Tinseltown

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 24, 2022

1. Hasbro is 0/2 for its most recent Star Wars HasLabs, the Rancor and most likely the Black Series Reva Lightsaber. Is Hasbro not even trying anymore? I read that one of the designers has opened up to poll collectors what they would like to see for the next offering.


We don't know how much of HasLab is licensor demands - Disney, Sesame Workshop, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and whoever can say "sure, we approve you doing a HasLab - but this is what you're going to make!" if they want. I'm just spitballing here, but I doubt Hasbro would've picked the Reva FX Lightsaber as its first choice - a $500 product for a show without a track record is an incredibly risky proposition, as opposed to literally everything else on HasLab which has at least a year or more of fan recognition.

No matter what Hasbro picks, a big chunk of the fan base is going to go "Hasbro is stupid, I would have picked something else." And that's a really unfair way to look at things - you never know what's going to be a slam-dunk. The Barge almost didn't make it, and I think most people who read this Q&A feature would have agreed that a Barge is one of the most exciting things you could possibly develop.

So far the only HasLab flops have been the 6-inch scale Rancor (which, I would argue, was overpriced by about double and looked pretty off from what the monster looks like in fans' eyes), the Reva FX Lightsaber, and the big Cookie Monster - which was a great price for what it was. Master Replicas' Muppets cost more than that, but it's a weird item without an organized collector market. I would argue The Black Series collectors are probably not financially mature just yet - the 6" guys are a younger set. The FX Lightsaber, look, nobody's going to argue that's a good idea. If they sold a $500 full-size Maul lightsaber on HasLab as its debut, I doubt it would've succeeded at $500.

I would love to know if Boba Fett's Throne Room was a HasLab that got shunted over to "regular item" status or not because it sure as heck looks like a HasLab item to me. And that one looks pretty spectacular, if lacking in figures. (I will continue to complain - it should have included either Boba Fett or Jabba the Hutt in it because you want it accessible to newbies who may not have planned ahead by buying... well, everything.)

Failure isn't always a bad thing - it's good Hasbro tried out the Reva FX Lightsaber as a HasLab. If they made it as a mainline item and it tanked, they'd be out a ton of money. If they didn't make it at all, fans will eventually ask for it. At least now they can point to it and say "we costed it out and we tried." The same is true of the Rancor, and Cookie. Hasbro has said they wanted to do The Black Series for HasLab, and it just might not be the right place to do much other than a vehicle. We've already got our $60 Landspeeder and our $100ish Snowspeeder, maybe some day we'll see a $200 A-Wing Fighter or Jedi Starfighter, or a 6-inch scale Jabba the Hutt throne.

From where I sit, it seems Hasbro's going to do best with vehicles (especially if those vehicles are de facto playsets), giants, and things that appeal to people who have been fans for over 20 years. The Razor Crest made sense as it was white-hot at the time. The Barge, Galactus, the Sentinel, Unicron, even Victory Saber (maybe not Victory Saber) all make sense due to their specialized interest. I am glad Hasbro tried the Rancor but when I heard it was happening, I thought "Sure, $150-$250, I could see that." At $350, in advance, I can't say it should have been a success. But I am pleased they tried.



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2. In Sansweet's book Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible page 71, Bernie Loomis claims the very first early production concept figures went to Princess Grace Kelly and her family as part of a rigged drawing at a Monopoly tournament. (p. 71). Loomis is quoted as saying "she'd be very popular at home that night". Looking at Grace Kelly's children as they were in 1977 there was Princess Caroline, age 20, Prince Albert the 2nd, age 19, and Princess Stephanie, 12. Given their ages and the fact that two of the children are girls, how excited would those children be for the first Star Wars action figures? Have these particular ones, that may be slightly different than the production run figures ever turned up for sale or even been seen by any collectors to see how they are different? My understanding is that the first production figures appeared on shelves in February 1978 at the very earliest.


I wouldn't imagine the figures to be anything special other than early samples or possibly the first figures off the factory, and I can't imagine they'd be much different than the 12-backs and Early Bird Kit releases. Or that someone was trying to kiss up to Grace Kelly and Grace Kelly was being polite at her prize of small, plastic men from some stupid space movie that the peasants were watching.

Steve Sansweet's Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible book is considered to be one of the very best references ever and, at the time, was probably the most exhaustively researched book on the topic. It was also made pre-internet and required the interviewing of many colorful characters from the worlds of toys (which tend to have a lot of records and evidence) and movies and film (which, let's be honest, can be prone to hyperbole.) The book has a great story about a Kenner employee holding up his index finger and thumb about 3 3/4-inches apart to get the height for Luke Skywalker's first action figure, which is a great story. But we also know prototype figures were made from Fisher-Price Adventure People, and there were other similarly sized figures on the market. Maybe they just left out the part where he said something like "My kid has a frogman figure that's this big *holds up fingers* let's make Luke that size." We may never know.

If the first Kenner Star Wars figures showed up somewhere in February 1978, it would not be impossible for first-shots (or test shots, especially unpackaged early samples) to be in the hands of a Kenner employee or a studio executive for approval much earlier - especially given the nature of the Star Wars phenomenon. Baby Yoda stuff got out pretty fast in 2020, I assume they were on a similar timeframe in 1977 and 1978 - which probably means a few VIPs got the first figures out of the factory for safety tests, destruction tests, and so forth. Also in 1977, toys were mostly just toys - I'm sure any family that had some toy figures just thought "wow, we got these first" and not "wow, this is something I should save for posterity because it's special." Heck, I've got some of the very first samples of some toys - they don't look special compared to the final production.

Will Grace Kelly's kids care? Maybe! Star Wars was a real phenomenon, so if you're 12 or 20, you might care that Mom brought home the very first toy figures in the world from a movie that's #1 at the box office and, probably, a big part of what kids were talking about in whatever normal social circles. But Hollywood (or actual) royalty... it's hard to say what kids like. We're a special breed of people who might care about those thing - at around age 12 I was, well, looking for a copy of Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible when calling around bookstores when I was on vacation, so maybe I'm not the best barometer. I don't know if the kids were dorks like us or not, but speaking from experience there are teenagers who are unusually too-excited about movie toys out there. I am one and have met many.





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And that's Comic-Con! I followed the reveals from home and it's a mixed bag. Hasbro has been good at trying to balance Disney-era streaming stuff with Original Trilogy classic stuff, so in theory there's something for everybody. But, if you're a completist, you might find yourself bored with reissues and repaints galore. (The Black Series has gone from "I like these" to "I'm not paint for a same-character paint variant" as we just got over a dozen new announcements of same character, new deco/new packaging exclusives over the coming few months. It's great for fans with character focus, packaging focus, or newbies - but I look at that, whip out the abacus, and ask "Do I want to spend $400+ on more figures that aren't much better than the ones I have and don't play with?"

I am working on the next installment of ASWN - should be up Monday or Tuesday with a big list of new announcements and some ramblings.

I'm a little sad to see only one new vehicle was shown, and it's the fourth release of the Big Slave I mold. Previously sold as Jango Fett's vehicle once and twice as Boba Fett's, the newly-named Boba Fett's Starship includes an exclusive Boba Fett with unique - and improved - deco. It was $150 in 2020, it was around $70 when Amazon had it almost 10 years ago. This release is $200. If you put previous releases up against the Razor Crest, it could use a facelift - but Boba's ship is a lot smaller, with fewer features and opening panels.

The Retro Collection expanded in a big way - a whopping 12 new figures were shown. A Return of the Jedi wave brings in some of my absolute favorite toys - Skiff Lando, Jedi Luke, the Biker Scout, and Leia Boushh are four of my absolute favorite childhood toys, and I chased down The Emperor and Han Solo in Endor Trenchcoat later. I assume the Emperor might be a dud if only because you can buy an original one off of eBay right now for under $20 shipped - under $10 shipped without a cane. (I would have picked someone else, like a Gamorrean Guard. Just the axes alone would make them sell.)

Also, the back half of the original 12 was announced - that's good! You can get Han/Luke/Leia/Vader/Stormtrooper/Chewbacca on ShopDisney for $69.99 right now - not a bad price. The second pack with C-3PO/R2-D2/Tusken Raider/Jawa/Death Squad Commander/Obi-Wan Kenobi - will be around $95 according to the press release. I assume they saw what Smith Lord and Stan Solo sell their figures for and went "OK, we can charge more" because the Kenobi show figures are still a mere $11.99, and hitting stores and dotcoms now. If you can't wait until next year for a Jawa, there's a guy selling a repro of a Vinyl Cape Jawa figure - with a gun, cape, the works - for under $20 on eBay and Etsy. I did get one, and having held an original, I can say it's clearly different but looks good enough (and is cheap enough) that I'd recommend checking them out.

The Halloween The Black Series figures are interesting and goofy - a Werewolf Wookiee is joined by a green skeleton deco Clone Trooper. They're not quite as wacky as the Christmas ones, so I like them and will probably buy if I can find 'em.

It's a weird era to be a collector, because Hasbro has three collector formats for figures - plus props - competing for dollars and resources, and we've seem the pool of characters increase to 12 theatrical films, 2 TV movies, and at least 10 TV/streaming series. Nothing can get much focus outside of a Retro wave - thank you for theming the Kenner waves, Hasbro - so it's tough to feel like any group of collectors is getting a lot of love. I know a lot of fans don't love The Book fo Boba Fett, but the lack of product for it has been surprising. I hope they circle back to it down the road, and Kenobi, and well... just about everything. The lack of depth in weird aliens and droids has certainly taken some of the wind out of my collecting sails, as one cannot waste money on heroes and villains alone. We need weirdness.

As it stands right now I'm pleased to see them trying new things and going for diverse formats - mostly - honestly I'd love to see one figure format (any figure format) get anointed The One True Collector Format with the others getting a reduced selection, but such is life. I'm kind of stunned how much Kenner stuff we're getting after years of barely anything, and I'm also scratching my head over some of what we're not getting. No Kumail Nanjiani? No Kenner-style Fennec Shand? No pipeline reveal of little Leia? Well, here's hoping for next time.

My hopes for PulseCon in September or for 2023?

1. 1 new 3 3/4-inch scale vehicle. Classic, new trilogy, TV, I'm not picky - just something we can't already buy on eBay. Retro, Vintage, I'll take whatever.

2. A wave of The Book of Boba Fett Retro Collection. It's probably unrealistic, but there are so many cool aliens and droids and character actors on that show.

3. Battle-Damaged Darth Vader from Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Black Series. That was an awesome look.

--Adam Pawlus

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