Q&A: Star Wars Joints, Fox and Disney, and Toys Aren't USA

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 12, 2018

1. With the Disney purchase of 20th Century Fox approved by share holders do you think the Fox fanfare will return to the beginning of Star Wars movies, or be removed from A New Hope? Do you have a preference? I know this is a bottom of the barrel question, but other than "what's up with the Disney park rumored sand crawler?" It's all I got, sorry not sorry.

Disney ain't talking - my guess is we won't hear a peep about the Sandcrawler before Celebration next year, unless the darned thing shows up for Christmas.

Similarly, I don't know what Fox under the House of Mouse hath wrought - it's possible now that they own the original film lock, stock, and barrel they'll just quietly erase the Fox Fanfare from the original film completely. I hope they restore the original versions, warts and all, or at least put them back the way they were - but it's unlikely. Changes are inevitable, and it would not completely stun me to learn there are more changes to the movies we'll see in the coming years simply because they can. After we got a Dug in Jedi, all bets are off.



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2. Since TRU Canada is still open, and is apparently a separate entity from American TRU. What are the odds that TRU Canada tries to expand into the USA? Sure it sounds like a stupid idea, but it wasn’t totally the fault of TRU that they went under. I place the majority of fault, on them being purchased and saddled with all that debt by the same people that destroyed KB.

I have to start by repeating this for anyone just joining us: Toys R Us is dead and buried in the USA. The business partnerships are dissolved. The human component has been let go. As of July, the real estate has started to be sold off. So if and when a store with the Toys R Us name ever appears again, it'll just be using that name to trade on your nostalgia - which is basically what KB Toys is(n't) doing.

Right now, there's a question of ownership - Toys R Us in the USA still exists as an entity, with ownership of their name, unless that has secretly changed. So to answer your question: Toys R Us Canada could open US stores, under a new name, easily. They would likely have to negotiate some trademark waters in the USA to use the Toys R Us name, because trademarks can be divvied up by region. For example, Hasbro can sell Scrabble in the USA but Mattel has international rights. Why? That's life, baby.

The best thing that could happen for all of us right now would be for someone to open a new store, with new ties, and new people that don't already owe money to every toy company of any significance. Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Walmart, Entertainment Earth, Amazon, Kohl's, The Disney Store, and many other customers could easily expand if they had the desire or expertise or interest - but toys are not the best business to be in. Actually, it's kind of a crappy business because some of the bigger companies like LEGO, Hasbro, and Mattel offer fairly tight margins to stores. If you're going to get into toys, you had better freaking love toys.

The loss of Toys R Us is going to be felt by us for years, but even more it'll be felt by the toymakers. Mattel has layoffs starting already. Hasbro is expanding its portfolio, which is probably a good move in the short term but there aren't many places that will offer its complete portfolio of products. The idea of a one-stop toy shop is gone for America, possibly never to return. Board game stores of consequence are rare here. National chains specializing in music or movies are hurting or gone from most cities. You were lucky enough to be alive during an era where kid's television was deregulated, before toys were slowly destroyed by big box stores and phones, all during the time where the original fans of these things were in their 30s so there was plenty of support and income to keep them going.

It's over now - possibly for now, possibly forever. Target may be bringing back Mego, and LEGO and Nintendo are around, but if there were truly massive demand for an all-toy shop you can be sure someone would be doing something about that right now.

..a postscript to all of this, stuff changes. Comic books used to be for children, costing only pennies and selling in the tens of millions every month as a popular, cheap source of entertainment. Adults took over, "mature"d the whole thing up, and now they're four bucks a month and something that sells 10,000 copies is a huge success. Trading cards used to be dirt cheap things on cardstock with crappy gum - and now they're more expensive, fancy, in foil packets, and aren't something so cheap kids could put them in their bike spokes anymore. Toys underwent a similar transition - heavy on adult interest - in the 1990s, although they're still something that remains an important part of child life. For now. That could change. Cheap toys are a relatively new thing, and the whole boy's action toy phenomenon could wind up just being a very long running fad.




3. Some of your recent reviews of the Solo figures with skirts or skirt-like materials have made me wonder, if a figure's going to have a skirt that'll hamper articulation (unlike Qi'Ra, but like the Kessel Guard), why do they bother tooling in the joints for legs that'll be unusable, instead of saving on parts for more paint, or other budget-related stuff? Or is it that designers aren't sure until later in the process if those joints will work or not, and so just add them and hope for the best?
-- Anthony

I wish I knew - and I don't. Kenner of old was really good about figuring out where articulation went. Chewbacca didn't have a neck joint. The Ewoks didn't either - the hoods would hinder the movement. Figures were largely always built with a good degree of movement in mind, sometimes at the cost of aesthetics. Modern Hasbro/Kenner is just plain weird - since 1995 we've had figures with joints under robes that are kind of worthless and likely add to the cost. Bib Fortuna's waist joint was odd, but they got wise for a sort time - the 1997-1998 line wisely skipped joints on figures like the Emperor's Royal Guard, Mon Mothma, and Imperial Sentinel. Fans derided them as "salt shakers" but Hasbro made the right move as costs and engineering went.

I don't think Hasbro knows the durometer of the skirts prior to release sometimes, which has resulted in dozens of figures that have joints which serve no actual purpose. In some cases the changes are things like not knowing if the figure would have cloth or plastic cloaks early in the development process, but sometimes the desire to meet the fan need for articulation seems to supplant what I would consider common sense. Who needs an astromech droid with 7 points of articulation for $12.99 when one with 3-4 joints for $6.99 would be just fine? Why put ankles on Ewoks?

In the world of toys, most companies have each individual toy with a target budget - so if they can afford articulation, they might just put it in there. (Which is a shame, in some cases accessories or deco might be a better use of your pennies.) Not all companies do this - McFarlane Toys used to go by the entire case, so sometimes your shortpack figure might cost them more at the factory thanks to premium deco, and the cost is averaged in to the case. Hasbro and Mattel do not (or rarely do) that.

I don't get the feeling that the modern era of toys - 1995 forward - are designed with the utmost consideration for their life outside the package. We've had figures that don't fit in vehicles, helmets that don't fit on heads, weapons that don't fit in hands, joints that don't bend more than a few degrees by design, and I don't know why. It's frustrating, and something that's pretty commonplace in Star Wars.



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Hey! Listen! The Comic-Con exclusives go on sale at HasbroToyShop.com today.

I don't know at what point overkill could really set in this or any franchise, but we're not there yet. Marvel puts out preposterous amounts of material every month with its most popular characters, as does DC, and while both have slowly whittled down their readerships to a loyal, hardcore bunch they're still being published after seven decades. Similarly, Star Trek had two TV shows and the specter of a movie running for seven years, and it seems creative burnout was really what hurt it the most after one show turned over to another. Right now with Star Wars, we're on the verge of another movie next year, The Clone Wars returning for a mere 12 episodes upon the launch of Disney's streaming service - again, late next year. A live-action TV show is in the works for the future (and rumors are swirling it might be one, short, and expensive season) alongside a bunch of movies that are at least two or more years off. All that's left for 2018 is Star Wars Resistance, an animated show that has been discussed in some circles but not at all shown to the public - no Comic-Con panel, no preview trailer, and no toy previews. That's unusual for a show that's set to air this year, with a mere four and a half months left in the year. We got our first glimpses of Rebels at a convention a year prior to the show's debut, with several short teases a few months early.

To say the least, it's a head-scratcher. I assume they're just trying to keep things quiet, but considering how Star Wars thrives on hype (and Solo was also undermarketed to the point where a lot of people didn't seem aware it was even coming out) I have to wonder if Lucasfilm's marketing department is on vacation or if the show has been preemptively canceled. It's happened before - hi, Star Wars Detours.

I don't think we as far are being overwhelmed, but I can say my tastes change depending on just how much stuff is out there. As a kid, action figures were the main way to live the movie - VHS was new, comic books weren't really on my radar. If you wanted your fix, you went to your room and pulled out a couple of aliens or droids and a ship and you had a little fun. In the 1990s we got comic books almost every month - or multiple times a month - along with games, novels, and eventually even more toys. And movies. And Special Editions. Fans ate it up. We even got TV shows, which are the thing that broke me of my interest in the comics - if I'm getting a weekly fix of Star Wars, why do I want to pay $4 per shot two or three times a month at a comic shop? I don't. I want to watch it.

I bring all of this up because CBS is reviving Star Trek in a more meaningful way because of its streaming service, and Trek has often given us a glimpse to what a franchise can become. Apparently the CBS All Access platform has done well enough with Star Trek Discovery to pull the dump truck full of money to Patrick Stewart's house to bring him back for a new series, and on top of that several other possible TV series and two more movies are said to be in the works, right now. Disney might realize there's money in keeping Star Wars fans similarly engaged, with new content all year to keep people paying the streaming fees.

A key difference that strikes me as odd with Star Wars is that the populace at large seems very interested in the movies and not at all interested in the rest of it anymore. While you and I are still engaged as fans, I would doubt we're all as hardcore as we were 10 or 20 years ago - chasing figures at the stores was a lot more fun when it was for movies we had already seen and loved, with more variety and sculpts that didn't always age well. Similarly, I would expect more fans to check out the new TV shows, shrug, and walk away since asking someone to get on a new platform, pay for it, and tune in is a lot to ask. Nobody knows Star Trek Discovery's ratings yet, but it does not seem like everybody and their brother watched it. On the contrary, I hear from a lot of people that wished they saw it and didn't want to sign up for a new platform to see what was admittedly a pretty entertaining piece of television.

As time goes on and we have even more Star Wars to watch every year, I'm going to guess collecting interest will wax and wane. With Trek in the 1990s, we saw a hit TV show really push a successful line for a while, and then things fizzled out as people got (and couldn't get) the figures they wanted with new TV shows splitting interest from fans that wanted classic. And on top of that, "classic" meant something different to each individual fan thanks to multiple generations of viewers and series spanning the decades. Not everybody stuck around for the next incarnation, and that's normal. Some fans don't need to see every movie and TV show, and while I would consider that to be almost blasphemous I can't argue that hundreds of episodes of a TV series and a dozen movies may be a lot for some to take in.

Hey, at least we've got something. I remember what it was like to be a fan in 1986, when what you had to look forward to was your neighbor selling you his old crap because the galaxy far, far away had no future.

--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.