Q&A: Star Wars Leftovers, Theme Park Stuff, and Toy Store Availability

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 18, 2021

1. Do you have any memories of finding toys in odd stores that weren't known for carrying action figures? Or super long pegwarmers? I remember buying a POTF2 FX R2-D2 15 years after release, the clerk said they found it underneath a storeroom shelf.

In 2003 - I think it was 2003 - I had a pretty amazing toy run where I found a Zoids Geruder at Jutenhoops, a local "head shop" or "gift shop" or whatever it was trying to be on Camelback Road in Arizona. While they were known for having a small selection of wind-up toys, generally speaking sealed box model kits from 1985 were not their usual kind of product. Also it was the Japanese release, for ten bucks, about 18 years after its debut. The same week I also stumbled on some Machine Wars Transformers at a local Kay-Bee, but that wasn't nearly as big of a deal. Anything I see that's more than three or four years old is usually an unusual sighting.

I hadn't kept track of my old Playmobil finds, but some of those might even beat that. (Thank you, Hobby Bench, and also Matt and co. for answering so many of my toy questions since I was like five.)

Your Star Wars find probably outranks my best one - I found some Power of the Force Freeze Frame-era figures in a Los Angeles Rite-Aid around 2009. 11 years old, give or take a few months.

The best, most recent sources of odd finds were when a lot of Kmarts were closing in Phoenix. A lot of very old Hot Wheels cars and other toys found their way to shelves after being stashed under racks, in back rooms, or goodness knows where - I saw many over a decade old, but I am not an expert in this area and just bought the few weird creature cars and blimps that appealed to me.



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2. The Disney Themepark 3.75" stuff. Who makes these? It doesn't appear that Hasbro does. How does it work with licensing if Hasbro isn't producing them but they are in scale with Hasbro products?

I don't know who makes them beyond what it says on the box - they're made for Disney, presumably by Disney or a partner who owns a factory and does private label stuff.

Back in 2012, Derryl DePriest said Hasbro had nothing to do with the very first batch of those build-a-droids in the part bins, but eagle-eyed observers will notice there's Hasbro tooling in the first batch. After the first two waves of parts, the legs got retooled and all mention of Hasbro went with them.

Product licensing is a weird thing - sometimes you can get a license based not just on what the item is, but where it is sold. DC Comics, for example, had different licenses for "Specialty" or "Mass Market" Batman figures - some of Mezco's stuff could be sold online or at Toys R Us, but not Target and Walmart. Similarly, some studios and IP holders carve off things like Dollar/Value channels (they don't want stuff at the 99 cent stores, that's a separate deal.) With theme parks, it would stand to reason a souvenir in the Mouse Empire might be different, particularly now that the Mouse owns Lucasfilm.

These are not contracts people like us will probably ever see - if I did see them, I'm sure it would come with the stipulation that I never could comment on it. As of right now, I can tell you I've never seen these contracts or deals, but that "slicensing" - for example, a 12-inch figure license is one thing and a 12 1/2-inch talking figure license is a separate thing - means that any toy lawyer can justify whatever they want to do as long as it is a tiny bit different.




3. How do we communicate to Hasbro about the state of toys in stores? It has been months and every store I go to has empty shelves. Black Series, Vintage Collection, even Marvel. I know the pandemic has been a challenge, but it has been since about Thanksgiving when products just disappeared and seemingly haven't been restocked in a way to meet demand. I've basically given up on Brick & Mortar and just pre order everything online now. What is the easiest way to let Hasbro know I want to give them money - but can't find anything in stores.

Hasbro knows - this is not unique to Star Wars, or to Hasbro. If you go to most stores you'll see the aisles are somewhat bare for most toy, game, figure, doll, and car lines - they sell out quickly, they may restock but the restock also sells out quickly. Last year when people were planning the balance of 2020 and early 2021, the assumption in the Spring (Toy Fair through Easter-ish) was that everybody was going to lose their jobs and nobody was going to spend money on toys - especially collector toys. What actually happened was the opposite. Collectors started gobbling up toys and video games, and parents went and bought a ton of toys (and games, and Play-Doh) for their kids to try to make their lives seem a little less horrible/like prison/apocalyptic.

I don't know how much stuff the stores ordered - but I can tell you from where I sit, people are buying a lot more stuff than ever before. Have you looked at what people are paying for Analogue consoles on eBay? Nearly every game console sold out in minutes last year. Bored people want stuff. They want all the stuff. We may or may not be in a bubble now too - people can't get enough of fun plastic things.

This may also surprise you, but in 2019, the prospects of pre-COVID 2020 looked like a bad year for toys. The Marvel movies were weird, there was no planned Star Wars movie, there was no planned Mandalorian line, there was no new Transformers movie, and so on and so forth. Betting on 2020 being a weak year, even without the virus, was the smart move in 2019. And in early 2020. It takes a toy manufacturer several months to kick off a new run of something to get it to stores, and it's really, really tough to tell exactly how many of a thing to make. We're two seasons in to The Mandalorian and I have never seen a Mando figure last on a shelf for more than a day. I don't know that we've ever actually had inventory last more than a couple of days at work, and that's only for the full case assortments.

So if I were you, I wouldn't blame Hasbro - this is a weird time for anyone selling anything vaguely resembling fun. Unprecedented demand, some cagey buyers, less-than-great support from the box office champs, but mercifully there have been many a rerun on many toys to help meet the demands of the market (and keep the lights on at offices everywhere.) I wouldn't count on things being back to normal before the end of the year - or later. Heaven help whatever plans the Toys R Us relaunch that I'm very sure the industry is taking seriously given that product planning and allocations happen so far in advance, I assume a lot of people who are actual real regular paying customers will struggle to meet demand before 2022.



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You know those 6-inch cheap Star Wars figures that sometimes pop up at "Dollar" value chains and grocery stores? Walmart just got a wave of them with The Child and Mando, and they're five bucks a whack on the checklanes. I suggest going in the late evening when few registers are open so you can get through there without customers wondering why you're getting so dang close. (I've done this before in pre-pandemic times.) Mando is painted with a bright silver and some brown - he's pretty bare, but he's a $5 6-inch Mando. Before you whine a bout it being a waste of plastic, consider that most fans of The Mandalorian have never had a crack at a super-articulated Mando, and a $5 cheap figure is a pretty good substitute for no figure at all.

Next to him is a new The Child. Baby Yoda is 1.50-inches tall with 3 points of articulation, with more neck movement than Target's The Black Series release. He has a hover pram and is a full half inch taller than Hasbro's collector ones - so you may take issue with scale. Or you might just be happy to get a pretty good $5 Grogu that's better than a Happy Meal toy, and cheaper than a collector toy. I am also very fond of the C-3PO in this style. Again, these are $5 figures that are 6-inch scale, so while they're not perfect tiny god collectibles, they're astonishing considering Hasbro doesn't sell anything for five bucks these days.

A small feature on these guys is just one of the things in the works for ASWN #2. This is the retro Adam's Star Wars Newsletter page, and new issues will be posted whenever I feel they're ready. (Probably during a new toy announcement.) Keep your eyes open for more on this one.

Also keep your eyes open for the Solo: A Star Wars Story young Han Solo or Chewbacca in this format. If you've seen the cheapo 6" ones, let me know where/when, I want to buy.

On a related note, Family Dollar stores now stock the Barricade wave of Transformers Authentics - $5ish 4-inch transforming "evergreen" characters, generally in a G1-inspired style. Barricade is a redesign based on the movies shoved through a G1 lens, so you may find that worthwhile. Good hunting to you, my fellow cheapskates.

--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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