Q&A: Star Wars License Renewal, Spin-Off Movies, and Finishing Things Off

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 17, 2017

1. Hello. I am certain you have been asked and have answered this question several times in the last 5 years but, well... here it goes again. With Disney not only delving into making their own SW figures now but doing a pretty decent job with them as evidenced by their new Disney build a droid program, do you think they will re-up their license with Hasbro when the next contract expires in a couple of years? Hasbro has seen some better days with the SW line and they haven't done much right while under the tight direction of Disney. Disney, who is known for putting money making first before all else, holds all the cards here and may decide that they could do it themselves. Maybe you aren’t privy to say, but if you can answer freely, would you like for them to remain at Hasbro or is it time to move on? I would stop collecting and just be a fan of the hobby but would you continue to collect if Disney or enemy another company took over and started all over?

Right now the main reason to go with a Hasbro or a Mattel (or, actually, Funko) is their infrastructure. If you're Disney and you signed a licensing agreement, you can get a sweetheart royalty because this is the license, and Hasbro has a distribution system in place to reach people at tens of thousands of thousands of retail stores in the USA, and right now Disney doesn't. Even though Disney could make 100% of the profits from doing things themselves across every license - shirts, hats, food, whatever - you can still collect a hefty payday just by letting other people do it and approve what they do. Depending on your areas of competence, this may even be for the best to avoid pesky accusations of being a monopoly.

...given the recent woes of Toys R Us in the news, this could change. Disney's model of owning the license and the stores and the manufacturing - if they expand their stores again - could be a viable thing if we lose Target and/or Toys R Us in the coming decade, like we have Kay-Bee Toys and Kmart for all intents and purposes.

Given Hasbro's current path to classic Star Wars, another company taking over would probably only mean things get better - unless they axe the format entirely, which is always possible. The 3 3/4-inch action figure is an important part of Hasbro's (through Kenner's) history, but not necessarily Disney's, or Mattel's, or BanDai's.

If another company completely rebooted the 3 3/4-inch figure format, I'd have to see something incredible to continue if it left Hasbro/Kenner. Disney's Droid program is kind of pushing it, but the stuff generally shows up online and can be bought. If [new company here] were to handle the line exactly as Hasbro does today, there wouldn't be a heck of a lot of duplicated efforts. Or much of anything classic that's new.

Right now, from where I sit, Hasbro has generally abandoned the things that kept me going - weird aliens, weird droids, and cool class vehicles. We're generally only getting Disney-era vehicles (which are new and nice and I prefer them to remakes of things I own), Disney is the only company making new droids in the 3 3/4-inch size regularly, and other than Snoke - who barely counts - have we had a new alien in the new movie line? I guess there's a Porg, but that's more of an accessory. Given Hasbro's current direction another steward could be an improvement - or an end. It's hard to know. If the line ever reverts back to "all old stuff all the time" I'd definitely hope it stays at Hasbro.



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2. Since they are coming fast and furious, what 'spin off' movies would you like to see made?

The currently rumored Jabba the Hutt and Obi-Wan Kenobi movies fill me with hope (for toys) because these are areas that can be good to us. Jabba the Hutt's entourage could mean a Jabba's Palace playset or sail barge, plus numerous new or classic Jabba thugs. Everybody wins there. Alien gangsters? This is a good toy movie.

Similarly, Obi-Wan Kenobi has to visit the cantina for the first time somewhere, right? That could also be really good for us as toys and playsets go.

Truth be told, Rogue One is still a pretty great source of designs for toys... and we're not getting them. There are all those new blue Rebel pilots, tons of aliens, cool troopers, and it seems like that whole line ended. It's so disappointing. So unless Hasbro commits to a ton of new toys, I can wait for them to get to the really weird alien movies.




3. Has wave 2 of the 6" vintage carded figures come and gone at brick and mortar and/or the online stores yet, or are shipments still pending?

We have not gotten any firm or final information yet, so I would hesitate to steer you toward overpaying too much for these guys. We're still waiting, it doesn't seem like everything could have made it out, but things like repacks are also pretty likely knowing Hasbro and seeing what they're doing with this line. Assuming they don't straight-up have more coming to Ross or something, of course.




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As I walked through the ruins of Force Friday II, it looked like there's an interesting pattern - Walmart got rid of their old stuff. Target got rid of most of their old stuff. Toys R Us is hiding its new stuff under an aisle with maybe 60-70% old stuff, with old waves of figures and tons of unsold higher-end electronic toys from two years ago which the free market has seen, shrugged off, and ignored. The smart fan knows there are new LEGO sets and action figures to be had, crawling through the muck to get to the tasty treats buried within - also the Probe Droids, which ship 1 per case with 3 Rathars (which are also good) - but it seems people are less inclined to be buying everything. Or making too much. The retail environment sucked out the action figures like the cream from so many Oreos, with vehicles seemingly doing OK and the other stuff... is also available.

I know the Bladebuilders line has the ability to outsell action figures, but up front people tend to go for figures. Why they don't have more on-shelf up front, I'll never know. It was certainly disappointing to see pegs of Jyn Erso and Zuvio around, but I also work for an online toy store so it's not like that's the worst thing for business, you know?

But let's get back to the point - revisionism.

During the 1990s, most fans loved all things Star Wars except Ewoks. During The Phantom Menace, people got behind the Ewoks and then complained about the prequels. Now I'm seeing a lot of complaints about the Disney-era stuff, with fans writing how perfect episodes I-VI were. See a pattern emerging? Fans seem to hate whatever's new, so there would definitely be a bit of an advantage to goosing nostalgists by throwing us a bone in the form of one or two, but it's also fascinating to see how people who, but five years ago, would just as soon cut off a finger than collect prequel toys are now actively interested in those above and beyond the new batch. Me, all I want is something I don't already have in some form.

I'm kind of excited to see how this will all shake out if this all continues. I assume we're going to see an average of one movie per 12 months, more or less, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if we saw episodes 10-12 some day and then saw this era being lauded as "the good old days." Fans generally seem to have a late onset hype allergy, so the more someone screams in your face about a movie, the more likely we are to not care later. So says the secondary market prices of anything sold at a Midnight Madness, ever. As long as someone is in your face about running out to buy stuff, it's going to be diminishing returns for all of us. More so since it seems the media is decreasingly interested in covering this kind of thing, the circus atmosphere and novelty are starting to dry up and man oh man I can't wait for the day they stop it completely. Given how much stuff was on shelf at Walmarts weeks early, neither can they.

The good news is if you missed anything earlier this month, there may be more shots of it coming or fans might dump it after the hype hangover kicks in. I've seen so many 2015-2017 The Black Series figures being dumped for $10 or less on the secondary market it would make you puke. Interestingly, few of these are from the pre-Disney era of characters. Also interesting, the "Black Series" statues are piling up at Walmarts, as are the bigger $60 vehicles. It's just not an impulse price. Too bad those resources didn't just go to expanding the offerings (or availability) of the $20-$25 items, as that seems to be a sweet spot as long as things don't carry forward too long. (Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2SO.)

--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.