Q&A: Star Wars Packaging and Joints Are Things

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 5, 2022

1. Packaging: I've read a lot of outraged rants centered around Hasbro's moves to get rid of plastic in their packaging. Frankly, I'm so tired of prying figures from the molded plastic shells they're swaddled in (and even more tired of those horrible little plastic ties and bands that Mattel still seems to love to use). I'm all for wrapping figs in a little scrap of paper and sticking them in the smallest box they'll fit in - something like those old Japanese boxes that the original Kenner figures were sold in would be cool. And paying careful attention to your columns over the years, it sounds like the packaging can be almost as costly to produce as the content. Tiny boxes should equal cheaper freight, too - though maybe not so great from a "stock-loss" perspective at big box stores. What do you think - can we get rid of big boxes and plastic bubbles?


Attitudes change. 27 years ago (around summer), fans were excited - complaining, but excited - that Kenner would be releasing new action figures and vehicles. Just a few years before that, it was JustToys Bend-Ems that got people excited to go buy toys that, just a few years later, fans wouldn't even look at. We've heard all kinds of complaints about Hasbro changing the packaging, or price, or articulation, or which characters get made from which movies. Many of these complaints come from people still spending thousands of dollars pre-ordering stuff every year, and some of these complaints come from people who eventually quit. But they're still largely active buyers.

Plastic bubbles are already being phased out in other brands. Transformers is gradually phasing out plastic windows in its Transformers Legacy and Transformers Studio Series lines. Most Hasbro board games have eliminated the plastic wrappers in favor of sticker seals to keep the box shut. Most of the kid lines are in the process of dropping plastic - go look at the Thor: Love and Thunder stuff next time you're in Target. Things already changed when collectors weren't looking, and it's going to take a while to really get a feel for how much this is going to matter as we live in this increasingly weird toy world.

Hasbro has posted that they are committed to plastic-free packaging across its entire offering. We don't know if they will someday change their mind or walk that back, but it's something that's becoming more and more important across our economy. Plastic is unpopular, plastic recycling is not what it was claimed to be, and plastic ain't free. (I don't know why they don't just shrink all the boxes too. And many of the products. But I digress.)

When it comes to The Black Series and new items, I think Hasbro can get away without plastic windows unless fans are repulsed by it - and that remains to be seen. (Every silo of online fandom thinks theirs is the only opinion, and that other message boards' people are a minority and nobody cares what they think.) With Transformers we've seen fans basically shrug and buy the new boxes - and a lot of the Star Wars fans spending money aren't 40-60 year olds who keep things in boxes, as many forum users would have you b elieve. Some people are just fans buying a handful of figures for their desks. Not everybody watches Hasbro streaming reveals or participates in pre-orders. I have absolutely no idea how it'll all shake out, but I gather we're probably either in or about to enter a transitional phase where more and more of the old guard is just going to age out of this and it's entirely possible 3 3/4-inch figure packaging could be a moot point as Hasbro pursues higher price point products.

Figure swappers will still steal, because they can, and we sadly need to be vigilant and probably get used to the idea that MISB may need to be changed to MIB - cut the tape, peek inside, just to be sure you haven't been ripped off. But for now, at least, plastic-free is the way of the near-term future. We've also had periods of time where Star Wars was dead and that there were no The Vintage Collection-style packaged products. Stuff changes. Even if things get unpleasant, there's always going to be changing of the guard and different attitudes in just a few years.



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2. I wholeheartedly agree with your latest figure of the days on the Vintage Collection; we're seeing some of the best sculpting, articulation, and overall quality in the vintage line since I started collecting way back in the POTF2 days. Why do you think we're now seeing such improvement and overall rise in quality? As you mentioned before, the articulation they're using isn't a new feat of technology, we've seen it before with the likes of G.I. Joe and a few other places here and there. Were they trying to get the most out of their old molds, and someone finally just said hey, we can do better so let's? I'm very pleased and finally feel like I'm buying a product worth the Vintage Collection price.


I would say the most likely answer is you're paying more, so you're getting a better product.

If Hasbro has given a straight answer to the public, I have not heard it. My hunch would be a mix of a few things - one, higher prices probably added a few extra pennies per figure to play around with the quality. Two, years of figure development and revisions have resulted in new techniques, like no-visible-pin elbows, ankles, and such, and they're trying more of that out on smaller figures. Three, the line has mostly transitioned from being a scale kids may buy to something Hasbro seems to be positioning solely for adult fan/teen fan buyers. As such, things like those better ball-and-socket jointed hips are probably a much better (and cheaper, and more efficient-to-assemble) solution if you don't have to worry about them popping off for a kid.

G.I. Joe has been good, but they've had growing pains too. The 2007 figures were lousy at sitting for the first waves, and the hips have improved a bunch over the years. As prices went up, we saw more accessories and improved articulation.

We can see the same in Transformers too - Deluxe toys have gone from $10 (1996-2010ish) to $25 ($20 about a year and a half ago, but you can see a lot of changes.) In 2007, your Cliffjumper Classics toy didn't have ankle tilts, or a multi-part bazooka, or a unique sculpt. It was just red Bumblebee. In 2007, Classics Hot Rod was pretty stuff and had a rocket launcher. Last year's Studio Series 86 had preposterous articulation with jointed everything, a slicer arm, Matrix energy parts, and a pretty complex transformation.

Hasbro has absolutely improved the quality in recent years, but it comes at a cost - we're paying for it. Hasbro also sells a $11 Wheeljack toy that's 7-inches tall and really good, but it has less paint, and more hollow limbs. Hasbro could make a $5 figure that's really simple if they wanted to, but they don't - so instead they're making stuff that appeals to the very loud complaints of the internet.





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We're halfway through Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is shaping up to be a competent show. While decidedly small in scope, the show does have some pretty amazing direction, great performers, wonderful designs, and sets that range from Blade Runner chic to "Renaissance Festival backlot" vistas. It feels more than a little stretched out - it probably would've been a good movie, and maybe will benefit from being watched in one big complete chunk later - but I'm sitting here wondering "What if Star Wars were stretched out?" for a moment before realizing we've already heard what that would be like over 40 years ago.

Right now I feel like I'm watching a show that's trying to marry the needs of the Disney marketing machine while also ensuring Disney+ subscribers stay tuned because, honestly, it's sort of impossible to resist the lure of Ewan McGregor in this role one more time. If you told me he's be in a show with Flea, and Kumail Nanjiani, and Darth Vader, I'd say excitement levels should be through the roof. Instead, it's fine. It's adequate. Based on the action figure design I assume we're going to see Darth Vader get some shoulder armor damage and I hope we're going to see something incredibly weird given that we've already seen pretty much everything I would have expected to be shown other than a Liam Neeson cameo. Maybe less is more with these classic characters - Strange New Worlds is dripping out Spock in small, fun doses. Similarly Boba Fett was everything I would have wanted on The Mandalorian. Andor is coming later this year and I have absolutely zero baggage here, other than no genuine interest in the premise. "Where did this guy come from?" was never a question I had - we saw him, he was cool, he got blowed up, the end. And we're about to spend 12 episodes with him this year. Hopefully it's great, because we're also getting Willow, and if you've ever heard suits talking about how the original movie is some sort of 1980s kids classic... well I don't have a lot of hope there. But I've got pretty high hopes for Ahsoka, so let's hope for some fun there.

--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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Veteran Newbie

I guess I'm an anomaly. I got hooked on 3 3/4" figures in 1978 and collected about everything in that scale until it became exclusive to Walmart with a ridiculous price hike to go with it. Super-articulated figures spoiled me so I had zero interest in the 5POA figures that were offered at a more reasonable price point. Still, I'd pickup the occasionally clearance-priced Black Series/Vintage Collection figures if I stumbled upon them but I wasn't actively hunting them.

Fast forward to a couple months ago and I'm back in the game after a few years on sabbatical. My focus has narrowed considerably and the reissues are allowing me to play catch-up. As an opener I'd be fine with smaller, plastic-free packaging but I understand why others would want the original 96 as is in the Vintage Collection.

I'm still getting used to needing a spreadsheet to keep track of my preorders but I'll adjust, I suppose. Worst case scenario; my wife keeps getting Star Wars toys delivered to her doorstep a year after after I'm dead.