Q&A: Star Wars POTF2 at 25, It Burns, and Droids

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 17, 2020

1. So if you were in charge of Hasbro right now, how would you have commemorated the 25th anniversary of the modern line this year? Would you have gone for simple packaging throwbacks, or actual re-releases of figures, or something way more involved? I mean, anything is better than ignoring it completely, and it's not like their 40th anniversaries of the movies inspire much confidence...

Anniversaries are a thing toy companies struggle with - usually you get something for the anniversary of the whole franchise, but not necessarily the sequels or the spin-offs. For the longest time only the original Star Wars movie got specific "anniversary" plans - not the games, the comics, or even the sequels. Hasbro did make a product line in 2010 to celebrate the 30th of The Empire Strikes Back, but generally speaking that was abnormal. (There is no love for Return of the Jedi. Other than the Barge and the dozens of Ewoks, including 2 "live" versions of cartoon Ewoks, and I STILL HAVE NO VLIX.)

While hugely significant in defining a generation of toy collectors, as well as bringing so many new fans into the fold, Kenner's 1995 The Power of the Force collection was a huge deal. Even though it was just repainted (and retooled) vehicles with all-new figures, people bought them in droves - and now, 25 years later, they're largely worthless. Some collectible shops struggle to sell them for the original retail price, which after 25 years is hardly much of a legacy. The line seems to be a slice of 1990s, a particular once-modern reinterpretation of a toy that didn't age particularly well.

This isn't to say it wasn't a good line - it brought fans together, gave birth to the modern online collecting community, and was a transformative brand in toy aisles. Unfortunately, it didn't exactly break new ground, nor did any element of its design stand out as a thing we saw fans latch on to with all their might. The cardback style was aped by a few other toy lines, including some anime figures, and the scorn for the proportions of those figures was there since day one.

POTF2, as fans would come to call it online, helped to give birth to the rebirth of the brand and the entire modern era of toys. There were tons of cool, fun figures that are, in some cases, the definitive versions of those characters. We haven't seen new flavors of Ishi Tib, EV-9D9, Dash Rendar, and a smattering of other figures released under that banner in this century.

Now that it seems unlikely we will have any summer conventions, it may be moot to say that the most fun thing Hasbro probably could have done was some special packaging variants for early release figures or maybe do something like The Mandalorian on a 1990s-style cardback - it's fun, it's silly, and even if you hate the graphic design you probably still want the figure. I'd even go as far as to put "chase" 1990s-style cardbacks in the The Vintage Collection assortments. Doing a big tribute would probably be unwise, because nostalgia is hard to claw back. Generation X owns Star Wars nostalgia and that black-and-silver line look much like the Boomers own rock and roll. More recent interpretations tend to be rejected, and given how unloved the real deal is, it's probably best to leave The Power of the Force 1990s-style cardbacks in the 20th century.

But I'd still love to see Hasbro finally give us some 1985-style The Power of the Force cardbacks in the main line. That would be a hoot. Let's see confused people eyeball Shadows of the Empire Dash Rendar as a 6-inch figure on a very 1990s package.



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2. A few years back a [3 3/4-inch scale Darth] Vader Funeral Pyre figure was shown pending retailer interest. Is this something EE could pick up?

There are a lot of items on deck for collectors this year, so at least as I write this there are no plans for any Entertainment Earth-branded Hasbro Star Wars exclusives in 2020. However, with COVID-19 rejiggering which stores are and aren't open, that could change - for all I know [insert retailer here] may elect to keep its doors closed so an item suddenly becomes available for online distribution.

For those who don't remember, Hasbro had a concept for a Funeral Pyre from Return of the Jedi around 2009, but the product had no home. It would have included a 2008 release of Darth Vader, a then-unreleased 2009 Luke Skywalker, and a torch. The edition size for an exclusive is probably bigger than some of you think, and as a matter of philosophy I have been pretty strictly against doing any sort of exclusive for a currently available figure with a new box or a new accessory if I can help it. At this point, I'd be much more interested in doing what I can to make sure fans can get main line items that may be in short supply rather than coming up with something that doesn't bring new characters or new deco to the table.




3. The new GNK Droid in the Vintage Collection revealed at Toy Fair — did this version, with the odd get-up on its head, ever have screen time?

Yes, but it was out of focus and in the background so it's perfectly natural that we all forgot it was there. If you have Disney+, go to Star Wars at time index 17:20. That's the droid wandering around in the pit of the Lars Homestead.



A campaign has been going around on social media to Save the Vintage Collection. Which is a thing I think we can all support!

The line is planned to continue, at least for as far out as I can see. (No I can't hint as to what, and will throw out the caveat that COVID could change anything at this point.) If you are interested in telling Hasbro what you want as 3 3/4-inch goes, I would recommend asking for specific characters and building a campaign. Big toy buyers aren't going to stock an assortment that won't generate a ton of revenue without good sales numbers, and right now, The Vintage Collection is a little soft. (And we all have theories and reasons as to why, but pre-orders are the thing that tells smaller stores what to order and I think I can safely say there aren't a ton of pre-orders.) We live in an era where Hasbro has made thousands of figures - they react well to demand, if there's a lot of it they'll want to chase that money. "More figures" isn't good direction for anybody, because Hasbro can reissue things or make Disney-sequel things or generally not necessarily give you what you want... unless you tell them.

While I will always love my 3 3/4-inch collection, it's not doing as well as the 6-inch line. That is unlikely to change - even G.I. Joe, Ghostbusters, and Power Rangers are making their homes in this scale. 3 3/4-inch passed its peak ages ago, with Marvel and other brands leaving it behind - Star Wars is the biggest holdout, although Spin Master seems to be doing well with DC and Batman as kid-driven and surprisingly cheap figures about 10 joints each. Oh, Lanard still has The Corps (and Aliens) too.

Hasbro has been receptive to requests for specific characters - it may take a year or two, but it sometimes works. There was a huge "we want more vehicles" push in the 1990s that didn't go anywhere until Yakface.com's Mark Minicuci really pushed the "Skiff and Shuttle" petitions. I mean, we got the Skiff and Shuttle! It worked! We got Beru and Wuher from fan demands. There's a Barge now thanks in part to the seemingly failed petition that elevated the conversation. It's also possible that the 3 3/4-inch line could come to an end some day, so I would strongly recommend all fans make a case for the specific figures that you want to see right now. Everybody wants "more" - but that's not really what you want. Would you be happy with KOTOR or more Resistance pilots? We've got thousands of these guys and I bet there are a handful that would make you very happy. Ask for the figures you want to see. It's possible Hasbro might listen. Build a campaign or a petition on social media and I'll certainly link to some if there's any good momentum, and Hasbro does tend to take note of such petitions. They don't always result in interest to manufacture the items, but it has helped in the past!

It's the same thing with any consumer product - you can tell Nintendo "I want another Metroid game!" and then you somehow get Federation Force. I heard numerous fans ask for "anything on a vintage cardback" and Hasbro heard us loud and clear. Now we've got repack waves and sequel trilogy reissues in new packaging, which is not what anybody meant. If what you wanted is Cane Adiss, or Sim Aloo, or Vlix, ask for it. Hasbro can repaint new astromech droids and Clone Troopers. You might get live-action versions of cartoon characters you don't like. The fan base is not a unified one, while it's a safe bet that collectors of Vintage also want Original Trilogy stuff, that is not the request being made, and there are thousands of possible costumes and characters to make or reissue. Don't ask them to read your mind - they can't. But they can read your letters, petitions, and forum postings.

As an old fan, my wish list for original trilogy-derived stuff is pretty short. I'd love Hasbro to update all the Kenner-era guys where there's a unique deco variant or alternate version of an existing character - like Sim Aloo the Imperial Dignitary, the 9 figures of 1979 have several that could be done in "modern" style still, we've got the mustache Bespin Security Guard, and of course the Ewok deco changes may be of interest. Oh, and the Ishi Tib in the reddish robes from Jabba's Palace might be fun.

Kenner and Hasbro did a marvelous job ticking a ton of boxes from the original trilogy, giving us what may well be the most expansive action figure line of all time. There's little - not nothing, but little - that leaves me jumping for joy at the idea of a new release. I'm currently more interested in The Mandalorian as a source of newness, and I'm agnostic as to articulation as long as the scale is right. I'd love Hasbro to pump out new super-articulated figures forever but other than some updates of vintage-era guys and maybe some POTF2-era figures like EV-9D9 I can't say I feel a lot is missing. I'm sure they're hanging on to easy pickins like Boba Fett in Kenner Colors with a firing rocket, or Walrus Man-ified Ponda Baba, but I don't know if the interest is there. A fan campaign could change that.

I can assure you Hasbro (and Lucasfilm) know you want more 3 3/4-inch figures - but sales numbers are hard to debate. Treat every request for a character as if it may be the last one, and don't be shy to make your voice heard. And don't ask for something that already on eBay. Let's make it count.

--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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