Q&A: Star Wars Troopers, Tough Questions, and Value Propositions

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 3, 2021

This week in Q&A - Troop Builders! Are we beyond the era of quantity discounts? Unanswerable questions! They're a thing! Getting your money's worth! Are we overpaying for our small plastic men?

Be sure you send in your questions for next time. The mailbag is out of on-topic questions, so if you got some, send some in. Read on!

1. Do you think that hasbro will begin doing $14.99 pulse exclusive troop builders for star wars, like they have been doing for that marvel legends? I really like the concept, and hope that eventually it would work its way to gi joe as well as star wars.

A year ago I would've said yes, but now I'd probably say no - Hasbro has been really good at keeping a lot of Star Wars characters in re-run circulation, and my guess is they'll keep things like Clones and Stormtroopers going - at full price - for as long as we keep buying them. With the price increases coming, I would very much doubt we'll see $14.99 Star Wars figures. I would, however, love to encourage them to consider some $10 6-inch figures, like the mass-market Marvel figures, for some troopers to keep costs down and encourage more hoarding buying. It's not like Stormtroopers need a lot of paint and if some of them are only nicely articulated instead of perfect, that's fine for building out scenes or dioramas.



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2. You've done this column for a long time. Is there a question you couldn't answer previously for legal/competitive reasons, but can now, such as a figure or vehicle that would have been made but didn't?

Every now and again I can drop a fact here or there, but it's usually about stuff that was proposed and didn't make the cut from several regimes ago. There's surprisingly little of interest from the Disney era, for example, that got cut that you would find exciting - and obviously, it's nothing I can talk about. (For the curious: I saw a lot of The Rise of Skywalker stuff very very early and there was nothing in the figure-and-vehicle segment that didn't make it to stores. What you saw is what I saw.) But there were a lot of interesting and weird items that have been shown - some evolved, some you'd have found interesting, some you would have despised - that just didn't make it out in the 2016-2018 period.

Because of the fact I've been running this Q&A column since the late 1990s, I simply have no idea which questions I skipped over because of thorny secrecy issues. You know how some people are jerks and say things like "I've forgotten more about this thing than you'll ever know?" Well I've certainly forgotten more than I wrote about than most people will ever know, which is why I like this format so much. Once in a while people will remind me of a thing and for whatever reason, I can now tell the story.

There's little that got skipped over that I would say was worth revisiting, save for Forces of Destiny which came at the wrong time. When your mega-franchise can't pass the Bechdel Test, it's kind of premature to do a line focused at young women and girls. Now that The Mandalorian actually has multiple, interesting women on the show that go beyond the requisite leading lady, Star Wars could actually support a line like that now and have it be interesting and sensible. (This is my way of saying "there were neat things brewing in Forces of Destiny and I hope someone without a gag order can talk about it.") Similarly, the axed kid-sized 3 3/4-inch line we've enjoyed for decades needed a shot in the arm, and The Mandalorian offers up compelling characters, aliens, helmeted adventurers, and stuff kids might want. Or parents might want for their kids.




3. Are we still getting our money's worth on 3.75" figures? Some look mediocre, and not worth the $14, but the new Jedi-carded Fett coming out next year looks perfect. At what point might Hasbro say "Gee, that's too much for an action figure."

Prices are going up, thanks to everything that's been going on - wages are going up, raw materials are going up, we're having a global economic crisis, and Disney and Hasbro also seem to be charging more for some items because they can. It is possible to make cheaper 3 3/4-inch figures, but generally speaking when Vintage-style packaging comes out, they charge more. I don't think it's a coincidence. It also sells better.

I don't think anyone still buying this stuff with a collection of thousands of figures is getting their money's worth - if I were in charge you'd be seeing figures with slightly less articulation with some costs cut to ensure they were slightly cheaper. The Celebrate the Saga sets got you 5 figures for $30, with the gorgeous photoreal face paint. Clearly, Hasbro has the means to make a $6 figure still if they wanted to do so. They just don't want to do so. If you don't have any figures, you're probably going to have the same amount of fun at $13 or $18 - it's a figure! It's nice! But once you have a room full of them? They don't do anything anymore, so as a consumer product goes there's room for innovation and fun. Since so many waves have figures in a vacuum - that is to say, no buddies from the same installment of the saga - they don't even really play well together. This is what I feel made Forces of Destiny largely easy to ignore after you bought one or two favorites, there was no greater scene to play out.

Given the success of The Mandalorian Carbonized figures at Walmart - with a $5 mark-up to $17.96 - it is more likely you'll see more expensive figures as time goes on. If fans are willing to pay $5 extra for some sparkle that costs Hasbro $0 extra, especially on popular characters they flat-out can't meet demand of on the mainline, I would be concerned someone is taking notes and you might see more expensive stuff in the future. Remember, Hasbro took repackaged 5-jointed figures, put them in tubes, stores hid the tubes in the corners, and used that as an excuse to drive the nails in the coffin of 3 3/4-inc kid lines... after jacking up the prices, too. Toy company's gonna toy company. I haven't seen 3 3/4-inch Mando figures in the wild after a year, I doubt they're even trying to meet demand and if a $5 mark-up doesn't help him stick around, and nobody's making an abundance of them, it behooves them to charge you extra.



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Be sure you send in your questions for next time.

So, we made it and we're plugging along. About a year ago I was looking ahead to 2020 - a year I thought would be boring with few good movies to exploit. I assumed Eternals wouldn't be a huge hit, Black Widow would come and go but be OK, G.I. Joe would serve to better promote evergreen stuff, The Mandalorian would be a hit but wouldn't have enough product out for it, Ghostbusters: Afterlife would probably generate a very brief and noisy buzz before fading off into the sunset, Wonder Woman 1984 would be maybe half as merchy as the first movie, and the new Minions movie and Pixar films would be inconsequential as toys for collectors go. Dune would probably continue to not be a thing. I was not hopeful - and I figured NuStar Trek would continue to be under-merchandised due to their avoiding families (boo) and gating it as a pay program (hiss.) I didn't assume they'd make it super gory either... but hey, it has fans, I watch it, and it might be a while before it turns into a toy thing again.

Looking ahead to 2021, most of these properties are still on the horizon. The Mandalorian seems like the most under-merchandised goldmine anywhere, and all of these other properties that didn't make it out don't seem to be doing much to get the hype train moving. I don't know if they'll be amazing or not - I'm hopeful - but it feels like the level of crazy hype we used to get for things died off with Rogue One. It is exceedingly rare that we hear about a New Thing a year or more in advance, and nobody seems interested in goosing the fan interest so we're rabid and foaming at the mouth any more. Given the 2020 delays, it would seem to be pretty easy to start the process of whipping us into a fanatic frenzy with "sneak preview" toys (which are just the regular toys) or something.

From where I sit now, it's kind of amazing how much stuff we actually got in 2020 - but also amazing is how much of the remainder has no specific release date. When are we going to see Black Widow? I have no idea. (I would bet money on "not May.") Is Ghostbusters: Afterlife still coming in June? Maybe! Based on the line-up of dates, it seems Hollywood is optimistic about March but some of these release dates... well, you're going to find out they're not all accurate. I don't think Raya and the Last Dragon will hit theaters in March (still accurate as far as I know), but let's see how that goes. Goodness knows we don't have much else we can do, like visit our friend in Chicago or try to meet up with buddies on our business trips, or fart in public and watch people make disgusted faces because they aren't wearing masks and can smell it.

--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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