Q&A: Three Is the Magic Number with Star Wars

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 1, 2020

1. The Black Series Amazon exclusive Chewie and C-3PO (removable limbs) 2-pack was AMAZING. Such a perfect OT Chewie head sculpt, and there hasn't been a removable limb C-3PO in years... SO, do you think there's a good chance Hasbro will basically just scale down these exact figures and release them in TVC anytime soon?

Soon? Zero. None chance.

To make that figure, with all of those removable parts - C-3PO's wire caps, in particular - at that smaller size wouldn't be easy to do on the quick. There's no place for it in the current Hasbro line, which is almost exclusively single carded 3 3/4-inch figures with no major accessories. If they decided to release them individually, I suppose it might be possible to get something similar - but I don't think you'd ever see the identical sculpts (and certainly not identical engineering) given that Hasbro is now very interested in reissuing figures using existing tooling.

The 3 3/4-inch line went from being the line of record to an afterthought. The 6-inch line is the big dog now, and having said all of that I would bet on a new 3 3/4-inch Chewbacca before getting another new Cantina alien in that scale. The line is getting increasingly top-tier characters only, and it's a bore. It still generates a ton of revenue, but it isn't exciting like it used to be.

On the bright side, there's the 2006 Cloud City Escape Chewbacca, which has an electronic slug C-3PO torso in a bag that's pretty cool. Or you could get the 2002 version without the stand and it's cheaper... but who knows if the battery is still good?


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2. Loving the lanard Aliens sets [of 3 3/4-inch action figures sold at Walmart in the USA]. How is lanard able to make these while Hiya has 1/18 alien figures too?


Back in the 1970s, Kenner signed a "master toy license." As such they got to make coloring books, action figures, plush, roleplay, games, and just about anything else they wanted - until they stopped paying the licensing payment in the 1990s. At that point Lucasfilm opened the license to the likes of JusToys and Galoob, and then LEGO, and the rest is history.

You can carve up a license surprisingly thinly if you put your mind to it. "Plush" and "Talking Plush" can be different licenses. Hasbro's Titanium Series 3-inch vehicles and Mattel's Hot Wheels Starships 3-inch vehicles were sold side-by-side, but the licensing agreement (as it was relayed to me) were that they had different percentages of die-cast metal, and that was a different license. I've seen Batman in 6-inch and 7-inch figures from different manufacturers at the same time. Sometimes companies divide stuff up by the audience - "collector" and "kid" licenses are different. Sometimes Asian licenses are separate from US licenses. Where the items can be sold is also a sticking point - there are "specialty" stores (mom & pops, Toys R Us, and comic shops fall under this umbrella) and "mass" (Target, Amazon, Walmart, etc.)

Depending on your licensing deal, your exclusive contract to make a toy may or may not be very exclusive. There are loopholes - price point is also a popular loophole. Even though Hiya Toys has a 1:18 line and Lanard does too, each one is different. Different price points, different target demographics, different countries of origin. It's not the way things were in the 1970s or 1980s, but starting in the 1990s - and especially in the 2020s - this is the score. If Lucasfilm wanted to divide up a 3 3/4-inch contract into "super-articulated collector figures" and "$5 & under cheap kid figures," they could do that. As of my writing this they have not done that, but when contracts expire you can sometimes draw up new terms.




3. Adam, in your many years dealing with Hasbro, did the company ever come close to pulling the trigger on a 3.75” with a different license, like Marvel, DC, or Trek?

I don't know that I entirely follow you, but around 2007-2010 they were all-in on 3 3/4-inch support. Star Wars joined Indiana Jones, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Marvel Universe, Avengers, Iron Man 3, G.I. Joe... I could go on. These things went as they usually do - most toy lines only last a few years before dying of natural causes. We've seen a few exceptions.

Mattel had a pretty good 3 3/4-inch offering for a brief period of time, and Playmates had plans for 3 3/4-inch classic The Original Series figures from Star Trek along with more Kelvin monsters and crew members that never came to pass.

While we did get a single Hasbro Jurassic World figure around that size, I am not aware of any unreleased 3 3/4-inch action figure line from a major licensed property from Hasbro that never saw the light of day. Hasbro did have more plans for Star Trek but never anything in the way of action figures. Hasbro hasn't had DC or Batman since 2000 or so. There were pretty good offerings from Marvel, though, with some on shelf as recently as last year.

While Hasbro ignores the scale - I would argue due to lines that just didn't cut it, including Star Wars' lackluster canned reissues in Galaxy of Adventures last year - there are alternatives on the toy aisle. Mattel is doing fine with Jurassic World, even though humans are on the way out. Spin Master has a lot of cool stuff planned for Batman and DC Comics in this size, copying the style Mattel gave us for the dinosaur line as well as its price point. How both Spin Master and Mattel put out better, cheaper 3 3/4-inch figures than Hasbro? I don't know. Maybe it's because they're mostly Owen and Batman, or there's no Disney tax, or Hasbro split interest with a collector line and a kid line when the right answer was a $7.99 series that's sort of down the middle? It's hard to say.



At Toy Fair, it's no secret that COVID-19 was a topic on a lot of peoples' lips, while Golgo 13 was sadly not. Whatever was happening, one thing is for sure - perspectives on it are not consistent. (Also, I am not educated enough to talk about the human element - our hearts go out to any and all affected by this crisis and I hope all of us get through it safely. But toys, let's talk about toys.)

The majority of people were saying to expect delays in manufacturing that could last a short time or for the rest of the year. There's some question on how many factories (if any) are back to full capacity, and how many are just saying that they're fully open for business. It's unknown what this means for summer convention season and other exclusives and launches as the year goes on. I was previously told, pre-coronavirus, that we should expect a few delays in a few items. And now? It might be a bit worse.

What we didn't even think to discuss was the viability of the actual events. GDC (Game Developer's Conference) just got canceled a few days ago, and that was a real surprise. AnimeJapan 2020 is also off. Facebook announced it is canceling its developer conference too. There has been some question about the Olympics in Tokyo as well, but we don't know when things will be "normal," which means things like Star Wars Celebration, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con could be on the bubble. We just plain don't know what might happen yet, but maybe penciling in an alternate staycation plan is a good idea.

We're also seeing Amazon and Google limit employee travel, whereas nobody in my toy orbit has (to my knowledge) done this yet. There's a lot you can do on Microsoft Teams, and I assume we may find out more about those features in the coming weeks.

It's a big question mark. Will there be a big launch for Eternals or The Mandalorian season 2? Will exclusives all go online - or be held for a future event? Will all of us stockpile Nissin instant bachelor chow and just stay in and stream everything for the rest of the year? I have no idea. All I'm saying is that it could mean an increase in online shopping, a decrease in retail traffic, and the fist bump will replace handshakes by 2022.

--Adam Pawlus

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