Q&A: Timing, Star Wars Gets Bigger, Parts and Pieces, and Choosing Things

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 30, 2017

1. Reorganizing and culling my collection, I realize I'm missing weapons, accessories, and even a couple heads. I'm not wanting to buy a whole figure just to get a missing piece. With your resources, do you know of company, eBay storefront, or someone with a 3D printer that specializes in Hasbro era replacements? I've seen some for the vintage Kenner, but not Hasbro. It just bugs me that I'm missing VC 89 Lando's com link, Legacy BD 54 Zuckuss's rifle, or 30th 23 Elis Helrot's head.

At this time I don't know of anyone specializing in reproduction accessories - you might be able to find parts and pieces on eBay, but based on my limited experience with 3D printed parts I'd say they're on the whole not acceptable replacements for the genuine article without a lot of extra sanding, filing, and painting. Sandstorm Lando is around $20-$26, but given the decoration and work involved the cost of a replica accessory may not be all that much cheaper. A Saga Legends Zuckuss from 2010 - which has the same gun as the Legacy one - is around $10 on eBay, and Elis Helrot is about $13 on eBay if you get one on a good day. After hiring someone to reproduce the weapon or head and fix it up to your liking, you're just better off buying a new figure and stealing from it.

In my experience, people making 3D printed parts are probably going to charge a minimum of $5-$10 before shipping, maybe more if they only think they're going to sell one to a collector as there's not much of a return on it, and definitely more if paint or other post-production work is involved.



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2. A couple questions for you, one SW related and one not.

I'm sure you've touched on this before in your Q&As, but I'm a little fuzzy on the relationship between Hasbro and Disney with regards to the action figures (build-a-droid figures, star tours figures, etc.) that have been available at Disney parks over the years. Were any of these figures actually produced by Hasbro? Do they share any moulds? Or are they completely separate yet compatible? Has it changed over the years? Also, any thoughts on the supposedly upcoming sandcrawler playset?

For the non-SW question... From reading message boards when Funko had the ReAction line, I read that Star Trek TNG was confirmed as a forthcoming line of figures. This hasn't happened, and given that Super 7 has taken back the ReAction line, I was wondering if you knew the status of the, at one time confirmed, TNG line. Since I've heard nothing, I'm fearing that the licence was actually with Funko, and therefore, Super 7 is not able to produce a TNG ReAction line. Just wondering if you've heard anything one way or the other.

On your first question, I got good and bad news for you - I'm also fuzzy on Hasbro and Disney's relationship with the theme park droids. The first year and change's droids - you can tell these ones from the wires on the feet - are indeed Hasbro molds with newly tooled domes. I don't know for a fact if it was some OEM deal or what, but I had multiple Hasbro employees tell me that they didn't work on those, despite the evidence to the contrary. Perhaps Disney purchased the tooling. Perhaps Disney copied it some amazing way, including the trademark and copyright markings. I really don't know for sure, because the evidence is contradictory. Subsequent runs of droids were altered and do not include Hasbro markings, so those ones seem to be separate but compatiblish.

My main thought on the Sandcrawler playset is amazement - that more of you guys don't seem to be excited. For years (a small group of) readers have asked for more bigger vehicles and, specifically, the Sandcrawler. Those of us with long memories may recall the 2004 Original Trilogy Collection release distributed pretty widely, and on extreme clearance at some Hot Topic stores. From where I sit, the Sandcrawler is something of a historical dud whose popularity and high secondary market prices only exists due to scarcity over time. As the toy hasn't been available for years, people are willing to pay a premium - the same is true on many vehicles. I hope it'll be great. The mock-up makes it look like it could be easily significantly larger than the previous releases. If this winds up being a $200 monster that won't fit in the back seat of your car, I can't imagine how tourists are expected to get it home without ridiculous freight fees. I just hope it's smaller than the Black Series TIE Fighter.

As to ReAction, licensing is a funny thing. Funko licensed the ReAction concept/branding from Super7, and will not be making more of it - the individual licenses for entertainment properties need to be licensed separately. Depending on how the contracts were worded, Funko could probably use some licenses to make any stylized 4-inch figure - which applies to Pop! Vinyl, ReAction, or whatever other new thing they've got up their sleeves. Right now Super7 has no Star Trek license and as far as I know, no CBS/Paramount/Viacom licenses. However, the retro format doesn't require a license unto itself - so any yahoo can license Star Trek and make figures look like they came from the distant past. Anything under development at Funko is likely not going to come out at Super7 as they have their own direction, with some really amazingly great stuff. Other companies like Zica and Bif Bang Pow! (the latter of which I have done work with on many occasions) do retro figures as well, so the future is wide open for dang near anybody with the bandwidth and finances to make this happen.




3. Do you expect that hasbro will have to shorten their design to mass production timeline to make sure that there will be new products in preparation for all of the movies that marvel and star wars are planning in the next few years? With guardians of the galaxy vol. 2, spiderman homecoming, transformers: the last night, Thor: ragnarock, and star wars: the last jedi all coming out this year, and the exhaustive schedule that Disney is planning to have one star wars film each year, and as many as 2 marvel films a year, not to mention trying to create their own cinematic universe with their core brands, will they have to make filler waves in order for Disney to keep their secrecy and still get relevant characters on the shelf before the movies hit? If the time frame between a movie premieres in theaters and then is released on dvd is shortened, how do you think this could affect how the movie merchandise is handled?

To nitpick, there are three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies slated for most years, plus the Fox X-Men movies, and whatever stragglers may still be floating out there. I think most of them are in the process of reverting back to Marvel/Disney but I can't remember what's up with the Fantastic 4.

To some extent this has already started happening, and the kinds of product you see reflect this. In 2002 and 1999, we saw a number of items based on concept maquettes because that's all the reference Hasbro had - and characters like Maz and Snoke weren't ready to go for the movie line launch. I believe i heard someone say Maz Kanata was a little rushed, and Hasbro can get stuff out quicker if they really light a fire under themselves - but much of The Force Awakens was already made on a compressed schedule. Extrapolate accordingly. If you follow Marvel, most movies get 1 or maybe 2 waves of product before ending. With Transformers, Age of Extinction basically fell off a cliff between the theatrical release and home video - other than exclusives, there was really nothing beyond the second wave of products in the collector space, with very little in the kid lines of 1-steps and Power Battlers to keep it going. The sales window for movie toys - and this is prior to the Disney takeovers, too - were shrinking for a very long time. If you look back to Revenge of the Sith, it went from March to about November in 2005. Attack of the Clones launched in April of 2002 and the proper line basically rebooted to mostly saga-oriented stuff by early 2003. The Phantom Menace launched in May 1999, and Hasbro basically forced a reboot - a surprisingly fast about-face where it killed the Episode I and Power of the Force lines to rebrand as Power of the Jedi - by Spring, after packaged test shots started getting out. We've been seeing

With Disney sometimes calling the product shots by deciding what to share (or not share) you can see how this actually changes the line. It's less Hasbro saying "we want to make this" than it is Disney saying "Here are the characters, go nuts" and, well, sometimes they make the right calls and sometimes not. (See: Zuvio, Constable.)

I really dislike how things are going, because there's less chance for fun surprises. The Force Awakens was a good movie with awesome designs, most of which we didn't get as toys - I personally think Disney/Lucas/Hasbro dropped the ball by not having a Han/Luke/Leia 3-pack out for Force Friday to get old timers excited to collect again. Not having it for the theatrical seemed odd. Not having it for DVD meant someone needs to be reassigned to a new position or was actively thwarting these figures.

I'd personally love to see a return of "filler waves," because there are lots of things we could still stand to see. Ben "The Mandarin" Kingsley was shown as a prototype a few years ago. We never got (and I assume will never get) a Nic Cage Ghost Rider in Marvel Legends. Hasbro completely got left in the dark as to what Groot was all about, given his lack of toys for the first movie - but the lack of roleplay toys in the second movie is just confusing. Where are the masks? The Groot arms? I don't get it.

Hasbro could - but for reasons I don't know, doesn't - have wonderful "filler" lines between movies. For Star Wars, we should have something right now beyond the 40th anniversary building on Rebels, The Force Awakens, and the stunningly gorgeous selection of unmade costumes from Rogue One. There are a few hundred good ideas for figures in there... maybe only a couple hundred solid sellers, but still. One of the reasons I've heard for the lack of in-between stuff with Marvel was a desired "sell-off period". You can't launch if you never went away, and there is a desire - one that, if you ask me, doesn't really work - to clear out the old stuff so you can launch big. The Force Awakens toys never cleared the shelves, and there are still a lot of those older toys still available. At full price. And in some cases, they were just repackaged, fooling no one.

I am not privy to every business decision that is made and why - I see bits and pieces from behind the scenes, and I would wager a lot of what we're seeing is an edict coming from an executive in organizations where arguing with the boss is not as smiled upon as places where I've worked, because I'm a pain in the neck, just like so many of us. (A few stories about this have gotten out over the years from Hasbro.) The short window means there's little time to look back unless Hasbro starts to use "Force Friday" as an opportunity to launch with fan favorite items from the last movie which can be used to get people excited about the next movie, which we know for a fact they're starting to do, but that's antithetical to the whole "go out and spend $600 on toys for a movie you haven't seen yet, and also you'll be unable to buy these toys when the movie is out, because we have no foresight into the less hardcore consumer."

Now I know some things you currently don't - and legal stuff keeps me from telling you - but it's not a stunner to say that Hasbro is looking at more characters from existing movies for future waves. I don't know what that means as far as the "when," and I know absolutely nothing right now about the future of The Vintage Collection. But I can't assume if they're relaunching a collector segment that it would stay specifically with new-movie-only guys. (For those keeping track, The Force Awakens would no longer qualify as a new movie in 2018.) I know and you know that Star Wars isn't Marvel, but it's clearly taking some time for Hasbro and co. to adjust to the new bosses with lines that go beyond what's in theaters and on TV today. Because I've heard from more than a few people say "Thank goodness there's no more original trilogy stuff coming, I can retire now." Which is bad for business.

Oh, one more thing - since Lucasfilm didn't move it, the untitled Han Solo movie - seriously, is there anything more soulless and corporate than calling it an untitled Han Solo movie? - is due in May of 2018, a solid 6 months after The Last Jedi which would probably put its Force Friday in February or March. It's entirely possible The Last Jedi Blu-Ray and DVD could launch on Untitled Han Solo Movie's Force Friday. Chew on that for a bit and despair. It's going to be a pretty expensive slog starting in September 2017 and going until, I assume, next year November 2018 with a respite until around Toy Fair 2019. If the buzz is true that Marvel might be taking a bit of a breather, that could mean even more for Star Wars, and before you say "That's great!" keep in mind it might mean more movies, more products, and less space in your spare room.




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While this comes as no surprise to anyone, organization matters - so does staying on-point and on-message. Over the years we've seen Hasbro delight us with fan choice polls - Marvel, Star Wars, and even Transformers fans got chances to say "I want that!" It's a great bit of free polling for Hasbro to see if what they were doing lines up with what we want anyway, and you'd be surprised how often figures were already in production at the time of a fan vote. Sometimes it just works out. Seeing the six finalists for the Fan Choice this time I'd say it probably worked out for the best for so many reasons, not the least of which is getting more evidence for the fervent fandom for Ahsoka.

This time around we saw a group of organized fans - seemingly not collectors, seemingly not toy collectors - put their two cents in by, as a group, collectively stuffing the ballot boxes for a single character. Some fraud votes were easy to identify and discard, while some were not obvious frauds - but were very, very suspicious in when they came in and how they were written in some cases. I'm no expert but there's only so much data I can use to prove a bogus vote, and thankfully consecutive votes from the same device with the same signature are easy to spot. The mix is pretty interesting - Tonnika Sisters have been requested for almost as long as I've been writing about Star Wars. Jaxxon comes and goes every few years, but he's a regular request among those who have not yet given up on the line. Sim Aloo is arguably the #1 most-needed update for the original line at this point, although I could easily argue for the Power Droid and Bespin Guard with the mustache. And then Kenner-deco/costumes for some Cantina aliens and Ewoks. ...and then probably anybody who hasn't been updated since 1998.

Ben Skywalker I could personally take or leave, because Hasbro could probably do a nice one using an existing Anakin mold from the last Vintage Collection. I don't think I've seen him requested in a Q&A column more than once or twice over the past couple of decades, if that often. (Jaina and Jacen did get a lot of requests, though, all of which stopped when they got figures in 2010.) This is the first time I've seen an organized push for a new Yak Face - I hope Hasbro does a Power of the Force cardback finally if/when he happens - and I could see Ahsoka Tano in this format. But I've got all of her figures so far and I've never really felt a need to get another one. (Now Sabine, in some other hair/armor variant, I'd be down for that.)

One of the things I keep saying - because I'm a broken record - is how we as a community are no longer a monolith. As much as I'd like to say "we are one," we are not - there are countless factions and divisions, with fans who grew up with Star Wars in theaters having different tastes than the VHS generation, the Prequel generation, people who were big fans of one (or more) of the book series, the gamers, the cartoon fans, and so on. We're all different, and we've all got weird tastes - if Hasbro made a Cindel Towani or Noa from the Ewok movies, I'd be waiting in line or hopping on a plane to whatever convention I had to in order to secure mine. I'm a huge fan of anything with existing visual reference, especially from a movie or TV production, even if it's something I don't love. Just as long as I don't already have one, I'd be a happy camper.

We've seen interesting results in the past, with confirmations of vote manipulation more than once because a crew of fans wanted it just a little bit more. And sometimes they're vote manipulators, and sometimes they're just organized. They're not griefers, they love Star Wars just like us - it's just they aren't always collectors and sometimes the Fan's Choice figures really do rely on sales in order to happen. Unless Hasbro deliberately shorts them, in which case Ephant Mon turned out to be a hot ticket for a good long time.

Whatever the final results are, I hope it sells, I hope people are happy, and I hope Hasbro can take whatever data they get to plan the line for years to come. Most of the higher-ranking Fan Vote nominees over the years have become one or more action figures, and Hasbro even took notes on things like updating Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi. More than once, even, when the results weren't satisfactory. I know it's popular to say they don't listen to the fans, but when they're in the mindset to do a collector line with classic characters I'd say they do more right than wrong. Perfection is a tough goal, but they're definitely batting well for a toy line that has ran for 22 years and thousands of action figures.

...doesn't mean I'm gonna be happy until I get a new Vlix, though.

--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.


Unmade figs

Would sure love to see a Cindel and Noa, too:)
And Vlix, for that matter...