Q&A: Wars, Fetts of the Future, Old School New Figures, and Big Beastly Things

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 15, 2011

Got a problem with figure hand color? Sure you do. And why aren't we getting more beasts, heaving or otherwise? And why is that big mean bully Hasbro denying you the 1980s-style figures you so richly deserve, aside from taste? All this and more when you read on!

1. My Clone Wars Ki-Adi-Mundi figure has 'pink colored hands'. Looking at some online images, his hands should be skin color. Is the 'pink colored hands' intentional? If not, why did Hasbro decided to release it with such an obvious error?

While I don't think it was something Hasbro was gunning for, these things do happen-- most likely a result of Hasbro and the factories in China not necessarily understanding something. Why would Hasbro release it like this? Well, clearly you haven't had the pleasure of being involved with a lot of manufacturing.

Sometimes when you do a project, you spend a lot of time, money, and resources developing a figure. The molds alone cost a ton of cash, and sometimes you don't even detect the error until the final packaged product is sent to you-- I know it sounds bizarre, but it happens. When you have a company like Hasbro cranking out hundreds of action figures and thousands of toys every year, sometimes you just have to say "Well, close enough" while moving on to the next toy. I know this answer may seem flippant to some, but obviously you can't get everything completely perfect. Some deco changes or oddities just have to be accepted, if sales won't be hurt, safety isn't a concern, and the licensor didn't complain.

In this case, the figure's sales seem strong enough where it's (ultimately) something Hasbro wisely decided on-- while it's annoying to us, it's not like we don't have another 100+ figures this year to enjoy too.


2. Beasts, I sure would like to see some of these again. Something new like an Aiwha, Clone Wars Narglatch, Mustafar Lava Flea, or Blurrg from Ryloth (you could even put a Clone on it). Even make up something new along the line of the mini-rigs and put Clones on them. I'm sure Hasbro could come up with something that isn't a $40 exclusive like the Dewback or Jabba.

Beasts are great! I love them, and so does Hasbro. Not many get cranked out in their various figure lines, with a Cloverfield monster here, a Rancor there, and the occasional Dewback. I would absolutely go bonkers for a Blurrg (thanks to their Ewok connection), but a lot of these may be a tough sell. The Lava Flea in particular smells like a turkey waiting to happen, but remakes of the Tauntaun are all but a given over the next few years-- Hasbro has alluded to a strong desire to revisit these creatures.

What it usually boils down to is a need in the line, and an ability to exploit the mold properly. Sure, they could put a Blurrg in the small vehicle-and-figure assortment, but would they be able to sell it with other figures or repaint it several times? ...I think they could. But I also don't see their balance sheets, so for all I know they're avoiding this for a reason. Your average small vehicle has fewer moving parts than a Blurrg likely would, and the single appearance of the Narglatch would probably make it a bad decision on Hasbro's part. I mean, we've only received a single Talz figure, I doubt their steed would be a likely candidate in the near-term.


3. Ok, I have read your column a zillion times and understand your thoughts on Hasbro doing true vintage style figures. I read your response in your most recent column. That said, if Hasbro did make some vintage style figs, which I would imagine would have a relatively shorter shelf life, either as an exclusive or what ever, who would you like to see them make? Personally I'd like to see an old school Tarkin, Vader w/ removeable helmet, Cantina aliens and some Jabba's palace aliens. Funny thing is, the original vintage Greedo and Walrus Man looked nothing like the movie costumes so I hope Hasbro would keep that in mind when making them. I think it would be cool for them to take some creative license and make the aliens close but not exact. Even funnier I feel like I am asking you how crappy of a figure would you want from back in the day if they made it now. Clearly too, they would have to make some of the popular characters. I think 2-packs would be great too. One of the new and one of the old. That could maybe off set the price of new molds.

When you introduce a new aesthetic, you risk introducing a hard split in the audience. Some "realistic" figure collectors will not buy The Clone Wars because they don't mesh. A lot of people collecting modern, new figures don't necessarily have the entire vintage 1970s line in their closets-- meaning that this audience may be less receptive to getting a new, old-style Tarkin when they don't even have a true Vintage Darth Vader in their collection just yet. People who have the original Vintage line and want more of it could be a very small audience, and if Hasbro didn't remake some of those old figures, they risk missing out on new customers. After all, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and Luke tend to be strong sellers-- a line without them may not be able to survive more than a few waves, and even then, this is a purely collector-only line. Modern 2010-2011 Vintage figures do sell to kids, adults, and collectors which is what any line really wants.

So yes, ultimately, Hasbro could do this as exclusives... but how many of each need to be sold in order to make this worthwhile for the increasingly SKU-conscious Hasbro? They want to make fewer products and sell more of each-- a smart, efficient move but not one conducive to the likes of us who can and often will absorb nearly infinite toys every year. If Hasbro only has so many development dollars, it makes sense to create figures that appeal to potentially all would-be customers and not necessarily only vintage 1970s and 1980s fans.

I'd rather have 1970s-style figures than repacks or repaints, but that's not the option being presented here. Hasbro has said that they don't want to pursue it, and arguing with me over this fact isn't going to help things. If fans want them, I suggest making a stink on forums, make tons of polls, maybe even try a petition. I think it would be great to see these unproduced original figures, I've got an original set and surely wouldn't mind a few more, but I don't think it's a smart business move. If you have any idea how many of a figure need to be made to be considered a success, it would be a lot easier to comprehend why new "vintage" figures are likely to be uncommon one-offs and not a substantial line expansion. Unless you can convince Wal-Mart that they need "Then & Now" figure sets-- and even then, you'd most likely get actual Vintage figure molds instead of new Vintage-inspired figures-- this sort of thing isn't going to work unless they were marketed as super-low-run, higher-than-normal priced art or high-end-collectibles.

If you want them, I suggest you get to work. Fans can make things happen, but it's not going to happen without a lot of noise.


4. With the rocket-firing Fett behind us, Hasbro has alluded to a white-outfit version of him as another mail away this year. What info do you have of it? Any pix?


This is absolutely real and was revealed at Toy Fair 2011. It's a new mold, and not based on the previous mail-in figure. The figure has a cape loosely modeled after a beach towel, plus sports the grapple rocket as seen in very early photographs. The suit of armor is literally the prototype for the film costume. You can see an image of the packaging here, on page 37 of the presentation.


5. Here's a different question as for trends and toy collecting. So, back when we went to war in Iraq I was working in retail and war toys were huge. GI Joe, Mcfarlane's figures and Ultimate Soldier were super strong sellers. Over the years this segment has dropped. Granted the unending wars in the Middle East lost their flare in regard to kids and toys (for a lack of a better way to put it) and even GI Joe has a way smaller representation than in recent years (except for the movie). Do you think Clone Wars toys have taken over that segment in relation to kids and their interest in the classic military toys? HALO toys are out there I think that is geared for the older gaming kids & collectors. I think it's interesting in how kids relate and develope some sort of understanding to this. Star Wars and GI Joe played a big part in my own understandning and appreciation for the military growing up. Not trying to be to deep but just throwing it out there. Any thoughts?

In short, ask the moms.

G.I. Joe, despite having some of the strongest fan love in years, has been booted from several stores of the top retailers and the product has slowed slightly in the past year. I positively adore the current line, but finding it is a real hassle-- there are still two Wave 4 figures I've not seen in stores. Quasi-realistic military is still out there in toy aisles with other brands, but cheapo store brand figures seem to be what Toys "R" Us and Target like to concentrate on while Wal-Mart often stocks deep in The Corps line from Lanard Toys. Realistic, high-quality military is a tough sell but Hasbro is making another go at it with their upcoming 12-inch action figure line later this year.

Halo and The Clone Wars toys both pursue two very different audiences from one another and of modern military. McFarlane's sci-fi game line aims at older boys and adult gamers, while The Clone Wars is largely focused on children through some early teens, with the likes of us buying some as well. I don't believe these two fantasy lines replaced realistic military in the hearts of kids, but it is possible real-world events have soured mom on buying realistic military in light of the ways war and military skirmishes have altered how the world runs in the past decade. That, and G.I. Joe has been flailing for a while, being largely collector-driven in many cases and stores simply don't have the desire to force it on an unreceptive crowd...

...oh, who am I kidding. It's all the peg-warming Arctic Destro figure's fault. And video games. Plus despite being old, Star Wars is still somewhat current... but it feels like it's aging a bit in its current incarnation. Seeing as G.I. Joe hasn't been hugely popular with kids in a while, well, there's no fighting public opinion. It doesn't matter that the figures are the best they've ever been if nobody under 19 will buy them.



Today is a big day for toys-- proof positive nobody thinks about collectors, because it's the street date for Transformers Dark of the Moon, Captain America movie toys, plus it's another MattyCollector launch day. But you don't collect those lines I wager.

I'm particularly interested in Hasbro's Transformers sub-line called Cyberverse which is a rebranding of its ongoing "Legends" line of Transformers. The idea was initially smaller, $5 versions of their $10-$50 toys but they're expanding it to include slightly larger toys as well as-- and this is the real surprise-- now they're introducing vehicles and playsets. (Or vehicles which are playsets.) In short, this is a full micro segment, which is a category Star Wars has tried many times in the past to varying degrees of success. (Kenner's MicroCollection and Galoob's Action Fleet and MicroMachines lines, plus Hasbro's Titanium Series via Galoob's own Die-Cast line from the 1990s.) To some extent, the Galactic Heroes line may be one of the most successful attempts at a small-scale line for these boy's brands but it did skew rather young.

Cyberverse seems particularly interesting because it's not only scaled to work with about 5 years of existing product, but it's a clear attempt to bring back that long-dead "Micro" category for boys. Sure, girls buy Polly Pocket, but it's not like MicroMachines did well over here and even Hasbro iced its Titanium Series brand despite fans seeming to dig it in its vehicle format. Could this mean Hasbro is eyeballing the small scale for its other brands, specifically Star Wars? I kinda hope so, but hopefully they'll just bring something back instead of getting me to start another scale. I'm old, I don't think I have the enthusiasm.

There were two exciting pieces of news this week with the reveal of the Tauntaun, seemingly an entirely new sculpt, and a Kmart-exclusive "Vintage" Box B-Wing Fighter. So there are two Comic-Con presents we've unwrapped early. I'm not positive but I'd bet the Tauntaun is an exclusive, but what I really want to know is which figure he'll come with-- and more accurately, are we finally going to get that new Hoth Luke we've all been hoping for?

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.