It's the last Q&A of 2010! Let's look at development delays, the vintageness of the new R2-D2 figure, and the chances of you ever seeing a Baron Papanoida figure again-- animated or otherwise! Read on, and send me your questions for 2011!
1. Do you think there is a disconnect between Hasbro's 2-3 years development delay, and the modern, internet-enabled fan? It seems like many often-requested repaints and re-releases (VOTC Han, BAD C-3PO, ANH Luke) - stuff than both fans and moms would buy - are ignored for many years- in some cases 5 or more years. If fans in 2005 begged for vintage packages, and you give it to them 5 years later, who is to blame for poor sales, collector apathy, when fans tell you exactly what they want and you don't make it?
Hasbro doesn't have a "delay" so much as they have "planning." They may well be working on figures that won't be out until 2013, but some of those figures won't come out at all, and others will be shuffled around. (A famous case of planning being changed is that they swapped the release of the Ewoks of 1998 and Grand Moff Tarkin of 1997 to get Tarkin out earlier.) When needed, they can get stuff out fast-- repaints have been produced in as little as six months, possibly even faster as we don't have full insight as to what their methods are.
Vintage packaging is a desirable thing, and Hasbro knows this-- that's why they held off. It was meant to be a special event with premium (read: more expensive) packaging, and as it tapered off they probably rethought the whole $10 thing and decided instead to make it a regular, $8 thing. Since the last line of vintage in 2007 wasn't a huge hit, it probably made a lot of sense to make it a "normal" thing rather than an "expensive" thing.
As to the vintage figures, Hasbro basically does what they want to do-- there's not always an obvious reason, although it's usually tooling availability if a figure doesn't get a second release. Or in the case of Build-A-Droid C-3PO, well, we just got a new Vintage figure. So... maybe later?
Since about 2001, I'd say "fans are asking for something" carries a lot less weight. You might be saying "that's crazy," but hear me out-- before 2001, fans were asking for a lot of the same things. There were far fewer Expanded Universe characters, fewer movies, and fewer reference books to show people things they didn't know they wanted yet. In 1995, fans were all pretty much on the same page of Tarkin, Slave Leia, and Wedge-- these were three figures everybody generally got behind. After that, people were clamoring for Wuher, the Skiff, and the Shuttle. As time goes on, Hasbro makes things fans want-- and then fans find new things they want and ask for. Basically, it's like a dog chasing its own tail, as soon as Hasbro gives us Ephant Mon we demand Hermi Odle, and after we got Hermi Odle we wanted to know where the Hell Gargan was. This is a never-ending cycle, which is good for business-- if fans had nothing else to ask for, you wouldn't be reading this column or buying those toys.
Based on what Hasbro has given us-- approaching 2,000 figures with dozens of Rebel pilots, Imperial officers, Ewoks, astromech droids, and so on-- I really can't complain. Sure, there are things I'd like them to produce still (like figure-sized Dejarik creatures, Vlix, and Ziro the Hutt) but generally speaking they seem to be pretty good at getting most big fan requests out. Sure, it'll be a while (or never) until we see a Sail Barge again, but the changes in the marketplace, and people coming on board or leaving Hasbro's Star Wars team will make a lot of difference in the future. It turned out all we needed to do to get our Cloud Car was for someone to be rotated out of that brand-- who knows what the future might hold as jobs change over there?
2. What year does Hasbro's right to produce Star Wars figures expire?
Last I heard, 2018. This doesn't guarantee that we'll get toys up until 2018 (after all, Kenner had the license from about 1977 to 1997 with a solid decade of jack squat in there.) It's also likely that they will renew, as LEGO is probably about to reup its license which started around 1999.
It could still be extended, and I don't know about you but I hope it doesn't. I'm starting to feel like I'm playing a game of collector chicken and they're trying to make me blink first.
3. I just got my vintage R2-D2 with tray, sensor scope, and light saber. On the back of the card said First Issue. What about the R2-D2 with tray from the previous line? Or what about the R2-D2 pop-up from the vintage POTF collection or the POTF2 collection?
I believe this all stems out of a long-asked question-- "What constitutes a new figure?" Is it a new accessory, a new sculpt, a new package? In the 1980s, Kenner decided that sensorscope and pop-up lightsaber R2-D2 figures were updates and they replaced the existing versions. Lately, we would consider these new. It appears since this new figure offered so much new in the way of features, Hasbro decided it wasn't an update, because they would probably have to say it's an update of several figures. There's not enough room to explain "well, it's sort of got the datalink accessory arms from 1998, the pop-up lightsaber from 1984, and the bar accessories from 2004." It's easier just to say "hey, it's new!" and let's face it-- this is a much nicer package photo anyway.
I think this is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. Look at the recently delayed Yoda-- the original plan for Vintage Yoda was to put him out in 2010 on a Return of the Jedi card, then Hasbro decided to change it to a prequel theme. (Me, I didn't care either way.) If Hasbro just used the old one, fans probably would have asked me why they didn't go with a new photo of R2-D2 in Jabba's palace.
4. Hasbro seems a little more open to telling us when future figures will be coming out in their Q&As. With that in mind, do you think we'll see a better showing at Toy Fair than in recent years or will they hold off until ComicCon?
The reason Hasbro doesn't show us more in New York Toy Fair is because of Comic-Con. Now that there are multiple press events throughout the year, they hold things back to try and show us something new. (You can also blame new movie secrecy.) Before, they just showed us whatever was ready in February in New York even if it wasn't going to be out until November-- so blame Comic-Con, kids, they used to show us stuff ages in advance.
As such, don't expect to see anything at Toy Fair that's beyond a July release date. Maybe even May-- they might want to hold back a wave for a Spring reveal, too, and sometimes they'll do that now.
5. Now that we have seen Baron Papanoidia & his Family in the Clone Wars, do you think they are going to make them as Clone Wars figures? And, do you think there is any chance that they will correct the Chi Akway figure from being Twi-Lek to Ordo-Plutonian?
None-- no chances of animated versions. The movie set was a terrible seller, blown out at crazy low prices and dumped unceremoniously through alternate channels. Short of George personally asking Hasbro to make them, I would be willing to bet you will never see animated versions of these characters. I would also be willing to take a similar amount of money on the chances of never seeing a new version of Chi Eekway-- it's just gong to be one of those weird things, where she's one species in the movie and another in the cartoon. Welcome to continuity gaffeville, population you!
As we wrap up 2010, it seems Target has marked down all their Hasbro exclusives to half off, the store shelves are more or less bare with the post-Christmas shopping orgy, and new figures are, hopefully, within reach. I saw a fair amount of Return of the Jedi vintage and new Clone Wars on Christmas Eve, which hopefully doesn't mean that demand is too low-- Transformers seemed really picked clean, by comparison, and a lot of the other brands seemed to be on their way out too.
So. What can you do to make 2011 interesting? Well, there's not a lot that has been announced yet. I would wager you can expect to see another large vehicle-- since Hasbro confirmed there would be one-- and it will most likely not be from the movies as there doesn't seem to be any movie anniversary celebrations up for 2011. 2012 should see the 3D release of the films, so this year it would make sense to see more animated goodies as the show continues along toward its inevitable fate, whatever that may be.
I considered 2010 a weird year-- sort of like 2000, in which we saw a transition and about half the year with no new product. When you look back at 2010 I bet it won't go down as one of the finest years the movie line had, and depending on how 2011 goes, I hope it will be seen as a glitch. Only three new waves of movie figures-- even though there were some sizable waves-- is pretty awful. Hopefully we'll see new releases more frequently in the new year!
Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.