Q&A: Blu-Ray, Playsets, More Vintage, and Other Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is it time to revisit pop-up dioramas as a cheap playset alternative? Eh. Sure. Shall we look at mail-in figures of Christmas future? And what to do if your new Vintage figures don't quite have the paint job you were hoping for? All this and more, just read on!

1. [A long time ago] We talked about ideas for at the time Kenner to do more pop up dioramas. i suggested a rebel briefing room with General Madine would be perfect! Anyways thats what my question is. Why do you suppose Hasbro never did anymore past Jabbas Throne Room? It seemed to sell well (at least out here in Kansas City) and the costs would be minimal considering theres no tooling required. I know they have kinda gone this route with most of the vehicles having dioramas but how cool would it be to have say a Cloud City with an updated Lobot or maybe Palpatines Office with an updated Palpatine. I would even go as far as saying a Star Destroyer/Republic Cruiser Bridge with officer. This would give collectors and kids both a playset and a display piece and wouldnt have to shell out the big bucks for them!

While not exactly what we wanted, Hasbro gave the concept a second shot in 2009 with the vehicle dioramas, and I don't know if you noticed but they just phased these out. The newest vehicles don't even have them. While I tossed most of these in the trash-- in the end, they weren't good for figures and took up a lot of space-- it was, on paper, pretty much a new kind of diorama. I always wanted to see them do "Diorama Packs" as a replacement for the comic packs, as the footprint and cost could be similar, but they didn't. I asked, many times. So for whatever reason, Hasbro doesn't have any interest in doing this even though they could probably make decent money just reprinting the Cantina and Jabba's Palace to see what happened in this new marketplace. (Throw in an exclusive figure-- a good one-- and it'd probably sell.)

As nice as it would be, I think Hasbro has flushed that idea away for now.


2. I'm a little slow on the news for figures these days, and you may have already touched on this, but in your expertise, is the mail-away Fett a kitbash, strict repaint, or what? And how accurate is he compared to the photos/footage we have?

The pictures appear to be the "Animated Debut Boba Fett" holster with the "Vintage" body, plus different guns-- so it lacks the unique grappling hook rocket, which I thought was one of the most distinctive elements. The sticker and order form show the picture of the actual costume, which isn't exactly the same as the figure which I guess, when you get right down to it, is just a white repaint of existing Boba Fett figure parts. I won't say "just different enough to make you mad," but certainly not as exciting as the past few mail-ins like a 1979-esque Boba Fett, Sgt. Bric, and Nahdar Vebb figures-- those actually were new molds.


3. I'm with Hasbro when they say big vehicles are playsets; hard for a kid to make the BMF fly when it's bigger than they are. But could you see the Class I Fleet/Deluxe/Not-a-Mini-Rig line as possibly sampling environments down the road, POTF2 deluxe-line history aside? I'm thinking along the lines of when GI Joe had their battle-stations in the 80's like the Cobra Bunker and Joe's Outpost Defender. Lot of play value there for kids and now they have a cartoon to back it up...and yes, it was fun having Snake Eyes dig a latrine with the Bivouac's shovel back in the day.

I'd say Battle Stations as individual items aren't likely to happen. That type of item seems to be reserved for large $40-$50 Battle Packs, for the most part, exclusive to Target. While there is an amount of play value in radar laser cannons and tripod laser guns, that kind of thing hasn't been a historically strong seller, but I think that can mostly be blamed on the fact that these sort of things aren't particularly high-demanded items.

When it comes to this kind of thing-- heck, ANY element-- I usually throw it back at you guys. What is it you want? We did see some large cannons as part of the 2009 Clone Wars "mini vehicle" assortment with a pairing specific to the Turbo Tank, and they were pretty good given what you got for the money. It seems that they sold just fine, but Hasbro hasn't been particularly keen on inventing new items of this sort, and there are precious few from the movies to do. Heck, outside of The Empire Strikes Back I can't think of any such things I might want... and I've got those ones.

I think some sort of crazy Clone bunker might be fun, or a Separatist mini-hideout with a large turret on top could be a treat, but without more appearances on the show I wouldn't expect anything like this any time soon.


4. I'm an opener, but I've been holding onto a Bespin Han I picked up a couple of weeks ago. Very crappy paint job on the scalp. I'm wondering if I should wait until I see another example in the wild and exchange this one. What's the word?

My Han wasn't perfect, but I think it boils down to "is it good enough?" He isn't showing up in many more assortments (so far) so I'd say be glad you have it. I actually stumbled on two more at a Toys R Us this weekend and both had slightly wonky hair-- neither may suit your needs, so I'd say just be happy with the one you have and hope for a rerelease with a better paint mask in or around 2015.


5. Seven or eight years ago "chase" figures and variant repaints actually were exciting to find on the shelves, there were "hot", highly collectible lines like Marvel Legends that you wanted to complete, movie lines didn't command so much floor space, and I could look for bargains on ebay that weren't all "Buy it Now" at jacked up prices. Understanding that the down economy from 2008–2010 and then again now is playing a major factor in the supply-and-demand within the toy industry, what would you say is the state of the hobby today? Not necessarily just Star Wars, and not from a business standpoint, but the act of collecting action figures today as a whole.

Collector lines generally have an expiration date-- there's only so much to do before they run out of room, or grow up and have to sell things off to support their family. Kids on the other hand are a renewable resource. In the 1990s, collectors moved from comics to cards to toys and some new blood came in on a regular basis. Today, not so much-- but if kids are interested, the line will continue. So things like Star Wars and especially Transformers are going to do fine.

This year's "chase" program is Revenge of the Jedi, and since Hasbro offered the set at Comic-Con I assume the singles will be less demanded. But I digress.

The whole "collector's market" of jacked-up prices started to die down in the early 2000s, but that seems to be from a seismic shift in collector (specifically, speculator/dealer) attitudes. People got burned by the 1995-1997 stuff, with tons of figures in basements going unsold and now being worthless. I think the notion of making a collectible-- not a toy, but a collectible-- is pretty unexciting, and not necessarily a great business move. It's a smaller potential audience, unless you go high-end, and that's a different discussion.

Right now I think Hasbro's mostly doing the right thing-- its brands are doing well enough, maybe not G.I. Joe but for all I know they're trying to start a fire under that brand with lower runs. If what you're getting at is Hasbro's Star Wars distribution, I find it varies by region. I can find things-- I've seen pretty much all the Clone Wars and Vintage on-shelf with few exceptions. I see that they're not going out of their way to keep a figure in circulation forever lately, but it seems that Hasbro isn't too upset with the results. Figures are selling. Kids are still buying lightsabers. The state of the hobby as it relates to collectors of this brand is, for now, still strong.



That's all I got for this week-- and it was a big week. Blu-Rays. Accidentally dropping a shelf on my knee. All that jazz.

For those of you who do (or don't) know, I'm in the toy business as my day job and there's a lot of work involved-- October is insanely busy this year as a bunch of big important things in the toy industry are all happening within days of each other. As such Q&A may or may not make the weekly schedules-- if I have sufficient questions and answers on a day where I have an hour or whatever to do a column, it'll go up as usual. If not... well, maybe the next week. So don't be too shocked if I end up missing a week or two in there. I am most likely not dead.

Due to the lead times, Figure of the Day is solvent for a while. October is almost done as I'm written through October 26, but I'll be bumping a couple of figures due to some new stuff showing up now.

Also, and this will only matter to very few of you but I just passed the point where I have spent over 50% of my years writing about toys online. These are milestones that aren't always good to stumble on. I'm not sharing all of this with you to complain, just to give you an idea where things are going and what may (or may not) be happening in the next month.

And one other thing, I've been going over the Blu-Ray extras and am more or less happy with what I've got here-- I've gone through the Original Trilogy extras disc, and am almost done with the prequels one as of the time I write this. I skipped around the movies just to spot-check a couple of things, but the reason I bought a DVD player in the first place was because there was a possibility I might see deleted scenes and that kind of thing I find particularly interesting. The best stuff is for Return of the Jedi, no doubt about it, as some of it looks close to being finished and it's just generally more interesting. Even the bad stuff is good-- I would say the highlight is a segment on cut Rebel scenes during the second Death Star attack, you get to see Sila Kott with her original voice, another female pilot you must simply see to believe, a couple of alien pilots, and a whole mess of Madine footage with him reciting the Ackbar lines from the film.

Compared to the ALIEN boxed set, the Star Wars Blu-Rays feel pretty thin so far. I'm happy to see the Boba Fett animation debut segment, but the interviews are cut so short that it's almost depressing-- stitching them together into some feature-length thing would have been nice. The turnarounds of the models are nice, but many of them are cracked, broken, decaying. I don't want to be faced with reminders of my own mortality, I want to see a maquette. I wouldn't necessary advise you to go run out and buy a Blu-Ray player for just this set... but if you're going to also invest in the big ALIEN set, Predators, Machete, or other recent fine examples of modern filmmaking it's probably worth your while.

Time permitting I'll do some sort of write-up on the set as a whole once I get through more of it. I'll spare you ranking the films, because really, who's going to read a review of these films on a home video format and will genuinely care what some putz thinks of one over another? Reading over most of the reviews of the Blu-Rays with a few astonishingly good exceptions just serve as a reminder that a lot of people have no business reviewing anything. "Blah blah blah, looks pretty good, fans should like it, blargh." Wow. It takes a lot of balls to put something like "Star Wars fans will like Star Wars in writing.  How's the picture?  Did you listen to the commentary?  How many of the 9 discs even got in your player to write those 12 sentences?  Lazy, lazy people out there... but not Bill Hunt.  The man doesn't disappoint.

--Adam Pawlus

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

Looking forward to your

Looking forward to your further take on the Blu-ray set. I'm passing on it myself (going to wait for the Blu double-dip), but I'm still interested in it, and hoping some other interesting easter eggs turn up.

I've learned an important lesson in my life: never buy a first generation Nintendo handheld or the first release of Star Wars on a new format. There will always be another...