Q&A: Droid Factory, New Figures, Parts Swapping, and Selling It All Off

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Monday, Q&A fans! Let's talk about Droid Factory some more, because that's a thing and we have to talk about things. And are people selling off their collections? It doesn't seem like any more than usual. And how about collector-grade versus basic action figures? Let's look at that too! All this and more await you when you read on!


1. Imagine if all SW action figures were lego style mix and match droid factory style. Here's a meatball question, have you seen the IronMan3 Assemblers from Hasbro?

I have indeed, I've got an Iron Man Assemblers Iron Patriot on my desk and I'm quite fond of it. I don't know if the value proposition is there ($10 for a 5-jointed figure with optional arms and a rocket launcher) but it is well-sculpted and quite endearing.

I think it would be great if it worked, but would it? Scale and size is always an issue, and getting arms to fit in a socket can be tricky if you have some figures with big fat arms like a Gamorrean Guard and the pixie-like Princess Leia limbs, not to mention non-standardized body types. I think it would be cool, but largely for customizers, and that's always been a smaller part of the audience. It would be neat, but I would certainly hope to not have to pay extra for such a feature. Having said that, consistently swappable heads would actually be useful, as it could allow for some easy repaints depending on how the tooling is done.


2. Of the last 4 figures from the vintage line to have not been redone which do you think will be next?

Bob did not supply a definition, so I'm going to guess - the 4 as-of-yet unmade Kenner figures you're thinking about are the mustache Bespin Security Guard, the Imperial Dignitary, the Death Squad Commander, and the Power Droid? I'm guessing?

I'd probably bet on the Death Squad Commander or Power Droid just for deco reasons, but I'm also not holding my breath that we'll see any of them in 2013. Hasbro's definition of an update may differ from ours, and to be honest now that we've seen "Walrus Man" in his Kenner outfit on The Clone Wars, is he now a figure that needs updating too? The Kenner design mistakes are basically the real thing now, so with that in mind there's a few figures they could redo if they're so inclined. Warok, too.

Of course, if Hasbro wants to send an olive branch to fans, it should be the Imperial Dignitary Sim Aloo. That's who we pretty much all through we were voting for in the Fan's Choice contest about 10 years ago, plus it would be a new character. A background character, yes, but you have to start somewhere. Based on how 2013 is looking, it would be really nice if Hasbro announced this as their first figure for the 2014 line, assuming there will be a normal 2014 line.



3. With 2013 being a somewhat boring year for most collectors and many seemingly selling off their collections on fan sites or eBay, I'm wondering if you are noting the decline of the hobby (temporary I hope!) via your Figure of the Day feature? I guess you can count how many read it? I've been a regular reader since day one myself but more recently can't bring myself to bothered to read about the animated figures which I do not collect. Love what you have done with the disney astromechs though (whilst despising the whole concept and execution of the line more than you do I expect, being a European)!

Given my day job I have a lot of indicators at my disposal and from where I stand, it's very inconclusive. If the figure I write about is boring, the hits show it. If it's really exciting, or if I wrote a particularly engaging teaser, it does better. Does anyone want to read about Clone Troopers or pilots who aren't Porkins anymore? Nope. You really don't care. I can see it.

I really hope the FOTD archives will help fans pick off good figures on eBay on the cheap, as it really is a buyer's market. I've got extra stuff I'd love to sell off and I can't bring myself to let go spare carded figures for $1 or $2 each (particularly after eBay takes a cut of the final selling price, and shipping, and then PayPal takes a cut. I'd rather just throw them in the street.) To be honest I haven't heard of too many people dumping stuff, although the vast majority of the modern era line is worthless to the point where it's not like anyone could do anything to bring down the prices any more.

4. With Hasbro dividing the line in two; Simple "basic" figures aimed at kids, and the so-called "Black" line aimed more at collectors, do you think they might eventually move the latter (Particularly the new 6" line) into an on-line model similar to Mattel's MattyCollector and put the retail focus on the cheaper figures and eventual Episode VII tie-in stuff?

Hasbro has been resistant to do an online-only line, and to be honest I don't know why Mattel is doing it - I'm guessing not for money, as running a direct to consumer line is expensive and time-consuming. Target, Walmart, Kmart, and Toys R Us having stuff on the shelves helps to promote the line quite a bit, and in the 1990s I was told that Walmart and the rest were particularly peeved by the HasbroCollectors.com web site which had a few exclusives and Japanese imports.

If the line is reduced to a point that it becomes officially online-only, I would expect Hasbro would make it shared between its many customers. Why? Ecommerce is a pain in the neck to handle, and they can still make money by selling it to online toy stores with the marketing, infrastructure, and customer base already in place. I think the last time Hasbro made a big grab for online collectors was in 2005 with a stillborn figure subscription program for Revenge of the Sith. It's possible times have changed, but everything I see says Hasbro wants fewer items to sell more units, and not the other way around. I don't know that a smaller collector-focused line with little to no chance of impulse purchases is in Hasbro's future, I would wager Hasbro would be more interested in just not releasing the line for a while.


5. What would you do with the Disney Build a Droids if you could influence 2013's plan? How would you sell them and what new parts would you mix in/swap out or add this year?

Oh, I could go on about this for pages. Last August, staring into the incomplete parts pins at Disney Hollywood Studios, I was probably about 5 minutes away from quitting collecting 3 3/4-inch figures entirely. I don't like being faced with a more extreme reminder of how much time and money I spend in this hobby, or the lengths I'm willing to go to for the same plastic in a slightly different configuration. Walking away from the theme park with a few (but not all) of the droids, I can say I definitely felt worse about myself as a person than I have in years relating to this hobby.

If the current distribution model had to be kept with no changes (i.e., mixed bins, insufficient matching colors, 1 theme park) I'd try to not change too much. I'd prefer they not introduce new pieces into the mix because from a business perspective, I don't think it would make anyone more money. How many people are going to buy dozens of droids? How many are just kids putting together a fun and special souvenir? Is it even possible to buy one of each and every piece from the bins when you go there as it is? I assume it's mostly kids driving the line, and they may not recognize new pieces as they are introduced. As such, just keeping things as they are would probably be great for everybody as I doubt there would be a sign boasting "NEW! New Parts for 2013!" on the display.

Should the parts selection expand, I personally would love to see them rerun the 2008 and 2009 Legacy Collection astromechs. And why not? They're ready to go, colorful, beautiful, and they're going to be "new" to the vast majority of people who visit a Disney park while abundant enough so collectors could get the parts they wanted or needed, or turn to eBay. Nobody wins except eBay with the current distribution model.

If I could change things? For starters, I'd love to see customization stations with sorted parts bins (i.e., each piece and each color gets its own special compartment) to maximize efficiency and to make it obvious if they're out of green right legs today.

Next, I'd do a prepackaged part bucket with the same pieces in every bucket. This would be geared to adults, spoiled kids, and adults who refuse to wait around for an hour to see if they have more left legs in the back. Just grab a bucket and get parts for however many "new" droids there are, and put out a new bucket with every wave of parts. Sure, bring back old parts for bodies, but give people an easy shot at one of every new piece (dome, leg, etc.) without too much of a fuss.

I'd try doing some overly specific designs like D-Squad from last year's The Clone Wars arc. Seeing the figures with the black-and-yellow paint indicating their upgrades would be fantastic, and a great way to sell R2-D2 yet again. Use movie bodies to make it cheap, and also include U9-C4, QT-KT, and M5-BZ. Or if Hasbro just wanted to dump all of its existing astromechs made of build-a-droid parts in those bins with no changes instead of doing something new, I would not complain.

I realize this may sound flippant but I have to assume variety, once you hit 25 unique domes and a dozen or so bodies, is pretty unimportant for a theme park "customizable" line, other than to say "build millions of droids" other than "build thousands of droids." Seeing pink droids, holographic droids, or completely bonkers new creations would be interesting from the perspective of someone who won't get an ulcer at the mere mention of there being another dozen or two figures I can't get without having to enlist numerous favors from people.



Many of you have written in with questions like "So what am I supposed to do until Hasbro puts out new stuff?" Let me throw out a wild suggestion - have you considered buying a few actual, real vintage action figures?

Prices have been pretty stable since the mid-1990s, with loose figures in particular not climbing all that much with the exception of the cartoon lines. This is odd because I can tell you, back in the 1990s animated C-3PO and Sise Fromm were not characters as in-demand as Yak Face, Stormtrooper Luke, or damn near anyone from the movies. This are had a big upswing in the last few years, and I don't know why. Carded cartoon Droids figures (save for A-Wing Fighter Pilot, Boba Fett, R2-D2, and C-3PO) were under $10 for years, and R2-D2 and C-3PO were $10-$20 for a long time. The carded Droids A-Wing Pilot and Boba Fett were always pretty expensive.

Few figures pop over $100, and those that do (Yak Face, EV-9D9, Blue Snaggletooth) aren't all that tough to get. Even more ridiculous, loose common figures are about as cheap as (or cheaper than) modern figures in stores today. Would you like a brand-new Dengar for $11, or the original Dengar for $6? While the ease of buying a modern figure has been reduced in recent years, there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of good 1970s and 1980s action figures out there needing a good home, and their historical significance is unlikely to go unchanged. As actual artifacts from the era of Star Wars that really kicked off the modern action figure collecting hobby for a lot of people, and it's a pretty small line all things considered, it might not be a bad place to look for your next toy purchase.

My estimates may be off, but I'm willing to bet that with a little patience (and buying a few lots or collections) you could assemble most of the original movie line for under $1,000. I realize that's a lot of money, but hey - there are a lot of lines like this now, The original Masters of the Universe line can be picked up for less than most of the current range, and some (but not all) G.I. Joe figures are pretty cheap. (Transformers, well, lots of those are still insanely expensive.)

So to you, the modern bored toy collector - get that 1979 Boba Fett you've always wanted, or an original Darth Vader. With modern figures there will always be a chance (and a good one) that Hasbro will continue to one-up themselves, but those Kenner originals aren't getting any vintager.

--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.