Q&A: Droids, Clone Wars, Action Figures, Other Stuff, Rancor Keeper Pile-On

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 20, 2013

What's new in Q&A this week? How about EV-9D9. We haven't had a 100% brand-new sculpt for a while, have we? And let's complain about Malakili some more, as it delights me to do so. And what's the deal with those new Hasbro Iron Man action figures that aren't Star Wars? Are we in for a financially different future? All this and droids, and vehicles, and maybe your question in Q&A! (Of course, if you send in a question, it's more likely you could be here next week.)


1. Do you know of any reason why there has not been an update of EV-9D9 since the very early POTF2 days? It's been about 15 years since Hasbro/Kenner last visited this character - in the meantime many non speaking background droids/aliens have had multiple revisions, repaints and straight re-releases in multi-packs.
All the while, this great character with actual dialogue in the movies continues to go unloved .... Is there a reason I'm unaware of? Do fans hate the character /design? The POTF2 version kinda stands out from my Jabba's Palace shelf as virtually everyone else has had new up-to-date sculpts (even the Rancor Keeper!)
I was hoping the return of the Droid Factory would mean a new EV.... Guess not now!

For a while I was assuming Hasbro was holding back on vintage 1984-1985 Power of the Force figures for when the modern Vintage line felt like introducing that cardback style... which I guess we'll be putting off for a few more years. Since we got General Lando and Barada updates on Jedi cards, well, anything can happen. To start off this longer-than-necessary answer, Hasbro never made any rumblings that they don't want to update this 1997 release. It just hasn't happened yet.

There are some figure updates, as you mention, which defy reason. Malakili being the chief example - who couldn't see it as a failure from miles away? Hasbro updated this one, no doubt, to go with its updated Rancor which started making the rounds as an exclusive which also didn't sell out too quickly. There have been lots of rumblings inside Hasbro about characters they want to do or want to update but keep getting kicked down the road for various reasons.

To put stuff in a numbers perspective, let's look at the 2012 Vintage waves. 50 new figures ("new figure" for the sake of this argument is "figure released in a Vintage assortment which was not on the same style Vintage cardback in 2011." New-to-vintage or new-new.)

Of those 50 figures, about 9 were action figure debuts. The rest are rereleases, new costumes for existing figures, or new versions of existing figures. And of that balance, about 5 were figures which haven't been updated since the POTF2 days (which for the sake of argument I'm cutting off at 2000.)

Looking at 1997 (I know, I'm all over the place) there were only 28 carded figures. 28! Of them, only Yak Face, EV-9D9, 2-1B (ESB), and the ASP-7 droid have not been given vintage-era makeovers (which is to say, a new sculpt after 2004. Bib Fortuna is pretty on the fence of counting, being a 2006 "statue.") As Hasbro gave us a pretty good chunk of vintage updates in 2012 (about a dozen 1997 figures had updates in circulation in 2012) I'd say it's a safe bet we'll get to EV-9D9 "soon," although in light of new developments, that could be next year and that could be in many years.

Like you I'm still flummoxed over the Rancor Keeper getting a second figure after the 1997 figure (and a 1998 repack in new assortments) clogged aisles for years. Seriously, I found these guys when I was in LA from 2005-2010. That put the figures at 8-13 years old, which would be like finding a Return of the Jedi figure in the early 1990s at a store. (Unthinkable.)


2. I know you follow other lines and was wondering about your opinion on the Dollar Store GI Joe figures recently made available at Dollar General (Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, etc). There are 6 figures in all,and all are technically *new* versions of older figures or designs not yet released since the 25th Anniversary collection started. If I am remembering right,Hasbro stated there was a mistake and they were not supposed to be *new* versions, but they are. These figures have all the same articulation of regular mass market releases, but consist of all existing parts and few paint applications. Regardless, they are some pretty nice figures for the now unheard of price of $6 (not clearance prices). If they can do this with GI Joe, what is stopping them from taking some of the great Star Wars figures from the last few years and releasing them at a lower price. For that matter, why were the Legends figures (essentially existing sculpts with out a ton of paint apps barring a couple of light up figures) still $10? I know they are not an exactly the same, but is it because Star Wars is licensed or because Hasbro thinks they can get that price for Star Wars repacks and got greedy? It might be a better alternative for the movie rereleases than what they did this year and get more kids into the line with a quality toy at a somewhat reasonable price.

There's no reason they couldn't do a similar program for Star Wars. There have been low-dollar products developed and sold for this market, like single-packed Jedi Force, Galactic Heroes, and 2-inch Unleashed figures... although they usually weren't a better deal than their retail counterparts and so far as I can tell, were never unique toys. (For those keeping score at home, they have made unique Transformers for these stores in the past many times, usually at the $5ish or less price point, as well as repacks of existing toys at a lower price.)

If you've seen the new Iron Man 3 pre-orders, Hasbro is making a lot of $6 retail price action figures this year. Will they do this with Star Wars? (Yes, it was confirmed at Celebration VI. But how, and for how much?)

The answer to almost every question I get here is "Hasbro does what they want to do." In 2012 alone, we saw the same Obi-Wan Kenobi figure (Legacy Collection 2009) repacked many different ways - with a vehicle for $18, on a vintage card for $10-$12, and on a Movie Heroes card (with extra weapons) for $8-$9. Obviously, that doesn't add up at all. Why does the version with the most gear cost less? Probably because the average cost per figure in the case was slightly lower, but sometimes Hasbro just charges less because they will sell more (volume!) and they've made comments in their earnings reports indicating that this is a strategy they sometimes fail to adopt (i.e., 2009 G.I. Joe movie action figure line.)

So why were these figures $6? Because that was the point-- they were developed as a new product for an alternate market, using existing tooling and new paint apps. Hasbro and the chains which carried these figures (Dollar General, whatever) get together and decide they need a product to meet a price point, which is usually under $10 or around $5. So Hasbro says "OK, we can do this for you at this price point" and the store, with THOUSANDS of inconvenient locations each of which will take one or more case, says "great, we're in!" Then they take a lot of the run, if not the entire run, and a whole generation of kids who have parents that do not shop at Target or other big box stores get turned on to G.I. Joe - and sometimes these lower-dollar stores and lower-dollar figures serve as an appetizer to get the kid interested in asking for the bigger, more expensive toys. (Although at times they are a means to an end. "Here's a $6 Spider-Man, now stop asking for one.")

At no point would this be a "mistake." It takes a lot of effort to tool and deco a figure, and make packaging. It was intentional.



3. What ever happened to the Naboo Starfighter this past year? It's a beautiful piece. I see that your employer has the case available and I've seen those other vehicles at brick and mortar but I've never seen any sign of the Naboo Starfighter beyond the glass case at SDCC. Hasbro isn't big on wasting tooling so I would expect we'll see the mold get used again so they get their money's worth out of it. Any thoughts?

Short answer: it's like those vintage cases last year. They're made, they exist, and you can order them online. For some reason, stores didn't order them, or Hasbro messed up, or you can probably cobble together an answer mixing truth and what we think is truth.

You'll probably see it again... just like the Mandalorian Shuttle. It's just a matter of where and when, and if you're paying attention to the hobby at that time.

Hasbro isn't big on wasting tooling, but they do. A lot, in the last few years. A lot of figures are unreleased in the eyes of the general public, becoming de facto online or direct-to-clearance exclusives. This sort of thing is very unusual, but since 2010 it has become increasingly common. It might just be that Hasbro is releasing too much product, as ridiculous as that may sound to us as collectors. Hasbro is putting out more stuff in most brands per year than before and it seems there are numerous challenges to getting them on shelves, some of which are self-inflicted (bad casepacks) and some of which are hard to ID (why does Target still have the 2010 Vintage SKU active when no new figures have been shipping in that wave since late 2010?)



4. Are you gonna continue collecting Star Wars/Hasbro with the new batch of movies? Have you considered calling it a day?

It's going to depend on Hasbro and the movies themselves. Believe it or not I didn't hate the prequels or cartoons as much as the media tells me I should. There were good bits, the designs were great, and the toys are largely pretty good.

If the line is interesting, I've got no reason to quit. Of course, it's my sincere hope Hasbro downsizes it to 1997 levels... maybe 30 figures a year, perhaps 5-8 vehicles tops, and a handful of exclusives and multi-packs.

My habits have changed a lot - $10 figures make army building impossible, as do Hasbro's current assortments. I no longer buy "backup" figures in case weapons are lost or broken, with few exceptions (i.e., if they come in a case I order).

Right now I'm assuming the new movies will probably provide more troopers, more droids, and new "old" versions of the characters I played with as a kid. If this is truly a future for Star Wars in which anything can happen, not another prequel (as Star Wars has basically been trading on from 1996-now) I'm interested to see what comes up! Especially if Hasbro can get the price point down to $6 and keep it there. I'll probably start collecting (or buying) Iron Man figures now that they're $6 again!


5. Hello Adam. I would love to have all 25 of the Disney Droid Factory astromechs but my wallet could in no way survive the strain of that. So here's my question, are there any of the droids available from the Disney Droid Factory that we have not had represented in the mainline figures. I realize these are all unnamed figures but I want to make sure that all of the "“models" of astromechs are represented in my collection. From what I have been able to gleen from the info on the net and all of the astromechs in my collection is that the R6 droid has never been made available anywhere else and there are no droids listed with that designation. Please verify that so I know whether or not to add a generic "R6 Droid" to my collection to represent one of every figure. Let me know if there are any others. Thanks.

Each droid is different enough where I felt it necessary to throw down to collect all 25 domes. The "R2" ones are very similar to existing releases, and the R7s are similar... but I wouldn't say any of them are truly skippable if you collect droids.

Right now, the R6 (black, yellow, purple), R8 (black, yellow, blue), and R9 (red, green, blue) dome molds are exclusive to Disney and Disney has confirmed they are exclusive to their Droid Factory program. So there's 9.

R3 (purple, red) and R4 (blue, green, purple) are unique designs in Droid Factory. You can get other versions of them, and the green R4 is very similar to a 2008 release.

R2 (red with silver, blue, yellow, red, green) are pretty similar to previous figures so get which you want.

R7 (blue, yellow, black) are all in the "just different enough to make you mad" category. They're very similar to 2008 releases from Hasbro, but different enough where you may wish to buy them.

I would suggest grabbing an R6 in black, an R8 in black, and an R9 in red, but hey, grab what you can. If it weren't for the help and patience of Disney Cast Members and my pals Mike and Shannon I wouldn't have any of these!



The most frustrating thing about The Clone Wars this season is that, in terms of character design, it's one big toy commercial. The stories are also pretty compelling, but just look at the show and tell me it's not incredibly sad that Hasbro has all but abandoned new animated figures in the last year. In Saturday's episode we saw a rebuilt Darth Maul with human cybernetic legs and a shirt. That looked like it would make a great toy. A crew of upgraded Astromech droids? Absolutely. A squad of diverse Jedi Younglings? No question. From one week to the next we're being shown scores of amazing character designs and, since 2011, Hasbro's selection of new animated characters has been poor. Even that new wave shown at Celebration VI has 1 new character, and it's a clone trooper.

The worst thing is that I fear there may be no reason to see this change. With Iron Man 3 we're seeing new figures with about 5 joints at the $10 price point, but loaded with extra accessories and limbs... potentially worth the $10, but $6 figures are en route as well. With any luck Hasbro might consider making simplified animated figures because there are some fantastic Mandalorians and Sith and Jedi that, at $6, I can't imagine doing poorly - yes, even with 5 or 6 joints per figure. If anyone at Hasbro says "Geez, I dunno, a Cybernetic Darth Maul with Mandalorian legs? Who would buy this?" this person needs to be fired. Or at least made to answer my fan letters to Hasbro for six weeks. That'll learn 'em.

The show is getting really good and last week's installment was wall-to-wall fanboy wish fulfillment. Pre Vizsla, Black Sun, the return of the women of Death Watch, the Hutts, Embo, Dengar, and cameos galore PLUS Gamorrean Guard Arm Wrestling? This is what we probably all wanted on some level. Oh sure, some of you will dismiss this as pandering but I need you to shut up because awesome. If you saw this in your teens you'd lose your damn mind.

There's enough going on with "A" characters this season that I really hope we see an expansion of this storyline in plastic, either animated or "realistic." Pre Vizsla's redesign NOT having an action figure within the next couple of years would show some sort of bizarre control either from Hasbro or Lucasfilm, as (historically speaking) has any Mandalorian figure sold on an individual package failed to perform? The 2010-2011 Mandalorian Warriors from The Clone Wars were scarce and now qualify as expensive. If Hasbro moves away from the cartoon style I sincerely hope they realize that this avenue is ripe for exploitation, be it in the main line for for exclusives. We may be getting pickier, but we still love our Mandalorians and our Sith.

The 2012 line included a mere 18 characters (19 were promised), of which only 4 could be considered bad guys, and one of those is debatable. Star Wars fans love the villains more than the heroes, so why are they being ignored? C'mon. Easy money here. It was bad enough that Boba Fett was basically out of circulation in 2012, let's not leave fan dollars off the table for 2014.

--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.