Q&A: Fast Toys, Fast Cars, Vintage Three Packs

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 9, 2013

Your long, national nightmare is over - it's Q&A! What does the future of Vintage 3-Packs look like? I'm guessing not great. And what's the best way to clean aging figures as they get oily or greasey? We have a couple of options for you. And don't forget, as slow as things have been, new vintage exclusive vehicles (well old ones in new boxes, at least) are on the way! All this and fast toy cars in Q&A!


1. I just saw the AFX Exclusive Jumbo Special Action Figure Droid Set. It got me thinking about the Target sets from the past few years. Do you think that Hasbro will complete the Special Action Figure Sets? I like the venue and would like to see the vintage line recreated in its entirety. There were 16 original sets, and we 11 sets have been reproduced.

Hasbro's exclusive program has changed drastically over the last few years, in part because it no longer seems to be doing as much here.

It's possible Hasbro and Target will need another exclusive item in the near future but I wouldn't be too hopeful that Hasbro will want to "complete the set," given that hasn't been an historic goal for them. (I mean, we're over 2,000 figures in and we still haven't seen an update to the original 92.) At this point I wouldn't hold your breath, but this is exactly the kind of item that would make good sense to put out in that hammock between the new TV show in 2014 and the new movie in 2015.... oh who am I kidding, does ANYONE believe it will make it on time?



2. I'm not sure if it's just the way I've been reading into things, but the reactions towards the 3 3/4" Black Series and new Saga Legends seems mixed to poor (personally, I'm excited about the potential for Saga Legends -- cheaper figures that actually function as toys? What's not to love about that?!). I'm interested in your take on how much of that is due to poor character choices on Hasbro's part versus line fatigue? Looking back over the years, it seems like Hasbro never went into a "non-movie year" retail plan after "Revenge of the Sith," giving the line a chance to rest, but instead continued flooding the market with merchandise. At the same time, they seem intent on putting out remake after remake of characters while plenty of interesting designs get ignored (the Gella sisters, Sim Aloo, Gamorrean Clown, etc.). I know there's no way to make everybody happy, but is there a way to get at least the bulk of the community engaged again prior to the new movies being released? If you were in charge of the line, what would you do?

If I were in charge, I'd kill 3 3/4-inch for a year. This is why nobody puts me in charge. (That and, uh, nobody asked.)

In order to do really cool, really weird figures you need both a strong collector element and a stronger kid element - look at the insane stuff in other toy lines, like LEGO or Hot Wheels. When you have a 4-foot army buying the stuff, you can experiment more and get away with a lot. When you take a collector/kid line and try too hard to target it to either audience, you may see a disruption in both areas (like we saw in 2012 in the Maul-packaged stuff) or, of course, just the growing disinterest in a line that has lived far beyond its intended lifespan. Remember, most movie-based toy lines don't last more than a year beyond the theatrical release date.

As time goes on it's entirely possible that our best days as collectors are behind us, so figures like the Gamorrean Clown are probably like to never, ever see plastic. Thankfully the Imperial Dignitary Sim Aloo has about three decades of mild recognition and demand, and the Gella sisters have limited (but undeniable) recognition. The kids that grew up with The Phantom Menace didn't return to the hobby as adult collectors, so more than ever what Hasbro will probably want to do is really, really try to engage the axis of dad+son to bring people into the fold, which, if you've seen this year's product line, you see is not going to happen.

Because of the sheer quantity of figures, Hasbro basically has to do remakes of existing figures or the line hasn't got a chance. At the same time, though, they have to try some new things or long-time fans (or bigger kids) will say "I've got these already." I'm quite surprised they're not cranking out any new Clone Trooper repaints as easy "new" figures.

...but to answer your question, last year when we saw the new "Droid Factory" (now Black Series) wave 1, it was odd. A lot of people were all smiles and happy, but I was immediately peeved because I had all those figures and most of them were available recently. I've been asked by more than a few fans what my reactions were on the "recent reveals," and the funny thing was that I know I talked to these guys about these figures last year - and they had forgotten them. As such, yeah, we're gonna be in trouble for 3 3/4-inch unless Hasbro has an ace up their sleeve, or is willing to rest it, take a huge step back, and totally rethink what's coming out, for who, and when, and why.

It's easy to poo-poo the Revenge of the Sith-themed Saga Legends, but remember Hasbro had this planned out around a movie release that didn't happen. The rug was pulled from under them, and let's be honest - prequel reissues immediately following Blu-Ray reissues was probably not a great marketing move in the first place. I assume (hope?) things will get better when it's time for the new movie.


3. Adam, I'm a loose 3-3/4" collector and have noticed recently that many of the figures that I have on display are beginning to develop a sticky, greasy residue on them. I vaguely remember hearing about this problem before and I'm hoping that there's a straightforward way to clean them without causing any damage to the figures. Any suggestions beyond warm water and elbow-grease?

Vintage 1980s figures (especially ESB-era stuff) and figures from 2002-2004 seem to be having a similar problem to the one you describe, depending on the environment and other factors I haven't nailed down just yet. In the 2002-2004 case, the grease actually makes it look like the figure has yellowed or greened - and this stuff can be wiped off.

I've heard a few people chime in on this and nothing I've tried has been better than a damp paper towel and a lot of rubbing. Dipping the figure in boiling water seems to move things along faster but it might be my imagination. I've heard Playmobil collectors are fond of cleaning their plastic in the dishwasher, but I have not yet experimented with that on action figures. Or any toys, actually. If you feel like giving it a shot, let me know what happens.


4. [In addition to the Hot Wheels $1 Enterprise] Have you seen any other Trek toys from the new film? I had no idea they were out until you mentioned it, and I had just returned from Target and Wally World. At least there could have been a reissue of the last movie's electronic Enterprise (which I got at super clearance at Target for $3). Do you think there are no toys for this movie because the ones from 2009 sold poorly?

There are very few - I'm told Mattel's 6-inch die-cast ships will be shipping any day now in the USA, and Hasbro has both Kre-o and Fighter Pods at Toys R Us. I have neither seen nor heard of any big box stores carrying Star Trek Into Darkness assortments, but you can find some of them online. A lot of the new movie merch surrounds things like pins, rings, and uniforms.

While there were other things in development for the movie the world never saw, that's true about most things. As far as I know (and I could be wrong) Playmates no longer has the movie license and the current holder opted not to do a heck of a lot beyond what you see on store shelves. Blame an apathetic toy buyer at the various big stores, I guess. That's what you get when you don't have me picking your products!


5. Hey Adam saw the Biggs X-wing and Tie interceptor listed at Toy Palace and was wondering do you know if the X-wing is a new sculpt or is it based off the older mold?

Based on what I've overheard, the X-Wing is based on the mold used for a Toys R Us exclusive a couple of years ago - remember the Death Star Trench Run gift set? That X-Wing had some new compartments and torpedo launchers installed, so it's a re-revised version of the classic 1998 Power FX X-Wing. I dig it, depending on how many X-Wings you have it may not be essential.



This week, I was in Los Angeles to meet with some toy people about new things and pretend like I was getting some work done. And they put in a new air conditioner at home, which was crazy expensive to have done in Phoenix on a day when it's 110 degrees outside. I need to put out a tip jar. Speaking of, for those of you who clicked on the 16bit.com Amazon or EE or other banners, I really appreciate it. Thank you! (My place got up to 99 last Friday which, let me tell you, is not something that's pleasant.)

For those looking into the next generation of video game consoles, it looks like it's going to get more unpleasant (and makes the fact I probably won't have the cash even easier to handle). Microsoft confirmed that most of the Xbox One (that's the name of the new 2013 box, seriously) rumors about being broken by design - you have to jump through hoops merely to loan a game to a friend, rentals are not allowed, you have to go through authorized resellers for used games - so now we get to see what Sony has planned for the Playstation 4. As a person with a healthy love of classic gaming, I shudder to think a console will require connection to a server to play a game mostly because it's a safe bet that the server will, some day, maybe in 5 or 10 years, stop working. Microsoft isn't known for its long-term support of its hardware, as we saw original Xbox game servers pulled down a couple of years ago and the Zune is pretty dead. The Wii U, which nobody is buying, seems to be the least problematic so far. I'm just happy toys don't have these ridiculous hoops to jump through for me to enjoy the product... well... OK, so there's a few of them. Like the one in July in San Diego.

Perhaps I'm being hyperbolic but I'm reminded of Divx, the disposable "rental" format sold at Circuit City and a few other stores which were dead to me for several years while they carried it. I'm not saying don't buy the next Xbox, just be aware that there are going to be limitations imposed on you regarding choice, ownership, and the like from here on out. I'd suggest just getting an Atari 2600 or an NES at this point. Sure, your kids will hate you, but at least the damn things may still work after 30 years.

What else?

I got a Hot Wheels car that's a money clip called "Fast Cash," as a thing to remind me what I don't have. No seriously - it's a nifty clip on four wheels, so I have it on my desk and it's clutching various coupons for things. I suppose it would be a great way to hang on to business cards too. As the whole car collecting thing is somewhat foreign to me I'm pretty delighted when I see a new (to me) one with some sort of functionality beyond merely being a car.

Semi-related, I was wondering last week what, if any, Hot Wheels car had been declared "fastest." Surely one must have extra-spinny wheels or the right combination of weight and lift, and then I stumbled on this page declaring the fastest car to actually be from Matchbox. It's a pretty neat, very 1980s-looking toy Datsun with "laser wheels" and apparently some sort of fancy track to measure speed, from the look of things. (Should you read the article, the "Fast Track" thing is a custom-made gizmo with computer connections from Micro Wizard that costs a lot of cash.) I'm looking for more updates on this because I can't imagine that Mattel wouldn't have decided (or engineered) the fastest car ever and then played it up on the packaging. I know they make "Fastest Ever!" cars but I'm curious what that really means.

With any luck we'll have some new Star Wars stuff to talk about soon. Who'd have thought I'd be in a future writing about Mordles (see 16bit.com next week for a feature) while waiting for one of the longest gaps between Hasbro releases in recent memory?

--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.

fastest car

I too am surprised it is not a Hot Wheels-titled car, but since Mattel now owns both brands, it is probably not high on their priority list.