Q&A: Figure Blogging, Heights Revised, Carbonites, and Other Fun

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 11, 2012

So, Astromech Droid Packs! Can you expect more? Take a guess. What's with Nien Nunb and his height issues? Does it bother me to be so wrong even when I'm right? Absolutely it does. And is that new Jar Jar Binks in Carbonite a figure or an accessory? Let's ask Mr. Owl in this week's Q&A!

1. Just a couple of quick Astromech questions. Given the popularity of the Royal Starship Droid pack is their any chance of Hasbro doing a Clone Wars pack using the new Build-a-Droid sculpt & offering a selection of R5 & R4 Droids?

Also would Hasbro ever consider doing a promotion with the UK Clone Wars Comic by including BAD Droid parts as the regular monthly free gift instead of the usual junk?

What Hasbro does is often a mix of their own desires and the needs of the marketplace-- so while you can bet everything you wrote has been considered, odds are it isn't going to happen. If the current Walmart Astromech pack doesn't get distributed appropriately-- my guess is it's sitting in a warehouse, waiting to show up at another retailer in the next couple of years-- that probably gets marked as a "fail" in their balance sheets, despite it not getting a fair shake at retail. And if memory serves, that's the first time a brick-and-mortar chain was ever offered an Astromech multipack in the sense you got more than 2 of the little guys in a box. So yeah, this is probably never going to happen, particularly with R4s and R5s in the animated style. Even standard Clone Wars figures are getting the short end of the stick now.

As to the UK Clone Wars Comic getting exclusive Hasbro bits? I certainly hope not. I don't like it when any region gets territorial exclusives, because then the other territories complain to me about it even though we're all in the same boat until Hasbro breaks down and reissues it later. As much as I think we would all like more droids out there, I don't think this would be the way to go about it. I assume we'd see them return in the basic action figure line before they gave them away for free.


2. Thanks for your thoughts re: the newly height challenged Nien Nunb in your Q and A [recently].

Here's a picture that shows the Nunb present at the briefing in ROTJ is roughly Billy Dee Williams' height (which is 6'.)

As I mentioned previously, what Lucasfilm sees as "the right height" varies, much like the color of Han's jacket. Also, that's Ten Numb. I don't give a crap what Hasbro claimed on the packaging, because it defies logic-- he's in a pilot suit. Why would any character dress up in a flight suit for a briefing, change in to civilian clothes to fly a ship, and then go put that flight suit back on to hang out and party in some forest? It makes zero sense. Ten Numb's white costume was referred to as a "prototype costume" in a few spots in the 1990s, and as far as I'm concerned the red costume is the final suit for Ten Numb. Lucasfilm can and does make mistakes. Moving on.

The height of this character, as I previously discussed, seems to change with time. Maybe Lucas cares. Maybe they don't. I don't know. What I do know is that the Expanded Universe and notes sometimes trump reality-- for examples, see the 2006 Imperial troops which suddenly started to have Jango Fett's face. We know for a fact that Jango Fett didn't exist in the 1980s, so this is sort of a retcon-- they happen a lot. Nien Nunb's height is, currently, supposedly short, and a taller character may be the result of a special effects oversight, or nobody caring or assuming you'd notice. We don't know and as far as I know, it's probably going to be pretty tough to track down a bunch of Lucasfilm people and say "OK, so there's this mouse-looking dude in these shots, and he's a puppet in these shots, but if he were a real person, how tall would he be?" At best, they'd probably just point you to whatever database they use for this and that would be that.

When it comes to these issues, "facts" are kind of useless. What do you feel he is, tall or short? As I pointed out, he was a taller figure in 1983. And short in 1997. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know that we saw Nein Nunb in a vest ever stand up, which adds a wrinkle to the whole thing. Action figures are sort of their own continuity unto themselves, and since Hasbro has been pretty game about making weird and bizarre examples of errors or things from fan perception, getting a really good answer might be tough. So he's tall, he's short, he's a B-Wing pilot, or he's not-- there's sufficient evidence out there where a good fan could sit back and document the whole thing. It's not necessarily a definitive answer, and even if it is-- that Nien Nunb is tall in the movie and short in the reference materials-- why is that? There's more to this than we have sufficient data to neatly explain away, or at least my limited ability to research this stuff tells me that this is an issue with no conclusive answer yet. Even if we assume that your picture is Nien and is "correct."


3. Admiral Ackbar is a pretty popular character, right? When his younger self showed up on Clone Wars, I figured he'd be a shoo-in for figuredom. Especially when other characters in that episode were turned into figures!

They already have a young Calamarian head sculpt (Nahdar Vebb)...I get that Hasbro's making a line for kids and scaling back this year, but you would think Ackbar would be a hit with the kids (weird alien), fans of the series (good guy amphibian to go with the Scuba Clones!) and collectors (holy cow! Another Ackbar!) and even a casual Original Trilogy fan.

Basically nothing is a shoo-in for Clone Wars really... they're just not supporting the line. If they stick to their "Only 19 figures this year!" guns, it doesn't give us much hope for ANY new Clone Wars characters. I mean, where's Darth Maul? Or Dengar, or the new armored young Boba Fett, or a new Asajj Ventress, or countless other decent second-tier characters? I'm pretty sure Hasbro realized The Clone Wars was pretty collector-heavy in 2010, but they seem to be seesawing back and forth as to what it really is and I'm not sure if it's due to changing management or what, but I'm gonna guess we won't get an animated Ackbar, as much as that pains me because I want one too.


4. There has been some debate at our website over whether or not the Jar Jar in Carbonite toy is to be considered a figure. There is obviously no traditional figure that comes with it and it basically is an imprint of a character, basically making it an accessory. However, it does come on its own card which seems to justify it being a figure to some members of my site. Others feel that if this 'toy' is considered to be a figure, shouldn't other carbonite slabs also be considered as figures? i.e. the slave I's han in carbonite, the vintage han in carb., the POTF2 han in carbonite's slab, and the 2006 saga collection han carb. slab. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts (and eventually see your FOTD) on this "gem".

I was speaking to collector and you friend and mine Dan Curto on this issue-- "what counts as a figure?"-- and his answer was an interesting one. "Count it!" Not specifically Jar Jar Carbonite, but in general-- his school of thought was if it's different in any way, it's new, and count it. This is probably the easiest way to do it, but to me it's not how I'd want to display loose figures, but that's more of my problem than anything else.

Using The Curto Rule, I would say yes-- this counts. If Hasbro puts it on its own cardback (and I believe that's what's happening), and is marketed as a figure, then it counts as a figure. Sort of like how the Nexu came out in figure packaging-- it unquestionably (to me) is an action figure, which opens us up to things like the Reek or the Acklay-- are they figures? I'd go toward no since they aren't marketed in those assortments, but your mileage may vary. Likewise, I wouldn't count the Slave I Carbonite since it's an accessory to the vehicle, and wasn't marked as "Includes Bonus Carbonite Figure!" on the box.

To me, yes, Jar Jar Binks in Carbonite is unquestionably a figure. It's not part of a traditional "whole," and while it's not being sold on its own, it's not packaged with Jar Jar Binks. (And honestly, if it were, I wouldn't count it as a separate figure-- marketing counts in my book.) So yeah, if I can get one, it goes in Figure of the Day. I'm watching Tunghori. I don't want to buy the whole big cumbersome boxed set. (Shame on you Hasbro for not ever considering luggage restrictions!)


5. In Monday's Q&A, I read your comment " the big awesome toy for Q4 is not remotely awesome" with interest.

Personally, I like the scale of my Japanese Pepsi MTT better than the Hasbro version, but it's obviously lacking any of the electronics or features that we'll see in the Rhode Island product.

I think the mechanical features and sounds effects on the new MTT are cool and I know I'll be buying one, but I worry that it's not going to have the kind of kid appeal required to make it a success. If the kids do ignore it, I'm worried it won't bode well for the big vehicle program, particularly when the Star Wars offerings are being pared back so dramatically already.

What are your thoughts? Why are you not a fan of it? Will it appeal to kids? Collectors? Both? Neither? If it flops, what degree of jeopardy would the big vehicle program be in?

This item smells like a failure. That's no knock against the hard-working engineers, designers, and creative folks who will make this item so I can own one and treasure it in my walk-in toy box I call a home. I'm going to get it, and it's going to be neat to play around with-- but this is not a toy for kids. Kids aren't going to ask for this and it's a safe bet that Phantom Menace stuff will be phased out of the marketplace before it even hits.

It's going to be really expensive. In this economy that may not mean much-- all toys are pretty expensive-- and the value is there. (1 MTT = about 12-15 figures at retail.) It's a big ship from a movie which didn't make a very big splash at the box office this year, and is not featured heavily in The Clone Wars. Unless I'm dumb, and I fully admit I am stupid, there's no significant Q3 or Q4 marketing push behind Battle Droids to make this one sing. The Republic Attack Shuttle was a super-cool toy, but fizzled. The MTT is more expensive, has less heroic characterization, has no core character involvement, and is coming out a whopping 7 months after the big marketing push for the movie is over.

I could be wrong, and maybe Hasbro is going to play it safe and make this one hard-to-get. I believe it exists for very much the same reasons we got some Big Giant Toys in the 1980s, simply as a way for Hasbro to say "Star Wars is still huge, see what we're doing to support it? This is an amazing flagship toy, now support the rest of our Phantom Menace stuff dadgummit!" I see it less of a toy than as a political gesture, and in this environment it seems peculiar. Is the MTT seen a wise movie, but a new Boba Fett in a cool new suit is just not going to make the cut this year? It's just like how the Vintage vehicle line sucks-- it's 3 vehicles that already exist and didn't have much (any?) real pent-up demand. The MTT is probably going to trip up as it hits retail shelves. And if I'm dead wrong and we have some sort of evidence that Hasbro made this in the same or greater quantities as the Republic Shuttle AND it's a big success, I personally am inviting all of you to remind me and rub my nose in it next January. The only way I learn is when people beat me over the head with my many failures, most of which are buried under the rug.



This is semi-off-topic, but it's worth it. It's about He-Man action figures. Stay with me, people, you should be able to get something from this one.

Mattel has been making a line of collector-level Masters of the Universe Classics for the past few years as a direct-to-consumer line, which is an interesting synthesis of a toy company assembling top-notch talent and people who pour over the details with an attempt at distribution that has been specifically requested with subscriptions. Love it or hate it, it's a fascinating experiment with some really neat figures and a possible Ghost of Christmas Future for Star Wars. Will we see ClubKenner.com in 2015 where we get 24 figures a year, 2 per month, at $30 a hit? Heck if I know. But let's get back to why I wrote this bit: there's a decent amount of transparency here, despite the line's problems it's the sort of thing that makes me happy and excited to be online in an era where toy companies have fan-savvy employees telling us great stories.

I've been reading a series of blog entries from Mattel's "ToyGuru," a nice chap who is one of the few people in this business who really loves (and collects) toys and does his homework. (In case you're wondering, I keep the list. It's a stone tablet and yes, some of the people on it do work at Hasbro.) Anyway, this guy put out seven of these blog entries so far-- they're kind of long-- but they're some of the most fascinating peeks into the toy industry I've read in years. Normally I'd suggest you look into things like the book Toy Wars, Steve Sansweet's Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible, and any issues of Tomart's Action Figure Digest with in-depth interviews with anyone from the toy industry-- but this is something I'm adding to your required reading list.

In them, you'll find all sorts of tidbits on how companies make the most of tooling, how suits at some companies perceive packaging and deco authenticity, and just how much history and research can go into developing an action figure line. While it has little to nothing to do with Star Wars, it has a lot to do with better understanding the toy business as it affects us. So read 'em.

#1: King Grayskull
#2: He-Man
#3: Beast Man
#4: Skeletor
#5: Stratos
#6: Faker
#7: Zodac

...it should take you an hour or two. But you want to know more about how action figures are made, right? Well, OK, I do. I love this stuff.

--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.


I've been collecting both Star Wars and the MOTU Classics lines - all I can say is that if Hasbro ever goes the route of Internet clubs they really, *really* need to make sure they have a good fulfillment center partner. Digital River, the company that handles MOTU Classics (as well all the other MattyCollector.com lines), is by far the worst company I, and certainly many of my fellow MOTU collectors, have ever dealt with. ToyGuru takes a tremendous amount of heat for DR's screw-ups, so I'm kind of surprised Mattel has stuck with them from the beginning.

One thing Hasbro would have running against it with the Internet club deal is - what is there left to make that hasn't already been done a couple times over? For MOTU, they're tackling characters that never got done in either the 80s line or the 200X line. For Star Wars, they would have to do something incredibly different to make it work, maybe like making the figures at a larger scale than 3.75" with other premium upgrades.

I know I've said it before,

I know I've said it before, but I really would rather not see a Star Wars Internet Club. As a line with lots of retail support still, it's not like it would be in Hasbro's interest to limit its distribution just yet. Star Wars is still viable as a mainstream, mass-market toy property that kids and apparently families will buy.

As to figures left to do, can we count Expanded Universe or Kenner-themed repaints? Clone Wars alone could probably mean 30-50 interesting new figures per season, we've still got 4 (or more) vintage Kenner figures needing modern updates, plus there's still a market for reissues of several figures (Malak/Revan/Pre-Cyborg Grevious.) There are a few stragglers left to do from the films, but there are enough Jedi or almost-finished Pod Racers or Cantina patrons, plus things from Jabba's palace or senators, to keep collectors in figures for a few years. I think I saw someone make a list of unmade movie characters at one point and while incomplete, it was several pages long and most of them were pretty interesting (if not necessarily viable) candidates. Fake Wedge? Sim Aloo? People from Dex's Diner? If Hasbro feels like it, there are years left in the line. Not at big numbers, necessarily, but the material is there to be mined.

I don't know if I'd be on board for another larger-scale more expensive line at this point. Sideshow's got one, Medicom's got one, we got Unleashed a few years ago, Diamond did their 1:4 scale figures briefly. I could see it being an interesting jumping-on point for new collectors, but Hasbro's Toy Fair offerings of Fighter Pods, Jedi Force, and Ampd seem to be reaching out to the next generation of collectors. (Having said that, a MOTUC/DCUC/Marvel Legends-compatible Boba Fett would probably be the coolest thing ever. But $$$.)

Toy Guru

That's a great read. It definitely gives a unique look behind the scenes and I hope the Star Wars brand team takes good note. Since DP has stepped back, there's been a noticeable diminishment in collector focused interaction; the lack of Q&A updates and collector site communications, the recent gaffe with the TF powerpoint presentation, which I think DP's intimate engagement made a difference . I don't even know who's the brand manager now because no one really has made the effort to reach out. I know it's probably not their priority, but the passion gap is noticeable.

Having said that, I see what you see. Toy Guru gets it and could be a viable alternative for future Star Wars once mainstream retail is no longer sustainable.