Q&A time, kids! POTF2's 20th Anniversary is coming up - what should you expect? Should you get your hopes up for new Astromech Droids in 2013? A little bit, yeah. And what about vintage 1980s variants - are they worth a look? Some! Read on, and be sure to send in your questions for our next exciting installment.
1. Do you know much about LEGO Star Wars? I purchased the LEGO Mini Figure Series 9 Forest Maiden for my daughter and the hair piece is a great match to Ewok Village Leia! Check it out: http://minifigures.lego.com/en-us/Bios/Default.aspx#Forest This is a NEW hair piece, if molded in dark brown would be a perfect match for a Princess Leia figure. Can we hope for more Ewok/Endor themed LEGO soon?
It's possible but LEGO doesn't have a lot of information out there as to future releases which can be shared, so all I can do is speculate and say good eye! LEGO frequently designs figure parts with reuse in mind, so it's very likely that this was on their mind when creating it. Maybe we'll see something at Comic-Con if not sooner, unless I missed an announcement, which is entirely possible. The minifigure line from LEGO has been pretty great from a non-Star Wars perspective with Classic Space-themed guys, a girl in a bee costume, and robots galore. Oh, and Blacktron guys. That's awesome.
2. In the original 1970's 12 figure line up, Luke famously came with a yellow lightsaber and Ben's card showed him holding a yellow lightsaber, even though both characters had blue sabers in Star Wars. I have always assumed that these mistakes were akin to the Blue Snaggletooth situation in that the design process, reference material provided to Kenner and the development lead-in time allowed for errors to be made which simply weren't caught in time, plus the fact that in all likelihood some of the designers themselves perhaps thought it didn't matter overly which colour saber the characters had.
I understand how that could have happened for the figures made for Star Wars, but my question is, what was Kenner's excuse for Bespin Luke's yellow saber in the first Empire figure assortment? By the time the second film rolled around, Star Wars had become the biggest film of all time, and you would have thought that the Kenner toy designers, not to mention Lucasfilm, might have caught the mistake and not allowed Luke to be released once again with an incorrectly coloured yellow saber. Is there an official Kenner / Hasbro explanation for this curious error, as I've never heard it if there is?
While it might be in a book that I've missed, I've never seen an official answer for this. My crazy speculation would assume it could be Kenner trying to be consistent with Luke from figure to figure, and/or botched preproduction information. Remember, more than one vintage Kenner lightsaber toy came with a yellow blade, like the inflatable lightsaber. Lucasfilm never corrected them (or maybe they didn't care to back then), plus the original Star Wars lightsaber colors are a little less clearly defined. Luke's weapon wasn't always clearly blue, and the color isn't consistent from shot to shot.
If memory serves, Bespin Luke also hit in 1980 - meaning it's likely that the lightsaber shots weren't entirely finished when the figure was made, giving Lucasfilm and Kenner a pretty solid excuse for not having final reference material. (We've seen a lot of this with Prequel figures where Hasbro used preliminary designs or made up a lightsaber color.) If anyone out there has heard a story about this, I'd love to hear it, but I can only speculate it's the same lack of accurate reference that caused problems with so many modern-era figures.
The 1970s (and 1980s) were peppered with toys that showed shortcuts on the part of the toymakers, as words like "authenticity" were rather uncommon adjectives when describing toys. Heck, even in the 1990s - Kenner used a Super Powers-design for the Penguin in the Batman Returns line. If anything, the yellow lightsabers are just sort of par for the course.
3. If my understanding is correct, the Yoda-carded international line has three astromechs: (1) an animated R2-D2, (2) a realistic R2-D2 and (3) a realistic R4-P17.
You have already indicated in a previous Q&A that the animated R2-D2 is new and that the realistic R2-D2 appears to be old. What about the R4-P17? (And what about its non-US release date? Is it in a wave 2 or something?)
The realistic R4-P17 is, as far as I can tell, a new mold coming not in the Yoda line but in the "Mustafar Vader" line which should be coming later this year unless Hasbro changes it. It's part of the first wave of the Fall line-up as one of the new Saga Legends figures and, again, should be in the USA unless Hasbro changes their minds. And they might.
4. What are the most common variations I should be looking for in the vintage [1978-1985] line?
While I wouldn't consider any vintage collection complete without a blue Sears Snaggletooth, I would generally stay away from the bulk of variations for the vintage 1980s line. There are tons of "batch variations" and most of the significant (or at the very least interesting) ones are sort of expensive. For a line that ran for so long, Kenner did a great job of making a design and largely sticking with it (with few, but a few, changes.)
Personally, I love blue lightsaber Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker but I never actually tracked one down. Big and small head 1978 Han Solo are (if you ask me) both worth going after, and I did shell out some coin for a Vinyl Cape Jawa a long time (and a few hundred dollars cheaper) ago - but I honestly prefer the cloth cape one. Other things like Luke's hair, or the telescoping lightsabers are neat but can be expensive. The many Bespin Leia variations are largely worth ignoring. Some figures can come with different guns, like Snaggletooth - I've seen him with the Stormtrooper gun, Han Solo gun, and Bespin gun all on cards over the years. (You can see this on eBay, too.) I hold the original line in very high esteem, but unless I did carded figures I'd say just grab one of everybody and call it a day - and if you don't notice a variation exists, count your lucky starts that you just saved a few bucks.
Just to beat home the point, I do suggest all of you who have said "I'm tired of not getting anything new in stores this year!" go to eBay, a local collector store like Toy Anxiety, or an online vintage shop like Brian's Toys or BBTS and grab some real loose vintage guys. Walrus Man, Snaggletooth, Hammerhead, and Greedo are a good place to start because they exist in this fun nebulous world between movie authenticity and Kenner's imaginations in 1979. Even better, the designs are slowly crawling into the official canon, Walrus Man made an appearance on The Clone Wars last year retroactively making him one of the very first The Clone Wars action figures (after Chewie and a couple of droids, I guess.)
5. We are approaching a very important milestone here - 2015 will be the 20th anniversay of the rebirth of Star Wars action figures! POTF95 turns 20 in just 2 years! If for no other reason, I really hate to see any interruption in new 3 3/4 inch Star Wars figures at retail just so I can say I've been with the line for twenty years! Even if I get a small handful of new OT figures this year and next, I'm hoping that the line does NOT go on hiatus prior to the 2015 Episode 7 relaunch.
So here's my main question: What would YOU like to see as a celebration of POTF95's 20th anniversary? Personally, I'd like to see Hasbro finish the remaining unmade Vintage figures over the next few years, and I'd love to see an updated basic-carded Cantina Bandmember (widely available and at more than 1-per-case!)
I guarantee you Hasbro will be working hard to never remind any adult fan that they've been buying and re-buying the same figures since 1995. Anniversaries have the dubious element of reminding people what kind of time and money they spent in a relationship, in this case with Kenner. Most fans sadly do not appreciate or enjoy the action figures of the pre-Phantom Menace modern line and they're largely forgotten. The fact that the line simply still exists and has run somewhere in the world fairly consistently for almost two decades is nothing short of a miracle, particularly given that the 1995 action figure line was successful with nothing more than built-in fan love and a VHS re-re-release.
I would be very happy to see Hasbro flush the whole super-articulated $10-$13 Vintage figure concept down the toilet. But if they keep the packaging, that'd be fine - it uses less material than most of the other styles of packaging out there. I'd like to see them switch to 5 or 6 points of articulation permanently, ensuring figures can a) sit down in ships, b) hold their weapons, and c) don't cost more than $6.
I'm not kidding either. I've written over 2,000 damn figure reviews and I'm tired of this $13 per for a "new" figure with 2 slightly better joints business. Vintage 2012 Darth Vader (Star Wars cardback) isn't significantly better than 2006/2007 ANH Darth Vader (Obi-Wan Cloak), plus the 2006 one was cheaper, included a coin, could grip a lightsaber with both hands, and had zero problems being posed to sit in a Darth Vader TIE Fighter Vehicle. Does having horizontal hip movement make it better? No. Just more expensive.
So if Hasbro wants to make me happy, for the 20th anniversary they can go back to making toys kids can play with. I don't keep my stuff in the packaging, so I don't care how it looks in a Star Case on a shelf with hundreds of other figures I'll never touch. I don't see why people are so happy buying thousands of action figures that live their plastic lives in some sort of weird "bubble boy" metaphor. What's the point of fetishizing articulation if you never use it, and at the same time never realize how some of the joints don't work so well?
My Toys R Us Vintage Collection AT-AT (Endor version) is here, as I found it and bought it for around $64 courtesy a few online coupons and a stack of unused "Rewards" credit. For that price? Totes worth it. For $129.99? Maybe. The original one is tough to search for on eBay due to noise terms and inconsistent nomenclature, but a few of the ESB-themed 2010 Hoth versions cost more than this (and add shipping in for added ugh factor.) The deco is nice, the Speeder Bike is properly colored, and the driver is unique - this is the only AT-AT Driver figure with black gloves and boots. Now some of you may be saying "that's a stupid reason to buy that" and to you I say "Yes, and I still want to buy that stupid Movie Heroes European Boba Fett from last year and the MH22 Battle Droid, help?" Those without AT-ATs should get this one. THose with... see if you can get the cost down a little.
...it's a little sad to say this, because as I write this it's set up in my living room/office. The AT-AT is a massive vehicle, but its delays, high price tag, and not-different-enough-ness is kind of a drag. Between the first and second AT-AT in the modern era, roughly 9 years went by... and then 3 more for the next new mold... and then another 2 1/2 for this one. The market didn't really need it yet, but that makes it a pretty apt metaphor for the line as a whole. "Here's a new Luke." "But the old one is just as good." "Well, if you don't get it, we won't make more." I'm really hoping people who missed the original come out to get this one. I know there's some speculation that reports are saying stores are only getting 1 or 2 units, but that's 1 or 2 units for the first shipment. The runs are estimated tens of thousands on these things, so more always come down the road later. Remember this: when is the last time you never saw a Toys R Us exclusive? Generally if you wait a month (and check back once or twice a week) you'll see it. And in the case of Kul Teska you'll see him for a very. Long. Time.
"Will there be a book of all the FOTDs on Kickstarter or otherwise?" you asked. Probably not. With over 2,000 entries, it would have to be a few books and I don't know if the market exists. Plus many of the photos were taken in 2006 and are pretty low-res... reshooting, reformatting, and actually designing the book would probably mean something like an hour or so for 1-2 reviews. If you guys want some sort of volume of figure stuff to read on the toilet, keep leaving comments and/or call your literary agent relatives and I'm sure that could happen someday. (I don't think the market is there, but hey, you guys read this and I have no idea what you think half the time.) When I started writing online in 1995 one of my goals was "I'd like to do a book!" but self-publishing was never intended to be part of the equation.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.