Welcome to Galactic Hunter Q&A's 2012 Season Finale! Let's talk playsets and the infusion of new product thanks to Christmas. We can also talk about Hasbro's greatest Star Wars hits while you watch me whine incessantly about figure and vehicle compatibility. Oh, and robots.
1. Quick question :How well do the new movie heroes Anakin and POTJ Sebulba fit in their respective podracers?
I would describe this as "Suckadelic" but a fantastic artist has already claimed that word, so let's go with "craptacularly." Sebulba POTJ/DTF is too big to fit in without using The Force, and he's squeezed in pretty dang tight. Anakin sort of fits but the arms are not posed appropriately. Your best bet is to dig out the 1999 Pod Racers with figures, as those figures were actually designed to fit with the vehicles.
2. I'm a huge fan of SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE. I'd love to see a movie (ala Clone Wars digital animation) that gives us this tale on screen. And possibly even more, I'd love to see a super-articulated Dash, Luke w/ vest (easy for Hasbro), Guri, Leebo, and more than anything Chewie as Snoova. Is this a pipe dream? It seems with the novel, Dark Horse Comic, the video games, and use of original trilogy locales and characters -- that there'd be plenty of marketing reasons to revisit this chapter in the Star Wars saga. What's your take?
If you take a big step back at the line, the non-TV Expanded Universe has taken an smaller role since 2010. Sure, we've got Clone Wars, but beyond that we've had most of our figural activity come from The Force Unleashed and The Old Republic. Hasbro has hinted that some of these bigger stories are more of where they want to go, so I would not hold your breath over new versions of Dash Rendar and Guri (and Luke with the vest, which is tops on my wish list too) for a while.
As with anything, you can see if you can stir up support for this kind of thing but I can pretty much guarantee you that it won't be incredibly likely in the next 1-2 years, and may be even less likely once Disney's new movies take over all the non-classic slots.
The kids of 1996 really got in to this story and game, but it seems that if you weren't a kid who asked for and/or got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas in the mid-1990s this is probably not a project and story you're gunning for. I can hope, it'd be great, but a lot of these older games have already seen their time come and go. The comic packs of 2006-2010 were a small miracle, unless Chinese labor costs go down and the amount of collectors go up I think we're not going to see much more from this corner of the universe except maybe in Fighter Pods. (Or unless Disney makes a Shadows of the Empire-inspired movie or TV show. We're getting a "Days of Future Past" movie so anything is possible.)
3. Of all of the Action figure collections that Hasbro/Kenner had put out in the past for Star Wars not including the real vintage collection from the 80's which one do you think was the most exciting? Meaning best verity of characters also successful/profitable most popular etc??
I know what I would say just as a collector but I'm curious what a more professional point of view would be?
Would a Business like Hasbro base it solely on profit or the over all "big picture" since they clam they may have a few fans employed at there company?
I like the 2004 line, with the first new Vintage guys and the original Original Trilogy Collection. Great packaging, smart use and reuse of existing tooling, a lower price point at $4.99, and some wonderfully experimental ideas. Oh, plus stands. I loved those Dagobah stands. And most of the characters and vehicles were recognizable and popular. It combined Hasbro's fetish for reuse with the collector retro packaging kink like nobody's business. Plus the prices were great, and those first Vintage figures were, let's say, 75% pretty awesome to this very day!
It's also the only "basic" line where I actively pursued a complete packaged in-package set as part of my collection. The backgrounds were just too awesome. It really showed that Hasbro knew how to push beyond the lower price points and do something fans would love with the 2004 Vintage, while basically combining retro packaging and Saga Legends into something really amazing with the OTC basic line. There weren't many new figures for the back half of 2004 but man, it didn't matter. I loved those Jawas and Tuskens and Gamorrean repaints.
4. I'm over the fact that almost nothing was available in my small town AT RETAIL my question is we have one month left of 2012 where is all of the stock that never made itto stores?, Are they still trying to get stuff to the big box stores? Do you think they will try to sell items they didn't get out this year next year as well, along with all the Yoda Package stuff? Would Hasbro ever just come out and say we made very few of each figure and that is why they are hard to get? I'm sure I'm wrong but something is not right here myself and I'm sure many sceptical fans who have been collecting since the 80's deserve an explanation?
Explanation? Really? We've been here doing this since 1995, or earlier if you were involved in Galoob's Micro lines. We don't get explanations. Sometimes things just aren't the way we like. We deal with it.
Stores are indeed getting new stuff, I'm seeing quite a bit of older product showing up. Well, new old product. SCUBA Ahsoka, Lost Line figures, wave 2 and 3 mini-rigs, etc. It's out there. I saw dozens more Walmart 8-packs this weekend, still at $25, but now including "Wave 2" 2012 Movie Heroes (i.e., light-up Jedi, Rocket Bockpack Anakin, etc. And the awesome Jar Jar. Totes worth it.)
As stuff sells down, stores order more. It's always this way, and this time of year people buy without thinking... so until the SKUs are discontinued for the assortments, you'll see more new new and old new product showing up. I even saw Series 3 Fighter Pods 4-packs... I didn't see one with the Holographic Obi-Wan Kenobi I still need, but hey, at least Kmart is getting them out there now.
The Yoda line look should usher in new assortment SKUs. What does that mean to you? New DPCIs, new assortments, and basically the line starts over. It's a new legit wave 1 so this year's stuff will likely be cleared out (or just not reordered) as the new Yoda Line Look and Droid Factory stuff starts making the rounds. The 2010-2011 Vintage SKU SHOULD have been discontinued but wasn't, which I find baffling. It did get a new assortment for 2012 but big box didn't kill the old one, which probably means someone was asleep at the wheel in that department at Target and Toys R Us.
Hasbro doesn't make very few of every figure. It's not in their business model to do so. The stuff is being made, you can order it online as much as you want (so far), and these cases have been available all year long. All evidence says they made plenty and, like the Transformers of early 2011, stores just didn't get it for some reason.
I see no evidence that Star Wars at Hasbro is anything but an overall net positive for the company. WE'RE not thrilled with it, but as someone who's been getting Hasbro's hate mail repeatedly since 1995 (AND DOES NOT WANT IT) I can tell you that this is more or less normal. To paraphrase a semi-satirical article I read about a month ago it's important to remember that as a rule, Star Wars fans are never happy.
5. I read that Mattel’s Castle Grayskull playset received enough pre-orders to get it made. Why won’t Hasbro jump on something like this for SW? As SW is such a larger brand than He-Man, it just seems like a no-brainer way for Hasbro to make money and, at the same time, make the collectors who would kill for playsets (like me) happy?
Short answer: different corporate outlooks.
Mattel is very collector-focused in spots and has a historically iffy run with American mainstream action figure buyers. They do super-chase figures, ultra-limited editions, and direct-to-consumer lines as part of the norm, while Hasbro (with all its problems) does not focus its efforts to make life for collectors... shall we say, more interesting. (You know I love you, Mattel.)
The online Castle Grayskull is a baffling amazing thing-- it's exactly the kind of thing we've all been dreaming Hasbro would try. But Hasbro has a different corporate culture, it feels like a less experimental company in this capacity, and it's still very very likely Hasbro will try its hand at a mass market $200ish Death Star between now and when the line becomes unprofitable.
I preordered Castle Grayskull, and I have had nothing but largely great dealings with the people who run the line. (Nice guy, ToyGuru.) Still, I bought Grayskull on a promise that it might be cool from concept drawings. My imagination filled in the rest, it might not be as great as I would hope. Right now I'm anticipating a really big castle with a drawbridge and 3 levels on which to display figures for $250+shipping.
Should Hasbro try something like that, it's tough to say if fan expectations could make such an endeavor impossible. Basically remaking the original Castle but larger? That's slightly easier to describe than what fans seem to have in mind for a Death Star, which range from having pie chunks you could combine into a large, round playset or miniature parts you can stack or a mishmash Death Star combining elements from the two movies.
Each company does its own thing to varying degrees of success. As I write this, or just before it, I pulled my new-ish Battle Armor He-Man off the shelf and man, he's great. That's a super-cool figure. I also paid a lot more for it than I would have were it a regular retail item. Mattel's lines are made by collectors for collectors these days, with less emphasis on kids. Hasbro has yet to make the distinction and most of its lines are a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't have the same laser-focus which could make it very difficult (especially without the infrastructure and history of blind-ordering a full year's worth of $800 in toys) to convince an appropriate mystery number of fans to buy into a giant playset.
I'd love to see Hasbro try it. But I also understand why they wouldn't. Mattel couldn't possibly make a Castle Grayskull without proof of support of the fans, which they got, and their lines are largely pretty great. I don't know that the two cultures could mesh easily, Hasbro's collector focus still leaves the door open with price points that aren't kid-unfriendly and with no direct-to-consumer presence. Mattel has basically mastered the direct-to-consumer action figure market. I'm rambling. You get the idea. This isn't where Hasbro is today and probably won't be where they go without an infusion of new (read: young) blood on its brands and within the company.
See you next year, Q&A fans! I've still got Figure of the Day and Galactic Hunter Video Theater going on, but I'll be taking a break from questions. Here's the answers to most of them: Any figure you can't find locally may be purchased online. Nobody knows what Disney is going to change in terms of how it will change the toys yet. No, it is not fun to speculate wildly on a new trilogy and tangent movies... until we start seeing casting news or more signed deals, anyway. (Look back at some of the crazy pre-Episode I rumor mill. How was that Mandalorian vs. Jedi showdown? Oh right.)
There have been no new Star Wars solicitations from Hasbro as of late which leads me to believe there won't be much new between now and Toy Fair. It's not unprecedented for Hasbro to announce a wave and ship it a few weeks later (happened in February, 2011!) but between Diamond and the lovable genius who puts up the new products at Entertainment Earth, we're seeing a lot of early 2013 product for brands that aren't this one. But we will be getting new OMFG from October Toys very, very soon. (Look it up, it's worth it.)
If you haven't been watching The Clone Wars this season, you're missing out. Well, to some extent. So far we've seen bits of 4 major storylines. We got another Darth Maul episode which didn't do much other than to remind us he's out there... that was OK. We got a four-parter on Onderon which was, if you ask me, a dud. This was followed by another quartet of episodes, focusing on new Young Jedi characters and Ahsoka in a weird quasi-antagonist relationship with Hondo Ohnaka which are totally worth seeing (if you like cartoons) and would probably make for a pretty good series in and of themselves.
The real winner, though, was Saturday's Secret Weapons, first in a multi-part series which promises a lot of general weirdness. The best way I can describe it is like a lost episode of Droid from an alternate universe. I'm writing it up for Galactic Hunter Video Theater this week, but I think it's OK to spoil this much: R2-D2 and more droids go on a secret spy mission with Zero-Gravity Combat and lots of amazing Star Wars-y action. It's great. Go watch it.
So now that 2012 is just about over I can't honestly say that it's been a net positive for Star Wars. Hasbro gave us an incredibly dull mix of The Clone Wars toys and the less said about distribution, the better. Disney's purchase of Star Wars speaks well of a future with more new movies and perhaps a demand for more Star Wars animation on their cable channels, be it repeats of the classics or something new. For the first time in, really, just about 30 years we're looking at Star Wars as a story with a future, rather than a murky past. We've spent so much time seeing stories which take place between stories that, other than the odd novel or comic, it's nice to see a promise of an open, and hopefully unwritten future on the big screen around the corner.
...until then, though, prepare for some turbulence. Thanks for another great year, guys, and thanks for sticking with me. I've been doing Q&A since either 1998 or 1999 and writing for you since 1995 and I'm amazed to hear that some of you are still with me from back then. Thank you as always for your support, your telling your friends about our sites, and of course, for your click the banners on this page and on 16bit.com so I/we can make a few cents and hopefully break even this year. (Remember kids, if you click on the Amazon banners on your favorite sites, your favorite sites get paid a little bit when you shop and it costs you nothing extra.)
If all goes according to plan, I'll spend the next few weeks feeding the buffer for Figure of the Day and Galactic Hunter Video Theater, making some more videos (people REALLY do watch them, if you can believe it), and listening through the legendary Chunklet Radio podcasts from a few years ago. That's my Christmas tradition. Nothing beats Big Black, the Avengers, Mission of Burma, Metal Urbain, Kinksi, Blood on the Wall, and Scratch Acid as an antidote to whatever they're playing at Toys R Us at 11 PM.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.