Q&A: More The Mandalorian, Lanard Aliens, and Other Ramblings

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, December 29, 2019

1. My two kids and myself are enjoying the live action tv series The Mandalorian, and we want or demand 3 3/4-inch The Mandalorian line. I know we getting the Mando, but we need more characters from the show, especially “Baby Yoda”. Hope Hasbro can listen to us fans and their children and makes us happy. They did it for the Droids and Ewoks cartoon, they can do it for the Mandalorian.

What do you think Hasbro will do with the Mandalorian TV series; Will they do a Mandalorian line????

It's not really fair to compare a toy line from 1985 TV to an as of yet prenatal one from 2019/2020, but we can go there. The Droids line was pretty good, showcasing main characters and a few easy rereleases alongside two now very expensive redeco figures. Back in the 1990s when it was worthless, I had a lot of fun chasing them down - it was solid. Less solid were the figures from Ewoks, which seems like an uproarious mistake from left to right. We got two actual Ewoks - Wicket and Logray - with most of the core cast of the series not even being in the fabled second unreleased wave. Instead we got four of the Duloks, which I can appreciate as an old guy but as a kid I saw these as no reason to buy the line.

TV projects have usually gotten the short end of the stick - the 1978 Holiday Special didn't get much until the 2000s. The Ewok telefilms didn't get anything until a few years ago, and they were at Star Tours. Hasbro did give us a few great figures from the various Clone Wars series, with significantly less action from Rebels and even less from Resistance. At the rate we're going, the fact that we have anything is almost remarkable.

Manufacturers are chasing baby Yoda/the Child in part due to Lucasfilm not telling anyone that the baby was this baby. There was a heads-up about other aspects of the show, and if you look at The Mandalorian toys out today most of them are remolds and repaints. The AT-ST Raider with Klatooinian Raider is an existing, 10-year-old AT-ST with new paint and some new cloth and fabric bits. The driver is a 2011 Weequay with a new head, hat, and chest armor. IG-11 is basically IG-88 with a vest, and the Offworld Jawa is an old Jawa with new soft goods. At least the Mandalorian and Heavy Gunner Mandalorian figures are all-new, but the lack of busted-up troopers and other characters is a little disappointing. Lucasfilm was pushing "Triple Force Friday" which did allow them to cover three bases, but none of them were covered particularly well - and all three projects were undercooked when it was time to make the toys. I'm kind of amazed we got a The Mandalorian figure in our hands right now as it is.

I think the series is great, and I hope we see lots more toys based on it while the sequel trilogy's star inevitably fades in the coming couple of months. It's strange to think of a just-released movie that way, but there's no follow-through on these movies anymore. The Mandalorian getting a second season and having become a huge deal quickly gives it a lot of potential, not unlike Reylo or... Poefinn? Foe? Pinn? Whatever. Either way, it's a cultural moment and the Disney era speeds through things so quickly that these moments are over before they have a time to take root.

Old-school licensing in the 1970s used to put TV shows as a better bet than a movie, because a Fonzie toy was based on a character kids would see weekly for years while Dr. Dolittle had a limited time on the silver screen before being the future Million Dollar Movie in syndication. It's possible we might be there again - by releasing a show with multiple seasons weekly, Disney did something incredibly smart that Netflix opted out of by letting fans live and breathe between chapters, discussing the show, and creating demand for things instead of being completely over a show after a single viewing on one weekend in June.

I do wonder if we'll see too much Baby Yoda as over-corrections on under-represented cute aliens are not unprecedented - ask E.T. and the Ewoks - but that's next year. As this year goes, I can tell you more will come for The Mandalorian but how much, and when remains to be seen and even the what is not fully known yet. The first season is a bounty of potential for toy makers - will they be able to cash in for season 2 or a hypothetical season 3? Or will their attention span wane as it always does?



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2. Everyone wants a Baby Yoda figure. Is there a way Hasbro could have made one available without spoiling the big reveal?

Street dates are meaningless, so it'd be a matter of predicting it would be a hot item, and having them ready to go to stores after the episode aired.

Could they? Sure! All kinds of things have been put out before the "big reveal" and sometimes, nobody cares or notices. Surprisingly little hay was made out of the Jango Fett with removable head action figure in April of 2002 - weeks before Attack of the Clones hit theaters. I feel like I was the only person who was aghast at the "Funeral of Qui-Gon" track on the soundtrack of The Phantom Menace. Lots of things get out, but people are - to be polite - insane when it comes to spoilers. Some people see a trailer as a spoiler. Some people see casting or character name announcements as spoilers. It's rare to sneak something past the goalie, and at the same time you have people screaming at you for the slightest tip-off - which I have experienced in many ways.

To have the item out on time, I don't think you can manufacture it without a leak happening somewhere. The creative team wanted to keep the baby a secret, so it was. If you made a product, someone is going to sneak a picture in a stockroom, in a computer, or out the backdoor unless you go through some A+ obfuscation. I have been wondering why Disney+ didn't do a "deluxe" package with a free toy figure for signing up, which would have allowed for more control over distribution - but still, all you need is one dipstick in Costa Mesa with a phone to ruin the whole surprise. Things leak.

I personally would have thought it would be wise to have coordinated it so that Hasbro, Funko, and Mattel could launch pre-orders the Monday after the launch of the show, but such things were not possible. Also, we sometimes get things and don't know what they are - "baby Yoda" is interesting, but putting a toy out called "The Child" with zero context would probably be the source of some speculation, especially given the TV show, game, and movie coming out all around the same time. Given their goal, I think they did the best under the circumstances. Having said that, they sold tons of Rey figures in 2015 without any of us having a clue she was the movie's star and hero... most of us thought it was Finn.

If Hasbro just put out the figure of the Child as an accessory to the Mandalorian, it probably would've been sort of like Rey and BB-8 - it'd sell. People wouldn't give it too much thought. It would be of significant interest, but I don't think it would have hurt the reception to the show. The people making the memes and losing their mind over the baby would still have done it, the only difference is a few of us would probably have been making snarky Yoda jokes for months.

If there's one thing I can say about Star Wars fandom, it's that they react best to surprises. I don't know if the public at large would be happy to see (and speculate about) baby Yoda as a star of a show prior to seeing it, much like I think the fans of 2015 reacted better to Rey being sprung on them during the movie. You didn't have time to wonder how she would be in a duel with a lightsaber - you just saw her doing it, and it was cool. Likewise, I don't know if the post-Clerks generation would have been kind to fake Boba Fett and a Muppet as stars of a new TV show without getting to see it unfold first.





And so the live action portion of Star Wars is over for about a year. The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian are both there for the viewing. Both wrap up big post-Return of the Jedi storylines, both deliver fan service, and it seems both are dividing fans. It probably doesn't surprise you that I haven't been keeping tabs on most of it - I basically like most of Star Wars and am surprised when big swaths of people have a large opinion contrary to this. Anyway, you have a lot of things you can like (or not like) now.

The Mandalorian handled that with aplomb - stay away from the central Jedi/Sith story and play with the pieces already on the board. It was brisk, it was fun, it was jam-packed with comedians and nods to the parts of 1980s Star Wars a lot of fans hate and I adore. (Cannons! Blurrgs! Jawas of Doom!) I'm really glad a lot of fans loved The Rise of Skywalker, which represented the first time I left my seat with a shrug. Thankfully, as long as there is money to be made, the stories need never end.

Some of the junkets had Oscar Isaac and John Boyega alluding that they would not return, for a movie or a streaming series, and for some reason I flashed back to the 1990s when Michael Dorn gave TV Guide an interview saying he'd never come back to Star Trek as Worf. Of course, he did that on Deep Space Nine shortly thereafter. Since I also lived in a world where the number of Star Wars movies has been 1, 12, 9, 3, 6, and then 9 again - and now we're up to 14 feature-length theatrical releases - we've seen Star Wars continue the transition from "event film" to "just another big movie."

This is good because it probably means a lot of the nonsense like Force Friday is probably going to fade away, at least until they can put it in the vault for a decade or more. It's great because we'll get more stories in more formats, short ones, good ones, bad ones. It's not so good because, let's be honest, not everything is going to appeal to everybody. I walked out of The Phantom Menace happy after a pretty good final battle with lightsaber fighting and a perfectly fine space battle. Others hated it. That's fine. I don't have to be jealous of Star Trek anymore, which always had a luxury of an episode in a week's time in the chance that you hated whatever was going on today.

If the future of Star Wars happens to take the form of weird little side stories and adventures in the space surrounding the existing movies, we're going to have so much fun. Could you believe that, in 2019, we'd have a named Ugnaught played by a major talent and we'd be asking for it as an action figure? Could you believe that comedians would appear as current or former Imperials?

And we haven't even gone into Resistance, which has really picked up in terms of being interesting by not focusing on cookie-cutter cartoon kidvid adventures. As far as fans of the media and stories go, this is the greatest time in the franchise's history. There's as much to love as there is to complain about, so that covers all of our bases. For once, we've all got a whole lot of options.

Also of interest: Lanard "The Corps" Toys is following up on its Kong, Rampage, and Jumanji lines with Aliens - seemingly hitting stores now, cementing them as an amazing low-rent modern Kenner. Do you want insane bright color neon Xenomorphs and a mini-rig APC? Yes you do.

See you in the new year. I think 2020 is going to be a bit of a sparse one as popular fiction goes, but considering how stuffed 2019 was I think we can all live with that. Just sit tight and be ready for more reruns than you would probably prefer.

--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.



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