And we're back! Q&A's Post-Toy Fair Season is on, with your questions. Send in more! We look at things like V figures, more small vehicles, complain about articulation some more, and offer up more musings about New York's big show. Be sure to let us know what you want for next week, or more vacations for us!
1. Any chance we could ever see the Original "V" and "V Final Battle" [ReAction retro-style action figures]. Would be amazing!
I doubt it - I believe the original prototypes which people want "made" or "remade" were in the 4 1/2-inch size in the first place. While a legend if the toy collecting world, it may not be one that has the popularity to bring it to collectors just yet.
Someone, some day, will probably do something - but since its cult doesn't seem to be growing, well, I'm not hopeful. Alien had a much higher pedigree and near legendary toy status... while V is also a thing that can be named. It wouldn't surprise me to see someone, some day, do it as licenses get snapped up but I can say it wouldn't be at the top of my list.
2. Any word on new, smallish vehicles for Star Wars? I understand milking as much money out of a mold as one can get but how many jedi starfighters can anyone buy? The [Ubrikkian] speeder is basically a white plastic ball on a stand. A retooled deathstar globe (circa 1998) could actually be used as the base of the ship?
Short answer: no.
Tooling is a complex and expensive process, so taking something round and tweaking it is not going to work for an item this complex. Heck, even tweaking the exterior of the Complete Galaxy Death Star to the Return of the Jedi version would probably be prohibitively expensive - it'd be cheaper just to start over again. Another example of this can be seen with the "mini" Jedi Starfighters - Hasbro let us know it would be cheaper just to make an all-new one than it would be to keep releasing the existing mold. China production is expensive stuff, people. This new Starfighter mold has had a whopping three pulls so far and unless the prequels are being pushed under the rug - and I think they are - we might see more.
Hasbro has made their interest in making more vehicles known, but odds are they're all going to be retooled small versions of existing vehicles or from the new TV show. The Ubrikkian 9000 Z001 Landspeeder is pretty obscure and I think I can count the number of requests I've seen for it in my 19 years of writing on this line on one hand, if not one finger. There are lots of obscure things in the background, and while I admire our community's "Where's Waldo?" approach of discovering new items to make rather than just enjoy what they have, well, yeah. Unless there's a new source of cheap labor and manufacturing I wouldn't hold your breath here. I think it'd be more likely that someone will try to manufacture it themselves in China sans license before Hasbro puts one out.
3. After reading your posts on this new "cowboy" Jedi I have to ask, do you think this character will be a hit with kids? Especially since this article , says he will be 5 [points of articulation]. I have no interest in purchasing these figures from the show, so far maybe a few after what toy fair and sdcc reveal, but if these do well I see that ad Hasbro having funds to make the figures I like with the 12-14 poa. Also calling him a "cowboy" is a gamble, I think.
I realize this is going to sound overwhelmingly negative, but I don't think it matters what anyone likes - Hasbro does what Hasbro feels like. Ahsoka was supposedly popular, but we saw figures for that character in short supply and I had to explain to more than a few little girls that a roleplay lightsaber wasn't ever going to be made by Hasbro. (At least, it still hasn't.) When you get right down to it, the line is all about the movies with an occasional flavor of the month (or year) tacked on to it. Be the show awesome or merely OK, it's most likely still going to be swept under the rug shortly after the time of the new movie, or so would be my guess. (And let me tell you, I love that Chopper astromech droid, not to be confused with the previously made Chopper droid.) If you like Kanan, awesome - now you can have one! If you don't like it, or have an axe to grind with Mr. Prinze, Jr., or just hate anything remotely related to "Chico and the Man," well, not my problem.
I think - and some of you will also argue - that the quantity of articulation is negligible compared to price point. There's a lot of potential buyers - not owners, but buyers - in aunts, uncles, moms, dads, and so on where they'll pick up the figure and go "Oh, five bucks for some Jedi guy, well, little Billy probably knows who this is." If you look at Hasbro's line-up across the board this year there's a lot of experimentation, particularly in Marvel where some of the sub-lines are more or less dropping out of 3 3/4-inch completely. (Which sucks, I'd have bought Guardians of the Galaxy movie "Saga Legends" in a heartbeat.) Price point is important and $6 may trump the overall quality of the toy. If you listen to Hasbro's many earnings calls, the idea of price point comes up a lot - I remember for G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra specifically hearing Brian Goldner cite that the higher price point was the reason sales were more sluggish than anticipated. Numerous analysts pointed to the $7 price tag for Episode I hurting the market in that expensive toys are just a souvenir for having seen the flick rather than a collection, but it's just as likely overproduction and the movie itself. Or post-Matrix malaise.
While the early days of modern Star Wars 19 years ago gave us figures designed for kids but sold to adults, now we're seeing more toys designed for adults being sold to kids. In the grand scheme of things, the former is better - more articulation and higher price points are not Hasbro's primary business, so if they can try to shift back to a cheaper, "one size fits all" approach with fewer just-different-enough-to-make-you-mad releases we'll probably have an OK year. But I just still think that even if we all love Rebels it'll still get the plug pulled on it. Call me crazy.
4. a question for the column or not, your thoughts on what you saw at Toyfair? I’m not terribly impressed by the SW offerings, would love to hear your take.
Generally speaking, the Star Wars line suffers a bit - OK, a lot - in years where Hasbro has other big movies to push. Generally when we have a Transformers movie and/or a big Marvel push, that's where their effort goes. This year we have three big Marvel toy movies and Transformers so it makes sense that Star Wars is probably going to get hosed - even with a new TV show, which seems pretty awesome short of the whole "let's have a tween/teen with secret powers" angle. I've already seen Batman Beyond... and Ben 10... and every dorky fanfic out there.
If you take a step back and look at the various lines that make up the "collector" line since 2008, we've seen fewer and fewer new characters enter the mix. 2010 was pretty disappointing. 2011 was pretty disappointing. 2012? Disappointing. 2013? Even more disappointing. At this point it feels like the collector media applauds a Hasbro panel presentation like it was being given by Steve Jobs, and Hasbro thinks they have a solid line-up. And maybe they do - Black Series 3 3/4-inch do rather well outside of whatever the first wave pegwarmers are, so in many respects it barely matters what Hasbro chooses to do - it's going to move since they're all tough to get.
6-inch is feeling somewhat paint-by-numbers with its approach, because when you have a line of AAA-grade characters you can predict what's coming. This isn't to say they're bad - but there aren't many surprises here. We're going to see Darth Vader and Chewbacca, this we knew. Due to the lack of new movies, this entire line is going to be us going "Geez, finally!" to virtually every announcement just because (until the new movies) we won't see many or even possibly any all-new characters in this scale. Hasbro has dozens of bestsellers in the wings, and it's a safe bet we'll all see Bossk, the Emperor, Snowtroopers, and Clone repaints in the not-too-distant future.
I freely admit I don't get Command, the new line of green army men figures that are going to be quite cheap. I get they're cheap to develop - but why? A jumbo 30-inch X-Wing seems like a noble experiment, although without a movie the timing on both of these products make it seem likely Hasbro will tire of them before they make it to the shelves. I don't mean to be a downer but few lines get long-term support over the long haul, which is to say, over 2 years. Armies are fun but let's face it - army builders tend to be action figure guys, not mini-figure guys.
If Star Wars were the only thing I liked, I'd say Toy Fair 2014 was a show worth skipping. I'm disappointed that we've seen packaged leaks of Saga Legends figures not shown at Toy Fair, and that new Mission Series 2-packs in the showroom were not in the presentation mostly because I think a few people glossed over those. But hey, the spotlight is on Black Series and Rebels and probably more Angry Birds anyway, so what do I know? What we're seeing now is what I expected Star Wars to be like by 2008 - more of an afterthought, scrambling to find an identity before it hits the chopping block. Movie toy lines rarely have the lifespan of Star Wars and other than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers I'm hard pressed to name any licensed property to stay running at the same company for this length of time. Hasbro is doing what they need to do to remain good at bizness - but it seems that there's a solid chance they're going to drop a few customers before gaining a ton of new ones with the new movie(s).
5. How can we best contact Super 7 to encourage them to make the unreleased Ewoks and Droids figures? I'm sure you will agree this is something that would be right up their alley, after making the unreleased Alien figures. Can you imagine it? Maybe a variant "Holographic" Admiral Screed? Or a clear Governor Koong - all the kids love the death scenes, you know. And of course Vlix and my favorite, Morag the Tolga Witch. How can we try to get this to happen?
I already have spoken to people at Super7 and Lucasfilm Licensing and yes, Hasbro on this very topic because Vlix. (I would put Morag at #2.) I'm getting a lot of "this isn't going to happen"s so I suggest that you - all of you, the plural "you" start writing letters. Write Disney. Write Lucasfilm Licensing. Write Hasbro - they own the 3 3/4-inch action figure license and would probably need to be consulted to farm it out. Also write Funko, because Funko is probably going to be calling the shots for the "ReAction" line of action figures that started with Super7 as far as manufacturing, development, and distribution goes.
My guess is that it all boils down to this - Hasbro doesn't want competition in this sector. Hasbro won't make a figure with "low" appeal (as in, lower thousands) and has made numerous statements that they don't want to do this style of figure. I've also heard from more than a few collectors that simply do not know the shows - which is depressing, as some of my favorite early memories were watching these shows on TV on Saturday mornings.
While it's not the same, at all, I suggest jumping on what Funko's doing if you like what you see. Vote with your dollars - I'll be picking up Snake Plissken, George McFly, the Wolfman, Sarah Connor, Predator, Jason Voorhees, and the rest as "Kenner" figures because Hasbro is not giving me a very exciting year as Star Wars goes. I want to give them more money, but well, look at this other stuff. It's pretty cool. I've already got Funko's Alien guys and Zica's Six Million Dollar Man figures, and of course you can probably guess why I'm interested in Bif Bang Pow!'s retro Twilight Zone line (because employee discount for the win). There are companies out there giving us Kennerish stuff - so I'll give them some money. If Lucasfilm/Hasbro/etc. want all of my money, I'm going to want to see some cartoon Ewoks and Vlix - and until then? Well, it's not like I need more roleplay lightsabers or the Command line. I like action figures, so I'm gonna go buy some action figures.
We will be bringing back Galactic Hunter Video Theater for the final episodes of The Clone Wars most likely - maybe weekly, I don't know yet. We'll see.
Toy Fair! I didn't run myself ragged this year staying up all night writing and editing stories, and I actually came home with my voice intact. I got to hang out with some super cool people, see some amazing toys, run from one meeting to another, and while you poor suckers had to be disappointed with Star Wars coverage online, I got to be disappointed by it live and in person. So there!
I don't meant to dump on it entirely, because Rebels looks like a beautiful world of 3 3/4-inch, 12-inch, and roleplay toys. I'm sincerely excited to get those 3 vehicles, because they look like refugees from 1987. The cartoony figures have a lot of promise too - it's actual newness, instead of newishness, which is essential for keeping me interested. Other than the Stormtrooper it seems every character is new - when is the last time that happened? Even The Phantom Menace launched with a smattering of existing characters. The movies are tough nuts to crack as far as new and solid ideas go, especially as we keep retreading the same outfits on the same figures over and over again. However, I don't have a Phantom, or the astromech Chopper, or the (for lack of a better adjective) totally bitchin' AT-DP. All of these make me happy, I'm really happy to see them and I'm particularly eager to play with them.
The movie stuff, well, what can I say? We go through this same discussion over and over again. You ask me to tell you I'm disappointed, and it's this horrible cycle. I'm rather fond of the big 6-inch guys and the simple 3 3/4-inch line, but that middle ground (mini Black Series) is what it is and should probably be dragged out behind the Hasbro building and shot. I agree that we could use a better Ree-Yees, but at this point I'd rather we just skip small and go straight to 6-inch. That'd be swell.
As mentioned above, I am likely to be Diamond Select/Funko cheerleader this year. Fantastic Mr. Fox? Back to the Future? Predator? Terminator? OK, OK. I'm in. After 19 years I'm ready for some seismic shift in my figure buying habits and I think this may be it. I don't know how many years Funko and friends have to give me this kind of product (I assume people will burn out in 2-3, depending on variants) but I'm in for now! They're pretty incredible. So for 2014: Love Transformers, Star Wars Rebels, ReAction, Black Series 6-inch, and oh yes - those Diamond Select Pulp Fiction/Kill Bill figures. Those are super sweet. There's a lot to be excited about as long as your joy in life doesn't come from 3 3/4-inch Star Wars, because there's not a lot to be had there.
Still looking for a Life Force arcade cabinet... or conversion kit. Got one? Let me give you money.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.