Q&A: New Toys When?, Meet the New Boss, and More Lost Toy Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 3, 2014


1. for the first time in many years, it will be August before I get my first SW fig. I have preordered Toryn Farr and Sgt. Doallyn. Coming from San Diego Comic Con, what should I get excited about. (I am modestly excited about a McQuarrie concept-esque Wookie and IG droid and the forthcoming astromech C1-10P.) Anything else? Is the new version of Wicket animated? How long does that make between animated Wickets? How many realistic Clone Wars figures are forthcoming? Just Rex?

It's not just this line - if you look at Hasbro's many lines, there are increasingly bigger gaps between waves. In February 2013, we saw a lot of lines relaunched. One Spider-Man wave had 2 figures, and while wave 2 shipped online in June/July (a long time), they didn't hit brick and mortar until November. Last year we went roughly until June or July until The Black Series started hitting retail shelves, too. I agree this is bad - Hasbro in 2005, 2006, 2007, and even 2008 was a bit better about keeping us engaged - but they also had a "SKU reduction policy" they alluded to at previous conventions and events. Basically, they wanted to make less stuff as a company - collector lines require lots of variety and turnover, even for little kids. "Collecting them all" is no fun with 18 figures. There's no repeated engagement.

I got my Toryn Farr last month (brag), and she's more or less "out." It was about seven months between waves, which is fine for a transition but peculiar for a continuing line. WIth emphasis on other lines in the marketplace - specifically, Marvel - this is not too surprising. We've seen this kind of thing before in Marvel movie years and we'll probably see it again, repeatedly, as Star Wars potentially transitions from a "summer" franchise to a "Christmas" one. Anticipate new hurdles and challenges, and shorter selling seasons - if Star Wars launches in October for a December movie push, that means that the bulk of it will be dead by January and kids are ready to move on to something else as the tree is put away. It seems like bad timing, but maybe Star Wars can break the short attention spans of most holiday blockbusters in the toy world.

If you aren't excited, well, don't be. The Jedi Temple Guard for $6 is pretty damn cool. I like the new TV stuff, and it seems odd that a movie (not animated) Wicket is coming so soon - the last Return of the Jedi version with the alternate green cartoon hood was in 2010 - but the last release of Bossk on a mass level was 2010, as was IG-88. Hasbro has to take into consideration that it's not just old men buying these until they die, but new kids are born and certain characters have never been made available in their lifetimes. If the last "buns" Leia from the original movie was sold in stores around 2007 in a gift set, that means children born after 2005 who are now 9 probably never had a shot at her at a toy store.

With Rex, Desert Armor Wolffe, and Doom you've got at least 3 The Clone Wars figures in The Black Series, plus Saga Legends realistic Jedi Temple Guard, Plo Koon, Commander Gree, 6 figures in all. I assume form the tone of your question you are not satisfied by them or didn't find them memorable, but this gets back to a recurring problem - we have so, so many options. I had someone write in a few weeks ago specifically wanting the movie/realistic Rex, and now we have it - but some people would rather have someone else. I personally want "realistic" Mission Series Anakin and Ahsoka... and D-Squad.

I guess the takeaway is this - I don't know what will make you happy, and Hasbro doesn't make this line to take each of our needs into consideration. By making only previously-unmade figures, they would keep us happy. They would also shed new customers and probably stop kids from buying, and kids do help buy the figures we find undesirable most years. All I can say is count your blessings if Hasbro is making things you don't want - you save money, you won't need more room, and that probably means you have a well-curated collection.



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2. The last two years have been horrible in terms of the 3 3/4" line. What is going on? Is Darryl DePriest running things or do they have a new team. Darryl was great! I saw the Hasbro Star Wars panel from SDCC 2014 via the internet and I do not recognize any of them. Give me the 411 bro! What is going on, things suck with Hasbro (except the 6" line, that is great).

If you look at the last 10 years, you'll see a lot of familiar cycles. 2004 kicked off with a few waves of newness, followed by all repacks and repaints for the balance of the year. (Also, 12 "vintage" dudes.) 2005 was largely all-new, but 2006 kicked off the trend of years with over 200 figures, many of which were repacks, repaints, and "just different enough to make you mad"s. That's around the time Mr. DePriest took over from Jeff Popper after a really fun stint on Joe and depending on who you asked at the time, was the greatest or worst thing to happen to the line. Having had a few times to talk to him, I can tell you he is one of the guys who genuinely loves the stuff on the same level that we do. He also works at a very large company packed with creative people and executives, and you have to keep your boss happy. Nobody wants to get fired for throwing a fit because someone in upper management thinks nobody wants Cantina aliens anymore, wrong as they may be. (For example.)

Teams of dozens of people and changing market conditions alter the line. No one person - or two, or three - are responsible for how this line shapes up. There are many weaker spots in the line's history, but considering the line's competition and lack of freshness in the brand as a whole culturally speaking it's important to remember that no matter how bad our lot, at least we don't collect Joes.

Derryl DePriest is good at what he does, and he got promoted above most of the boy boy's brands and oversaw numerous lines. People complained a lot when Derryl took over - I was surprised people were angry the guy who kept Joe interesting was coming to Star Wars. And when Jeff Popper took over? Complaints. And when Rick Ruskin was running the show? Not too many complaints, because nobody know who he was. People seemed pretty good with Andy Espenshade. Jeff Labovitz is the face of the show now and he has a different take on the line, and I'm sure so does upper management. And he's doing it in a time where, were this any other license, it'd probably be dead and 100% off the shelves... which it is at most Walmarts.

There are some things I love - Mission Series, Saga Legends, smaller vehicles, 6-inch figures - and some things I don't get - giant figureless vehicles and the Command line I just got these in the mail and dammit they're good. The big X-Wing is the vehicle you've always wanted to hang from the ceiling - durable, light, and it feels like a store fixture for kids. The Command figures are well-sculpted, sturdy, and cheap - if you have a Tim Mee Battle Mountain in your collection, you're all set. My hat is off to Hasbro for once again proving me wrong in new and fun ways.

It's like we discussed here before, companies need to try new things or die on the vine. The 12-inch figures were a big hit, so we're seeing more of those - now they're going to try these. As collectors we don't know what everybody wants, but we know what we want. When you get access to more market data some of these moves make more sense, but obviously we don't see what Hasbro sees. It's working for them so far, plus they're clearly rebooting things for a new generation and clearing out the old stuff.

Also, since we're on the topic, let's look at what wasn't there. No Amazon action figure exclusives. The "rumored" Toys R Us Rancor Pit pack. Still no Black Series A-Wing Pilot. Kmart and Walmart seem to be out of the exclusive game for a while, too. The excitement of most previous years were a decent slate of exclusives that were unquestionably new and different, which we no longer see. It's possible we'll have a lot of excitement in 2015 to lead up to the movie, or perhaps Hasbro will do one of its old tricks - clean the shelves while we wait for the new stuff. I'm not kidding about most of my local Walmarts having nothing more than 2012 Vintage guys left, so perhaps this is a strategy because it's probably bad for business to see the brand as old and worthless. A fresh start is certainly going to be nice, if we get one.




3. As an action figure with inside knowledge on things like knowing the difference between when Hasbro says a figure will be available and when it actually hits brick and mortar or is in stock and ready to deliver via e-tailers, when do you think tbs Rex will hit the streets?

Also, not to sound ungrateful, but was Hasbro seriously thinking most fans would regard an announcement of half a dozen new sculpt figs as fill your shorts level "Holy s@#t!" News? Not to plug your competition, but jta had me thinking Hasbro would announce a set of 3x as many new figs.

A difficult thing to convey is that things change - Hasbro may have decided to have a bigger line at one point. It is possible that a figure or figures that were previously being on deck by Hasbro, but not announced to the public, were delayed or cancelled - or are coming out after the next big press event, so now may not be the best time to make an announcement. It's also possible things weren't ready to discuss yet - these things happen, and have happened before. Rebelscum had a Yuuzhan Vong figure a few years before it came out on an otherwise accurate, allegedly leaked list of single-carded figures. It wound up in a comic pack. Darth Vader with removable helmet, back in the 1990s, was announced two full years early - and this was in printed material handed out by Kenner in 1996 at Toy Fair.

We don't have dates on those figures, and that's because Hasbro hasn't yet shared them. Things since 2010 get moved around a lot, with waves being delayed a few months, or a year, and at times we see multiple waves back to back to back. The Black Series has been content to ship only 4 waves in over a year - waves 3 and 4 were about 7 months apart - so it's possible with wave 5 being due this month, we may not see wave 6 until October or even later. For all we know, what Hasbro showed us will not be 2014 releases. We'll wait. It happens.

We got what appears to be a peek behind the curtain - but even if the leak was from a legit source and 100% correct, it's important to remember that these things do change and that we have to invoke our favorite little green man. "Always in motion is the future."




Guardians of the Galaxy! Some love it, some hate it, I say it's clearly Disney's attempt at doing Star Wars with Marvel on top. It was a lot of fun and J.J. Abrams has his work cut out for him, as the fun of the original trilogy is hard to capture - and this movie is mostly fun. There were fewer humorless good guys to deal with, a little too much action in the last act, and the potential for countless amazing action figures. I was instantly disappointed when Hasbro first told me there were no plans for 3 3/4-inch releases, because this is one of those rare movies like The Fifth Element where I just see countless alien designs being wasted. This thing is action figure paradise, and while the 2-inch figures are nice, and the Legends are scarce, I would flip my lid for Movie Series/Mission Series Guardians of the Galaxy toys. Hasbro is leaving a lot of money on the table here, but hopefully a sequel or the cartoon will jump-start the toys in a more 3 3/4-inch direction.

I got some new Star Wars toys this week, as mentioned above. I'm working on an overview of the first 3 Command "green army men" sets that arrived and I'm quite taken with them - they really do look good and the price is acceptable for what they are. It's all Empire so far in the cheap sets, minus the Tusken Raider, but that ain't bad. The giant X-Wing is, again, cheap - but it's the kind of thing we're all going to want hanging from our ceiling. I might grab the Millennium Falcon now if the buzz is good once it hits, because yeah - I do want more of these, and a TIE Fighter.

Figure of the Day returns this week and we'll have more new stuff on toys next week. It's going to be a busy August!

--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.