Time for a new Q&A! Let's talk View-Master. And also Clone Wars. And 2013's many sub-lines - what are we going to see? Well, we know what was announced. What makes the cut remains to be seen. All this and another old man toy rant, so read on!
1. This is not a Star Wars toy-related question. I'd like to hear your thoughts or reasons why Lucasfilm Marketing never gave the go-ahead or had the idea to produce/market View-Master Reels of the Star Wars Trilogy and the Prequels? Did someone forget this niche market?
My gut tells me licensing. The "master toy license" seemed to mean a lot more in the 1980s, while today LucasFilm seems to be slicing up the pie so that even a straightforward category like "statues" could go to multiple companies based on things like size, price point, or the amount of assembly you have to do. Back in the 1980s, if it was a Star Wars toy that probably meant it would come out of Kenner. Sure, other companies had things like banks, but a few items like coloring books were even done up by Kenner. They seemed pretty intent on making as much as possible, and it seemed to be a pretty good deal. It also meant that another company's toy like View-Master back in the day were not a thing they would probably consider, although maybe it was just plain old non-interest.
As to why they haven't done it in the modern era, I think it boils down to the novelty having worn off and, again, nobody thought it was worthwhile. I realize this may sound dismissive, but there are niche products and there are things that are, well, antiquated. View-Master reels felt old and clunky when I was a kid, and I noticed that the book-and-tape (or record, or CD) that I spent countless hours with was pretty much phased out after Phantom Menace too. Remember those books where you turn the page when the recording beeped at you? Yeah, those. I picked up the two Phantom Menace CD ones when I was in college, in one of my many (many) journeys to the back of the Tucson, AZ record stores where unwanted compact discs went to die, or be sold for $1 each.
Technology's progression has made the notion of 3D stills pretty iffy, especially now since Nintendo makes a 3D video game system that fits in your pocket. I'm sure someone could probably contact the necessary parties to license such a thing today, but I assume it would have to be a very rich person who is more interested in owning a licensed View-Master reel than in actually making any money. We very rarely see Star Wars Play-Doh sets either, and we saw non-exclusive 3 3/4-inch figure scaled vehicles all but disappear between 2000 and 2002.
It would not surprise me if action figures (as a collectible) suffered the same fate at some point in the not-too-distant future.
2. I've been an on/off viewer of the Clone Wars series since it started. I tend to buy the DVD season sets and cherry pick the best episodes to watch (usually anything pertaining to the movies or the bounty hunters) - but I've bought pretty much all the figures (with the exception of some boring clones and Darth Sidious which I can't justify the price tag on eBay)
I still can't quite fathom Hasbro's decision to stop supporting the series. Is it purely down to numbers? (Declining viewers = Declining sales?) or is there more to it?
Clearly interest from Hasbro had been waning (not much new product in 2012) for some time, and the three realistic Clone Wars figures at the tail end of The Vintage Collection were some sort of test..... So what does the future hold for dozens upon dozens of great characters and concepts that could make amazing figures?
Anything coming from The Clone Wars will now be produced in the realistic style - I'm okay with this (Cad Bane realistic..... Yes please!) - but will we have to wait a decade or more for Clone Wars to become 'retro' and for the kids who watched it to grow up and become adult collectors before we start seeing this rich source of characters and designs revisited?
It's taken me a few years to appreciate the Clone Wars sub line, and I'm sorry that's it's now gone. I suppose I should be thankful that I live in the UK and can actually get the final wave, and that the line has given us some truly great sculpts and figures over the years (Shaak Ti, Pre Vizsla, young Boba Fett and the IG Droids are some of my favourite figures from the modern era)
Ratings on the show have been down for quite some time, and Hasbro has mentioned this to various parties on various occasions. There are also unverified anecdotes of retailers telling Hasbro they were no longer interested in items based on the series. I'm not sure if I believe that, because that would imply that store employees were able to discern between "movie" and "cartoon" product in nearly identical packaging. And in a less snotty way, LEGO seems to be doing just fine with whatever they churn out despite increasing prices and decreased piece counts.
The mantra we should all get used to is that Hasbro does what Hasbro wants. I see a lot of questions trying to assign logic to this, but sometimes it just boils down to Executive A says to Executive B "our sales guy says the stores hate this stuff. Cut it down, will you?" At times we've also seen that one or two guys on the team just don't want to do something, and depending on the pecking order, that might be enough to kill something. I'm curious how successful it was (or wasn't) because it seemed to me that the line's decline coincided with Hasbro changing the assortments to mostly repacks, and stuff seemed to slow down a bit when you couldn't tell that any of the stuff on the pegs was new or not. Repacks and resculpting the same guy in the same costume don't help much.
Fans were split from the beginning, and if you ask me it was a mistake to split the collector base with two distinct styles (in hindsight, anyway.) Hasbro probably could have done well to keep it all consistent, but for all I know it might be fatigue, or the fact that The Clone Wars doesn't have the massive appeal of a big movie. I'm rambling. Expect that Clone Wars won't go retro, and if I were a betting man I would say expect Disney to try to wipe a lot of the 1999-2013 era off the map as far as future projects are concerned.
3. With the recent announcement of a new Ultimate Collector Series Lego X-Wing… which looks to be an awesome upgrade on the original from years ago.. do you think that Lego will be re-releasing some of the other UC kits (Millennium Falcon or Star Destroyer)?
If the market demands it, absolutely. We've seen some minifigure-scale ships redone several times and now that the UCS seems to be viable still, it stands to reason they could go back to the well some day. Not this year, of course, but we're probably not too far off from seeing another crazy expensive take on the Millennium Falcon, especially as fans get older and what people are willing to pay for things manages to outpace inflation. Having said that, I would expect the kits to be changed in some way, either simplified or made even more mind-bogglingly complex. LEGO paid good money for the license, and as we're their source of revenue they need to bleed us dry.
4. The 2013 overseas Clone Wars R2-D2 is based on what appears to me to be an animated "build-a-droid" sculpt.
(Yakface has a complete gallery here:)
I didn't know there was an animated build-a-droid sculpt.
This R2 comes apart into 5 pieces as do all the other realistic astromech build-a-droids.
It is also said that this R2-D2 is a repaint of the 2011 R7-D4 (CW64) Clone Wars figure.
I have the R7-D4 figure and only now upon examination do I see it had the extra leg holes at the bottom of the torso.
I tried to pull the R7 apart but it doesn't budge. I didn't try too hard since I didn't want to break it.
So is this the correct situation?
There was only one previous animated "build-a-droid", R7-D4, and it didn't even come apart?
The 2013 R2-D2 and previously released R7-D4 do indeed share a similar body type, and R7 has removable limbs. The legs and dome pop off if you're so inclined. If yours won't budge, I have two suggestions: one, be happy that you have this figure and do not tempt fate by attempting to use brute force. Two, if you are not interesting in accepting what the Universe has dealt you, I suggest not using boiling water to remove the piece. Normally I do, but the last time I tried this with an astromech dome the damn thing melted.
5. I see that there are movie heroes and clone wars lines in the green yoda packaging, there was a mention of a saga legends line in this packaging awhile back, does this third line exist?
There may be some confusion with the many different 3 3/4-inch lines announced, confirmed, and actually being distributed for 2013. Here's the current menu for what was announced so far.
Black Series: This 3 3/4-inch line will have some of the Droid Factory figures and come on fairly generic packaging. They are expected in the Fall.
The Clone Wars: The Yoda line look of the animated line will be distributed outside the USA - Europe and Canada, maybe elsewhere - only. Some animated figures may appear in the Fall line look as they were shown at Toy Fair on the Saga Legends tables.
Movie Heroes: The Yoda line look of Movie Heroes will be distributed outside the USA - Europe and Canada, maybe elsewhere - only.
Saga Legends: This is the new Lava/Vader line look 3 3/4-inch line and is due later this year. It will be mostly Revenge of the Sith figures with 5 points of articulation, but some other movies will be covered and it appears at least a couple of the aborted green Yoda package The Clone Wars figures may make the cut as either singles or 2-packs. There are also rumors going around that "Movie Heroes" figures could end up here as well.
The Vintage Collection: Hasbro PR confirmed remixed cases of 2012 figures would be sold in 2013. However, the only cases shipping to stores right now are unsold 2012 waves and new 2013 mixes have yet to be made available for pre-order online anywhere. This might not happen.
I pre-ordered a few cases of the 2012 Movie Heroes (new Battle Droid, Boba Fett, etc.) and 2013 Movie Heroes/Clone Wars (Yoda packaging) and it looks like they got canceled. Goodie. If any of you wall want to do me (or us) a solid, and have access to these for sale at decent prices (read: not $25 per figure) that would be really awesome if you fired off an email my way. (Before you scoff, look at it this way: you're helping me do this column, which I have been not been charging for or have been paid for over the bulk of the last 14 or so years. C'mon. Be a pal.)
Also, OMFG Series 3 is up on Kickstarter which effectively lets you pre-order the next batch of mini-figures for $10, saving you shipping if you live in the USA. It's worth it, I've bought the first two series. It also has a figure TenCan, who was partially developed by a friend of the column so go ahead and support it! (Particularly if you're a fan of M.U.S.C.L.E. toys.)
Since Star Wars is pretty dead I've been looking in other toy pastures, examining other areas of figure collecting I haven't exactly examined as closely as I should have. One interesting spot is Chap Mei Toys, which you may have seen and don't even realize. Chap Mei manufactures a lot of stuff for Toys R Us and the quality is all over the place - if you've seen their Animal Planet 3 3/4-inch figures, military stuff, and new fantasy stuff, you've got a pretty good idea of what they do. It's largely non-licensed stuff which has an aesthetic similar to mid- to late-1990s Kenner action figure lines. Some of the dinosaurs are very reminiscent of Jurassic Park: The Lost World: Chaos Effect stuff which is one of those lines I picked up some (but not enough) of during its original run. If you're like me you won't buy a lot of it, but it's worth gawking over for its large selection of dinosaurs, whales, and 3 3/4-inch parts and pieces fit for customizing or throwing off the roof. The creature toys are of a measurable quality, while the human figures, accessories, and vehicles leave a little to be desired. Still, I do suggest you all go look these over.
Also, Jurassic Park is enduring its latest revival as a Toys R Us exclusive. Most of the toys are rereleases (with one notable head swap, Alan Grant's head is one a Billy body for the $10 3 3/4-inch figure sets) and there are 2 totally new sets. What's neat about these is that they deliver 2 all-new dinosaur sculpts and 2 "Jurassic Joe" figures, made up of existing 3 3/4-inch G.I. Joe bodies with new heads. They're also $30 per, which is pretty nutty unless you're the kind of person who is endlessly delighted by the concept of a) new sculpt dinosaurs and b) figures made from G.I. Joe parts. And well, I am.
After nearly a year of delays, G.I. Joe: Retaliation comes out shortly which means we're back on track for putting the brand to bed as it's supported largely by collectors with no real inroads for a future kid audience, although that's pretty much true of any action figure line these days. I whipped out my Legions of Power sets over the weekend - these were 1980s Tonka constructible space vehicle toys - and I had more fun with them than anything I've picked up in 2013. Possibly 2012.
Right now I'm most interested in going and collecting older toys, but that's tough to do. Who sells Rocks & Bugs & Things or Fisher-Price Adventure People these days other than eBay? I pulled out some of my more-or-less complete Legions of Power toys (look 'em up) and I'm going to assume I will have more fun with these in the next week than I will with the bulk of what comes out for Star Wars for the remainder of the Spring, Summer, and possibly Fall. (If you are unfamiliar with Legions of Power, it's what Star Wars Amp'd tried to ape in terms of construction-based action vehicles. It would have been tons of fun and DOA.)
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.