Q&A: Post-Post Toy Fair, Vehicles, Classic Characters, and Boredom

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, February 21, 2016

1. Recently, I saw pics from the New York Toy Fair showing the Star Wars Galactic Heroes line-up with several new space vehicles, mini-rigs and a few playsets. Why doesn't Hasbro put this much effort into the 3 3/4" line-up?

If you got those playsets, fans would probably be just as upset as if they got no playsets. Right now, environments seem to be doing well with LEGO and Imaginext/Playskool categories, plus the occasional dollhouse. If you look at action figures - all action figures mind you, not just the ones you like - you'll find very few playsets unless the toymaker is aiming for some sort of functionality. BeyBlade and Spinjas need an arena to work - but Luke can be Luke anywhere. There's absolutely a bigger focus on younger toy fans because they're less likely to be into video games and make up a larger potential audience. LEGO is LEGO, they do what they want. But action figures? Vehicles are rare, and playsets are much rarer.

Costs are a huge issue too, with lower interest meaning higher prices and the rising prices in China meaning a $240 toy in 2010 is now a $500-$600 toy. Hasbro finds new and interesting ways to cut out the middle in some toys in order to provide a decent-looking final product, but until cheaper and faster means of manufacturing can be found, big action figure toys are going to be less and less a part of this whole thing. It sucks, but it's the economy. If and when the dollar holds unlimited sway in a company with manufacturing, maybe we'll see some changes.



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2. Did Hasbro really just have a Toy Fair showroom event that showed one new 3.75 figure from the biggest domestic money maker of all time? And no 6 inch?

Quite a bit - over the last decade we've seen license holders make more odd demands of their vendors, saying "you can't reveal this character from a really old comic or movie until this date we set." Disney is very fond of this. As such, more is coming, but you're not going to see it until Disney starts to really comprehend the importance of the tone Toy Fair sets for the year in terms of keeping collectors and fans informed, engaged, and hunting. Right now, you've got little reason to pay attention until Comic-Con... that you know of.

Due to lead times and approvals, Hasbro is now getting a grip on the new movie - but with new movies every 12 months and a "last-minute" change of release date for the next regular episode, I suspect they'll be doing some scrambling to fill some gaps in next year's release schedule. Star Wars' release model of the past two decades is no more - in 18 of the last 21 years, we had no new movie. And now, 5 of the next 5 years has a new movie - and new movie years were always more or less unpleasant as getting news out went, some worse than others. Prequel movie years had pretty rotten selections of vehicles with no more than one playset, with varying levels of secrecy. Typically "movie years"' Toy Fair were focused on the new movie, or nothing at all. There is still an incredibly dense level of secrecy for Rogue One, but from the look of things it's nowhere near what it was a year ago. With any luck, we'll see more The Force Awakens after Rogue One, but it's also possible (also, likely) that Disney gave companies more assets for the 2016 movie than the 2015 one at this point in its development... meaning we could see a lot more stuff for the 2016 movie before Hasbro goes back to 2015.

Always in motion is the future.




3. Any idea when we may see our geriatric heroes in plastic? I’m talking about 3.75 and 6" TFA versions of Luke, Leia, and Han.

Han is out in multiple formats, but is scarce. Leia is out in Pop!, but according to Hasbro on the show floor we should expect all three sooner or later. Whatever that means. Please refer to the previous answer and throw up your hands in frustration.




So I'm recovering from my Toy Fair adventure and I have yet to post any/many thoughts on Star Wars, which is pretty consistent with what I think of the handling of it as a collector's property. I think Hasbro and friends are doing what probably needs to be done given New Movies, but there's plenty of weirdness on the classic angle that we've had peeks into over the years. Hasbro has set street dates for The Empire Strikes Back figures in the 21st century, and there are figures from movies you've seen that, for some reason, Hasbro does not want to show you (or Disney does not want to show you).

The biggest loss is that of desire, of wanting. Hasbro used to be fantastic at teasing us with what's coming next - often for months ahead of time - so we've always got a good reason to keep going to stores and looking at stuff. We don't have much of that now.

Since 1995 we've had glimpses into the future of Kenner and Hasbro Star Wars toys if we wanted them - and sometimes those were unauthorized peeks. (See: The Phantom Menace.) Toy Fair 1999 didn't offer much, but in 2002 and 2005 Hasbro did give us insight into each year's new film. Given the longer wait for Disney's Star Wars movies - 10 months after Toy Fair instead of 3 - I'm not surprised we're not seeing much. But I am surprised that Hasbro, Disney, Lucasfilm, and the rest aren't putting more emphasis on Rebels and the existing movies as a driving force between films. As someone who writes about this stuff and has for quite some time, I don't feel that Toy Fair has given me as much to say as a year like 1998 when all we really had to talk about were new versions of toys that were made 15 years prior. A handful of new figures doesn't give us a lot to hang on, but we've seen the market splinter more and more since then. Some people are annoyed we don't have more 6-inch figures. Others want more 3 3/4-inch. And some 3 3/4-inch fans are mad that we don't have more super-articulated figures. Instead of all of us being in one group that was simply asking for more Star Wars, we've specialized, and Hasbro is going to have a heck of a time making each constituency happy. Basically, it's now not possible unless Hasbro picks a pony and sticks with it.

I'd say the future is as bright as it was last year with more of the same and similar price points. Those wishing for newer, bigger monuments to the line probably won't see it as historically "the big toy" is made as a way for a toymaker to say to kids and buyers that the line is healthy and going to be around for a while when the reality may not necessarily agree. In the old days, Kenner gave us some of the biggest stuff during Return of the Jedi. The giant Millennium Falcon and AT-TE both came in 2008 - a year of much doubt. The big AT-AT was in 2010, an anniversary year where, again, they were doing a pretty bang-up job of saying "we're still here!" and the MTT in 2012 filled a similar role. Now? Star Wars is here to stay for a while - like in 2002 and (to some extent) 2005, things weren't exactly huge. We got 5 vehicles for Attack of the Clones (not counting a couple of store exclusives). For Revenge of the Sith we got a few more, but there were recolors in the mix and the real action for vehicles didn't kick off until a few years later. Things got way more exciting for collectors after the new movies ended, with releases like the V-Wing and Darth Maul's Sith Infiltrator hitting shelves in 30th Anniversary packaging and massive lines in 2006 and 2007 recalibrating our wallets and our expectations for what this could be.

So for the time being, it looks like it might be a little slow. I'm OK with this - it looks like the new movie brought new people on board, and less new product means all of those extra carded figures you bought and want to get rid of are actually worth what you paid for them in some cases. It's not like there are a lot of Yoda toys in circulation right now, nor Boba, nor Jango. Classic vehicles remain in short supply, which is kind of a bummer because I was really hoping we'd get a new basic TIE Fighter for Rebels along with a new mini X-Wing. It was not meant to be.

With any luck Hasbro is secretly working their butts off to give us a 40th Anniversary line for 2017 that will be one for the ages - but if you remember the 20th and 25th anniversaries, those weren't exactly the biggest celebrations. And maybe I'm just old - having been here for a while - but if they want to release less stuff, I'm OK with that. We've got a lot, it takes up a lot of room, and I can barely find the time to enjoy what I have let alone pine over what hasn't been made yet. I can't say it's better, I won't say it's worse, but given that the only other mass-market figure line that probably has a consistent kid appeal would be Ninja Turtles, I'd say we're doing OK. If Hasbro decides to focus on one scale and maybe make the price a little more appealing, I expect much growth - but until then, expect more of the same.

--Adam Pawlus

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