Q&A: Praetorian Guards, Disney Toybox, and New Star Wars Trailers

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, November 19, 2017

1. Traditionally you have been uninterested at best in the Disney Infinity statuettes/figurines, but what are your thoughts on the Toybox line, which features the same kind of cartoony likenesses but some nice articulation? I was pleasantly surprised by the Rey figure (haven’t gotten any others yet, wanted to see one first).

I got two answers. One - it probably won't be the world's biggest hit due to distribution and marketing. Two - I don't want a new line to collect, so I won't be buying these.

I don't expect it to be successful because of how it's distributed and the placement in the marketplace. Stylized figures can be a tough sell, and with a similar Forces of Destiny line, the recent clearance of pretty much all toys-to-life Disney Infinity figures from the games, and anything limited to the Disney Store is unlikely to make a big splash with us. It could catch on with kids or more Disney-centric fans who don't have big collections - but if you're going to launch a line with a couple of characters that are abundant in other products? Good luck with that.

I don't need them for the reason that I have a lot of Rey and Kylo Ren figures. Good or bad, it's Yet Another Scale and for me that's a non-starter. I've collected army men type things, statues, metal figures, transforming figures, 12-inch figures, 6-inch figures, 6-inch super articulated figures, and so on and so forth. I probably have a dozen or more of each character as a toy already, and that's not counting things like LEGO or Hot Wheels or... well, you name it.

Back in the 1980s and to a lesser extent in the 1990s, Kenner ruled the figural Star Wars market. Unless you wanted a paint-by-numbers kit or a teapot or a vinyl bank, odds are you bought Kenner's 3 3/4-inch action figure line (as the 12-inch and MicroCollection lines didn't have long legs.) The way licensing works now, we see Hasbro offer no fewer than seven distinctive scales - and then there's LEGO, and Jakks 20-inch, and Jakks 31-inch, and the Japanese collector lines, plus Disney's numerous scales. What's worse, no one scale is "complete" - there are characters that were in Galactic Heroes and Action Fleet 10 and 20 years ago that still don't exist as 3 3/4-inch releases. Even when I get behind a new offering, like Hasbro's 7-inch Unleashed line, it generally doesn't get very far. Vehicles now have a similar problem - I was all-in on die-cast metal Galoob, later Titanium Series, since day one. Then Mattel came along and did their same-but-different Starships, which I skipped because it was pretty much the same thing - now Titanium is dead. Do I go back and start over in Hot Wheels, or say "screw it" and move on?

Today, I'll probably take the second option. Heck, if we're being honest I was originally full-bore on MicroMachines too, so now I've got another incomplete competing scale collection going. Lucasfilm's licensing department probably has earned one or several years of my salary. Why would I want to give them even more for something that's not what I wanted in the first place? Again - I'm speaking for me here. Not you, not kids, not the community at large.

Now I'm not saying Disney's product is good, or that it isn't - it's just new and different. It's not a balanced toy diet, it's a couple of figures in a new style. If I only bought 5-10 figures a year, this might be a good place to be - I could get a complete collection pretty quickly. Long time readers know that in addition to Star Wars I'm very fond of Playmobil, Transformers, the Outer Space Men, Super7's new M.U.S.C.L.E. offerings, Nintendo stuff, and I could go on - but that's kind of the problem. I never got in to collecting Star Wars so I could have 90 unique Darth Vader figures in various sizes, I did it because I wanted one of everybody in that old Kenner line. In the new Kenner line it eventually broke the old pact of not re-re-redoing existing characters, but I stuck with it. Now that we're seeing slightly different styles in barely different scales, I have zero use for it. If Hasbro killed its line tomorrow, I'd say I could look at Toy Box with different eyes - but honestly, I'd rather just move on to the next phase of my life than start a brand new Star Wars figure collection. Please don't see this as bitter old man ramblings, instead see it as someone who has bought everything Kenner, Hasbro, and now Disney (with its theme park droids) has put out as a 3 3/4-inch for almost my entire life and I simply have no interest in starting a new collection when it has been a real challenge to set up and organize the thousands of action figures I've already bought.

If Disney wants to experiment with its Toy Box line so it can take business away from Hasbro and Mattel - who paid considerable royalties on the good faith that they'd be licensed to make products in this size - they own the IP and are welcome to do so. But as a long-time supporter of toy collecting as a hobby, there's nothing here for me and I have no plans to spend any money out of pocket to start from scratch on a scale that, I would wager, won't be around for too long unless Disney decides to start pulling licenses from Hasbro. After 22 years of the modern Star Wars line, I just don't have the energy to even pretend like I think this is a worthwhile idea - for me. It might be great for you. If it is, please enjoy it. Just don't expect me to come on board. I'm already overpaying for Kohl's boxed sets with 1 new figure, and I feel enough shame for that.



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2. My question pertains to the Praetorian Guards. Is there any definitive source on how many they are? Estimates online seem to vary a lot. In the last trailer it looked like there might be 8, but the shot was so quick that it was hard to really get a good look. With the exclusive nature of some of their incarnations I'm worried about not having the right mix for my 6" Black Series display and them becoming harder (more expensive) to acquire once "The Last Jedi" is released. Any info you might be aware of would be greatly appreciated.

At this time I can't find an answer to this either - so I'd give you my dumb advice. Typically when I was doing troop building (which had to stop because I've got too many toys at one of each), my magic number was six. This was enough to fill out an Imperial Troop Transport's slots and that seemed like a good enough number. You might not have the right mix in your 6-inch display because we don't know how many of each helmet there are, and if the ones in the $90 boxed set are going to be needed in multiples. If you can afford it I'd say grab what you need and hang on to your receipts, or just abandon the pretense of actually troop building in the 6-inch scale. (I did - I'm pure 1 of each for 6-inch.)

There's always the possibility of their being cut or background characters, as now we've pretty much got to get used to the idea that Lucasfilm under Disney may not be the most transparent with its licensors regarding who will actually be important enough to justify making as a toy. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they made Zuvio and Sarko Plank, but they could have also given us a really good Leia or any of a number of droids.




3. In both the 10/22 and 10/29 Q&As, you briefly mentioned the trailer for The Last Jedi, its reception, and whether or not it succeeded in its goals as a trailer. Since then, I've been thinking on and off about trailers, and I'd like to get your more in-depth opinion.

Here are several questions; feel free to ignore them in whatever order you like:

In your opinion, what are the features a good Star Wars trailer?
What are the features of a bad SW trailer?
What are the features of a successful SW trailer (and how/if it differs from "good")?
What are the features of an unsuccessful SW trailer (and how/if it differs from "bad")?
Are there any trailers from the franchise that are good examples of the above opinions?
Do the answers to these questions change when talking about trailers in general, not just SW trailers?

I'm going to weasel out of this with one bigger answer.

My complaint was less about the trailer itself than it was about how the world reacted to it and the toys this time around) - weakly. People didn't lose their minds - they already saw the Porg, and people who are losing their minds about Porgs at this point (as a cute, screaming thing) are a unique breed of person unto themselves. It didn't break a record (like nearly every new trailer this year), and it seemed (seemed) to fail to incite new people to trudge to the stores. Apparently it did well for ticket pre-sales, although I find that to be another weird ritual given the quantity of seats and butts to fill said seats in many major cities. We saw Star Wars basically behave better than an average movie, but not world-shatteribgly great. It's no longer an event of a decade. It's now just another above-average blockbuster.

We live in an era where many movies - like Thor, like It - have amazing traction and lots of views, breaking trailer view records. This one didn't. Star Wars can't be #1 forever, as you may recall Spider-Man and The Two Towers topped Attack of the Clones in 2002 and the less said about The Clone Wars' take the better. This is a franchise that, when it's cooking, is unbeatable. Now? It seems beatable. The toys aren't flying off the shelves, the hype just isn't there and I'd say that's less the fault of the material (as far as I know) and I'd blame the annual release schedule from changing the narrative to "this is a real event!" to "Oh, is it December again?"

Now that you can set your watch to new releases, it's easy to shrug. I'm not particularly inspired by it, and it seems the numbers weren't feeling it either. A good trailer inspires a lot of rewatches, and the very best inspire remixes. (Granted, you could probably also give that to a 10-year-gap between movies.) I got a few people writing in to tell me that I'm wrong and everything is better than ever, but I disagree. It's my hope that the movie will do better business that Rogue One but it wouldn't entirely surprise me if the distinct lack of hype in the air means fewer people see the movie and bad things happen to toys as a result 1 or 2 movies down the road.

If history shows us anything, the hardcore fans will never stop loving it - but there's a lot of fair weather fans who get tired and move on, or need a break. There's nothing wrong with not having Star Wars be the star around which your life orbits, and right now it seems a few people are getting out of that orbit. Hopefully this changes the second early reviews come in.




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Thanks, as always, for reading! I'm working on December's Figure of the Day entries and we'll be doing a few weeks with 3 figures per week leading up to the movie - and then it's back to two. I can't wait to actually know who these people are in the context of a story. Remember when we always knew? Those were good times.

Target put out a 3-pack of Hasbro 3 3/4-inch exclusive Luke Skywalker, Emperor Palpatine, and an Emperor's Royal Guard over the weekend - and it looks good. I snagged one, and everybody seems to be at least a bit different (if not entirely new) from previous figures. And sound chips. It was 25% off for a one-day Saturday deal, so you might want to hold your breath for another flash sale if you're the kind of person who hits up Target daily, like I do most days. Otherwise just buy it and call it a week. They look great - this Luke looks a ton better than other recent releases, and I need to compare them to verify the head sculpt is indeed new and not just better materials. Yeah, I'm that lazy right now. This is what happens when you write up news and commentary for Star Wars toys on the internet for 22 straight years. I'll get to it in Figure of the Day. See, that's what we in the business call a callback.

Ross stores are getting scores of closeouts - I saw Kmart's 6-inch The Black Series exclusives for $9.99, same as they were on Amazon earlier this year. Rogue One ships were on the cheap, as were wave 2 figure singles and 2-packs. Last year I had a hunch that this would be a big missed opportunity as fans let it pass by, and I'm thinking that this 3 3/4-inch line will be a big deal down the road. Provided, of course, we all still care about this hobby down the road.

So as of right now, it feels like we're in a bit of a lull despite being in a busy period. Old stuff is being slowly flushed out. We're about a month away from the movie. A few new things are hitting. I'm even seeing last year's cheapo 6-inch Rey and Darth Mauls making the rounds along Big Lots!'s "cheap" TIE Silencer and Poe's Boosted X-Wing Fighter ships - neat stuff if you can find it. Keep your eyes peeled, and also be sure to check the clearance sections everywhere. A lot of The Last Jedi stuff seems to be going on premature markdowns, and that's probably bad in the long run but good for you right now.

--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.