Q&A: Pre-Holiday Bad Knee Edition

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 26, 2011

Will Hasbro ever make a Z-95 Headhunter? Don't get your hopes up. What do you do when your mail-away figures don't show up? Complain, of course! And playsets again? Geez, is that all you people want to ask about? Read on!

1. Do you think there is the possiblity for Hasbro to do anymore EU vehicles? Such as a Z-95 headhunter, AT-PT or even the Rogue Shadow? Or do you think they'll just stick to doing a few EU figures a year and that will be it?

The Expanded Universe vehicles are happening most likely because Hasbro sees a void and is filling it. The Republic Fighter Tank isn't being done to satisfy collector demand so much as they recognize that they need a low price point vehicle for Clones that's aggressive and cool, and that existing design fits the bill. Even though it's not from anything kids would recognize, they're going to buy it because it goes with clones and has a lot of cool places to store figures and a nice chunk of weapons.

Right now, anything Original Trilogy is not quite what Hasbro is itching to do-- they might in a few years, but right now the focus is mostly on Clone Wars vehicles. The AT-PT is an Expanded Universe item for the Empire, so I'd assume no. The Z-95 Headhunter is just a lesser X-Wing, so again, probably not-- rereleasing the X-Wing would cost less and make more money. The Rogue Shadow's time has probably come and gone, plus those games appeal to older kids and adults rather than that key toy-buying group. This isn't to say all these ideas would fail, necessarily, but Hasbro seems really gung-ho on producing items it can repaint and rerelease or have had significant, heavy fan demand-- they knew we would never shut up about the Cloud Car, and amazingly, they made it, they made it well, and they didn't take a bath on it.

I can't say I would honestly expect the same from Trilogy-based Expanded Universe vehicles. Recognition helps, and anything not from the movies or cartoons is rounded up to "obscure" most of the time-- with a few exceptions. I know a lot of people go "Hey, why do they make their own original designs in that mini vehicle line rather than make this other thing from the movies that I want?" Again, to fill a need in the marketplace-- Hasbro wants a $15-or-so vehicle-with-figure set to satisfy a store's need for that price point (moms and aunts and uncles and dads want a $15 gift item) so Hasbro comes up with one. Maybe some day we'll luck out and get a Rogue Shadow-esque Mini-Rig but even that seems unlikely, given the lack of non-figure merchandise for the last Force Unleashed game. It's like Shadows of the Empire-- it has a window, and until another game comes out, that window has closed.


2. Right near the end of the Rocket-Fett and Bric promos we sent off for a few of each – 3 Fetts and 2 Brics. In two different deliveries we received 3 Fetts and 2 Fetts. My son is bummed because the Fett figure is pretty lame for his age group. Is there any chance of getting this sorted out? Who should we contact about it?

Go to Hasbro.com and fill out their customer service forms-- they're usually pretty good about resolving these, either by getting you a figure or a refund. This won't necessarily get you a Bric, but at least it'll get you some money to put toward one. (And as you mentioned in your email, this is one of the times you might want to sell or trade off your spare Boba Fetts.)


3. While it would be nice to think that Hasbro is going to give us some brand new toys with The Phantom Menace relaunch next year, something tells me that we are going to see nothing but repacks. I know Hasbro is probably hedging their bets because they don't want a repeat of 1999's toy fiasco, but do you think they have anything new planned to take advantage of the hype around the film's re-release? I'm wondering because this may be our last best chance to get some oft-requested figures such as Ben Quadinaros, Sebulba's Twi'lek masseuses, and Kitster & Wald.

After about eight waves, we've seen zero Vintage-packaged Phantom Menace figures. While buzz indicates we will indeed get Ben Quadinaros in the next year, it seems unlikely we'll get everything on your list. I'm sure we'll see new versions (or repacks) of Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and hopefully the conspicuously-absent young Anakin but next year's Phantom Menace push is probably going to be mostly kid-driven. If those old vehicle molds are still in good shape, I can't imagine Hasbro will bring out new designs unless absolutely necessary, or if they decide to make next year's Big Vehicle related to the movie rerelease. (I'd guess "no.")


4. Has there been any word on Lucasfilm changing their stance on the "no realistic Clone Wars toys" front? The further into the show we get the more figures I would love to see realistic interpretations of.


There have been rumblings and rumors to this effect, but the only "Clone Wars" figure we've seen announced so far is a realistic version of Fordo from the 2003-2005 series. Hasbro has confirmed they are pursuing designs for "realistic" versions from the current series, but with no release dates, well, we have no release dates.


5. I was recently talking to a Hasbro design team member, and he said that Hasbro doesn't support playsets because kids don't actually "play" with toys anymore. That they basically just sit around holding a select 1 or 2 around the TV at best. Do you think this is true? Do you think the vehicle commitment to Star Wars is purely for the collector or more accurately the collecting parent?

I've heard different things from different people at different companies. There was a lot of talk around 1999 that kids weren't playing with the figures, but this was largely due to the price point-- it was assumed kids would buy a couple of figures as a sort of a memento of the film, but they weren't "collecting" or "playing" all that much. (After all, $6.99 was quite expensive for the figures back then.) By 2002 we saw the line integrate action figures with lower price points, and kids were playing with the figures some more-- but we got fewer vehicles and playsets than ever for a movie year.

Like I wrote last week, Hasbro will do what it wants. Different team members bring differing perspectives to the table, and vehicles (especially at the sub-$30 end) are supposedly still kid-driven. (Parents count as kids, by the way, if person receiving the item is a kid.) Collectors can't support vehicles alone, which is why exclusive runs or items which can be repainted and retooled to death are commonplace in the vehicle assortment. That, and the Big Vehicle is sometimes less a cool toy in its own right and more of a marketing device-- a $100 ship existing acts as marketing for the line, as a kid wishes he or she could get the Dreamhouse but will settle for the car or a dress or a fancy robot instead. (This was reportedly the case in the 1980s with the U.S.S. Flagg in G.I. Joe and Fortress Maximus in Transformers-- they got kids and stores excited about the mega-popularity of the brands and helped to sell other toys, while the big giant toys did merely acceptably. Or so I've read.)

Referring to last week again, playsets are sort of a dead product line. I know it's hard to grasp, but play patterns evolve and certain things are trend-driven. Back in in the 1960s and 1970s, boys played with 12-inch figures that had separate outfits and required dress-up as an active part of play. In other words, DOLLS. Most toy collectors understand that the toy market has evolved out of this play pattern for boys, but Hasbro revives 12-inch Joes every few years and a number of companies put out Mego-like figures for collectors. As a viable segment, though, these things are pretty much dead and without kids getting interested in this sort of thing, which means parents would need to be involved, I wouldn't get your hopes up.

The Last Stand for playsets was really the big Micro trend of the 1990s. Mighty Max and Polly Pocket inspired numerous tiny playset lines, like the Star Wars Micromaches, Star Trek Innerspace, and even a micro Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line. After that came to an end, playsets started to go away, and today it's unlikely you'll even see the most famous environments as a toy. The Star Trek Enterprise Bridge bombed, and I am trying to remember the last time I saw a Batcave that wasn't either LEGO or aimed at toddlers.

...a quick tangent, but a ton of toys in the past 1-2 years were claimed by the mighty eatbeast of oblivion. There were a lot of items planned for Hasbro's various lines-- G.I. Joe, Transformers, Star Wars, etc.-- that were shown or announced, or discussed, that just didn't happen. It might be my imagination but it seems a whole lot more toys were dumped (or just never showed up at mass retail, especially in Iron Man 2) than I'm used to seeing out of the usually successful Hasbro. Where's the Perceptor remold as Reflector? How about that Black Widow movie figure? It's entirely possible that it's not just action figure-adjacent products, but action figures themselves that are in trouble. A LEGO set and a Transformers figure are still basically toys-- but an action figure is, for many, a collectible plastic object and not a plastic pal who's fun to be with. It's not out of the question to assume that the demise of the Star Wars brand won't be what hurts the hobby, but the declining revenues in toys (specifically action figures) as sales decline and collectors demand more articulation and accessories while Hasbro keeps raising the price along with domestic retailers.

If you look back to the 1980s, there were a lot of failures (or modest successes) for every hit line. But where are your Super Naturals, Battle Beasts, Filmation Ghostbusters, Bravestarr, and other lesser action figure brands today? It's blockbuster or bust, and by bust, I mean low-run collector-targeted specialty brand.



So the big thing this week is I got a box of the new Saga Legends in the mail, and as you saw on our front page the new Spacetrooper has a handheld blaster weapon which was lacking in the 2010 release, similar to a redeco of Wioslea's weapon. The Death Star Trooper and others are basically the same as before, so I don't have much to say there, other than you can get Boba Fett, Mace Windu, a Stormtrooper, and a few others on the new cardback.

A German site also announced the next batch of Target-exclusive Vintage-style 3-packs. The good news: loose collectors need not apply. 9 more figures you've already got. I have to assume it's working for Hasbro and Target-- putting 3 figures into 1 narrow box saves on packaging and freight costs, there are no tooling costs and minimal packaging expenses, and these tend to be sort of good mixes for kids. (This is mostly by virtue of being all characters released from 1978-1982.) But damn, boring. On the bright side, I haven't had a reason to buy these yet as a loose collector, so it's rare I can say "I passed on about $170 of exclusive Star Wars stuff" when it comes to the Hasbro line.

I'm sort of surprised did these instead of, say, a 3-pack of figures on the full-size 6x9-inch TVC-style packages. (So 3 carded figures in a box or envelope.) That'd be pretty exciting. Especially if they were figures a) not in the regular The Vintage Collection line and/or b) came in "Kenner" colors. (I doubt there would be much reason to do a 1985 deco Warok otherwise.) I'd be all over that. I basically think you can't go wrong when you can offer fans unique figures on vintage (and unpunched) cards, wouldn't you agree? Or even just do repacks. Seeing as Darth Vader on a 1978-style Star Wars cardback still hasn't happened, that's low-hanging fruit. Throw in a Rebel Fleet Trooper with a different hair color and that missing Imperial Scanning Trooper and you've got yourself a winner here.

...I do like Gentle Giant's 12-inch scale vinyl cape Jawa (even though I think my chances of getting one are nil) and their swell McQuarrie Snowtrooper bust. Nice stuff.

It looks like the next reset's worth of toys (that being the time of year they put out a ton of new stuff at once) is starting to hit Australia. Which may mean it'll be out somewhere here soon, the expected on-shelf date is late July/early August for things like the Republic Attack Shuttle, but if last year is any indication you should keep an eye out at Toys R Us in case it gets out early.

...that's about it. Hasbro is seemingly going to make the next month pretty dull if you collect Jedi and the like, so hopefully after superheroes run their course we can get back to having more to talk about down here shortly. Oh, and I got through the single and multiplayer campaigns on Portal 2 while fixing a switch in a ceiling fan. I feel like a big man this week.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.