Q&A: Pre-Toy Fair Action Figures, Star Wars Rogue One, and Playsets

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, February 12, 2017

1. Can you imagine not having 3 3/4" action figures to purchase this summer? I know Toy Fair is just around the bend and there is a Celebration this year, but with news of the last wave of Rogue One going online exclusive and no news of any kind beyond some bizarre die cast offering... is it just imagination or does it seem like Hasbro is actively trying to get rid of the 3 3/4" scale? There isn't much left in that scale any more. Marvel Universe is sputtering, GI Joe is all but gone, Hobbit figures left us with several in the main group that went unmade. (I realize Hobbit was not Hasbro) I simply wish for some actual truth from Hasbro. I hate being strung along like some middle school crush.

Is the 3 3/4-inch scale done? Not for Star Wars at Hasbro, but elsewhere? Maybe, maybe not - the size was effectively dead (other than G.I. Joe by 1995 when the scale came back for Star Wars. Joe itself has died and come back numerous times since then, with Star Wars and Lanard Toys' The Corps lines being, generally speaking, the only ones to keep running. Other licenses - Marvel, Batman, DC Comics in general, Indiana Jones - have dabbled with it, but it basically peaked in 2010 and Hasbro has since been experimenting with many other scales, including the - I hope - now dead 2 1/2-inch not-quite-micro line. If you'll recall, we never actually got 3 3/4-inch movie Guardians of the Galaxy or a lot of other franchises because other size classes were viewed as less risky, or more important, or whatever Hasbro felt like doing at the time. Don't forget, that's how a lot of this operates. Hasbro does what it feels like against market trends. A scale isn't a right, it isn't a requirement. Success is not unlike believing in Tinkerbell, clapping your hands and believing in it is just as important if not more so than the actual facts and numbers in either direction.

And The Hobbit was not a tremendously successful action figure line. Playmates had 3 3/4-inch designs for the 2009 movie - and beyond the movie - that never saw the light of day because it didn't click.

What you're seeing for Star Wars is very much like what we saw last year. The truth is always that Hasbro will sell what makes them money - there's no elaborate conspiracy here. The 3 3/4-inch line took a nap last year between January and August with a couple of exceptions (the Maz Kanata set and some exclusives). I can now say we're getting new Titanium Series metal figures... which aren't necessarily what collectors are asking for, but they do look nice. We'll probably get some more 3 3/4-inch guys at Walmart, plus the remaining single-carded Rogue One figures. But more? Probably not.

The scale isn't dead, it's just not popular at the moment. If something takes off in a big way, that will change - Micro is probably dead, but that's how it goes.



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2. ALSO: Have you seen the giant 6" scale, 4 foot tall Spiderman Homecoming playset? Can you please ask at Toy Fair what the deal is with this? Playsets aren't viable because kids don't play with them... isn't that what I've heard from Hasbro?

Let's start with Spider-Man. I've bought a few of their 6-inch scale playsets, and I can say they're neat - but not what I assume you're imagining we would get for Star Wars. If you really search your feelings on many of the original Star Wars playsets, the same is true there - things like the Ewok Village and Death Star Space Station and Darth Vader's Star Destroyer border on impressive for the time. The Hoth playsets were very good, and I think Jabba the Hutt's set with the gangster and the throne was quite nice. The Cantina, the cardboard backdrop things... those weren't as impressive. And if you picked up a lot of recent big playsets, you'll notice they're very flat, very thin, and made of lots of cardboard. The same format was used in TMNT and Batman in recent years. Obviously it's more than we've had for Star Wars since the last true environments in The Legacy Collection, but also keep this in mind: the team changes over. A lot. The people calling the shots are different than they were a few years ago. Just because you haven't seen a new high-end playset doesn't mean a) we've seen the end of them, or b) that such a thing is a permanent impossibility. It's just off the table until Hasbro changes their minds again. We went through years where certain items were off-limits because someone at Hasbro simply didn't want to make it happen - the Cloud Car, for example. We didn't get that because of successful lobbying against it by one guy from the late 1990s to its release in 2010. Influence can do strange things, and Hasbro can (and often will) change its mind when the marketing dictates that it's time to do so.

Big Transformers are a semi-regular thing now. Hasbro managed to make $10 12-inch action figures for a variety of its licenses. The big Spider-Man playset is an outgrowth of the latter - it's big and cheap, adults find them very impressive for the price, and if it works you might see more things like this. Spider-Man also benefits from being a year-round brand for Hasbro, unlike Star Wars which they seem to be bent on forcing into a seasonal box. (Back to school through Easter, if last year was any indicator. But - things change.) These big ticket items serve other purposes as well which we've gone over here - in some cases, to dazzle the media and to dazzle buyers. Not you, I mean the guy who buys toys for Walmart. "Look at how much Hasbro is supporting Spider-Man! We've got this giant thing in the works, so you need to carry the rest of our line - otherwise you're going to miss out on the biggest thing of the year." Hasbro has been doing this for decades, and the gamble usually works. Mostly. But not necessarily for the giant toy product, the line as a whole can be elevated by the giant toy's existence though.

This is in no way to dismiss the set - it's a big toy for kids that's sort an IKEA flatpack thing. A giant Spider-Man playset is something I don't think we've ever seen out of Hasbro, and we've seen this kind of product succeed in other superhero action figure lines. Hasbro wants to try it, so let them try it, and in the meantime remember that whatever they're going to do for The Last Jedi, we're probably not going to be allowed to see whatever is planned - and even then, just a tiny sliver - until July. We don't know what lessons they took from The Force Awakens just yet - clearly they have an intense, burning love of big $100 toys and fans do not seem to share it unless the tags have a crossed-out "was" price on them.




3. I thought Rogue One was all but done with everything solicited on the shelves and was moaning the lack of an Admiral Raddus figure. Then I discovered that one was shown at NYCC:


But since then I can't find any mention of him in a case assortment! Is he still coming out, do we know when and with which other toys? And is there any Hasbro Rogue One toys that's been officially shown that hasn't made it to retail yet?

Sometimes Hasbro shows something too early - this happens a lot lately, especially since The Vintage Collection relaunched. We are going to get a Raddus, but he - like a few other toys - have not been given a release date or have been put up for pre-order yet. There's also a 4-pack of figures with Two Tubes and Saw and another Jyn and the Hovertank Pilot. There are plenty of rumors and inconsistent information out there, so at this point I'd say that you know roughly what I know - and I'm not entirely sure if everything we're seeing is accurate. Toy Fair is in a few days, so hopefully we'll know on Saturday.




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Whoof. Just got home from IKEA (working on the storage solution for figures, again) and the back of my car was full of glass shelf things. And of course I was rear ended when stopped at a left-hand turn signal. Don't worry (you're not, I know), I'm OK, the stuff is OK, and the other person is OK. For those interested, it was a surprisingly heated exchange to get insurance info and I was sworn at a few times. What fun! Stay in school, kids, and keep your info handy.

I'm more or less on schedule for Toy Fair this week, but the problem is Toy Fair decimates my time to work on stuff for next week, and the following week - coverage is tough to do as a one-player game, when the other game is actually doing your job. As always, thanks for your support on Patreon and thanks for your patience as insta-coverage is, likely, impossible. Hopefully I can make up for it with the kind of unhelpful commentary you've come to expect from everything I write. The Star Wars stuff will all go here, and you'll find non-Star Wars coverage - Transformers and what have you - at 16bit.com. You'll also find other stuff elsewhere first, but I don't work on those sites, so they can go promote themselves. I've got reviews to queue up and photos to edit. So, uh, I can be in the biggest city in the USA and sit in a hotel room and edit photos and post them. (Why am I doing this again?)

What to expect? Well you've heard a few rumors, no doubt, and I can't comment on them. Hasbro has been pretty generous about showcasing stuff early to the point of pain, giving us previews eight months or even more in advance. It wouldn't stun me if we saw the non-new-movie figures for this year's Force Friday or a Comic-Con exclusive or two, but given that they need to hold back some previews for Celebration this year I wouldn't hold my breath that you'd see everything. I'm actually kinda shocked how much Hasbro has already revealed to the public in the last couple of weeks - but given how crowded Toy Fair is, it makes sense.

For those of you sitting there hoping for super-articulated 3 3/4-inch figures available non-exclusively of toy debut original trilogy characters, I wouldn't hold your breath. Heck, I'm not really feeling super hopeful for pre-Disney-era stuff in the scale right now - the same goes double for vehicles. I'm hoping the anniversary line has a few surprises left, as so far it's looking diverse. It's better than the 25th Anniversary line (3 2-packs, snooze) but it's hard to do better than the 30th Anniversary line. Which was, arguably, one of the greatest years a collector action figure line ever had, for any audience, from any manufacturer. Hopefully we'll see something like it again some day - classic characters, big accessories, collector coins, and fan-selected reissues? Those were the days. Too bad we didn't realize just how awesome the selection was at the time, but it happens. We get all focused on something (like most, but not all, figures being super-articulated) that we fail to see what may have been one of the best bang-for-the-buck years in our hobby's history. Especially now that we seem to in a permanent state of New Movie, I really hope Hasbro once again gets an opportunity to do some - for lack of a better term - "filler" waves. Outside of astromech droids, we haven't had a new 3 3/4-inch "classic" character since 2015's Ceremonial Princess Leia. I don't know when we'll be seeing the next one either.

--Adam Pawlus

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