Q&A: Retro Indiana Jones and Star Wars Little Green Friends

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 21, 2023

1. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about the May 3rd announcement of the Grogu and Luke set. It fills the hole in my soul that has been there ever since I saw Luke give Grogu the choice between life with the Mandalorian and a life of Jedi training. I said to myself "I must recreate this scene", and the execs at Hasbro have answered my prayers!

By my thinking, we now have:
Grogu and Din on Mando Kreis
Grogu and Razor Crest
Grogu and Ahsoka
Grogu and Incinerator Trooper
Grogu and speeder bike
Grogu and pram
Grogu and Luke
Grogu with Dark Trooper, Moff Gideon, and Mandalorian

I think we have barely scratched the surface. I think we need Grogu and:

- Greef Karga (to recreate the "Do that thing with your hand" that I just can't do with the present figures)

- Bo Katan (after all, Grogu needs a mom, and I'll be shocked if her and Din don't develop into a couple)

- Grogu and Kelleran escape scene

- Ig-11 (No, no, no....YES! YES! YES! say the corporate Hasbro shills/ execs

- Grogu with porgs (hey, at this point, Grogu and ANYONE....let's just make a Grogu figure a standard issue accessory for the line).

Let's forget TVC...I'm ready for TGC!

While Derek is being facetious, at one point I was actually mentioning this sort of thing to people in the context of Grogu as a non-articulated pack-in accessory. You had coins, you had holographic figures... having every flavor of Grogu (at the right price) could've been a lot of fun. If you could do a Power of the Force-style cardback with a bonus Grogu figure you could probably pull in a lot of customers who aren't necessarily collectors. "Free Grogu Inside!" A character like The Client would be less likely to pegwarm if someone just wanted a Grogu - selling him alone is kind of a waste of an opportunity when you could probably make a case for him as a non-articulated "collectible" 1-inch figure.

I'd rather have a bonus Grogu figure than alternate hands when it comes to figures that are this small. But that's me. I don't want something I'll lose.

At $23 (or more) it remains to be seen if this shaping up to a great program given Walmart doesn't even bother to stock them in stores and they wind up at other online outlets. I am generally not fond of the closed-box, higher-priced figure repacks and I assume collectors (so far having probably never had a chance to impulse-buy them in person) aren't either. If they sell well, hey, that's business - but without a steady string of weirdos, Star Wars action figure collecting is a chore. Packing Grogu with, say, Jack Black or Lizzo could be pretty interesting and a way to get new customers. But doing a pre-order of Luke with Grogu weeks after just Luke, it's just not exciting.

"Premium edition" (or chase, or whatever) releases are a big waste of everybody's limited resources. Just make it one way.



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2. have you opened one of the Indiana Jones figures from this line? I bought these direct from Hasbro to support the concept in the hopes of getting some never-made Raiders figures, like maybe Satipo, an articulated Cairo Marion, an official Cairo Indy (you could do an unofficial one by head-swapping with the map room Indy in the original line). I can't believe how awful the Indiana figure is. His newly-fattened Webley fits in neither hand nor holster, and the whip handle--now yes, the original accessory in 1981 was weird with the cone and string--but the new one is too large for either hand, and it comes out of the wobbly belt loop. Here they went through all this effort of sort-of replicating the spring-arm action (you could click the original between two stopping locations, but not this one) and designed a figure that on a good day can throw his gun. It's worse than the original, which was notorious for the thumbs breaking off. The mechanic's wrench looks extra thick, too, and poor Toht's head on my sample looks melted to start with. The heads - now on posts in the chest that can't be removed--are not an improvement either. What is up with this? I guess they already got my money but I'm betting we do not end up seeing LC Indy with tie or Henry, or that disturbingly beefy Temple Indy they have planned (places they did not need to go, IMHO, just finish up Raiders' line and be done).

I am glad they're making more Indy toys. Not everything is perfect, and it's interesting to see what they consider "retro" to mean. With Indy they seem to be working from the templates of the original figures and not really reinventing the wheel with new poses or the like. It's sort of like how most of the Star Wars new retro characters all seem to be based on the same stiff, two-hands-for-accessories pose used for the original Kenner Bespin Luke figure. I'd love to see more sharp sculpting and breaking from that pattern with these guys, but word on the street that one of the last known (to me, anyway) Kenner sculptors doing retro freelance work has stopped taking on new projects, and one of the business' legends died last weekend. There's just no turning back the clock to 1981.

My assumption is someone in the action figure misinterpreted the packaging being the collectible and everybody else agreed and crowned that person king at some point. Hasbro did a nice cardback and a nice bubble. If you never open the figure, it's looks pretty good. But some people do, and Retro action figures were excellent toys when properly produced. This wasn't. It's nice to look at in the packaging, but it's not an inspirational plaything.

I'm happy Hasbro tried, but seeing fans and copycats do a better job stings a bit. Hasbro should be taking the kids to school and showing them how it's done - I hope they improve a bit for the next retro wave they do. (The C-3PO six-pack from ShopDisney/Hasbro Pulse is pretty great so far.) Hasbro is a billion dollar company with decades of legacy and fan love, and it stings to see some items squander the goodwill and built-in marketing to people who want to embrace these things with open wallets. Fans want to love this stuff. But as someone who is not me decided to tell you, they could be a little bit better.

I have indeed bought one and I did not find it good enough to justify collecting the rest of the line at this time. (Coincidentally, I skipped most of the 2009 Hasbro line due to the paint on the faces not being great.) I support the concept, I want to see more, and I'd even buy an Indy 2.0 if Hasbro made one. Star Wars and Indy have softer sculpts, with changes that range from small improvements to whatever was going on with this guy. Indy himself has a head sculpt that looks nothing like the original, plus six ugly lines of text on the back of his jacket, strangely upsized accessories that don't quite fit his hands, an action feature that doesn't work, and bad coloring. And he sells just fine. That's sort of the weird place Hasbro is in - people say they hate it, but it sells. What do you do with that information if you're a manufacturer? How do you square "this sells great" and "our adult fans are screaming at us about how they hate it and continue to buy more?"

After four years of retro guys, we are seeing some improvements with the likes of the new retro C-3PO and Jawa being pretty excellent. C-3PO has better detailing than the Stan Solo remakes, and the Jawa has a few tweaks that make it easier to see the face through the shockingly good brown cloak opening, and both the hand and blaster grip were retooled to work better. That's worth praising, and it would be nice if we had it earlier, but at least you can pick something up and go "this is better."

I don't expect anything to be identical to the originals, but I wouldn't mind more little improvements. Indy's whip handle is just silly, almost incapable of being held. I bet they could tweak the coloring of that old sculpt to better match the movie - that would be welcome. Move the copyright text from his jacket to the feet or the back of the leg - nobody would complain. If we're not getting the horse, they could retool the legs to look like a normal figure - I bet owners of the Kenner 1982 original would love that, too. But the soft jacket sculpt just doesn't work for me, the new head sculpt looks more like a Han Solo Kenner figure from than Indy, and given it's a safe bet the entire line won't get reissued, I don't feel particularly excited about paying $48-$60 for the five non-exclusive guys and I'm waiting to see how the new new guys turn out.

Fans like me give Star Wars a bit more of a pass because I'm so happy to have new old-style figures again. Most of them are decent, but things like the Grand Inquisitor's head detail (and pre-wrinkled vinyl cape) leave me cold. The lack of sharp detailing on Hoth Pilot Luke's chest just feels like someone made them (for lack of a better word choice) low-res on purpose. The genuine original old figures had some really nice details and clean edges. If you want to see retro-style figures with amazing details, check out Super7 Planet of the Apes or Universal Monsters, or the Healey Made Trooper, Assassin, or Raider action figures. Stan Solo also makes generally tip-top offerings if you like figures in the unlicensed/bootleg arena, too, but the unlicensed action figure business is a whole different can of worms.





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Around the time we went to press last weekend, word was floating around that retired Hasbro and Kenner designer - and really, the guy who did all the hard work for Santa Claus for the Star Wars Generation - had died. Chris Reiff, Philip Wise, and others confirmed the news - Mark Boudreaux has died. It's cliche to say how nice of a guy he was, but he was absolutely generous with his time and stories with me and others over the years, giving a lot of the weight to the book Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible as well as sharing a bunch of stories to mer personally which I was permitted to share over the years with all of you guys. (Shout-outs to the likes of Jen Donahoe, Andy Espenshade, Rick Ruskin, and others who were super nice to the awkward toy press of the day.) Mark designed the original Kenner Millennium Falcon toy, but also tons of other Star Wars ships over the years. And other Kenner toys - he worked on the Care Bears vehicles and playsets! He engineered Transformers for the Titanium Series line - I believe he mentioned Rodimus Prime specifically. He worked on some figure design boards over the years as well. If you collected American toys from the 1970s to the 2010s, he probably is responsible for at least some of your favorite things. The big Millennium Falcon? He worked on that. The HasLab Sail Barge? That too. Most toy companies kept their employees anonymous, but you can't keep credit away from the hard working people forever. Reports say he had been suffering from severe health complications. He will be missed.

Just looking through the old collector sites and magazines, there were a lot of things he worked on that never saw the light of day, like the stuff shown here. There was a legendary Tandem X-Wing missing from that link, but we saw it in a magazine article in the 1990s.

As fans we always look forward to what's next these days, but what brought me to this hobby - or really, the reason I never grew out of it - was because people like Mark Beadreaux designed wonderful toys I could never sell or give away... which resulted in me buying them from friends and their older brothers, or garage sales. Which resulted in me writing about these things on the internet and in print in the 1990s when new stuff came up, and later, it drove me into my own little corner of the toy business where some people actually have to sit and listen to my crazy ideas. I'll never have a drop of the man's talent, but I'm going through my old stuff and it never ceases to amaze me how up to 45 years later the mechanisms work, the plastic is good, and they're still fun to pick up and fly around. If you've never owned an old Kenner ship, go pick up a Mini-Rig or whatever tickles your fancy. You're in for a treat. Believe it or not, the old toys actually are a lot of fun.

...and if Hasbro ever wants to remake some of those old Kenner ships - maybe with a few minor improved mechanisms again, like in 1995 - who would complain?   Mark Boudreaux made some toys kids loved for decades - why not bring them back?

--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.



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