Q&A: Is The Sky Falling? No, It Is Not. Also: Disney, Angry Birds, Jackets, More!

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, November 4, 2012

We take a break from Q&A's break because blah blah blah Disney. Blah blah blah Angry Birds. Blah blah blah Hoth Han Solo hood variants. All this and much more await you in this week's Q&A! As always, enjoy, and write in a question for next time if you've got one.


1. Wanted: A Hoth Han Solo figure with ball jointed elbows, his hood up, and can fit on a tauntaun without permanent damage to the bottom of his coat...to the best of your knowledge, does a figure exist that fits these parameters?

It does not yet exist, but you can cobble one together if you've got this guy and swipe a hood off of one of the many "hood up" variants out there.


2. Star Wars Angry Birds....announced at ToysRUs on 10/8 with a merchandise street date of 10/28, yet at my local ToysRUs today on 10/16 the shelves were fully stocked with plenty of every piece of Angry Birds merchandise that was announced. If only this approach could work for other Hasbro products in the regular SW line. Could it? If Hasbro can work with Rovio and ToysRUs to coordinate and announce a street date for a product, distribute plenty of this product to ToysRUs, to have them be put out on the shelves within just a week of their announcement, couldn't they work with ToysRUs to coordinate and distribute other regular products throughout the year just as swiftly and smoothly? I'm assuming there's great faith in pushing SW Angry Birds to kids just in time for the holidays and for the launch of the app, but still, these products seemed to be able to be distributed and placed out on the shelf awfully fast.

It's all perspective. You see the glass as half-full, I see it as half-empty

These items came out "quickly" because you were kept in the dark for a very long time. The production on these items started quite some time ago, for a coordinated launch "Street Date" date which, ultimately, Toys R Us opted to ignore and now seems to have been thrown out entirely. If Hasbro can keep everything a secret from you, then yes, they can do a lot more like this. This is how things were in the 1980s and 1990s-- generally, items just suddenly appear.

Could they coordinate launches throughout the year? Sure, anything is possible. Will they? No. Why? Because the way assortments and waves are done do not allow for "street date" launches. It's wave 1, and there's a "wave 1 syndrome" that's basically the opposite of "last wave syndrome" - the stuff usually piles up a little more and is really easy to get. Also, this has the benefit of being a product line collectors largely don't want... please correct me if I'm wrong (or if I'm right) but the bulk of people who collect weren't excited about this and don't necessarily want it all.

First-waves of action figure lines launch smoothly all the time. It's really easy to pull off, generally speaking. The problem is that assortments are set up in a way that allows for easy, almost effortless replenishment on the part of the customer (i.e., the retail store) but does not allow granular control of which assortments show up on a specific date. I don't want to bore you with the technical stuff (nor do I want to explain how this job works), but the long and short of it is that it would require more work for Hasbro and the retailers to pull this sort of thing off, which would result in more SKUs, more packaging variants, and other annoyances if done with Hasbro's current way of doing things.



3. I have a question about announced product not released yet. In the Clone Wars line, there is a Darth Maul - Cyborge that is not in the case assortment with Commander Fox, has this been cancelled? Also, in the Movie Heroes line, there is an Anakin Skywalker with light up lightsaber, Sandtrooper and Boba Fett announced before never released, have these been cancelled as well? Finally, do you think we have seen everything for 2012 and nothing new will be released until Spring 2013 when the line re-sets?

As far as I know Hasbro never solicited an animated-style Darth Maul cyborg figure on an individual card. A 19th 2012 The Clone Wars figure was "confirmed" at New York Comic Con 2011, but they didn't say who the 19 were. #18 was Fox, so it's possible the cyborg Maul in the Target 3-pack was indeed meant to be the carded one.

The final fate of the four unreleased Movie Heroes figures has yet to be determined, but it seems they will be getting some international distribution. (Before the whining starts, this was actually really common in a lot of Kenner and Hasbro lines in the 1980s and 1990s.) They could still show up here, but nobody's seen the 2013 assortments yet... and we don't know for certain if we're completely done for 2012 yet. It's unlikely we'll see a lot more, but things can and do show up as surprise Black Friday exclusives or last-minute releases. I'm hopeful.


4. If I have already gotten (off ebay or in stores) my nephew --> E1 Anakin's podracer, Sebulba's E1 podracer, the two "new" racer releases from TVC, the latest TRU pack of racers with flags, and the Wal-Mart Mos Espa exclusive battle pack, does he have ALL of the available Boonta Eve participants? Or am I missing something?
--Mr. Arthur

As long as you're OK with missing a few nifty accessories or Pit Droids, you're pretty close. Ody Mandrell came out in 1999, and as far as I know has not yet been reissued. There's also Mawhonic, available at a Walmart near you (maybe) and in the newest wave of Vintage Star Wars figures which is basically a dotcom exclusive.

The new 2012 packaged Pod Racer vehicles kinda suck. If you have the 1999 red boxed ones (with the pilots) he'll be better off... they include pilot figures which actually fit well in the cockpits.



5. As a long time fan of the Q&A I turn to you with the following question because of your unique understanding of how the toy business works! (and please answer me asap privately, I am not looking to wait for the next Q&A if you don't mind). With the best news I have come across ever (Disney buying Lucas film and creating episodes 7 & beyond starting in 2015), do you feel Hasbro will continue to produce the toys? Would they feel more pressure to produce better products overall (what I mean is, would they be more apt to produce things they normally would not today, such as big vehicles, play-sets and a larger assortment of figures) or do you think Disney will go a separate route with the toy line? What pros and cons do you foresee with your background regarding they toy line and is it going to be business as usual with SW toys coming as they do now? Thank you kindly for your time and prompt response.

Sam's question came in last Tuesday shortly after the Disney Incident with the subject line "Urgent Question." I'm glad to see that there's still this kind of enthusiasm for the line!

Look at it like this: ignore Star Wars, and go to the toy store. Big vehicles and playsets are not part of the normal toy landscape. $100+ items are really unusual, Transformers is generally a hugely successful brand with toys capping out around $30, with a few outliers above that. Marvel is huge with virtually no toys over $50. Hot Wheels is hugely successful at around 99 cents.

Obviously with a big movie you can do some bigger items, but not always. Avatar was the #1 movie in the world, but its licensing program did not reflect this. Hasbro has always done new and big ships tying in to new movies (see: episodes I and III), playsets (we got at least 1 for each prequel), and so on.

Hasbro hasn't really changed how it does Marvel stuff since Disney bought them (Disney bought Marvel in 2009, Hasbro got the Marvel license in 2006 with the first product in 2007) and I daresay the Hasbro Marvel offerings are significantly improved since 2009. Have you seen the big Sentinel, and the recent resculpts of the Hulk? Not bad! There's no reason you should expect anything but business as usual from Hasbro, and I mean that in the positive sense. Disney is a beast who will probably try to make sure no fan's biggest complaint about collecting this line is "I have money and I can't find anything new" for months at a time. Disney has really managed to do some great things and I daresay visibility of Marvel heroes, especially obscure ones, is on the upswing.

Short answer: don't expect anything to change that isn't already changing. The market demands higher-quality products for collectors (vintage) and lower-cost products for kids (Fighter Pods). The real money is in targeting kids... Spider-Man is largely a kid-driven (and honestly mom-driven) success story.

Hasbro Star Wars has been nothing if not higher-quality over the last few years with its only real faults being availability and increasing costs. I can't imagine any other movie line getting massive, $100+ vehicles during NON-MOVIE YEARS. It's ridiculous that anyone had the gonads to try it, like Hasbro did. Hasbro cranks out dozens (40+?) of new figures per year for Star Wars, far above the norm for your average action figure line. Remember the 1980s and early 1990s? You got 6-12 on a good year.

Ultimately Hasbro will always do what it feels like. The rules do not apply to Star Wars, they can do what they want. Big vehicles, collector-only figures at conventions, they're good at ensuring the product gets better and more interesting as time goes on. Hasbro's biggest crime may be listening to too much collector input at the expense of making good, sturdy toys for kids. But hey, we'll see what happens... a new movie trilogy means your lease on this hobby just got extended by a decade.



Disney! Interesting, I was actually kinda wondering about this buyout since Star Tours was a thing. I assumed at the time, being a wee lad, that Disney might have bought Star Wars since it was in the theme park but only recently found out it was some sort of license lease thing where Lucas got paid $1 million per year for the use of his property. (Which if accurate is pretty sweet.) But this last week's purchase, being very real, leads to all sorts of questions like the one in the column above.

Of course we all know the real important thing is that the company that made the Howard the Duck comic and the company which created the Howard the Duck character are all owned by the same megacorporation. Synergy! Now all they have to do is buy Universal Studios as they had the movie distribution rights, I think, but maybe they don't.

Quote of the week: "[Now retired from Lucasfilm, George] Lucas also says he'll be happy to be just 'a fan' now, obviously forgetting that Star Wars fans are never happy."

"What does this mean?" can go in any direction, and heck, I guess we could do columns just on that. But here's the thing... we've been through this before, with Marvel. Hasbro agreed to pick up Marvel in 2006, and Disney bought Marvel in 2009. In that time, we've seen Marvel's movies improve, Hasbro's action figures get way better, and awareness of characters like Thor actually rise up beyond "old nerds" and "kids who read ToyFare." I assume some projects may wind down (The Clone Wars) or receive a mercy killing (Star Wars Detours, please) while Hasbro keeps doing what it's doing and Disney hopefully chooses to prop up its new character revenue stream rather than sell both the "I Love Towelie" and "I Hate Towelie" shirts at the same time.

Since it's a time of change, and Dark Horse will likely lose the comics to Marvel, I hope they wipe the slate totally clean for the Expanded Universe and just rejigger the canon to the six movies and the Clone Wars TV show. And if there's room, wedge in the 1980s TV projects, because why not? If Spider-Man can get a reboot/alternate universe in print, it's high time poor Luke Skywalker got to fly around in a galaxy at war where we haven't already read a comic series where he eventually dies and his ghost shows up. I mean, we all know they're going to die eventually... but how many adventures can a 60- or 70-year-old smuggler and his Jedi buddy continue to go on?

The most fascinating detail I've seen come up is over the ownership of the original Star Wars movie, which is in the hands of 20th Century Fox still. Lucas' deal meant he owns all the sequels and licensing, but apparently not the original movie... which could make distribution of a six- (or nine-) film boxed set difficult. So Disney may have to do some legal futzing to ensure they did, in fact, "collect them all." Disney had a similar thing with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which Disney did before he was "Disney" and the Disney megaconglomerate only just recently brought under their umbrella. Tom & Jerry were owned by MGM despite being created by the Hanna-Barbera team, and were since bought out by Ted Turner and yadda yadda yadda it's part of the same licensing pool as Snagglepuss now. So odds are Disney will eventually get the original Star Wars home video rights if they don't have a deal in the works already.

Anyway, I can't seem to stay on topic, mostly because the topic was stale about 15 minutes after we all got the story and realized it wasn't a hoax. I figure things will be fine, at least from where we sit as toy collectors. The movies are probably going to be decent. Avengers made a billion dollars, and Disney (I assume it was Disney) put Joss Whedon behind the wheel. Who knows what this hypothetical Episode VII will give us? A new director? A new direction? While I can't say I'm thrilled at rethinking how I'll collect for another decade, I will say I'm happy to hear that there's a chance this movie might actually move the story forward. Lucasfilm has been pretty hesitant to do its own post-Return of the Jedi storylines, and while it was nice we got 3 prequels and a TV show, it's really all filler. Entertaining filler, sure, but as an old fart who grew up on Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the Galactic Empire, I got exactly none of that from the last 15 years on the big or small screens. (Books are not screens and therefore do not count.)