Q&A: Star Wars Celebration News, Figure Stuff, Qui-Gon Woes, and Joint Issues

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 19, 2015

1. One of the things that you and many others have cited as the biggest cost in the manufacturing of action figures is tooling. Yes, labor has been going up, and the price of materials fluctuates, but creating new tooling costs the most. That being said...why did Hasbro decide to invest so much money in creating new tooling for all of these 5 POA figures? It might make sense if you look at creating the Rebels sculpts because the characters are all new, but why would they invest money in tooling to create stripped down or lesser versions of figures that already exist in a superior form. I like some of the 5 POA figures, and I know you are fond of some of them as well, but you can't honestly say they are better than their super-articulated predecessors. Combine 5 POA with sloppy paint issues, very few accessories, and terrible to non-existent distribution, and you have a recipe for disaster. What's the deal?

I asked Hasbro this question - well, a similar question - back in 2012. They debuted the simplified vehicles there and I asked them "So... a new Jedi Starfighter tool? Why? Is it really going to cost you less money to make an all-new new mold than it is to just keep stamping out the existing 2002 version in the long run?" They said "yes." Apparently the reduction in assembly costs, raw materials, and weight gives you a smaller footprint at retail which basically works out to an overall better deal for their bottom line. Similarly, an assembly line can crank out simpler figures faster - and with the reduction in paint ops and accessories, well, there you have it.

Hasbro's costs to make the same old items has gone up. China will charge them more to make the same toy they developed 10 years ago, so Hasbro has to raise prices a bunch, or take a beating on margin. Or just stop selling the toy and make something new, which could be a new license or just a newer, cheaper, differenter version of what sold well before. And that works a lot. Hasbro can't sell the Vintage 2012 Darth Vader for ten bucks anymore - let alone five bucks. Or in a two-pack for ten bucks. So Hasbro says "OK, let's make a cheaper version" and that ends up being a big hit. A $5 figure of an existing character is, in reality, a very different product from the $14 reissue with different requirements and a different audience. Sadly we coasted beyond the one-figure-fits-all-audiences approach of the 1980s.

Are they better? Well, depends on what you want. The super-articulated Phantom Menace Obi-Wan Kenobi figure, when compared to the 5-jointed version from 2011, doesn't look as good. Sure, the arms move better, but the new sculpt is unquestionably superior. On the other hand, the simplified Darth Vader figure isn't a huge improvement, and I'd say the Jangos are all over the place - the simple sculpts are usually better, but as accessories and the paint on said accessories go, not so much.

Most of the sculpts are better but the deco isn't, and obviously the articulation isn't. But you have to ask yourself the big questions, like "Why does Hasbro make Star Wars figures?" Depending on who you ask and when, their goal tends to be to sell a lot of toys to a lot of people - and there are more potential parent/kid sales than collectors. The prices of $13-$15 are off-putting to parents, while the $6 figures - even at inflated prices of $8 - seem to be flying off the shelves. (I think this has as much to do with character selection as anything else, but there's no real way to AB test it easily.) The potential audience for a new cheap Darth Vader is probably always going to outweigh that of a new Cantina alien.

I don't see a recipe for disaster - I see a market correction that was a long time coming. Hot Wheels cars sell well at $1 because parents don't think twice about spending a dollar. But there are also collector-level cars for $3.50-$5.00 that don't sell as well. There are other cars which cost even more, mostly sold online. Price points matter, and since Hasbro hasn't found a cheaper resource for figure production yet they need to find a way to shave the cost of the figures down because I don't think any sensible non-collector would see a $10 12-inch figure next to a $10 4-inch figure next to a $6 4-inch figure next to a $14 4-inch figure and select the $14 4-inch figure. We would - we love this stuff if it's new and fun. Hasbro has a $6 Avengers line for a reason, because those figures might actually sell in big numbers to the non-collector crowd. Some people just want a Hulk, they want it for $6, and they're never going to buy Howard the Duck or Death's Head II.

I've never really seen a pile-up of figures since Hasbro put figures beyond Revenge of the Sith in the 5-jointed assortments. (If you ask me, that was a bit of a problem over the last decade - repeating the line to death.) Now that we're seeing Rebels and the Original Trilogy, we also see many of the figures selling quite well with some commanding premium prices. You can say "Hasbro didn't make enough!" and you'd be right - but we don't know if they shorted the market or if parents and other people jumped on board, because none of us have that level of visibility. But we can see what's selling, and selling quickly, and it seems to be Mission Series. I see stuff fly off the shelves and stores blow through these things when they come in over a matter of days, so I have to assume Hasbro's strategy - whatever it is - is working well enough where Toys R Us can jack up the prices and still see success.



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2. Why has there been no love for Qui Gon? I hoped we would have a gotten a re- scuplt in the vintage line or Black Series. Too much time has passed and I think we could have done with out another Biggs, or Dak, or...insert any name here.

It's not just Qui-Gon, but that movie completely. Qui-Gon (and other Phantom Menace characters) got a big push in 2012 with multiple figures and an Ultimate FX Lightsaber. That movie is also viewed as poison in some circles, so their not focusing on it isn't exactly a new thing. The 2008 version (which was rereleased in 2012) was also considered pretty perfect so I assume, at this point, you won't see him again until Hasbro decides to make a 6-inch figure happen. Being in one movie really hurts your long-term visibility.




3. I thought i was up to date with the latest Legends but I noticed on the back of the Jedi Temple Guard that SL19 Darth Maul, SL20 501st Trooper and SL21 Mace Windu were not part of my latest shipment...in fact they don't seem to be in the latest cases...did I blink and miss them?

Similarly I've never seen the Grevious/Obi-Wan repack on the Rebels style card...

Hasbro has done a poor job announcing figures in these two lines - they forgot to mention them at all at Toy Fair, so it's entirely possible repacks (and new figures) could be coming that none of us know about. There are indeed SLXX slots that are open for figures that haven't been released, but at this point it's pretty safe to say that for Saga Legends you've seen it all. I'm trying to find out if anything else is coming, but it doesn't look good. For Mission Series it could be the same deal, but there hasn't been anything explicitly stated just yet. It's also not impossible to expect figure 2-pack rereleases when (or if) Hasbro decides that the new movie lit a fire under fans and they need to put out something in a hurry just to get people stuff to buy. It's an unlikely scenario, but we've seen variations on it before in Star Wars But to answer your question, you haven't missed anything. Hasbro sometimes intends on rereleasing things and then it doesn't happen - that's one of the unfortunate side effects of numbering figures like this. We'll notice when the plan changes.




So! Assuming you stayed away from the news, here's the long and short of what you need to know from the last few days.

1. Hasbro has two Ahsoka figures coming - one 6-inch, and the other one you've already seen.

2. Rogue One is an "Anthology film" which takes place during the same time period as Rebels and some vague statements indicate there may be some overlapping of sorts. The Death Star appeared in some now-yanked leaked footage. Official footage may be released by the time you read this - nobody knows yet. As rumored earlier, it covers the theft of the Death Star plans - the first one, so save your Bothan jokes.

3. Rebels season two brings in returning faces from The Clone Wars, but has no set premiere date.

4. Star Wars Battlefront III is happening for PS4, Xbox One, and PC - and that's it.

5. The Force Awakens has new names for familiar factions - the Rebellion is over, but you've got The Resistance. The Empire is referred to as The New Order, most likely due to the loss of Ian Curtis during the Battle of Endor.

6. Alan Dean Foster will write The Force Awakens' novelization.

--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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