Q&A: Star Wars Complaints, Wild Colorways, and Old Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 17, 2021

1. By now you've read of the TVC Mando and Child Walmart exclusive cancellation emails that went out.

Since placing my order back in November, Walmart has sent updated delay emails; finally on 1/11 it got canceled.

The cancellations seemed random; folks who preordered only 1 got canceled, while others who preordered 6 had only one canceled.

First-day preorders got canceled, while those much later didn't.

Then, on 1/12, they went back up for preorder. Folks have already begun receiving theirs, most without the little Child pin which was part of the bundle.

What's your take on this? The preorders sit in Walmart's system for months, then suddenly get canceled, then the next day they're offered again.

Some folks whose orders were canceled began receiving them anyway.

Why does Hasbro keep rewarding exclusives to Walmart, knowing how poorly they are handled? Especially with the hottest Hasbro property in years?

You've mentioned petitions and forums for wants/complaints for you to show Hasbro we're serious/happy/angry, but do they ever listen or bother to read them? Would they even care?

Why can't HasbroPulse get these exclusives, since they're an arm of the company that makes them?

I know Hasbro (and certain online retailers) are very interested in reading fan opinions, polls, and whatnot to see what's going on - if you can quantify it, you can make smart choices with it. If a rare $10-$20 figure is $200 on Amazon, it's pretty obvious that a reissue is needed. If 2,000 people sign a petition for a vehicle, there's a viable market in there. But when it comes to last-mile stuff - a specific retailer's way of shipping, filling orders, and so forth - that's not something Hasbro is really in a position to fix. At that point you're going to need to get the retailer involved, and the very big retailers who do not specialize in toys may not be as open as a smaller retailer.

Anything can be done - it's just a question if someone wants to do it. Walmart.com is a tiny portion of the Walmart business. The Walmart.com collector business is a tinier part of the business. And Star Wars figures? Tinier still. Unless there's a huge negative PR backlash - and odds are there can't be, due to the number of fans versus the number of customers - there's unlikely to be big changes. (For the record, I got my Mando 2-packs and no pins. I didn't even know there was a pin!)

I ordered a bunch of Transformers and Star Wars on Walmart.com since last July and it was a rocky thing with orders being canceled, re-placed, and then I couldn't cancel orders on items I'd since found in stores and wound up with extras. Why is this? I don't know the specifics, but a lot of ecommerce was made to be designed for in-stock items and items that are constantly reordered and available forever in a supply chain. Coca-Cola cans are very different from an exclusive action figure with tens of thousands of units on a one-time order.

I would love to live in a world where all exclusives are shared - Pulse, BBTS, EE, whoever, it'd be nice to have a back-up option to suit your needs - but once a store buys a product, it's their product. If Walmart decided to buy 100,000 Vlix figures and then burn them on camera just to see if I would cry, there's no law against it. (Also, I would.)

The only people with visibility into how a store processes their orders works at that store, and they probably aren't aware there's a problem. We can make a stink about it and hopefully someone will hear, but it might be a long march.



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2. I just read your most recent Q&A. Often Hasbro's business model is in relation to either no new media (film, TV shows etc.) as was during the good old days, or to having to produce product for a movie per year or every other year. Is it not obvious to Hasbro that they should change their SW business model in accordance with the abundance of media coming our way? I mean, the norm is make product for a movie, cartoon series per year or two. But now, tons of media in my mind means change the model to keep up with demand and take advantage of all of the Gold-Mine opportunities coming their way. Am I crazy to think this makes perfect sense?

The model isn't what it used to be - during the prequels, you knew a new movie was coming every three years and could work with it. The Disney era has proven to be chaotic - sure, The Force Awakens and Rogue One came out on time, but there were some issues with some of the other release dates. Also The Rise of Skywalker had a product launch which did not show signs of confidence of the Q4 2019 storytelling slate.

This year there's a pretty good upcoming mix of retro items without a lot new on the horizon. I'm not completely sure what the truth is for new The Mandalorian reveals - after all, we heard there weren't going to be season 2 toys for quite a while, and then we got a Bo-Katan Kryze pre-order - so my hope would be that this fall is jam-packed with Mando newness. (I wouldn't bet on it, though.)

If I were Toy King I'd probably want to ensure there's an ongoing "Classic" line (which is to say, anything from 1977-2020) which we could call "Collection 1" running in tandem with a line that's all upcoming or new debuts, called "Collection 2." Those of you who have been around a long time know that I totally stole that from Kenner, who had 2 concurrent assortments running from 1996 onward - literally named Collection 1/2 (and sometimes 3) from 1996-2005.

It might also be prudent to eliminate assortments completely - but that would have industry-changing effects and would work best in a post-bricks-and-mortar world. Or Japan. Somehow Japan has been making it work for years, on and off, with its many toy lines. Similarly Germany with Playmobil, and most of LEGO has been sold outside of assortments - you just put out what you need, when you need it. It's not as efficient as an assortment, but really, who wants to be efficient?

Since demand isn't remotely close to full for characters like Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Mando Din, and a handful of others, there's probably a lot to be said for a permanent assortment of re-runs of popular characters more than anything else. Will this happen again? Probably not. Despite the "Fan" nomenclature used in Hasbro's marketing, what we're seeing - and how we're seeing it - seems to be more "Collector"-y. Which is progress - but right now there's probably a huge market of people who will never read this column or contemplate what it means to "collect them all" that could be sold dozens of figures each, if they only had a chance to see them for sale at suggested retail price.




3. I’m thinking, once again, about ReAction Figures. Super7 has cranked out dozens of different versions of the same mold — the Alien Xenomorph, for example — do you think there is a market for the Retro Collection to do the same thing? Think of Darth Vader or Boba Fett — molds that, presumably, are ready to go — released again and again in different colorways. There are several canon versions they could do (Boba’s white prototype armor, Holiday Special, more screen-accurate to ESB or ROTJ, Marvel comics, etc.), but I’d also buy them in glow-in-the-dark or see-through or sparkly purple. Am I the only one? Is money being left on the table or is this too small potatoes for Hasbro?

In 2019, Hasbro did a "Prototype" Darth Vader in various colors which is similar to the kind of designer figure you're describing. Funko's Hikari Vinyl figures proves Lucasfilm is not opposed to wacky color art figures, but so far Hasbro has yet to pounce on that strategy. I think it would be cool to see if done with the right eye for design, which can be tough - sometimes we say "we want things on vintage cardbacks" and we get several waves of reruns. A designer figure would probably need a good artist or artistic style in order to be something truly special.

Hasbro rarely - but occasionally - tikes a swing at the designer toy market. We've seen a few special My Little Pony items over the years, and the occasional con exclusive for Transformers or other brands comes from a strange place. The Jurassic World Dino Hybrid figure deco frequently drew inspiration from Japanese Kaiju sofubi figures, but not from their intentionally maddeningly low runs and high prices. I wouldn't bet on more retro figures in wacky colors, but I'd love to see some. As long as it isn't something nonsensical like a lavender Darth Vader or a green Stormtrooper.



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Be sure you send in your questions for next time. The mailbag is out of on-topic questions, so if you got some, send some in.

It's going to be a while for Star Wars to get the Disney+ spotlight again, but hey, WandaVision premiered last weekend with two episodes and not a whole heck of a lot of toys - collectibles, sure, but not toys. It's a weird era, and one that seems to be spreading given Star Wars also seems a lot less interested in toys for new installments at launch. If the powers that be are not already working on Book of Boba Fett stuff, I assume it's going to be a rather uninspired launch - we got precious little from season 2 out of the whole Mando Mondays program, for example. I'm sure we'll have some stuff but as of right now I'm assuming any upcoming timely toys are going to be coincidental, or potentially truly from the previous installment of the franchise. (See: The Bad Batch from The Clone Wars.)

We've also had the return of the "Lucasfilm Games" brand, which I assume ultimately won't mean much beyond a logo on a box. I doubt we'll get more SCUMM games that run on an 8086 or a new BallBlazer or whatnot, but what do I know? Star Wars games have done a pretty good job keeping up with modern trends, which I don't like, but I did enjoy The Clone Wars game and The Force Unleashed titles. It would be great to see something come up with a fun campaign and minimal opportunities for microtransactions. Or perhaps something for the Switch for once. (Or more NES games, hi out there Limited Run Games.)

Also interesting, Lanard Toy is getting in to the 7-inch action figure game with Alien and Predator figures at Walmart for pennies under $10. The colors are off-model, but they're $10. They're not mega-articulated, but again, they're $10. Admittedly the odd colors make them a little less desirable to adult fans, but it doesn't strike me as difficult to change a white or blue figure to black plastic as a running change to sell another 100,000 or more units. I mean, ten bucks. I'll buy a 7-inch Alien for ten bucks. How much does dye cost these days?

The possibilities for the future of toys are never not interesting. Admittedly Fox' top-tier sci-fi franchises aren't Star Wars or Star Trek, but the future of toys needs to grow beyond increasingly expensive toys which oscillate between seeming too expensive given inflation and once in a while, seeming like a screamingly good value. $5 or $10 are price points I believe most fans can live with if the product at least looks cool - it worked for those Titan Hero figures. Maybe there's a market for a cut-rate 6-inch Stormtrooper with half of the articulation? I certainly hope so.

--Adam Pawlus

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