Q&A: Star Wars Eras, Women, and Foot Pegs

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, February 25, 2018

1. Long time reader here.

Recently after viewing Ep 8, my peers and I have been discussing SW in general and there are a growing number of us who have decided (now that we are on the bring of unlimited new SW content/films) that our true love of the franchise is with Ep 4-6, up to about 1996 (right before the Special Editions where it all started to go "wrong".)

We have started to refer to ourselves as "Star Wars Purists". What do you think of this term? Also, can we start referring to Ep 7-9 as the Sequels the way we call 1-3 the prequels? It would help the fan community (I think) to adapt both of these terms. Thoughts?
--Confused in California

Generally speaking I'm not a fan of general purists as I don't want to invalidate what any fans love. As a kid, I liked Ewoks - the aliens, the movies, the cartoons, and the companion series with robots too! Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, the "true fan" would probably tell me I'm a fool for thinking Return of the Jedi was a great movie for toys, and if it wasn't for The Phantom Menace we'd probably still be maligned for liking the movie with Jabba the Hutt in it. Opinions change with time.

Today I'm hearing some older fans who are Original Trilogy only fans (OT Purists?) as well as slightly younger fans who love the prequels, or the classic Expanded Universe. Lucas Purists? EU Purists? I anticipate that the complaining about Disney's movies will probably change a lot when Solo comes out, and again when Episode IX comes out, and if the Rian Johnson trilogy happens (I'm wondering if it will) I'm sure that will cast a rosy light on the current era.

I guess what I'm saying is be specific about your fandom - me, I like Star Wars, and I'm toy people. Maybe you're a Lucas-era purist, or an Original Trilogy purist, because if you're a Star Wars purist I assume that means you love all things Star Wars over other franchises.

Since Star Wars was dead in the 1980s, I'd pick up a lot of old magazines and comic books. I read the letter columns. Contemporary opinions by fans of The Empire Strikes Back were not quite so glowing, and time can change opinions on a lot of things. Blade Runner. Bill Cosby. Borat.

I don't think unlimited, annual content is good for the business because it invalidates the thing I just bought, and it feels like the party is over once I see the movie. For the Lucas era, a movie would come out and we were assured a year or more worth of figures from that film - in some cases, sprinkled over several years. It feels like that's over.

Let's not call the current crop "the sequels." I mean, from where I sit the sequels are The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Since we're getting sidequels and prequels, I refer to the current crop as "The Disney Movies," but "post-Lucas" would also be good.

I'm a little weird in how I have some level of love for all of Star Wars, even if it's bad. It's interesting. Art or entertainment come from strange places - I've been rewatching the original Star Trek as I wasn't at all in to it as a kid, and it's sort of fascinating to watch the show and how its set design and lighting came to be in order to sell more color TVs. Because NBC was owned by a TV manufacturer. Similarly Disney is a "family entertainment" company with a rich licensing and theme park program, with a vested interest in expanding the audience as they are no doubt aware that Mickey Mouse is unlikely to ever be as cool as Darth Vader.

I'm pretty mellow on the whole thing, because we've seen variations on this before. Were the 1980s Star Trek movies a slap in the face of the legacy of the TV show? When Star Trek turned 21, The Next Generation made a generation of fans angry for a couple of years, before some warmed up to it and the kids grew up with and adored the new show. There are people that grew up with The Phantom Menace - Star Wars' 22nd birthday present - that enjoyed it, while some older fans see it as an unforgivable sin. I don't recall hearing many problems with Special Editions until it was made clear that the original cuts would likely never be released again, either, come to think of it.

It is what it is - if Lucas held to his one-time comment of the movies being over forever, fans would be upset. Reactions toward the new movies tends to start positive and get a little mixed over time, dating back to the prequels. I remember pretty much every new thing since the dawn of the internet era getting a lot of flack from fans, even if it's objectively popular, critically praised, or something I personally enjoy.

I find the current spiel on The Last Jedi kind of fascinating. Opinions people bring to these films can be fascinating, varying from reads capturing the author's intent, or perhaps blind spot, or missing the mark entirely. Given the disjointed authorship of contemporary Star Wars films with no real pretense as to it coming from a cohesive vision, all I can say is that I enjoy what I'm seeing as entertainment and I look forward to seeing how Episode IX paints the films and possibly ends this story.



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2. Hey Adam, I'm writing you to ask your opinion about equal representation in the various Hasbro scales. Last year the 6 inch line released a fantastic version of TFA General Leia in her vest, yet neither of the 3.75 lines have this figure. The basic line has an excellent version of TLJ Leia, yet no TFA Leia to date...why is this? I was under the impression that Hasbro said this version of her would be released in 3.75 form in 2017. Likewise, shouldn't they release all characters in the 6 inch line in one of the 3.75 lines? I'd like equal representation of all the great characters in 3.75 form, because that's the only scale I collect.

I think we've got two issues here. One is the status of the 3 3/4-inch action figure scale as the Star Wars toy line of record. The other is Star Wars treating most women in its stories like Smurfette.

Both are a little painful, for different reasons. While Kenner and Hasbro used to make every figure in every outfit that existed in any other format - or close to it - that era is over. For example, there's a Tonnika sister in Action Fleet. Galactic Heroes has some exclusive Clones. Wizards of the Coast made a miniatures collection that's packed with things you've never seen in any other format - and on top of that, Sideshow has some wholly original (and awesome) concepts too. With the ascent of the 6-inch line as a more popular collector format and increasingly strange mixes, choices, and lifespans on the 3 3/4-inch figure we're now in an era where some things just don't seem to make it to the scale. I also blame annual movies - we're seeing things from numerous stories that would've been a no-brainer to the Hasbro of the 2000s that in the New Era of Lucasfilm just can't make it out. It would be great if they would release all characters from the 6-inch line, but that's not how the world works. We also haven't gotten the new 6-inch Battlefront figures, or the red Stormtrooper, or a couple of others in the 3 3/4-inch line while they do exist as 6-inch figures. Without fans complaining more - and we are no longer the organized or unified force of the 1990s - we may never see some things.

Leia in particular is frustrating, because we all love Leia. She's a big adventure hero to some, Space Mom to others, and a character that's almost dwarfed by the even larger than life actress to inhabit a role that seemed like it would engulf another person completely. Whoever made the call to not include Luke, Leia, or Han as part of the 2015 launch of The Force Awakens is a doofus. The person that made Leia as only an exclusive has poor taste. The decision to not make Leia's most prominent outfit for two years is baffling - but seeing the diminishing sizes of the action figure line, these things happen. Had we not gotten animated Leia during the Rogue One line, I would've liked to have seen General Leia in Vest at that time. With 18 months between Solo and Episode IX, we'll probably (hopefully) see Hasbro, Lucasfilm, and Disney fill in some of the blanks. (Or else.)

As far as women in the line, I blame the movies themselves. In the 1990s Playmates did a good job breaking the "one girl per franchise" mold of most toy lines by giving us Troi, Dr. Crusher, Uhura, K'Ehlyr, Guinan, Sela, Dax, and Kira all in the first two years of its Star Trek line. Meanwhile, Kenner got us a couple of Leias. The original Star Wars trilogy only has one conversation between women, and it's more of barking orders. Were it not for Padme's entourage and the Queen having an exchange with Shmi, I don't think the prequels had any. (I can't binge 6 hours of film to verify at press time.) The new movies barely pass the Bechdel test, with The Last Jedi being the first Star Wars film to have two non-legacy women serve any real function in the action beyond exposition.

The 3 3/4-inch line is lagging, and it's a mix of diminishing interest and the line being boring. And since the line is lacking in aliens and significant, major characters there's diminished interest. I realize how obnoxious it is to say "I could run a better line than this," so instead I'll say you could run a better line than this. Leia is incredibly popular (plus or minus that not-so-great Slave Leia 6-inch figure) in collector circles, rarely becoming a pegwarmer or even mildly common.

While there have been marketing efforts to say "The Force is Female," the merchandising campaign made the 21st century cardinal sin of dividing the boys from the girls - I'm of the belief that trying to make one line (or failing that, compatible lines) would've been a great way to go. The Adventure Doll expression has its fans, but the new General Leia from The Last Jedi is selling to fans from all walks of life, seemingly regardless of age or gender. Just make a good action figure of a popular character, the fans will buy it. (I qualify this statement to go with the film's leads. I'm not sure what happens with minor characters, and since Hasbro hasn't really tried to do many of them it represents an opportunity to try things like we had in the past.)




3. Do the foot pegs on the 1995 Landspeeder fit vintage figures?

No - most of the modern era vehicles and playsets use the smaller, retooled foot peg with few exceptions. The Imperial Shuttle (2002, 2006) was not retooled - it retains 1983 copyrights and the larger foot peg. I know some people deride Hasbro for a "lazy repaint" but given all Hasbro really did there was leave out the electronics and slap on some weathering... that's a pretty lazy repaint.



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I've been writing about Star Wars toys for a long time, and we've had a lot of bizarre twists since the 1990s. At one point, every toymaker in town - including Mattel, including Playmates - aspired to the Star Wars license when Hasbro (then Kenner) was up for renewal prior to the prequels. You know how that worked out - after all, we're all still here. The license was renewed a couple of times since then, and as of right now my not-really-confirmed intel from Toy Fair 2018 says that LEGO did sign a new contract for years to come, but Hasbro's either hasn't been signed or hasn't been signed yet. The last time it looked like things might not happen we got "The Kenner Collection" of 1998, a pretty great batch of figures that could well have been a last hurrah had the license that could have ended. We got an AT-AT, a Bantha, the Rancor, and a smattering of obscure characters we've not seen before nor sense - Ishi Tib, Lak Sivrak, and Pote Snitkin come to mind. Kenner clearly had their legacy in mind... a legacy that could very well be coming up for expiration by the end of 2020.

In the last couple of weeks we saw Power Rangers go from BanDai to Hasbro - a baller move, to be sure - with the option that Hasbro could even buy the entire franchise were they inclined. BanDai still plans to do some great stuff before Hasbro takes over, which got me to thinking - this Sail Barge. Is this their way of saying "Come back home, 3 3/4-inch fans" or is this the possible "last hurrah" for this era, for this team? As of my writing this I don't know what the future will bring, other than Hasbro will need to renew a contract with Lucasfilm to keep the party going beyond 2020. If the scales change - if the license goes to someone new who reboots the whole thing - I don't know if I want to be along for the ride to the extent to which I have been for pretty much my entire life so far. I'm getting old.

No matter the outcome with the Hasbro license, we're going to call on them to #finishthe92. As a fan and as someone that sells toys, I'm keenly aware that the original action figure line from Kenner that ran from 1978-1985 has not yet been updated over the past couple of decades. I'm not picky as to articulation - be it 5 joints, or super-articulated - because it has been 23 years and beggars can't be choosers. Here are the original, vintage Kenner figures that modern Kenner and Hasbro neglected to update in any form (different troopers, of course, count as new characters):
Star Wars Death Squad Commander - grey outfit
Star Wars Power Droid - the Lars family Gonk Droid
The Empire Strikes Back Besping Security Guard - the one with the mustache
Return of the Jedi Sy Snootles - complete with flapper feather
The Power of the Force Imperial Dignitary - now known as Sim Aloo

If you want to keep going, Kenner versions of the figures were a little different than modern interpretations. These figures don't have a similar analog to their vintage equivalents, and we've seen Funko deliver some of them in their original Kenner look in its Pop! Vinyl line of bobble heads.
Star Wars Greedo - green suit, no vest
Star Wars Hammerhead - blue jerkin, no hood
Star Wars Snaggletooth - bare feet, grey fur, and distinctive belt buckle

Star Wars Walrus Man - flippers, orange vest, blue wetsuit, green fur

The Power of the Force Romba - dark brown hood, black nose, black belt (a redeco would suffice)

The Power of the Force Warok - grey fur, red hood (a redeco would suffice)

And if Hasbro really wants to knock it out of the park for really and truly updating the entire released Kenner Star Wars legacy range, let us not forget the 1985 cartoons... and the one from Brazil around 1989.
Ewoks Dulok Scout
Ewoks Dulok Shaman
Ewoks King Gorneesh
Ewoks Logray
Ewoks Urgah Lady Gorneesh
Ewoks Wicket W. Warrick
Droids C-3PO
Droids Jann Tosh
Droids Jord Dusat
Droids Kea Moll
Droids Kez Iban
Droids R2-D2
Droids Sise Fromm
Droids Tig Fromm
Droids Thall Joben
Droids Uncle Gundy
Droids Vlix

And of course, we'd happily take any others - and your personal list of "needs" may vary. We encourage you to remind Hasbro and Lucasfilm that after 23 years it's time to #finishthe92. If Mattel can update Super Powers and Masters of the Universe, then surely Hasbro is ready to crank out another dozen figures (after thousands) to finish the original line we've supported for a lifetime.

Time willing, I'll be putting up a much clearer manifesto in the coming days highlighting pictures for "missing," "technically remade but you can do better," and "would be nice to have if you're looking to really make this Kenner thing a reality." I hold no illusions about Droids and Ewoks figures being likely - but if Hasbro has a long-term strategic future plan to keep 3 3/4-inch collectors on the hook, they'd make a great second feature on HasLab!

We'll be talking about this a lot more - if you run a fan site, if you post to a forum, indeed if you interact with Hasbro and its Star Wars team on any level - bring this up. Be polite. Let's let them know we're still here and we'd love to continue the conversation, as they put it, and possibly finish the 23-year-chat we've been having.

--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.