Q&A: Star Wars Force Friday, Classic Customs, and Oh Force Friday Is This Week

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 29, 2019

Come See New Toys at NYCC 2019!

1. With Triple Force Friday approaching, news of product leaks is increasing.

What is the point of having a "street date" on these products when stores put them on the pegs and people can buy them early?

Has Hasbro/Disney EVER gone after a retailer for selling the product before they're told they can?

If I see the toys hanging on the pegs in the store, I should be allowed to buy them.

Does it hurt Hasbro in any way if I can buy the toy before I'm supposed to?

I don't disagree with "if it's on shelves, it's for sale." But I don't make policy. Realize the error, sell it to the lucky discoverer of your problem, then drag the rest back. Nobody should get fired, but more importantly, nobody should make a garbage customer experience. Not everybody understands that a repackaged figure from a movie that came out 30 years ago shouldn't be for sale - you see it, it's there, you should be allowed to purchase it. This is all the fault of Lucasfilm and The Phantom Menace, but it's also all of our faults collectively for not whining about it on a larger scale. It's all for marketing - this is all happening for the benefit of whipping up press, be it big features on AV Club or local news looking at the nerds out at Target at midnight buying a giant Porg. Also sometimes it leads to crazy speculators clearing out an aisle, but I think that's over - the fact that nearly every exclusive launch toy from the last few movies can be bought at a discount is hard to ignore. This produces short-term hype and long-term lack-of-interest.

On the whole, Hasbro isn't the organization that picks the Star Wars street dates. We've been putting up with this ridiculousness for 20 years now, and there are "set dates" (the dates a store puts out new stuff - utter hogwash and generally the result of a game of telephone) and "street dates" (the movie studio/licensor deciding all products are under an embargo.) Some items have street or set dates and you never hear about them - board games, big TV-advertised toys, Funko figures, and so forth. Video games and books and DVDs do have dates which you were undoubtedly aware of at one point or another.

I have never heard of anyone in toys being gone after for breaking a date. I've heard anecdotal evidence of hourly people being fired as a result of DVD dates being broken, but I have never found any concrete-that-I-can-report evidence of anyone ever really losing out as a result of a broken toy date. I'm not saying it never happened - I'm just saying in 20 years, with three prequels, a Clone Wars launch, 3 sequels, two one-offs, the entire Marvel and Transformers franchises, almost all of the Pixar moves since 1999, the Pirates movie toys, and so forth - and to my knowledge nothing has happened.

Again - I can't say nothing has happened. Maybe a manager got barked at. I doubt there's an enforceable law on the books about toy dates, but it's possible a general breach-of-contract thing applies. A manufacturer could theoretically fill an offending customer's order last, but with the big guys who break street - that's unwise. A licensor could twist the arm of the manufacturer to put the screws on an unruly customer, but again, they don't. Online there's visibility and things put up before a street date have resulted in companies being asked to take things down - this you've seen, this I've seen - but if there's more going on than this, I haven't seen it.

I think it's goofy. I have mentioned this to rooms of people. It just gives big box stores a huge edge with theoretical (but as far as I can tell, none yet) Midnight Madness things - and with The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian, Fallen Order, and Frozen II (yeah I know Disney's style guide says Frozen 2 but the logo says Frozen II so I am going with II) all hitting the same day it seems no major retailer has plans to do the big special party thing. It's the fifth movie launch - nobody cares. It's not special. This sort of thing only worked with books, DVDs, video games, and toys once in a blue moon - you can't do it every year and expect results. You care and I care, but the part-time fan that only buys on a Force Friday won't show up every 12 months.

Ultimately it probably doesn't hurt any toy manufacturer if its toys are handed off to someone early. (I have had at least one early toy from almost every street date about which I have cared for quite some time now. It always happens somewhere.)



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2. Hi... do you know if online retailers are taking part in Triple Force Friday? (Does EE have plans?)

Yes! There are plans - but they're not huge plans. There are lots and lots of items coming from a variety of manufacturers but I am not at liberty to discuss specifics.

There won't be pony rides and balloons for the kiddies, it'll be like the other launches. Again - I can't really say much other than see you on Friday when the stuff goes up for sale.




3. How is it possible for Smithlord to make the Kenner inspired figures of Beru, Owen, Biggs, Wedge, Motti, etc?

Isn't this a clear copyright violation; making toys off of intellectual property that you do not have ownership of in a scale that Hasbro is making similar figures?

A couple of weeks ago (when this question was sent in) this had been a topic of much discussion - are The Fans Strike Back and other items a violation of someone's trademarks and copyrights? I am not a lawyer - but with brand logos and icons like Droids, Star Wars, Kenner, and so on - it's clearly someone else's trademarks being sold. On top of that they're also bootleg/knock-off figures - these aren't original toys in new boxes, or new toys in new boxes, these are some guy making his or her own toys and selling them in such a way that they look legitimate.

A good example of this might be "third party" Transformers, which carefully skirt the line and rarely get shut down. It seems ones that use Hasbro's trademarks get shut down quickly - but if you have a toy that doesn't sport Autobot or Decepticon branding, and with packaging that makes zero mention of any of Hasbro's trademarks, they seem to get out there without a lot of complications. I am not in this business, but it's sort of like the not-Ewok Villages out there - sometimes it's just a tree hut, or a bar. Once you apply Star Wars branding to it, you're probably asking for some angry letters.

I can assure you Hasbro knows about these. I can't tell you what - if anything - Hasbro is inclined to do about it. I've always felt any sort of replica item that wasn't clearly different or marked as such (new copyright date or other markings) would be a bad idea and ruin the fun of collecting for fans. Blue Snaggletooth figures shouldn't be remade - there are plenty out there, and I don't want fans to have to concern themselves if it's authentic or not - but that's obviously no longer something anyone can stop.

Cease-and-desist letters are probably being drafted as I type this, and the courts may ultimately decide who can do what. If the packaging didn't have the logos, I bet the makers could get away with selling Hairy Trunkless Elephant Ram or Space Princess Ice Sculpture, even based on the original sculpts - but once "TM" things enter the packaging you tend to get the lawyers interested very quickly.

It's my hope someone sees these and goes "Oh, we at Hasbro should be making more of this kind of product or letting Super7/Entertainment Earth/Funko/etc. do it." And I would also prefer we live in a world without newly manufactured unlicensed copies of vintage toys, but that's just me. You do you.



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I am putting the finishing touches on my NYCC panel this weekend - not a lot of Star Wars you haven't seen leaked, but tons of other stuff from big companies you probably won't expect because I sure as heck wasn't expecting to be able to share it. If you're at NYCC, or have friends in the toy press world that are, it's gonna be worth a look. Room 1C03, Saturday October 5, 6:30 PM. Do it up! (Mattel isn't going but I was sent stuff from Mattel. For example.)

Force Friday this week. This is the first big launch we've had for a new movie without any (known) new vehicles - we've seen a couple of updates/refreshes leaked, but nothing genuinely new. Unless it's a well-kept secret, there's no proper 3 3/4-inch line. Also they're leaning hard on repaints and metallic deco variants. In short, this may be the dullest of the Force Fridays despite the literal shine.

Star Wars is a two-pronged property - "Classic Trilogy" and "The New Thing" tend to go together quite nicely. If you leave out one, the other might not work so well. I think the 2008 launch - a hearty mix of The Clone Wars and Return of the Jedi was an utter delight. 2002's Attack of the Clones launch mixed in enough classic and familiar faces to be a lot of fun, especially with the price drop. Looking back on the last few movies, I think I enjoyed Rogue One and Solo toys the most because they felt fresh and familiar, like a weird Mini-Rig of a line. It worked. I'm getting that not-so-fresh feeling this time.

Metallic repaints where were Galoob lost me as a loyal fan on Star Trek and Star Wars, so... I dunno. Maybe this is where the completism stops? Probably not, if droids-by-the-piece didn't do it.

--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, and we're down to 2 questions per week until we get overloaded with questions to re-expand back to 3 or more.



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