Q&A: Star Wars Girl Figures, PR Fun, and Black Series Packaging

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, December 7, 2014

1. I'm a 39-year old father of 3 little girls, ages 9, 7, and 4. I have a room full of toys and I've introduced them all to Star Wars to varying degrees of success with my 7-year old liking it the best. We've been watching Rebels together as a family and have really enjoyed it. It's been great to have a show with 2 great women characters. But, when I go to the store Hera and Sabine are nowhere to be found in the toy aisle (with the exception of one Lego set with Hera). This has been extremely frustrating and disappointing. There are role-play toys, large figure, small figures, t-shirts, and other assorted stuff for the boys. What can be done to get licensees to create more products for the girls? They'll gravitate to other things (like Monster High, which I can't stand) because there are products geared towards them. Hasbro seems to be missing the boat on this.

This could also be a Disney issue as we've had the same frustration with Disney Infinity 2 Marvel characters as aside from Black a Widow and Gamorra, women heroes were only featured as supporting characters. I hope the Disney Infinity folks include more Star Wars women such as Ahsoka, Sabine, or Aayla Secura in addition to Leia and Padme.

What you need to do, because this gets long, is to buy stuff, write Hasbro letters complaining about that you're a parent and they lost sales for your kids (I'd leave out the collector part), and be sure to let them know when they did a good job too. Action toys rarely market to girls well, and really never have. Hasbro hasn't cracked the nut yet, even though Transformers like Windblade, Arcee, and Chromia sell really well as do women in Star Wars like Ahsoka and even more surprisingly, this year's Toryn Farr.

In the case of Hera and Sabine, they're coming - they're just not here yet. Most Rebels figures were late and as such, waves 2 and 3 are obviously going to be a little bit later. You can say "Hasbro missed the boat!" but we went through the same thing with Ahsoka - Hasbro got a bop on the nose before realizing they were missing out on a lot of potential customers, and it looks like (to some extent) it's happening again. And she didn't hit until wave 2. The basic cartoon figures seem to be selling just fine, but with only 6 single-carded new guys and the girls are (for reasons I guess I understand) packed with troopers in 2-packs, it's going to be a few months until they're common - if they're common. This is just the way action figures are now, heaven help you if you want something specific and aren't actively hunting it. If you don't shop online or make toy runs as a matter of your routine, you just aren't going to get what it is you want anymore.

Right now "action toys" are seen as a boy thing. Loud fans and mostly dollars are the only thing that will change this - Kenner/Hasbro tried "Princess Leia Collection" figures, plush, and various Padme dolls during The Phantom Menace that just reenforced the old adage that girls aren't in to action toys and action movies. We're seeing more girls into Supergirl, Batgirl, and the like so we could see a shift but it's going to be slow going unless there's a huge economic boost here. Hasbro plays Star Wars pretty conservatively now, and rightly so - semi-listening to collectors and their own line direction for the past 4 years got us to where we are today... a dreary march with few new points of light along the way. Even the best figures of Vintage were in one wave only, and those waves didn't stick around long.

So be sure to track the figures down for your daughter, but take another step and right Hasbro and Disney and the related companies that they lost out on a sale this Christmas because there was no appropriate Sabine and Hera figure on shelves. I think the entire brand has problems, but getting girls on board could help recruit new collectors and that's what all of us (at any age or gender) need to keep Star Wars going during the slow times. Granted, I also think the slow times are almost over and if Marvel is any indication it's going to get a lot more mass-markety in the next two years, but we'll see. Just be sure to let people know how they lost out on your money, and if the new girl figures sell they should hopefully get the message.

If you look across Saga Legends and Mission Series, we got zero women in the first Revenge of the Sith phase. So far for the Rebels rebrand, we've had none - but a Leia, Hera, and Sabine are all on the way in 2-packs. I'm hoping the rumored Ahsoka/Anakin set gets made too, because those are popular figures and will probably sell easily and in big numbers. Back in the 1990s each Kenner line was lucky to get 1 or 2 women in it, and we really haven't seen that change much outside collector offerings. Transformers got a whopping three girls this year - Windblade is an unquestionable success and Arcee and Chromia are just now shipping (and good, and on my desk) - so keep supporting those kinds of products and write letters letting them know that you appreciate it, too. Ultimately nothing matters except money and press, so be sure to speak up and buy.



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2. My sons and I are into Disney Infinity, and I have to say, I am very pleased with the Disney Infinity teams fan relations. On Twitter fans can actually have real communication with the people who make Disney Infinity. It feels good to know that they actually want to hear from fans and care enough to respond to them. Sometimes they even ask fans what new characters they would like to see or what upgrades would make the game better. It would be nice if the Hasbro Star Wars team could have a similar fan relations effort. Letting the people who buy your product know that they are important seems like something a manufacturer would want. My question is, do you think it would be worthwhile for Hasbro to have an open line of communication with fans through Twitter, or is PR maybe not as important for the toy industry as it might be for the video game industry?

What you're seeing is good PR, and good PR is smoke and mirrors. Asking fans what they want is something that's been going on for a while, especially when a line is new - putting the request out there now will likely get you the obvious choices. "Hey we're going to do Marvel, who should we do?" "Spider-Man!" "The fans have spoken, here's Spider-Man!" It's easy for the social media person to look understanding because passing along the suggestions is an easy thing to do, or not do, and the results will likely be exactly the same - there's no blossom of support for Uncle Scrooge, and if there was, it wouldn't matter. The game is in development already anyway. It might sound cynical, but remember most toys take 12-18 months of planning to get made - big companies have big plans and they don't deviate much from the course. Simply by asking a question and saying "Great idea!" they don't even have to pass your comments along - statistically, whatever they're doing behind the scenes will likely match up with the market research early on because the early choices are obvious choices. An exception is Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney had tremendous cajones to count on its success and to have those ready and developed before anyone knew for sure how it was going to perform with kids and everyone else.

Hasbro used to be a lot more interactive with us, with Fan Choice contests and site Q&As and the like, but the brand is not longer getting the love it should - even though it's supposedly doing very well. A fan press person could do wonders, but when you get right down to it PR mostly exists to transmit the message of the client to the consumer, not the other way around. PR is to get you to spend or to have a positive image of a corporate entity - and yeah, Hasbro could probably put a couple of hours in on us, but the line still is what it is.   No amount of spin is going to get you on board with Command if you aren't already feeling it.

Nearly every business says they want letters and really want to know what you're thinking, but when it comes to adult collectors I'm not sure I really believe that. If there's a big mass market they're missing, though, they want in on that action but there are thousands of monkeys at a thousand workstations working on this stuff and ultimately, a lot of the things we all want are considered and discarded at some point. Or shelved... after all, we're now finally getting Mosep and the modern Hasbro line took 15 years to get out a Cloud Car.

Right now, after all this time, most of what Hasbro hasn't done for Star Wars isn't being done for a reason. Sometimes that reason is "well we made 3,000 of the damn things and now we're still finding new ones nobody wanted until last week." Other times it's because the marketing dictates moving away from Expanded Universe, or the end of a TV show, or whatever goofy metric set internally wasn't met so the line changes direction. They're pretty aware of what we want, but remember we're scraping the bottom of the barrel for the movies (there are still a lot of good aliens like Jabba's Palace's Ishi Tib) and television across the years is fertile, but seemingly less desirable at Hasbro HQ right now. Personally, I don't know why they don't drop the pretext of the movies for a few months and focus solely on Rebels for a quarter, but that's me.




3. I noticed the early pictures we saw of the Target Exclusive Shadow Squadron had the speeder bike packaged at an angle with the weapons pointing up underneath it. [Adam's note: weapons oriented vertically.] Saw it at a store today and the bike was packaged straight on with the weapons straight on above it. [Adam's note: basically horizontal guns.] Do you know if this was just a design change, or is there a packaging variant that'll soon be floating around for this set?

I find this question interesting because it helps to illustrate the changing perspective that we had 19 years ago. When a line is young, variations matter - there are only just over 20 figures in this line, so it's easy for fans to collect them all (for a price) and to scrutinize changes. And also, actually care about them - we haven't yet had a couple hundred figures or more variants than the entire Vintage line. It's still vital, fun, and enjoyable - and hopefully the line will keep small so we don't have to go through years of 300 or more figures like we had in 3 3/4-inch.

Official Hasbro packaging photography often comes out of the first batches off the press - and sometimes changes are made, or the items shown don't make it out to stores. This is uncommon, but it happens - there were some Saga Legends Sandtroopers that exist only in this preproduction packaged form, and there are more than a few Transformers that were shown but never mass-produced. (Damn you, Demolition Rumble.) And so far, this appears to be one of those cases - the configuration Target uses on their web site does not seem to exist for sale. Obviously it exists and will appear in someone's collection or Hasbro's archives, but so far it appears few units (or no units) made it out to the collector's market. This could change, but it looks like this run pretty much ran its course so I wouldn't bet on it being easily available, if at all.




There's not a lot of new stuff going on now - Star Wars is in hibernation. Next year will probably be a world of pain as we go through and start trimming things due to a glut of newness, so as always it's worth mentioning that if you have a stash to purge, it might not be a bad time to get your extra stuff unloaded to make room for any hypothetical new releases.

Other than Star Wars Command there's not much new coming. I've personally seen wave 6 of The Black Series in both 6-inch (Yoda wave) and 3 3/4-inch (R5-G19 wave) in my hunts, along with a wonderfully consistent supply of Rebels Mission Series wave 1 and a pretty regular supply of Saga Legends. It's selling, getting restocked, and selling again - it's a great time to be buying this stuff if you can make the trip to the stores.

Other lines have been having a good month as well. I just got Transformers Generations Arcee and Chromia, both of which are pretty good. Various holiday exclusives are in ample supply, from TMNT's Leonard "Evolution" set at Target to various boxed sets and Walmart's giant $60 (or $50) Millennium Falcon. I'm assuming many of these will be gone in the next couple of weeks, but I'm betting that the big Falcon will be cheaper after the new year either in Walmart or in a closeout chain. Hey, one has to make bets on some of the big stuff.

--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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