Q&A: Star Wars Goes Large, Figure Displays, and Getting Kids on Board with Star Wars

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 12, 2014

1. I was wondering, what kind of stands are you using when you display your Star Wars 6" figures? I just opened all of mine, and action poses tend to fall over with every shake of the floor.

The increased articulation and mass of new, larger figures present new problems that aren't being properly addressed by toy makers. Gravity and heat can cause joints to sag a tiny bit over time, causing them to nosedive (and possibly break) as you describe. 3 3/4-inch figures - particularly ones without ankle joints - rarely had this problem when you used a basic stand with a single foot peg. They weren't too heavy, and with few exceptions (read: Battle Droids) there were rarely any figures that would sag while on the stand and bend in weird ways.

Hasbro's 6-inch line is wildly inconsistent with stands, and as such there are no good ones. Some have foot holes the size of vintage Kenner figures (kinda big) and others use the Hasbro Marvel Lengends-size hole. The problem isn't the peg size so much as it is gravity - ankle joints aren't always super-strong and a few weeks after you pose it just so, it'll sag and plummet. I've seen it happen a bunch - so the only stand you should be using are basically doll stands, with the hooks you can put around the waist or necks of your figures. They're kind of ugly, but they prevent figures from falling over. I'd suggest taking a figure in your pocket to your favorite hobby or craft store that hopefully supports reproductive rights for women and then buy a whole bunch of the model that best fits your figures. Many of the big chains have coupons online or in the newspaper for hefty discounts on one item too, so you might want to give those a look as well.



Order New Toys at Entertainment Earth!
Star Wars Saga Legends Action Figures Wave 4 Case Star Wars Class II Attack Vehicles Wave 4 Star Wars Mission Series Action Figures Wave 4 Case Frankenstein Distressed Hikari Vinyl Figure - EE Exclusive
Free U.S.A. Shipping - Spend $79+ on in-stock toys!


2. Hi adam, do you think there's a chance we will see a 31 inch han solo carbonite or possibly a one time indiana jones 31 inch. Seems Disney own the franchise I'm thinking Disney on the package and sold at the theme park and u gotta instant winner!

The 31- and 20-inch figures we're seeing out of most companies, like Jakks Pacific, cater to a very specific mass (kid) audience. They're making things they assume will be bought by a fairly wide audience which may also include collectors and gift-givers - this is why you saw Costco get an exclusive version of the giant Darth Vader last year. At least for the moment, the key words are "mass appeal." The economics of these larger figures fall into place when you can sell ridiculous quantities of them.

Since Indiana Jones is dead for the moment and arguably has little/no child appeal (I'd say ages 9-11 are probably where it becomes neat), I would suggest living a life in which any new Indy product is viewed as an incredible gift from the toy gods. The probability of such a thing existing without a movie on the way to the theater, or massive theme park support, is about zero. It has been treated as a licensing afterthought for years, and as such is behaving accordingly - it's an expensive license that didn't do well in its last outing for the last movie. Look at it this way - someone makes bobble heads or Funko Pop! vinyl figures for damn near everything, and nobody did anything like that for Indiana Jones. That sort of tells you how viable the property is right now if you can't buy it in any form today.

While a Carbonite block has amazing collector appeal, we haven't even seen a standard Han Solo yet - a non-articulated decoration would be pretty awesome in anybody's room but I don't know when or if such a thing would be likely to happen. I'd bank on an exclusive if at all, but another important thing to remember is that you as a fan do have the power to nudge people in directions you'd like to see. I'd suggest writing letters - paper ones, not email - to Jakks Pacific at:
Jakks Pacific
22619 Pacific Coast Hwy Ste 250
Malibu, CA 90265

Typically companies still do like getting real mail, as it means you actually had to do more than spend three seconds clicking a mouse, and who knows - if enough people do it, perhaps you'll see these things in the next couple of years. Of course, the way toy trends go the clock is ticking, so get on it.

(PS I will buy a giant Carbonite block.)




3. My question is, Are the kids important when it comes to making action figures??? 6 inch or 12 inch is popular with kids or adults??? Why are my children, nephews, and my kids friends love the 3 3/4 inch action figure, if that model is not popular anymore? As a dad I buy what my children want, but as a collector I will but what I want but I will sacrifice my needs for my children!

The true key to Star Wars' success as a 3 3/4-inch line may lay in the new movie and cartoon, but possibly not - reports in 1999 and 2000 indicated children were buying The Phantom Menace figures as souvenirs. A $7 event buy was a collectible one-off purchase, and not the first step into a larger world. (LEGO started to pick up steam around this time, too.) This was attributed to the increasing price of action figures, as $7 was too high but $6 was supposedly just fine. (I don't quite understand it myself.) If Rebels makes it out soon, this could change - a $6 figure or a $10 2-pack is very appealing, and so far we haven't seen much legitimate newness in that format. Rebels would provide brand new characters unseen by collectors, and they should have a strong kid appeal.

For years, we've seen the line mutate and change - back in 1995, all action figures were either micro toys from Galoob or 3 3/4-inch Kenner releases. (Or Bend-Em's, but let's forget-ems.) Today, Rebels alone features a 12-inch Ezra, a 3 3/4-inch Ezra, a 20-inch Jakks Ezra, a LEGO Ezra, and an army man-esque Command Ezra. The playing field is quite different than it was in the good old days, where if you wanted Lando Calrissian, you bought Kenner's Lando figure, and if you didn't like it then too damn bad.

I think that the line's big problem is competition with other Hasbro brands (i.e., Hasbro also has to keep Transformers and Marvel floating, and they iced G.I. Joe to do this) in addition to other Star Wars brands (LEGO being the big one). LEGO's Phantom vehicle is $20, has 2 figures, and is considered to be something of a premium toy while Hasbro's is $25 and has 0 figures. Dealing with these perceptions is difficult, but it doesn't hurt that Hasbro's items look larger and come in bigger boxes.

I wouldn't call the format out, but it does have a problem serving multiple masters. Collectors (generally) want new stuff - super-articulated and highly improved versions of 1980s and 1970s favorites. Kids (generally) want whatever's big now - so The Clone Wars, and possibly Rebels as well as the major players from the movies, if they've seen the movies. The kid paradigm is kind of problematic - as we've grown from the line being largely 3 movies in the 1990s to 4, 5, 6, and now 6 movies and over 100 TV episodes, it's just not possible to easily represent the entire saga on the store shelves at once. Back in the old days, Kenner had it easy - you had Star Wars, and you made the best 12-21 figures. And then you moved on to the next movie, making those best figures, and you moved on to the next film and rarely looked back. This served the line well, as it kept a few figures in circulation for years while others could just be retired and nobody much missed Lobot or a Cloud Car Pilot as time went on.

Today Hasbro wants to keep popular characters like Yoda and Darth Vader and Boba Fett around - which is good! They should. However, a case of action figures is only 12 now. During the 1970s Kenner era, these things sold better so the casepacks were 48. Aisles were made to fit more product, and generally you sold more of fewer figures - which is Hasbro's desired outcome today, and antithetical to making a basic figure line of 50+ figures per year. The problem is in 1984, "every figure" was about 92 figures in circulation, 3 figures removed from the cardbacks, and 1 that basically never showed up stateside - and today we're looking at a couple thousand figures, depending on how you feel like counting. Today's figure packaging does a poor job of co-promoting and encouraging other purchases (after all, Kenner in the 1980s showed kids every figure ever for the entire run) and the notion that you may actually go to the store and find a current figure that you want is farcical. It was difficult in the 1980s, too, but not like today - or really at all since the late 1990s.

In order for certain products to flourish, you need limits on options - LEGO succeeds here with a tight, smaller line that's available outside of assortments and you can basically go into any store in America and you've probably got a 90% chance of walking out with what you want, provided it has been released and is on the market as part of the 2014 line. With Hasbro the lifespan of a figure in a wave is much shorter, there is no big plan as to on-shelf dates other than the set dates in Spring and Fall, and Hasbro has absolutely no intention of keeping any one figure on the shelves for kids all year long. In short, it isn't 1983 any more, and Hasbro isn't Kenner. To truly get a line that delivers the goods, we probably need to embrace the idea of a much smaller line (30ish figures per year tops) that focuses mostly on new storylines, reissuing old favorites, and generally not revisiting things like Cantina aliens and pilots and Imperials. There's really no perfect solution - the line is something of a monster, and there's little anyone can do to truly control it to appeal to kids and indeed fans of all ages like the 1980s line has done over time. Our tastes have changed, we have splintered, and we as collectors are not at all open to a single, unified vision of the perfect collectible action figure.




I write a lot of stuff late at night, which sometimes results in fun when I re-read it and don't quite remember writing it all. I just had a killer brainstorm a little before writing this, and if I'm right - and I'll know this week if I am, and won't be able to share it - well, next year should be fun. We already know it's going to be fun because of what Hasbro has told us, but the licensing pie means more companies giving us more action figures - so there are more interesting potential opportunities. The 31-inch Han Solo in Carbonite, for example - what a lovely idea! I was hoping Jakks Pacific would do a life-size vinyl R2-D2. How much could it cost? Either way, they're fun things I don't anticipate seeing, but seeing as Toys R Us has a 20-inch 4-pack of Farmboy Luke, Darth Vader, a Tusken Raider, and a Stormtrooper... I want that. I don't want to pay for it, though, especially since Sub-Pop just reissued a whole bunch of the Pissed Jeans catalog on vinyl this month. And Rhino has this Beefheart deal next month. Don't get old, kids, your tastes will diversify.

So The Black Series Chewbacca/Vader wave is now shipping to retailers that are not Walgreens, and may this window thing never happen again. I appreciate what they can do - seeing McFarlane, Hasbro, and Funko kiss the ring is fascinating and so far (I don't think) Mattel is on board for whatever Walgreens plans on doing - but it is certainly a way to boost Hasbro's bottom line for action figure sales in a world where Kay-Bee and Kmart are no longer big players. And that bottom line really does need boosting - you can't expect to survive by doing the same thing forever. New customers aren't coming and you can't count on the same guys buying figures in the same stores (or online) forever. I don't know who wanders into Walgreens - it's not a store anyone in my admittedly small social circle frequents - but it is another group of people with money. 7-11, Circle K, Home Depot, and the like are also great candidates for expansion but it's hard to square the tastes of the collector class with the rest of America. (See: Mattel's expansion of Hot Wheels at Kroger over the last few years. It is glorious.) Even at our most rabid, we're still only tens of thousands of fans, and we don't all buy everything. There are millions of fans out there, but not millions of people that will buy a toy for themselves.

People ask me regularly what my expectations are, so here's my guess for Hasbro. Rebels was probably intended as a one-year line - Hera's not in wave 2 or 3, so I assume she's wave 4 and may be the end of the line as it was originally envisioned. There's a surprising amount of The Clone Wars in the new orange-and-white line, and no big vehicles as far as the eye can see. It feels short - transitional. Disposable. In other words, sort of like what Hasbro does with Marvel and I am assuming that Hasbro's 2015 movie line will be somewhat similar to Rebels and Marvel. Lots of classic. One or two batches of movie stuff. And unlike Marvel, I expect continued support for 3 3/4-inch lest they lose the old-timers. If Episode VII drops the size, I can't imagine caring for long - the 2-inch Guardians of the Galaxy figures aren't for me and 6-inch figures don't really work for amassing a collection as such. The slow-drip release schedule may be working for Hasbro, but it feels so slow. Our first taste of this scale was Comic-Con 2013, and 14 months later we've got about 20 dudes. It's not nothing, but by modern standards it feels slow. (It's still more varied and interesting than the last year of 3 3/4-inch.)

So what we see at NYCC is great - I've got some questions on that for you next week - and we know 2015 will be work keeping an eye on, even if the big picture sort of is a drag. You're getting Mosep - Hasbro has earned at least some of your money, even if you don't necessarily want to throw down for re-re-remakes. I want that Han Solo in Carbonite though. And the Jawas. And Boushh Leia. And Skiff Guard Lando. Basically it looks like they're just playing to things I want, so good for them.

What else...

Galactic Hunter Video Theater continues this week with Rebels and we bring back Figure of the Day for this week! Maybe next week, too, depending on how things shake out. (It's surprisingly exhausting to do this stuff if it isn't part of an established, breakneck-daily activity.) Shadow Black Series (hah) tomorrow!

--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.



Six Second Toy Talk - Because You Don't Have a Minute
It's a Thing You Can Watch