Q&A: Star Wars Lost Tooling, Boba's Torso, and Retro Figures

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 21, 2021

1. I'm always curious to learn more about the topic of tooling and how it prevents certain figures from seeing the light of say again. In a factory, I it's not so simple as a single mold producing all the copies of a single figure that that are made.

Does Hasbro have a Raiders of the Lost Ark-like warehouse filled with shelves and shelves of figure and vehicle molds in storage, all in various stages of wear and tear and natural decay? Isn't there some way to digitally scan molds, and then 3-D print them so that figures can be re-released more easily?

Tooling is really big, and really heavy. My understanding from people I've spoken with at various toy manufacturers, indies, and their consultants is that most tooling isn't stored for long-term use. At some point at the end of its life, it may be sold off, scrapped, or - not infrequently - in the bottom of the bay and used as boat anchors, as supposedly a lot of old Kenner tooling got dumped in Hong Kong. Is it true? I haven't checked.

Sometimes the factory contacts the owner of the tooling to ask them what to do with it before it gets dumped. I've heard a few stories about almost complete toy lines nearly getting deep-sixed (or deeper) because it looked to the factory like that toy line had ended - and some were saved at the last minute. While most tooling is labeled, not all of it is stored or archived so we don't always know if what we're getting is new tooling based on old designs, or the very same tooling that squirted out a toy for its initial release. Hasbro's Kenner Star Wars The Retro Collection is completely new tooling, for example. I haven't picked up some of their other recent re-releases to compare them against my originals, but lately it seems much of what we're seeing of very old stuff is new tooling.

Many have confirmed to me that depending on what kind of materials you use to make your tooling, it can also just plain wear out over time. Famously the G.I. Joe tooling used by the Fan Club near the end of the run was supposedly barely usable, and some parts were used to make dozens of characters over decades - which is pretty impressive. It's not meant to last forever.

I genuinely have no idea if anyone is 3-D scanning stuff, or if in this era of 3-D sculpting and preproduction you can just make a new tool with your old digital assets fairly easily. Presumably we'll find out in the coming decades!



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2. Collectors have started receiving the new Vintage Collection ROTJ Boba Fett and already noticed an obvious omission of the chest armor detail. Every past Fett release, even the vintage, had this detail. [This would be the equal sign over his heart - AP.]

Oddly, the pic on the Hasbro order website shows this detail.

Why can't Hasbro save itself embarrassment, and just post final prototype pics of all figures and toys on their website and ask fans, "Did we get this right? Anything missing?" before going into production?

Over the years we've seen things like Luke's lightsaber hilt being swapped out with Vader's, or R2-D2's blue spot on top of his dome being left silver, or other things that differ from Hasbro's prototypes for some reason or another. I know "it happens" isn't a very exciting answer, but it does, and it happens surprisingly rarely given we've had thousands of 3 3/4-inch scale action figures over the years. I've been involved in the approvals of some licensed consumer products over the years and I can tell you that some companies will catch things and some licensors miss, and that the factories are generally not where things go to be fixed - there's not a lot of visibility after the final prototype is approved, and some errors aren't caught until the first figures arrive. And by then, it's often too late.

While Hasbro hasn't commented on it yet, similar things have happened in the past. More often than not, it's a factory issue. Hasbro's promotional images of the 2021 3 3/4-inch The Vintage Collection Boba Fett were 3-D renderings, not final product - and anyone that ordered a HasLab Unicron knows (or is about to find out) that any concept image or model you see has details which are subject to change. It happens with a lot of products and is a good butt-covering move in case something is dropped for budget reasons, or if something just happened along the way.

The 3-D renderings we all saw with the armor marking were approved by Hasbro and Lucasfilm, but a lot can happen on the way to the toy aisle. We saw some very early renderings which looked great - and the final toy looks good, it's missing that detail. At that size, not everybody will notice - but it is an omission.

Since there is no official Hasbro story, I can only relay to you what previous teams of people no longer working for Hasbro told me - sometimes the factory makes a change after the final approvals and before the item ships. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but in the old days I read about factories grinning with delight when a highly-detailed figure came up because they charged more for extra detail in the tooling for some reason. How they quantified this, I have no idea, and for all I know the factory did it to save a few nickels in development - or it could be that the intern finalizing these things just screwed up a file somewhere. Hopefully Hasbro lets us know, or better yet, initiates a running change (be it deco, or a retool) for future releases of this figure. The waves with the figure are most likely already all produced, so unless there are reissues for online accounts or future variations (Carbonized, repacks, etc.) we probably won't know about it for a while.

Even with the one missing detail, it's still Hasbro's very best Boba Fett action figure. It's a pity it was a visible thing on the front of the figure, but look at your other Boba Fett figures - there's simply no better one in this scale from Return of the Jedi.




3. I've noticed many online retailers will have the new Mandalorian Retro wave this summer, besides Walmart and Target.

Has Hasbro finally realized that its bricks and mortar presence with Star Wars is dwindling, given that last year's Empire wave was so hard for some folks to find?

Can we finally expect it to be a little easier to find the figures we want?

Here's the kind of answer people love - I really don't know.

Given the Cara Dune stuff, we don't know if Hasbro is going to keep these running as-is or not (I would assume not) but it is true that the Mando wave of these guys was indeed open to anyone who wanted to order it. Will it be filled in full? Will there be extras? Did Hasbro actually make a ton to meet the unending demand for Mando figures? That remains to be seen.

Just because it isn't an exclusive, logic would hope to dictate that would mean that there's more - but sometimes exclusive runs are larger than regular, non-exclusive runs. So in short, we have no idea. The only difference is I would assume this time it might be faster to get more figures (again, not necessarily Cara Dune) re-run if needed to meet demand.

It's also important to remember than Mando (the character) anything tends to be in short supply, so I don't expect these will be any easier to get than previous waves - unless you have your order in somewhere already.



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The biggest news of the week is that Disney+ is doing something Lucasfilm didn't - they're going to put all of the Ewoks TV shows and movies on streaming in about two weeks. I am excited! (No Droids yet.) I haven't seen the cartoons in full for years and I don't think I saw season two since it first aired - there was never a wide release of the entire collection of episodes in the USA. (Also I didn't have cable when it aired.) There's a lot of unseen Star Wars to show still, and I'm more than a little surprised they're dumping so much of it in April - and not May the 4th or something to tie in with their marketing calendar. But I'll take it!

--Adam Pawlus

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