Q&A: Star Wars Midnight Madness, Weirdness, and Exclusiveness

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 27, 2017

1. I can't help noticing in recent Q&A's that there's seemingly an increasing undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the hobby in some of your comments. You've expressed a kind of collecting malaise with observations about having such a lot of stuff; storage and display considerations; disinterest in Midnight Madness events and allusions that the new TVC might not go anywhere successfully at retail.

Personally speaking I nearly burnt out, but I'm still hanging in there. Hasbro provided the straw that broke this camel's back with that flimsy hollow shell known as the Rebels Troop Transporter. I sold 95% of my loose PT toys 2 years go and it was truly a liberating experience. Subsequent to that and the vintage value ‘bubble' this year (after Rogue One came along and brought in a load of new fly-by-night adult collectors paying out silly money) I just liquidated 99% of those as well. That particular move was like a divorce - it took me years to decide but now I have just the best of the best for displaying and I'm totally at peace with it. I never struggled for the storage or display room or with paying for the hobby, just the silly self-imposed parameters around what I did and didn't ‘need'. Now I only get what I want (mostly Disney droids which is a ball-ache living in the UK!) and I enjoy it more again.

So the question is, have you had enough? Are you going through what I went through? And further to that, are we all? You are in the best position to ascertain some kind of answer with regard to adult collectors by looking at the flow of traffic to Galactic Hunter.

Most of my problems come less from the new products than the reintroduction of old products, and in part that's me flinching ahead of what I'm guessing fan reaction will be later. "New vintage figures" used to mean "here is an assortment of all-new sculpts and they're going to be better than anything you've ever bought for these movies." Now it means "we're going to repackage figures you already own, or maybe missed, or bought on clearance." For something we as a group love that tends to come and go from the marketplace, that just means that I'm already wincing over the emails I'll get in 18-24 months if the line comes out and goes away because it just frankly wasn't very appealing to any specific audience. Considering the Vintage cheerleaders are mostly old-school original trilogy fans, this is going to be a massacre.

I have very little problem with most of the new stuff as it is, but the reactions drag me down. The 5-jointed figures are generally pretty good - not perfect, but acceptable. I don't have a problem with the wacky accessories so much as their coming with price increases. And I actually really like the Imperial Troop Transport - I had a lot of fun with it and I was delighted to see that Hasbro's new take on it had room for more drivers inside. Wheels would have been nice, but I'm also fine with a design that won't cause it to roll off my shelf.

I am still operating under the delusion that the line will rest, end, or cycle back before too long. I'm not super optimistic that this Han Solo movie is going to work out across the board (too soon, too much strife, something nobody really wanted to see in the first place, etc.) and it's possible that after the fireworks that will be Episode IX Disney may suddenly want to pull back - meaning Hasbro and licensors will hopefully have carte blanche to go back and make all the really cool stuff in these new movies that for one reason or another just aren't getting toys right now. The potential in Star Wars is still pretty great, but I don't know if everybody will ultimately come out for another era like 2006-2010 filled with new stuff, weird stuff, and higher-quality stuff if it means spanning more TV series and twice as many movies.

It's a pain right now. It will be a pain as long as we have annual movie launches and Disney park exclusives that may not even be able to be assembled properly. I don't know if I'll stick around forever, but I expect to, and I also anticipate the size of the action figure pie will continue to decrease and potentially expire. I do not anticipate a purge unless it comes with exiting the hobby or industry, but nobody usually does.

Having said that, if you want me to back off of Hasbro stuff, I'd probably consider jumping ship if Playmobil had a suite of toys. That'd be exciting. I still think one of the biggest mistakes of the line was when the product specifications (rather than the character selection) catered to collectors.



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2. Do you think there is any way to put the weirdness back into stories and toys for things like Star Wars, or is everything just past that point? Would it even have any appeal to contemporary audiences if it were possible?

Absolutely, and I don't know if fans will accept it. Fans did not all enjoy Meebur Gascon and D-Squad on The Clone Wars, nor did they all enjoy seeing Ziro the Hutt and Sy Snootles slither through the galaxy's underworld. We saw alien DJs, a Hutt crime clan, bizarre and artful shots of alien wastelands, and conversations with few to no recognizable words. These sorts of stories are glorious jewels, but not everybody agrees with me. Some people just want bounty hunters, or fistfights, or apocalyptic weapons. I like variety, and I like strangeness.

A rumor that won't die is Guillermo del Toro wanting to do a Jabba movie - I would adore this. I actually rewatched (and enjoyed) the Ewok movies for what they were recently, and if they could pick something strange and go off in the direction of doing Star Wars as a TV western, or find some sort of Star Trek-esque exploration angle, or maybe even ape Doctor Who or Quantum Leap with a Jedi after the purge going around trying to have adventures while making things better, I'm game. I'm into it.

I don't know if it's marketable or if Disney and Lucasfilm have the guts to find something that feels fresh and weird, but maybe George Lucas will if Disney got buyer's remorse or if a movie or two tanked. This is the guy who thought about things like a weird movie with no dialogue about robots, and that would be a treat for kids or movie buffs. The average adult movie-going populace, not so much.

If they could do something weird on a budget, I bet its relative success wouldn't matter. Make it cheap, don't pay star salaries, and see what happens - is what I would do, and I'm never going to be asked to execute a vision for anything ever.




3. "New solicitations posted by Diamond Previews reveals that comic shops will now be able to carry Star Wars Black Series 3.75" Scale Figures. Previously, the smaller articulated line was exclusive to Walmart" Series 201702 includes Ackbar, Ahsoka, Emperor Guard, General Calrissian, Seal Leader, and Shark Trooper. I know the first 4 are re-packs but who are the last 2? And are they also repacks?

That solicitation is most likely in error, as those are indeed Walmart's exclusives. The Seal Leader and Shark Trooper are code names used in development of products to keep you from knowing who Jyn Erso or a Deathtrooper were, and to be honest I don't know why. It's not like knowing these names tells you much other than "here's a name, now get excited speculating" despite the fact we'd already seen them in teasers or trailers several times over. They've been doing the same thing with lots of toys, and I'm not sure to what advantage there is in keeping the fact that hot sellers like Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, or Rey a mystery.




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We're weeks away from one of the most exciting seasons in years. Star Wars Rebels and Star Trek Discovery are on the way very soon. A new line of toys will launch, and we're supposed to pretend it's still a mystery despite either accidental or intentional reveals online and in stores. A new Thor movie is out in November, and Star Wars in December. Also Blade Runner 2049. Also Justice League. Also The Disaster Artist. In terms of nerdy weirdness, this is a good time to be alive as we're potentially getting more stuff than in the best possible time in the 1980s, 1990s, or even 2000s. I have no idea if it will be any good, but so far most franchise properties have delivered on at least a minimal level of nutritional entertainment.

This month was a hoot and a half, with stores putting out toys early (not too uncommon) and Hasbro releasing full video commercials on its YouTube page (possibly without precedent). I'll keep saying this - but I want to see Force Friday come to an end. The illusion of "oh you can get everything in a store today" is just not true, you're always going to miss something and you're going to end up hunting or going online anyway. The artificial date works great for getting free press coverage, but the novelty of it is wearing thin. Star Wars is slowly turning into a series of holidays - Force Friday, May 4, and Movie Launch Day (plus possible conventions), annually, and it's too much to capture the interest of the plebs. Nobody should be saying "Didn't we just do this?" With the prequels, a 3-year gap proved effective with plenty of time to play catch-up between movies to give us stuff we wanted from movies we already knew and loved.

I'm hopeful that they'll go back to the old way of things, because those sort of releases were even more fun. Back in the 1990s, you had to pound the pavement, read magazines, or hear from a friend (online or otherwise) that something was out in stores. The expectation of a fan going to a store to drop $500-$1,000 on toys isn't sustainable, and I assume stores might enjoy more regular foot traffic rather than one midnight orgy of retail clusterfudging that requires special attention, overtime pay, security, and generally not doing business as usual. On top of that, the scalpers, speculators, and non-hardcores come out unlike those who go hunting all year long. And, ultimately, the launch stuff ends up being super common over time and dumped on the cheap. Previous Force Friday items are a bargain at some local used media stores.

Having said that, if they started releasing "preview toys" September-ish and trickled out stuff through the fall before a real "Force Friday" after the movie opens with all the spoilery toys? Hooooo boy I'd love that. There's a reason to celebrate. That or let's integrate toy shopping into the post-film experience with toy kiosks in movie theaters. That could be dangerous - you'd all have spent $200 on Guardians of the Galaxy toys after seeing the movie.

--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.