Q&A: Star Wars Overseas, Costs, and Exclusives

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, October 7, 2018

1. I think I remember reading years ago that it wasn’t the sculpting, or the paint, but the articulation tooling that made producing new figures expensive and time consuming. Is this correct or rather even still the case?

I’m wondering if there would every be a possibility of getting more new figures for TVC line if there was a reduction in articulation? For me, the perfect range of motion is TVC Hoth Leia. I’ve found that with many of the newer super articulated figures the joints become loose after a few poses.

It's complicated. Everything can add to the toy's final cost.

Generally speaking, you're at the mercy of the whims of Hasbro and its factories - and Hasbro doesn't own its factories in China 100%, so they get to do a lot of negotiating. It may strike you as bizarre that Maz Kanata and Yoda 6-inch scale figures are smaller than a typical 3 3/4-inch figure, yet cost significantly more. This is most likely due to a mix of the assortment, and to how the factory quotes things. Hasbro has been good about tossing in an extra accessory here and there, but you can't deny the value isn't on the shorter figures.

A big part of the cost is tooling individual pieces A figure with more articulation is made of more pieces, so your cost goes up - more tooling, more assembly, and possibly more deco - it's minor, but it adds up if you have to paint a knee or an elbow that would otherwise not be exposed. Another issue is that the factory decides the cost - they may say "OK, it's going to fit in a 6-inch size package so we're going to charge our client the 6-inch price even though it's a 4-inch figure and only has 8 joints." (I may have accidentally been forwarded a factory's cost spreadsheet from another toy manufacturer. Or several manufacturers. Hasbro makes fewer mistakes.) So the nature of the line matters - we've seen figures with a lot of articulation squeezed in (and priced like) low-articulation figures too. The 2012 The Phantom Menace 3-D era is fascinating to see numerous inconsistencies in pricing from assortment to assortment.

If Hasbro wanted to make 5-jointed figures on a The Vintage Collection cardback - and every figure was designed to be simpler, at the lower price point - they could be cheaper. This is where Hasbro comes in. We've seen that they realize collectors are willing to pay a premium for Vintage packaging, and charge accordingly - look at 2012, when you could see a figure on a "Saga Legends" cardback and a "Vintage" cardback at the very same time, at very different prices. If Hasbro decided that you are going to pay a premium regardless (and if you overhear the fawning that fans will say to Hasbro at conventions, that's certainly the idea coming across) then Hasbro can and probably should charge more. Even though Vintage packaging has historically used less plastic, less cardboard, fewer twisties, less plastic, and took up less space in a carton - thus reducing freight charges. There's no reason Vintage shouldn't be cheaper in most circumstances if the toys were largely equal, yet the opposite was frequently true.

The new Hoth Leia (2018) is indeed excellent, but in this case function followed form - we got "unpainted" boots molded in color, thus giving us two bonus joints. Hasbro has been doing this on and off since it brought back 5 point of articulation figures a few years ago, frequently with wrists. (Many collectors have a knee-jerk reaction against them, despite superior sculpting and smart engineering at a lower price.) Now if the price goes up - this is what we call foreshadowing - then we as collectors have a problem being charged more for a simpler figure. But Hasbro can and sometimes does increase prices if it thinks the market will accept this, as they have mentioned doing in other entertainment-driven lines during their earnings calls, often to mixed results.

I live in a place where I would like to see Hasbro all but eliminate $10+ price points for single 3 3/4-inch action figures - if it means less articulation, so be it. Your average parent isn't going to want to pay for RFID sound chips they'll never use, and I doubt any parent that isn't a toy fanatic gives a rip if little Billy's Royal Guard has wrist joints or not. I bet Hasbro could come up with a wave of simplified figures, choosing characters with minimal paint, in an assortment for a year or two at a significantly lower price. The Mission Series/Saga Legends duology was pretty fantastic, and $11 for 2 figures was good. I challenge them to try it again, with lightly painted characters (Stormtroopers, Royal Guards, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, C-3PO, etc.) I bet it could be done, at a fine price, assuming that character selection was done within the confines of what could be executed well at a $5.99-$6.99 price point with 0 to 1 accessories per figure.

...having said that, if Hasbro will charge me $10 for 5 joints and $13 for 14 joints, I'll take 14. Once we hit $10, I don't think $3 will make a difference to collectors, kids, fans, adults, or anybody - $10 is too high for a small figure when you get something so much more impressive at 6-inches for $20.

I don't doubt Hasbro could work with or jump through hoops with a factory to deliver you slightly simpler figures on Vintage cardbacks at a reduced price - but they see "vintage" as a premium format, last I was told, and you can see that a premium format fetches premium pricing even if the same dang figures are on Saga Legends cards for a few dollars cheaper, with stands and bonus accessories. Does it make sense? No. But Hasbro has a premium collector format and at least in 2010, they correctly assumed what you would be willing to pay. Today I think the remaining fans are a little more savvy and the current Lucasfilm/Hasbro regime doesn't quite get that the kind of fan that wants "anything Vintage" really means "anything Vintage from 1977-1985."



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2. I have a question based on one of your answers in the Q&A of September 2. You stated that were a number of Clone Wars figures that were only sold in Europe but not the USA.What were these figures? If I ever knew what they were at some point, I have forgotten.

There are several movie and Clone Wars figures from 2012-2013 that fans ignored and never came out in the USA because people were too hung up on Vintage over everything. Overseas markets got Mission Series Boba Fett (with grappling backpack) and a blast-apart tan Battle Droid in the Maul line look, for example. The Yoda line look got movie Sandtroopers with light-up blasters, an Obi-Wan with a different-for-him blaster, a red exploding Battle Droid, Jango Fett with a rocket-firing jetpack, and a smattering of repacks.

For the cartoon line, you could get a retooled Obi-Wan Kenobi, a retooled Anakin Skywalker, a redeco Captain Rex, a build-a-droid R2-D2 (a build-a-figure line was conceived but never released for the cartoon), a 501st Legion Jetpack Trooper with amazing paint, and a clean redeco Battle Droid. Plus repacks. Basically, there were 3 assortments between the multiple Yoda lines you'd need to buy to get everything, and indeed I overpaid to get them from former advertiser Toy Palace. I would consider that 501st Legion Clone Trooper with Jetpack to be essential - the others are different versions of main characters and you may not need them.

I haven't reviewed all of these in Figure of the Day yet, mostly because I wanted to make a fuss about Secret Figures from Europe that Hasbro doesn't want you to have! I'm kidding - these were a fine example of last wave/first wave syndrome, an affliction that happens when the big US toy customers didn't make a fuss and therefore none of the smaller guys even got a crack at this. (Trust me when I say they were asked, often.)




3. Is there some other information outlet that has a checklist of the confirmed exclusives for target, walgreens and Walmart? I used to get most of my information about upcoming exclusives from press releases from toynewsi.com, but it seems that hasbro has been tight lipped about their exclusives?

In short, not really. Since 2017 things have been changing a lot. Items are revealed and don't come out as intended (or at all) with a bit more frequency, and for whatever reason Hasbro doesn't - or can't - announce them all at fan events. You'll also notice a lot of things changing after they announce them - Toys R Us going away has caused a pretty amazing cascade effect, and sometimes some of us hear things we aren't yet privy to share - and trust me when I say, I wish Hasbro were the ones making all of the announcements themselves as they have a great reach. A Hasbro press announcement or Toy Fair reveal carries the kind of weight that Walmart just plopping an item on-shelf doesn't have - without anticipation, you lose a lot of momentum. But I digress.

My challenge to you readers - if someone sets up a good wiki with toy announcements and checklists, I'll keep tabs on it and help clean it up. But I don't want to administer to it or host it or deal with the griefers. I'm old, I'd rather play with my toys than engage even further in the meta-hobby portions of the festivities.



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New York Comic Con continued the trickle of news, with a torrent of new figures from the just-about-to-air Star Wars Resistance which seems to be aligning itself with a traditional boy's toy narrative. At first, you reach a wide selection of kids - maybe some teens, tweens, and older single-digit kids. As time goes on those kids grow out of something, so an old video game system or a slightly worn-out super hero becomes targeted at younger children because it's new to them. Sometimes you can have two tracks of toys, and sometimes they just aim for the tiny tots. In this case, Resistance is aiming squarely at the younger brother set. You've probably seen this with video game consoles. Price drops on old hardware and games often mean a younger brother gets an old Atari or Playstation when the newer version comes out because the older siblings buy the new thing. It's happened with Batman, the Turtles, and even Star Wars around 1984. Spider-Man, especially in off years, tends to be a huge seller to new moms and toddlers while the GameBoy Advance was a hand-me-down to youngsters with family members with a new Nintendo DS. It goes on like this.

With The Last Jedi, Rogue One, and even Solo seemingly skewing a bit older, Rebels and Resistance aim at the kids as a first-contact to the saga. I don't know if this is ultimately a great thing or not - Disney has done a lot to bring more Star Wars to life, but it doesn't get to resonate like previous entries in the franchise. Part of me expects Episode IX could be a big deal, but like the older-skewing Revenge of the Sith it could also be where a lot of fans exit the franchise for greener pastures.

After Return of the Jedi, Star Wars had two Ewok movies, two cartoon series, a hefty Ewok merchandise campaign not specific to the movies or cartoons, and a few more years of the Marvel comic before basically going away when the RPG and Star Tours hit in 1987. After Revenge of the Sith in 2005, we saw the figure line explode while the franchise seemed to coast until 2008's The Clone Wars... and then things didn't really stop. Who knows what the future may bring to us?

...probably not a complete revival of Toys R Us, despite what the news is saying. After Kay-Bee's non-revival, I'm going to go ahead and lower those expectations. The Toys R Us brand has value - we saw a partnership with Amazon about 20 years ago to power their toy section early on, and we also saw the brand name used for pet toys at Petsmart and over the toy aisles at Albertson's grocery stores for a few years in the early 2000s. Just because the overlords want to do something with the name doesn't mean that it'll bring back something worthwhile.

--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.