Q&A: Star Wars Prequel Figures, Force Link, and More Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 20, 2018

1. I have to admit the lack of product for the Solo movie and the level at which it can be found, when located, with the lone exception being Tarkin, 4-LOM and Q'Uira in the 6" line is quite intriguing. The new 3.75" Figures (Both Vintage & 5POA) can be found with relative ease, the 2-packs, ships and then the Solo: The Movie based 6" can be found very easily. And yet, when I compare the checklist produced by Yakface.com VS. TFA, Rogue1 or TLJ, there is quite a bit less product available at "launch date". That being said, looking ahead to the other product announced, I wonder how much of this will actually hit retail and how much will end up on the cutting room floor or as a E.E. Exclusive (See The Last Jedi). Your thoughts?

Also, I am surprised, pleasantly so, that the #BackTheBarge was a success. I wonder if this tells Hasbro there is a market for our products BUT in a different formal (i.e. NON- Retail) With the eventual demise of TRU and the amount of shelf space allocated at both Walmart & Target for Star Wars products, not saying that ALL Star Wars product become "online" BUT do Vintage/6" Figures, along with ships/projects, like The Barge, go that route?

For various reasons, I can't comment on Solo toy availability because I actually don't know what won't be released yet. We find that out kind of late. The relative success of previous rescued toys means a lot - and some of those are still pretty available. If you haven't bought yet, well, that's the sort of thing that can change how these things play out. Buyers look at things like sales. Buying stuff before it goes on clearance sends a clear signal.

Ideally, it'd all be widely distributed and you could get it at your stores of choice. I see utopia as all figures available everywhere for everybody - I'd rather not see things relegated to exclusivity, but it's better than nothing. (Usually.)

While there is a market for an alternative distribution for toys, think about what just happened with the Sail Barge - you paid $500 to get a toy next year. If a company goes out of business, you get nothing. Hasbro doing this means they have a risk-free model where they get paid no matter what happens, and it could cut out toy stores. This means different things to different people - as a toy store, I'm not its biggest fan. I also don't believe it's sustainable beyond a handful of items unless Hasbro lowers the bar or switches over to something like Vintage-style action figures with a larger built-in audience. Higher-dollar items will undoubtedly become de facto online exclusives with the end of Toys R Us reducing the amount of shelf space for such things, and higher-dollar items like the Imperial Hovertank will probably not get a lot of retail support. It's very expensive for what it is and how big it is, a pared-down version with fewer moving parts at a fraction of the cost would be groused about but likely a much more successful product. I know many would disagree, but a $20-$30 toy akin to the Rebels Imperial Troop Transport would be less risky for all involved, plus you could afford to buy more than one.

Toys as a business seems to change a lot - we're seeing some companies finally start to swing back to original ideas, although in my corner people mostly want recognizable stuff over completely new stuff. Industry consolidation means fewer places to sell toys, and many stores are reducing shelf space. Hasbro has to compete with Hasbro for shelf space for Hasbro products. Anyone expecting a new, short-term golden age is going to be sorely disappointed. Unless, of course, you're all deputy toy evangelists to get the world as excited as you are.



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2. I was reading [a recent Q&A] column with its mention of rapidly increasing prices for larger toys, in part due to the cost of shipping (and in part due to the cost of foreign labor increasing). Which got me thinking - how close do you think we are to it being viable to produce toys in America once again? Why not make that updated USS Flagg right there in Cincinnati or (insert other past toy manufacturing Mecca)... I assume the contracts for producing toys are on a made to order basis - in other words, foreign factories don’t have the exclusive right to produce toys for the toy companies, and that companies such as Hasbro could open a factory for larger toys here in the states if they wanted to while still making the smaller stuff abroad.

Not just larger toys, but specifically older, bigger toys. Around 2012 there were significant Chinese cost increases where existing toys of all walks would be cost-prohibitive despite the tooling and development having been done for years.

I doubt domestic manufacturing is going to be very close - with a need for American workers having a decent minimum wage, things like freight are still negligible. The highest minimum wage in China is in Shenzhen at $3,840 a year. That's not a typo - it's almost 25% of the current US minimum wage, and the regulations of China are different too. Moving manufacturing to the USA would be like losing weight by switching to diet soda, or saving the environment by carpooling one day a week. It's something. It might make you feel better and inconvenience you a bit. But it's not going to really make the kind of change you want.

If automation really becomes a thing, you could move manufacturing stateside. We saw LEGO move more production to Mexico by employing more robots, which means the people that operate the robots helping keep costs reasonably low. However, it doesn't help create jobs. If Hasbro can excise the human element of the equation, it's very likely that manufacturing here in the US of A is a possibility. It's also possible 3-D printing will come along and render all of this moot.

Factories are a funny thing. In China, a foreign concern (i.e., Hasbro) can't actually wholly own a factory - Chinese interests must hold a majority stake. This isn't true in all countries, like Indonesia (Hot Wheels.) I'm not sure what the deal is in Vietnam right now, but Hasbro has moved almost all Transformers production there in addition to a smattering of Star Wars.

In terms of fuel costs and general waste, not to mention quality control, Hasbro-owned factories and American-made toys could yield a better product with better global environmental impact. Having said that, factories cause pollution, and right now American pollution is being outsourced to China.

There's a lot we can do to reduce costs, minimize waste (I'm looking at you, toy packaging), and improve the quality of the product. Every change has a cost, and for many China will remain the least worst option until a country with lower minimum wages and a great manufacturing-friendly infrastructure surfaces. Considering Hong Kong was a hub of 1980s and 1990s toy manufacturing, I can't imagine a lot of toymaking would migrate away from Asia.

Unless 3-D printing a good solid toy at home takes off, in which case I'm out of a job and collectibility as we know it will completely end.




3. I am very, very, very, frustrated with the Solo 3.75 inch action figure SINGLE CARDED line. Starters, I checked all websites, first and foremost EE, nothing available for the regular 3.75 inch action figure line (Qi’ra, Range Trooper, etc..). Then I went on a hunt to 4 Targets, 2 Walmarts, 2 Kmarts, and even 2 Toys R Us (knowing that they will not have it), hoping to find any Solo 3.75 inch action figure line. All I could find was, which I appreciate, Millennium Falcon with Solo, Landspeeder with Solo, two packs of Lando vs Guard, Qui-Gon Jinn vs Maul, Wampa vs Luke, and Enfys Swoopbike. That was it, no single carded 3.75 inch action figure from this line, NO CHEWBACCA, LUKE SKYWALKER, QI’RA, K-2SO, MAZ KANATA, RANGE TROOPER, STORMTROOPER (MIMBAN), ANY OTHER I MISSED. This was on the day the Solo toys was supposed to come out and I have friends in these places that told me none of those single carded action figures went to their inventory. They text me that they were receiving Solo action figures but none of the single carded figures. What is going on here, is Hasbro coming out with the 3.75 inch single carded action figure line from the Solo movie in retail or any website??

I see two issues - the launch, and actual availability.

Hasbro and Disney and everybody borked the line-up with support for the new film's characters. There's no sugarcoating it - it just sucked. Rogue One had a similar launch, but Toys R Us still made an event so it felt like we had something going on. Toys R Us cared more about events and making a splash, usually for kids, but they were savvy enough to do it with video games and select movie toy lines. And now that's over. Stores put stuff out as they pleased, which basically means Solo had a relatively normal, standard roll-out for any other toy line as quantity goes.

As far as what you could find goes, stuff sold. Online stores had some, and a lot came and went fast. The same is true of brick and mortar - a little bit got stocked, and sold. And then some more came in, sold, and got restocked. This is good - this is what I want to see. A glut of unsold figures isn't good for the bottom line, you want this stuff going away. If it's real scarcity or just an illusion, what matters is people are noticing something is missing and buying stuff. This is good. We want stuff selling.

There are more single figures coming, but I am not at liberty to announce what, or when. My main gripe remains the weird character selection - not having Han as a single-carded figure, or even a 2-pack with Chewie, is baffling for a launch when you can get other characters.



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So Star Wars this week. The smallest toy line for a movie since the original - which had none at launch - is on shelves now for a movie that's getting vaguely positive reviews. Solo is the first Memorial Day movie in the series since 2005, so it's a nice, brief return to the series' status as a summer film. Sure, it's an era where that doesn't mean as much, but we're overwhelmed with big genre movies nearly every month. It might be a good thing. I don't know - I think the cultural attention span is probably broken forever thanks to the fact we have so many amazing things we could watch, or play, or do any given day. Other than go look for new toys at a Toys R Us, that is.

I haven't seen the movie yet and if the last few films are any indication, I'll waddle up to my local box office Thursday night and saunter in to a partial capacity auditorium in the land of the multiplex. This movie's relative success will probably result in the announcement of the post-Episode IX movie, currently rumored to be Obi-Wan Kenobi based. Ordinarily this would make me excited since Obi-Wan spent a lot of time on Tatooine and that could make for some great toy possibilities, but the Solo line is kind of a weird one. The Black Series products are really good - figures, vehicles, helmet - but everything else is kind of lacking and less varied. I know there's chatter about the 3 3/4-inch line support dropping, but the diversity in the product offering could be why. What's that? Another Snoke, right when you released another Snoke? No Han Solos? Another Kylo Ren? Bah, humbug.

I can say Deadpool 2 was pretty good, and if you told me he'd be the star for the go-to date movies for superhero fan adults, I'd have called you a liar. Well played, all parties involved. Except whoever picked out which songs went on the vinyl soundtrack, you done screwed up.

--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.