Q&A: Star Wars Rebels, Packaging, and Jakks Giant Figures

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 21, 2015

1. Just checking in to see if you had any new thoughts or intel on the whereabouts of Rebels/Saga Legends Wave 1. I still haven't ever found a Chopper or a Kallus at retail. It's hard to believe that the seemingly small amount of Wave 1 that has been found in stores is really all Hasbro made. Is there more out there somewhere? Will we ever see it?

While it stopped shipping a little while ago, I've seen it several times - the last Kallus I saw was at a place called Richard's General Store in Atlanta late in May for eight bucks. The figures in the current packaging - unless there are some stuck out there in the distribution center aether (possible) - are done. Keep your eyes open at weird venues, because some shops like the Disney Store did have these in stock this year. It doesn't mean you'll get any, but if you make a stink Hasbro might reissue them. Hopefully at least Chopper... I doubt you'll see much call for Kallus for a while given his low secondary market price.



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2. Any chance Jakk's could do a 20" Rancor in their $19.99-24.99 range? It would be close enough to work nicely with the Hasbro 6" Black Series.

It's not impossible - I don't know that it would be something Jakks Pacific wants to do given their recent history of collector product, as it isn't as big of a seller as a Boba Fett or a Luke or a Darth Vader. This isn't to say they won't - this week's reveal of a "prop replica"-sized holographic Darth Vader shows they're willing to think outside the box as marketing this scale of product goes.

The letter of the licensing law is still being tested - you're going to see this in the near future a lot more, trust me. Is a 20-inch tall Rancor Monster a 6-inch scale figure, a 20-inch action figure, or both? Does it infringe - does it exist in an area where either company can make it? We don't know yet. Companies have made similar enough for jazz items for years, specifically the lightsaber. Rubies Costumes does a flick-out lightsaber for about ten bucks, and Hasbro also does one with fundamentally the same features, size, and packaging footprint. One is a toy, and one is a costume - but they're functionally similar and depending on the fan they're really no different beyond where they go in the toy store.

A "plays with" product like this could be a strange direction for Jakks, and companies picking up the slack isn't entirely unprecedented. It just boils down to if they want to - and I don't know if Jakks is there yet, given that they probably can't/won't use The Black Series branding and a mixed planogram could be tough to pull off. And I doubt they'll do a low run of Rancors given the size of their business. But hey, we can hope! There's technically nothing stopping the likes of Gentle Giant from doing a 1:12 scale polystone Rancor statue sized for our figures, either.

Given its dimensional weight, I doubt it'll be $25 if it happens. You can't cram it in the current packaging footprint - they'd probably have to do an exclusive, or a different box, or something else entirely.




3. Speaking of foreign, multi-lingual packaging as discussed in your recent Q&A, why did Hasbro decide, after 38 years (yes I'm counting the vintage days as well) of plain English packaging in the United States, to spring multi-lingual packaging on us with no notice? Certainly they're going to do what they want to do, but it kind of ends a tradition so to speak, and for those of us who have kept our collections plain English all along, this is rather disappointing. Aesthetically speaking, the boxes on the 6" figures look horrible with the name in neon blue in several languages, not to mention the side of the box which before was plain black, is now covered from top to bottom in various warnings and legalese in several languages. If you compare the two side by side it's really quite a huge difference. Hasbro knows that we don't have a choice in the matter, either we buy the figure or we don't, but why change it now? I'm assuming it's to make things easier on them, but still a very disappointing move on their part.

Hasbro has at times changed its packaging from all-English to multi-lingual in the USA. The new Jurassic World toys have multiple languages. For Star Wars, it's a recent phenomenon - we saw it start with Rebels earlier in the year, but now we're seeing it spread to the collector segments of this and other lines. Take a gander at Transformers - the 2014/2015 Robots in Disguise toys are 100% multi-lingual packaging, while Generations has gone back and forth depending on the product. (The deluxe-class toys started with multi-lingual packaging, but when they shifted back to pack-in comic books we saw them change to all-English just for that assortment.)

A few years ago Hasbro announced massive internal restructuring, which resulted in big layoffs, big team shifts, and quite a bit of change as to who got exclusives and how many new products (in the form of new SKUs) we got per year. It was part of a global restructuring to - in theory - make things more efficient for getting their stuff all over the world. (That laugh you just heard were European collectors of Hasbro toys.) Basically things didn't change all that much, but one of the things speculated upon was a single packaging look rather than several region-specific templates because it's a heck of a lot cheaper for them and for their factories. Canada gets about 10% of the product that the US does by volume, yet they have a unique cardback most of the time - why? The toys are all the same. They're not going to make changes to the product based on nation-specific safety tests, they're going to change it for everybody. In the grand scheme of things, a one-size-fits-all approach makes a lot more sense even if it is aesthetically barfy.

The last time Hasbro really kicked off multi-lingual packaging on many brands was around 2000 with the last line called Transformers: Robots in Disguise, and this many-lingo look lasted up until about 2005 when Cybertron started. One of the reasons mentioned for ditching the one-size-fits-all packaging was that it gobbled up a lot of real estate - the extra text ate up space for biographical information and showing co-sells. Today toy companies have stated that the co-sell cardback of old is sort of a relic because it may distract the buyer from buying that toy - which is the goal of the packaging. If you show a kid 30 other figures, they may wait to look for one they like more and their allowance could go to a competitor's product.

This allows Hasbro flexibility of where the product goes, how it gets made, and how much time is spent on packaging and approvals. There are lots of perks for them if they only have to submit one round of packaging approvals for the entire world to Universal or Disney or what have you, rather than four or five depending on the region. We don't like it. It looks ugly. But if you're Hasbro, it makes a lot of sense.

Based on the mock-up packaging Lucasfilm showed it's possible we might revert back to all-English for the new movie given the higher run of products and the increased distribution, but there's no way to know for sure since we haven't seen it. All I can say is what we're seeing is a trend, and if I were Hasbro I'd probably try to make one unified package for the world too.




"Just different enough to make you mad" has been a popular refrain on this site (and the other ones I've worked on) and I see it in lots of other lines. BotCon was this weekend, and guess what? We've got a new group of fans to attend our meetings, at least as character selection goes. Hasbro has done a bang-up job making unique and fun toys with interesting play features. And we're getting Sky Lynx! That's a big deal. We're also getting most of the 1984 Autobots revised as Combiner Wars limbs, made from existing bodies with new heads. It's kind of cool, and it's kind of annoying - like when we get a "new" Luke figure that's an existing body with a new head. Or nearly any Darth Vader over the last few years.

One of the unfortunate things about a franchise growing is that usually it likes to return to the womb. Where it started is where it's at - we're seeing Rebels steal from the original trilogy with sequences and music that, were it any other franchise doing it, would be considered quite shameless. Star Trek boldly went forward for several decades and then eventually just decided to hit the reset button. Even Transformers took what amounted to the meat of the original story and forged ahead in its own timeline keeping a decent continuity made of disparate parts of the original generation with a unique "next generation" incorporating much of what has come before. I dug that. I dig the current storyline. But I have to say, it is a little depressing when you see big toy franchises approach the big 30 and you see that Joe or Star Wars or anything else start to wallow in its infancy. From the look of things for the new Star Wars movie, it seems that it like Rebels may be leaning a little hard on what has come before. Dump on Jar Jar and Pod Races as you will, but it's not like every Star Wars movie delivers a submarine chase with sea monsters.

As a card-carrying child of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it's been a blast to see icons of my youth continue to be a part of the culture. It's also a little unfortunate that we can't let go of He-Man, Cobra, Optimus Prime, Darth Vader, Mario, and the like. This isn't to say they shouldn't do it - recognizable faces sell to parents, and the real market for much of the nostalgia toy boom is as much moms and dads as it is collectors. Pops understands why his son wants a big LEGO set of the Ninja Turtles. Moms made Pound Puppies a returning favorite briefly every few years. We're a lightning rod to vintage marketing, the programming was done and now they're getting to cash in on it. Repeatedly. Heck, some of us even build little digital shrines to this stuff without being appropriately compensated, that's how much we love this stuff.

Few classic franchises have made heavy renovation a core part of what makes it work, but we've seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers succeed by giving each new group of kids an edition of the teams that is their own. It isn't their dad's Dino Zord, they get their own - and previous attempts to bring "classics" to kids on some of those lines didn't work out so hot yet. It's funny to see what works and what doesn't as nostalgia, because - so far - the later generations don't command the same fervor. Next Generation and Beast Wars fans don't get the kind of nostalgia love seen by their ancestors, and obviously you all know the score with the prequels.

SO! Where does that leave us? If the rumor mills are right, the Fall line will be a multi-layer mix for Star Wars toys spanning the history of the line, with the emphasis on new stuff. But we haven't seen any big lists yet, nor have we any idea what the sort of exclusive spread may include. Remember, the Revenge of the Sith launch had some classic and a ton of exclusives, while The Clone Wars was split with classic more or less down the middle. In a way I feel we're robbing kids of their own toy/media franchise they can call their own, but it's not like there have been all that many Earth-shattering entries over the past decade anyway. Here's hoping we get to see whatever it is next month in San Diego, otherwise Lucasfilm and Hasbro can let eBay announce the line if Walmart doesn't leak stuff out early first.

--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.



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