Q&A: Star Wars Sizes, Stores of Tomorrow, and Themerey

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 19, 2019

1. I have recently heard that toys r us is planning to prepare to have both brick and mortar stores and a website return for the 2019 shopping season. What would be their timetable be to actually have stores that would be prepared to manage a 10,000 square foot store to compete with amazon and others? It seems very skeptical to expect a store that would do the bulk of its business from September or October thru January the latest to not have plans in place now to start mobilizing in time have stores open by late August to recapture some of the toy market.

The idea of putting together a chain of new stores, with new shelves, new people, new locations, and all of that within 3-4 months seems impossible. I suppose you could fill it with larger items to get that big store feel, or manufacture your own stuff, but I would not consider it to be terribly realistic to get a new chain of stores off the ground in 6 months if you didn't already have plans and funding in order. I still don't get why Spirit Halloween doesn't just convert to a toy shop in November.

Timing is everything, and time does tend to run out quickly in the toy business. Depending on what you're buying, it may or may not be possible to just get product for your shelves without jumping through some weird hoops. If you're a big dog, you can probably get whatever you want. If you were a big dog, it's possible your suppliers aren't going to roll over just because you put the band back together.

We haven't much precedent for this sort of thing. FAO Schwarz came back, but it's a slow, gradual process with a store in New York, an airport shop at Chicago Midway, and possibly a few other locations in addition to a web site. It's a start! Last year, we saw a lot of new places try toys because the manufacturers had already developed and in many cases built product for stores which no longer needed them - so if Party City wants toys, there were indeed toys for Party City to have. 2019 started with no Kay-Bee and no Toys R Us, meaning that stuff would probably need to be happening right now for any new store - and for the sake of this discussion, Toys R Us would be a new store - to get off the ground.

Since I am not supposed to say specifics, I'll say some manufacturers are very "last minute." They announce a product, you have a few days or weeks to get in an order, and you'll probably get what you ordered. Some build a ton of product and you can order whatever, whenever. Others require specific, hard forecasts and an order at the top of the year unless you're OK getting leftovers and scraps. Some will just build what you want, if you're willing to wait.

Now if Toys R Us was aiming for 2020, I could believe it. If all we were getting were pop-up stores, I could believe that too, but recent headlines indicate the likes of Planet Fitness and Hobby Lobby are hermit crabbing their way in to the old locations. A location I used to visit on the way home from work in Los Angeles has seen better days.

The sentence I assume you want to hear - because this is a question I do ask - is absolutely nobody has heard anything about doing anything with any new or revived toy store chains this year. That can change, but I assume any new toy store has a lot to prove. Busting out a few regional locations would be a good start, mostly just to get the ball rolling as I can't assume it would be easy to raise a few billion dollars to build and stock a nationwide chain overnight, and I don't know how much marketing you would need to get the word out about a new web site for toys. Having said all this, even though it's competition to what I do for a living, I would like to live in a world with more toy stores.



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2. All things Jabba: seems since the barge, weve been having a number of jabba items coming out (barge, throne room, figures). I assue we are starting to wind down on Jabba. What could they have done that are missing (Bib Fortuna, Jabba with his platform in TVC packaging, Droid dungeon)?

I could see it going either way. On one hand, the long-time collector is pretty good on Jabba stuff. However if you aren't 40-50 and haven't been doing this for decades, a lot of major characters aren't always available to you. The "playset" from Walmart feels like the start of a build-an-environment, but that could just be wishful thinking.

I don't believe Hasbro has a lot more for us in this department, but there's absolutely room for more. We haven't had a Jabba's Palace C-3PO in roughly 12 years, Bib Fortuna in 13 years, Tanus Spijek or J'quille since 2004, and the last time EV-9D9 and 8D8 got updates were 1997 and 1998 respectively. My main concerns are modernized updates of the 1978-1985 line, unless they decide to do more figures in Kenner style, and I'm all for that.

I don't have an Ishi Tib from Jabba's Palace in any format. We never got Arica - the dancer - or any of a number of humans. From what people whisper to me, it's decreasingly likely you will ever see human "extras" in action figure form due to DisneyLucasfilm being gunshy about who they do and don't have likeness rights for when measured against potential gains and losses. Will this figure sell well enough to offset potential lawsuits? Probably not. As such, I deputize y'alls to come up with a way to fudge the Tonnika sisters since corporate America lacks the sack to deliver the goods. There's still no excuse for my lack of Geezum.

We haven't had Tessek (Squid Head) since 2001, but I'm very happy with mine. Amanaman was also 2001, and I think an update could be nice but isn't really necessary. Pote Snitkin was last updated in 1998, but that was one of the very best figures of his era in terms of sculpted texture - but it could be updated.




3. Themes: what other themes could Hasbro do that would get a lot of TVC support (death star, Bespin, Endor)?
--Jessee (we had room for more this week)

The Sail Barge came out of a wonderful synergy - Hasbro wanted to try experimental ways of selling things, and a big thing at that. Fans also have been clamoring for it for years, and there was a petition that I guess we simply have to call successful now - it got the ball rolling. It took a few years, but in this business, almost everything takes a couple of years to be considered timely. As a result, Hasbro fast-tracked a number of reruns and a couple of new things. We got a new playset a new Nikto, and a lot of returning favorites along with a skiff, Yak Face, and a revised Skiff Klaatu. All in all, not a lot, but more than we've seen for any classic theme in years.

If fans want something else I urge another petition - something all fan sites and forums can get behind and promote. I would push something Imperial - Death Star or Star Destroyer - as being the most likely to succeed and the most exploitable. A lot of us are army-builders, and we bought dozens of Stormtroopers that, ultimately, sit idle. I didn't buy all these figures to put in a box or on a shelf - they should be in space stations, commanding an attack, or doing something in an environment.

I personally would prefer Cloud City, the Cantina, and if the taste is for something smaller, a Wampa Cave. Two of the three could probably easily be done as unlicensed fan-made things. I assume Cloud City would have been an awesome choice given the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back is next year, and it allows Hasbro to sell more of some very popular figures like Boba Fett, Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, and to give us the remaining unmade Bespin Security Guard from Kenner - and maybe some more Ugnaughts and the oft-missed alien Wiorkettle or the like. They could even sell another redeco of Bespin Luke Skywalker or two, a super-articulated Bespin Escape Leia, a new Han Solo in Carbonite, Chewie with C-3PO... there are options, people. We still don't have a Lando with good elbows.

From my conversations with Hasbro people, it seems fans demanding things - loudly, and in big numbers - makes a huge difference. I can't spearhead a campaign, but you can - and I can boost your signal. Get a couple thousand signatures and hit me up, let's get some stuff made before it's unprofitable to do so.



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A playset? In 2019? Walmart shipped Jabba's Palace Adventure Set last week and it's pretty decent when you break it down. Two well-protected vintage carded figures inside a big box with a small display diorama for $50 works out acceptably, and the interesting thing about the environment is it's reconfigurable and effectively has hooks for expansion. I hope Hasbro does more with this format, because getting more walls and floors and thrones and a new Bib Fortuna would work out pretty nicely for all of us.

The figures are nice enough if you didn't get them or versions of them in The Black Series 3 3/4-inch line, and the packaging did come through rather perfectly in the protective outer box. The "palace" itself is rather interesting - a back wall has 4 "hooks" on it to connect a couple of arches, allowing you to modify it to fit on your display shelves as you need. There are no floors, so no foot pegs, but there is a magnet you can push up and down on the back wall to connect to the Carbonite block - and that's pretty nifty. In many respects this feels like it could be a distant cousin of the old Micro Collection Kenner playsets - only it's not as expansive and lacks all the play features. And it's only one set.

If Hasbro is interested in doing more with this, I'd be game. Reissue more figures on vintage cardbacks, and maybe give us some of the unmade ones like Ishi Tib. I'd love to see them build it out to make something like the classic Jabba the Hutt's Throne Room model kit, and I doubt we'd have many objections to such a thing. It might take a while. It might cost a lot. There might be a ridiculous amount of reissues. But I wouldn't mind.

--Adam Pawlus

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