Q&A: Star Wars Slicensing, Mandalorian Madness, and Marvel Pegwarmers

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 26, 2020

1. We all now know that Hasbro has renewed their SW license with Disney, which, despite my disatisfaction in the lack of new OT vintage collection figures these days, I think is a good thing. However, given the state of licensing these days (no more master toy licenses), do you have an inkling of whether some of the details of their license have changed?

Specifically I'm thinking of their level of exclusivity to produce action figures and it's possible effect on Lego. My understanding is that Lego cannot produce and market mini-figures individually (blind bags), due to it infringing on Hasbro's license. Assuming this is true, is it possible that this could have changed in the new contract and we could see a CMF series for SW?

I also got to thinking, Hasbro and Disney could have also changed things with 12" so Sideshow and Hot Toys no longer need to sub-license through Hasbro (as I understand that's how things have been done since Sideshow and Hot Toys have been doing SW)... I could think of all kinds of ways they could rework things to change the price of the license, etc.

At this time I have no details on the contract renewal that you don't know via public means. If there are any loopholes for other toymakers to get in there, or other details, they have not been made public yet nor have any been slid to me under the table. It would not surprise me if Lucasfilm siphoned off a kid's 3 3/4-inch line of figures since Hasbro isn't doing anything with that format, and other licensors have split "kid" versus "collector," but no partnerships are known to me at this time.

Now that you've read all that, what does it mean for your original trilogy question? Nothin'. I don't know what kids might want if they did a kid line, but if you look at Spin Master's nifty Batman and DC lines, I'd say it could be interesting for newer fans but for olds who've been with us for decades, there's little chance of too many new characters. (But there could be some, if it happened, and they were game.)

Again - no such license changes or deals are known to me. I wouldn't expect things to improve for original trilogy fans unless the new Disney streaming shows and movies focus on classic things you just happened to want.

Star Wars was - emphasis on was - special. It was a defining thing of a generation that went away and we begged for it to come back, and it did. We wanted more, and we got it - the problem is that it ultimately watered down what a fan might focus on with more options, more sizes, more formats... and more shareholders to please. It's not unthinkable that we could love in a world without 3 3/4-inch action figures with matching vehicles if interest dwindles, either from the public or whoever is calling the shots. Enjoy them while they last! Pick up stuff that you like! Also write nice letters to Hasbro to let them know how much you miss the greatest action figure line ever made.



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2. What do you think Hasbro will do with the Mandalorian TV series; Will they do a Mandalorian [3 3/4-inch] line????

Is five figures enough with two vehicles?? Do you think Hasbro can do the Razor Crust as a vehicle?

Hasbro and Lucasfilm's partnership has been more shallow and broad in recent years rather than the crazypants "anything goes" of the 2006-2012 era. Instead of getting a line of 3 3/4-inch figures with 50 characters from The Mandalorian, we get dozens of The Child toys, a few Mandalorian toys, and some one-offs of other characters. This is the future, and by future, I mean present.

I do think Hasbro could do the Razor Crest as a 3 3/4-inch scale vehicle if they wanted to - but it wouldn't be cheap. If they made something comparable to the bigger Slave I, keep in mind the reissue of that is $150 now. A less-in-scale version could be cheaper, or they could go all out with HasLab if they were so inclined. Based on the current state of the planet I would not anticipate any significant changes to the 3 3/4-inch line from Hasbro. If we want to wildly speculate, if some day another company got to do a "kid line" I'm sure they would give you more Mando than you could choke down. For whatever reason the Hasbro x Lucasfilm partnership is more focused on The Child at all price points, but in all fairness, Kenner's strategy in the late 1970s was "to every boy a Luke, to every girl a Leia" before the product shifted direction. I much prefer the more diverse offering of aliens and droids and troopers we came to know and love.

Given how the line has gone into downsize mode since the good The Force Awakens product line and unsurprisingly smaller - but excellent - Rogue One series, I don't think Hasbro is going to give us the kind of The Mandalorian line you crave this year. And probably not next year either, given the disruptions in the business. Solo was probably the end of what we may call "the good old days" for 3 3/4-inch offerings.




3. Hi Adam. I have a Marvel Legends question. On my travels to Walmart, Target and Walgreens (in NJ btw), I've noticed that certain figures are peg-warmers that's choking the life out of this line. For example, Walmart has a clone army of Shuri and Rock Python. Target has The Wasp and Walgreens has Magik ( whose disappearing act is an epic fail!). I have yet to see the Avengers: Endgame Wave 3 (Thor BAF). To be fair, I have seen in limited quantities the Spiderman Gamerverse series popping up here and there. I know Hasbro vendors visit retailers to ensure that their merchandise is out but it's painfully obvious that Marvel Legends and my sadly neglected Star Wars section are in desperate need of TLC. These are hot items that either stores aren't receiving from China (coronavirus perhaps?) or Hasbro is not keen on keeping up with demand. And Hasbro wonders why sales are down. Common sense tells me that you can't sell what's not available to purchase. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Pegwarmers can and often vary by neighborhood. It's a complicated business, and short of telling managers what to set fire to or mark down individually, there's not much a manufacturer can do other than pray the assortment was "right" before the figure even get revealed. Given the reliance on assortments for mass retailers, it's nothing short of amazing just how well the manufacturers an predict how an item may do before the public is even aware it exists.

Some are national disasters, but I found here in Arizona that stores on the west side (Glendale) could be overrun with peg after peg of 30 or more of the same guy, but east or south of there, a store might have 2-3. Depending on how wide your radius is for hunting, you could see something very different. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, I noticed Phoenix was sold out of Lando figures while LA was loaded with them. Once a store has more than 1-2 cases worth of unsold figures from a wave - even if it's all the same figure - they do not order more figures. The systems say "stop ordering this failure of a product." One dud figure can destroy a line's viability.

The good news for Marvel fans is that there's a failsafe that Star Wars doesn't have. Virtually every wave of Marvel Legends is a new assortment (new SKU, or new DPCI) meaning if you got 1-2 duds in the Fantastic Four assortment, that's fine - the assortment will clearance out and another will replace it. Other than Spider-Man, X-Men, and Avengers, few to no assortments in Marvel get a wave 2. They just get a whole new assortment SKU.

Star Wars is one assortment that lasts forever. The same 5-digit assortment was in use from September 2015 to September 2019 - we just got a new one for Triple Force Friday, and it ends later this year for another new SKU. This is good - sort of. If Target assigns the new SKU a new DPCI, the system works - if Hasbro puts the new assortment SKU under the same old DPCI, it will likely still cause problems with old stock remaining indefinitely.

Hasbro's doing their best and they're working with the data they have. If stores say "we don't want more Star Wars kid figures" they don't always say "But what if we changed this or that?" They might say "OK, well, lightsabers work and collector figures work so that's where we will focus." I believe that the variety of the 2000s is worth revisiting - most waves were about half reruns/refreshes (just different enough to make you mad, in some cases) but they sold well, with the other half case being new enough that most collectors would be interested in them. Sandstorm figures from Return of the Jedi are a fine example - it's new, it's different. But they're also "core characters."

Marvel still does well with its main heroes, so we're gonna see more of them. And obscure characters, well, what can you do? It stinks that Rock Python may not have sold in your area, but the case ratios were conservative and the alternative may have been Hasbro skipping that character. Nothing lasts forever, and enjoy the weirdness in these lines as long as you can - you never know when global priorities change and they just axe them in favor of all Iron Man and Spider-Man variants because those are an easier sell... until they stop being an easier sell, and then no Marvel for anybody. Things end. Star Trek and Spawn were kings of the toy aisle in the 1990s. G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe ruled the roost in the 1980s. Micronauts and squishy-headed Mego figures worked in the 1970s. Tastes change. And, eventually, things end.



2020 fan stuff continues to slowly shut down. Some early predictions were that the year is basically over already - most fan conventions are off through July, with some August holdouts likely to give way soon. Gen Con 2020 is late July and early August. Star Wars Celebration is set for August 27. Dragon Con is September 3. I don't think it's likely anyone is actually going to be able to go to those events. Germany just canceled Oktoberfest, and while some movie studios are still rescheduling films for August and beyond we're also seeing a few, like Scoob and Trolls: World Tour, quietly move to streaming instead.

This last week I had a day off of work, so I took a little adventure to go to a different neighborhood for groceries and weed killer to see exotic toy aisles in a Walmart that I used to hit multiple times a week back when I worked with IT people. Oh, memories. That's what constitutes excitement now - detours in grocery shopping. I also whizzed by one of my favorite Toys R Us husks, surprised to find it is now a bar/bowling alley. (No, I didn't go in.)

There are still exciting new toy announcements on the horizon. If you're reading this, you're still here, and I'm still here, and as long as we stay safe we can stick around for years to come and pester Hasbro to make us Vlix, or Cane Adiss, or the remaining Knights of Ren, or whatever else we want. I'm glad you're still reading, I hope you stay safe, and I'm hoping for the best for us all as we slowly turn into even paler cave people.

--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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