Q&A: Star Wars Teasers, Exclusives of Tomorrow, and Calrissians

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, November 30, 2014

1. How successful has the Walgreen's Proto Fett experiment been? The first shipment to my local stores sold out, while later ones in November sat on the shelves over a week. Now they're gone. Any indication Hasbro may reward them with another Star Wars exclusive?

Second, we have the Proto Fett, and an Empire-themed Fett, so how likely is it we'll see a Jango and Jedi-themed Fett down the road?

I haven't been stalking Walgreens for a while, so all I have now is anecdotal evidence. I've heard people writing in saying "It's all gone!" and others saying "They're not selling!" I assume that anything that may be there today will be gone thanks to the holiday season resulting in aunts and uncles going "I need to get a Star Wars thing for the kid. I don't know anything about this or what they cost. This looks good."

If the run does indeed sell, we know that the November shipment is about 40,000 units thanks to the Walgreens toy buyer posting this on Twitter. That's a big run, and if it sells out it's an absolute success for the retailer and for Hasbro. (It's also more units than there are collectors - it could mean they'll be cheap later like Lava Darth Vader thanks to speculation.) Earlier in the year Hasbro had Agent Venom for Marvel Legends, which reportedly sold out its initial run but when the solid cases started to appear, tended to back up to the tune of 8 or more units per store. This is why it's hard to tell - some neighborhoods may have more collectors than others, or if certain locations waited too long to stock it's possible fans who give a crap already drove the extra mile up the road to go to the other better Walgreens to get it.

So for Walgreens, if it sells, it's a success - if you have an item do well at a Walgreens, Costco, or Walmart that makes Hasbro happy and if the run is high enough (and I can only assume that it was) then yes - it's a winner. Will the get another one? No idea. Does Walgreens consider it a big enough success to repeat it? Also no idea. Regardless of what you or I see as a success, remember that we live in a world where a movie can open to a $130 million weekend and be considered a disappointment. If your boss (or chain) demands more, it might be too small of a blip on the radar to warrant more development. We're going to have to wait and see what's still there, because the leftover Lannisters and Venoms I saw a couple months back made me think it wasn't working.

I assume we'll see Jango and other Bobas later - but when? How? How much? That remains to be seen. Right now the biggest worry is the clock, eventually these figures will cost too much for Hasbro to want to make them - and we may have quite some time before this happens. And also if Hasbro will decide it's more worthwhile to give the Bobas away as exclusives, or to use them to plus up their mainline assortments.



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2. So today I saw the pictures Hasbro sent everyone of the black series 6" Han solo in stormtrooper disguise along with bossk and the new deluxe sets due out soon. And is it just me or does the helmet for Han have THE WORST lenses on it?! The close up picture they provided is clear to show us collectors that the helmet is in perfect proportion when he's wearing it. But the lenses!!!! Aaargghhh! There's no winning is there? Your thoughts?

After collecting "new" figures for 19 straight years I can safely say that I almost completely don't care. I realize this sounds flippant, but last year nobody cared that Han's eyes were the wrong color. Or that Greedo's eyes were the wrong shape. Or that the 6-inch Darth Vader that Hasbro put out kinda sorta sucks. By the time we see images everything is really too late for Hasbro to change - even if they say they want to, it usually doesn't happen - so now we're at the state of "Here it is, buy it or don't." Especially as figures get larger various mistakes will be more obvious and easier to see, so (much like the recently excised continuity of this very franchise) all you can really do is acknowledge it, move on, and wait to see if Hasbro decides to do a second or third attempt a few years down the road.

As time goes on we're seeing action figures with new and interesting ways to be inaccurate. Which I realize probably sounds bad from the developer perspective, but there's that ongoing tension - we keep getting new figures with features that don't work or some fairly inaccurate details 30 or more years after the first figure came out. We also keep getting Hot Toys and others promising the bestest figures ever, and we're just going up that gradual curve where things get a little better, but a lot more expensive.

Technology and improvements in manufacturing, along with a maturing (read: richer) customer base breeds higher quality, more detail, and increased expectations. We as fans complain about everything, so nearly every complaint has equal weight - which is to say, no weight whatsoever. One of my big fears for this line is C-3PO, which we've seen made in a number of ways - vac-metal gold, gold sparkly plastic, and a gold plastic with a gold or bronze non-metallic paint over it. Those could look bad too - and in ways that may not rear their ugly heads for a few years - but such is the price of collecting extant toys. Maybe they'll fix Luke's helmet if and when the time comes, but odds are there will be something we don't like about that, too.




3. I was wondering if Billy Dee Williams will also appear in the new Star Wars movie. Just watching the Falcon streaking over the desert towards oncoming TIE fighters makes me wonder who's at the controls. Can't wait!!!!

While there are many rumors out there, none of the leaks have said anything about the actor or character being involved in this particular movie - it doesn't mean he won't be in there, but there's nothing leading me to think that he will make an appearance in the ship (or at all) just yet. I'd have expected it to be a big casting announcement along with the Big Three at this point.

The rumor mill is very chatty about Mr. Williams' possible involvement in Star Wars Rebels, and according to most reports it's the top rumor-that's-not-a-rumor. When will he appear is up for grabs, and while we can only assume he'll be playing Lando - which he's done in many of the sanctioned comedy products - it's possible he could pull a Mark Hamill and also lend his voice to some other random guy.




Before we get to our normal programming remember that November and December are the reasons the toy industry exists - new toys and exclusives that show up now may be gone for good before you know it thanks to the armies of moms, aunts, dads, uncles, and the like. If you see an exclusive and are waiting for clearance, or a price drop, you don't necessarily know if it'll be around in a week. Stuff goes quickly, so be careful about what you decide to skip for later - it looks like the Shadow Black Series set, for example, is long gone to Hong Kong Kong.

Also, amazingly, Hasbro and big box retail buyers seem to have bought hard on the first wave of Star Wars Command. For those interested, there is a second wave with one of the best sets ever. Rebel Troopers plus a golden Yoda, and the Yoda alone is worth the $5-$6 price of admission. It's a perfect figure for your desk, and if you get a chance to see one you should buy it. There's also a $10 set with Boba Fett and a Landspeeder, plus C-3PO. It's quite nice, but oddly configured - why include Prequel Jedi?

The teaser!

Pages of speculation and nostalgia for November of 1998's trudge to The Waterboy and/or Meet Joe Black dominate pop culture sites, giving us a little of what vaguely resembles substance against this trailer - which, like the original Episode I teaser, was basically a quick glimpse of a few new things. The most interesting thing to me is that it seems to correspond nicely to many of the story leaks, but as I am ultimately toy people first and foremost, it seems to bode well for the action figures of the future.

The star of Attack the Block as a "futuristic" Stormtrooper that looks like it feel out of 1987? Awesome. The Millennium Falcon gets a new radar antenna? Uh-oh - I smell a repack with a new dish... or perhaps some enterprising soul on Shapeways will sell the piece which we can order ourselves. (Or if Hasbro's feeling generous, include it in an exclusive boxed set somewhere.) A new villain - about which the rumor mill has some interesting speculation - has a nifty new lightsaber, although there has been some criticism levied at Star Wars for going outside the standard, basic design. Which of course, you know and I know you can't marry yourself to because this is a business, and that business is to sell toy lightsabers.

My chief worry for late 2015 - and the obligatory shopping orgy/midnight madness - is that I don't think the fandom can sustain it in this nerd-friendly culture. The idea of a shopping holiday for action figures was novel back in 1999, but the growth of Black Friday and midnight launches for video games and other things have really tarnished the line party concept. I don't doubt people will get in line for the movie a few days (or weeks) early, and as much as I like toy runs I do not care for any scenario which someone demands I wait in a long line in order to give them money due to some ridiculous notion of a "launch date" that gives the local press another opportunity to send in the cameras and gawk. The 1999 toy launch proved just how much people can get burned by speculation and by not buying what they like, dropping hundreds of dollars in toys for a movie they hadn't yet seen and, in a twist that would make Rod Serling proud, ultimately hated. (That and I detest lines after lines after lines to buy an action figure.)

We were spared the indignity of retailer exclusives in 1999 and 2002, but the hoop-jumping for Revenge of the Sith was a little unpleasant with "gift with purchase" figures, the Early Bird remake and some of the most collector-unfriendly employees I've had to deal with, and Target's "limited" 50,000-piece run Lava Reflection Darth Vader which I can snag now at a local record store, covered in dust, for $3 below its issue price. (For those not familiar, 50,000 is not limited. 50,000 is a lot.)

Considering the fact that my life revolves around what you and I do with our disposable income, a teaser like this means a lot. A high demand for new troopers, or Jedi, or whatever the floating suitcase thing the girl was riding on means a lot for the continuity of the implausible fact that I'm still writing about this movie series' merchandising after 19 years. And still selling it at work after nearly 10. We've got a bright future, but it appears the hurdles are going to make a comeback. If nothing else, when you remember waiting in line for the Adam Sandler Cajun Football Movie, also remember the rampant speculation and greed and wasted "investment" money of 1999. Be smart about it - buy what you like, drag your feet on any major character you think they might do better later, and remember that after thousands of figures your ability to ultimately "collect them all" has been dramatically diminished. I'm saying this for me as much as I am for you, but try to have fun - remember, this is a kid's movie and hopefully we'll all have a good time standing in the cold to see the flick next year.

--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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