Q&A: Star Wars Troop Transports, Port Problems, and Expanding Universes

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 18, 2015

1. Do you feel the lack of/delay in Rebel's product out is an indication as to the lack of interest in the show? I look back SDCC and the "release dates" provided and some are 1-2 months past when Hasbro stated the product would come out and no product. Is it possible these products are produced and just not shipped or Hasbro said, "Let's wait and see how waves 1 do and lets go forward?" Series 1 of "Saga Rebels/Legends" are sold out everywhere but Series 1 of "Mission Series" are EVERYWHERE

We have a few problems here, not the least of which is the under-reported work slowage at the Port of Long Beach near Los Angeles. Reportedly, the PMA (Pacific Maritime Association) and ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) are approaching a scenario where things can't be received and shipped out in a timely manner thanks to a labor contract dispute. Lots of toys come from Asia and pass through this port - and lots of stuff is stuck there, backed up for weeks. Or longer. When product sells out, there may or may not be replenishment in Hasbro's warehouses - I don't have that level of visibility. The point is this: a lot of stuff, not to put too fine of a point on it, missed the boat. Or the boat is just kinda stuck. Because containers are backed up for weeks today, this could cause delays for months down the road if things don't get resolved and cleaned up quickly.*

Also there seems to be a strange apprehension from the big retail chains regarding Star Wars - for example, I haunt many, many Walmarts and the one near my house didn't carry 6-inch figures of any sort until October. And in a month, they were marked down. They also didn't get (or put out) the Deluxe Jabba or Speederbike until January (this month), a full 4-5 months after some of the competition - and as far as I can tell, they never got the Rebels Saga Legends. At all. So looking at the port issue, I assume we're going to see a lot of these show up at some point in the next quarter. You know, after the show is off the air until next season.

Hasbro isn't stupid - despite what some of you imply - and even the vehicles for the series were in short supply over the holidays, demanding high prices online. Amazon was getting $20 for some of the Mission Series cartoon guys. Madness! That's supply and demand for you - or what happens when labor negotiations drag on too long. We've got subsequent waves solicited and waiting for delivery, so now it's on Hasbro. Or the ports. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure which at this point.

* - Going back to this, we could see two other fun scenarios this year - it's likely collector and Rebels product (as in, not-street-date stuff) will continued to be delayed. Because Hasbro always intentionally sits on New Movie product, it's possible The Force Awakens stuff will get produced very early to meet the launch needs - like we saw before - and shipped early to the USA so warehouses/stores can sit on it until the launch day. Which, as we've seen, no longer happens - stores put out stuff when they feel like it. So in short, if Hasbro is worried about the ports, they may ship early. If they ship early, there's a very good chance New Movie product will leak out early because Walmart and Toys R Us don't care, and Target resets whenever the heck they feel like it. For the prequel sequels we saw many items on-shelf 1-2 months early... I would not be surprised to see it happen again.



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2. Is there any word on the new imperial troop transporter vehicle? It is a great vehicle in the cartoon and wondered if it will have a mass distribution or is this a toy exclusive looking for a home?

Yes! Pre-orders went up for it last week. Things are a little slow going - and may continue this way for a while, thanks dock workers in Los Angeles and/or management - but we're told to expect it around February, which probably means March, but could actually mean February as Hasbro has (on occasion) sat on announcing product and shipped it roughly the week of Toy Fair.




3. I keep seeing fans complain about Disney non-canonizing the Expanded Universe stuff. But was EU ever officially considered canon by Lucasfilm? My impression has always been that besides a few exceptions (like the Clone Wars cartoons and maybe the Ewoks movies and Shadows of the Empire), Lucas didn't consider any of it to be canon. The StarWars.com announcement that wiped the slate clean says pretty much the same ( http://www.starwars.com/news/the-legendary-star-wars-expanded-universe-t... http://www.starwars.com/news/the-legendary-star-wars-expanded-universe-turns-a-new-page). I thought Lucas has always been pretty clear as to the place the EU has in Star Wars. And I can't imagine the continuity catastrophe that would occur if all those hundreds of books, comics, video games, whatever, were actually "real" in the Star Wars universe. So why is everybody so bent out of shape about this?

Different fans treat different things differently - and not everybody keeps on top of the full gamut of news surrounding a favored franchise. For years we've seen things enter and exit what could dubiously be referred to as the "Star Wars Canon," because at one point we were told that the movies, novelizations, and radio dramas were all top-level super-official canon. Now? Not. The Marvel comics were, by the early 1990s, tossed out of some guide books but would later be included in bits and pieces, with some characters being directly integrated into the novels. So even when someone says "these are silly campy stories we're ignoring," the facts at the time sometimes prove otherwise.

Fans who read comics and novels, or play some of the longer story-driven video games, are more invested in this stuff than you might expect. Spending dozens (or hundreds) of hours with Mandalorian drill sergeants, ancient Sith warlords, and Rebel pilots require the person to invest a lot of time. In the case of comics, that meant special trips to special stores, so those who really enjoyed these had a lot more invested than a fan who might just, for example, watch a TV show that magically appears on their TV set. Seeing what amounts to hundreds of hours of "work" be decanonized can be mildly traumatic, especially since comics were $2.50-$4, paperback novels started at around six bucks, and don't get me started on video games. If you missed the memo on the dubiousness of those stories, it's a bitter pill to swallow. Nobody wants to see a library worth of material suddenly made worthless, but that's business - they can't keep selling new generations novels in between Movie A and Movie B if all that ground had been completely covered, and to be honest it's not like Star Trek extended the courtesy of a fairly structured (although not perfect) continuity in its publishing program. Star Wars fans of the early 1990s up until last year had it really, really good.

Think of the comics and books as you might think of your action figures. If a whole new scale of figure came up, and the old ones were declared worthless garbage, seeing your efforts (I am hesitant to use "investment") wiped clean would sting. As there are toy people (like me), there are book people (like my friend from high school James) and there are numerous facets of licensed merchandise that tend to generate similar levels of ownership. If and when Hasbro decides 3 3/4-inch figures are a thing of the past, I guarantee you the torches and pitchforks will be brought out and I'll be there with the other angry collectors.

As you said, Lucas has been pretty up-front about many things not being super-official. Usually the story was some variation on the movies - or later the Special Editions - being the main driver, with The Clone Wars (at one point, the 2003 show) being included as well. Things change, and they will no doubt change again when there's a good idea for a movie that trods over Rebels in 10 years.

Also, of course, none of this is real. It's a movie, and depending on what kind of control Lucas has over his original movies we might even see new edits to those again some day. Being a long-time fan I'm more or less used to the idea that (in the early 1990s) Lucas wrote that he saw these as fairy tales of sorts, which basically means that the entire franchise is open for reinterpretation, exaggeration, or is in and of itself a form of a "tall tale." Before Attack of the Clones Boba Fett was described as a space cop, a supercommando, an ex-Stormtrooper, and all kinds of things. And some of these things could still be true - there are a lot of stories left untold and if you ask me, Lucas' camp would be well-served to try to avoid contradicting as much as possible.

One last thing - just be glad you aren't a fan of Transformers fiction. It's an amazing field of study, with contradictions upon contradictions right out the gate of some storylines. If anything, trying to piece together the errors is part of the fun, whereas in Star Wars there's a lot less confusion of if a story within a single continuity fits or not. I realize "be happy things aren't worse" is cold comfort for some fan, but, as you said... many of us knew this day was coming.




So 2015 is here! And things are happening - sort of. New pre-orders are going up for new figures three months after their announcement (or more), Lando Calrissian got his cartoon debut, and Marvel's first Star Wars comic book of the 21st century has hit newsstands virtual and real. The rate of newness has slowed a bit to levels that are a bit less insane - I realize this may be difficult to understand, but there were years where we didn't get a new Star Wars comic book every month. Actually, there were about four years with no comics in there, and while the slow-drip release of toys is frustrating I'd also suggest reading up on the Long Beach port slowdown (but not strike) situation. The conditions of the marketplace aren't helping things get any prettier, but at least there's a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

With new adventures focusing on the likes of Luke, Lando, Leia, Vader, Han, and faces we all know and love it's a step in the right direction. I remember a time roughly 10 years ago where there were 4 concurrent Star Wars comics, 2 of which had nothing to do with the movies really and the other two were just sort of spinning their wheels. So far Rebels has been unable to deliver the variety of that first year of The Clone Wars, but we're close to being on par with the quantity of story. With the gimmick of the Clone Troopers to save on budgets we got to see some insights into these identical troopers, which let us go to other fun places that it seems Rebels won't let us visit. In the first eight installments of the Clone series, we saw different groups take point and because of that, the show rarely got stale. It wasn't quite an anthology series, but it was pretty close and we got glimpses into strange new world, new life, and new civilizations where (in at least this franchise) no one had gone before. Rebels is pretty content to hang around Lothal, meaning that character is our key for fun here. We're not getting a lot of it yet, but I've got hopes we'll see more stunt episodes like the Lando one (review coming tonight) and maybe focus an episode or two on the Stormtroopers, Agent Kallus, or other characters outside the Ghost crew.

We're about a month out from the big Toy Fair reveals. The good news is that toy fans the world over will get a glimpse at what 2015 has to offer... but there won't be much for us given the nature of the year with the new movie. There's newness coming, for sure, but don't get your hopes too high. Next year and the future should be pretty bright, but it's time to calibrate your expectations for today - not 1995, not 2005, but 2015. We no longer have a tiny handful of tentpole movies each year - we're on the verge of December being overrun with big budget fare like the summers. Hasbro has so many big licenses that they are now their own worst competition - other than the Turtles and Power Rangers, Hasbro rules a good chunk of the mass-retail collector and boy's action toy roost. This year alone we'll see Transformers, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Avengers, classic Marvel, Ant-Man, and maybe B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations compete this year, all in a relatively brief 7-month window. For this reason we're seeing movie lines with shorter runs like a one-and-done approach seen by Thor: The Dark Age and Guardians of the Galaxy, plus increasingly briefer takes on big lines. Transformers: Age of Extinction got real repetitive real fast, with tail-end waves still not yet appearing in stores nearly half of a year later. The collector-focused lines topped out at three waves. In short, Hasbro has too much on their plate - so any competitor with a decent license has the potential to put more effort into making something bigger, better, and more successful because they don't have to worry about having to hedge their bets on two or three potential biggest-movie-of-the-year lines alongside their own returning favorites.

Factor in the continued pain from the port slowdown situation, and this could be another year for toys where no one line sees huge growth. Right now I'd say Transformers is probably going to bring the most fun for their toy collectors at mass market retail, because I'm guessing Star Wars will make a lot of the same decisions. I don't think we're in an era where stores care all that much about insane street dates and midnight madness, because it seemed to die down pretty hard since the big bang of May 1999. I also think we're in a dangerous era where too much attention is paid to the adult collector at the expense of the next generation of fans, but I could be wrong - it's my hunch that The Phantom Menace didn't really bring in new loyal hardcore fans to collect for the long run. It was a fun thing, another in a sea of tentpole movies with toys... its uniqueness lost among the very marketing style it helped to create. There will always be a place for Star Wars, but until it is given to a company who isn't afraid to hurt the sales of the next big movie due out in 6 weeks we're probably going to see more and more conservative lineups. I'm actually OK with this because space is not unlimited, but I do miss the promise of new toys every 1-2 months.

--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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Regarding Transformers, I don't seem to have as much of a problem of it with it as the general origin of them coming to Earth from Cyberton and then picking up their war here is more or less consistent compared to some seismic changes in the Star Wars universe between continuities. You don't really get into any craziness unless you try and include the Japanese shows with the Western ones.

With few exceptions, It's not like there are dead characters who are alive in other series and vice-versa.

The same thing with GI Joe, Voltron, Thundercats, and all the other 80's greats.

I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere though but Daisy Ridley's outfit in the trailer is a dead ringer for the one that Mara Jade wore in the Heir To The Empire comic, So at least we'll probably be getting subtle nods like that with the new films in regards to the Legends material.

Now if you want to talk about REALLY screwed up canon then let's talk Highlander and Terminator which still make my hurt trying to figure out to this day in which every single entry is some sort of reboot.

Another Thing

Iger released a press release when he bought Lucasfilm in 2012 that specifically said in no uncertain terms with big bold block letters that they were buying THOUSANDS of years of galactic history in regards to the Star Wars galaxy. Hence the confusion we have today.

So it really makes me wonder if they were considering including the Legends EU as part of the new canon originally? There's probably a story itself in all of that somewhere that's not being told right now.

Although, I was not originally a fan of the merger a few years back and found it somewhat jarring considering how hands on Lucas was with his body of work could just sell it off like that on a whim. I feel it is for the best now seeing as how even he knew his own limits and that he's long past his creative prime which was readily apparent in how little his heart seemed to be in storytelling judging by how shoddily made Indy 4, Red Tails, and the Clone Wars film turned out to be. I did enjoy the CW series but that was more due to Filoni's direction.

But again not surprising seeing as how he contradicted himself all the time in press releases. Anyone remember how he was going to spend the rest of his life making small, experimental films after Sith? We got exactly one of those unless you count turkey to be Strange Magic.

It's the same deal with Speilburg as well and a lot of other greats from that era which probably has to do with their age. I wouldn't know yet since I'm nowhere near their age but maybe our passion for all this will die when we approach AARP qualification age? I hope not but that's life and something you have no real control over.

On a positive note and without having seen anything a minute of footage from The Force Awakens, It really does seem like Disney is trying their damnest to make this new trilogy a critical/commercial success with getting all the old gang back together as well as re-hiring Kasdan and if they can't get it right then no one can.

Regardless of the outcome, At least we are in for a ride for the next half decade and we're lucky that none of the major original trilogy cast have passed on before they could make these films. Knock on wood.


The whole EU thing was one big %#@$ sandwich imho.

Let's face it, Without the Expanded Universe there would be NO Prequel or Sequel trilogy today. Without the 90's Bantam's novels, Dark Horse's comics, and Kenner's POTF2 toys being huge successes then I seriously doubt Lucasfilm would have gone ahead and given them the green light for production.

Lucas has said a bunch of things about continuity but remember he also said for decades that a sequel trilogy would never happen and that the films were all about Anakin Skywalker.

Having said all that, Not all of the ancillary stuff was great and I can see the need to purge parts of the universe so that they aren't so boxed in for Episodes VII-XI.

However, I would have preferred that they gotten rid of all the Post-Jedi material from Truce At Bakura to Mercy Kill rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater and lose all the great character study novels they did that really fleshed out the PT in ways that the films themselves failed to do. Not to mention eliminate the entire KOTOR era which I really fell in love with due to it's fantasy based nature which seems like a place where the Star Wars universe would naturally originate from.

I also would have liked had they continued the "Legends" era concurrently with the "real" one but I guess that's too confusing for most fans and all kinds of legal issues involved.

I'm really curious as to how they would have ended the Star Wars timeline honestly but now we'll never ever know outside of fan fiction. I just hope now that we have one collective continuity that we can now finally find out what happens to all the characters after the new trilogy is finished with and all of it's spin-offs.