Q&A: Star Wars Vehicle Figures, Optimism and Rebels

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 22, 2018

1. Now that the sail barge is greenlit, it would make sense rereleasing some barge figures would happen. What do you think? Also, I heard that Disney won't allow a slave Leia to ever be released again. Do you think there is some truth to this?

The Slave Leia ban - I remember hearing that and then seeing an item hit a few months later, but dang if I can remember what it was. It might have been the Rancor Pit boxed set. The good thing about a Major Corporation is that they have bad memories and the guard changes over a bunch - so every few years, a policy can change. We didn't get a remake of The Empire Strikes Back Cloud Car until 2010 because one guy kept vetoing it at Hasbro. I assume any such policy is temporary, but temporary policies and misinformation can have very real changes in the secondary market pricing. The infamous "Unleashed Padme Recall" in 2002, "lead paint C-3PO" in 1995, these things are total bunk but people were dumb enough to believe it and prices went up. Given there's seemingly some reality in this circumstance, I assume some people might be making a run on the secondary market to populate their sail barges. Things like tooling availability may make a big difference on what they can release, and how, and with which parts. So on Slave Leia, I'd say "bet on no, but don't be surprised to see something change." They're never going to edit her out of the movie - I would argue it makes a strong statement about what happens when you try to keep women down, but your mileage may vary.

You might want to buy the 2009 release of Slave Leia because it includes "seated" legs that were absent from The Black Series Rancor Pit and The Vintage Collection repack. I don't know if Hasbro will want to put it out again, or if they lost the tooling, or what - but that specific "seated legs" piece may be most valuable to you now.

As to the other figures - Hasbro has made comments at Toy Fair as to potentially letting the Sail Barge direct The Vintage Collection a bit. So far we've seen Yak Face and Klaatu (Skiff Guard) remakes, and they've made plenty of fuss about possible reissues. We know the Vintage Collection Gamorrean Guards are pricey nowadays, it's possible you'll need a good Salacious Crumb and C-3PO, and all kinds of Skiff Guards that may already be in your collection would be very nice to have right now. In my experience now is usually a good time to get your figures - but keep in mind the secondary market prices compared to today's prices, not what they were 5 or 10 years ago.

Back in 2009, a figure might be $7 or $8. That very same figure would be $13-$15 if reissued today with no changes, and depending on inflation could even be more next year. If you can get any older figure that you would want reissued for $15 delivered or under, jump on it. Keep an eye out for bulk lots and small collections too, because stuff tends to go cheaper per piece when you're willing to drop a bit more cash at once.

So if I were you? Don't wait. Look at stuff now, see what the prices are, and don't count on Hasbro doing a dang thing for you as far as reissues go. There are thousands of figures and your choice may not be theirs.



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2. This is just a depressing time to be a Star Wars figure fan. While the barge would have dulled the sting of losing Toys R Us, the imminent failure of that kickstarter [this was written before it smoked the goal - AP] just makes me this current era an almost complete downer. Do you remember how you felt when it looked like the Carbon Freeze chamber had been cancelled? I remember my angst, and that was for an item that I had never previously seriously considered as a key piece of my collection. So this is . . . , well, much worse. Even though the goal when announced looked like an optimistic stretch to me.
And you would think with the new movies serving as great marketing for the toys that we would be living in a golden age. Although the movies' toy sales aren't the only thing that seem to be declining with each successive installment, as they track pretty well with my excitement. Better movies don't help this, as I liked 8 more than 7. For someone like me whose love is the original trilogy, these new movies really distract Hasbro from what I most want to see made. Other than a freakin' huge Sail Barge - they paid attention to that and we the fans are now dropping the ball.
I have a nitpick on your analysis of the retail industry, as you keep on suggesting that Best Buy is supposed to be dead. I do not believe that it is still in dire straits (although it was). For one thing, it's financial statements are pretty good. More importantly, they have made parts of their stores into virtual stores for the actual product manufacturers, like Apple, Google, and Amazon. If you can't beat 'em, have them pay you to act as a storefront for your merchandise. If you keep rent low, that's a tough model in which to lose money.
Also consider that Best Buy now has a toy section - I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a top 5 toy company account within the next half decade. Considering that it has some expertise in selling over-$500 items to consumers, many of whom do not actually need a bigger TV, PS4, or whatever, there might be a fit for big ticket toys there. Although since my sister works for Best Buy, and I want her to have a steady paycheck for the next 30 years, I kind of hope that Best Buy doesn't get into that business - we've seen what has happened to those that went before.

I don't know if it's a bad time to be a collector - stuff comes and goes, and Star Wars isn't as dead as Star Trek has been. Both still have things, but as far as figural stuff goes Trek fans have it worse than we do - despite movies, a TV show, and much more story from which to draw. While it's been iffy for Lucas-era fandom since 2015, it's not over - we got a new Wampa and Probe Droid in the last year, for example. We just got an amazing Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul. There's still hope and as the Sail Barge goes, there's still opportunities when Hasbro has time to breathe between movies.

We have seen a lot of items not come out, almost make it out, and in some cases? I know of things you don't that'll never see the light of day. It happens, in all toy lines, all the time. Things could maybe make it out some day if the market conditions allow for it, but given the death of Toys R Us and what seems to be a seasonal pop-up licensing of the KB name I don't expect a lot of big toy changes in the near term. Yeah, we had to wait three years for the small, not-so-great Freeze Chamber. We lived. We had to wait 20 years for Tarkin and 21 years for a Bantha. Hell, Star Wars action figures were flat-out dead for 10 years at one point. What we got later was pretty good, and it got better, and fans kept saying how much worse it was even though it was easier to get figures, the figures had better articulation and more accessories, and so on. Things change - and they might change for the better again.

The Barge was a ridiculous reach for the stars, and it happened. I can't imagine it'll happen two or three times, but ere we are - Hasbro knows old collectors still exist and how many people will pay crazy money for something from Return of the Jedi, a movie "all fans" supposedly hated in the 1990s. (I will go on the record as loving Ewoks and Jabba's Palace and all the new starfighters, and the movie, and the post-movie toys.) And now we've got the biggest thing we could probably realistically expect to get - an impossible thing nobody would assume Hasbro would do, let alone this size, let alone direct-to-consumer, let alone given the Disney era thus far. Something impossible happened - that gives me hope, provided Hasbro doesn't lose the license.

Of course, even if Hasbro loses the license that doesn't mean someone else won't give us something interesting. Mattel's revival of classic Jurassic Park within Jurassic World has been a pleasant surprise product - we'll see how kids like it. I don't think the direction for The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, or Solo have been conducive to keeping collectors happy (no new classic stuff) or kids (play features miss key things like wheels, good figure compatibility, higher price points). Don't get me started on Force Link 2.0 needing a firwmware update to work with day one products - that's just bad for kids. With more movies Hasbro's focus has to expand - again, look at Trek in the 1990s. Old fans weren't thrilled when toys focused on the then-current shows, but they were ratings winners and needed toys for that modern audience. Hasbro would be well-served to continue following that model - some new, some classic, and some obscure new stuff to keep hardcore fans interested - which we totally did not get for <>The Last Jedi.

I'm still going to say Best Buy doesn't have its best days in front of it. I would be very surprised if it was a Top 5 toy company - with about 1,000 locations left, it's not exactly growing the world of toys. It has some Marvel, some Star Wars, but not exactly a lot and certainly not everything. Walgreens has over 8,000 stores, Costco has room to grow (for now), but I doubt Best Buy is going to greatly expand its toy footprint. It could - but GameStop is in a better position for that thanks to the stores converting more footage to plastic and collectibles in the wake of digital downloads. (Can you even buy PC software there anymore?)

I'd love to be wrong! I live next to a Best Buy, and it's always empty and the toys just kind of sit there and are easy to get. If they move into this space, it's good for all of us - but there's probably a lot more growth potential in other areas. I rarely see young shoppers there, and that makes a big difference when it comes to longevity.

One last rambling thought - we're getting new movies every year, so in a sense this is a golden age. Collecting got good when stuff died, collectors were the focus in 2006-2009 when there were few other avenues for Hasbro to explore. This could happen again... and it could just as easily be the end of toys as we know it if it does.




3. I am not one to beat a dead horse, but I am curious about your thoughts on the Star Wars Rebels ending. I know you had some concerns with the show overall, but I felt that they handled the ending extremely well. The taboo subject of post-Return of the Jedi was even addressed, which I felt was most impressive. I know that there are probably zero chances to make figures for the show at all, let alone the final episode, but I feel like there are real opportunities for toys that will never reach production.

I have asked some questions in the past about vintage toy licenses that have been purchased by new toy developers. Is information available regarding some of the costs of the licenses? I am curious as to what Robo Force or Power Lords might have cost the companies that took them over. I can't remember or if I ever knew that any of these releases were attached to a funding campaign or if the new companies just took the chance that they could start a successful line with whatever finances they already had.

My thoughts on this is keep 'em coming! We are living in a world were retro is king and we are losing all of our brick and mortar toy stores. Before we fall in line with accepting that toys are a thing of the past, let's really take advantage of Stranger Things and other retro television and movie success, so that we can have some really unique takes on toys of our past and bring it into the future. Funko seems to be doing well in their own way and I saw some of the images of figures from Ghosts N Goblins, etc. It might be a good time to get on that train. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror? Some popular genres that could have a lasting impact or to bring some of the new blood to this retro craze: I wouldn't mind seeing Dragonriders of the Styx make a comeback. Or Bravestarr. Or Crystar for that matter. Arco's Other World. I know - a bit obscure, but I didn't have Outer Space Men when I was younger and those things fly off the website every time they are announced. Just some thoughts. What do you think?

My assumption is that the end of Star Wars Rebels means no more toys too. We might see some The Black Series stuff, but that'd be it - we haven't had new animated figures in about a year, and we had a couple of seasons of The Clone Wars with no new product. Unless those fans jump up and demand toys, this is it. It's over. (And looking at the secondary market, there's clearly interest.) With any luck Hasbro has some close-to-complete approved concepts that could make it out via HasLab or other means.

I liked the show's pilot, I liked the premise, and I liked the finale. Everything in between was sort of all over the map - we saw some neat ideas come up that could probably have been better explored elsewhere. At one point it looked like the show would end after three seasons, and maybe it should have - getting away from Lothal made the show interesting for a while, but drove us away from the central premise. We got to spend some good time with the boys, but Hera and Sabine could've used more to do. Everybody got to show a few flaws - a plus! - and the show actually passes the Bechdel Test, which was a plus. Unfortunately, it also felt like a lot of episodes just trod over ground we saw in the movies with concepts we saw in art books, with characters that always left us wanting a little more.

One of Star Wars biggest problems these days is the variety. We get toys for Stranger Things because it's super popular, and we might get the whole cast because it doesn't have a very deep bench. There are 12 feature-length Star Wars movies. There are something like 235 animated TV episodes. There are thousands of comic books, and novels, and games. They can't make everything just because there's so dang much. Even the original Star Wars trilogy still has unmade figures - some of which aren't too significant - after four decades. One of my pals wants them to finish up all the original Rebel Pilots from 1977's movie. Me, I want all the Kenner-era figures ever sold or shown to the public updated for the modern (read: 1995-present) era. Others still won't rest until Knights of the Old Republic gets a full figure line - and maybe they're on to something given Revan and Bastilla Shan's prices. Figures people didn't really want to buy at first can get expensive over time, making it hard to get a good read on the reality of the market. They want more... but do they want enough to warrant a full production run? (And knowing what that number is, maybe not.)

I hope that Hasbro continues to revisit existing lore for more toys. I really do. I'd also like to see them return to the 2006-2008 model of 7-9 waves per year, with a few repaints, but maybe they could skip Revenge of the Sith retreads for a while. They really beat that dead horse from 2005-2010.

Retro is finite - ask all your Tarzan and Flash Gordon fans. G.I. Joe probably won't enjoy a come back without a major, significant reinvention. Basically anything young kids enjoyed has a good chance of a revival, and things for older kids - look at Indiana Jones - may struggle outside the entertainment sphere. Since Jurassic Park is right in where kids live, it can probably be reborn constantly. Nostalgia's fuel runs out as we die off, otherwise we'd all still be knee-deep in new Universal Monsters goodies every year.



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Toys R Us has had some ups and downs this week. The initial bid of the MGA people to buy US and Canada stores flopped. Smyths will be taking over in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Fairfax Financial Holdings bought Canada Toys R Us, but there could be a last-minute competing bid. The chatter in the toy world is filled with question marks - where will this business go? Online? Target? Will a new player come up, and will those smaller mom and pop stores grow and start carrying more branded and entertainment-based products? Was there just too much stuff in the first place, and we're due for a long-needed correction?

Since 2006 I'd say most years Star Wars has had too much stuff - not necessarily all stuff we want, but if you take a big step back and tally up how much it would cost to collect most lines of merit you're looking at a thousand - or a few thousand - dollars per year. Your level of satisfaction may vary, but we could probably use a return to the weird not-yet-consolidated toy world of the 1980s that allowed for regional chains to try different things to allow for a more diverse portfolio of toys. Some stores just don't support some brands, and with fewer stores there are not enough outlets to provide a critical mass of shelf space to bring some toys to market.

The big stuff will probably still be just fine for a while - but of course, things change. Hasbro is getting Power Rangers, which has been at BanDai since day one. Mattel just got Jurassic World toys out, which are largely cheaper and better than Hasbro's offering from the last film with a line launch that's about as big as anything Hasbro has done for other brands. And the reaction, so far, has been stellar - given the change in the marketplace it wouldn't stun me to see more licenses shopped around to see who might try to do a better job with them. The $8 Jurassic Park classic human has pretty great articulation, especially when compared to a similarly priced Hasbro Star Wars human these days. The variety isn't there yet, but Mattel did a pretty good job with its launch line. Which has more waves coming.

If it were up to me, I'd want Hasbro to follow Mattel's lead with a "one size fits all" approach to 3 3/4-inch, mostly because the new movie characters we're getting could stand to have more articulation and the Vintage packaged figures are a bore so far. I don't think having the same character at the same size in the same outfit in multiple formats helps - did we really need 3 3 3/4-inch Rey figures in the same costume? Or Tech Rose with 5 joints and also over a dozen joints? Resources are being wasted and fan interest is being taxed. Don't get me started on Force Link, a great idea that just didn't get executed well.

Since things for this year were more or less wrapped up last year, you won't be seeing too many significant changes save for reallocation of inventory this year. Now is the time where we see if Hasbro realizes it needs to cut the run, or Mattel needs to get in more stores, or if Funko... well, they can probably just keep doing what they're doing.

--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.