Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, The Clone Wars, and Force Link

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 19, 2018

1. With the return of the Clone Wars, I cannot help but reflect on the time when Star Wars toys were great, and toy support for the show was amazing. Part of the fun and the comradery among fans is enjoying a good toy selection to celebrate the show. Do you think Steve, or anyone in the current SW team at Hasbro, has a true understanding of this? I got so excited when I heard the show was coming back, but then got deflated knowing the current state of the SW 3.3/4" toyline. What are your thoughts? Do you think they will attempt to actually support the show with a wonderful selection of toys: action figures, vehicles, etc.? Oh, will we get support more in line with SW Rebels, dismal!

Getting old sucks.

As Star Wars and in some cases toy/genre fans, we have a pretty short-sighted view of how things work. For most of the past 40-50 years, things we like have stuck around for a long time. Scooby Doo gets revamped all the time. Sesame Street is still on the air. Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, X-Men, The Simpsons, and countless nerd-friendly cultural touchstones have been with us and marketed to us nearly nonstop for quite some time. It's easy to forget things change - trading cards went from a cheap thing with crappy gum to a premium product, similar to comics - and action figures are potentially on a similar trajectory.

Not every Star Wars thing gets the full toy treatment. The Clone Wars had a spectacular launch in 2008 with more great toys in 2009 and 2010, with things slowing a bit in 2011 and getting dumped in Europe around 2012 and 2013. For whatever reason, it died down. The show's revival will basically be finishing off the assets they had to work with from last time, and the toys will likely be no different - a dozen episodes is nothing in the attention span of today's fan, or today's child. While the older folks watched cartoons on Saturday mornings and rewatched the same 65 episodes of a cartoon for 13 weeks in a row, today's kids have near infinite games, streaming programs, and options - some get fixated on a thing, and some move on to something else. We're the former. Culturally, it's the latter.

Star Wars has a long future ahead of it, although the chances of getting something neat for a revival are increasingly slim. For the 40th anniversary, we got a few new figures and a lot of old toys in new boxes. If you get any repackaged vehicles - remember, the cost of vehicles has skyrocketed since the line shifted to the simpler, cheaper ones - it would be incredible. New ones would be lovely, and I'd love Yoda's season 6 Starfighter. But it ain't gonna happen. Maybe you'll get a handful of new figures and reruns. As a streaming-only show of something most people thought was over and done with, on a new paid service, I would not expect any kind of significant toy presence for this or any existing Star Wars entertainment item.   Beyond a few token acknowledgements until the day they stop producing new movies and new programs, that is - you'll probably get Vader or droids or a Luke here and there, but it is unlikely The Clone Wars has a big future.    They want to sell you Resistance now.

And by then, you had better hope that action toys aren't out of vogue. I know people say Star Wars is forever, but the world can and does go through phases. We've been in a very long one. If I were Hasbro, I would be very careful about putting toys from an old TV show on the shelf without more support than a dozen episodes on an unproven streaming platform. (If the show takes off and kids watch it like crazy? That's different. But kids have had access to classic video games, Leif Garret, and Cheers reruns without showing much of a shine to those, either.)



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2. Adam, any chance we get a repack of TVC vehicles ([Big Millennium Falcon] or [Republic] Gunship)?

Zero. "But Adam, nothing is impossible!" Well, this is. The last repack of the Falcon was at Toys R Us for $250 - and that was about six years of inflation ago. The last Gunship reissue around 2012 was over $100 - and that started life at $40.

As of right now there is insufficient demand for this kind of product. There is no toy store willing to pony up shelf space for giant and increasingly expensive vehicles - especially if the tooling is in China and Hasbro is moving elsewhere. Also Hasbro's minimums are not exactly small. To draw some comparisons, Hasbro has reissued some not-too-old Transformers which were made in China a decade ago - everything new is out of Vietnam now - and some of the Chinese-made toys that were $30-$40 in 2001 are $100 or higher when made in China today.

In this case, you don't have to blame Hasbro, fans, kids, or stores - blame economics. We had some amazing times with $5 action figures and $30 gunships, and that era is over. Maybe Hasbro can find a way to deliver these kinds of goods at lower prices in new countries, with fewer features. When it comes to big, old vehicles in a world without Toys R Us I would say give up and start looking at eBay or garage sales. The new Imperial Combat Tank may be the most gorgeous thing ever, but it's small and $80. We got extremely lucky with big ships from 2008-2012, and I would not hold out hope that we would see a return to that kind of world of wonders ever again.




3. Hello. Did Hasbro say anything about plans for the ForceLink (3.75 5POA) past the next Solo wave [wave 4 - AP] at SDCC? They seem to not mention it very much because it's not aimed at "collectors." There's a lot of time before the next film, and I'm curious about what they are going to do.

Hasbro has tons of people working on its many products that know fans want to see everything. However, they don't show us everything all the time - as you point out, it's generally collector-driven. This is one of the reasons I think "collector product" should die off and everything should merge in the middle - I was having a lot more fun when there was only one line, and reducing the spend on R&D generally helps you sell more of fewer products, which can be better, and sold at a lower price. But I digress.

3 3/4-inch non-collector product has a future, but it hasn't all been revealed yet and nothing for that assortment has been shown beyond what you've seen. I would encourage you to take a big step back and look at the last few years. We've had a grab bag of repacks, new figures, and new entertainment-based characters that I would say has not done the best job of satisfying a new or old audience - but they're trying. We get at least one classic character near every new movie launch, and popular characters from new movies come back and seem to sell well, despite fan grumblings. (I didn't see Force Link Jyn Erso pegwarm during The Last Jedi and K-2SO seems to be doing well with his Solo remake.)

If you're sitting there hoping for new Rogue One Rebel Pilots like I am, don't hold your breath. If you think there's going to be a big classic line with new-to-toy stuff, don't get your hopes up. At this point I would absolutely adore if Hasbro, Lucasfilm, and Disney could do themed waves again - in the post-new-movie era of 2006-2011, we got some really fun assortments focusing on specific films or planets. It's not a lot, but it makes collecting a lot more interesting when you had an "Endor wave" or a "Mustafar wave" rather than "six figures from six movies, none of which are new."

Hasbro hasn't really had a chance to market "classic" to kids yet, and since 2015 we've seen very few Lucas-era stories told through toys. We'd have odds and ends sure, but there was no real effort to build out the original film. We've had a bit from Hoth, though. There will be new items in the future, but if you think we're going to get more Force Link products which could be a backdoor app to new announcements? Again, optimism will leave you disappointed.



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So, Resistance. October debut, bypasses Comic-Con and the summer promotion season entirely, and I can't say I like the look of it. I generally feel 2018 is the year Disney marketing decided to bury Star Wars, or test the hypothesis that you can phone it in when it comes to promoting Star Wars. Waiting until the last minute to share footage or titles is not how these things tend to go, I hope it works for them. It hasn't so far this year, and I also don't much care for the look of what I've seen so far as Disney (probably wisely) aims at a younger audience to start trying to go after the next generation of fans. I'm still digging the movies and a lot of the toys, and it's not like there are lots of mega-franchises where every installment is perfect (or even good.)

I had a day off to burn this week, so I used it to celebrate in the way of my people - get a burger, go look for toys, repeat. I took one of my rare trips to a local antique mall, which had the typical mix of mid to late 1990s plastic debris, Hot Wheels, and the usual old stuff mixed with an increasing amount of non-Hasbro and largely not-toy The Force Awakens and early Disney-era Star Wars stuff. The recent figure lines were largely unrepresented, which could be the demographics or a possible shift in what got bought and sat on - which is to say, nobody cares and it got used by consumers or dumped at closeouts. What really stunned me was what seemed to be a complete and total lack of Funko product save for a couple of Wacky Wobblers. Not only was there no Star Wars, but seemingly no Pop! vinyl figures of any kind. Considering a few retailers are drowning in new and old white boxes in what remains one of the most popular figure lines of any kind in quite some time (even with very few duds), I found this to be surprising and almost difficult to believe. How could there be more packaged MUSCLE and CUTIE than there was Funko? How could there be more Pin Traders Disney pins than Pop!s?

I was also surprised to see that while some things changed, the secondary market prices for Star Wars largely did not. Since the late 1980s, antique malls I have visited charged about $20 for beaten Kenner action figures with missing or mismatched accessories. Despite the fact the oldest figure was maybe 11 years old then and 40 years old now, the prices and condition seemed to be about the same. Not great. Not worth paying for. Certainly not worth the asking price.

It would surprise me if most people just sell directly to a store - I see a lot of comic or media shops with toy collections being sold - rather than trying to sell their wares at antique malls or antique shows largely trafficked by a much older audience. It's always a treat of some sort to see what people believe their old stuff is worth, especially since the price of renting a case isn't $0 and you could probably make more money simply by leaving your old Starting Line-Ups on the side of the road on your drive in to work. A few of those cases seem to be largely identical to what I last saw there 18 months ago - granted, so are some rooms of my house that still need to be set up and fully displayed.

On to more on-topic notes, there have been a few articles floating around that four Avatar sequels from Fox (now Disney) are set for December 2020, 2021, 2024, and 2026. If that's the case, Disney would have to be stupid to put out a Star Wars film at the same time, and as of now we know that there are no plans for Star Wars movie dates after 2019. Will they go back to summer? Or skip every other year? (I sincerely hope the latter.)

Not seeing Rogue One or Solo or The Last Jedi stuff in big numbers at the antique mall means that just maybe it's not being over done or there was some course-correction. Star Wars Box Busters stopped in short order, and the figure lines have been cut short for 2 out of 4 movies so far. There's still too much in the marketplace, and hopefully the reduction in stores, movies, and other stuff will make things a little more normal.

--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.