Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, Mini Figures, and LEGO with Toys R Us on the Side

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 11, 2018

1. Hasbro will make you ONE vehicle or playset for you before the line ends. What do you pick? Me, I'll take a big, fully outfitted cantina. As long as I'm dreaming, I want LEDs to light up the bar, lamps, and droid detector.

I'm going to cheat and do one vehicle and one playset. (And I should note I wrote this one before Toy Fair's big reveal.)

My go-to vehicle would be the Blockade Runner - the Tantive IV. It's the first vehicle we ever see in the series, it appears in multiple films, and many major characters can be seen on it. And if they felt like it, they could redeco it for a Republic-era version and an Empire-era version. The Star Destroyer got lip service as a playset in the 1980s, but to this day there's no 3 3/4-inch Blockade Runner toy. (I don't count display stands from 2005 as a playset.)

My go-to playset would be Cloud City. I was going to say Jabba's Palace, but I have one that's... adequate. Not great, but certainly very OK. I want a toy that has it all - and Kenner came close in the 1980s with its MicroCollection worlds. Even a 3 3/4-inch version of those toys would be a tremendous treat. Give me a torture room, a prison cell, a banquet room, and as much of the duel and Carbon Freezing environs as possible. I will be so, so happy. I'm easy - I love my aliens, but that duel in The Empire Strikes Back may be one of the best, most tense sequences in the movie.

(This part is also added later.) Given Toys R Us, you'll probably never see a big vehicle or playset again unless it's released through some new experimental channels or as a theme park exclusive like the not-yet-available or even officially announced Sandcrawler. Support for higher-dollar items will dry up quickly without edition sizes decreasing, simply because stuff gets blown out too quickly.



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2. What do you think of those 99 cent Metalfigs at Target/Wal-Mart? And do you think a SW one is in the works? I love the price point and think they are decent for what you pay, They remind of those early 90's Action Masters that got me back into collecting again. Good desk decirations and a nice selection from various IP's.

I dig them, but I haven't bought many of them. Jada Toys got a lot of great kid-friendly licenses and they seem to be doing almost everything, but I can tell from previous conversations that they didn't yet have Star Wars. This can change. If they got Star Wars with playsets, you can bet I'd be all-in and building display shelves right now. There are some brands I'd very much like to see, but for the time being I'm not all-in on any of them. I hope they keep these going forever, though, the format seems to be a perfect way to get kids a cheap figure in an era where kids just aren't buying as many toys.




3. have a question about Hasbro and Lego figures. Last week, I was at a local TRU (fortunately not one slated for closure) and I bought an individually bagged DJ Lego mini-figure. I seem to recall someone, possibly you, indicating that Hasbro's license to produce Star Wars action figures precluded Lego from selling individual mini-figures. I also remember that the license was somehow set to end at some point in 2018.

To your knowledge: Did Hasbro or Lego re-negotiate the license with this provision changed? Did Disney "alter the Deal?" [see what I did there!]. Did the License with Hasbro get extended? Or did some TRU dump a bunch of excess promo figures?

I did not negotiate the contract, so all I can do is give you speculation.

As far as I know nobody but Hasbro can sell action figures of specified sizes, materials, and price points in the USA - and LEGO would fall under that banner. Similarly sized smaller figures have to have bobble heads to get around this. Bagged figures are, as you said, promo items - but Toys R Us doesn't put promo items as "free." If they were on the floor and scanned at a penny, I'd get a shopping cart and buy every last one. Instead they have a retail value and you get a "coupon" after you scan in a specified product or product value. For all intents and purposes, LEGO is doing what they're supposed to, and Toys R Us is as well - it's just the execution of the deal that looks a little fishy. One or two promo figures a year is no big deal, but I'm sure if there were dozens of "free with purchase" figures there would be lawyers talking as that's against the spirit of a toy license.

You will - on occasion - see items with parts and pieces bagged separately and given away for free, as there are sometimes... issues with certain items being manufactured. I've seen this with bootleg toys too - parts are put in the packaging after they get through customs or whatnot.

As of right now I am not privy to the Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm deals with Hasbro being extended. The last I heard was they were set to expire in 2020, and it would be my expectation that Hasbro will fight tooth and nail to keep most if not all of these mostly because it is exceedingly difficult to get a license away from someone once they have it.



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I've been getting a lot of questions about Toys R Us and right now we have no answers. I took a trip to three of the four nearish Toys R Us stores over the weekend and so far nothing had closed - but I did notice "Help Wanted" signs on my way to the increasingly bare shelves. Not for Star Wars, they seem to be restocking Rogue One stuff. (Not Black Series - but Walmart has that down to $5 now, so go have fun there.)

As of this moment, I don't know what the future holds - we're aware of many 2018 store exclusives, and their Transformers Studio Series Thundercracker started hitting last week. With a street date. I assume the checker said "screw it," because they overrode the street date and let me have it. The big rumor flying around is Toys R Us will just shut down all locations this week and sell the inventory to other businesses, which seems unusual but not impossible. After all, Marie Callender's took peoples' food and threw them out in the middle of the day. In the past decade and change we've seen stores close slowly over years like Kmart, all at once like Borders and Kay-Bee and Circuit City, and other chains like Best Buy closed years ago but nobody bothered to tell the employees who show up for work every day still.

There's a real abundance of toys in the marketplace today, but the loss of Toys R Us is probably going to be great in the very short term for some fans with lots of inventory and probably lower prices to make it all go away. In the longer run it probably means more consolidation, less variety, and the end of higher price points. Anyone hoping that a Sail Barge-type toy could sell at stores is delusional without the abundant shelf space at a dedicated toy store, and Hasbro doesn't have a lot of success with higher price points at big box stores. There are exceptions like the big media-driven FurReal Friends toys, but even those sputter after a few months.

I can't cite any instance of a retailer closing the doors nationwide before trying to liquidate product, but that seems to be the popular rumor this weekend. The business-to-business sale of current inventory isn't wholly implausible, but the cost of sorting product on shelves today to sell to another customer, and then shipping it presumably at a loss to get cash back just seems kind of unrealistic. It's like how some fans thought the so-called "repacks" of toys were literally old toys from stores shipped back and put in new boxes, the cost of which would be higher than just manufacturing new inventory and sending it to the stores.

A lot of good people are about to lose their jobs - not just at Toys R Us, but at the big toy companies and even the smaller ones. LEGO already dropped over 1,000 people last year, and I can't assume Mattel or Hasbro can continue without a major new player in toys to absorb the lost sales. No collector love can match armies of kids, and the ad-free 21st century streaming entertainment means kids aren't marketed to in quite the same way as many of us old farts were.

If I were a betting man, I would say Hasbro can probably keep Star Wars as it was for The Last Jedi with few changes - maybe "rightsize" the Black Series 6-inch cases to minimize carry-forwards, but having no vehicles above $50 was a smart move. Collectors and fans in general seem to be ready to wait out high prices in Star Wars now, and Hasbro's decision to make fewer waves of toys completely discourages us from stomping store aisles looking for new stuff. I know my toy runs have changed significantly now that Hasbro's plan is dictated mostly by movies - I know some weeks I don't need to go to the stores, and I wind up looking for junk at Goodwill or record stores instead. It's going to be a nasty year or two, and we're probably going to find out a ton of toys that just barely missed being released. But it's happened before, and it'll probably happen again.

Our hearts go out to those whose lives will change over the coming months, and it's my sincere hope that we see some new stores, new toy companies, and new opportunities rise from the ashes of the (at press time) not yet dead last remaining national toy store. Online is great, but the impulse buy of a toy you see in person is an experience you can't replace with a wait from Amazon.

--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.