Q&A: Star Wars Vehicles, Rebels, Titanium Figures, and Oh So Much More

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, February 22, 2015

1. As Hasbro's costs have been constantly increasing and driving up retail costs, and fans complain about the diminished articulation and uninspired figure selection, what has changed in the market that requires Hasbro to constantly update the core character figures with constant resculpts and new molds? I know the market is different from 35 years ago, but back then there was one version of a character, and that was that. Even the current era of figures reached a refined point around 10 years ago, and had the right balance of articulation and aesthetics. What is driving the need to constantly tweak a major character's figure, when many figures have pretty much had definitive versions made of them? Throw in different accessories and cardbacks, focus on refining on the paint applications, and you'll still satisfy the kids and collectors alike. It seems Hasbro could save a ton of money on development costs by going back and really "kitbashing" instead of starting from the ground up every time.

The short version is really "because Hasbro wants to make those." Familiar faces sell to a wide group - Darth Vader being repackaged outsells a new character like R5-G19, and a NEW Darth Vader not only sells to non-collector fans, but collector fans. They know they can get us, and they do - and it works. Shorter sales windows of figures means that stores turn over inventory more quickly, and generally speaking non-collectors don't want to be greeted by (to them) unrecognizable faces.

Part of the problem is that as fans, we - and by we I mean me - still hold strong to the 1980s, in which Hasbro did G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Kenner had Star Wars. The idea of "just different enough to make you mad" was never an issue - you got the same Optimus Prime for two or more years. And they might bring it out again later if the need was there. Darth Vader, same figure up until the "coin card" of the end of the road, which in today's market would likely be greeted with some degree of disdain by collectors.

We don't know the full costs of an item but once Hasbro has to make a change - any change - costs start kicking in. New packaging? That's a cost. New accessory? That's a cost - plus new packaging to fit it. People submitting items for approvals are a cost. Going over and making changes? That's a cost. Not knowing their full balance sheet, it may be more worth their while to kick in a few extra nickels and make a 100% new item over a repack, in particular if the cost to make the same item keeps rising. If you have to retool hip joints for Figure A's legs to go into Figure B's torso, that's a cost too - some sculpting work is done, but industry standard wages for sculptors aren't all that high and it's a drop in the bucket when you look at a toy's development costs.

It's also worth noting that Hasbro sometimes wants the figures to cost more. They design figures specifically to hit certain price points, and they can plus them up with accessories and deco to make a $10 figure into a $15 figure real fast. A rocket-firing backpack or gimmick add-on collectible can do this too, mostly as a way to increase their bottom line while (presumably) not alienating the fans.

I have to disagree that figures were perfected 10 years ago. The first super articulated figure of 2003 was a Clone Trooper, which was great but a little on the chunky side. He didn't have rocker ankles, lateral hip articulation, or bend-and-swivel wrists either. There is almost always room for improvement on these guys, because now we're seeing (questionably useful and visually iffy) double-jointed elbows and knees on some figures since 2007. The bend-and-swivel wrists and ball-jointed hips didn't come to Star Wars until 2008, and rocker ankles are a relatively new addition in the latter half of the latest Vintage line.

I find it odd that Transformers seem to shy away from repacks like we see in Star Wars, because some figures like Arcee probably still have some money to be made left in them. One-and-done is theoretically better for making a line "collectible," which I hate because I've always been of the mindset that you should ignore the secondary market and sell toys for as long as kids want to buy them. (This, of course, takes collectors out of the picture by and large.) I doubt this is truly viable, thanks to the buzz online you get from fans promoting your products for free and that could be lost without catering to them to some degree. If it were up to me, you'd probably never see a new Darth Vader mold again unless his costume changes. I'm a big fan of repackaging things and I hope Hasbro really gets on board with it, but like I was saying it doesn't make a ton of sense for them given many of us will keep buying anyway.



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2. My question is about those Titanium Series die-cast action figures from many years ago. I want to finish collecting the ones I've missed, only I can't seem to find them anywhere now. I know I'm missing the Jango Fett, and several of the "vintage finish" including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, Darth Maul and Grievous. Were those last few even made in the "vintage finish"? Are there any others made besides the Bossk, IG-88, Clone Trooper, Sandtrooper, Boba Fett and the two Darth Vaders? (I imagine the Target exclusive Vader does not come in the "vintage finish" because then there would be no lava reflection, correct?)

As far as I know, the Vintage Patina Finish was only used for Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Clone Trooper, Sandtrooper, Bossk, and IG-88. The later releases did not do these, and as far as I know Lava Vader did not have a vintage finish.

Also, as many fans write in to ask when I mention it, yes they really did release Jango Fett in a tiny distribution window. I only got mine a couple of years ago, never seeing it come in at most major retailers or etailers. Most fans are unaware of his rarity and also don't care, meaning eBay prices are as low as $10 and as high as $100 when he finally does show up.




3. How long do you think the Rebels toyline will last? In your best estimation? Longer than the CW line? Shorter? Same amount of time? Just by what you gather of the line's current popularity and ratings.

I am guessing that the show has about 3 seasons total in it - if that - and the toy line will probably ebb and be exist as a continuing part of the "mainline", with trickles of new guys as the line goes on. While animated The Clone Wars has ended, we're still getting Rex and Wolffe figures in outfits from and inspired by the series - and Ahsoka is probably going to see another figure someday if a rumor list from last year is to be believed. I'm pretty sure the one airing tonight is the season finale.

Assuming the line isn't snuffed out, I would expect the few characters on the show to slowly dribble out over the coming years. For fans expecting every new Rebels villain or cameo, I doubt you will see enough to satisfy fans of the show given the new movie direction.



4. I love the [Funko] Pop! vinyl figures, from Marvel and Adventure Time to GOT. But the Star Wars figures have that awful looking base. Why? Were they not secure in their own brand that they needed a sign to go along with the figure?

In a word, licensing. In two words, Hasbro and licensing.

Things have changed a lot since the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. I've brought up the term "slicensing" before - basically, a company used to have a Master Toy License and they made pretty much everything. Kenner made Star Wars toys, and that was that. But then companies started getting specific - sometimes the contract language specifies certain sizes, or price points. Hasbro no longer has all sizes of figures in all territories - Jakks took the big sizes, we see 1:6 scale figures at other companies, and given that Pop! Vinyl figures are indeed 3 3/4-inch toy figures right within Hasbro's price point, one could argue a conflict of interests. Enter the Bobble Head - Marvel and Star Wars are both bobble heads instead of figures with articulated necks. A bobble head is not an action figure, and depending on how picky the licensor is the base adds an extra layer of not-an-action-figure-ness.

We've seen similar things over the years in other brands - for example, in the early 2000s Kotobukiya didn't make statues. They made prepainted model kits - that way they didn't trod over the licenses Gentle Giant or Sideshow Collectibles had, because if you have to assemble the figure, it becomes a model kit. In this case, the spring in the neck (or the base) satisfies the need to make a figure into a bobble head, a product that doesn't compete directly with what Hasbro is (theoretically) selling in a store near you.

It's strange, but that's the modern era of licensing these things - take a good, long look at Marvel across the board and you'll see numerous players jockeying for a slice of the pie. DC as well - especially in the last year, we've seen DC license Batman out to numerous parties. Funko, Mezco, Mattel, Figures Toy Company, DC Collectibles, NECA, and others all make toy figures at or under 8-inches tall - with more trying to find a way to get in on that action each day. Specialized styles like ReAction or Pop! Vinyl make it easier for the licensor to say "OK, this is different" but each company wants to protect its hard-won license as well, resulting in some stiff competition on the aisles.


5. Was just about to report in that I found a Sabine (in the wild!) when I saw your post that they would be hitting (actually the Target I visited had all of that wave except the Biker Scout/Ewok). I have everyone I like from Rebels (read: her and Zeb) but wanted to ask, is there a 3.75” Inquisitor, Callus, or Chopper? I rarely see any Rebels figures at all (the Target I hit places one figure per peg to make it look like they actually have stock). And if they do exist, are they in the two packs, or would I have to try and track down a larger set (which, never mind)?


Lastly, should I just give up on the Troop Transporter? Your last post about that wasn’t exactly encouraging. Not a vehicle guy but that one I wanted for nostalgia reasons.

The Chopper, Kallus, Inquisitor, and others shipped last year with (I assume) others sitting in boats or in Hasbro's warehouse. Some of them will also be returning in future assortments, but the full catalog of those have yet to be made public and these things can change. Most stores near me are low or completely out of these assortments, so all I can say is keep looking or order online.

Regarding the Troop Transport - it's coming, but thanks to the back-up at the ports and/or lower production than needed even the first wave is in very short supply. These are coming, they're coming at two per case, but if you're crossing your fingers for a Target exclusive version I'd suggest giving up on that one. It should come out, but it may not be out this month and it may not get the pack-in figure version that many are asking for.




Well, that was Toy Fair! You didn't miss much. New stuff for kids and non-newness abounded, with new waves of figures being announced online but ignored by Hasbro at the show. I don't think I'm stepping out of line by saying that the communication could be improved somewhat - even just reiterating what happened at the NYCC press show is a solid start. The big questions of "what's coming for Episode VII?" and "How much will it cost?" are still up in the air, so let's all hope things work out.

The best thing from this week is that new stuff is trickling out to stores, and maybe - just maybe - the dock slowdowns may be over. There are lots of things being held up at port, so maybe we'll get a sudden glut on the pegs rather than the empty ones we have now. I wish I had more optimistic things to say but this wasn't one of those Toy Fairs that leave Star Wars fans with much to say. We know it'll be a good year, but we don't know why yet.

--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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Thanks for answering my question again. I have a feeling your right about it not going on for much longer but I wanted a second opinion. I really hare how episodic the show has been in the first season, Wasn't a fan of having four parters all the time in Clone Wars but right now the show feels like it needs something big to happen on the level of Maul returning to life or finding the truth about Sifo Dyas. In other words something that will change our perception of the original trilogy.

I think everyone will forget about it after VIII and will want something set between Episode VI and VII which is all new territory animation-wise and they could use the actors from The Force Awakens for crossover promotion. There are also over three decades of unexplored backstory now that the EU is gone.

I'd also love a KOTOR era series but not likely given that KOTOR is now gone.

My other idea is one set post Episode XI but will have to wait till the 2020's and maybe exven lnger if the rumors of Episode X-XII are true if these new ones are a sucess.